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The Different Place

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Starsky’s been sent to see plenty of bodies in plenty of ratty hotels, but this? John Blaine was his friend. A good friend, who taught Starsky half of what he knows and puts out on the street every day. A family man and a damn good cop. So he’s already in pieces when Hutch strolls in to announce John came back here last night with a trick – a male trick.

First instinct: no way. Not John.

Second: if it’s true god knows he’s not the first to keep that kind of a secret, and keep it well.

Third: he wishes John had told him. Knows why he didn’t. Respects it; regrets it too.

Hutch is hovering, aware that this grim scene is a lot for his partner to take in, even if he has no idea why. The scrutiny makes Starsky feel itchy and he hustles through the rest of the clean-up, ducking eyes, trying not to listen to the whispers from the uniformed cops getting their gossip on, just eager to get the hell out of that hot lousy hotel room and into some air.

Hutch follows, clinging like a limpet.

‘I’m sorry, Starsk. It’s a hell of shock for you.’

Starsky’s not in the mood for nice, or polite. ‘You talking the dead part or the gay part?’

‘Both. Either. You tell me.’

Starsky makes it to the car, makes it to opening the door with Hutch waiting on the other side – but he stops, bumping the driver’s side closed again.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ he shouts across the car roof.

Hutch looks infuriatingly innocent as he folds his arms on the top of the Torino, leaning his chin on them. ‘Nothing. Just – you’re mad. He was a friend, sure, but he lied to you. Kept a whole chunk of who he was hidden away. It’s got to hurt. I’m trying to help you let it out.’

Starsky knows in any other situation he’d be grateful, and in this one he wants to punch Hutch in the mouth. He needs to watch himself, because there’s a way you can be when you’re in grief for a friend and then there’s full-on irrational red flag behavior, and he does not trust himself to land on the right side of that right now.

‘I’m sad for him, ok? Not because he lied; I know why he lied. I’m sad he had to die like that. I’m sad that in his world that’s the risk that comes with trying to live your life, cause you gotta do it behind closed doors.’

Starsky climbs into the car and revs the engine, desperate to get gone.

‘That’s a pretty generous interpretation of a cop picking up a hooker off the street,’ says Hutch, climbing in and barely hitting the seat before Starsky hits the gas.

‘Oh, is that so? Where the hell do you expect him to turn, huh? You, you want to go out, meet someone – you go to a bar, you smile, you try to make a connection on the dancefloor, buy a drink. You get talking. Maybe you go home. Maybe it works out and you’re still dating a year later, wedding bells a-ringing. Maybe it works out and you went back to yours, had some fun, the end. No harm, no foul.’

‘You seem to have come around to him being the gay playboy pretty quick, Starsk. His wedding bells rang twenty years ago, that doesn’t count for anything? And trust me. If I’m going home with a girl, you won’t see money changing hands.’

‘And why’s that, huh? It ever cross your mind that for people like him, the options are slim to none? He’s a cop, for god’s sake. Even if he could breeze into one of the two gay bars in this town without getting flagged, it’s not going to be worth it; not once someone clocks him two weeks later and he’s swimming in heat.’ Starsky takes a breath, wondering if he should stop; wondering if he’s already over a line; wondering what John would tell him to do right now if he had his time again and feeling sick at heart about the conversations they’ll never have.

He tries to slow it down, explain it so Hutch will understand.

‘Imagine it: all you want is a date. Dinner and a movie. Dinner and breakfast, why not? Except there’s no way that happens for you. Ever. So you dial a number and someone shows, who you know’s going to like you for the full 2 hours or whatever you paid for, and leave discreetly after. Why wouldn’t you?’

‘Common decency.’

‘Hutch.’

‘Not to mention breaking the law. He’s an officer – was an officer. He’s meant to be better than that. What you’re talking about like it’s a date, like a nice little arrangement – it’s seedy, it’s sordid, it’s exploitation of vulnerable young men.’

Starsky sets his jaw. ‘Hey! We spend half our lives talking to working girls. They’re making a living and we don’t pull em in for that, never have. You never tell them they’re seedy or sordid or whatever the hell else you want to say. You respect they got reasons. Maybe that life is their best life. So what’s so different?’

‘You know what’s different. The girls, they’re in a stable; they’re looked after. Those boys – you want to tell me they volunteered for sex work? And along comes your buddy, twenty, thirty years older, asking for it in return for a few lousy bucks. It’s disgusting.’

Starsky turns the wheel sharply and slams the brakes, pulling up with a jerk at a random sidewalk.

‘Which part?’ Starsky demands, because he’s not letting him sit there and say that, even if he is his partner. ‘Which part, Hutch?’

‘You’re being ridiculous.’

‘Two men. That’s what’s different.’ Starsky waits for Hutch to argue, and instead gets a mutinous look – but no disagreement. He’s not misunderstanding. He’s getting it loud and clear.

Starsky grips the wheel, closing his eyes. ‘Get out of my car. Get out of my car, Hutch.’

‘This – we’re in the middle of nowhere!’

‘I said get out.’ Starsky’s vibrating with anger, and he doesn’t want to but he’ll throw Hutch out with his bare hands if it’s needed.

Apparently Hutch can tell, because he flings the door open and climbs out.

‘I thought you were better than that, Hutch,’ Starsky calls out of the window as he drops into drive.

‘I thought John Blaine was better than that,’ Hutch answers, slamming the door and almost losing his fingers as Starsky speeds away.

 

 

*

 

 

Hutch hails a cab home, showers to cool off, and spends twenty minutes crashing around his kitchen burning things in irritation before he produces a pathetic supper of rice and greens with sesame.

His partner is an idiot. Of course it’s a tragedy when a man dies like that, same as when one of their working girls or junkies turns up dead. He just happens to think you have a responsibility as a cop not to live a high-risk lifestyle. It’s not prejudice. It’s fact. Blaine living that way – it opened him up to blackmail, exploitation, even just a sorry end from a night gone wrong. The rules are simple, like priests. Cops don’t get to be gay. There’s an end to it. Whatever his rep, Blaine wasn’t the good guy of legend after all.

Starsky will calm down, once the pain wears off. He’s smarting from knowing a man he saw as a mentor and a friend had feet of clay; someone it turns out he barely knew at all.

He’s halfway through washing up when there’s a rap at the door.

‘Hey,’ says Starsky, hands in pockets when he opens it. ‘You around? I need to talk to you.’

Hutch would rather eat that crappy meal over again if he’s honest, but he knows his partner takes things hard, and it’s not exactly common for him to throw Hutch out into the street. He’ll accept an apology with grace and offer up whatever support the man needs.

‘Beer? Coffee?’

Starsky accepts a beer, but takes one sip then holds it tight, refusing to sit.

‘Hutch, I threw you out of the car because I was mad, and confused, and I didn’t know what I wanted to say. But I drove around some, and now I know. And I want you to listen, really listen, ok? Because you’re my partner. You’re my best friend. And I haven’t been straight with you, for reasons I thought were cool, but after this – after John – I can’t do that. I don’t want you feeling like I feel, not ever. Like I could’ve been there. Like I could’ve been a better friend. And – maybe that’s not how this is going to go down, because I don’t know you like I thought I knew you, but I guess that goes both ways.’

He looks bereft and distressed, staring down into his beer bottle.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, Starsk.’

Starsky breathes deep, eyes closed. When they open again they’re dark and looking directly at Hutch with an intensity he rarely sees.

‘When I was talking about John going to bars, picking up guys, having no choices: that wasn’t my imagination talking. I know, Hutch. I know what it’s like to walk into a place you know you’re not safe in, where you might get clocked, where you might go home with the wrong guy. I know how it feels to be in that corner, where all you want is a connection and getting it means taking a chance that’s way past what you’d choose to.

‘And in the interests of clarity, when I say I know what it’s like, I mean I really know. I’ve picked up a man in a bar. Gone back to his place, or a hotel. Left the next morning, no shame, very happy. Not once. Plenty of times.’

It’s a good thing Hutch is already sitting because he’d be rocked off his feet otherwise. He doesn’t know whether to laugh the man out of the door or call him an ambulance for the psychotic break he’s clearly having.

‘Starsk. You’ve been my partner for damn near five years. Is this a joke? Late April Fool? You hound every woman you set eyes on. What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Yeah, I chase women. I like women. But I don’t only like women, Hutch. I’m talking about a secret I kept. From you, from everyone. Like John. And maybe I would’ve kept it forever but – god, Hutch. He died hurting, he died alone, thinking no one in his life would accept what or who he was and I hate that. I hate that me being quiet meant we never shared it, what it means, being a cop and being that way. I don’t want that. I don’t want that for me, I don’t want that for us.’

Hutch recoils, setting his drink down hard enough to spill foam from the bottle’s neck.

‘Us? What’s that’s supposed to mean? You think I want to join in? You trying to recruit me for the team?’

Starsky’s eyes go dark. ‘I don’t hit on straight men. Never have, never will.’

Hutch’s mind works overtime, rethinking every sloppy double date, every late night when they crashed in each other’s apartment, reassessing every touch, every fond word in the heat of the moment. His partner has vanished, in an instant. Starsky couldn’t have torn this partnership up more effectively if he’d set off a bomb.

‘I don’t believe you. You’re telling me you never even thought about it?’

Starsky shakes his head, his throat working. ‘I just came here to be honest. I wanted you to know who I am, as a friend. Not the version I clean up for the rest of the world. The real me.’

Hutch stands. ‘You can take the real you, and stick it. I don’t want it. I don’t want to be anywhere near it. Now get the hell out of my apartment.’

Starsky hesitates, like he’s hanging onto one last second of the old life he just lost.

Then he nods, sets down his undrunk beer, and leaves.

Chapter Text

Starsky can’t face the squad room, so he calls in early to book himself off and wastes a day of paid vacation on bouncing off the walls of his own apartment. He doesn’t like leaving an argument hanging. He doesn’t like being on the outs with his best friend, either. Trouble is, he can’t see a way around it. Hutch is his partner, the one guy in the world he trusts without question – and right now, Hutch thinks he’s scum.

Not because of a job gone wrong or a misunderstanding.

Because of who he is.

It’s not news that Hutch is sometimes a little straight-laced, a little uptight. He’s never even hinted at that kind of disdain before, though. His partner is a tolerant man, open-hearted, kind – unless the person who needs that tolerance and kindness is Starsky. He’s got his beliefs. Apparently that counts for more than years of friendship, years on the job having each other’s backs without question.

It hurts. And the worst part is all he wants to do is call Hutch and tell him he’s feeling lousy, want to hang out?

He’s half-heartedly eating a monte cristo in front of the tv when there’s a clattering up his stairs, and someone hammers his door hard enough to shake dust out of the hinges.

Starsky flips open the little window and gets a whiff of enough liquor to restock The Pits after a Saturday night.

‘Hello, Starsky!’ shouts Hutch, trying to press his face into the hole, wedging his chin in there. ‘My buddy, my pal. I missed you. Let me in. Would you let me in?’

Starsky contemplates shutting the window on his face, but he figures just getting rid of him as quickly as possible is the line of least resistance.

‘You’re in,’ he says dryly, opening the door – apparently to Hutch’s surprise. He tumbles through it, barely keeping on his feet and grabbing the wall for support.

‘Well hello. Good evening. I brought you a drink. I wanted to have a drink with you. Starsky. My partner.’

He waves a bottle of Scotch, already half empty and possibly not his first.

‘Did you drive here?’ asks Starsky, suddenly alarmed.

‘I am perfectly capable,’ says Hutch, wagging a finger. ‘I can hold my drink. Hold my drink! Get it?’ he says, brandishing the bottle again – before taking a step backwards and falling flat onto the couch.

‘Terrific.’

Starsky shuts the door, grabs the Scotch from Hutch’s flailing hand, and heads to the kitchen to brew up some coffee. When he comes back Hutch is sitting on the couch, hugging a cushion and patting the seat beside him encouragingly.

‘Sit down. Cmon, sit down. Right here. Hey. Starsky. I missed you.’

‘So you said.’ Starsky doesn’t particularly want to sit anywhere near him, but at least he’ll be close enough to catch when he finally falls down for good. ‘You’re having quite the night, Hutch. Take this coffee, ok? It’ll help.’

Hutch takes it and immediately puts it on the table. ‘Starsky. My partner. My pal.’

‘Oh god.’

Hutch grabs his arm, squeezing it. He picks it up, tugging Starsky’s hand into both of his and holding that tightly.

‘I said some things,’ he says. ‘I didn’t – I shouldn’t have said. The things. I don’t – I mean, I never exactly thought – you never said, Starsk, and I think I just – I got a little angry and I didn’t – ’

‘Hutch.’ Starsky extricates his hand, with difficulty. ‘It’s fine. We can talk about it tomorrow, ok? Drink your coffee.’

Hutch swats it away, shaking his head a little too vigorously. He puts his hand to his forehead, clearly dizzy. ‘No. S’important. I need to know you to – know to need you to – no, that’s not – ’

Hutch gives up on talking, grabs Starsky’s thigh and slides himself along the couch, putting his face up close to Starsky’s cheek with another heady waft of fumes.

‘I love you.’

He lunges forward and plants his mouth somewhere half on Starsky’s lips, half on his nose.

It’s so unexpected Starsky knocks over the coffee as he reacts, kicking out with one leg as he scrambles back along the couch out of Hutch’s grasp.

‘Hutch! What the hell?’

‘It’s what you want, right? You and me, me and thee…’

Hutch crawls along the couch towards him and it should be funny, he should be laughing at his ridiculous partner thinking that this, of all things, is anything anyone would want - but all Starsky feels is pain. This parody of a come on: it feels worse than Hutch yelling at him to get out.

Starsky gets up and fetches a cloth for the spilt coffee and a fresh cup. By the time he returns Hutch is, thankfully, spark out on the couch, snoring into a cushion. Starsky tugs the blanket off the armchair and drapes it over him, with more gentleness than he feels.

Then he sits in the armchair, staring into his hands and wondering how it is he can be feeling immeasurably worse than he did earlier.

There’s no hiding from it. Hutch, for all his drunken nonsense, is not wrong about one thing. Starsky lied through his teeth when he said it had never crossed his mind, the two of them, together. Hutch is, by anyone’s standards, a beautiful man: long and lithe, those Norwegian genes, cheekbones and jawline you could sculpt and put in a damn gallery. Even crashed on his couch in a drunken stupor, he’s like a fallen angel. The fact that he’s also soulful, generous, determined, loyal: Starsky doesn’t know if those two things are connected but Hutch on occasion has been known to take his breath away just by existing, because no one should be that good inside and out. First time he laid eyes on the guy at the academy, he went weak at the knees. Crushed for a week before he came to his senses and realized he was going to be a buddy, and they were both gonna be cops, and if that’s what’s on the table then he’ll take it with both hands. And yeah, he’s annoying and whiny and weirdly hung up on stuff that doesn’t matter, has no taste in cars and would happily live on celery sticks – but that’s Hutch. His partner. A man he loves in all senses but that one.

It’s not difficult to make it work. Starsky’s no fool. The army said don’t ask, don’t tell and that’s a rule he sticks by with a little extra discretion on the side. He likes women too, and plenty, which helps. On occasion he’s imagined he’s done with it entirely; ready to settle. It’s not what he wants, though, and he knows it won’t ever be, however much he loves the girl of the moment. It’s a part of him: who he is, what he likes, what he can’t get anywhere else. So he keeps it separate, secret. A part of his life even Hutch doesn’t touch.

Until now.

Hutch coming here to apologize, he imagined. Hutch showing up drunk out of his mind to proposition him? Not so much.

It’s everything he feared, every reason he never said one word to Hutch: that assumption. You like guys, you must like me. The fact that in his case it happens to be true isn’t the point. Starsky doesn’t trouble straight guys and never has. Five years of partnership with Hutch and he values that above any fantasy of more. It’s so far off the agenda till this kicked off he’s kept it tucked right out of sight and happily so. All he wanted from Hutch out of this was acceptance. Just for him to know, and understand, and carry on as before.

But now?

Hutch coming here, with at least some recognition of how shitty his behavior was, could get them somewhere. Hutch trying to stick his tongue down Starsky’s throat because he assumes that’s how to make amends? He doesn’t even know how Hutch got from there to here. One minute Starsky’s disgusting, no better than some perv on the street. The next Hutch is –

Hutch is –

Hutch is not a guy who throws that kind of talk around.

Hutch is not a bigot.

Hutch is a man who lives by codes, and rules, sets himself tasks and boundaries: one mile before breakfast, no red meat except on holidays. Order. Control. A little deprivation, from the things you shouldn’t have.

Like men?

It’s a jump but he spends all day making jumps from fact to fact to the link that just smells right. This: it all clicks into place. Fear, disgust: Starsky knows all of that, intimately, because nobody hates you like you hate yourself when you’re a queer boy terrified of being found out. And now here’s Starsky, strolling in to say you could’ve had it all, dummy. And now you’re Hutch, facing up to all the roads not taken and the lost years and deciding to drink until it feels possible after all.

Starsky looks at his snoring partner and feels his chest fill with concern, and not a little hope. This, if he’s right, he can help Hutch through. Maybe his partner’s still going to be his partner after this after all.

He fetches a bowl and a glass of water and leaves them beside Hutch’s head, pausing to stroke his hair, tucking a loose strand behind his ear.

Then he goes to bed, exhausted, to dream that when he wakes up this will all feel a hell of a lot easier.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

Hutch hears what sounds like drilling, and hammers, and somebody singing.

He cracks open one eye and finds himself lying in a puddle of drool on a cushion, mouth open. He jerks up, awkward, and regrets it at once. The drilling, the hammers: they’re in his head. Pounding. Smashing. He drops his head back down onto the damp cushion but squeezing his eyes shut tight makes no difference. He’s broken. He’s malfunctioning. He needs someone to hit a reset switch and return him to factory settings.

‘Toast and coffee,’ says a cheerful voice, and suddenly there’s a figure looming carrying a smell that – oh no –

Turns out there’s a bowl, so it could be worse.

‘All right. A little water, huh? There you go. Ok.’

It’s Starsky, and there is a corner of his brain that sends up a flare – but Hutch is pretty sure he’s still drunk, so whatever.

Hours later, Hutch stirs again and the drilling and hammering, while present, is less overwhelming. There’s a plate of cold toast and a Coca-Cola on the coffee table by the couch, alongside a note.

Dobey sends sympathy for the sudden bout of food poisoning. Sleep tight, I’ll be back at 6.

Hutch isn’t sure if that’s information or a warning; if Starsky’s expecting him to get gone.

He chews the cold toast warily, and though he hates the damn stuff he’s grateful for the fizz of the cola on his throat. He doesn’t know what possessed him to drink that much. He doesn’t remember even driving over; just fragments, half-memories of being on the couch, trying to say something though who knows what.

Finishing the soda, he sets the bottle down. He spots a stain on the floor, and recalls a blue tennis shoe kicking out, a coffee cup flying, and –

Oh god.

Oh god.

The rolling in his gut tells him: yep, you’re not imagining that.

He throws up a couple more times, feeling more head-to-toe ashamed with every trip. But he can’t bail. The idea that he’s going to stroll into the squad room tomorrow without letting Starsk know how appalled he is by his own behavior: not gonna happen.

By the time Starsky’s home, Hutch is up, showered, dressed, and mildly terrified Starsky’s never going to talk to him again.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says as the door swings open, before Starsky can even step inside. ‘Hi. Hey. I’m sorry.’

‘Could you be sorry and help me with the groceries?’

The normality, the opportunity to be useful – they’re welcome. He takes a brown bag from Starsky’s arm, keys from between his teeth, and carefully slots things away in the fridge while Starsky washes up.

It takes forever. His heart’s in his mouth and he’d be rehearsing what to say if he had any idea what exactly he wanted to say. And then suddenly Starsky is here, wearing blue jeans and that bright blue open-neck longsleeve with the stripes on the sleeve that makes his eyes sparkle and sits tight across his chest and his arms and above the curve of his ass, and Hutch is at a loss, because – because –

‘Starsk. You want me to go? I didn’t know if you – I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to kick me out.’

‘Sit down, Hutch,’ Starsky drawls, yawning as he heads to the kitchen and returns with a beer for himself and lemonade for Hutch. ‘I heard you. You’re sorry. You want to let me know which part you’re sorry for?’

Hutch winces as Starsky takes the couch opposite. ‘All of it? I should’ve – I should’ve reacted differently to you telling me something so personal, so secret. I was shocked, that much is pretty obvious. But that’s no excuse. And as for last night – I don’t remember every detail, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, but I seem to recall making some kind of drunken pass at you. I’m mortified.’

‘About which part?’

‘What?’

‘The fact you made a pass, or the fact you had to be drunk to make it?’

Hutch wasn’t expecting an interrogation, and he’s not remotely equipped to answer a question he’s been actively trying not to think about. But Starsky’s face is calm and a little sad, not angry; as if his priority here isn’t getting an apology but in understanding.

‘Thing is, Hutch,’ says Starsky, sitting forward, ‘I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I want you to be honest, and I know that’s rich when I’ve been anything but for a long time. But I think if you come over here having tied one on like I’ve never seen before, and try to kiss me… I think that means something.’

Hutch swallows. His hands are sweating. He wants to run, away from this conversation, away from this hangover.

‘It means I was drunk,’ he says feebly.

‘I think it means you wanted to figure something out, and you needed to be half out of it to give it a try.’

Hutch blushes. He looks at the floor, and feels shame all over again: at how he’s forcing Starsky to do all the work here.

‘Uh. I guess. Something like that.’

‘And the trouble with that is, aside from being a lousy thing to pull on me like I’m some kind of lab rat - I think you still have no idea whether kissing a guy is what you actually want.’

Hutch feels a twist in his chest and, for the first time since this all started, a sense of clarity, of certainty.

‘Not kissing a guy. Kissing you.’

Starsky. His Starsky. They’ve always been more than partners. He’s called it chemistry, comradeship: that synchronized way of thinking and moving they have that no one else does, the ease with which they finish each other’s sentences. They tussle like kids and argue like old marrieds. They bicker and laugh, one-up the other or fling themselves into harm’s way to keep the other safe. And yes, there is something physical there, too. The way Starsky runs, a little comical but so emphatically him, giving everything he has. That grin, feelings glowing out of him. The way he’ll jump and roll and climb without a second’s thought, trusting his body and right to. It’s not sexual. It’s never been sexual. He’s always just appreciated the man, appreciated his headlong enthusiasm for life, his compassion, his conviction, and now –

Now –

Now Starsky has, without even saying it, posed him a question. And now he can’t stop thinking of all the casual times he’s enjoyed watching Starsky putting the moves on a woman, that languid smile, eyelashes for days as he eases in for a soft kiss (because he’s happy for him, just happy). The way his hands look on a basketball, confident, deft, and the way he’ll just toss his shirt halfway through a game, gloriously unselfconscious because his body does everything he wants it to as he jumps, shoots, bumps up against Hutch and laughs, wrapping an arm around him (just how it goes in sports, a little physical contact, all very normal). The way they’ve showered beside one another a hundred times, and Hutch has noted that, without meaning to be crude, while he himself is in proportion – amen to that – Starsky punches a little above his weight (the way guys do, in passing, with no meaning to it at all).

So. Perhaps now it’s sexual.

But not guys.

Starsky. Just Starsky.

Starsky’s eyebrows are lifted a little in surprise at the admission. A tiny smile quirks at the corner of his lips before he tucks it away, but it makes Hutch feel warm, like maybe he’s not mad at the idea.

‘You want to kiss me, Hutch? I’m here.’

Hutch blinks and the clarity, the certainty, desert him. ‘Now? Right now?’

‘Sure. No booze, no lab rat, just two consenting adults. You want to kiss me, kiss me.’

Hutch stares at Starsky – his Starsky – and feels utterly at a loss. He wants this. He’s confident that he wants this. And apparently Starsky, despite claims to the contrary, wants it too. It’s just that actually walking across to the other couch and sitting beside his partner of five years, looking spoonily into his eyes like one of his girls and then leaning in for a soft brush of lips against lips…

It feels like trying to get to the moon.

Starsky sits, patiently sipping his beer, in no hurry – but Hutch can’t seem to move.

‘Hutch?’ says Starsky eventually. ‘You remember what you said last night, while you were launching yourself at my face?’

Hutch shakes his head mutely, preparing for the worst.

‘You said you loved me.’

As if this could get any more humiliating.

‘Oh god. Starsk – ’

To his surprise Starsky laughs, batting the response away with a shake of his head.

‘Hutch, you dummy. I know you love me. You don’t usually say it in so many words, sure, but you show it, every day. Same for me. We’re partners, we’re pals, we want each other to stay alive and we want each other to be happy. Sounds like love.

‘Thing is: I know you love me, Hutch. I don’t need you to love me. You have to want me.’

Hutch looks at the floor. He feels sick, and it’s not the hangover now. It’s himself.

‘I want you,’ he whispers, not daring to look up. ‘I just don’t want to want you.’

Hutch sits silent, trying to get to grips with what he’s only now realising. Starsky doesn’t interrupt, except to pause at Hutch’s side on the way to the kitchen to give his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

‘You staying for dinner?’ he calls, tugging at drawers and pulling another beer from the fridge as if nothing’s different.

Hutch can’t bear his kindness, his ability to slip back into the old them.

‘Another time,’ he murmurs over his shoulder, and leaves without looking back, before his heart can tell his head to stop his feet from moving.

Chapter Text

Starsky figures after his day of surprise leave and Hutch’s ‘food poisoning’, they’d better show up, no matter what else is going on.

He’s glad to see Hutch’s Ford in the lot as he pulls in. Hutch himself looks like he slept for a maximum of ten minutes and won’t quite meet his eye, even as Starsky brings him coffee and tosses him a spare donut. The early call out to a robbery that matches two more on their books is a relief, until it means they’re together in the car and Hutch still can’t look at him.

‘It’s just you and me at work, same as always, Hutch,’ Starsky says eventually. ‘It’s no different.’

‘It feels different,’ says Hutch softly.

Pretend it doesn’t, Starsky wants to reply, because he knows that path and it’s easy, it is, once you learn it. But he’s not Hutch. He reaches out a hand to offer reassurance; pulls it back when he figures it might do the opposite. So, yeah. It’s different.

They arrive to find that robbery-homicide is the new MO and all that’s swept aside. They both slip naturally back into work mode, Hutch clearing the scene of gawpers and Starsky trying to get the cashier to stop screaming. He can’t blame her. It’s a grim scene, the electronics store owner versus a shotgun blast to the face, and she looks barely eighteen. It’s the same guys all right, though: the descriptions are a perfect match, one baby hulk with a round face and a black beard – Bluto, he looked like Bluto, she manages to say between gasps – and a skinny guy in his thirties with sunken cheeks and a tan jacket. Same car, too: a dark sedan, two door.

Starsky gets her settled in a back room with a cup of coffee topped with a slug from a bottle in a desk drawer to take the edge off; leaves with the number of her father so he can come pick her up. He passes it to Baker in uniform to manage, and nods at Kathy: no need for a cause of death from her today. Then he follows Hutch out, grateful for a breather.

‘So our friends have upped the stakes just a little,’ mutters Hutch, glum behind his sunglasses. ‘What do you think? Disturbed in the act, fired out of fear?’

Starsky shakes his head. ‘They started on the goods like usual until they clocked the old man was yelling about his safe. It’s his banking day, she said, he goes every Tuesday lunchtime. They got a couple of hundred from the cash drawer and three grand from the safe: enough for him to fight for, I guess.’

‘And apparently enough to kill for.’ Hutch heads for the car. ‘If they got a taste for the money, and a happy finger on the trigger…’

‘They might keep going. All right. Let’s go shake the trees.’

Hutch’s hunch isn’t wrong. They’re not in the car ten minutes before another call comes through: robbery in progress, furniture store on 48th.

‘Unless somebody’s trying to lift a couch and two armchairs…’ mutters Starsky, slamming the brakes on and pulling a U.

Hutch has the red light up on the roof as he lifts the radio.

‘Zebra Three, show us attending, two minutes. Suspects may be armed, back up please.’

Starsky’s thoughts are all on the job, the road, on getting there as fast as they can and catching these bastards before the same thing happens again, but there’s a tiny corner that recognizes how grateful he is that Hutch is the guy in the seat beside him, knowing every move they’re going make.

Then he’s turning the wheel hard to bump them down the alley alongside Fredo’s Discount Furniture Warehouse, where a dark blue sedan is still parked up in the lot.

There’s a gunshot from inside at the sound of the siren and they both run from the car, keeping low: it’s a showroom, glass walls from waist-height up, and much better visibility from inside to out. They drop either side of the door, guns drawn.

‘Police! Drop it and come out, it ain’t worth it!’

Starsky gets no reply. Hutch raises a brow, nodding at the handle of the door and scooting backwards, so Starsky can flick it open and let him drop on his belly into the now open entrance.

It’s deserted, nothing but tables and chairs, dressers and standing lamps. Good cover. But not worth stealing, and no bodies.

Starsky covers him as Hutch hops up and runs inside in a crouch. They work their way through the showroom inch by careful inch, till Starsky nods at a back office – and what looks like a rear entrance to a loading dock. He’ll take the back. Hutch can take the office from the front.

It works like a charm. The shutters of the loading bay are propped half open and it’s easy to roll inside, slip past the plastic-wrapped crates and to the quiet room in back where a warehouseman and a man in a suit and tie are bound to a chair with the same plastic wrapping, gagged, eyes frantic with fear.

Starsky lifts a finger to his lips, edging towards the warehouseman to tug the gag away.

‘Where?’ he mouths – but the terror in the man’s eyes doesn’t clue him in faster than the two barrels he feels pressed into his back.

Shit.

‘Drop it.’

Starsky places it down, real careful. He knows what this shotgun does. He knows this guy will shoot. At this range, they’re going to be picking his spine out of the ceiling.

There’s a clatter in the hallway beyond, a yell and three shots, quick and loud and definitely from Hutch’s gun. Then the door flies open, Hutch dropping onto one knee with his gun trained – and finding he’s aiming at Starsky with his hands raised and Bluto breathing down his neck, two hostages tied up beside him.

Hutch doesn’t blink. He holds his aim, nostrils flaring.

‘Drop it or your pal gets it. Both barrels.’

Hutch shakes his head. ‘You’re not walking out of here, buddy. You’re on your own. The only way it gets better from here is if you drop the gun.’

Starsky knows it’s not the greatest play for a guy already looking at murder one, but Hutch doesn’t have a lot else in the deck. Either way, it doesn’t work. Bluto wraps a huge arm around Starsky’s neck and hauls him backwards into the warehouse, kicking the office door closed behind them.

Then everything goes nuts. The guy keeps hauling him back, half dragging him off his feet until he hurls him, with considerable weight and strength, into a pallet of desks and starts running. Starsky feels his head connect with wood and next thing he’s on the floor, hearing Hutch’s pounding feet passing him, a shotgun blast that about tears his heart out, and three answering shots that put it back in place.
Then silence.

Then he’s being tugged up off the ground to sit up, Hutch waving fingers in front of his eyes to demand a count and hanging onto the front of his jacket like he doesn’t want to let go.

‘Hey,’ Starsky manages, breathless and dizzy but sharply aware of how that could’ve gone down. ‘Thanks.’

‘You’re welcome,’ breathes Hutch, looking like he feels none too different.

It takes a couple of hours to square up the scene and for Starsky to get checked over by the paramedic – a few scratches, a bump on the head – and he’s expecting two more for writing up the report before grabbing a bite and heading back out, but instead Hutch whistles and a squad car rolls up.

‘You look terrible,’ Hutch tells him. ‘Go home, get some sleep. I’ll drop your car back later.’

Starsky isn’t one hundred per cent certain Hutch isn’t just getting him out of the way, but his head hurts, and he’s too beat to argue.

He crashes out, wakes up stiff and sore and headachey. A shower eases a few sore spots and finds a few more. A couple of hours of the couch with his feet up staring at the same two pages of a book leave him muddled, as is usually the case when he very nearly bought it and hasn’t quite caught up with the fact he didn’t. He’s feeling a little sorry for himself when there’s a familiar engine rumble outside, and a rap at his door.

Hutch is smiling in the doorway.

‘Hey. Come to check I’m still in one piece?’

‘Something like that.’

Starsky steps back, but Hutch is already pushing the door open, stepping inside past Starsky – and then spinning him round by the shoulder to press his back up against the door and slam it shut behind them both in one smooth movement.

‘I want you,’ Hutch says. Not hesitating, not ashamed. ‘You hear? I want you.’

Starsky blinks. This – was not what he expected to happen next. But Hutch waits for Starsky to hear it, to process what he’s saying, before shifting his whole body closer and leaning in. Blue eyes looking Starsky full in the face, warm and excited. A little flush in his cheeks.

Then Hutch kisses him.

It’s soft, a little careful. Just lips on lips.

It’s also incredible as far as Starsky’s concerned, and when he pulls back with a questioning look Starsky grabs his shirt and pulls him back in again, hard, so there’s no possibility of confusion. If Hutch wants him, Starsky wants him back. He really, really wants him back.

Hutch’s lips twists under his as he laughs into the kiss, appreciating Starsky’s enthusiasm. He kisses harder now, wetter, raising one hand to Starsky’s face to cup his cheek, one at his waist. The feel of his cool fingers makes Starsky moan faintly into his mouth, reveling in the new sensation. He tastes of peppermint, strongly – Starsky pictures him outside in the car fretting over his coffee breath and downing mints – and his skin is soft, a tautness across his jaw that feels masculine in a way he can’t define but he likes, he really likes.

Hutch breaks off for air and Starsky grins helplessly at the sight of him, red-lipped, his chin already a little scuffed from stubble against stubble, his expression faintly dazzled. He moves his hand from Starsky’s face to his shoulder as if steadying himself.

‘You ok?’ asks Starsky, because he is determined not to let anything about this risk Hutch falling into regret. Wanting isn’t the same as acting on the want, and however much he wants to get lost in the intoxication that is him, and Hutch, and this, he’d throw gratification now aside if that’s what Hutch needs.

‘Better than ok,’ Hutch whispers, his lips curving up into a smile of his own.

The combination of courage and the plain honest lust in Hutch’s voice: it takes Starsky apart.

This time it’s Starsky that reaches his hands around Hutch’s face, both gently framing it, fingertips nudging into the hair above his ears as he leans in for more. He takes it slow but they’re both initiating now, Hutch wrapping an arm around Starsky’s waist from behind and pressing them closer as Starsky bites his lower lip, sucking on it and producing a grunt of appreciation from Hutch.

Like that, huh? he thinks, filing it away.

Starsky slides his hands down Hutch’s chest, then down again and behind, grabbing his firm ass with both hands, squeezing, and grinding a little dirtily up against Hutch’s crotch.

Which is when he realizes that Hutch likes it enough to have developed a hard on inside his pants that is trying to make a break for it.

Hutch apparently realizes at the same time, thanks to the brush of Starsky against him, and he breaks off with a low gasp.

His face is already flushed but Starsky can see he’s embarrassed. Personally, Starsky is pretty damn delighted, not a little pleased with himself and he’d happily unzip Hutch right this second and take this situation in hand, literally – but instead he slides his hands up and rests his palms on Hutch’s chest, toying with a button on his shirt.

‘So, here’s what I’d like to happen now, Hutch,’ he says, his voice throaty and making him acutely aware of how incredibly turned on he is right now. ‘I’d like to unbutton this ugly shirt of yours so I get my hands onto your skin, and then I’d like to unbuckle your pants, and then I’d like to get down on my knees and help you out with that little problem you have. That sound ok to you?’

Hutch’s eyes widen when he mentions getting on his knees, and Starsky wonders if he’s pushed it – but his mouth stays open, breathless until he manages a hint of a smirk.

‘Little?’

Starsky glances down, and – well, even in those tight green pants, he’s not kidding.

Hutch gives him the tiniest nod, in case it’s needed, and Starsky stops holding back. He turns Hutch, swapping places so now it’s Hutch with his back up against the door. He unbuttons his shirt, not as slowly as he’d planned, aware of Hutch’s hands planting themselves on the door to stop himself from taking over, or from just plain falling down. He pulls the shirt open exposing Hutch’s beautiful chest, light muscles, and then tugs the belt buckle and gets the pants and underwear down around his knees in one swift pull.

He knew Hutch was hung but hard, he’s huge. No wonder the guy looks like he’s about to pass out. Starsky takes him in hand before he can dare to, giving the shaft a few gentle strokes with his whole hand to give Hutch a release in case he’s that close. Then he drops to his knees and, after a couple of breaths that allow him just enough time to register what he’s about to do – Hutch’s cock, in his mouth – he wraps his lips round the head and licks his tongue in a swirl.

Hutch groans, head hitting back against the door, palms fisting as Starsky combines the two movements: mouth sucking on the head, left fist pumping at the shaft, less gently now. Hutch’s cock is achingly hard and hot, every touch pulling another groan from his lips. Starsky pulls back to lick his own hand with a heady mix of saliva and precum, his lips sticky with it, knowing Hutch must be sensitive and wanting this to be as good as it can be. The extra lube and an extra inch in his mouth set Hutch’s legs trembling. Starsky closes his eyes, giving in to it, nothing but giving Hutch what he needs and loving every second. The groans come faster, more helpless now, mixed with mumbling that Starsky is way too focused to care about but he likes hearing anyway. He’s close. Starsky ups the pace, adding a twist to each stroke, using his tongue, urgent and intense and –

Hutch comes with a strangled yelp, eyes and mouth wide open and his hips twitching in time with the shaking in his limbs.

Starsky keeps his mouth where it is, swallowing what Hutch gives him. He could tell himself he’s saving on the clean-up but deep down he knows he’s just giving in to the kind of reckless dirty abandon that he usually keeps locked tight away. That gets filed too.

Hutch sinks down, legs sliding out from under him and his naked ass landing on Starsky’s welcome mat, cock slowly softening on his thigh. Starsky scoots back a fraction to give him space and though he’s been ignoring it manfully till now, he’s agonizingly hard now too.

Scrabbling at his belt, still on his knees, he drags down jeans and briefs and immediately wraps his still-slick hand around himself.

Hutch is dazed and confused but also staring as Starsky’s hand works at himself. The watching is hot as hell and Starsky would happily jerk off like this, observed, until Hutch reaches out his big right hand to wrap it round Starsky’s smaller one, and Starsky thinks he might die today after all.

It’s awkward instead of as hot it should be, angles not right, and Starsky pulls away, spinning around and planting himself between Hutch’s sprawling legs, ignoring the jumble of belt buckle and pants underneath his ass to relocate himself close enough to be touched like Hutch is used to.

‘Easier,’ he breathes, grabbing Hutch’s hand and pulling it back around his cock, this time trusting him to fly solo.

Hutch’s hand wraps him up and his fist pumps, quick steady strokes and Starsky’s already so close, so far gone that he’s panting and thrusting back into his hand needy and desperate and coming in messy spurts onto his fingers.

Starsky’s spun out on sex and for a few minutes he’s just gone, contented, that good feeling not just from coming but from giving it back, from mutual pleasure, the taste in his mouth and bruised feeling in his lips to prove it. They didn’t even make it past the front door. And –

Hutch.

Him, and Hutch.

And it wasn’t just good, and it wasn’t just him driving it.

Starsky falls gently back onto Hutch’s bare chest, mindful of delicate areas behind him, aware he’s getting a zipper imprinted on one ass cheek right now. But Hutch wraps his clean hand around him, keeping him close, and he leans down to plant a kiss on the side of his forehead, his chest shifting as he laughs lightly, so Starsky figures he might just stay where he is after all.

Chapter Text

They shower – separately, to Starsky’s visible disappointment.

Hutch takes his time, letting the water cool his flushed skin, allowing himself room for his brain to catch up with his body. What just happened is nothing he’d ever imagined doing with anyone, let alone Starsky. Well: nothing he’d allowed himself to imagine. He feels blessed and hopeful and fascinated – and confused, surprised by his own self, a little unmoored. The face in Starsky’s steamy mirror looks the same, and it’s almost unexpected.

When Hutch emerges with a towel wrapped around his waist he feels no inclination to pull on the sweaty clothes abandoned by the door. Starsky’s belted his robe loosely and lounges in the corner of the couch, evidently feeling the same, and Hutch hesitates before settling into the space he gestures to: his back against Starsky’s chest, head resting on his shoulder.

Starsky nuzzles into his hair briefly; lets one arm drop to curl across Hutch’s torso and leave his hand resting at his waist. It feels intimate, and comfortable, and infinitely strange: being cradled in someone’s arms like – well, like he would with a woman. But he’s not above being vulnerable, or being taken care of. Given how he feels right now, he’s grateful for the touch.

One other thing: lounging into Starsky’s arms conveniently allows Hutch not to look him in the eye. He tries not to analyse that too carefully. Apparently Starsky’s way ahead of him.

‘So. I know this isn’t exactly our third date but I figure we skipped a couple of steps. You wanna have the sex talk?’

Hutch blinks, smiling gently. ‘Uh, Starsk. Think I got that covered in sixth grade.’

‘No! Come on, you know. The talk once you get past a quick tumble and into something a little more interesting. Tell me what you like.’

‘I like you, you dummy.’ Hutch blushes, as if this is an admission, as if he didn’t have his hand wrapped tight around Starsky’s cock panting at the sheer hotness of the experience of jerking him off not half an hour earlier.

‘You know what I mean. Like the conversation you have with a girl. What she likes, what she doesn’t like, what she’s always wanted to try and never knew how to ask…’

Hutch shifts his head up to give Starsky a quick stare.

‘You don’t do that?’

‘No! I like to preserve a little mystique in the bedroom, thank you,’ he says, settling back into Starsky’s arms.

‘Huh. Well, I don’t like mystique. I like sex that’s fun and relaxed and there’s no surprises. I got boundaries, we all do. There’s always going to be some stuff that’s off the table.’

Hutch doesn’t like where this is going. But he likes the rise and fall of Starsky’s warm furred chest against his bare skin. The way the skin around his mouth is glowing. The memory of Starsky dropping to his knees. He’s already tried to capsize this once before it even started. He wants Starsky to know he meant what he said: he wants this, even if he doesn’t exactly know what that means.

‘All right, I’ll bite. Like what?’

Starsky shrugs underneath him. ‘Like, I don’t know. Kinky stuff. I’m not into getting tied up or knocked around, no whips and chains. No gags, no chokes, no cuffs, whatever. A little rough is fine: throw me up against a wall, pull my hair, bite on the shoulder. Like, rough but sweet.’

Hutch swallows, suddenly feeling colossally out of his depth.

‘I might have guessed all of that, Starsk.’

‘And you might have been wrong! Maybe I got some torture chamber in back I never mentioned till now and I’m hoping you’re gonna string me up in it. Or maybe that’s where you would want to be, I don’t know.’

Hutch feels revulsion in his belly at the idea. He sits up, shifting away to sit alongside Starsky, not quite touching, giving himself a little space.

‘Well, in the interests of clarity, I am also not into “kinky stuff”, not that I’ve ever felt the need to confirm it.’

There’s an edge to his voice and Starsky clocks it.

‘Hey.’ Starsky tilts Hutch’s face towards him. ‘What’s that? Something’s up.’

Hutch bristles, tugging his face away from the contact.

‘Nothing’s up. I just – this doesn’t seem a little cold to you, a little clinical?’

‘No. I think it’s useful, and honest, and, well, it’s also usually a little flirty and dirty and tends to lead directly to the bedroom to put it into practice, but…’ Starsky reaches for his face again, and then decides it’s not enough and grabs at his legs, tugging him around so they’re nearly facing one another. Hutch’s towel falls open and he rearranges it automatically to cover himself – then looks up to find Starsky watching him knowingly.

‘You think sex is dirty.’

Hutch’s nostrils flare. ‘I think sex – making love – is beautiful. It’s like… poetry. Like a painting, or a song, a piece of music that unfolds as you listen, and even though some of the notes are familiar, the phrases are the same, it’s different every time you play it.’

‘Oh god,’ Starsky says, looking stricken at the prospect of what he’s started – but Hutch is just warming up.

‘I’m serious! That music doesn’t want to be labelled or put in a box, you don’t need to write it down on a stave. That’s how it stays magical and alive and special. Because you’re not trying to capture it. You’re trying to hear it, play it, new, every time.’

Hutch is pretty impressed with himself. He didn’t even know that was what he wanted to say but it’s perfect: exactly what he meant.

Starsky does not look persuaded. He rubs his forehead, frowning as he tries to counter a definition that can’t be denied.

‘Ok. That’s… very nice. I’m just saying that if you want to make the beautiful music, you gotta know how to play your instrument.’

Hutch glares. ‘I know how to play my instrument, Starsky.’

Starsky grins, laughing. ‘Yeah you do. And mine, and I appreciate it. I’m just – there’s a whole orchestra out there, and I’m just trying to find out what parts you wanna hear. Personally I’ve never really been into the tuba.’

‘Oh, you should try it sometime.’

This kind of nonsense has been the soundtrack to his life ever since they became partners and while it’s familiar, Hutch is desperate to shut down this ridiculous conversation. He contemplates just leaning forward and kissing the man, put an end to all this talking. But Starsky’s rubbing the back of his neck, looking at the wall, and when he looks back at Hutch his face is serious.

‘You get why I’m asking, right? Like, poetry and music and all that, same notes, new song: I like that. But, things being the way they are with the outside world, and the third date not exactly being an option when you pick up a guy in a bar, I’ve wound up in some scenes I didn’t plan; found out the hard way what I didn’t like. We don’t have to do that, and I don’t ever want you to feel like that because of me.’

It’s a handbrake turn, and Hutch preferred the metaphors to this frankness, for a variety of reasons. It still sickens him to think of Starsky in those seedy dives, going home with the kind of men that want that kind of life. The idea that he might have wound up afraid, and vulnerable, forced into god knows what kind of situations – that sickens him more. But that’s not what Starsky wants him to take away. This sex talk isn’t just Starsky being the one to take a straight line when Hutch will detour to admire the scenery. He’s trying to help Hutch feel safe.

It’s generous, and intelligent, and practical: everything his partner is. Hutch stares at him, taking in the way he lounges so comfortably in the couch corner and in his own skin; the way his damp hair has so instantly returned to its trademark curl; the way his eyes look on Hutch with such unselfconscious fondness.

Hutch nods, giving Starsky’s arm a squeeze. He smiles awkwardly, adjusting his towel again.

‘I hear you. And I’m sorry. I don’t ever want to put you in a place like that either – and I hope we both know each other well enough to see that coming from a distance. But… Hell, Starsk. All this, this new music… Maybe I find it hard to talk about sex like this because I never have. Maybe I find it hard because I don’t know what I like; not the way you do. I’m playing catch-up here. I feel like I’m fifteen years old in the back of Suzanne Meier’s Chevy, trying to figure out how the hell to unclasp her bra.’

Starsky grins.

‘Good news. I’m not wearing a bra.’

He slips his robe off his shoulders to prove it. Then he eyes Hutch’s towel, and Hutch’s face, and reaches forward to tug the towel aside and reveal the semi Hutch has been trying nobly to ignore.

‘Oh, you really like talking about poetry, huh?’

Hutch clears his throat.

‘The thing about music,’ says Starsky, eyes twinkling, ‘is sometimes you hear a song, and you just want to play it over and over. Know what I mean?’

Hutch does, he really does. But this time he doesn’t want to take a back seat. He takes Starsky’s hand and guides it to himself, wrapping his fingers over Starsky’s to set up a pressure and a pace that is just how he likes it; moving his hips to give him a better angle; waiting for the moment he can’t wait any longer and reaching out to grab Starsky’s head by the hair – producing a plaintive moan: hair-pulling, he does like that, check – and pull his ready mouth down above where he wants it to go next.

‘Told you this was how this conversation always ends,’ murmurs Starsky, looking up with a glint of triumph as he licks his lips. Then his gaze drops and he focuses all his attention on Hutch’s now fully-hard cock.

Hutch lets go of Starsky’s hair as Starsky takes a breath then licks the tip, swirling his tongue in circles that are both too soft and feathery and absolutely perfect, pulling a pathetic little gasp out of Hutch. He pulls back to lick a stripe down the underside, letting his finger follow his tongue back up in another achingly gossamer-light touch and laughing a little as he moves, enjoying the way Hutch is trembling. He repeats the action with his finger as his tongue laps at the head again, already wet.

Hutch’s fingers dig into his own thighs, aching for more and not knowing how to ask; remembering this is Starsky, and he wants words, wants permission.

‘Use your mouth,’ he pants, shutting his eyes against the strangeness of it and reveling in the freedom instead. ‘Your whole mouth. Now.’

He feels Starsky’s laugh – holy crap he’s sensitive right now – and then gasps as Starsky does as he’s asked, taking him as deep as he can in one long hot firm movement. He lifts up, keeping the pressure tight all the way up, lingering to lick at the tip then sliding down again.

Hutch’s eyes snap open as he feels Starsky’s hand on his leg, covering his own. Starsky tucks his fingers under and pulls the hand up, planting it firmly on the back of his head. Oh. Hutch knots his fingers in the curls, tugging a little and receiving a moan around his cock in return that’s possibly the hottest thing he’s ever experienced. Then Starsky grabs at his hand again as he rises up, and places a light pressure over the back of his head as he sinks back down. Ohhh. Hutch feels breathless at the very prospect of Starsky giving him this much control.

Rough but sweet. Hutch begins to understand as he drags Starsky back up and lightly presses him down, holding him there a little longer than before. Up, and down, his hips twitching as he picks up the speed. Starsky keeps one hand gripping his thigh, the other fisting into the couch as he moans, letting himself be used and clearly embracing the sensation.

Hutch is close and the concentration involved in keeping Starsky’s mouth giving him what he wants without choking him is beyond him. He lets go, spreading hands on the couch as Starsky registers the change, understands and shifts position: mouth intense on the head and one hand now wrapped around the shaft, pumping hard. Hutch’s hips buck, twice, three times, and then he’s gone, dazzled at the power of it as Starsky keeps his hand moving but pulls away and watches Hutch come over his fingers and onto his own chest with a helpless groan of pleasure.

Hutch lets his head fall back and his eyes close. He wants to ride this feeling, bathe in it, for as long he can. Sex as poetry, sex as music: he didn’t know how right he was, while apparently barely knowing the half of it.

By the time he’s a little more alert, Starsky has wiped up his hands on the towel and is doing the same to Hutch with infinite care, and a wicked grin.

‘I take it back,’ says Hutch, a little hoarse. ‘Talking’s good. I like the talking. Tell me what you like.’

‘You don’t want to shower first?’

It’s Hutch’s turn to grin. ‘Why bother. You know these conversations usually wind up in the bedroom.’

‘Oh. The bedroom? Now you’re talking.’

Starsky hops off the couch, abandoning his robe completely to stroll naked towards the bed, Hutch following close behind.

Chapter Text

Three days later and they’ve settled back into a routine of work and stupid car arguments as if none of it ever happened. Starsky invites Hutch back to his every night; Hutch is tired and rainchecks. He does it kindly, with a squeeze of Starsky’s thigh – or higher – and a lustful look; a ‘maybe tomorrow?’ thrown over his shoulder, but it’s a brush off all the same.

Starsky thinks he knows why. The ‘tell me what you like’ conversation wasn’t exactly packed with fireworks as far as he was concerned. Starsky’s pretty simple in his tastes: he likes going down on a guy, likes a guy to go down on him, likes to fuck, finds Hutch to be very fuckable if Hutch would like that too – but that was maybe more than his vanilla partner was ready for, even if the conversation ended with Hutch’s mouth on his cock. What he’s asking for is a little beyond unclasping a bra.

Thursday they finish a day shift two hours late, but Friday’s off till the night. No excuses about early starts are going to cut it, even if Hutch is yawning as he pulls out of the precinct to take Starsky home.
‘I’m making you dinner, and you’re not saying no,’ Starsky tells him flat. ‘No strings. Nothing needs to happen, unless you want to steer it that way. I just want to kick back and eat and sink a couple of beers with you, ok?’

‘Ok,’ says Hutch a little irritably, as if he has no idea where that’s come from. ‘You know, your pick-up lines could use a little work.’

‘I already picked you up, Hutch. Now - ’ I just gotta keep you, is what he wants to say. ‘Now I’m just making you dinner.’

Hutch nods, still itching about something but god knows what. ‘What are we having?’

‘Alfredo.’

‘Oh, come on, Starsk. Heavy cream, butter, Parmesan. You trying to give me a heart attack?’

‘It’s delicious.’

‘It’s about twenty grams of fat per spoonful.’

‘I’ll help you work it off.’ Starsky feels Hutch’s expression shift without having to look. ‘Oh come on, I’m just being flirty. Just dinner. And – we can have salad. Or you can. I’m having Alfredo.’

Hutch heads for the shower when they get to Starsky’s, and it seems to wash away his testiness. He’s all smiles as he takes the offered beer, watching as Starsky grates a little cheese, chops a little garlic. It’s incredibly distracting. Hutch has pulled on the same set of day-rumpled clothes but his hair is damp, getting those little blond curls about his ears as it dries. He smells of Starsky’s soap, which shouldn’t be hot but somehow is. His long fingers wrap around his beer and Starsky imagines them in other places and damn near chops his finger off.

‘Go put some music on, will you?’ he says, washing up and keeping his blushes out of sight. It’s ridiculous. He spends all day with the guy and now just being around him, knowing he can’t touch, has him half out of his mind at the sheer beauty of the man.

Hutch picks up Starsky’s guitar instead and strums, humming along in a way that is absolutely not helpful.

Food. Dinner. No strings. He promised. Starsky boils water and drops in fistfuls of fettucine; melts a little butter, stirs in cream a little at a time. This: no sex, no stress, no heavy chat that’s taking things in a direction he’s not sure either of them are ready for. It’s what they need.

Until the strumming stops and Hutch is standing right behind him, one arm wrapping his waist to pull his ass tight against Hutch’s jeans, the other hand skimming down to tug at his zip. Hutch’s breath is hot and heavy on his neck, nipping at his ear.

‘I don’t know that I’m hungry,’ he whispers, sliding the belt from Starsky’s buckle and slipping his hand down into his briefs. ‘Any objections?’

Starsky has several but his cock says different, and when Hutch drags him away from the stove, turns him around and sinks down onto his knees, coherent thought flies out of the window. This is still pretty new, and Hutch is still fumbly and figuring things out, like teeth, and breathing, but Starsky figures a messy blow from someone trying that intently to get him off is always welcome, and the fact that it’s Hutch giving it: on its own that gets him rock hard. Hutch’s big hands knead his ass, fingertips digging in as he takes Starsky into his mouth down to the balls and swallows around him before abruptly pulling back and coming up for air. The effect is a little disorienting and Starsky resists the urge to give tips or make requests, instead making loud grunts of appreciation for when Hutch keeps it simple and rhythmic, tongue steady but ever-present, tension in his lips just right. It works. Starsky has to grip onto the kitchen counter to keep his knees from buckling as the blond head pulses back and forth, pace peaking until he chokes out a needy, ‘Hutch!’ and comes.

Last time Hutch had finished him with his hand, and evidently Hutch isn’t quite ready for what swallowing actually involves. He jerks back, gagging and gets the rest in his face.

‘Sorry,’ he mumbles, looking awkward as hell as he reaches for a kitchen cloth and tries to mop himself up.

‘Hey,’ says Starsky quickly, not having a bar of it. ‘Come here.’ He drags Hutch up by the arm and pulls him as close as he dares. ‘Don’t you dare apologise, that was hot as hell.’

He takes the cloth, wiping at Hutch’s chin, ear, eyebrow and laughing till the anxious look on Hutch’s face turns to a rueful smile. Cupping his cheek, he pulls him in for a long, slow kiss, tasting himself, tasting Hutch. It’s enough to make him wonder how long till he’ll be ready to go again – until the smell of burning pasta hits them both.

‘Go wash up,’ Starsky says, hastily tucking himself back into his pants before he starts pulling hot pans around. ‘I got it.’

He doesn’t got it – both pans go into the sink in a cloud of smoky steam – and they wind up ordering a pizza and watching a game neither of them cares about from the couch with a couple of beers.

It’s not exactly the night he’d laid out, but that’s down to Hutch. Either way, he figures it’s ok to break the rules again.

‘Hey,’ Starsky murmurs, tucking in a little closer beside Hutch and resting his chin on Hutch’s shoulder. ‘You got a little left behind back there. You wanna fool around?’

‘Fool around - what are you, a teenager?’ Hutch looks at his pocketwatch. ‘It’s getting late, Starsk, I should head home.’

‘Why? You can stay here. You know that.’

Hutch takes a long pull of his beer, and Starsky thinks: shit. He can practically see Hutch writing the Dear John letter in his head. Is that what that was? A goodbye blow, thank you, good night? Hutch testing his limits and finding himself beyond them; an experiment that’s reached its end. It hits Starsky then that he’s not remotely ok with that. There’s a pain in his chest that he hasn’t felt in a long time; not since sitting in a hospital with Terry and watching everything he wanted slip out of his hands. She knew. There wasn’t a thing about him she didn’t know, and she never judged; had her own history, not so pretty either. He knew how incredibly special that was. That he feels that way about Hutch, about the prospect of losing what’s barely even started: it’s both obvious and brand new information, and he figures that’s worth saying out loud.

‘Hutch – ’

‘Starsk – ’

They both launch into whatever speech they have planned simultaneously.

Starsky snorts. ‘You go.’

Hutch looks like he wishes he didn’t have to. ‘Listen. I think – I don’t – oh god, I don’t even know where to start.’

‘It’s only me, Hutch.’

‘That’s the problem. It’s you. You, with your certainty about everything, your confidence. You know exactly who you are and you have done for years. And I’m not saying that’s been easy – sounds like anything but – but, you have that security. Solid ground under your feet. And now I’m here, floundering around like a fool wondering if this is worth it, if I dare to risk everything I have – everything I ever knew about myself and took for granted. And I don’t know if I can do anything else, because I look at you, and – I want you. I want you, Starsk. I want to hold you and be held by you and – and be fucked by you.’ He takes a breath, as if hearing himself say it is a shock. ‘But I’ve never seen myself as that man. A man like that.’

Starsky furrows his brow, trying to unravel exactly what the knot is here. ‘A man like that. A gay man?’

Hutch looks unhappy even thinking about it.

‘Hutch. Sweetheart. You just ruined dinner sucking me off in the kitchen. Newsflash: that was pretty gay.’

‘Well. A little, obviously. But – guys fool around with their friends, right? It’s not unheard of. It doesn’t have to mean anything. In high school, I had a few friends who’d share pornos around – with pictures of women, obviously – and we’d all jerk off together. A little fooling around in the showers after working out.’

‘Oh, Hutch.’

‘I’m not talking about sex! It was just, you know, figuring sex out. It’s what guys do.’

‘It’s what some guys do, Hutch. Guys who like other guys, mostly – or figure out fast they don’t, and that’s the end of it. Nothing wrong with it, any more than what we just did. But it’s still sex.’ Starsky hesitates, realizing from Hutch’s face that he’s pulled on the right thread. ‘You know, I had a girlfriend – first real girlfriend – who I never had sex with. I put my hand in her panties. She tugged me off. She and I got hands and tongues and who knows what in all kinds of places for months. But she was a good girl, and that mattered to her, so officially, and technically: we never had sex.’

Hutch looks dismayed. ‘Why are you telling me that?’

‘Because you’re acting like a sixteen-year-old girl who wants to keep her promise ring and have orgasms.’ Starsky sighs, lifting a hand up and stroking strands of hair from Hutch’s forehead. ‘It’s all sex. If you’re worried about crossing a line, you crossed it in high school. You’ve always been that guy, even if you never acted on it since. And if you’re not ready, or comfortable, or down with thinking of yourself that way – you don’t have to. Ever. I’m not exactly out there in leather chaps flying a rainbow flag. I’m not straight, I’m not gay, I’m just – living. The labels and the definitions don’t matter unless they give you something good, something that helps you feel like you. Till then: you’re just Hutch. On my couch. Looking devastatingly attractive and frankly, if you said the word right now I’d take you to the bedroom and lay you down. Which is what this is really about, huh?’

Hutch stills. ‘That obvious?’

‘You said it out loud, dummy. And you’ve been skittish ever since I brought it up. Yes, I would like to fuck you. And it sounds like you’d like that too, apart from how the whole idea is causing you a nervous breakdown.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Nothing to be sorry for. I keep telling you, this is mutual, consensual, nothing on the table unless both of us are happy with it being there. There’s a whole lot of ways to get off, a whole lot of ways to get intimate. Sex, the kind of sex we’re talking about: that isn’t some kind of requirement. If I thought you didn’t want it too we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.’

‘I do want it.’ Hutch says it with fervour, then looks away, as if he half wants to take it back and knows he can’t, knows the half that doesn’t want to is the stronger. ‘I want to be able to let go, to give in to how I feel, the things I want, what maybe I’ve always wanted. I want… I want to be fucked by you, till I’m out of my mind, and I’m already half out of my mind just saying it. But – I’m scared. Not just – you know, how it’ll feel, whether I’m wired that way at all. I’m scared of what it means. It is crossing a line, Starsk. For me.’

Starsky thinks about how hard Hutch is working for this. This is pretty far from keeping the mystique of the bedroom, poetry and music. He’s meeting Starsky where he is, using his language, trying. So maybe Starsky can do a little of the same.

‘You trust me?’

Hutch nods mutely.

‘Then trust me on this. Now, tonight. No more talking or thinking or freaking out. Just me taking care of you. Making love to you. Let me show you how good it can be.’

 

 

*

 

 

Hutch watches Starsky carefully lay out a selection of items that he recognizes from busting up porno studios and the murkier corners of street bars. It doesn’t help.

Starsky clocks his nerves and pulls him into a kiss, the kind that starts with a quick touch of the lips, blooms into something softer, deeper and ends with a bite of the lower lip that sends blood rushing to Hutch’s face – and other places.

‘Quit freaking out,’ he says, unbuttoning Hutch’s shirt. ‘It’s just lube, and poppers, and condoms – and a plug in case you need a little help getting ready.’

Hutch has spent the last two nights driving out of town to the most out of the way sex shops he could find, hunting for the kind of manual he needs, the kind that comes in a brown paper wrapper – so he understands, in an unhelpful sort of way.

‘No douche?’ he asks, trying to sound light as Starsky yanks the shirt off his shoulders, and starts undoing his pants.

Starsky’s eyebrows lift, clearly amused by the fact that Hutch has been doing his homework. ‘Not unless you want that – and if you do, it’s all in the bathroom and I can show you. But not required on my account. I’ll be wearing a condom, and, well, I’m not squeamish. Ok?’

Hutch nods, relieved. It was probably the part of the process that sounded most unsettling; as if sex had to be preceded by some kind of ungodly medical exam.

‘I seem to be wearing a lot of clothes,’ quips Starsky, as he drops Hutch’s shorts down to his ankles. ‘You want to help a guy out?’

Hutch does. He’s tingly with nerves but Starsky’s eyes are warm and excited, his familiar body so newly enticing. Hutch pulls Starsky’s shirt over his head and can’t resist a kiss, pulling him close and running his hands down the smoothly muscled back. He smells of beer and a little sweat, which sounds terrible and yet is suddenly everything he wants. Starsky kisses him back, deeper, then kisses his way across Hutch’s chin to suck at his neck, nipping at his ear, coming back for more kisses that are rougher now, more intense. Hutch whimpers as he grips Starsky’s ass through his jeans, wanting him closer but feeling the abrasive scrape of denim against his naked flesh and stepping back quickly. He tugs at Starsky’s belt buckle, and lets Starsky finish the job of getting naked.

‘You’re beautiful,’ Hutch says, looking him up and down and feeling in his soul how true it feels; how easy. If he’s been hesitant until now, that ends: he’s done with guilt and shame and all the rest. He wants Starsky, the rightness of it both strange and simple.

‘Not so bad yourself,’ drawls Starsky, noting Hutch’s chest flushing.

‘So. Uh – I lie down on my front?’

Starsky grins, shaking his head as he narrows his eyes alluringly. ‘Slow down, hotshot. I want to take my time with this incredible body you got.’

Starsky wraps him into an embrace before pushing him down onto his back on the bed, giving him space to scoot up so his legs are on too before sinking on top of him. The weight feels good, the closeness of skin on skin. Starsky’s knee dips between Hutch’s legs and it’s surprisingly erotic, the sensation against his inner thighs, his balls, the light pressure that – not accidentally, he guesses – is now against his still soft cock, nudging it to start paying attention. He’s thinking too much, he knows. He wants to give into the feelings instead of analysing every move, every touch. But he wants to be aware of it all, too, alert to every minute element of the experience.

They kiss, long and slow, shifting position to stay comfortable as both begin to get aroused. Hutch resists the urge to take himself in hand: this is Starsky’s show.

‘So good, Hutch,’ Starsky breathes in his ear as he rubs his thigh between Hutch’s legs again and runs a hand up his belly and across his chest to tangle in Hutch’s hair and pull him in for another long, breath-stealing kiss. He dips his head lower to suck on a nipple – gentle at first, then with intent and then a nip of teeth and a chuckle as Hutch jolts off the bed.

It’s not just incredibly hot. It’s romantic, affectionate, and Hutch feels blessed, knowing he’s in bed at this moment with a partner who is intimately aware of his needs. This is slow, gentle, and it’s making Hutch begin to long for the intensity and abandonment of what’s to come.

Starsky breaks the embrace for a moment, then returns with a tiny bottle.

‘Sit up. Little sniff, watch for the headrush.’

Hutch isn’t a guy who does drugs but he knows why Starsky’s offering it: a muscle relaxant. It should break the spell but Hutch is nothing but excited. He takes the unscrewed bottle and inhales. It smells toxic and it feels like it’s about to take the roof of his head off – but the overall feeling is pleasant as it flows through him. He smiles dizzily as he hands the bottle back to a smiling Starsky.

‘Lay back.’ Starsky fusses with something else on the nightstand, then returns to tuck himself in near Hutch’s ass. ‘Legs up. This is going to be a little cold, ok. Relax, it’s just one finger, real slow.’

Every instinct in Hutch wants to tense as he feels the pressure of that fingertip, the alienness of it as it enters. Starsky wasn’t kidding about slow; he pauses with just a fingertip inside, eyes steadily on Hutch’s face, then eases further gently, gently, until Hutch feels a thicker knuckle slip inside.

It feels indescribably good. Unexpected, maybe even a little confusing, but Hutch breathes out in relief. He likes it, he wants it, he still wants it now it’s happening – and more, a lot more.

Hutch nods encouragement, grateful for the care Starsky’s showing but greedy for more, faster, now. Starsky smiles back as he flexes the finger inside and sends a shiver of pleasure through Hutch. He twists the finger, moving it back and forth as he does, and Hutch’s breath hitches. He finds himself moistening his lips, staring straight up as Starsky slides in a second finger beside the first.

The stretch is too much and painful and yet glorious, instantly better and not enough. Hutch’s erection has vanished but he feels his hips begin to twitch and Starsky steadies him, free hand on his belly but with a smile of recognition and not a little glee. He leans in carefully, slightly adjusting position to allow himself to lie alongside Hutch and demand a kiss. Hutch obliges, with no finesse, as the two fingers twist and turn inside him, sending shudders down his legs at the sensation of pressure against the tight ring of muscle. Starsky fucks him gently with the two fingers, then a little harder, and Hutch begins to groan in rhythm with the small thrusts.

‘You like that, huh,’ Starsky murmurs into Hutch’s mouth, still dipping in for wet kisses and plainly enjoying the way Hutch is losing track.

Hutch nods, urgently, hoping that says he wants more plainly enough and pulling a grin onto Starsky’s face.

‘One second, I’m coming back.’

Starsky pulls out and Hutch moans, the sudden absence leaving him feeling bereft and empty. It doesn’t last; a moment later the pressure’s back, slicker and colder, and before long there are three fingers working their way inside, rotating to help him adjust to the stretch.

From there it’s that empty feeling again before Starsky’s whispering in his ear, his eyes sparkling and excited.

‘You still good, Hutch? You ready for me?’

Yes. Yes he’s ready, yes he wants more, he wants Starsky, now. He’s long past words but apparently Starsky gets the message, leaving a smirky kiss on his cheek before patting his ass.

‘Turn over. Scoot down. Up, hips up, there you go.’

Hutch feels a pillow slide under him, and barely has time to settle into a comfortable position before Starsky’s hands are on his hips. Then he feels pressure and slickness, like before but undeniably bigger.

The bottle’s back under his nose and he breathes in gratefully, welcoming the headrush as he feels Starsky push against him, his body resisting even as he tells it not to, until finally that stretch hits. It takes his breath away and Starsky whispers, ‘I got you, I got you,’ holding his hips firmly before moving again, edging carefully deeper as Hutch groans. It’s close to pain but not pain; close to an invasion but somehow welcome, wonderful, a feeling he thinks he might never want to end. Starsky grabs his shoulder with one hand and sinks inside him, this time until Hutch feels the press of his body against his cheeks and a flood of sensation as Starsky’s cock hits some magical spot in there he never even knew existed. He can’t see it, can’t see Starsky, but what is happening right now has him gripping the edge of the bed, fighting for breath, intoxicated by the mere concept of being fucked by his partner and knowing it feels this good.

Hutch is panting now as Starsky grips one of Hutch’s legs and pushes it up the bed to give him even more closeness. His hips rock against Hutch, slow pushes in and out, just an inch at a time.

‘Oh god, Hutch, so good,’ mumbles Starsky. ‘I’m – you – tell me if you need me to stop - ’

Hutch knows his partner’s fighting to keep things slow and careful and if he could find the concentration to form words he’d tell him: go, I want it, don’t hold back. He tries to show him, pushing back a little with his hips into the thrust; clenching as much as he can when he’s already stretched tight. Whatever does it, Starsky gets the message. Hutch feels both hands grip his hips now, tighter, as Starsky stops holding back and gives him his full length. He can hear skin slap against skin, and it’s filthy, sweaty and abandoned, everything he wants to give into and never has. He’s groaning loudly with every thrust now, not caring, bound up utterly in the feeling of stretch and fullness and Starsky, his Starsky.

Starsky’s breath starts coming out in ragged helpless gasps as his hips speed up. Hutch feels him pumping hard and fast with his fingernails hanging onto Hutch’s hips like a vice, three, four times and then he shudders against Hutch as he comes, quivering, before falling forward to lie in a graceless sweaty heap on his back. They both rest there for a moment, breathless and lost, swept into a shared moment of release and passion and overwhelm.

Hutch moans softly as Starsky lifts himself up again and carefully pulls out, and the mattress bounces as he leaves it. The empty feeling returns, but Hutch is too exhausted now to argue. He rolls onto his back, feeling the unfamiliar stickiness of lube between his cheeks, between his thighs; worries about the bedclothes and decides he’s too wrecked to care. His cock is half hard and though he feels supremely satisfied his hand idly pulls at it, aware that he’s acutely turned on and over-sensitive and liable to go off like a rocket or wilt into nothing.

Instead, Starsky reappears from the bathroom and slips onto the bed beside him, turning his head to pull him into a deep kiss as he adds his hand around Hutch’s, and the smooth gentle movement leads to the laziest orgasm he’s ever had, a slow burn that pumps out over both their hands and leaves him mumbling something incomprehensible that makes Starsky laugh.

He tries waking up enough to decipher it, but Starsky washes him down with a damp cloth, dipping carefully between his legs, and then big-spoons beside him, one arm wrapped around his chest, and everything else can wait. There’s nowhere else he wants to be.

Chapter Text

When Hutch wanders out of the bedroom next morning wearing nothing but Starsky’s ancient belted cardigan and a dazed look, Starsky can’t help but laugh.

Hutch blushes scarlet, looking an adorable mix of pleased and affronted. ‘You don’t have to look quite so smug,’ he mutters, smoothing down his sex-tousled hair.

Starsky grins. To be honest he had the same look half an hour ago: that blissed-out post-fuck blur around his edges, but he’s had a shower and a coffee since. He preens just a little. ‘You’re forgetting I’ve seen that face before: the one you get after you had a spectacularly good time last night and you can’t wait to crow about it. Except this time you don’t have to, because it was me who put that look there.’

Hutch blinks. ‘I was an active participant, you know.’

‘I remember.’

‘A little credit, huh?’

Starsky laughs again, jumping up to get the poor man a cup of coffee. ‘I had a spectacularly good time last night too, you know.’

Hutch sinks into the couch, wincing a little as arranges his legs and the cardigan to maintain a vague sense of decency.

Starsky refills his own cup, watching, then carries them both over. He hands Hutch his, dipping in for a quick kiss on the lips before dropping onto the couch too. ‘You ok?’

‘Sure.’

‘That was convincing.’

Last night’s gay talk was a lot. Though he figures what followed has put a little of that to bed, Starsky knows Hutch well enough to expect some processing. His partner’s cogs are whirring. If Starsky needed to take things gently with him in the bedroom – well, as much as he could manage – then the morning after needs the same care and kindness.

‘Come on. What’s going on up there?’

Hutch sips his coffee, looking embarrassed. ‘I – god, Starsk, after we just did that I should be able to talk to you about anything. And instead I feel like the blushing virgin after the wedding night.’

‘Wedding night, huh? Not the greatest review I ever had.’

It’s Hutch’s turn to laugh. ‘Last night was… incredible. You were incredible.’

‘Thank you. You were pretty fantastic yourself, I thought I about lost myself by the end there.’

He wants to say more; wants to say it’s never felt exactly like that before; that sex with Hutch is nothing like what he imagined because he’s never been with a guy he’d known for more than a few hours before, never been with a guy he’d die for, and apparently, turns out, that changes the whole ball game. But Hutch already looks pleased with himself, and it’s cute, and that’s plenty.

‘I have no regrets, ok?’ Hutch tries to look serious and a grin takes over him instead, like he can’t help himself, like just thinking about it makes him happy. It feels like sunshine on Starsky’s skin. But there’s more, because it’s Hutch, and there’s always more. ‘I just – there are some surprises involved. Like, I wondered before if it would make me feel emasculated somehow.’

‘Emasculated.’

‘Yeah. It means – ’

‘I know what it means,’ Starsky says dryly. He’s been with guys driving around that particular block; not a good place to be.

‘And I don’t,’ Hutch explains quickly. ‘I feel like – we were together, you know? And I don’t see how we could have been any more together. It’s a ridiculous thing to think about. And actually what I should’ve been thinking about was, you know, practical stuff. Next time, I am taking a shower right after.’

Starsky chuckles – half at the happy presumption in next time, half at the look of dismay on Hutch’s face.

‘Yeah, sorry. Clean up’s important. You just looked so pretty lying there all worn out and sloppy. Next time, I’ll wake you.’

‘Thank you. Also, without wanting to be indelicate: I am aware of certain body parts, acutely aware, in a way that I have not been before, and… is that normal?’

Starsky grins, unable to help himself. ‘Yeah. You’re gonna be a little sore, not just the first time; I maybe didn’t take it quite as easy on you as intended. You get used to it. I kind of like it, myself. Sort of a morning-after turn on.’

Hutch raises an eyebrow and sips his coffee delicately. ‘So. You, uh, also – ’

‘Take it up the ass?’

‘Starsky!’

It’s absurd, the way his partner can lick cum off the end of his cock one day and be mad at his lack of decorum the next, but he’s meant to be taking things at Hutch’s pace, in Hutch’s way.

‘Sorry. Yeah, with the right guy. My preference is to top – ’ He hesitates, seeing Hutch’s frown. ‘Like last night.’

‘Top,’ nods Hutch. ‘As opposed to?’

‘Bottom.’

‘Charming.’ Hutch catches himself, crunching his eyes shut in apology. ‘Sorry. I didn’t mean – ’

‘Yeah, you did, but it’s ok.’ Starsky reaches out a hand and grips Hutch’s shoulder where it meets his neck, squeezing the muscle there to relax it. They all grew up with plenty of poison poured in their ears, however liberal or open an upbringing might have felt at the time. Forgiving himself for that took Starsky time and he figures Hutch deserves no less.

‘Some people just like one side of that. Some are switchy; like both. And plenty of guys don’t fly with this at all, Hutch, you gotta remember that. Sex with girls isn’t just sticking it in, you know? Sex with guys is no different. There’s a whole lot of ways to get off, a whole lot of ways to get intimate. What we did last night isn’t some kind of requirement. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but there’s no rules here. You’re not joining a club where you have to learn the secret code. It’s just me, and you, and figuring out who likes what.’

Hutch takes a long pull of his coffee.

‘So how did you figure out what you liked?’

‘Trial and error.’ Starsky smiles. ‘Same as any kind of sex. You don’t know if you like it till you do it, and with the right person. You stick around if it’s fun, you bow out if it’s not. Or – give a little direction.’ Hutch blushes again and Starsky clocks that perhaps the confident, experienced routine is not helping. ‘Hey. It’s all new for me too, partner. With you – it’s different, ok? I know you. Every touch, every intimate little thing, it’s got this electricity attached to it and I never felt that before. I’m figuring this out as I go, just like you are.’

It feels like more of an admission than he’d planned and a little close to saying something far too big for either of them to handle – but Hutch smiles softly, leaning in for a quick kiss and either oblivious or unbothered.

‘So.’ Hutch looks at his coffee, blushing deeply. ‘If I wanted, sometime, maybe… to be the top… with you. To see if I liked it, if we liked it. That – would that be, uh, an option?’

‘Oh.’ No wonder he didn’t pick up on what’s underneath what Starsky said if that’s what he’s been chewing on. Starsky smiles broadly, aware that Hutch even asking the question has him feeling instantly turned on. ‘Yeah, Hutch. If that’s a thing you’d like, I’m up for it. I’d need to keep a little control with a guy like you, that’s all; you’re going to need to let me lead.’

‘Guy like me?’ Hutch asks in a small voice.

Starsky cackles. ‘You’re a big boy, Hutch. You feeling all those body parts you’re feeling? Well, imagine that times ten. I’ll just have to help you take things slow, that’s all. OK?’

Hutch nods, smirking just a little. ‘Deal.’

‘Now for the love of god go shower. And if you’ve very very lucky, when you come out I’ll have made you some eggs.’

Chapter Text

They’re on nights for the next ten days, and though it shouldn’t matter, it slows things down. Somehow coming home after work to dinner and kissing on the couch and what inevitably comes after kissing on the couch feels natural. Crashing in daylight when they’re both beat and ready to bolt down a meal and sleep, by contrast: not exactly sexy. And trying to steal a few hours in the evening before work just means either watching the clock or – to Hutch’s acute embarrassment – frantic making out in a stolen twenty minutes before arriving barely on time and with enough of a rash around his face that he has to create some bizarre story about an allergic reaction to aftershave.

‘I keep telling you not to buy that cheap stuff,’ Starsky scolds, delighted.

‘Thanks a bunch, partner,’ Hutch hisses at the coffee pot.

‘I’m just selling the bit for you, huh?’ Starsky pulls his doe-eyed thing where he’s all innocence. ‘If I didn’t rag you a little, the jig would be up, huh?’

‘Whatever,’ mutters Hutch, ignoring him to pour coffee and watching the rest of the squad room for signs of suspicion.

No one cares. Hutch relaxes some, accepting that perhaps, after all, he’s not wearing a big target on his face that says STARSKY WAS HERE. But there’s a nervousness about coming to work now that there wasn’t before, and it makes him tense in a way he doesn’t know how to fix.

The caseload doesn’t help, a catalogue of thin dull jobs, opportunistic car heists and scam lottery tickets. Hutch knows he should be grateful for a low body count for once but it makes every hour sat in that damn chair, opposite Starsky and completely unable to touch him, to show any kind of ordinary feeling, into a kind of relentless misery. It’s unfair, and unkind, and the fact that Starsky seems perfectly able to switch between his two worlds is an uncomfortable reminder of how long he’s been doing so.

Hutch doesn’t find lies come easily. Starsky’s the better undercover cop, always has been. Hutch gets by from thinking of it as a performance, an actor in a role; Starsky just chameleons his way into whoever he needs to be. It’s always felt like a positive. Right now it just makes Hutch a little sad, and something else considerably less generous.

The day wears on and the clock ticks round to overtime as he taps his way listlessly through yet another car theft, same as every other one – I just came back and it was gone, yes I did leave my keys inside, I was only in the store for a minute – and it’s only thanks to the arrival of Dobey refilling his coffee that he manages not to directly insult the woman. Starsky, meanwhile, is typing about one key a minute and looks like he might fall asleep into the typewriter any second.

‘Thank you for your time, ma’am. We’ll be sure to follow up, just as soon as we can.’

Miss Helen Whatever Her Name Was leaves, a hint of sweet perfume hanging in the air behind her. Hutch tips back on the back two legs of his desk chair and yawns, trying to stretch the day out of his spine.

‘You two sickening for something?’ asks Dobey, staring at them both.

‘Huh?’ says Starsky, opening one eye.

‘Every time a beautiful woman so much as passes by this office, you two are after her with your tongues hanging out. That girl, you barely even gave her the time of day! What gives?’

Hutch’s chair drops back onto all four legs with a jolt. Was she beautiful? Hutch doesn’t remember even really looking.

Starsky opens the other eye, suddenly very awake.

‘Well, Cap,’ Hutch says quickly. ‘See, Starsky here’s got a new squeeze. Keeping him up at night, by all accounts. I mean look at him. He’s exhausted.’

‘Oh yeah?’

‘Yeah.’ Hutch nods sincerely. ‘Apparently he’s smitten. Can’t think of anything else.’

Starsky smiles at Dobey, blushing fetchingly.

‘Congratulations. What’s your excuse, Hutchinson?’

‘Oh, I’m just trying to be a more respectful representative of the force, Captain. A woman ought to be able to come in here, report a crime, without some man leering all over her.’

Dobey nods. ‘Excellent. It’s about time we had some women’s liberation in this office. You’d do well to listen to your partner, Starsky.’

‘Oh, I do, Captain,’ says Starsky, still smiling.

They wait for Dobey to leave then hustle wordlessly to the car.

‘Smitten, huh?’ says Starsky, as Hutch fires up the Ford and pulls out of the lot. ‘You’re very confident all of a sudden.’

‘Uh-uh-uh,’ Hutch says, wagging a finger. ‘Rule Two.’

‘Don’t tell me about Rule Two! You’re the reason there is a Rule Two!’

Rule One: no public displays of affection – which means anywhere outside their apartments, including in the hallway directly outside Starsky’s front door, which supposedly shouldn’t need saying but it’s not Hutch’s fault that Starksy’s just that irresistible that he wants to bump up close behind him, lick his neck and try to undo his pants before he can get the place unlocked.

Rule Two: no chat in the car about any of it. Also the result of an over-eager Hutch resting his hand on Starsky’s thigh at a long traffic light on their way home from a shift, letting his fingers walk a little higher, and leaving Starsky in a distinctly awkward condition with no way of resolving it without very visibly breaking Rule One.

Hutch smirks, enjoying the memory.

‘You know, a few boundaries is not too much to ask.’

‘I didn’t cross any boundaries, Starsk. A little casual office chat that leaves no one any the wiser, unless they already knew, which no one does. They don’t suspect a thing. Just like I never did.’

Starsky hears the edge to Hutch’s voice and opens his mouth to argue, but gets another finger wag in his face.

Starsky glares at him, clearly furious. ‘Take me to yours, huh? We gotta figure this out.’

Starsky sits on his hands, then presses one over his mouth for the rest of the ride to Venice Place. Silence does not come naturally, and he overflows the second they’re inside.

It’s not a rant about how Hutch needs to be more careful. Far from it.

‘I got an idea. So, we got the weekend off, right? And we gotta reset things a little, reassert a certain reputation. So I was thinking – we have a party. Here. All the usual crowd, and all the usual, you know.’

‘Thought if you can’t name it you shouldn’t be doing it?’ says Hutch sourly, not liking this one bit. He fetches himself a glass of water to cool off a little as Starsky prattles on.

‘All right. Flirting, dancing, kissing, maybe a little light undressing as the night goes on. Just – not us. Us and other people. The other people being girls.’

Hutch puts his water glass down a little more firmly on the table than planned as he emerges from the kitchen.

‘Thanks for the clarification.’

‘Oh, you’re mad.’ Starsky looks nervous. ‘Why are you mad, Hutch? I’m trying to do us a favor. Just put people off the scent a little, buy us a little space.’

‘And your method just happens to involve you fucking someone else.’

It’s not language he uses – except lately, with Starsky, in bed, with a kind of directness and confidence that he finds a turn on. Right now he means it how it sounds the rest of the time: a little low.

Starsky looks stunned.

‘Hutch – ’

‘You know, when this started I didn’t realize we needed to have a conversation about exclusivity. More fool me.’

He sounds bitter and Starsky looks even more bewildered.

‘Hutch. Slow down. You remember why we’re having this conversation, right? Cause Dobey noticed something was different. You know what happens if he really starts noticing? Or someone else? I’m trying to keep us off the hook.’

‘How convenient for you.’

Starsky loses the confused look. His expression darkens: not just disappointment but anger.

‘You might want to think a little harder about that, Hutch.’

He bangs out without another word.

Hutch picks up his water glass, hefts it in his hand, then throws it across the room, hard, glad when it smashes into irrevocable pieces against the wall.

 

 

*

 

 

Starsky has to take a cab back to his place and if it wasn’t barely 10am the temptation to redirect it to some bar, just to spite Hutch, would be overwhelming.

Not even a bar with girls, maybe.

Except just the thought of sliding himself into that disguise again – Pete, or Mark, or Tommy, whoever he was for the night, insulated from being found out as much as possible and insulated from any meaningful connection just as surely – fills him with despair.

He doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want some hook up with a girl, either, even if he gets to use his real name and no one else is ever going to give a damn.

He wants Hutch, what he has now with Hutch. It is a thousand million miles away from anything he might ever have hoped for, and the idea that he would trash it for a quick roll: it hurts. It’s not just that Hutch doesn’t trust him. It’s that they’re not on the same page at all. If Hutch can imagine he’s anything other than one hundred per cent invested in their partnership, he doesn’t know how the hell else he’s meant to have shown it.

He’s too wired for sleep so he cleans the apartment top to bottom. Goes for a run. Showers and picks up groceries. In the end he forces himself into bed for three hours of sleep before he’s due back on shift, and he wakes up every bit as defensive.

Hutch, give him his due, rolls up to collect him twenty minutes early, though he waits outside instead of coming up.

‘So: I’m putting a hold on Rule Two for this ride,’ Hutch announces by way of good evening. ‘And don’t look at me like that. You want to rock up at the office without having a conversation about this?’
Starsky wants to snap back, because he doesn’t want to have a conversation about this at all. But Hutch is right. They have work. Maybe they need Rule Three: whatever we’re mad at each other about, leave it at home.

‘All right. I’m in. Shoot.’

Hutch nods, seemingly calm and certain, as if he’s planned out what he needs to say and how to say it. Typical. Always got to have an intellectual answer to everything. He’s probably about to tell Starsky all about poetry again.

‘Starsk, I – yesterday, I don’t think I really knew what I was mad at, and now – I took it all for a walk around the block, so to speak, and – oh hell, I can’t drive and do this at the same time.’

He pulls over, parking up beside a vacant lot between two bars and twisting in his seat so he can look Starsky in the eye, and revealing that he is in fact pale, sweaty and bordering on frantic.

‘Hey.’ Starsky grabs his arm, squeezing it tight, because it’s Hutch and even if he’s mad at him he still loves him, and because if Rule Two is off then Rule One can take a break in a silent dark middle of nowhere place.

‘I got mad at the wrong thing, ok?’ says Hutch, wrapping a hand on top of Starsky’s and squeezing back. ‘That’s what happened. You started talking about parties and inviting people over and all I wanted was to say yes: yes, I want to throw a party. To bring the people we care about together, and – not to hide, Starsk, not to fool anyone. To show them what’s true. You, and me. What we have now.’

‘Hutch.’

‘I want to take you out for dinner. Not just two guys knocking off work: as a couple, like any other couple. I want to go dancing with you and not have to pretend there’s someone else I’d rather be dancing with. I want to go to the beach and lay in the sun, rub suncream into your back and know that if anyone watches it all they see is two guys in love.’

Starsky gets it. Of course he gets it, he’s lived it. Hutch is hardly the first angry guy to feel like that. But maybe the first guy got kneecapped and the second got his throat cut and by guy number seven everybody else got the message. It’s a fight, to get that to change. And if you’re a cop, you can’t be a cop and be in that fight. The end.

Hutch reads Starsky’s bleak expression and shuts his eyes, shaking his head at the impossibility of it.

‘I know. I know, it’s crazy, I know it can’t happen. But – all week long I’ve been looking at you opposite a desk, in a car, talking to whoever and you: you fool the whole world, Starsk. You’d have had me fooled forever. You start talking about dating women again and all I can think is – if it comes to you that easy, how would I ever know? If you wanted something else. If you wanted to lie to me.’

Starsky takes a beat to breathe in, out; remind himself that he likes his partner and loves his partner and even if the man is capable of taking a reasonable point of view and turning it into total nonsense, it’s not his fault. At least not this time.

‘Well, Hutch, I’ll promise you this: if I wanted to hook up with girls and keep it a secret from you, for sure I’d ask you to hold a party at your place and tell you all about it.’

Hutch has the grace to look embarrassed.

‘And if I wanted something else – from you, from this relationship? I’d say it out loud. To your face. Like I did when I told you how I felt about men. When I told you how I felt about you. When I ask you to grab my ass real tight when you kiss me because it gets me going, when I ask you to get on your knees and suck me off because I know I’m close and you’ll get me there and a little way past and look beautiful doing it. Like I would if things ever change and it’s not what I want any more. I don’t say it in the squad room because I like my job, and I like you having the same job, and if anyone there ever finds out then my life, this one that I happen to like, comes to a crashing end.

‘You want to talk about trust, Hutch? Here’s trust. Until a few weeks ago, the only person who could expose me was me: me, taking risks or not, being smart or not. And now? I have to trust you, absolutely. I have to trust you not to slip and show Dobey something he shouldn’t see. I have to trust you not to steal a kiss off me some place you think no one’s looking but maybe they are. My whole life, everything I care about: I’m trusting you to take care of it.’

Hutch swallows, as if this is a total revelation.

Starsky softens.

‘The party, the girls – that was a dumb idea, and I’m sorry. I don’t want to hook up with someone else, I’m just trying to find ways to take the load off of both of us. I know you don’t like it, lying to folks you love. I don’t like it either. But I didn’t make the rules. So I don’t think you get to be mad at me for trying to keep them.’

Hutch has no answer, and Starsky’s relieved to know he gets it. But he looks heartbroken all the same.

‘Hutch?’

He closes his eyes. ‘I just… I want to take you out and show the world the incredible couple we are. The ones you see across a restaurant, you know? Holding hands, can’t stop smiling, still finding so much to talk about after however long. It’s not fair we don’t get that.’

‘No, it’s not. It’s rotten. But you don’t have to take me out for dinner for us to be real, Hutch. We still count if we never go dancing. You and me’s kind of all we got. Personally? I think that’s plenty.’

Hutch smiles, the kind of relaxed grin that’s already moving on to a new thought and lifts a weight off both their shoulders.

‘So, this weekend,’ he says softly. ‘Party for two?’

Chapter Text

They finish the endless run of night shifts on Saturday at 8am.

‘I hope you’re not expecting me to party right this second,’ mumbles Starsky, voice hoarse from yelling across rooftops and down stairwells while they tailed two juvenile hoods around a winding maze of apartment complexes. ‘I could sleep for a month.’

Hutch smiles. ‘You have till 7 o’clock tonight. That’s when I’m expecting you. I think you're going to want to be on time.’

Starsky yawns, then squints at him suspiciously. ‘Why are you so perky?’

‘Just looking forward to the weekend, partner.’

Starsky smiles, a little dirtily. ‘Yeah, me too. Least I will once I’m awake enough to think it. See ya.’

Hutch watches him drive off towards home, then climbs into the old Ford and turns in another direction entirely.

He’s not just looking forward to this weekend. He’s got plans. And they mean shopping, at a couple of places he’s happy to drive a little further to reach. It takes multiple stops, and by the time Hutch is back home it’s already 11. He needs to rest up now; he’s assuming – hoping - he might not get too much sleep tonight.

When the alarm goes at 6 in the evening, he lets himself lie in bed under the covers for a few minutes, just contemplating where they’ve got to. It’s taken not a little courage on both their parts, he knows, and they’ve both taken missteps along the way. But right now: he’s got a giddy little pit of excitement in his belly, the kind you get when you’re just plain crackers about someone and you don’t even care. The fact that it’s Starsky: it’s beyond logic yet it makes perfect sense. Of course they’re good together, great together. He only wishes they hadn’t taken so long – but even that has its benefits. He’s got so much pent-up sexual longing to work through that he can feel things stirring just contemplating the night ahead, and has to drag himself to a cool shower to save that particular option up. He’s healthy, and horny, and it’s not like he wouldn’t be ready to go again by the time Starsky’s here. But he’d much rather have Starsky’s hand on his cock than his own, and frankly that’s just the half of what he’s imagining.

He spends the rest of the hour bustling around the apartment getting it ready, and collecting a ready-made dinner for two from the restaurant at Venice Place.

A little after seven there’s a rap at the door, and Starsky peers his head through. He takes one look at the apartment and bursts out into a huge grin.

‘You idiot, what the hell?’

‘You like?’ says Hutch, sashaying across the room wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat, sunglasses, and nothing else but a pair of bright yellow very short shorts. He holds out a cocktail with an umbrella for his partner to take, before dropping a straw fedora onto his curls. There’s a beach umbrella set up on the sundeck outside over a towel strewn with cushions, and streamers hang from the plant pots and the lamps, like a canopy over the couch. He’s got soft music playing, a light salsa rhythm.

Starsky laughs as Hutch sways his hips a little to the music.

‘I like,’ he grins, taking a sip of his drink and looking pleasantly surprised. ‘I like a lot.’

‘Orange juice, fresh coconut milk, a little mint, crushed ice – and some rum. Not too much, I don’t want you getting rowdy on me.’

‘Oh is that so?’ Starsky looks him up and down. ‘You got a pair of those shorts for me?’

Hutch snaps his fingers, looking mock-crestfallen. ‘Dang. I knew I’d forget something. Guess you’ll have to go without.’

‘I always did like skinny-dipping in the summer.’

Hutch smiles, sipping his drink as he watches Starsky perform an incredibly inelegant striptease that leaves him wearing only his briefs and the fedora.

‘Nuh-uh,’ says Hutch. ‘Still too many clothes.’

He tosses the hat.

Hutch shakes his head: nope, not enough.

Starsky sucks on his bottom lip, considering it.

‘I think I need you to dance with me before I’m willing to go all the way.’

‘That’s fair. A little give, a little take.’

Hutch’s eyes flash as he says it, pulling another lazy smile onto Starsky’s lips at the prospect of a whole weekend of this: flirting, open, just having fun with each other.

Hutch takes Starsky’s glass, setting both drinks down, before pulling him close and resting his hands on Starsky’s bare hips. Starsky drops his arms around Hutch’s shoulders, clasping them loosely behind his neck and smiling as they both begin to move with the music.

‘Hey – you know how to salsa, right? Come on, gets those hips moving,’ Starsky demands, putting a little more hip action in to show it off.

‘Easy there, Ramon,’ Hutch smirks, enjoying the rotation of Starsky’s hips under his hands, moving his own to match and enjoying the way Starsky approves.

‘A little closer, I think,’ Starsky murmurs, lowering his arms to tug Hutch into hold, one hand on his back just at the top of his shorts, the other gripping and raising Hutch’s free arm. They’re not pressed together yet, but the hand on his back is enough to make Hutch’s heart beat faster as Starsky directs him through the steps: forward on the right, together, back on the left, together, hips rocking in a figure eight. ‘Yeah, you got it. That’s real nice, Hutch.’

As if prove he means it, Starsky’s hand slides down to cup Hutch’s ass through the thin shorts and in the same move pulls him close, belly to belly, near enough to grind into his crotch and beam at the way Hutch’s face flushes with colour.

The music picks up, a little faster with Cuban flavor. Hutch breaks away to turn the volume up, picking up their drinks and handing Starsky his again.

‘Cin-cin,’ he says, chinking glasses as Starsky moves solo, eyes steadily on Hutch as his feet move in time to the song, hips and ass swaying as he steps out to the side and back, to the side and back. Hutch nods approvingly, enjoying the show; enjoying how much Starsky is obviously enjoying his appreciation.

Hutch drains his cocktail and lets himself move too: not with the easy confident grace that Starsky has but relaxed and rhythmic all the same. Starsky grins, beckoning him closer and mapping out his moves for Hutch with a gesture from his hands ahead of each rock of his hips, teaching him wordlessly how to follow. It’s the kind of seamless communication Hutch has always loved about their working partnership; the fact that they know on instinct who’s up first, who’s cover, when they’re in trouble. Hutch chuckles, his failure to keep time as much fun as the dancing.

The music switches again, another Latin rhythm and Starsky sets his drink down.

‘You know how to salsa roll?’ he asks, knowing the answer already.

Hutch shakes his head.

Starsky steps forward then turns, and presses his round ass into Hutch’s crotch, grabbing one of Hutch’s arms and wrapping it tight around his waist. This: this is promising.

‘So: you just gotta follow me, ok? Like we’re stuck together, like you’re my shadow. Put your other arm up like mine, yeah, and hold my wrist? Nice. And here you go.’

He leans forward, ass out, and Hutch does his best to stick his ass out too and lay across Starsky’s back – before he suddenly shifts them both back upright and leaning backwards, leading with one shoulder and his free arm up. Then back down, like they’re petals furling and unfurling, rotating in a circle at the same time. It’s a disaster, Hutch bumping into his ass, getting his foot stepped on and eventually breaking off to laugh at his own hopelessness.

‘No no no, no quitting! Other way round, my fault, this is easier.’

They switch places and Starsky’s right: Hutch can let Starsky guide him along with the move easier this way. The sensation of them pressed skin to skin like this is glorious, as is the presence of the beginnings of Starsky’s hard-on nudging against his cheeks.

But Hutch wants more, too. As the music shifts to a soft merengue, he tugs Starsky’s arm away from his waist and turns around.

‘Hey,’ he says, gazing into Starsky’s eyes as he rests his hands on his upper back briefly, then reaches down and slips both palms under Starsky’s waistband, squeezing his ass and grinding him into his crotch again. Satisfied with the way Starsky’s lips have now parted in an O of pleasure, he dips in for a kiss: long, deep, the kind you get lost in. Starsky kisses him back urgently, one hand reaching to grip the back of Hutch’s head and keep him there, not controlled but loved as he slides the other up Hutch’s chest to cup his jaw.

He doesn’t know how long they kiss like that, but eventually Starsky pulls back, eyes hazy with lust. His briefs are already tucked down under his ass, Hutch’s hands still needily touching his cheeks.
‘A little help, partner,’ says Starsky throatily, reaching behind him to take Hutch’s wrists and help him pull them down at the front too, releasing his hard cock. Then he looks at Hutch’s tiny yellow shorts, smirks, and tugs them down too, with difficulty.

Hutch is so hard it hurts and he’s mildly furious with himself at how quickly Starsky can turn him on when he wants to take his time, really show him how much he wants every inch of this too: dancing, flirting, the quieter romance of what they have.

But he also wants to fuck, and be fucked, to suck and be sucked, and who cares what order any of it happens in.

They both step out of their remaining clothes, kicking them away and stumble to the bed through the alcove. Hutch can’t help but give himself a little pull on the way, needing contact, and Starsky tuts softly, amused.

‘You need to learn how to share,’ he murmurs, joining Hutch on the bed and lying close, slipping his leg between Hutch’s thighs and pressing his own cock along the length of Hutch’s. They rub together for a few seconds, then Starsky grabs Hutch’s right palm and tongues it, sucking on his fingers.

Hutch doesn’t need telling why. He puts the now-slick hand down between them and wraps them both in his fingers, quivering at the strangeness of feeling himself and not himself as he both pumps his hand and thrusts into it, feeling Starsky’s firm hot cock against his own. The friction is a little too much. He moans, easing his hand away reluctantly and turning away.

‘Hey, no, come back, come back,’ whispers Starsky, still thrusting against his leg a little frantically.

‘One sec, hold on,’ Hutch whispers back, reaching out one arm and tugging a drawer in his nightstand open. He can’t find what he’s looking for immediately and has to roll over, muttering apologies as he hops onto his knees to hunt it out.

When he turns around, still kneeling, he’s squeezing an enthusiastic quantity of lube into his hand, rubbing his fingers into it to make sure.

Starsky grins, his laugh turning to a smirk as Hutch reconsiders the previous position and beckons him to come closer and straddle him. Starsky does, ass resting on Hutch’s thighs, shifting his hips to get closer. Then Hutch wraps them both in his now cool, slippery hand. This time the sensation is everything he could want: an easy slide of skin on skin, both of them together moving in perfect if increasingly frantic alignment, face to face.

‘Oh yeah, Hutch. That’s good. That’s real good.’

Starsky flings one arm across Hutch’s shoulder, the other hand gripping onto his upper arm to steady himself as he begins to thrust in earnest. Hutch can feel his ass bouncing on his thighs, balls bumping against his own, hear a soft slapping below Starsky’s stream of happy mumbles. He reaches for Starsky, placing his free hand on the back of his head, pressing their foreheads together for stability as the mattress rocks. His thighs are trembling, taking all the strain.

They’ve fallen out of rhythm and Hutch tries frantically to catch up, match Starsky’s pace but before he can Starsky makes a few quick strangled moans and comes over his still-moving hand, pumping into it and digging fingernails into Hutch’s shoulder. A few shaky breaths later he slips his cock out from under Hutch’s grip and slips off him onto the bed, but he stays close, foreheads still connected, hand still gripping his shoulder, hanging on as Hutch keeps thrusting into his own hand, breath coming fast.

‘Yeah, Hutch, come on, come for me, you beautiful blond.’

It’s too much, not enough, he doesn’t know. He’s so turned on he just wants to finish. Eventually he breaks off the contact, falling forward into the Starsky’s chest, and just pumps it as fast as he can till he comes, hot spurts that splash across them both, mingling with Starsky’s and lube and sweat.

‘Oh my god,’ he whispers, falling sideways onto the bed. He can see stars. He can fly. He’s more in sync with his body than he’s ever felt before and yet so aware of how much it can do that he’s never done, how many experiences he’s never had. He wants it all. With Starsky. Like this, just finding the way together.

‘Hey,’ breathes Starsky, falling back beside him and rolling over so his can press his sweaty body full along Hutch’s side. ‘That was – Hutch – that was – ’

‘Hot?’ suggests Hutch, still a little out of it.

‘Very hot,’ agrees Starsky in a mumbly voice. ‘Very repeatable. Soon. Give me a minute.’

‘Give me about a hundred.’

‘Deal. God, Hutch. You’re beautiful.’

‘You’re not so bad yourself.’

Hutch sighs contentedly, waiting for the next nonsense comment. Instead he hears nothing but a soft snore, and the sensation of warm breathing across his shoulder.

‘I had plans,’ Hutch whispers plaintively at the ceiling. But it’s early. They have the whole weekend. And, if he’s honest, between the night shifts, the getting the place set up, the planning: he’s exhausted too.

He grabs Starsky’s arm, tucks it across his body, nestles his ass into Starsky’s groin and takes a nap.

 

 

*

 

 

Starsky wakes up sticky and uncomfortable, yet pressed up against a long lean body that is warm and relaxed. He ignores the obvious for as long as he can – they really need to stop doing this – before rising for a shower, and giving Hutch a little clean up with a warm cloth as he brews coffee.

It’s 5.30am, and if he’s going to be sleeping here on the regular then he and his partner are going to have to have a discussion about drapes, or blinds, because the man apparently thinks sunlight should just get to do its thing unchecked, and that’s not going to fly. If it wasn’t daylight he’d be sleeping happily tucked into Hutch’s bed, under Hutch’s arm.

Hutch remains dead to the world despite having a warm towel nagging at his junk, so Starsky figures he needs the sleep. He must’ve taken a while yesterday to get this place all set up like this. He picks through the apartment, noticing details he’d missed: a cardboard parrot perched on the cheeseplant; a beach ball inflated and tucked under the coffee table.

It’s ridiculous, and adorable, and the fact that his serious, intellectual partner thought to do it: it sends a thrill of warmth right through him. He knows it started with something dark, and sad; the impossibility of Starsky, and Hutch, at a party, or the beach, out dancing. But Hutch has made it into something special and he likes that.

Starsky takes the sleeping Hutch a coffee, planning to relax in the morning sun under that beach umbrella on the sundeck, but as he places the coffee cup on the nightstand he has a vivid memory from the night before.

Hutch, hunting through a drawer.

Hutch, returning with a clearly unopened tube of lube and getting himself set up.

He’s not one to make assumptions about other people’s sex lives, outside the parts he needs to know. He’s known plenty of women who have been very happy that he’s a guy familiar with the concept of additional lubrication. But – he has a feeling that’s not Hutch.

He sips his coffee, contemplating if looking is ok. He’s got a thing of two stashed at his place he wouldn’t want just anyone to find – but Hutch? Sure. Might lead to an interesting conversation. And Hutch, for all his efforts to share, is still a little bashful. If he’s been on a shopping spree at a very specific emporium, he’s not necessarily going to say so. Starsky wants to give him what he wants. So, he reasons, Starsky needs to know what that is.

It’s bullshit but he decides to act now, apologize later, and tugs open the nightstand drawer, gently, one eye on the sleeping Hutch.

The lube is back in there, alongside a few familiar items: poppers, a couple of cock rings, a half-empty pack of condoms he guesses may have been there a while, and some pre-moistened tissues: very thoughtful.

So far, so predictable.

Under the drawer is a cupboard area. Inside: a douche kit, still in its packaging, and a set of three anal plugs of varying sizes. The largest is approximately three times the girth of the one Starsky has at his place. He’s open to new experiences. But that open?

He glances at the still sleeping angelic Hutch, blond hair on the pillow, and has a sudden and very clear memory of a conversation that he knew mattered at the time. Just perhaps not how much. His curious partner had gone from gay panic to wanting to know if Starsky was up for turning things around; to being fucked. And Starsky, ever practical, had emphasized that a big boy like Hutch needed certain accommodations to help him out, instead of getting on his knees and saying yes, please like the needy little fool he suddenly feels.

Starsky feels a pang at leaving him to go out to some sex shop out of town to fumble through the choices while looking over his shoulder. He feels even worse about leaving Hutch to want this, without really recognizing that it wasn’t some theoretical proposition. This is prep. And he asked, like Starsky told him to ask. OK, they’ve been working, there’s barely been time for anything more than a quick blow here, a handjob there. But Starsky should’ve known him well enough to realize by now: if he’s bold enough to say it, it’s what he wants.

The flush he can feel through his body tells him firmly: he wants it too. Wants it more than he ever has. Before: it’s always felt like one hell of a responsibility to put in the hands of a guy he probably met an hour ago, won’t see again, just has to trust isn’t going to hurt him. That’s gone as well it was ever going to. But Hutch? He feels his throat get thick just thinking about it: how it could feel, gentle, loving, but still leaving him feeling fucked, used, taken.

Which is when he realizes a sleepy blue eye is watching him, and he’s holding a cup of coffee in one hand and massive anal plug in the other.

‘Morning?’

Hutch sits up, still muzzy with sleep but awake enough to be wary.

‘Sorry for snooping. I got curious. After the lube last night, I figured you’d shopped for some stuff and…’

Hutch flushes.

‘Starsky – let me explain – ’

‘Nope. None of that.’ Starsky perches his ass on the bed and leans in for a quick but firm kiss. ‘No explanation needed. I’m in. Now drink your coffee, and let me make you some breakfast. We skipped dinner, remember? If you’re going to fuck me, Hutch, you gotta keep your energy up.’

Chapter Text

Hutch emerges from the shower to find a horrifying combination of alleged breakfast items on the kitchen table, courtesy of his partner – dressed in Hutch’s yellow shorts, one of his Hawaiian shirts, an apron and an offensive look of pride.

‘What is this?’

‘Breakfast! Well – dinner for breakfast. You know, like sometimes you have eggs and toast and muffins in the night-time? This is that, in reverse. You got all this good stuff in, you can’t let that go to waste just because we got a little distracted. Come on, it smells delicious.’

What Hutch had ordered in for dinner from the restaurant downstairs was two cartons of clam chowder, with some greens and sliced bread with garlic, all stashed in the fridge ready to be warmed. The fact that his partner can even contemplate eating it at 7am boggles the mind.

Starsky rolls his eyes. ‘Look, I made you one of those shake things you like too. With the wheatgerm and the alpacas and whatever.’

‘Alfalfa,’ snaps Hutch.

‘Like I said. Here you go.’

Hutch reluctantly sips on the tall glass Starsky presents him with, inhaling deeply in the hope the smell of clams and garlic will be replaced. It’s surprisingly good: a little sweeter than his usual blend and with a familiar flavor he can’t place.

‘I followed your recipe, except for a special ingredient I figured I’d throw in. You know that jug of cocktails you mixed up last night?’

‘Starsky!’

Starsky laughs, shaking his head. ‘Just pineapple juice. Fresh. I told you, I want you to keep your energy up, right? Assuming you want to keep the party going.’

Starsky chomps on some bread, dunking it into his chowder.

Hutch blinks, in awe of how the man can combine terrible food decisions with enthusiasm about sex with no compunction at all – while Hutch is still tiptoeing his way around knowing what to ask for and how.

‘I want to keep the party going,’ Hutch says, the words coming out low and a little wary. ‘Though, uh, I still have a couple of questions.’

He’d imagined they’d fall into this last night, a natural move from one thing to another. This: it’s back to feeling a little too clinical to feel sexy. He feels nervous. Performance anxiety, maybe; a little fear that it’ll turn out not to be what he wants after all, and he’ll let his partner down. Fear of hurting him, too.

Then he reminds himself that it’s 7am, and they have the whole day and night ahead of them, and that it’s Starsky: his Starsky, who will move heaven and earth to make this work if that’s what Hutch wants. And it is, still, what Hutch wants. He’s still hung up on the idea that beds equal sex, so you have sex at night, he realizes. While chowder for breakfast is disgusting, Hutch buys into the principle. They’re already breaking plenty of social rules. This is no different.

Starsky waits, giving him thinking space.

‘When we talked about this, before: you said you’d have to lead. I guess I’m just not sure what that means.’

Starsky smiles, pulling him in for a quick fond kiss on the lips. ‘I got you. It’s about communication, I guess. Lots of talking: not just yes, no, stop, go; I want more, I like that, I need you to slow down. And eye contact too, because when I’m spun out the words don’t always come out. I need to you do what I ask for, watch my face, nod, shake of the head, happy screaming because you’re getting me off, whatever. Let me set the pace, I guess. And if it’s too much for you to handle – it might be, you’re going to want to let me have it and however I might want you to I might still be saying to slow it down – then, you pull out and I make you come in one of any number of fun ways. We take a break, we go again. We got all day, Hutch.’

Hutch nods, grateful for the frankness and the clarity – except for one detail he can’t quite figure out.

‘Uh. Eye contact?’

Starsky smiles. ‘I’ll be on my back, legs up, you on top. We’ll need to figure out the angles as we go, that’s all. Though – let me think. You’re going to kill your back if I’m on the bed and you’re standing, and much as I like the idea of taking all your weight I don’t know if I can.’ He frowns, then pushes at the edge of the kitchen table, checking it for stability. It doesn’t budge, and Starsky lifts an eyebrow suggestively.

‘Here? Where we eat?’

‘Well, we’ll move the food. And clean up after. Trust me, ok?’

Hutch considers it, and decides that he cares more about fucking Starsky than he does about his kitchen table, even if he’s going to have to sterilize it later.

‘Anything else?’

Hutch blushes. ‘The condom? I wasn’t sure of that was, uh, a cleanliness thing…’

He tails off, not quite able to ask what he actually means and suddenly grateful for his partner’s snooping trip.

Starsky understands regardless. ‘I’ll be using your shopping list, so don’t fret about clean. It’s more, uh, safety, I guess? Batchelor boy like you gets around, same as me; same as the people we get around with, I figure. I got no known issues but if we both rock up to a police medical with a dose of the same clap, that’s going to get tricky.’

‘Your way with words is charming, as ever. But, noted. And – yeah, I’d say that covers it. Apart from how I’m really going to need you to brush your teeth. Maybe three times.’

Starsky licks his spoon, smirking. ‘Deal.’

In the end, Starsky spends a while washing up and clearing the kitchen, while Hutch makes another pitcher of cocktails: still light on the rum and heavy on the juice, and stashed in the fridge for later. They settle down for more coffee under the beach umbrella, and while Hutch kicks back with a book Starsky strums his guitar, humming harmonies as he picks out old tunes. It’s the kind of easy shared time he’s learning to treasure: nothing so different from their old life, but now with a head rested in a lap, a kiss shared before rising. Intimacy with no fanfare.

Wonderful as that is, there’s an intensity to Hutch watching the clock tick around that’s after a very different kind of intimacy, and they both know it. Sometimes anticipation of sex to come is hot. Right now, Hutch just can’t work out how to get from A to B without it feeling like he’s ruining something that’s already great, and he’s about to mumble out something intensely awkward when Starsky leans over, lazily kisses him, and says, ‘I’m going to grab a little something from your nightstand and head for the bathroom, ok?’

Hutch nods wordlessly. He’s still a little unclear as to the details – apparently the douche kit has instructions, though he figures Starsky knows what he’s doing, as usual – but he’s grateful for his partner making it simple for them both.

It’s late morning and Hutch lays in the sunshine on the deck surrounded by plants, letting the sun beat down until Starsky emerges, naked, with a smirk playing at his lips.

‘I got a little ahead of you on the prep front,’ he says, strolling to lie down beside Hutch and then rolling over to reveal the handle of the smallest of the plugs already nestling between his cheeks, a little slickness visible. ‘This ok?’

Hutch murmurs a yes. He likes that Starsky’s in this with him, taking every step with him. And knowing that step one is done and they’re doing this: he feels heady at the prospect.

‘You can play with it a little if you want,’ says Starsky casually, reaching behind him and tugging at the curved part of the plug sitting outside his body. He pulls it back a half-inch, revealing the bulb inside and stretching his ass, letting a small but vocal oh of pleasure out at the sensation. The moment he lets go it disappears back inside.

Hutch swallows hard, excited by the prospect of being the one to tug that noise out of his partner. Shifting down, he places his hands on Starsky’s ass cheeks, gripping and squeezing the way he likes and noting the way the handle shifts as he does. He gives the handle a gentle tug, then increases the effort till he registers how hard to pull; how to keep the most bulbous part centered and to fuck him with it gently to make Starsky let out soft moans with every movement.

He gets why Starsky wanted to take this slow, seeing the size of the plug up close and knowing what they have planned is more than a little more. But he’s also wildly turned on by Starsky making small, helpless noises of lust under his hands, and knowing he’s making that happen. He has a sudden urge to try something else, something new and – words. Words, Hutchinson, he likes when you use them.

‘Um. I want to use my tongue,’ Hutch says, moving his mouth up to Starsky’s neck to be sure he can hear while he keeps kneading Starsky’s ass. ‘Down there. That ok with you?’

Starsky makes a whimpering sound. ‘Yes, god yes,’ he breathes out raggedly.

Hutch smiles, recognizing what that means.

He slides down, gently slips the plug all the way out, then buries his face between Starsky’s ample ass cheeks, lapping his tongue against his already-sensitive hole.

Starsky cries out, quivering under him as his tongue dips inside briefly before licking again around the outside, circling, flicking, each movement greeted with a shuffle of Starsky’s hips as he presses back into the sensation and whimpers with the pleasure of it.

It’s breathless stuff and the taste of lube is still unexpected, but when Hutch breaks off he’s mindful he wants to do that again, more, different and often.

Starsky wriggles his ass under his hands and he realizes he’s left him empty. He could slide the plug back inside, but – he knows what fingers feel like, and he knows they feel good. He’s gone for a moment and when he returns, now naked too, he shows Starsky as he lubes two fingers, making sure he’s not just aware but grinning and nodding with enthusiasm.

The first feels tighter than he expected but it slips in deep and he realizes how incredible it is to be able to rotate, flex, twist a finger inside in a way that his cock is never going to.

‘More,’ says Starsky in a low but demanding voice, lifting his hips to push him deeper, and he adds another finger. Fucking him with them, so so gently, is intoxicating – not least because it makes his cock twinge with anticipated pleasure.

Hutch releases his fingers and fetches the poppers and the second plug, but Starsky shakes his head as he takes the little bottle.

‘Bigger,’ he mumbles, canting his hips up like he can’t bear the waiting.

It’s Hutch’s first time inserting one of these, but he figures the principle so far has been lube, lube and more lube. Once Starsky gives him the ‘yes please,’ he presses the slick head of the bulb against him, moving agonizingly gently. It seems impossible. There’s resistance, significantly, but Starsky is nodding through it, wanting it, pushing back into it as slowly it enters him, stretching, stopping and starting at Starsky’s nods and shakes of his head. Then without warning the resistance is gone and the handle sits flush against his cheeks as before.

Starsky makes a low moan, vaguely humping the beach towel with his hips, and Hutch recognizes that he’s a little hazy right now. He massages his ass, then runs his hands up Starsky’s back, easing out a few kinks in the muscles there too and making sure his partner is aware of him, a constant skin contact that keeps them connected.

‘Hutch,’ he mumbles. ‘I love you, I want you, god, I want you. Just gimme five minutes.’

Hutch lifts himself up and drops down to lie alongside him face to face, pressing their bodies together.

‘As long as you want, partner,’ he murmurs into Starsky’s neck, slipping one thigh between Starsky’s legs and pulling him even closer. ‘I’m right here.’

 

 

*

 

 

Starsky’s so buzzed from where they’ve already got to that he’s almost regretful about asking to take the lead. Hutch asking to use his tongue was about the hottest thing the man has ever said and it makes Starsky want to just give into whatever low undercurrent of whorishness he has tucked away under all the thoughtful gentle parts of his sexuality. He wants Hutch to use him, fuck him senseless, throw him up against a wall and take him places he’d never ask for.

But they can do that another day. Today is for slow, and gentle, and making sure his body can actually take anything close to what he wants it to. He wants to make this good for Hutch, for both of them, and this is how.

Hutch’s face is nestled in the crook of his neck, legs entangled and Hutch’s hand planted possessively on his ass. Starsky opens his eyes and grinds his hips speculatively, feeling a pleasing hardness nudging at his thigh.

Hutch responds by kissing his neck and Starsky moans pathetically, the whisper of lips and tongue and then a tiny nip of teeth sending sensation rippling through him. He can feel the pressure against his ass from the plug every time he moves, and it’s intoxicating to even contemplate Hutch there instead. Hutch grips his ass cheek and it adds to the sense of stretch. He grinds his hips again, feeling needy, wanting everything.

Slow, gentle. Communication.

‘Kiss me,’ he manages to murmur and Hutch responds eagerly, lifting his head and kissing him passionately. He rolls Starsky onto his back and deepens the kiss, keeping that hand squeezing his ass and gently rolling his hips into Starsky to trap his cock between them. The extra weight shifts the plug again and Starsky groans. He wants more, needs more.

He reaches up to stroke Hutch’s face, letting his hand slide to his shoulder as Hutch breaks off the kiss with a curious look.

‘I want you, Hutch. I just might need a hand getting up off this floor.’

Hutch smiles. He lifts up and pulls Starsky’s offered hands, till they’re both upright and Starsky is leaning into him.

‘You ok, partner?’

Starsky nods. ‘Little headrush. I’m good. I’m better than good. OK – lube, poppers, condom, go.’

Hutch practically runs and Starsky laughs softly as he walks to the table. He asked for enthusiastic consent; he’s pretty sure that’s what it looks like.

By the time Hutch comes back Starsky’s lying on his back with his feet planted on the edge of the table and his cock in his hand, feeling all kinds of excited.

‘Couldn’t wait, huh?’

Starsky grins. ‘Nope. I’m so turned on right now, Hutch, god. You ready? You good?’

‘I’m good. You want any more, uh, help?’

Hutch reaches for the handle protruding from Starsky’s ass and gives it the tiniest of nudges.

Starsky gasps. ‘Yeah. Just pull on it a little, help with the stretch – like before, yeah?’

Hutch nods, reaching for the lube as he does and keeping his eyes carefully on Starsky’s face as he first twists the plug gently, then begins to pull. Starsky grabs the poppers and gives himself a quick hit, willing himself to relax around the pressure he can feel: stretch that builds and builds, adjacent to pain but not pain, just fucking glorious and happening because of Hutch, sliding this thing so carefully out. He feels a cool wetness as Hutch adds more lube before slipping it back in, fucking him with the widest part of the bulb in a motion that’s barely movement, just the slightest of slides back and forth. Starsky keeps his eyes on Hutch too, as promised.

‘Oh god, Hutch, yes, keep doing exactly what you’re doing. That’s it. So good. Fuck, so good. Yeah. Oh. You ready, Hutch? I want you fucking me now, like this, exactly like this.’

He feels the bulb slip out and then the familiar rip of a condom wrapper being opened with teeth.

‘Lube, lots of lube,’ he mumbles as he watches Hutch roll the condom on and scoots his ass down the table to the edge, wrapping his hands behind his knees and prepping to pull his legs up as far as he needs to.

Hutch slicks his hand and breathes out softly as he wraps his fingers round himself, face flushed.

‘I’m ready. Just take it real slow for me, Hutch. One step at a time.’

Hutch nods, stepping closer, and Starsky feels a cool nudge followed by real pressure.

‘Talk to me,’ whispers Hutch.

‘It’s good, I’m good,’ Starsky says back. ‘Keep going like that, just like that. Oh god. You’re so big, Hutch, I love it.’

‘That’s just the head,’ Hutch says, a little apologetic.

‘Hell, Hutch, you’re going to fuck me into the table and down into the floor with that thing. Don’t stop, I like it, I want it, fuck, a little more, yeah, yeah, whoa, stop.’

‘You want me to pull back?’

Starsky can’t breathe, and he doesn’t know if it’s his head, his heart or his ass but he’s spinning a little with the intensity of it.

‘Nonono, no, stay, please, just hold still a little. Can you hold still? You ok, Hutch?’

Hutch puffs out a couple of little breaths. ‘Yeah. Hanging in there. Damn it’s hard to hold back. You feel – you feel so good, so tight.’

Starsky laughs at Hutch getting pulled into the dirty talk along with him, and the relaxation helps. He takes a few more breaths then nods, tugging his knees up a little higher to give Hutch a little more room.

‘More. Give me more, Hutch, I want more, same pace, same, keep going, keep going, oh, oh fuck.’

The stretch on the outside is now met with more on the inside, an incredible feeling of fullness that he thinks he’s never going to get enough of. Then he feels Hutch’s balls rest against his ass and a Hutch’s hand on his chest, a look of relief mixed with delight on his face.

‘You ok, Starsk? This good?’

Starsky can’t find words so he nods.

‘I want to move my hips, Starsk. Just a little grind. Ok?’

Starsky nods again, groaning loudly the moment Hutch moves but keeping his eyes steadily on Hutch’s and letting him know: it’s good, it’s a lot but it’s good. It’s a tiny motion, not even a half-inch back and forth but it feels incredibly intense.

Hutch swallows hard, breathing more heavily, and Starsky knows it’s a strain to keep it this reined in when his cock is wrapped up so tight and hot and Starsky’s whining under him for more. He’s on the brink of asking Hutch to pull out and just letting the man come, but he loves this feeling, Hutch inside him, their eyes locked on each other, impossibly close, and he doesn’t want to stop.

‘More lube,’ he mumbles. ‘Just pull back some, Hutch, just gimme a little break.’

Hutch does as he asked, hissing at the coolness and then moaning as he slides back into Starsky in time with Starsky’s own deep groan.

‘Oh fuck. Yeah, do that again, just like that, do me like that.’

Hutch doesn’t need telling twice. Starsky feels strong hands on the backs of his thighs below his own, pressing him into position as Hutch’s hips move again, this time with space to rock, and hard enough to give a little slap of his balls against Starsky’s ass. Every thrust in drags a groan from Starsky, and he lays back, letting his eyes fall closed a second with the incredibly feeling of being fucked like this.

‘Starsk. Starsk, come back, hey. Hey.’

Hutch’s hand is on his chest again, pulling him back to their connection.

‘Hey. Don’t stop, Hutch, keep going, I’m just, you’re driving me out of my mind here, that’s all. Yeah, like that, fuck, yes, yes, oh, oh.’

Starsky reaches down to tug on his own half-hard cock but it’s more than his body can manage. He decides to just ride it out, give into it utterly.

‘I want to go faster, Starsk.’

‘Do it, I want it, fuck me, yes.’

Hutch isn’t kidding around. The next thrusts are harder, faster, more in every possible way. Hutch’s hands are back on Starsky’s thighs and Starsky lets go of his knees and grips hold of the edge of the table to stop himself from sliding him up and away from the incredible fuck Hutch is giving him. Starsky’s moaning is near constant now, a breathless series of noises that are mingled with Hutch’s panting, the sound of skin slapping skin and the creak of the table as it starts to struggle under the relentless rhythm.

‘I’m close, I’m close,’ mumbles Hutch, breath starting to hitch.

‘Fuck, Hutch, go, go, yes, more, yes, give it to me, oh god – ’

Hutch holds nothing back, resting his full weight on Starsky’s bent thighs, reaching down to grab the table too and pounding against him, hips snapping, ass clenching, rapid-fire thrusts that leave Starsky gasping for breath that won’t come, not even moaning now, just gone – until Hutch shudders above him and he feels him jerking inside, quivering against his ass.

There’s a moment of broken gasping and catching breath, and then with infinite care Hutch slips out of him. Starsky lets his legs fall to one side, the sudden emptiness overwhelming him. His head falls back and though he’s exhausted he reaches between his legs to finish himself off too, wrapping his hand round his hot needy cock and bringing himself off in four or five quick strokes.

Hutch returns from the bathroom having dealt with the condom, and chuckles softly when he finds Starsky lying wrecked on his side, cock still in his hand.

‘You ok, Starsk?’

Starsky laughs weakly. ‘Better than. You were amazing, Hutch. You good?’

‘I’m incredible, thanks. Though I’m going to need a new table,’ he says admonishingly, giving Starsky a gentle wipe down with a warm cloth, then using it to wipe down the table’s wooden surface.

‘No way,’ Starsky murmurs. ‘I like this one. It’s perfect.’

He grabs Hutch’s arm and pulls him in for a sleepy kiss, because he likes this one too.

Chapter Text

The rest of Sunday is spent lounging on their pretended beach, finishing up the jug of cocktails, just lying close to one another while one dozes, or reads, or plays guitar. The whole day feels suffused with a golden glow, for Hutch at least. Not just that he’s done something he thinks he might have wanted to do for a very, very long time, and found it wonderful. Not just that Starsky keeps falling asleep in his arms, a huge grin on his face. It’s more than just great sex, and more than discovering it with a partner who’s giving and generous and considerate in ways he never even knew one could be.

It’s the fact that this easy closeness has always been there between them. This next step: it just feels natural.

Hutch cooks dinner while Starsky snores, and they eat it lounging on the couch; he’s not quite ready to contemplate dining at the table again.

‘Ok, beautiful,’ says Starsky, once he’s cleared up in the kitchen. ‘This little holiday of yours has been a trip, but home is calling.’

Hutch feels a pang. ‘You could stay?’

‘I know that, dummy,’ says Starsky, leaning in for a swift kiss, clearing recognizing the look on Hutch’s face. ‘But if I stay, I’m going to want to keep you up all night, and then we’ll both be exhausted tomorrow. Got to have one of us ready to catch the bad guys, Hutch, and after this morning? It’s not going to be me.’

Hutch sighs at Starsky’s dirty wink. He can’t disagree, but it still feels odd to watch him go. Not least because the apartment’s temporary beach theme, now he’s alone, looks ridiculous.

He clears it up and grabs an early night. Starsky’s not wrong: he needs the rest. He sleeps long and deeply, rises early enough for a run to work the kinks out from the weekend’s adventures, and even stops off for fresh pastries for breakfast.

‘Hello, hello, how are we all today?’ he says, bounding through the squad room door.

Starsky looks like the morning after in human form: pale skin, coffee clutched in both hands and a tension in his shoulders that suggests he’s more than a little uncomfortable. Hutch can’t help but smirk, and the look of misery Starsky sends him doesn’t help.

‘Big weekend, huh, Starsk?’ He gives him a slap on the back, dropping a paper bag with a donut inside onto his pile of paperwork. ‘Let me top you up.’

Hutch pours him more coffee and sits, chewing on a Danish while he gets his paperwork for the day lined up.

‘Do you mind?’ mumbles Starsky, head resting on his fist, eyes at half-mast. ‘The cheerfulness is making me nauseous.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just – I had a good weekend, you know? Just happy to be alive, I guess.’

Starsky brightens a little, managing a shared smile.

‘Hutchinson! Starsky! Get in here!’

Dobey usually does his barking at them when they’re in his office, so the fact that he’s starting before they’ve got through the door: not good news.

‘I take it back,’ says Hutch, downing a few mouthfuls of coffee. ‘Come on, hotshot. You need me to carry you?’

‘Would you?’ asks Starsky feebly.

He accepts a hand up out of his chair instead, wincing as he moves.

Hutch keeps the hand in his for a moment, leaning in with one eye on the sole other cop at the other end of the squad room. On the phone, distracted, not paying them mind any at all.

‘Seriously: you ok?’

He’s got a little notion of what the next day feels like, but he’s well aware he was meant to be taking it gently and, well, it’s possible they both got a little caught up. If there’s any chance he’s actually hurt his partner…

‘It’s my own fault, Hutch. I got greedy. I wanted you to give me what you gave me. Just next time, I might need you to do it when I have a week off after to recover.’

‘Next time, huh?’ Hutch smiles.

‘Oh, there’s going to be a next time.’ Starsky smiles, a little sparkle flashing across his eyes. ‘Just – walk slow, ok?’

Dobey takes one look at Starsky and his pre-prepared look of fury softens immediately into a smirk.

‘Starsky. Hell, that new girl of yours must be quite something. Hutch, you met her yet?’

‘Oh no, he’s keeping her under wraps, Captain. Maybe he doesn’t want the competition.’

‘Cap, could we get to the point?’ Starsky asks, leaning against the filing cabinet for support.

‘Sure. Though you’re not going to like it.’

They don’t. They’ve got an escaped felon on the loose: Jimmy ‘The Bear’ Peet, who somehow got hold of a knife on the way to his latest court appearance, stabbed a cop and jumped into a waiting car: no plate, could be green or blue, girl driver.

Hutch isn’t impressed. ‘He gets himself snatched from a courthouse packed with cops and lawyers and that’s the best description anyone got?’

‘The cop ok?’ asks Starsky.

‘Touch and go,’ says Dobey, looking bleak. ‘Chest and neck; last I heard he was in surgery. Joseph Schwartz? Uniform, 23 years old, first day on escort after two years in traffic.’

Hutch glances at his partner, knowing the look that’s going to be on his face. It’s not as if Hutch carries news like that lightly, but Starsky wears every feeling on his outside.

‘We’re going to bring Peet in alive,’ Starsky says grimly. ‘And I want to be in court the day he goes down for it.’

They stick to Hutch’s car, with no need for discussion. However intent Starsky is on getting after the guy, he’s not exactly at his best. Hutch wonders if it’s something they need to talk about, genuinely; whether they need to start planning their sex lives around their days off. But it’s not the first time one of other of them has shown up a little worse for wear, if he’s honest. They work hard, they let off steam. It’s never stopped either of them giving their all – and from the look on Starsky’s face right now, he’s as determined as ever to pin this guy.

Girl driver, the witness said – so the first stop is Peet’s last known girlfriend’s apartment. It’s a bust: she moved out a week ago.

Next: known associates. Peet is the kind of guy who knocks off rich old ladies’ houses – not above killing them if they happen to be at home – so it’s the usual run of fences. No dice. He’s not selling right now, so they’re not talking.

‘The lawyer?’ suggests Hutch. ‘Somebody had to get him a knife between jail and the courthouse.’

It’s another dead end: a court appointee who never met the man and still hasn’t, since he didn’t make it as far as the door.

‘Terrific justice system we have here. Thank god he’s guilty, huh?’ Starsky sighs, dropping back into the car.

The radio buzzes – but it’s just confirmation from Metro: there was shooting at the scene, a possible smashed window of the car, but no hospital admissions matching Peet’s description.

Hutch taps the wheel, thinking. ‘The girl’s still the best shot, right? Any family local?’

Starsky shakes his head, scanning the file in his lap. ‘Sheryl Caffey. She’s from Chicago. Mail carrier for a couple of years, then a couple of minor convictions – mostly theft, one soliciting. Did a couple of months. Now usually works in bars. She’s not going to be on anyone’s payroll, Hutch. They’re going to have gone to ground, if they’re even still in the city.’

‘Then I guess we go ask the man with the lucky crystal ball.’

 

 

*

 

 

It’s an hour before opening but Huggy’s already at The Pits, setting up tables. Starsky hitches himself gingerly onto a stool as Hutch lounges against the bar, and Huggy gives him the kind of all-seeing look up and down that makes Starsky feel like he’s seventeen, late for curfew and chewing gum to hide his smoky breath.

‘Don’t tell me you’re on duty in that weary state, Starsky. Hutch, you want to tell your partner about the magical healing powers of sleep?’

‘Oh, I have,’ Hutch says, innocently. ‘He’s got a new friend. Spent all weekend in bed, apparently.’

‘And yet so unrested. What can I do for you gentlemen?’

Starsky grabs a handful of peanuts from the bowl on the bar and chews as he runs down the tale, acutely aware that Huggy is still eyeing him as he lays it out. It’s not news to Huggy, evidently.

‘I heard. That Bear gives this one a bad name, ya dig? I keep my eyes on him.’

‘Those eyes tell you where he is?’ asks Hutch.

‘With his girl, no doubt,’ says Huggy, nodding slowly. ‘She’s connected, you know. Irish mob back east. They’ll have set up to spring him.’

‘Terrific,’ says Starsky, emptying the bowl into his mouth. ‘You got any more of these? And any idea where we can find this delightful couple?’

Huggy rolls his eyes. ‘Naturally. Caffey boys run a bar called the Lighthouse, and the warehouses behind, by the docks. Plenty of hidey-holes out there.’

‘Makes sense. Thanks, Hug, we’ll check it out.’

‘Hey, Hutch,’ Huggy adds, like an afterthought. ‘Angie’s bought in some of that wheatgrass wheatgerm wheat-whatever stuff you’re so fond of. You wanna hit the kitchen and rustle up a little magic potion pick-me-up for Starsky here before you head out? Since he seems so peckish.’

Hutch beams, delighted, and disappears in back.

‘Aw, Huggy, you know I don’t like that crap,’ Starsky whines – but Huggy shushes him with a look.

‘Starsky. My man. I am a barkeep of the world, and proprietor of this here establishment which welcomes folks of all colors, creeds, stripes and flavors, so let me tell you straight: you come walking in here like that, and I know you ain’t spent all weekend in bed with a woman, unless she’s the kind that comes with some extra equipment under her pantyhose.’

Starsky is speechless.

‘You can tell?’ he whispers.

‘If you know, then you know. Now, don’t fret. I am a sophisticated gentleman. I ain’t prejudiced, and I don’t judge. Specially not when I figure you might have had the time of your life.’ Huggy grins, clearly entertained. ‘But – not everybody’s so liberated in their thinking, you follow? You might need to be a little more careful what vibe you’re giving out. Say, around your big, blond, very white-bread partner?’

Huggy tilts his head meaningfully as Hutch reappears holding a glass of some thick brown glop and a big smile.

Starsky doesn’t know what his face does that tips it: a blush, a guilty little slide of his eyes. Whatever it is, Huggy’s eyes about bug out of his head, and he lets out a hoot of laughter.

‘My my. Starsky and Hutch. I always knew you two were a good team, I guess I just never figured it that way. But I can see it. Yeah, I can see it.’

Hutch’s face falls.

‘What the hell did you say?’ he says, placing the glass down hard.

Starsky shrugs mournfully. ‘Apparently my body did the talking.’

‘You need to take care of your boy here,’ Huggy says, giving Hutch a stern look.

‘I did take care of him!’

‘And how.’

Starsky grimaces, aware of how mad Hutch is gonna be, aware of how bad this whole situation could be, aware that this whole conversation is making him break out in a sweat.

‘Huggy. You won’t – ’

Huggy shakes his head. ‘We been friends a long time, so I’m going to overlook you even asking that. You can rely on my discretion in this, like all things. All I got to offer is my congratulations. Now drink that up, Starsky. Looks to me like whatever’s in there is good for the soul.’

Back in the car, Starsky has to rest a hand on Hutch’s arm to stop him gunning the engine and heading straight out.

‘Wait a minute, ok?’

‘Sure. What’s up?’

Starsky stares at Hutch, bewildered. ‘What’s up? A guy we’ve known for years, see practically every day, and knows pretty much everyone in this town – he knows about us. That not a big deal to you?’

Hutch shrugs. ‘Given how he reacted? Honestly – no. I didn’t think I’d feel like this; not like I was planning on anyone finding out anyway. But, well. It’s Huggy. I think he was actually kind of happy for us, you know?’

That much is true, and if he’s honest, if Starsky could’ve written a textbook way for how he’d want anyone to respond: well, excluding how he figured it out, it was pretty perfect. He should be feeling good. He actually feels terrified.

‘It was meant to be a secret, Hutch. It has to be a secret.’

It’s one he’s kept so long and so well that any alternative seems impossible. He feels exposed: like being made undercover, and trying desperately to keep his cool and figure a way out. Except it’s not a job. It’s life, their lives. Always under threat.

‘I’m not planning on broadcasting it to the universe, if that’s what has you worried.’ Hutch squeezes his shoulder, trying to offer comfort, though Starsky can’t seem to allow himself to feel it. ‘But maybe it’s not such a bad thing, having a friend who knows, huh? Next time we have a lover’s tiff, at least you’ll have someone to complain about me to.’

Starsky knows he joking – god, he hopes he’s joking – but it doesn’t ease up the pit of worry he’s got in his belly. He can’t explain it to Hutch because he doesn’t quite get it himself, and besides, they’re working. He nods, gesturing to Hutch to get back on the road.

The Caffeys’ operation in Bay City is small fry, comparatively, and it’s not a part of town Starsky knows well: north side of the docks, mostly empty warehouses and empty lots. The Lighthouse bar is on the shore, just yards from the actual lighthouse. It’s getting dark, and the rotating light is already visible, cutting across the water and casting deep long shadows down the alleyways. The surrounding area feels deserted – except for glowing light behind the windows up on the second floor of a block of six that are otherwise dark.

‘Bingo,’ says Hutch, killing the engine.

They call it in then slip out into the falling light, running around the rear of the building. There’s a green car, one window out, parked up alone in the lot. Starsky glances up at the rickety fire escape, and the lit window that leads directly out onto it. The door into the block is around the corner.

‘You take the front, I’ll grab him if he decides to take the window, ok?’ says Starsky, keen to get this done. ‘Give me a leg up?’

Hutch kneels to boost him up till he’s able to grab the lower ladder and begin to climb up. The movement reminds him he’s not exactly feeling fantastic – but he thinks about the young cop in the hospital and there’s not much better motivation. He hears Hutch’s footsteps retreat and the creak of the door as he goes in, then keeps climbing, taking the steps as quickly but quietly as he can.

The fire escape is apparently a hundred years old and he can feel it swing under his weight, rust crumbling under his hand when he grabs the guard rail. He brushes it off and creeps to the second floor, staying out of sight and lining up with his back against the wall beside the window.

He can hear voices inside: an argument.

‘I didn’t ask for your dumb brother to spring me and leave me locked up in some shithole while he changes his mind a hundred times!’

‘You want to be a little more grateful, Jimmy? It’s an extra day, that’s all. Then we ship out and no one’s ever going to come looking for either one of us. It’s just you and me, together.’

Outside, in the night: sirens. Far off, but coming closer.

The sound of kissing inside turns into scuffling feet and mutters of panic – and as Starsky pulls his gun he hears the slam of a boot in a door and his partner yelling, ‘Police!’ as he busts into the front of the apartment.

Starsky waits, poised, till he hears the window being slid open.

‘Don’t try it!’ he yells, gun raised, spinning out to face the huge guy now halfway out of the window with one foot on the fire escape.

Starsky feels the creak under his feet as much as hears it, the extra weight apparently more than the old fire escape can take. There’s a flash of panic in Jimmy Peet’s eyes as he realizes what’s happening. The whole structure is starting to pull away from the wall, bolts up above Starsky’s head pulling out from unmaintained brickwork and beginning to rain down as the levels above swing outwards. It groans, metal twisting under its own weight as momentum builds and the metal grille under Starsky’s feet starts to tilt backwards with him still on it.

He reaches out, trying to grab hold of something but all there is is Jimmy Peet, losing his footing as he tries to climb back inside - and instead falling towards him out of the window.

Starsky tries to turn, to jump, but the ground is already rushing up fast towards him as he twists his body, and then it kisses him in the face and that’s it.

Chapter Text

Hutch is in another waiting room, in another hospital, wondering if his partner is alive or dead and he doesn’t think he’s ever been this scared in his life.

It’s not new. It’s not obviously different to how he’d have reacted if this had happened months ago, before they were together, and he doesn’t give a damn if anyone else can see the change. He just knows that he feels desperate to the point of breaking. That breathing feels effortful. That tears keep springing to his eyes and he presses the heels of his hands into them to scare them away, but they’re still close under the surface, ready. All he wants to do is march in there and demand they let him see Starsky. Not as a cop. As a partner, a real partner. For them all to understand that he’s the most important person in the world right now, and they have to take care of him, save him, bring him back.

He keeps hearing the awful groaning of that damn fire escape as it collapsed, like a wounded animal going to its death, and Starsky yelling his name into the darkness. The woman screaming. He had her cuffed in a heartbeat but every second of running down the stairs and outside was agony, terror.

‘Ambulance, get an ambulance!’ he remembers screaming at the poor uniformed cops who were pulling up fresh on the scene, expecting an arrest and getting a disaster instead. And then –

A mess of twisted metal and Starsky lying on his side, thrown clear, Peet crumpled under the wreckage. Peet was clearly dead: broken neck, head caved in, eyes staring straight up. Starsky was –

He was –

‘Detective Hutchinson?’

It’s a Doctor Herron: a brunette, forties, serious.

‘Yes. Is he conscious?’

‘Not right now, he’s resting. But he came round earlier, was able to pass some key cognitive tests. He’s had a brain scan, and there’s no skull fracture or bleeding on the brain. It’s very positive that we can rule those out.’

Hutch feels sick with relief. If he can fall two storeys and get away with just a concussion? But the doctor’s not leaving, and that means there’s more.

‘Your friend sustained a number of other injuries in the fall, Detective. Rib fractures, a broken wrist, dislocated shoulder.’

‘Is he going to be ok?’

He raises his voice and he knows it’s not appropriate, that he should be holding back but he can’t, he just can’t.

‘He’s stable. It’ll be a few days before he can go home, but yes: he’s not in any danger.’

She puts her hand on his arm and he shivers. Next minute he’s sitting in a chair in the same waiting area, with Dr Herron handing him a paper cup of water, her hand on his shoulder.

‘Is there anyone who I can call, Detective Hutchinson? Someone to take you home? Seems like you’ve had a rough night too.’

Starsky, he thinks. That’s who I’d call.

‘Can I see him?’

Dr Herron shakes her head. ‘There’s really nothing you can do here. I suggest you go home, Detective. Perhaps call his family to let them know, unless you’d like us to do that?’

Hutch shakes his head. ‘I’ll call. And I’ll stay. He’s my family, doctor. You understand? He’s – he’s family to me. I would like to see him. Just for a minute. Please.’

He doesn’t know whether it’s because it’s late, or because he must look like the most desperate man on the planet, but she relents.

Starsky looks small and pale against the pillow and the sight of IV bags and heart monitors isn’t exactly comforting, but Hutch is still painfully glad to be here. He takes Starsky’s free hand – his right, dammit – and it’s encouragingly warm, if unresponsive. Lifts his other hand to Starsky’s face and rests fingers on his cheek, not caring if the nurses are going to stare. He knows it’s probably pointless; that he’s sedated, unaware. Maybe it’s just for his own benefit. Either way, it helps settle his jangling nerves, just a little. Starsky’s going to hurt like hell when he wakes up, and then bitch endlessly about having to take recovery slowly. But that’s a gift. They’ve done this before; they’ll get through it. Together. That’s a hell of a lot more than he had ten minutes ago.

He lingers for as long as he dares. He wants to stay. He wants to climb into the damn bed with him and just hold on. But it can wait. Right now he’s just in the way.

‘Take care, partner,’ he whispers, leaning in close.

Then his legs take him outside, to the car, and then to Starsky’s. He tells himself it’s a practical visit: collecting him a few things to make a couple of days stuck in the hospital less miserable. Pyjamas, though with his wrist busted he might not manage them. The book on his nightstand, a half-read thriller; a few toiletries, and a candy bar. He drops them into a bag and hunts for pen and paper, planning to slip a note inside – but the moment he sits down and tries to compose it, his hands start shaking.

He could’ve lost him.

For a minute there – more than a minute – he thought he had.

It’s far from the first time, but it’s the first time since they became what they are now and the fear tastes different now. What they have is everything he wants. To end it here, when they’ve just found it, who they are, who they can be together – the horror of it hits like a fist to the gut. He feels winded; knocked to his knees by the fragility of their happiness. Not because of the outside world, not this time. Because of the job, and the danger, and the way Starsky will fling himself towards it without question. As would Hutch – until today at least.

The question now is: what does that mean?

There’s a rap at the door and Hutch realizes he’s sitting still over the empty paper, has been for who knows how long. He answers the door warily, as if somehow he’s being caught out.

‘Well, you look worse than expected,’ says Huggy. ‘Sure it wasn’t you fell off of that thing?’

‘News travels fast, huh?’

Huggy shrugs. ‘When it’s you two it does. Here, take this before my hands crisp up.’ He thrusts a covered dish into Hutch’s hands, warm from the kitchen of The Pits. ‘I figured you weren’t going to be in the mood to look after yourself, so I’d do it for you.’

Hutch opens his mouth to thank him and has to close it again fast before something nearer to a sob comes out. He’s tired, he’s grateful, he’s overwhelmed.

‘Starsky’s ok, right?’ asks Huggy, suddenly anxious. ‘The hospital said – ’

Hutch nods quickly, recovering himself. ‘Yeah. He’s going to be ok. He just scared me half to death, that’s all.’

‘He does like to do that.’ Huggy smiles weakly. ‘Anyways, you let me know what you need. And I’ll be by tomorrow with more, so you’d better eat that up, you hear?’

Hutch nods. ‘Thanks, Hug. Hey? How’d you know I’d be here?’

Huggy gives him a shake of the head. ‘You can’t be with him in the hospital. Where else you gonna be?’

He gives Hutch a tap on the arm, smiles knowingly, and hurries away down the stairs.

He doesn’t feel hungry but he knows he needs to keep functioning for Starsky, and the bowl of gumbo is hot and slips down easy. When he’s done, he picks up his keys – then drops them back onto the table. He doesn’t want to go home to a lonely apartment. He wants to be here, surrounded by his partner. He heads for the bedroom, stripping off and thinking fondly of the last time he did so. Starsky’s battered brown leather jacket hangs on the screen and he presses his face into the folds of it, laughing a little at the ridiculousness of his own self, but still calmed by the smell of worn leather, cologne and his partner’s body. It’s not enough. It’s never going to be enough till Starsky’s home. But till then, he’ll be here, keeping the bed warm, looking forward to keeping his partner warm too.

Chapter Text

Starsky wakes up and immediately wishes he hadn’t. He shuts his eyes again on the all-too recognizable white blur of a hospital: nope, no thank you.

The pain is… a lot. Breathing, also a lot. His head feels gigantic. He tries lifting his hand to it to check but it’s heavy and it hurts and something happens in his chest when he does it, like someone’s reached inside and started pulling his bones apart, so that’s enough of that.

He hears a nice voice in his ear suggesting he keeps still and offering him some extra pain meds, which he thinks is pretty good service and also a sign he’s busted up pretty bad, which makes him try to remember what happened and he’s just feeling the wind on his face and a hearty dose of absolute terror when a wave of morphine hits, and he rides that instead.

Next time he opens his eyes, his head is clearer. Which means the pain is even worse. He’d check out again but apparently he’s awake because they want to poke and prod and wave fingers in front of his to get him to say how many there are, and he figures they’re not going to let him sleep till he makes all the right noises.

‘Am I ok?’ he asks at some point, and someone laughs and says, ‘You’re beautiful.’

‘Hutch?’ he says confused, because a minute ago it was all doctors and nurses and say ‘ahhh’ and now it feels like it’s quiet. But no one answers and he thinks maybe he made it up.

It makes him laugh, the idea that he made Hutch up – a giant blond with a huge dick who’s madly in love with him, incredible, what an imagination – and then everything hurts again, bye bye.

But he’s still thinking about it when wakes up, and he’s alert enough to know he didn’t imagine Hutch; needy enough to feel sad he’s not here at his bedside ready to squeeze his hand and promise to make him feel better – a lot better – just as soon as he gets out of here.

‘Good evening, David,’ says a voice with a smile in it. He feels his right wrist being picked up and focuses enough to see a pretty nurse peeking down at her upturned clock to check his pulse: big brown eyes, shiny dark curls. ‘I’m Rosa, I’m looking after you tonight. You’re looking brighter. How’re you feeling?’

‘Better for seeing you,’ he says, on autopilot. Flirting with nurses: that’s still allowed, right? But she smiles back and he feels awkward, like he’s not sure what to say next. ‘Wait. Tonight?’

Rosa jots a note on his chart. ‘You slept through last night and most of today. It’s Tuesday night, a little after 8.’

It’s a little disorienting. He feels like he lost a day. More disorienting is feeling like Hutch should be here, and isn’t.

‘Where’s Hutch?’

He was inside and Peet was out with him on the fire escape, but that doesn’t mean anything. The girl, Sheryl: if she was connected, no reason to think she wouldn’t be carrying a piece, and know how to use it. For all he knows – god, Hutch –

Rosa smiles knowingly.

‘Ken? Doctor Herron keeps kicking him out, though he keeps coming back. He brought those flowers, and a few other things for you. You want me to hand you anything? There’s a book, a few magazines…’

He brought you flowers.

Starsky tilts his head up to see the bouquet of blooms by his bed: yellow roses, baby’s breath, something in a peachy hue that he doesn’t know to name. It stops up something in his throat at the same time as making him want to laugh and in return his ribs give him a reminder about breathing shallow and regular, so he does his best to just relax into it. Hutch brought him flowers. He wants to tease him to death and kiss him into heaven at the same time.

‘David? Do you need anything?’

He blinks, trying to catch up to her question, when the door opens and in walks Hutch.

‘Look who’s up,’ he says, face lighting up and those blue eyes just radiating sunshine at him.

‘Up might take a while,’ Starsky murmurs, unable to stop a grin from spreading across his face even if it tugs on the tape holding the dressing above his eye.

‘Five minutes,’ warns Rosa, giving Hutch a stern but fond look. ‘I mean it this time.’

‘Sure, Rosa. Thanks.’

Hutch takes the seat beside the bed as she leaves and Starsky stares at him, still beaming.

‘What?’

‘Hutch. You brought me flowers.’

Hutch blushes.

‘Too much?’ he asks.

‘No way. I love it. I love that you did that.’

Hutch smiles. Then he sighs, looking away.

‘Well, thought I might have to spring for a wreath, so.’

‘Don’t joke.’

‘Who’s joking?’

Starsky meets Hutch’s eye and sees the deep weariness there behind the happy glow. He’s been doing the hard yards while Starsky’s been out, and he knows that tune: helpless, afraid, desperate for news and terrified of what it might be. It clicks something in his memory.

‘Hey. Did he make it?’

‘Jimmy Peet? No. Think you got all the luck that was going when that thing fell, thank god.’

It’s news to Starsky, and he doesn’t know exactly how to feel about it – but it’s not what he meant.

‘The cop. Joseph Schwartz, 23, first day on escort.’

Hutch shakes his head, looking guilty. ‘I don’t know, Starsk. I’m sorry, I’ll find out, I just – I haven’t – ’

Starsky’s too tired to manage all the stuff he’d have to say to stem that tide. Instead he opens the palm of his right hand, offering it. Hutch takes it gratefully and when Starsky squeezes his fingers Hutch lets out a breath like a gasp, tension released by his touch.

‘Sorry I scared you,’ Starsky says softly.

Hutch’s throat works, eyes fluttering as he nods his acknowledgement.

‘Sorry you got hurt,’ he whispers, as if rotten building maintenance is his fault, as if any of it is.

Starsky looks down at the pale fingers of his left hand, protruding from a cast running up to his elbow.

‘This is going to be a pain in the ass, huh?’ he says, experimentally wiggling his fingers and regretting it. ‘No driving, no gun. Might rule out a few other things too, if you know what I mean.’

Hutch strokes his chin. ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s good to have a reason to get, uh, creative.’

Hutch’s hand is still in his and Starsky feels his thumb stroke his palm. It’s slow, deliberate; not sexual but still sexy, somehow. Hutch touching him, not for comfort or reassurance but something else, like a mark. Staking a claim.

‘Creative? I like the sound of that.’

Hutch sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, thinking, narrowed blue eyes fixed on Starsky’s and his thumb now stroking Starsky’s wrist and – god, if Starsky wasn’t swimming in pain meds he’d be halfway to the world’s least convenient, least explicable hard on.

‘Maybe once my ribs are a little more attached to one another, huh?’ he mumbles reluctantly.

Hutch raises an eyebrow and smiles, looking pleased with himself and clearly intrigued by the possibilities. His thumb stills but he keeps his hand in Starsky’s; doesn’t release it or jerk away when Rosa comes back, and Starsky wonders from her sweetly amused smile if it’s not the first time she’s seen it.

Maybe it’s the head injury, maybe it’s the morphine kicking back in, but he finds he doesn’t mind, not at all.

 

 

*

 

 

‘Remind me why we both have apartments with staircases?’ Hutch asks, standing at the foot of Starsky’s wood-panelled home, hands resting on the handles of the hospital-issue wheelchair, and looking bleakly up.

‘Once I’m in, I’m in, ok? Just stand behind me while I go up.’

Starsky pushes himself up to standing, letting out a stifled groan as he does it and grabbing Hutch’s shoulder with his free arm. His face has turned an alarming shade of grey, sweat standing out in beads on his brow.

‘I got you, I got you,’ says Hutch, quickly taking his weight as he begins to fall forwards, wilting in his grasp. ‘Easy now. Chair’s right there, we’re going to sit back down. Atta boy.’

Starsky makes it down and sits silent, eyes closed, visibly working on slowing his breath.

It’s been over a week days and Hutch knows all too well how much his partner has been itching to get home, but he can’t help but worry it’s too soon. Mending bones takes time, and energy. Mending ribs takes rest and stillness. He misses him like hell but all he wants is what’s going to keep him as pain-free and safe from danger as possible, even if he’s whiny like a kid about it.

He drops down onto his haunches, resting both hands on Starsky’s knees.

‘You want me to take you back? Just for a couple more days.’

Starsky’s eyes snap open and they’re furious.

‘Don’t you dare. I’ll crawl up those damn steps if I have to, ok?’

Hutch smiles. ‘I think we can do a little better than that. It’s gonna be bumpy, though, so hold on.’

Hutch spins the chair in a circle and walks backwards, carefully stepping up the first two stairs before tipping Starsky gently back, and pulling him up the first step.

Starsky’s eyes are wide, his right hand gripping the seat and his face still sweaty.

‘You sure about this?’

Honestly, he isn’t. But he’s not about to watch Starsky do it on his hands and knees, so this is how it’s going to be. He has to rest every couple of steps, and by the last few his back is protesting so hard he’s on the brink of checking himself in for a little time with Nurse Rosa and her morphine drip. But they make it to the little porch, and after a breather, inside.

‘Whoa. You sure this is my place?’

Hutch has been busy. Starsky’s apartment is roomy enough but he figured a little rearrangement was due. The bed’s now in the living space, closer to bathroom and tv. There’s a low table next to it stacked with everything he could imagine might need to be in easy reach, from water and meds to snacks and a tv guide. He’s even rigged a phone so he can easily call without getting up.

‘It’s just temporary, till you’re back on your feet. Cal and Rosie helped; Edith wanted to drop over a few casseroles, stock up your freezer. It’s ok? I can move it around again if you want.’

‘It’s perfect, Hutch,’ Starsky says, his voice warm and low. ‘You thought of everything. Oh hey! You got me a jungle?’

Hutch laughs apologetically at the wild array of plants he’s also distributed on every available surface. ‘Uh, no. Those are mine. I was running back and forth to water them, and, well, I figured it’d be easier if they were just here. I’m going to be on the couch back in your bed nook there, if that’s ok. I’ve taken some time out.’

‘Dobey agreed to that?’

Hutch shrugs, feeling a little awkward. ‘It’s, uh, unpaid.’

Starsky glowers. ‘Hutch. Come on. They wouldn’t have discharged me if I couldn’t manage, ok? They had me brush my own teeth and everything.’

‘Congratulations, I’m thrilled for you. Did it cross your mind this might be for my benefit too?’

Starsky’s face says not.

Hutch sits on the bed, facing Starsky, taking his right hand and pressing his thumb into the palm in the way Starsky apparently responds to like he’s just been kissed in that sweet spot on his neck, right below his ear.

‘I missed you, ok? I was getting used to us. Being us. And then we go from having the most incredible sex I’ve ever had to me thinking you were dead in less than 24 hours. Forgive me if I’m a little demanding of your time now I’ve got you back.’

There’s more to it than that, Hutch knows; knows that at some point he’s going to have to talk to his partner, just as soon as he’s worked out what the hell he wants to say. But right now? Starsky’s hostility has long since melted and he looks on Hutch with the kind of honest longing that reminds Hutch exactly why he’s here: the connection between them that’s a kind of closeness he’s never had before, never even knew was possible. He wasn’t wrong. God, he’s missed this.

‘You got me back. You gonna kiss me or what?’ Starsky says, eyes lowered and flirty.

Hutch grabs the chair’s arms and rolls it forward so their knees interlock. Then he leans in close, with infinite gentleness, and presses his lips to Starsky’s.

It starts slow and sweet but it’s been so long since they could touch, really touch, and Hutch finds himself reluctant to pull away. He wraps both hands around Starsky’s face, deepening the kiss, lifting up to rest a knee between Starsky’s legs and get closer, one hand on his neck, the other combing through his hair, breathless and entwined and –

‘Ah!’ Starsky breaks off with a gasp of pain, and Hutch stiffens, pulling back in panic.

‘Starsk?’

His grimace turns to a soft laugh. ‘Still got a little egg on the noggin here, Hutch. You hit a sore spot, I jumped, the ribs did not approve. Dammit. I didn’t want you to stop. I missed you too, Hutch. Believe me. But – I think you’d better get me into bed, and not in the fun way. I’m beat.’

Hutch feels like an idiot. Fine, so Starsky wants to pick this up where they left off just as badly as he does. That doesn’t mean it’s an option. And as the member of this partnership who hasn’t spent the last few days screwy with painkillers, he needs to be the one exerting some self-control here.

Saving up the self-recrimination for later, Hutch tugs the comforter back and wheels the chair into position. He tugs off the tennis shoes he laced up, and bends down to let Starsky lean whatever weight he needs to on him as he shifts from chair to bed. Helps him out of his jeans, accepts his shake of the head at trying to wrestle his t-shirt over his head. He’s already dozy, content for Hutch to rearrange the stack of pillows behind him to keep him comfortable but a little upright, cast rested on its own pillow, all tucked in.

‘You want any more painkillers?’ he asks.

But Starsky’s already out, long lashes down and lips slightly parted.

It hits Hutch again: how fragile a person is. Breath, in and out. Blood, pumping to the brain and back again. Joseph Schwartz, 23, first day on escort hadn’t made it; had passed before Peet hit the ground. Starsky just nodded when he told him, as if he was expecting it. Another cop dead on the job. No surprises.

Hutch reaches across the bed to take Starsky’s hand again, and wonders if he can figure out a life for them where he never has to let go.

Chapter Text

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.’

Chapter Text

Starsky has always figured he’s secretly the brains of this partnership, and he’s pretty sure the current situation proves it.

Fact one: Starsky wants his lover close, even if he’s not up to exactly contributing.

Fact two: Hutch will do pretty much anything to make Starsky feel better when he’s hurt.

Fact three: Starsky has successfully persuaded Hutch that the one thing that makes an injured Starsky feel better than any drug invented is Hutch getting off, while Starsky watches.

The result isn’t just a pretty damn spectacular way to spend the time. Freed from the distractions of his own lust – well, at least physically – Starsky has time to focus. On Hutch. What he likes. What he’s surprisingly willing to offer up, now there’s just his body and what it wants to consider.

Turns out: Ken Hutchinson, given free rein, is a monstrous tease with an unexpected fondness for whatever dirty talk Starsky can come up with and an increasing enthusiasm for being naked at Starsky’s.

His steady gaze, sucking on his own fingers while Starsky watched him jerk off, should’ve been the clue. The exhibitionist Hutch was never that far below the surface, even if he sells the world that buttoned-up priss. Hutch has always been fond of pants tighter in the crotch than was strictly professional – ‘I can’t help it if they fit me everywhere else, Starsk’ – but now, in the apartment, with whatever strange permission it grants, several pairs of so-called workout pants appear that frame his junk to a degree bordering on obscene. He wears them for lunges, teamed with loose vests that fall down when he touches his toes exposing his leanly muscled back, glistening with sweat, always performed in the living room beside Starsky’s bed – so he can let Hutch know if his form needs work, of course. After his post-workout shower, Hutch likes to spend a few hours relaxing in just a towel, not always being especially carefully about whether it’s entirely covering the goods. He’s also been known to cook dinner in the buff, save for a neat little apron wrapped round his waist, leaving his pert ass cheeks perfectly visible as he chops, and stirs, and bends to check on a roasting chicken.

All of which is just a prelude to him relaxing a little closer, naked, and either waiting for Starsky to start narrating what he’d like the at-home movie to be tonight, or Hutch getting too impatient and taking himself in hand.

Starsky didn’t know it was exactly possible to get off just inside your head; didn’t know he was capable of the kind of intellectual fucking Hutch seems determined to give him, over and again, leaving him breathless and grinning and if not sated, then happy. His healing ribs and wrist and the pills that go with them won’t allow him to achieve anything close to a hard on for now: it’s too much tension for his muscles and he wilts in a heartbeat, turned off instantly by pain. But if he can manage to keep his confused dick out of it, he and Hutch get to have incredible sex together. And while he heals, he learns more and more about his partner. How he lasts longer if you distract him with talking about other things his cock could be doing. How he writhes if you don’t let him touch himself, just demand he lies close so you can play with his nipples: a pinch, a flick, soft, hard, till he’s whimpering and quivering and entirely under command – and evidently enjoying handing over control. How he looks sprawled awkwardly on his knees, reaching behind him as instructed to try one finger in himself, blue eyes opening up wide and bright in confused awe before a shocked but happy smile breaks out across his face.

And, always, the intimacy that’s not about bodies or coming or when they’ll finally be able to fuck. Closeness. Kisses, soft and long, careful but powered by the deep feelings that rattle in both their chests, linger on their lips and in their eyes and don’t need to be said.

It feels like a miraculous little window of time; stolen hours together in a way not chosen but they can both be grateful for, and an openness to absolute vulnerability from Hutch that Starsky never imagined.

Which is lucky, because Starsky hates everything else about this entire situation.

He’s been hurt enough, bad enough, to know he’s a rotten patient. He hates every bit of it, from the long slow days grinding out the hours till it’s night again – which isn’t any different - to having to ask for help over and over. Hutch is as giving a nursemaid as he could ask for and he’s wise enough to this scene to know how rough Starsky finds it. But just because he’ll be ready to slip on his shoes and tie his laces, stand close enough to catch him on the way to the bathroom to help him wash his hair without his cast getting wet, doesn’t make any of it less shitty.

He hates not working. He hates feeling like he’s drifting. Taking and giving nothing, waiting and waiting and waiting.

Worst of all is the literal feeling of weakness. Starsky might not be a health nut like Hutch but he keeps that motor running in his own way, and he likes how it feels: able to run and turn up the speed to get after some kid who thinks they can outpace him, able to swing a fist and know there’s power behind it. Being able to fuck, too; to lean on his hands and push into Hutch with all his weight, to feel Hutch’s eyes rove over his body and feel proud of what he sees. He knows not to take it for granted but it still sucks whenever it’s snatched away.

The misery, it’s part of recovery, he gets that: it’s in your head as well as your body and accepting that you got hurt, that it happened, that you’re ok, that you just need to pace it out – it’s as much of it as the part where the bones knit back together. But knowing it isn’t quite enough to make him not feel bitter and bored and plain mad about it.

His next hospital appointment doesn’t help. The ribs are doing just like they should and three weeks in, they’re on their way even if he’s still a few weeks off being able to pick the mail up off the mat without needing to bend his knees. The wrist, meanwhile, is a shithead and he’s looking at another three weeks in a cast at least. It’s not a surprise, exactly, but hearing it out loud sinks him into a mood he doesn’t know how to kick even for his chauffeur’s sake.

‘Head’s all clear though, right?’ asks Hutch, driving them out of the parking lot. ‘That’s got to be good news, right?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And the rest is on track. A little physio, you’ll be back on your feet.’

Starsky looks out of the window, lips pressed together.

Hutch keeps glancing over, recognizing the tension in his body and Starsky’s grateful for him saying nothing – at least until they get back to his place and Hutch pulls the LTD up behind the Torino.

‘Hey. I’m sorry, ok? I know you wanted a little more progress than that. You ok?’

‘Sure. Apparently I’m making a very typical recovery for injuries of this kind.’

He says it as bland and meaningless as it sounded when he heard it, but at the end his voice fades out.

‘And you want to be a superhero who recovers in double quick time, except it turns out you’re a regular human being.’

Starsky glares at Hutch, but not because he’s wrong.

Hutch’s face softens. ‘Seriously. I can see the progress you’re making, day after day. You’re getting there, you’re so much stronger already. Even if the doctors don’t see it, I see it, ok? You’re doing great. You’re so much more independent, you barely even need me here.’

Starsky’s so sunk in his own head it takes him a minute to hear it. He shuts his eyes, guilt crashing in at being so tied up with his crap that he’s not been thinking like a partner should.

‘Hutch. I should’ve said, man. If you want to split, get back to your place – you can go any time, ok?’

Hutch’s eyebrows lift, a smile lifting his whole face.

‘Starsk. Baffling as it is, I actually like your company.’ Then his face falls. ‘Unless – I mean, if you want me to go, that’s no problem, I’ll be out of your hair. I’m sorry, I should’ve asked sooner, as soon as you were getting back on your feet.’

Starsky looks at his face and finds himself laughing, free and easy and not even with too much trouble from his ribs, for the first time in weeks.

‘Ain’t we a pair. I like your company too, you dummy. All I mean is, you’ve done a ton to help me out already, and I know some of that’s been kind of intense. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, and there’s a thing or two I’m gonna need a hand with from time to time over the next couple of weeks. But you’re entitled to a break, you know. It doesn’t mean anything, so if you want take some time for yourself, go right ahead. Besides, you’re gonna be back on duty soon enough, right? Dobey’s got to be on your case by now.’

Hutch looks out at the sky, an expression on his face Starsky can’t read.

‘About that,’ he says softly.

 

 

*

 

 

Hutch has been trying not to have this conversation for weeks now, and it’s still not time, but he can’t bear the secrecy any longer. He wanted to be sure Starsk would be fine on his own, if this didn’t go well. That’s his excuse. But now it’s here and he feels sweaty-palmed, afraid, like at the very beginning of all it when he didn’t know if he could stand to risk what they had already.

Now he’s risking it all over again.

He remembers the grim look on Starsky’s face at his apartment after John died; coming to tell him, show him, the real Starsky. It’s not the same, far from it. But he’s every bit as afraid that his partner is going to be at minimum disappointed, at worst – well, not disgusted. But not far off.

Starsky’s waiting, and every rehearsed version of this conversation suddenly feels useless, so he might as well just say it.

‘I don’t know if I want to go back.’

Starsky looks blank. Then he smiles, head tilting.

‘Come on, Hutch. You get like this every time I take a hit, you know that. And I know I’m being a little shit about it because I hate being sick but I’m ok. Look. Two arms, two legs, a little slack in the mouth but that’s nothing new. We just got to get us back on the road, all right?’

‘This isn’t like every time.’

Hutch waits for the penny to drop, and when it does it’s painful. Starsky looks angry.

‘Bullshit. That’s bullshit, Hutch. You know damn well if one of us is messed up the other goes all out. We’re practically a precinct bingo card. Why’d you think no one’s said a word about you being here, huh? It’s not an us thing, an us Now thing. It’s a partner thing.’

‘Well, I don’t want to do it any more. I don’t want to sit in a hospital waiting room, trying to keep it together while I wait to find out if you’re alive or dead. I don’t want to be asked to call your family, like I’m just the guy you work with. It’s not an if, it’s a when, for one of us. You know that. I don’t want that. Not now. Not now I have something to lose that’s worth keeping.’

He barely keeps control over his voice while he speaks. He can feel it in his chest, every word. The memories. The fear. He’s been keeping it in and now it’s out, the rawness of those hours of despair suddenly fresh all over again.

Starsky listens. Of course he does, because he’s a good guy, and he cares, and he wants to understand. But he doesn’t get it, not really. He scrunches up his face, looking out of the car window, then leans in and rests his cast left hand on Hutch’s leg, fingertips trying to grip onto the fabric of his pants.

‘I’m sorry, Hutch. We should’ve talked about his the second I got out of the hospital. You’re freaked out, and I get that. This wasn’t the most fun gig we ever had, and it could’ve gone sideways for sure, and I guess you took that hard, even harder than usual. But that’s the job, right? 95 per cent of the time, we get home ok or with a few bumps and scrapes, maybe a little headache. Every now and then we get a little worse. But while we’re out there, we’re doing good work, right? Stuff that’s worth our time. That’s a trade every cop working a beat like ours makes. We’d be safer in traffic, behind a desk, wherever – but we’d get a hell of a lot less done, so why not do the job that needs doing?’

‘Because I don’t think I can any more.’

It’s the first time he’s said it out loud. It hurts him, just as much as it plainly hurts his partner. He feels cowardly; presented with his worst fear and choosing to run not face it. It’s not who he thought he was but he can’t pretend. Hutch closes his eyes, head dipping, shoulders feeling heavy as he tries to brace against the weight of this decision.

‘You don’t mean that.’ Starsky leans in, lifting his cast hand and grabbing at his arm to get him to look up. His voice comes out tight, like someone’s wrapping a hand around his throat. ‘Hutch, no. You can’t mean that. You’re my partner. On the street just as much as in that bed. It’s not one or the other. You and me, that’s why it works. Because we know each other, inside and out. Because you’ll always have my back and I’ll have yours. Because we’ve always been more than partners. On duty, off duty.’

His face is close and his eyes are so blue, and so pained. He looks away, shaking his head.

‘I mean, come on. What the hell would we even do if we weren’t cops?’

Hutch clears his throat, looking down.

‘Actually… I’ve been looking into a collective gardening space. There’s a property I could take over, close to my place: greenhouse, grow plants to sell, and an education center to teach people how to start their own organic crop at home, maybe some cookery classes at night. It’s a great space, Starsk, I think you’d love it.’

Starsky stares at him.

‘Just how long you been planning this little announcement?’

Hutch looks awkward enough for it to be obvious.

‘Oh. So the whole time I’ve been laid up, trying to get back on my feet to get back out on the street – you’ve been working out ways for me to be doing that without you.’

‘No! Of course not. There’s a workshop next door, big space, a ton of potential. I thought maybe you could use it to teach a little car maintenance to kids, like a community drop in. Or a gallery space, for your photography.’

‘You know I’m a cop, Hutch, right?’

‘You’re a lot of things, Starsk. Cop is only one of them.’

Starsky looks like he’s been hit. It takes a moment for him to even blink, to even draw back and look away, as if he doesn’t want to be close to the words or the voice that said them.

Hutch feels it but he doesn’t care, can’t let himself care. This is it. They’re having this conversation so this is it. He turns in his seat, reaching across for Starsky’s free right hand, lacing his fingers into Starsky’s, not letting go.

‘It’s you or me, one day. You get that, right? We keep living this life and it’s either you or me, walking into a hospital, into a morgue, having to say goodbye. Is that what you want? More time spent like this, fighting your way past more broken bones, more bulletholes, till the luck runs out?’

Starsky’s eyes darken.

‘You’re out of line.’

‘No. No, I’m not,’ Hutch retorts, shaking his head. ‘I’m saying it like it is. And don’t get me wrong: two months ago, before we were together, it would’ve taken me apart if you’d died falling off that damn fire escape, no lie. But I’d have found a way back. Built something out of my life, out of the force, maybe not so far from the one I’m talking about right now, and it would’ve hurt, always, but I would’ve got by. Now? No way. Not now. You think either one of us is ever going to find what we have together with anyone else? Anything even close?’

‘No.’ Starsky says it blankly, coldly. ‘You and me, Hutch: we’re it. Best ever. More than either one of us can claim to deserve. And I promise you: I appreciate it. I don’t take it for granted. But – it ending some time? That’s life, partner. That’s what loving somebody is too. You take it while it’s there, live it while you can. Hope you stick around long enough to mourn it when it’s gone. The one thing you don’t do? You don’t hold onto it so tight that it dies in your hands.’

Starsky gives him a look of such pure misery that Hutch thinks it might just be burned into his heart for eternity.

Then he unlatches his fingers from Hutch’s, climbs out of the car, and walks slowly towards his apartment’s stairs.

Hutch is out of the car in a heartbeat, hurrying to help – then holding back at a shake from the back of Starsky’s head.

‘I can manage,’ he says, loud enough for Hutch to hear without him looking around. ‘Go home, Hutch.’

Starsky begins to climb and it’s slow, one step at a time and a pause for breath after every four. Hutch waits till he gets to the top, his while body trembling with emotion: guilt at doing this now when Starsky’s still so far from recovered; certainty that he never wants to watch his partner like this again; fear that what he’s just said has meant he might not even get the chance.

Starsky pauses at the front door, still for long enough for Hutch to wonder if he should run up the stairs just to check he’s not passed out upright. But then he hears a key in a lock and Starsky’s inside, door closed, no look back.

Hutch gets into the LTD and drives home, to his cold, empty apartment.

Chapter Text

Starsky goes directly to the fridge to grab a beer. He’s still taking painkillers and even opening he damn thing means clamping it awkwardly between his cast and his chest, but he needs something, anything, to take the edge off this.

He knew Hutch was knocked sideways by that fall. Even that he was enjoying the downtime, together, while Starsky recovered a hell of a lot more than Starsky was. But this? Quitting? He can’t understand it.

Starsky’s always been someone happiest doing something, anything that feels worthwhile – and he’s always figured Hutch is the same, even if the stuff he’s up for doing might be meditating for six hours in silence, or fasting for a day, or a whole bunch of stuff that’s basically the opposite of doing now he thinks about it.

But they’re cops. Good cops, the kind that get the job done and put in the hours and do it because if someone has to, then better them than someone who doesn’t care. Neither one of them has ever even seriously contemplated packing it in, not so far as he knows, anyways: not when IA are breathing down their necks for no reason, not when another day in court sees some lousy lawyer talk their way out of justice being served. It’s all just extra motivation when there’s too much that still needs doing. Hypes and hookers they take care of. Kids who are a bad rap or two away from a real bad path, that maybe they can steer them away from. Bay City’s flotsam and jetsam, washing up on their shoreline time and again. It’s not arrogance to say they make a difference. It’s what gets him out of bed in the morning and sleeping at night.

Walking away from the thing that gives him purpose: he can’t even imagine it.

Starsky knows what falling out of love with a job feels like from the army, and he tries to map it onto Hutch, in case it helps. Back then he was a kid, sure, and he was drawn in by all that patriotic business and not a little of the notion of how to be a man, too. Uniform, gun, following orders: seemed like the right kind of life for a mouthy kid who did great at football and girls and not so great with grades. He was gonna serve his country and be proud to do it. The reality of it, he doesn’t let into his conscious thoughts so often, but the sensation that comes up thinking about it is pain. He spent a couple of weeks in a field hospital too but that’s small fry compared to the emotional hell of it. Watching his friends die. Knowing he fired a weapon into a crowd out of fear, not even aiming at a target. Calling for orders and realizing his CO had no idea, no clue, that this was chaos and he was probably going to die in it. Writing to his mother and lying through his teeth.

He drains the beer he opened and heads for another, even though he’s already brewing a headache and it’s absolutely not going to help.

Army versus cop life: it’s night and day. Sure, there’s bullshit aplenty. Dobey’s a good guy but he’s not above handing down an order that they all know is insane. The line between good guy and bad guy is an ever-blending blur, and if he’d been told at the academy just how many rules he was going to bend, how many times he’d look the other way for an informant or just someone down on their luck – he’d have arrested himself. But that’s why he loves it. He’s never going to be smartest guy in the room, bookwise, but he knows people, he knows the street, and he knows how criminals think. Army life was all about you being the little guy who’s not important enough to even know why you got sent to this little hellhole to kill god knows who. Cop life: you matter, because chances are you’re the only one who can fix it and the only one who cares to.

All of which is irrelevant, because he doesn’t need to prove why he wants to be a cop.

It’s Hutch that’s the challenge. Hutch that he’s got to fathom so he can understand it enough to talk him around.

Problem one: Starsky getting hurt.

It’s not exactly a simple one to fix, on account of Starsky getting hurt on the job on a fairly regular basis. He can roll out some stats on how people get killed in road accidents or plane crashes or whatnot all the time, but he figures Hutch isn’t going to buy it.

It doesn’t bother him, knowing one day it’ll go south and he won’t come home. Hutch going first, instead of him? He doesn’t think about it. And sure, maybe one day it’ll go down different: desk job, out on disability, having to find a way to make a new life out of what’s left of him. Maybe it would look like Hutch’s bananas little plan, workshopping cars or whatever. But he’s damned if he’s accepting that before he has to because he knows he’s gonna be bored out of his skull.

Problem two: the job.

Here’s where it gets a little more thorny. Starsky is a born cop, he knows now. It’s what drives him, what fits around him, like an engine in a car. Hutch? Hutch is a cop because he wants to help people. He wants to make the world a better place. Love and peace and no hunger and free incense for anyone who wants it, kumbaya my brother.

Trouble is, there’s a million ways to help people. Many of which don’t involve getting shot at, or falling off buildings, or having to sit in court seeing your definitely guilty guy get off.

Or watching your partner die.

If you’re Hutch, walking away makes perfect sense.

Except how it leaves Starsky partnerless, alone or with some unfamiliar colleague, and – it feels shady to say it but it’s not like it’s untrue – considerably more vulnerable now his perfect-fit partner isn’t the one backing him up. Which is not a thing he’s going to say to Hutch, because the last thing he wants is a partner he had to blackmail to be by his side. Hutch gets to make his choice here. Even if it’s not what Starsky wants.

Problem three: them.

Together. Partners, lovers, a couple even if it has to be behind closed doors. As far as Starsky’s concerned, he’s felt like Hutch’s other half for so long that being together just feels like turning up the volume on the same song. It’s not like that for Hutch. He’s had to get his head around being the kind of guy who fucks another guy, and it being Starsky has probably tipped his whole world on its head.

What Hutch doesn’t seem to clock is that being partners already is why it works. That puzzle-piece fit they have is because they live their lives in rhythm. They know when the other is tired, or fired up, celebrating or needing a distraction or just beat down by a bad scene, because they do it all together. That wordless communication they have, a comforting hand on a shoulder when it’s needed, a little push or a little silence: they have it in every part of this thing because they learned it on the street. Starsky tries to imagine coming home after a rotten day and having to explain it, relive all that junk so Hutch understands his shitty mood, and meanwhile Hutch is going to want to tell him about some seed or flower or incredible new fertilizer he’s just invented. It’s nuts. They’d drive each other crazy in a week.

So what Hutch is saying, really, whether he means to or not – is that maybe it’s not just being a cop that he’s done with.

Starsky realizes he’s near the end of the second beer when he feels tears threatening the corners of his eyes. This was stupid. He feels swimmy, his guts turning to acid and he stumbles to the bathroom, fumbling awkwardly with belt and zipper one-handed while leaning up against the wall and just barely making it. Getting his jeans back up and zipped isn’t going to happen, so he lets them fall, awkwardly toeing off his shoes and kicking the lot into a corner. He tugs the shirt off over his head, having to stop and start again when he remembers it’s easier if you get it over the cast first. He’s naked and miserable, and all he wants is a shower to cool off, but there’s no way he can manage it – especially not with everything starting to spin.

He heads for the sink instead, filling it with cool water and dunking his whole head down into it. It helps. He splashes it around, getting his neck and the back of his hair too, then scooping more onto his shoulders, letting it run down his body. He’s soaking the floor but who cares.

When he’s done, he grabs a towel and rubs at his wet hair, enjoying the feeling even if his chest is stiff and sore and his right hand is still clumsy. Drying his face, he catches himself in the mirror, and his own look of surprise is right there making him face it. He’s dropped weight, and though there’s still muscle there he looks a hell of a lot weaker than he’d realized. His face is drawn, the lack of sleep and low appetite narrowing his cheeks and sinking bags under his eyes. Under the hair across his chest there’s still bruising visible all along his left side, from under his arm down to his hip; faded now to greens and yellows not the bright virulent purple-red it had been, but still noticeable. Even his cast seems to hang off him.

This is what Hutch has been seeing for the last three weeks. No: this is the getting better version.

Starsky remembers waking up to flowers by his hospital bed, bought by Hutch. Thought I might have to spring for a wreath. Remembers watching Hutch through glass as he sickened and suffered, unable to take his hand or sit with him or say a word as that gruesome virus did its work. Remembers helping him home after and the thinness of his wrists, the rattle that lingered in his breath.

Where Hutch has got to, he can’t follow – but he can understand it.

Now he just has to figure out what the hell they’re going to do now.

 

 

*

 

 

It’s going to be Hutch’s first night’s rest on a bed not a couch for weeks, and he can’t face sleeping.

The apartment has that dusty, unloved cast that speaks of his absence. He came back to a stack of mail on the mat and the eerie realization that stripped of all his plants, this place feels sterile, and not at all like home.

Home, he thinks, might now mean something else. Not a place. Just where Starsky is.

Which, after today, leaves him - where?

He’s right to have said it. They had to talk about it. Starsky had to know. And he’s right, damn it. Starsky’ll be fine tonight, by himself, he’ll manage, and – who is he kidding. Hutch is the one who’s not fine, right now. Being right means nothing when he’s said the one thing that could hurt his partner more than anything else, and he knew damn well it would when he said it.

The fact is, Hutch is spinning out. Everything that felt stable about his entire life is like ice melting under his feet; has been for weeks. If he’s honest, probably a hell of a lot longer than that.

Opening himself up to what his life could be. The life he didn’t choose till now, but still could have; the love that’s there, embracing him with such an incredible mix of slow and fast, passion and care. The man he thought he was – or had decided to make himself – replaced, displaced.

He feels raw. Stripped bare. Completely unrecognizable to himself, like he is when Starsky has him naked and panting, under his spell, unmade. Like – he hates putting the two together, but need is need – when he was begging for the needle. Some other Hutch who is pure feeling. Filterless. Past the tight control he tries to keep over every part of his body and his mind.

He roams, restless. Pulls a book from the bedside table and stares at the pages. Hunts through his record collection, finding nothing he wants to hear. Takes himself outside to stand in the warm evening air, then sits on the couch, shifting the cushions around yet still uncomfortable. Nothing feels right. Here, alone in the apartment, everything that he turns to for solace and security – his neat jars in the kitchen, his guitar, the stack of paintings by his bed that he’ll hang one of these days – by comparison to what he’s just walked away from, it all feels like artifice. Distraction. The carefully curated lifestyle of an intellectual, spiritual man who is desperate to show the world: I’m better than you know. I’m not just a cop.

As if just a cop isn’t good enough; as if Starsky could ever be considered anything but extraordinary, outstanding, an exemplar of how to live your life. Find the thing you’re good at, and do it with every bit of conviction you have in you. Hutch envies it. That certainty. But it haunts him all the same.

Just a cop.

It’s not him talking, he knows. That deep-seated conviction that what he’s doing has to be the very best, according to some holy definition of perfection he doesn’t get to choose, some notion of how a boy with his name ought to live his life: that got embedded young. It didn’t matter how he excelled, either. Coasting, a B grade when he could’ve worked for an A, that summer when he broke his leg and missed six weeks of classes. Silver in that wrestling comp, and never mind that the other guy was better built for sumo. A Hutchinson doesn’t fail. So he played the game, and it came easy, easier as he got older, because everyone loves the pretty boy with the perfect smile who says please and thank you and ma’am to the mothers of the girls he takes out and fools around with and remembers not to get pregnant.

Until the turning point: actual failure. He walked into that law exam with every intention of doing what he was supposed to. He’d studied for it, after his finals. He’d accepted his fate. And then he spent an hour staring out of the window wondering just how the hell he was going to survive a life surrounded by the kind of people all studiously filling in their papers around him – a million Ken Hutchinsons, clones, ‘his people’. The next hour was spent writing an essay on ‘Why the Law is an Ass’. Then he walked out, without looking back.

‘We are so ashamed.’ That was his mother. His father called a doctor.

It’s laughable that it hurts, still, when he leads the life he leads; when his days are filled with desperate people trying to scrape cash for a hit or a meal and never got a second of the kind of security he had growing up. He knows he’s got nothing to complain about. But he knows it’s not anything he’s ever been able to move past, not really.

Instead he worked on himself, to be someone he wanted to be. Not just blond hair and a big smile and a big dick. Not just a clipped accent and a batchelor’s degree. Someone who was committed to living a good life: to giving goodness to oneself, goodness to the world. The Academy was, if he’s completely honest, chosen for being the biggest fuck you to his family imaginable that fit the bill. Except he loved it, and their incapacity to comprehend why or how just became another weight.

Just a cop.

He’d have quit years ago if wasn’t for knowing how happy it would make them. It’s not true, but it’s been his excuse every time he’s wavered. He stays for Starsky. He’s always stayed for Starsky: not from some latent, unaware hope they might wind up where they have but because it’s how things are, now. Starsky said it out loud one day and Hutch remembers choking on his coffee: Sure, one day one of us’ll get married, or one of us’ll get unlucky, but till then we keep driving. For Starsky it meant, forget about it. For Hutch it meant, one day we’ll be done. It feels a little on the nose to realize that marriage is probably off the table, which leaves them with – well. There’s no denying it’s what tipped him over this particular edge. He doesn’t want to keep driving without Starsky by his side, alive, whole; doesn’t care to get wherever he’d be going alone and knowing he had a chance to, if not avoid that forever, then defer it.

And it’s not smoke he’s blowing, however much Starsky wants to let it drift.

How close he’s been to losing his partner plagues his dreams like nothing else. It’s not wild imaginings or paranoia. It’s the real, inescapable reliving of a bullet in the back and an hour to keep him and a roomful of innocents alive while trying to not lose his mind. A 24-hour countdown to find who administered a poison while watching life draining before his eyes. A name written in bull’s blood on a mirror and the horror of knowing what every one of Marcus’s crime scenes looked like. Those are the heavy hitters, in a lifetime of close runs, gunfire when he can’t tell yet if it’s hit its mark, Starsky behind the wheel of the car flinging himself out almost before he brakes and neither of them knowing what’s next. Those are the fears he feels tattooed by. It’s trauma, he understands. Something you carry with you.

This time, this fall: he can’t. He doesn’t even dream about it, doesn’t have to. He can hear the tearing metal and the fading desperate ‘Hutch!’ whenever he lets it in; sometimes when he doesn’t. Starsky’s face still and white, eyes closed, blood on his brow. The wait as they had to lift the fire escape away before they could get him in the ambulance. The hands holding him back to stop him running into harm’s way and feeling his legs just leave, strength gone.

He made it, Hutch reminds himself. He’s ok. He’s better every damn day and he’s going to make a full recovery and – and then –

And then he goes back to throwing himself into the insanity of the job like he doesn’t know he’s just blood and bones and a heart that can be stopped. To where Hutch can’t follow.

Hutch tries to picture it: a Starsky who walked away from the job.

He’d be the same. Intense, eager, quick to react and filling his days with some kind of frenetic nonsense, that relentless curiosity. Never just a cop. Always a cop, even if he wasn’t behind a badge.

But Hutch? He’s had time to think about it over the past few weeks, really think. In all honesty he’d imagined himself blooming. Meditation three hours a day at least; ten-mile run; engaging in a nurturing pathway – hands in the soil, at a stove at the mission, filling his days with gifts. Not to put two fingers up to his parents. To find himself. To be a better man.

It feels tissue-thin.

Hutch the Buddhist.

Hutch the gardener.

Hutch the health nut.

Who you are; what you do. He doesn’t know how to disentangle them. Take away the job he does and – Hutch thinks maybe all that is left is a series of tics, mores, to be performed as the plain undeniable opposite of whatever ‘just a cop’ might mean. The job is the scaffold he’s built it upon, against, this man he likes, this Hutch. Propped up by nothing but antagonism: not who his family wanted, not what anyone expects, not just a cop. As a way to lead a life it suddenly seems absurd.

But he’s still right. He’s still right, damn it.

He can’t carry on waiting for the next time Starsky gets hurt, and the next, till he’s past saving. He can’t, and he won’t.

It’s just that being right doesn’t make any damn difference.

Chapter Text

The knock at the door wakes Starsky and he tries to get up before he’s awake enough to remember he can’t rest weight on that arm, can’t twist that way, and apparently someone glued a pillow to his face.

He makes it to the door with one eye open and a towel round his waist – and finds Hutch looking wide-eyed and anxious outside, apparently having heard whatever yelps of morning unhappiness just slipped out.

‘I should’ve called,’ Hutch says quickly, guilt thick in his voice. ‘I thought you might need a hand, some breakfast, but. I didn’t think. You want me to go?’

Hutch is an idiot. Always, but especially today, Starsky decides. However they left it yesterday he’s still heartbreakingly happy to see his partner and he wants to smack Hutch over the head till he clocks the concept – despite the fact that his head is banging and he’s got some kind of desert in place of his tongue; despite the fact that Hutch looks like he slept under the bed instead of on it.

‘Get in here,’ Starsky says, stumbling backwards so his pale, awkward partner can step inside and let him shut the door behind them. ‘Hey. You look awful. Come here.’

Hutch resists but Starsky wraps both arms around his waist and pulls him close, chest to chest, hip to hip, placing his chin deliberately on Hutch’s shoulder so his mouth lines up to kiss Hutch’s neck.

Hutch is stiff in his arms, trembling at the contact as if it’s unexpected, not quite to be trusted – and then he shivers and sinks into it, returning the kiss to Starsky’s neck.

‘I don’t – I didn’t know if – ’

‘Shut up,’ whispers Starsky into his collar. ‘I’m here. Ok? I kicked you out last night because I needed space, but I still need you. And whatever this is, whatever we’re trying to figure out, we’re going to do it together. Ok?’

‘Ok.’

Hutch holds on, arms wrapping tighter around Starsky’s bare back, palms gripping his shoulders and his breath hot into the crook of his neck. Starsky shuts his eyes, inhaling the smell of Hutch’s skin: warm, a little damp, mint toothpaste and clean soap mixed with the low musk of sweat from the drive in a hot car. Starsky presses his right hand into the small of Hutch’s back, resting the fingertips of his left on his hip as he keeps him close, letting Hutch lean into his body as much as he dares, mindful that he’s still healing and hasn’t taken last night’s painkillers, let alone this morning’s.

Which is when he realizes that between them, where they’re pressed so close, his oh-so-quiet dick is making a comeback.

He makes a little gasp into Hutch’s neck and Hutch misreads it as pain, rearing back in alarm, hands up and away from whatever harm they’re just causing. Instead, the movement makes Starsky’s towel fall, and the reality becomes very apparent.

‘Oh.’ Hutch looks stunned, and not a little confused. ‘You’re – ’

‘I know. Thank god, I was starting to think this thing was permanently busted.’

Hutch manages a smile, then something close to a laugh. ‘You want me to, uh, help you out?’

‘You better,’ Starsky growls, stepping close again and grabbing his shirt. ‘On the bed, though. I don’t think it’s going to stick around if I’m trying not to fall down at the same time.’

He steals an intense kiss before walking backwards and climbing carefully on top of the covers before laying down on his back, head on the pillows. It’s one hell of a reverse mentally from where he was two minutes ago, let alone last night – but he’s been brimful of lust and deprived of anything close to really getting off for weeks now, and Hutch looks like he’d do anything to not have to have a conversation about what’s really going on, and frankly Starsky is just going to run with that.

Hutch lies beside him, taking care, then wraps his long fingers around Starsky’s cock, and squeezes.

Starsky practically barks. He’s sensitive as hell, whether from lack of use or just how immediately Hutch can turn him on, and the sensation makes him want to jolt right off the bed. Instead he whimpers, moaning until Hutch releases him with a wicked smile and instead offers a few long, slow strokes that are feather-light and every bit as effective. Starsky’s ribs are not enjoying this experience at all and he tugs a pillow under his shoulders, helping to ease into a more comfortable position as Hutch scoots down the bed and lick his lips.

‘Yes, Hutch, I want your mouth, yes,’ Starsky babbles, before throwing his arm over his face and biting down on his wrist to stop from wailing as Hutch takes the crown in his hot wet mouth and hums onto it. There’s tongue, lapping, a feeling of envelopment that’s almost too intense – and then Hutch’s fingers come back, that fluttery touch up and down the shaft that’s probably, definitely going to kill him if he keeps at it.

‘More,’ Starsky whispers before pressing his forearm back into his mouth at the prospect.

Hutch doesn’t hesitate. The gossamer fingertips encircle him instead, tight but not too tight, and beginning to pump as the sucking at his head starts to dip lower, the tongue flat against him. Hutch groans onto his cock as he takes it deeper into his mouth, following the up and down movements of his head with his hand to give a constant pulse that tips Starsky’s head back.

He’s close already, hips beginning to shift and rock into Hutch’s mouth, urgent and needy even if it makes his ribs ache. Hutch responds, releasing his lips and lifting up to look into Starsky eyes, watching every hitched breath as he pumps his hand faster, twisting, his other hand reaching to stroke his balls, gentle then firm, then firmer as he sees Starsky’s eyes widen at the contact.

It’s enough, too much, everything, feeling Hutch’s hands all over him – his balls gripped hard between fingers and thumb, his cock thrumming under the rapid urgent pulsing of those long tightly-wrapped fingers and a thumb that nudges at his slit, not accidentally, with purpose that is exactly what’s needed to send him over the edge. Starsky feels a shudder through his body that rattles every half-healed bone he has, and is beyond worth it.

‘Yeah, that’s it, that’s it,’ murmurs Hutch almost proudly as he milks Starsky’s cock, keeping his hands moving until Starsky sighs and moans and flaps his hands away with a weak wave.

‘Oh my god,’ Starsky breathes. Watching Hutch jerk himself off has been a trip and a treat. But he needed a release too. And he needed Hutch to be the one to make it happen; that intimacy, that connection that he can’t get any other way and he’s craved like sugar.

They lie close for a couple of minutes, Hutch moving up to tuck in alongside him, chin on his shoulder and an arm protective across his chest. He’s missed this easy relaxation too, but after a few minutes he can’t ignore the feeling of needing to clean up, or the dry mouth from last night’s ill-advised beer fest.

‘I’m just gonna wash up,’ he whispers, patting Hutch’s hand and gently lifting it away.

Hutch starts, as if he’d genuinely fallen asleep, and immediately the guilty look is back.

‘Sorry. Let me – I’ll help you shower. Give me a minute, I’ll put on some coffee while it warms up.’

Hutch’s eyes dart away from Starsky’s and whatever normalcy his hard-on had managed to deploy against the fragility of yesterday is apparently done. It’s not a surprise. His dick doesn’t usually fix things, however hard he might be willing to try. But coffee and a shower are probably what he needs next if they’re going to be able to talk this out, and if it makes Hutch feel better to fuss over him instead of actually dealing with the mess they’re in, fine.

‘What the hell happened in there? You trying to learn to swim?’ Hutch grumbles, emerging from the bathroom with Starsky’s discarded jeans, shoes and shirt, all sodden.

It’s a struggle, trying to keep one arm raised and outside the shower curtain, even with Hutch helping; they’ve only tried it once before and it’s a good thing Hutch didn’t bother to mop before they started. But Starsky winds up clean, and Hutch winds up soaked and having to strip off and switch into sweats, and at the end of it there’s coffee – and even a donut. For him; obviously Hutch brought himself a fruit salad. But Starsky figures it’s a start, like some sort of apology, or a flag of truce.

They eat quietly. Hutch comments on how well the cheeseplant is thriving; how he’ll arrange for a hand getting the bed and the couch switched around whenever Starsky wants. It’s a reminder that something’s ending here. Starsky likes having these dumb plants taking up half his kitchen. He likes having Hutch on the couch, or in his bed. But he likes his job, and his partner by his side, too, and it feels like they’re on the tip of having to choose what gets kept.

When the phone rings, it’s almost a relief.

‘Hey.’

‘Oh my, he answers the telephone now? That is a fine sign of recovery.’

‘Hey, Hug.’ Hutch looks up at Starsky’s words, a weird mix of relieved and wary at hearing who’s on the line. ‘How’re you doing?’

‘Sweet, my brother, real sweet, but I’m not the one who snapped all his insides. You looking up?’

‘Yeah, Huggy. I’m ok. Or I will be. What do you need?’

‘Nothing. But I thought you’d want to know that I had an esteemed visitor last night. One police captain known to both you and I? He’s set on a visit. Thought you might want to straighten your ties before he gets there, if you follow.’

Starsky looks at the mussed bed in the middle of the room, clothes scattered around it. Imagines Dobey knocking the door while – yeah, not going there.

‘Thanks. Appreciate the heads up. He say when?’

‘Nah. But if the blond bombshell is at your place, you might want to let him know – the big man is pissed. Hutch was meant to call in, confirm his return to duty. Your cap’s been letting it slide but, between you and me? I think he’s worried your boy’s not coming back at all.’

‘He’s not the only one. All right. You take care, Hug. We’ll be by real soon.’

He hangs up, aware of Hutch’s blue eyes waiting for a rundown.

‘So.’ He sits back down, sipping coffee and taking it slow. ‘I hear Dobey’s expecting a meeting. With you. About the job.’

Hutch’s face is a mask and it’s infuriating, because it’s not like Starsky wants to have this damn conversation either but he’s not the one that started it.

‘Hey.’ Starsky leans in, wincing as he does and having to shift in his seat. ‘Hutch, I meant what I said, so don’t lock me out. Whatever this is, we’re figuring it out together. So let’s figure it out, and when the man comes, you can give him an answer. We can give him an answer.’

 

 

*

 

 

Hutch stares at Starsky, bewildered, as a hand takes his wrist and strokes it comfortingly. Of everything he deserves right now, compassion and deference to Hutch’s random spewing feelings is not it. He hates himself silently. His partner earned better.

‘Hutch?’

He shuts his eyes, wrapping a hand across his face as if he’s trying to clear away whatever’s stopping up his mouth. As if he has words, at this point. As if he has any capacity to express this impossible conundrum in a way that will feel like an answer: I love you, I need you, I want you alive and that means I can’t be your partner, but I love you, I need you, I want you, alive.

The silence is awful. Starsky’s mouth is twitching, like he wants to talk but has no idea what to say. He keeps looking at Hutch, like he can see right inside, into the hollow agony he’s got in there. He looks sad, and worried. Hutch is pretty sure he’s right to be.

‘I didn’t think there would be anything to talk about,’ Hutch says quietly, after the silence becomes unbearable. ‘I thought… I know you, Starsk. You, the job: they’re a perfect fit. I’m not asking you to quit for me, and I never will. I hope you know that.’

‘I know. And I’m not saying I’m gonna. But – ’ Starsky squeezes his wrist again, brow furrowed. ‘I get a say in this too, ok? If you walk, if that’s what you want: that changes that job that’s such a perfect fit, you know? So, there’s something to talk about. Of course there is.’

Hutch sees the earnestness in his partner’s face and it touches him a way that he doesn’t see coming. He knew they loved each other, of course he knew that; it seemed absurd they’d driven side by side and left it unsaid for so many years. But this generosity of spirit, to meet him in the middle: it still floors him.

‘Can I show you something?’ he says, before he can stop himself.

Starsky blinks. ‘Sure. Go ahead.’

Hutch shakes his head. ‘Not here. It’s a drive. I just – I’ll explain when we get there, ok?’

Starsky nods. ‘One condition. We take my car.’

‘You want me to drive your car?’

‘No. But I want somebody to, and you’re who I’ve got. I miss her, Hutch. She’s getting lonely down there.’

It’s so ridiculous and so Starsky that Hutch can’t help a smile, and he knows his partner well enough to think that he might have planned it that way, and he might have just been thinking a lot about his car. That makes him smile even wider.

‘Keys?’

Outside, Starsky insists on a moment in the driver’s seat, ‘for old times.’ The way he touches the wheel, leans his head back and breathes in deep, relaxes into the space like it’s home; it’s affecting in a way that stops Hutch quipping that he ought to be jealous. Starsky really has missed this. And it’s the car that he’s missed, for sure, his damn stupid far-too-memorable car. But it’s everything else, too: working, and doing it well; the pair of them doing it well together; that feeling of capability that comes with having full command of your limbs.

Everything Hutch is asking him to give up, and every reason why, right here.

‘Be careful,’ scolds Starsky, climbing gloomily out and into the passenger seat.

Hutch is nervous on the gas, enough to make pulling out a juddery affair that doesn’t exactly settle Starsky’s grumbles. But even with them switched places, there’s a strange charm in the familiarity of Zebra Three on the road again. He feels it tug at him, and resists. Change isn’t inherently bad. Life is about choice. Living deliberately.

He feels his hands tremble on the wheel and grips tighter as he drives the now-familiar road close to Venice Place, but pulling off and into a more remote area up above.

‘If you’re taking me somewhere to have your wicked way with me, Hutch,’ Starsky mumbles as they hit a dirt road, the car bouncing up clouds of dust.

‘What?’

‘Uh. I don’t know. I guess I’m up for it? But my place has lube.’

‘That’s not why we’re here.’

They approach an orange grove, fenced, with more trees beyond. Hutch swings the Torino onto a level path under the shade of the branches, slowing to a crawl as they pass lemon trees, and flat ground that looks moist and ready for planting. Hutch pulls in at the farmhouse: a long low brick building that extends in an L-shape, a glasshouse visible at the rear.

Starsky inhales, exhales, realizing where Hutch has brought him. ‘This is it, huh,’ he says quietly, eyebrows lowered. ‘Your garden place. Your plan.’

Hutch hears everything he’s trying so hard not to say, and reaches out, taking Starsky’s hand.

‘Just – walk with me, ok? That’s all I’m asking.’

Starsky nods, no resistance.

The smell is wonderful after the fug of the car: lush greenery, well-watered earth, and the spice and tang of citrus and herbs. The owner, Joanne, had let the place go after she grew ill, and for a time Hutch would come here and find it overgrown and weedstrewn, fruit rotting on the ground. Now a co-operative has sprung up, local enthusiasts delighted to develop a community farm that could teach skills, grow real food that tasted of sunshine, remind them what it felt like to have soil under their fingernails.

Hutch’s kind of people, he thought, when he first came up here and saw it slowly reviving. He’d lingered and chatted; stayed long enough to get sweaty from labor and earn a lemonade in the cool of the farmhouse porch. Lee, a politics student, finding a space away from her lectures. Miguel, her boyfriend, a landscaper eager to get the skills to set up his own business one day. Tahnee, a retiree who lost her husband and wanted a place to find life again. And Ken, stumbling over his own introduction and blushing at the reaction: a cop, well I never.

Starsky stumbles behind him as Hutch leaves the path and heads for the olive grove, tennis shoes instantly clogged with thick clods of mud, jeans filthy. They walk a little until they reach a stone wall at the top of a rise that gives a view across the property: to the fallow fields and the old sheds out back, and the blossoming life in the cared-for spaces.

Hutch stops and leans on the wall, waiting until Starsky does the same.

‘You know, the first time I came up here? Was right after Simon Marcus.’

‘Aw, Hutch. Come on.’

‘While you were in the hospital, getting checked, and then during that week off we got where you pretty much just slept. I needed – this. Air, space, something that didn’t smell like fear, and a place where no one was going to expect me to anything tougher than dig a hole in some dirt.’

‘You brought me a plant,’ says Starsky distantly. ‘All covered in mud.’

‘Deer fern,’ says Hutch, beaming. ‘I didn’t think you’d remember.’

‘I can’t believe you thought I’d keep that thing alive.’

‘I didn’t. I just wanted you to have a part of this, I guess. I wanted to share something I found that I loved. And I guess that’s where it started, this whole idea. A way out from all the awful, all the cruelty and savagery and death we see every day; a place that blew it all away like dust on the wind. And I started to think, you know: one day. One day I’d make that trade permanent.’

‘Hutch – ’

Starsky looks pained and Hutch realizes that he’s brought him here without telling him why; realizes that maybe he wasn’t certain himself until he was stood on this ground that he loves, with the man that he loves, and the reality of it so acute and present and possible – and not what he wants.

‘Starsk. I didn’t come here to persuade you. I came here to see it, remind myself. This? It’s beautiful and uplifting and it gives me a hopefulness that I’m always going to need but – it’s an escape. And you can’t live in an escape. It’s an antidote I won’t need if I quit. It matters to me because I need that sense that life can keep on thriving and growing and that there are remarkable things in the world. I need that because I don’t see it every day. If this was my life? Maybe I’d be happy for a while. But I’d know there was somewhere else I could be, where I might do some good; more good, I think. And everything I love about this place? I think it might not feel so hopeful then. You understand, Starsk? Does that make sense?’

Starsky nods slowly, thinking.

‘I guess,’ he says slowly, ‘it’s like when you spend all morning under the hood of a hot car, trying to make the damn thing tick over, and you missed breakfast, and you have to run a errand and then call your uncle and then there’s a robbery that takes a whole three hours to write up, and you finally make it to the cafeteria and there’s a sloppy joe that’s not even fresh, but it’s exactly what you need, and you eat it in four bites and it’s fantastic. But if you just got up, and went to the cafeteria, and there was that old sloppy joe, you wouldn’t get so excited.’

Hutch stares at his partner.

‘Exactly like that,’ he says.

Starsky stands up, stretching, his face serious as he stares out across the olive trees. ‘I can’t promise not to get hurt again, Hutch.’

‘I know.’ Hutch looks out across the fields, breathing in deeply. ‘But I’ll know where to come to let it out. And then I’ll come home again. To you.’

Chapter Text

‘Starsky, how is it that you haven’t driven anywhere in weeks and your car still smells like burritos?’

Starsky contemplates explaining that it’s because while Hutch has been riding a desk for a month, he’s been treating himself to a few life-on-the-job lunches for old times’ sake. Fire up the engine to keep the battery sweet; listen to her hum while he chomps down on a delivery from a sympathetic Huggy, feet on the dash. A little taste of what he’s missing, that he doesn’t need some doctor’s note to sign off on.

But he knows Hutch will insult him for days (and want to know where the beansprout, lentil and god knows what lunch he keeps dropping off has been ending up) and he doesn’t want that. Not today. Today is just for good stuff. He’s back. No cast, no painkillers, no desk duties while Dobey makes sure he’s up to it. He’s back, which means they’re back. Partners, in all senses.

‘I don’t smell anything. Maybe you smell like burritos.’

‘Well, that’s charming,’ snaps Hutch.

‘Hey! I happen to like the smell of burritos.’

‘A human person does not choose to smell like food, Starsky.’

‘I don’t know. I think you’re pretty edible.’

Starsky shoots him a dirty grin as the Torino hits traffic, horns blaring up ahead. Hutch glowers, then blushes, failing to hide a smile as he looks away.

‘What happened to Rule Two?’

Starsky shrugs. ‘I figure what two adults say in the confines of their car is their own business, and nobody else’s.’

‘I see. And Rule One?’

Rule One: no public displays of affection.

Outside, a car pulls level alongside the Torino. In the rear seats, a kid, maybe seven or eight, puffs out her cheeks and presses her face right up against the car window, pressing hard enough for her nose and lips to turn white and the weird fleshy shapes around it turn red as she stares at them both.

Hutch blinks, perturbed. ‘Yeah. Maybe not.’

Starsky smiles, but he can feel nerves in the air and he doesn’t like it, or want it. Maybe they need Rule Zero: get Hutch not to freak out about the fact that his partner is working. He figured it would be bumpy. But he’s missed the ease of it, their old life, and the idea they won’t be able to drop back into the rhythm that was so automatic he never even thought about it – he’s not going to let that happen.

Instead he rests a hand on Hutch’s knee, gentle, to get his attention.

‘Hey. We barely had this thing worked out when I got hurt, remember? Still were trying to draw the lines between home and work and who we are in each place. It’s ok if we’re still figuring it out.’

Hutch breathes in, nodding. He’s frowning when he looks up, though.

‘You know? I don’t know when it happened, but I don’t think I like you being the smart one.’

‘Aw, Hutch. I’ve always been the smart one. You just never were smart enough to notice till now.’

Another flurry of beeping up ahead covers Hutch’s tirade in response, and Starsky pumps the Torino’s horn too just to make sure. He even drops the window and sticks a head out, yelling, to who and about what he doesn’t know but that’s a Brooklyn upbringing for you. It shows him the blocked line all the way up the next three intersections, and a broken-down articulated truck and trailer skewed across the lanes in the distance that’s backing everything up.

Dropping back into the seat, he grabs the radio.

‘This is Zebra Three. Book us in, just don’t send us anywhere too soon, ok? It’s all jammed up between fourteenth and seventeenth and we’re in the middle of it.’

Hutch groans, resting his head back against the seat with his eyes closed.

‘Zebra Three, stand by.’

The traffic is a pain but it feels good to hear his own voice say the call sign and hear it repeated back; feel the wheel under his hands. Have Hutch in the seat beside him. So they’re a little rusty, a little unsure. Better than nothing.

‘Zebra Three. Ten Thirty-Three at 1467 Madison, Northwest Pacific Bank, possible shots fired.’

Ten Thirty-Three means an alarm got triggered; in a bank, probably a silent one. Madison is two blocks over. That truck, blocking the traffic, is going to block the path of every other police car from Metro and send them via a twenty-minute detour.

‘You think – ?’ asks Hutch, alert at once, looking up ahead and putting it together just like he is.

‘I think,’ Starsky replies. This isn’t a coincidence. He sticks his head back out of the window, wondering just how the hell he’s going to traverse across two solid lanes of traffic to get to the intersection.

Hutch slaps the light onto the roof and hops out as the siren begins to blare, thumping his fist onto the hoods of cars to start clearing a path: a little shuffle forward here, a little roll back there. It’s a masterclass in Hutch’s various techniques at getting what he wants: the beautiful smile, those blue eyes, the sun beaming off his hair as he asks, so apologetically, if they might help him out. The stare, cold, guilt-inducing. The frustrated yelling because why can’t people just be reasonable? The wagging finger, when nothing else works.

Every one of them is effective in its own way. It’s awkward and slow and he comes damn close to stripping the paint off of his white stripe, but the path that gets cleared is enough for him to slip through and scoop up Hutch on the way before putting the pedal down.

‘This is Zebra Three, show us attending, three minutes out. Send back up across the bridge, the avenue is still blocked with a suspect vehicle at the intersection with fourteenth. Get traffic up here, make sure they have back up too.’

Hutch sounds like himself: annoyed, direct. He grunts as Starsky takes the turn a little fast, swinging the Torino into a fishtail before steering back and true, at the end of the block. Then Hutch kills the siren and Starsky hits the brakes and they sit, staring out.

The street is almost empty: just a few pedestrians, a couple of cars cruising by. There’s a van parked up outside the bank, white, paneled, the kind you can fit a bunch of people inside if you want to, say, rob a bank.

Bank jobs are tricky. In a perfect world you want intel, you want to know they’re coming, so you can stop them outside before they get in the doors. Failing that, you get them on the way out. Banks have insurance and while, fine, technically speaking the Bay City Police Department is not going to tell you that letting your bank get robbed is exactly official policy, compared to creating a hostage situation where civilians are going to be at risk – well, there’s an argument in favor right there.

Which means get them on the way out is their best shot.

Hutch picks up the radio without them needing to say it.

‘Zebra Three. Request silent approach for back up to 1467 Madison, Northwest Pacific Bank. We have eyes on a possible getaway vehicle: white panel van, registration Adam King Ocean Two Seven Four. Standing by for vehicle check.’

‘Received, Zebra Three.’

Starsky flexes his hands on the wheel. He’s got butterflies, like his first day on the job. That rookie feeling like you’re going to miss something obvious. The urge to run through the doors so he knows what’s going on in there, even though it’s the wrong move.

‘Zebra Three. Vehicle Adam King Ocean Two Seven Four is registered to Carmel Catering, 1473 Madison. No report found.’

‘Shit.’

Starsky can see it: some fancy French bakery with these huge tiered cakes in the window, like for weddings or whatever, a few doors down. There’s even a hydrant right outside to explain why they’re parked up the street. Carmel Catering painted up on the side, to match the sign above the door.

‘False alarm?’ asks Hutch.

‘Like we’d be that lucky.’ Starsky taps his hands, unhappy. ‘What time you got?’

Hutch fumbles for that damn ridiculous pocketwatch while Starsky checks his wrist, but they come up the same: 7.42.

‘What time does your bank open?’

Hutch narrows his eyes. ‘8.30, maybe 9?’ He sighs. ‘You think they got to the manager, brought him in to open up?’

‘Gotta be.’

Hutch grabs the radio again and calls in the request: a home visit to the manager’s house, proceed with caution, possible hostages.

‘You think we oughta set up a cordon, Hutch? Teller shows up early, security guard comes in to drink his coffee in the break room…’

‘Maybe. Any clue how we do a cordon with two of us?’

‘You got real long arms, Hutch.’

Hutch rolls his eyes. ‘You know, I miss – ’

But the bank’s glass doors open, and he’s not going find out what Hutch misses because there’s four of them coming out, in ski masks and boilersuits, a damn trolley between them loaded with bags and a different van tearing around the corner with a screech of the brakes as it takes the turn too fast and pulls up right outside.

‘Shit,’ says Starsky, gunning the engine as Hutch grabs the radio with one hand and the red light with the other.

And then the shooting starts.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Christ, talk about a baptism of fire. Hutch has had a few of weeks back working to readjust but this, on his first day back? Come on.

Starsk pulls the Torino up alongside the Carmel Catering van to give them a little cover but the second the four of them saw the car moving and heard the siren they went straight for the guns and they came prepared. This is two cops with handguns against four with a shotgun, a rifle and two pistols. Meanwhile the driver’s been spooked, screeching to a halt and then careering out of there in reverse and disappearing around the corner.

That cordon would’ve been useful after all.

But there’s no time to reflect, not when the windshield is already shot out and they’re both laying in broken glass trying to keep low.

‘You ok?’ Hutch yells over the sound of more shots.

‘Yeah, unlike my car,’ answers Starsky in a pained voice. ‘Pulling back, hold up.’

He peers up enough to look behind, dipping his head as another few rounds crumple the upper rim of the windshield. Then they shoot backwards, fast, tucking in closer behind the catering van so the shooters are briefly out of sight.

Hutch flings his door open and ducks down, dropping to the ground to get the view from under. From here he can see the trolley, see the feet. They’re not running. They’re panicking, and that’s not good, but they’re not running.

Starsky hops out on his side and moves along the back of the catering van, gun up.

‘Police! You’re made, you got no wheels, give it up!’

Hutch gets up off the floor, and edges around the door, ready to cover the other side but staying far enough back to keep eyes on Starsky.

‘We got a hostage! The bank manager, right here! You shoot, he dies!’

The manager. Cute, apart from how there were four ski masks and four guns, all firing. He’s going to guess that when the squad car gets to the man’s place, it’s going to be all quiet.

‘You don’t get to play hostage if you’re in on the gig, sir,’ Hutch calls. ‘We might be cops, but we can count.’

He hears Starsky’s low chuckle, and feels a little warmth in his chest. This: this is what he’s missed. Not the mindless chaos of crime and the people who enact it – not even well. But them being the ones to react to it, together. And yes, there are currently four guns pointed at their two, and back up is god knows how far away – but they’ve always been at their best when they’re relying on one another and nobody else.

He glances across as Starsky at the exact moment he does the same. A shared grin in the moment; that connection that no one else is ever going to get.

Then there’s the roar of an engine behind them, someone driving fast up out of a side street just beyond the traffic and onto this street and when Hutch turns he’s barely quick enough to realize it’s the getaway driver, in the van, coming back around to pick up his bank robber buddies, before he hurls himself into the Torino head first and hopes like hell it doesn’t clip his legs.

There’s a volley of fire from the van that he hears break glass as it passes and he feels something else in his chest then, cold panic, the fear that wherever they were aiming is exactly where Starsky was two seconds ago.

No.

No.

The two of them leaning on that wall at the farm, and Starsky saying it: I can’t promise not get hurt again.

Going there for the very first time, alone, because he’d had 24 hours of imagining the worst ways to die, the very worst, and finding him – and –

All the things he’s yet to say, not whispered or left in a letter for after he’s gone or behind closed doors: out loud and proud to show how much he means it.

Hutch scoots backwards out of the Torino with his heart in his throat and drops behind the car door for cover as he fires, focused, clear. One down, shot to the back. He keeps firing, not interested in if they’ve changed their minds right now. He clips another as he gets the van door open, hitting his shoulder and powering him forward into the dark interior of the van.

That’s two.

‘Starsk? Starsky?’

There’s a silence that kills him.

Then he hears another two shots from low and sees another of the ski-mask crew drop, shotgun spilling into the street with a clatter, and Hutch takes a breath.

‘Enough! Enough!’ yells the fourth, throwing the gun and pulling off his mask. ‘They made me! They told me I had to go with it, they gave me the gun, I swear it!’

The sweaty-faced bank manager drops to his knees, hands raised and eyes wide.

Starsky crawls out from his hiding spot underneath the catering van, and gives the man a stare. ‘Save it for the judge.’

Hutch races to the front of the getaway van and tugs out the driver, a scrawny-looking kid, cuffing him to the van door while Starsky takes care of cuffing the manager. The guy in the back with the shoulder hit is groaning, going nowhere, and Hutch slams the door on him.

‘Hey!’ Hutch looks across at his partner and lets the panic that flowed through him before go like air in a balloon. ‘Not bad for not even making it into the precinct yet, huh?’

Starsky looks up with a grin, but his face falls. He runs over, all hands, Rule One apparently very much forgotten.

‘Hutch? You ok? You see me? How many fingers?’

Hutch doesn’t object to the strong fingers gripping his arms or the blue eyes intently looking into his, but the questions are a little off.

Which is when he finds out that throwing yourself head first into a car full of broken glass – even windshield glass – is likely to make you look a little dramatic.

‘I’m fine. I’m – ’ He touches a hand to his head and it comes away bloody; realizes there’s more running down his arm, both arms. ‘Whoa. So – uh – ’

‘All right. I gotcha. Just sit a while, ok, let me call this whole thing in. Ok?’

Hutch nods, wondering why it is that now he knows he’s bleeding it suddenly hurts.

‘You know: maybe we were worried about the wrong one of us,’ scolds Starsky. He hesitates, like he’s contemplating a kiss. Instead he just presses his forehead against Hutch’s, resting it there with this eyes closed for a moment, palms pressed against Hutch’s shoulders. When he pulls away there’s blood between his eyebrows.

Hutch reaches up to smooth it away, showing him when he shies. Starsky sighs, then scrubs at his face.

‘What am I gonna do with you, huh?’

Hutch smiles. ‘I can think of a thing or two.’

Starsky’s face splits into that impossibly wide bright smile. He lingers, squeezing Hutch’s shoulder, eyes twinkling.

Then he jogs away to call in.

Hutch watches him go, ease and lightness back in his run, visibly enjoying being busy. He watches Starsky rattle off commands into the radio, waving away curious passers-by with a flash of his badge. Then he leans against his broken car, peering in, surveying the damage with a look of dismay.

It’s fixable.

If it’s worth it, if you want to, most things are.