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The harsh ringing made Hutch lurch from sleep in a panic, and he fumbled for the receiver with shaky hands before remembering that the crisis time had passed. It couldn't be the hospital, for Starsky was home, and almost all better.

"Hello?" Hutch said, expecting Dobey's gruff baritone. Instead, a husky alto voice came over the line, sounding vaguely familiar.

"Your partner needs you." A soft laugh. "You'd better go give him a...hand."


Hutch's heart, which had just started to ease its panicked beat, gave a hearty thump, and he rocketed from the bed, tripping over his pants and shoes in his haste.

He was dressed and out the door in under a minute.

Hutch climbed the stairs to Starsky's apartment almost soundlessly, carefully avoiding the creaky third step. One hand was already reaching for the Magnum under his left arm. He tried the door, but it was locked. Either not a B&E, or whoever had called him was skilled at picking locks.

Maybe I should've called in for backup after all. The voice hadn't sounded malicious or angry so much as amused and somewhat petty, so he had decided to suss out the situation before making the call. But the silence and darkness of the apartment were giving him second thoughts.

Hutch pulled his own keys as quietly as possible and unlocked the door. It latched behind him with a click and he heard Starsky's voice come from the bedroom.

"Lila, damn it! Where the hell did you go—?"

Relieved, Hutch holstered his gun. "Starsk? It's me," he called out, walking toward the bedroom.

"Hutch? No, wait—"

Hutch was completely unprepared for the sight that greeted him upon entering. Starsky lay on his back on the bed, both hands somehow fastened above his head to the bed frame.

He was completely naked.

"Jesus!" Hutch stumbled forward, thinking for a split second that Starsky had been attacked, possibly sexually assaulted. It took just that long for other details to register, details that forced him to revise his assumption. Such as the state of the bedclothes, and the smell of sex and perfume in the room. Not to mention the semen drying in small puddles on Starsky's chest and abdomen.

And the expression of shocked embarrassment on Starsky's face.

Hutch felt his own face start to flush.

"Shit. What are you doing here?" Starsky said.

"Uh, s-sorry," Hutch said. A beat later, his discomfort turned to the beginnings of humor, as he realized the teasing rights he would have later from this little incident. Looks like you finally met your match, buddy.

"Just let me up," Starsky said, sounding shaky and upset.

That put a damper on Hutch's humor, and he moved quickly to the head of the bed. On the way, his foot kicked something that rolled across the room before him.

Hutch identified the object as a dildo, and his flush turned into burning heat. Fortunately, Starsky's eyes were closed, his head turned to the side. Hutch hurried to untie him. The ropes were twisted, of some satiny gold material, with tassels at the end. He quickly checked the skin of Starsky's wrist, but it looked unharmed.

"Okay, okay—almost done," Hutch said when Starsky made an impatient sound. He finished with the one wrist and circled the bed to untie the other. Starsky's free hand dropped down, and he pulled the edge of the sheet over, covering himself. He didn't speak while Hutch worked, but his fingers twitched. A quick glance at his face revealed growing anger.

Finally, the knot came loose. Hutch dropped his hands and backed away, trying to figure out what to do next. Leave? Obviously, he'd stepped right into the middle of something, maybe a lover's quarrel.

Lila. He remembered the voice on the phone, and finally connected it to Starsky's current on-again off-again girlfriend. Well, not even girlfriend, really—the one time Hutch had met her, he'd gotten the impression she was a sack-romper, one of those swinging chicks that Starsky had limited himself to ever since Gunther.

Starsky never seemed to go for the sweet girl-next-door anymore. Apparently more than his chest had been scarred in the attack. There was a darkness, a wariness to him these days that was one of the reasons Hutch felt so awkward now, treading where he didn't belong.

But he couldn't resist asking, "You okay?"

Starsky nodded sharply. "Just get out of here, Hutch," he said wearily.

Hutch shook his head. "Buddy—"

"Don't, Hutch. Just do me a favor and go," Starsky said, his voice husky with embarrassment and anger.

"Okay," Hutch said, his voice equally husky, but with disappointment. Time had been when they could talk about anything, even a situation as embarrassing and absurd as this one. He turned and left quietly, feeling the heavy silence dogging him from behind.

Used to bes are gonna kill me. Used to be they helped each other through the bad times, but no longer.

At first, Hutch had been the one to pull away, the burn-out from the job getting to him, fouling his mood so that he retreated, not wanting to burden his partner with the poison seeping from inside him.

But all that had changed the moment Starsky hit the pavement in the parking lot outside of Metro. Hutch had found a new meaning to his existence in those early days just afterward. Starsky became his meaning.

After a month in the hospital, a month of touch and go, and being at Starsky's side through all of the worst of it, he finally got to take his partner home. The walk up the stairs, though slow, was a triumph in and of itself. After getting Starsky in the door, Hutch hurried back to his car to grab the groceries. When he re-entered, he found Starsky standing in the kitchen, both hands resting on the counter as he stared out the window above his sink.

"Thanks for the ride," Starsky said. "Maybe you can stop by after work tomorrow and we can catch the game or something." His eyes were planted firmly on the view, as if he didn't want to see Hutch's reaction.

Which was fortunate, because Hutch could've caught a dozen flies, his jaw was hanging open so wide.

"I-I figured I'd be staying a while, helping you out for a couple of days..." The grocery bag in his arms seemed suddenly heavy, and he hastily put it on the breakfast table. The "welcome home" gallon of ice cream was melting, and the condensation had dampened the bag, causing it to tear.

"Hutch," Starsky said, turning to face him, "you been great, really been there for me at the hospital and everything, but I'm home now, and it's time for me to do for myself again. Okay?"

Okay? It wasn't okay. It really, really wasn't. Hutch had been looking forward to this for over a month, looking forward to the time when Starsky would finally well enough, not in pain any longer, and it would be just the two of them, no nurses or doctors butting in to stick Starsky with needles or do uncomfortable things to him.

A time for the two of them. The first time in a long time.

"You've done enough already, Hutch," Starsky said, as if throwing him a bone. "Jesus, you wiped my ass, didn't you? But it's time for me to take my life back." He nodded his head. "I need to. I had enough of people bugging me all the time with what they need me to do—piss here, stick out your arm, wake up, go to sleep...."

He turned, reaching slowly into the bag, and started to unpack the groceries with an obvious effort, wincing as he lifted out a can of peas.

Hutch bowed his head, swallowing his disappointment. I guess that's what he needs from me. A little space to take his independence back. Doesn't really matter that it's not what I need to give him.

Hutch gave the laboring shoulder a quick squeeze. "Okay, buddy. I hear ya. I'll...I'll drop by tomorrow.

And Hutch left him alone.

From that day on, every offer Hutch made to help out his partner was quickly rebuffed, except in extreme cases when Starsky had no other choice. Starsky didn't want him there at physio, didn't want Hutch's help in getting around, dealing with his chores or his meals or his meds or his exercise schedule. His painful recovery was accomplished solo, with Hutch watching anxiously from the sidelines.

Shut out.

He never thought it would be possible to miss anything about the time in the hospital, but more and more often he found himself thinking about it with a queer sort of nostalgia. Not, of course, that he missed Starsky being injured, the agony of waiting, being certain Starsky would die, trying to prepare himself for the impossible-to-accept, but that feeling he'd had for one brief period that his whole life, his whole meaning, was contained in one small space. Everything, lying next to him in white on a hospital bed. And every time Starsky opened his eyes, Hutch saw his own reflection, but only of the best part of himself. The man who cared. The man who gave.

But that man was gone. He'd shrunk within his skin again, and a smaller man walked in his shoes. He was no longer seeing himself in Starsky's eyes.

What kind of selfish bastard could miss seeing his partner at less than a hundred percent? But he did, because ever since then Starsky had frozen him out as smoothly as he had everyone else. As if Hutch were just anyone.

And God, that hurt.

The worst part was he couldn't even blame Starsky. He'd been through the fire. Anything he had to do to survive it, to recover, was his right. It wasn't fair to expect him to be the same person he was before the hit. They both had changed; had been changing.

Maybe all Hutch could do was wait and see if somehow his friend would return to him.

Hell with that, he thought angrily. He'd had enough of waiting. I call him and it's always "Oh, hey, Hutch, sorry but today's no good, I had a tough therapy session earlier" or "I told you I'm fine, that's all you need to know. Stop being such a damned worrywart." Tonight's freeze out was just the rotten icing on the cake. He's back at work now, and he's well enough—strong enough now—to handle some pressure. Time to take off the kid gloves.

Hutch steered home through the empty streets, already deep in planning.

"Good morning, partner," Hutch said brightly. He handed a cup of coffee across the desk. Starsky raised his head and accepted it automatically.

"What's this?" he asked suspiciously. He didn't meet Hutch's eye.

This morning Hutch had been determined to act as if nothing weird had happened the night before, but Starsky's evasive gaze made him change his mind.

"Well, I know you had a late night, so I thought I'd bring you a cup of Ruby's extra-strong stuff." Hutch kept his tone lightly mocking.

Starsky gave him a look of pure venom before taking a sip. "'S good," he said grudgingly.

Hutch grinned and settled in his seat with the sense of a small hurdle being passed. Together they worked almost silently, constructing the chains of evidence on the smaller bit-players in Gunther's organization. Hutch had served countless warrants in the past months, and each one gave him a tiny stab of satisfaction on Starsky's behalf. Now that Starsky was back on duty part-time, they were working together to nail down the last of the scurrying roaches.

Noon rolled around and Hutch raised his head, rubbing at his eyes. For once, Starsky wasn't out on a physical therapy appointment or at the department shrink like he usually was at lunchtime. Hutch smiled.

"Lunch, partner?"

Starsky grunted something unintelligible, but didn't look up from the phone list he was marking carefully with a yellow highlighter.

"C'mon, Starsk. Pull your head out of that and let's get some grub."

"Said, 'I'm not hungry,'" Starsky mumbled, more clearly this time.

"Man's gotta eat," Hutch said. "'Sides, when are you ever not hungry?"

Starsky raised his eyes to stare at Hutch. "Right now, I ain't."

Hutch was taken aback for maybe a second. Just long enough for Starsky to drop his eyes again, too hastily.

It was because of last night, of course. Starsky was probably embarrassed as hell. But it gave Hutch the perfect lever.

"So, you'd rather talk about it here?" he said, voice low but his tone carrying an unmistakable threat.

Starsky's head jerked up, eyes narrowing.

Hutch kept his face expressionless, hiding his grin of triumph as Starsky rose and pulled his jacket off his chair.

Then Hutch had to hurry to keep up as Starsky swung out the door.

"We're going to Rosita's," Starsky said without preamble once they were settled in the Torino. Hutch held his tongue, willing to put up with a little indigestion in exchange for the opportunity to try to open up his partner.

He remembered to duck this time when walking toward the taco stand, avoiding the fly strip that wanted to stick in his hair.

While he was supposed to be pondering his order, Hutch instead kept Starsky in the corner of his eye, trying to read the closed face and the rigid body language. The stiffness now had little to do with Starsky's lingering injuries, but instead was a sign of something less obvious.

Locked up tighter than a clam. By now, Hutch was getting used to it. The raw pain of Starsky being closed off from him had worn away to a numb wistfulness. But inside, the tiny spark of rebellion was burning. It was time.

"So, you wanna tell me what that was about?" Hutch said, before biting into his fish taco. He saw Starsky scowl and then take a look around, but there was no one close by in the small patio.

Starsky shrugged. "Just a little fun 'n' games. Guess Lila had more of a game in mind than I realized."

"Fun and games? Buddy, she left you tied to the goddamn bed!" He couldn't believe how quickly his annoyance was rising. But it raised the hair on the back of his neck to hear Starsky treat the incident as if it meant nothing.

Starsky shrugged again. He took a bite of his burrito, then laid it back down in the plastic basket, selecting a tortilla chip to munch on.

Hutch cleared his throat. "How come're going for girls like that, huh? I mean, seems like ever since—"

Starsky stiffened suddenly, and Hutch's voice cut out on him. He took a sip of his soda and tried again. "You just don't seem to go for the sweet girls anymore."

"Yeah, well, at least they're not hookers," Starsky said, the tone of scorn adding to the insult.

It was Hutch's turn to tense up. "Low blow, buddy," he said, his voice dry as the wind. He tried to ignore the sting, knowing it was just another ploy to push him away.

Starsky looked a little remorseful, and Hutch pressed the advantage.

"How come then? There's plenty of nice girls out there...."

Hutch drifted off when he saw Starsky's expression change to pained embarrassment. Then Starsky bent over his dish and said quietly, "Hey, I take what I can get."

The statement was so far from the cocky, self-assured partner he'd always known that Hutch was momentarily speechless.

"You-you can get any woman you want, you know that, Starsk." Hutch had always teased his partner about his looks and his vanity, so the words were a little tough coming out, but they only seemed to make Starsky tighten up further.

"That was then. This is now," he said angrily. His hand moved to his chest, seemingly involuntarily, and finally Hutch got it.

And felt like a goddamned fool.

"Buddy, there's plenty of women who don't care about that—"

"Yeah, there are," Starsky said, interrupting him, the words spitting out rapid-fire. "Girls like Lila. Only they're the kind who like to play games." He looked up and added hastily, "Not that I mind. I had a great time. Well," Starsky's head dropped again, "until she pulled that stunt last night."

Hutch swallowed heavily around the sudden sadness in his throat. How could a couple of scars make Starsky think he's not good-looking anymore? Jesus, the guy could have any chick he wanted just by shaking that perfect ass of his.

"Starsk," Hutch began hesitantly, and Starsky gave him a back off look, clear as lightning.

Hutch ignored him. "You don't have stuff like that just to be with someone. You know this is just a little insecurity talking."

"What makes you think I don't want to do 'stuff like that?'" Starsky shot back. "Not everybody is as vanilla pudding as you, Hutch."

Hutch felt himself redden with anger. "Hey, you don't know anything about—"

"Oh, I sure do, Blondie." Starsky pushed his meal to the side and leaned closer. "Unless you're gonna tell me you like games like that? Ever let a girl tie you up?"

"This isn't about me—" Hutch said awkwardly.

"Sure it is. It's about you not leaving me to my own sex life because you got some opinions about it."

Hutch couldn't believe how quickly he'd been put on the defensive. But the tactic was obvious enough.

"Yeah, I do have some opinions about it, buddy. I have opinions about being woken up at two in the morning to come untie you from your bed. I got opinions about almost tripping over the little toys she left lying on your fucking floor—"

Starsky gave a feral grin and Hutch stopped dead.

"So? Let's hear your opinions. You ever done that? Ever had something up that blond ass of yours?"

The flush hit his head so fast that Hutch almost got dizzy from it. And from the sudden, startling memory flooding his brain. Don't. Don't think about that. Hutch shook his head, ignoring the embarrassing heat in his face and ears.

"Stop it," he said when he found his tongue again. "Stop trying to put me off this with these stupid games, Starsk. Stop..." Stop pushing me away, damn it! "I-I may not know shit about that stuff, but I know everything about you. And I know if Lila hadn't called me last night—"

Starsky's eyes changed, and Hutch stopped his train of thought, backing up a little.

"Why did she call me, Starsky?"

He knew he was on the right track when Starsky gritted his teeth and looked away.

"She could've just as easily gone out for a drink, let you sweat for a while and then come back and freed you herself. Why'd she drag me into it?"

"Fuck off."

The level words were so unexpected that for a moment Hutch couldn't believe he'd heard them.

"I mean it, Hutch," Starsky said in a trembling, angry voice. "Just back offa this, and let me be. And stay the fuck out of my bedroom."

But he must've heard the absurdity of saying that after the incident of the previous night, because Starsky's face turned red, and he stood suddenly, grabbing his uneaten burrito and dumping it in the trash.

"We done here? 'Cause I have a PT appointment I gotta get to."

Hutch knew that much was a lie. Starsky was almost better, and his daily PT schedule had been reduced to a couple of days a week, today being an off day. But Hutch let it go. He'd gotten about as far as he could, and at this point was risking driving Starsky away completely.

On the drive back to Metro, though, Hutch started having some even scarier, traitorous thoughts. He wasn't sure how much worse things would get before he might even be willing to follow through on them, and approach Lila herself behind Starsky's back.

Don't make me do that, buddy. Talk to me. Because I won't take much more of this.

Starsky slammed the door to his apartment shut with a heavy bang, relishing the violence. He tossed his jacket on the chair and then went to the kitchen. Being on partial disability had its benefits, and one of them was being able to head home on a half-day when necessary.

And it damned well was necessary, today.

He replayed his lunch conversation with Hutch in his head as he leaned against the counter and drank his beer, anxious to figure out how much he might've given away. He felt himself relax a little as he realized he hadn't revealed too much. Hutch already knew something was wrong. Starsky could never keep him that much in the dark. But the nature of Starsky's problem was still under enough camouflage.

He only wished he hadn't had to hurt Hutch in order to keep his cover. He just hadn't had any choice.

Lila, of course, was the weak link. Starsky would have to sweet-talk her, get back on her good side, and then extricate himself carefully, make her nothing but a bad memory.

The sheer number of bad memories he was having to store away was threatening to crush him. Starting with the parking lot, and continuing through the month in the hospital, when it seemed like everyone in the world had the right to invade his space, touch him, hurt him, whenever they goddamn pleased.

Hutch was the only one whose touch he'd welcomed; found soothing and right. Too right. Starsky had needed his partner, had depended on him so heavily in those early days that he couldn't get any of the space necessary to dodge the feelings slamming down on him. And Hutch—well, he'd had been so desperate, so sad and strung out and exhausted and terrified, that he couldn't seem to stop touching Starsky. And Starsky had needed it, welcomed it—

Until he realized the danger, that ten years of resistance and denial were about to be blown down the tubes.

He understood it now, and had taken serious steps to control it. In fact, he controlled everything in his environment these days, and everyone around him—including Hutch. Nobody was likely to get close enough to discover what had changed for him.

Except Lila. Damn it, he had to call her, and was dreading it. She was sharp, and cut like a switchblade when it suited her. And he'd had the bad manners of bringing someone else into their bed.

Someone tall, and blond, and perfect. And completely unattainable.

Starsky sighed and picked up the phone.

Hutch let the phone ring about twenty times before finally giving up. It was eleven p.m. on a weeknight, and Starsky was obviously out again—probably not with Lila, thanks to her little prank, but maybe with another one of his freaky new girls.

One thing was clear, Hutch realized as he restlessly paced his apartment. Starsky was going through something more serious than he'd imagined. Something that wasn't just going to fade in time, as had the trauma after the abduction orchestrated by Simon. Or the weakness that had persisted after Starsky had been poisoned.

This wasn't just a temporary change, but a personality shift, and it frightened Hutch beyond words that he was being locked out, possibly forever, from the circle of trust that had always surrounded them.

The scary thing was it could affect their partnership when they hit the streets once again. That time was fast approaching, and as ill-prepared as Hutch was to consider seeing Starsky put in danger again, he was even less prepared to deal with it if their partnership wasn't functioning smoothly.

I won't be able to protect him.

The thought was terrifying.

He needed more information. He needed to treat this like a case, and put his mind to it, or he would lose it altogether, go spinning out of control. He had learned the trick in those early days when Starsky was still touch and go, and the only thing that kept him tethered was working the case that had put Starsky in the hospital to begin with.

Hutch grabbed his keys and headed over to the Pits.

"Hey Anita," Hutch greeted the curvy brunette. "How's tricks?"

"Blond boy, you are a sight for sore eyes," Anita said from behind the bar, one hand already on the tap. "All we've had in here all night is redneck truckers for some reason." She leaned forward and said confidentially, "Can't understand a word they're sayin'."

"Maybe they're in town for their favorite team," Hutch said, grinning his thanks as she handed him a cold glass of beer.

"Nah, the boys are playing up in San Francisco. You should know that, cutie," she said, taking his fiver over to the register.

"Huggy around?" Hutch asked casually.

"He's in the kitchen. Making up a big pot of some weird gumbo he thinks will please this crowd. I think he's nuts." Anita brought him his change, but Hutch left it lying on the bar as a tip, wary of Anita's sharp tongue. He took his beer over to the kitchen.

Sure enough, Huggy was in a white apron, standing in front of giant pot of something. As Hutch walked in he saw him dump something wholly unrecognizable into the stew and then give it a quick stir. The smell was positively nauseating.

"Jesus, Hug! Are the hours too long? You trying to kill off your customers?"

"I'll have you know," Huggy said, waving his spoon, "that this dish is considered a delicacy amongst my family to the South." He dipped the spoon in the pot and brought it up to his nose to take a sniff. "Needs more pepper."

"Yeah, huh?" Hutch said doubtfully.

"Where is your darker half, amigo? I was hoping to get him to try this out."

"Well, if anyone'd be willing to risk it, it'd be Starsky," Hutch said. "Only, he's not with me."

There must've been something in his voice giving him away, because Huggy gave him a concerned look.

"Yeah. Don't think I haven't been noticing that, man. Used to be I couldn't pry you two out of here come closing time. Now it's always one or the other of you, here and then gone again."

Hutch dragged his teeth over his lower lip, then nodded reluctantly. "Might as well spell it out for you, Hug. I'm worried about him. He's not himself—"

"You got that straight," Huggy said. "The boy ain't been the same know. Some of the chicks he's been swinging with I wouldn't shake my yin-yang at, if you get my drift."

"I know. I was hoping you could tell me..." Hutch hesitated before biting the bullet. "Do you know this Lila chick? Know where she came from, or anything about her?"

Huggy nodded, his flexible face creasing in a frown. "That sister is twisted, dude. I told Starsky to lay off her when she came in here, but he went for her like a junkie to the needle."

An instant after the words left his lips, Huggy winced, giving him a look of apology.

Hutch shrugged. That particular memory no longer had the power to hurt him for some reason. He'd gotten over a lot of things recently. Almost as if when Starsky's heart had started again, Hutch had been reborn as well, to a fresh start. He didn't know why it had worked that way. Maybe it was just a matter of finally learning to be grateful for the things he could have, and letting go of the shit he couldn't.

But the one thing he could never let go of was the reason he was here.

"Do you know her last name? Where she lives?"

Huggy nodded cautiously.


"Hutch, what are you plannin' on doing with this information, if you don't mind my askin'?"

"I plan to stick my nose where it doesn't belong," Hutch said frankly. "Right straight into Starsky's business."

Huggy looked at him for a second, then his face wrinkled into a bright grin.

"You know what I have to say to that?"

Hutch shook his head.

"About damned time, my brother. About damned time."

Hutch managed to escape the Pits without having to taste Huggy's gumbo and with Lila's address tattooed on his brain. She was staying in one of those fleabag hotels over the Hollywood strip, Hutch wasn't surprised to discover. He didn't bother asking Huggy how he had managed to obtain the info. Huggy was like the golden goose—if you wanted to keep getting the eggs, you refrained from sticking your finger up the goose's ass.

He grinned at the image as he folded himself into his car. He'd gotten rid of Belle a month earlier, trading her in at Merle's for a sky-blue Galaxy that had seen better days. Merle had obviously taken a small stab at customizing the thing before giving it up as a lost cause.

But lost causes seemed to be his prerogative.

Hutch was mildly ashamed to realize the changes he thought were only obvious to him were major enough that Huggy and others had noticed. Anita had given him a look as he left, pointedly saying she hoped she would see him and his partner soon.

Would I still be in the dark if Lila hadn't pulled me into it? Probably. He knew his ability to deny problems with someone he cared about was an old talent, practiced well in Hutch's youth when his mother's drinking had grown progressively worse.

Maybe it's like he's addicted to sex to drive away the bad stuff—the memories of the shooting, the time in the hospital. And maybe he likes it rough, or kinky, because he still thinks of himself as damaged, less than himself.

It ached his chest, thinking of his partner hurting that way. Made him want to fix it, but he knew only a lover could fix something like that. Starsky needed another Terry, someone with the gentleness and the big heart necessary to make him see how much he was loved.

Maybe instead of visiting Lila, what Hutch needed to do was play matchmaker. He imagined calling Starsky's mom for advice on setting her son up with a good girl.

For some reason, the thought didn't amuse as much as it should have.

Starsky groaned as Lila bit down hard on his nipple, the one that was already scarred and a little too sensitive. His body responded though, and he heard her laugh a little, her long black hair brushing over his groin as she licked her way down to his cock.

So soft, her hair, but still not as soft—

As if she'd heard his thoughts, she gave a punishing thrust of the slim dildo in her hand, and he groaned again as the tip nudged his prostate.

"You can say it if you want," she said, and he looked down into her cat-green eyes. "I don't mind, really. I think it's kinda hot. Big, tough cop like you, wanting him so bad…" She twisted the dildo and he moaned, pushing himself against it. "…wanting his cock."

Starsky shuddered and whispered, "Hutch."

"That's it, lover," she said, sounding delighted. She started fucking him with the dildo, in and out, over and over, and he threw his head back, imagining the golden body between his thighs, captured tight, and that thick, beautiful cock taking him hard.

"Hutch! Oh, God, Hutch!" he cried as he arched his back and came helplessly into her hand.

Lila chuckled softly.

Hutch stood frozen, hand still raised to knock on the door of Lila's room, arm trembling.

His own name reverberating in his ears.


He was downstairs and in his car before he registered anything else, left hand gripping the steering wheel, keys clenched in his right.

I didn't just hear that. Even as his mind tried to deny it, the muffled sounds replayed again and again, the groans of pleasure, and then his name being shouted in that unmistakably familiar voice.

Hutch drove home on autopilot, radio off, head swimming. He went directly to the cabinet under the sink and the rarely tapped bottle of whiskey, smoky dark in the glass, hot and smooth in his throat. He poured another and sat down on the couch, then rose to pace again, still trying to think, but unable to get by the roadblock of the new, unassailable truth.

He wants me. Starsky wants me. Like that. Like...a woman? No, not like a woman, but like a man wants a man. Like Johnny. Like Jack.

Like Hutch, sometimes, in passing, a glancing curiosity not worth investigating. Too risky. Too...intimate, somehow, as if a man were a threat to the core that he needed to keep inviolate, dangerous to him in a way that no woman ever was.

Yet, didn't Starsky already own that? He'd never hidden anything from Starsky. Had never been able to.

But Starsky had hidden from him.

Angrily, Hutch poured another shot from the bottle still held stiffly in his hand. He should just drink it straight, but he needed the familiar ritual—the pouring, the holding. Everything in his universe was spinning wildly out of control, nothing familiar or solid but the glass and bottle in his hands.

He remembered his friend Jack's voice that fateful night at the resort, the night before Hutch had left without looking back. The night that Jack had kissed him, and told him what he wanted, one hand possessive on Hutch's ass.

You ever do that, Ken? You ever let your girlfriend touch you there? It's fantastic.

Hutch shuddered and poured another drink.

Starsky looked at the clock as his partner walked in, fifteen minutes late and looking like he'd been ambitious and pulled a three-day bender in just one night. Starsky gestured at Dobey's office and pointed to the chair opposite, indicating that he'd better be quick or he'd get busted.

But Hutch ignored him, not even bothering to shrug off his jacket before heading over to the coffeemaker.

With his usual, supernatural instinct, Dobey yanked open his door, took one look at Hutch and growled at him, "Glad you decided to join us, Hutchinson."

Instead of a snappy comeback, Hutch just gave his captain a weary nod and turned back to his coffee.

Dobey's face softened, and he muttered something about the new warrants being on his desk before slamming his door with less than his usual force.

Starsky shook his head in disbelief. How come Hutch always gets away with it? He tried to get back to work as Hutch sat down and checked his inbox, but he kept getting distracted by the hollow-looking eyes and the almost shaky hands of his partner. It had been a while since he'd seen Hutch looking this rough. Not since...the hospital.

And Hutch seemed to be ignoring him completely, trapped in whatever it was that was eating him.

Maybe Starsky had been pushing him away lately, but the truth was he still needed Hutch's attention, craved at least the minimal connection they'd had, the occasional movie or meal or bowling match. Close enough for a little comfort, but not close enough to hurt. Now he wasn't even getting that much.

Finally, after a too-hasty trip to the bathroom, and a second dose of coffee, Hutch looked up and met his eyes for the first time since coming in.

Starsky stared back, wordless and shocked by the hurt glare. Jesus, he's looking at me like I just shot his dog. The glance only lasted a moment, and then Hutch was rising and moving toward Dobey's office. Starsky stood hastily and followed him in.

"Three of 'em today, fellas. Good work," Dobey said gruffly, handing over the blue forms. Hutch took the warrants, staring down at them while Dobey continued, "Take an officer with you, Hutch. I don't want you serving these without backup."

It was a smart precaution. The lower down they got on the totem pole of Gunther's organization, the more desperate the characters being served.

Starsky found himself speaking without thinking. "I wanna go with him this time, Cap."

"You know I can't let you do that, son," Dobey said, not without compassion. "You're not cleared yet—"

"C'mon, I promise I'll stay back and out of trouble." Starsky waited, hoping for some support from Hutch, but his partner stood mute, his lips pressed together.

"Captain," Starsky started pleading, now. "I'm only two weeks away from re-qualifying. And I just...I want—need to serve at least one of these scumbags."

But Dobey was looking at Hutch's bowed head, and he started to shake his own.

"Let him," Hutch said, his voice sounding rough and unwilling, as if the words had to be pushed from his mouth.

Dobey gave them both a long, measured look, then sighed and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. "Okay. If," he stressed over Starsky's exclamation, "you promise to stay out of trouble. I mean it, Starsky. Let Hutch and the other officer take the lead. If anything goes down, you get the hell out."

Starsky was already nodding, stuffing his suddenly trembling hands into his back pockets. Going out there. I'm going out there again.

Dobey pushed back in his chair and leaned over to open the side drawer of his desk. "I suppose you'll be needing this. Just in case." He pulled out Starsky's Beretta, handing it across.

Starsky took the gun, hefting the familiar weight, heart hammering in his throat. He looked over at Hutch in triumph, but the blond head was still tilted down, a frown creasing his cheek.

Starsky swallowed his disappointment. "Thanks, Cap," he said gratefully. "No heroics. I promise."

Dobey muttered something less than complimentary, waving them both out.

They walked down to Dispatch and got assigned Rollins, a quiet, bullet-headed veteran with dark, angry eyes. An ex-marine, as Hutch recalled. He felt a slight relief at having Rollins at his side. Maybe together they could protect—

No. I'm not thinking about that.

He couldn't believe the panic he was feeling in his hands, in his guts. As if this were his first time on the street. He wasn't ready for this. There was too much going on in his head and in his heart.

And it didn't help that he had a hangover the size of Texas and hadn't been able to keep anything down since he'd woken up.

But he couldn't deny that this was Starsky's right. He'd worked hard on these warrants and, more importantly, he deserved a chance to mete justice to some of the people responsible for putting him in the hospital. A return for the blood and pain. And the loss.

They walked out to the parking lot. As always, Hutch had to suppress too many painful memories and images. He led them to where he'd parked the Galaxy, but Rollins took one look, his face crinkling dubiously, and offered the use of his cruiser.

Hutch saw Starsky hide a smile.

"Yeah, okay," Hutch relented, actually grateful that he wouldn't be asked to drive. He needed to focus on stilling the chaos threatening to fry his skull.

He took the passenger seat and Starsky slid into the back, grumbling about not being able to open the window. Hutch cracked his so the breeze would travel through the cage and give his partner some air while they drove to pick up their first suspect.

Of course, it started to go bad right from the start.

Thomas Sterns, a low-level mechanic for Gunther's organization, had been fingered by a crooked judge copping a plea. Sterns had done some dirty work in exchange for getting a murder charge thrown out of court. And now the charge was back, and they would be tagging Sterns for both the original murder and the extra side-job.

Sterns shouldn't have had any warning at all, but Hutch started to get an ugly feeling from the moment they knocked and the hit man's surprisingly high-pitched voice responded with a casual, "Come in."

Hutch entered first with Rollins following to move quickly to his right. Hutch could feel Starsky positioned behind and to the left.

"Thomas Sterns…" Hutch began formally, and that was as far as he got before the heavy-set man rolled off the bed to crouch behind, one hand reaching for the bulge under his arm.

Hutch had his Magnum out without thought, and he shifted left, torn between his need to move forward for a better angle, and wanting to protect Starsky at all costs. He realized distantly that his hand was shaking and he steadied it, a bead drawn on Sterns' forehead.

Rollins had already fanned further right with his pistol drawn, but neither one of them had a clean shot.

"Is today the day you wanna die?" Hutch said, his voice sounding as detached as he felt. He could hear Starsky's quick breathing behind him, and it occurred to Hutch to worry that whatever caliber the man had loaded might punch through his body and hit Starsky anyway.

"Is it?" Hutch said, rage making his voice thick. Sterns shook his head, and the pistol wilted in his hand, dropping to rest on the bed.

Rollins moved forward quickly and shoved the man down onto his stomach. Hutch started breathing again. He heard Starsky move behind him, and then felt his cuffs being drawn from his back pocket. He watched, numb, as Starsky approached the two, tucking his Beretta back into his waistband as he started to read Sterns his rights.

Starsky made the arrest while Hutch waited with an eerie welter of pain and fear and pride pounding through him.

Jesus, I love him. I would do anything for him. Anything. Even… A sudden image popped into his head of the two of them, naked. Of him touching Starsky, getting close to him. Wrapping himself around him, skin to skin.

The thought was terrifying and wonderful, both.

Starsky stood until Hutch had driven off in his junk heap before he nodded his thanks once again to Rollins and walked back to the Torino.

He was still bouncing with the excitement of what they had done today. He was feeling like a real cop again, even if all he did was stand back like a rookie. But it was there—the charge—and beyond his initial nervousness, he'd been okay, steady.

Hutch had looked like a ghost after the first bust, but seemed to be all right by the time they had finished bringing in the third. It probably helped that they'd had to spend the whole day tracking down the locations of the last two suspects. They'd finally nailed the weasely accountant, Harold Bryce, at his favorite watering hole, the tip courtesy of his regular working girl, Sweet Alice.

Sweet Alice was looking pretty tired. She's starting to look her age. I guess we all are.

Hutch had been his usual, courtly self with Alice, but even she must've sensed there was something off, because she kept patting his big hand with her slender one, and as they were leaving she gave Starsky a questioning look.

Starsky hadn't a clue, though. Since early this morning Hutch had been all over the map, glaring at him one second and then checking on him with proud but worried eyes after the first arrest; griping at him in the squad car after lunch for getting extra onions on his burger, and then ditching him in the parking lot with an almost bewildered look before driving away.

It had hurt, seeing him leave. Starsky wanted to regain the closeness. Something had changed for him the previous night, when he'd finally let himself fully want what he'd been denying himself for so long. For the first time he'd really fantasized about it, about how good it could be, and had had the most intense orgasm of his life. It had freed him somehow. And today he felt like a cop again. All the pieces were falling back into place.

With one important exception.

Starsky climbed into the Torino and turned it towards Venice, and the missing piece.

Even though Hutch had only been fifteen minutes ahead of him, he had obviously already showered, opening the door in his bathrobe, hair damp, and holding a drink in one hand. He gave Starsky a level look and turned away, but left the door open.

"Geez, Hutch, you havin' a party or something?" Starsky said as he entered, for some reason oddly nervous. It's just Hutch. My best friend.

"Party for one, yeah," Hutch said. "That's why you didn't get the invite." The words were harsh, but Hutch's tone was even, lacking emphasis. He walked away and sat down on the couch. On the table before him stood a bottle of whiskey.

"Well, I'm crashing this shindig," Starsky said, voice light. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass, then returned to snag the bottle, pouring himself a healthy slug.

Hutch gave a grunt and sipped at his drink, then raised his hand and brushed some errant drops from his moustache. Starsky took the armchair opposite the couch and took a good look at his partner.

He looked completely strung out. The usually ruddy cheeks were paler than normal, and there were shadows hanging under his lids. His eyes were red, the crease between his eyebrows a dark, questioning dent.

"You look awful," Starsky said.

Hutch looked away. "Felt good today, though, huh?"

Okay, I'll bite. "Yeah, it felt all right. Better than all right," Starsky admitted. "And in just two weeks it'll be the real deal."

Hutch looked back. "Will it?" His eyes narrowed to razors.

"What? Of course it will! You and me, partner, right back in the saddle." Was that what was eating him? Didn't Hutch think they could make it back as a team?

But Hutch leaned forward, eyes gleaming, and said harshly, "Starsky. I know."

The words echoed strangely, and suddenly Starsky knew Hutch wasn't talking about the job. His stomach did a belly-flop into an ice-cold pool, and he had to swallow back the sudden bile in his throat.

"How?" he croaked out.

"Does it matter?" Hutch said roughly, then gave a short laugh. "You know, it's funny—all this time I've been trying to give you some space, let you alone, even though it hurt so bad not to be helping you get better. Gave you the room and watched you pull yourself together, pull yourself away. Away from me. You locked me out. And all this time I thought it was because that's what you needed, and that it was better that way. But it wasn't." Hutch swallowed suddenly, and tossed down the last of his drink, dropping the glass onto the coffee table with a clink.

Starsky was speechless, trying to hear Hutch over the panicked pounding of his heart.

"That's what I've learned in the past twenty-four hours, Starsk," Hutch continued, hurt tearing through his voice. "We're never better apart. So I decided…even if…if that's what you need from me.…"

Starsky started shaking his head in denial, the rush of words catching up to him.

"What you need," Hutch said doggedly, "What you said, back at the taco stand."

"The taco stand?" The conversation was already beyond him, but now he felt like it had turned a sharp bend in the road.

"You know," Hutch shrugged impatiently, and leaned over to refill his glass. "You asked me if I'd ever had something—" He cut himself off, a flush creeping over his neck.

Oh. Starsky's balls throbbed.

"You want my ass," Hutch said succinctly, and then the blush hit his cheeks. He cradled his glass, staring down into it, finally giving Starsky enough time to absorb the gist of what he was saying.

Starsky's heart was going like a V-8, throat burning, and for a second he couldn't make his mouth work. When he found his voice, it was pure rust. "Yeah," he said.

Hutch's eyes lifted, peering up at him from beneath his pale brows.

"I want your ass, Hutch." Starsky took a deeper breath. "And your eyes, and hands, and…your heart. Your everything. I want—I want to love you, Hutch."

Hutch was staring at him, his mouth partly open.

Starsky drank back the rest of his shot, setting his glass neatly on the table. "But not if you don't, you big dummy. Why the hell do you think I never mentioned it?"

Hutch just shook his head.

"What do you want, Hutch? Tell me that much." The fear and embarrassment of being caught out was easing, now that the truth was told and Hutch hadn't run. Yet.

"Me?" Hutch laughed a little, a helpless edge to it. "I want…Jesus. I want to be close. I want you to be there again. I don't care what it takes."

It sounded like a shitty offer. But that wasn't all of the truth, Starsky could tell, and he tilted his head, once again on familiar ground.

"That's not all. What else?"

Hutch shook his head again, eyes peeling away. The sudden evasion gave Starsky heart.

"Do you want me? Do you think you could…?" Starsky searched for a subtler way to say it, and gave up. "What about my ass? 'Cause I've gotta tell you, Hutch, that's how I thought about it going down, at least the first time."

The blunt speech was making Hutch's flush take on a whole new life, and Starsky saw him rub his hands nervously on his thighs, his drink forgotten.

"You said you wanted us to be close. How much closer do you think we could get than that? You…in me." And Starsky's gut tightened when he saw the grimace that contorted Hutch's face. The look of want. Of need.

Oh, God. He really could want me. This could happen. Starsky felt like he was on the last step of a thousand mile journey, with home waiting. If only he could find the key.

"You were right, Hutch. I tried to lock you out. But it was stupid. You wanna know why?"

Hutch's head lifted at last and his eyes set on Starsky's. He nodded slowly.

"There's no getting you out of me." Starsky put his hand on his chest, grasping the folds of his shirt there. "You're already in here, all the way. You always have been. So it doesn't matter what you want, or what I want. It's a done deal."

Hutch's eyes glowed, and his face seemed to relax with the words, just like Starsky's chest did as he realized it was the truth. It didn't matter. Hutch was trapped inside him. He could feel it as sure as he could feel his own heart.

Which jumped a beat when Hutch held out his hand, beckoning. "Starsk," he said.

Starsky wasted no time rounding the table to sit beside him. He carefully put his hand on Hutch's bare knee, comforted by the warmth and strength. How long has it been since either of us touched the other?

"Hutch?" Even as Starsky whispered the question, Hutch answered by leaning in to rest their foreheads together. Starsky could feel the heat of his breath beating his cheek, the smell of whisky and Hutch a little overwhelming. He thought of tasting it....

And then he was. Hutch tilted his head, and his warm lips brushed Starsky's, just for a moment. Just for an eternity. Then Hutch pulled away and licked his lips. Starsky watched the movement, wondering if Hutch liked the taste.

Hutch answered again by coming back for more, his eyes open as he took Starsky's lips, as if he needed to see him to believe what they were doing.

And Starsky kept his eyes open because he needed to see Hutch believe it, and want it.

The second kiss was heated, powerful, scary in its intensity, the soft lips hardening and pressing, tongue pushing for entry in Starsky's mouth. Starsky let him in, hungry and wet, and then it was as if he were sinking, falling. Only he realized he was, because Hutch was lying back, pulling Starsky on top of him, the long arms wrapped tight all the way around Starsky's back. Holding him as he'd only been held once before.

But this time there was no grief. Instead they were both panting, pushing hard against each other, graduating from tender to frantic in ten heartbeats. Hutch gave a frustrated moan deep in his throat, as if desperate for more contact, before pulling away. He caught Starsky's head when he tried to zero in for another kiss.

"Have you ever?" Hutch asked breathlessly.

Starsky froze and then nodded carefully.

"Good. Show me how," Hutch said, reaching between them.

But Starsky stopped his hand, shaking his head. He didn't want this to turn into some weird lesson. He wanted to taste Hutch, all of him, everywhere. He wanted to memorize each bone, muscle, and fold of skin, map them with his tongue, until the pleasure stood red on Hutch's face and chest and cock.

Then he wanted Hutch to fuck him.

"Take off your robe," Starsky said, and he pulled away, only to tumble backward off the couch.

There was a moment of dead silence, and then Starsky heard the barest snort coming from over the edge of the cushion.

"You better not be laughing up there, Hutchinson," Starsky growled, and he took advantage of his prone position to kick off his shoes and ease down the fly on his jeans, struggling out of them before kneeling up.

Hutch was lying on his back, both hands covering his face, his shoulders shaking.

"Hutch," Starsky said warningly, containing his own laughter, and somehow the joy he felt burst its seams at the look on Hutch's face when he lowered his hands.

Because he was smiling, and looking so damned relieved, and there was so much fucking love pouring out of those baby blues that all the grooves and lines worn into his face over the past months seemed to have disappeared.

And yet there were tears standing in his eyes, and Starsky wasn't sure if they were of laughter, or something else. But he knew he had to kiss them away, anyway.

So that's where he started.

He tasted them, salt on his lips, and the crease at the corner of Hutch's eyelids, and the golden stubble on his cheek, and the hard line of his jaw, all while his left hand slipped into Hutch's robe to stroke the smooth chest that was rising and falling. Hutch lay beneath him, eyes open, staring at the ceiling, one arm wrapped around Starsky's waist, holding him close.

Starsky's fingers closed over a small, rigid nipple, and Hutch's breath left him in a long, shuddering sigh.

"Is this okay?" Starsky whispered, and Hutch finally turned his head to look at him. He nodded, his eyes wide.

Starsky's knees started to ache and he struggled to his feet, tugging at the arm that tried to hold him there.

"C'mon, bronco. I'm about twenty years too old for couch dancing."

Hutch swung his long legs around and rose, but balked when Starsky pushed him toward the bedroom.


"'S okay, Blintz. I just want us to get...comfortable." God help him, it sounded like a transparent line, and Hutch must've realized it, too, because he gave a funny half-laugh, amused but still a little shaky.

Starsky yanked off his shirt then came up behind Hutch, resting his hands on the terry-covered shoulders.

"Get this off," he whispered. He dropped his hands, waiting to see what Hutch would do next.

Hutch's head dipped forward, and Starsky saw his arms working, untying his belt. Then Hutch lifted the robe off his shoulders, letting it slide down to the floor.

And stood, waiting.

Starsky drew in a breath, looking at his partner's naked back for the first time with new eyes, letting them travel over the slope of soft skin, hard ribs, and the anxious tautness of Hutch's buttocks. The shadowed curve beneath his shoulder blade beckoned, and Starsky leaned in to plant a kiss there. He felt the skin shiver beneath his lips.

"Get into bed, babe," Starsky said coaxingly, and Hutch cast him a glance over his shoulder before doing it. He didn't, as Starsky had expected, slide under the covers, but lay on top, one arm curled over his belly.

Starsky looked below, to the hard curve of Hutch's erect cock. Then he raised his eyes to Hutch's before deliberately sliding out of his own briefs. He saw the blue eyes dip downward, then rise again. Desperately, Starsky tried to read their expression, but failed.

"You sure you want this?" he said uncertainly, approaching the side of the bed.

"I do," Hutch said, the low voice even thicker than usual, like smoke in a jazz club. "Come over here and I'll prove it to you."

Starsky leaned down and was tugged, falling into Hutch's arms. He gasped as his cock made contact with Hutch's hip, and he looked warily into Hutch's face.

Hutch's eyes were half-closed, his mouth open with pleasure. His hands moved eagerly over Starsky's back and ass. Starsky smiled and pushed hard against the smooth skin of his hip. But then he eased off so he could bend his head and rest his lips on Hutch's shoulder, tracking his collarbone with tongue and teeth.

"Ahhh," Hutch moaned softly when Starsky's fingers went walking to find and squeeze the tiny nipples once again.

"You like that, huh?" Starsky asked. He continued to toy with Hutch's nipple as he bent to run his lips over the laddered muscles of Hutch's ribcage, which was straining with his uneven breaths. Starsky's tongue discovered the hollow groove beside Hutch's groin muscle, and he followed it down to what waited.

At the first touch of Starsky's mouth on his cock, Hutch groaned loudly, his hand flying out to capture the side of Starsky's head.

"Starsk?" Hutch said, his voice a low, graveled rumble.

"Mmm," Starsky responded, tonguing the thick shaft low where it met Hutch's balls. Then he rose up to capture the head in his mouth, and Hutch shouted.


A spill of pre-come hit Starsky's taste buds, and he moaned his approval. He was just starting to get his rhythm when Hutch's other hand clasped him, raising his head.

"Wha?" Starsky said, worried he'd gone too fast for his partner to handle. But one look in Hutch's eyes revealed a burning blue hunger.

Starsky felt like he'd awoken the lion.

Hutch hauled him up and then rolled on top of him, pressing down hard with his hips, making Starsky's cock sing at the sudden delicious pressure.

Hutch dropped his head and whispered in Starsky's ear, "I want it. What you promised."

Starsky's stomach tightened and he felt his eyes widen.

"Yeah. you," Hutch said, underscoring his demand with a thrust of his hips.

In answer, Starsky raised his knees, tucking them against Hutch's sides so he could push up, pressing his ass against the hard heat of Hutch's shaft.

It burned.

Hutch groaned and his eyes seemed to glaze over. "Tell me what to do," he said in a strained whisper.

"We need…stuff. Something for grease, like Vaseline," Starsky said breathlessly.

Hutch pulled himself away with an obvious effort and stood. He started to turn, but stopped and held up one finger.

"Don't move."

Starsky couldn't help the grin that split his face at the stern directive. Hutch shook his head and stumbled away.

"Shit. I don't have anything like that," Hutch called from the bathroom.

"Nothing? How about shortening? You got that, right?"

Hutch came back and stared at him, an expression of disbelief on his face. "Shortening?"

"Yeah. You know, like Crisco or something." He almost laughed at the wrinkle in Hutch's forehead.

Hutch grumbled something and then disappeared again, finally returning with a bottle. Starsky couldn't read the label.

"What ya got there?"

"Hmmnniphmssgo," Hutch mumbled.

Starsky lifted his hand and snapped his fingers. Hutch passed it over.

"Honey-raspberry All-Natural Flavored Massage Oil," Starsky read from the label, relishing the heat he saw on Hutch's face. "What, no vanilla?"

Hutch growled wordlessly and took back the bottle to kneel between Starsky's legs. Starsky's amusement faded as he saw that the look of hunger had returned to Hutch's face.

"You're packing some weapon there," Starsky said, swallowing a little when he considered Hutch's thick erection. "You're gonna have to, you know, loosen me up a little."

Hutch seemed to need no further direction. He pushed at Starsky's knees, popped the lid on the bottle and poured some on his hands. Then he leaned over Starsky and took hold of his erection, which had flagged a little during the delay.

It was the first time Hutch's hands had touched him there, and his cock came to abrupt attention. "Hutch, God."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed, staring down as he stroked Starsky lazily. He seemed fascinated by the sight and feel of Starsky's cock. But then he released him, and poured more oil on his fingers before finding Starsky's asshole with the pad of his thumb. He massaged the liquid there while Starsky moaned in anticipation.

Then Hutch penetrated him with his finger.

Hutch. This is Hutch in me.

Hutch's touch was gentle, but thorough. By the time he was through, Starsky was humping helplessly against the fingers thrusting into him, stroking insistently. The feeling was delicious, a thousand times better than Lila's toy. But he was ready for more.

"Come on," he gasped.

Hutch seemed to hesitate, and Starsky lifted his legs, beckoning him closer. Hutch moved in, hands steadying Starsky's hips, and he took hold of himself, slicking the excess oil over his furious erection, his eyes gleaming down.

Then he leaned in, and Starsky felt the heavy pressure of the thick head against his asshole.

No, wait, Starsky wanted to say, for in spite of having fantasized about this moment, the sudden reality was almost overwhelming; but there was no time, just a steady push, and then the shift and pop of the cockhead breaching him, spreading him wide, moving into him.

"Oh, Jesus," he couldn't help saying, and Hutch paused, consternation on his face.

"'S okay, just gimme a minute," Starsky gasped.

"So tight. God, you're so tight around me," Hutch whispered hoarsely, awe in his voice.

After a moment Starsky felt himself relax, the balky muscle now accepting the invasion, and he pulled on Hutch's hips, pulling him in deeper, to Hutch's low moan of pleasure.

"Oh, my God." The thick shaft, aided by the slick oil, slid home, pressing behind Starsky's balls, making his head swim. He's in me. He's all the way in me.

He groaned out loud when Hutch suddenly leaned forward, slipping out a few inches to rest his lips against Starsky's sternum. He kissed him there.

"Inside. I'm inside," he murmured.

"That's right, baby," Starsky found himself responding, and he ran his hands through Hutch's damp hair, pushing it away from his face. Hutch looked up, gratitude pooling in the depths of the blue.

"Now fuck me, Hutch," Starsky said, suddenly impatient, maddened by the pressure coming from inside, and from the hard belly resting against his cock.

Hutch pushed himself back up and, looking down, he started to thrust.

At first, Starsky wasn't sure he would survive it. Hutch was rough, wild, pounding into him. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes from where they were joined. Every lift of his hips resulted in a heavy stroke against the sweet spot behind Starsky's nuts. Starsky tried to reach for his own cock but the angle was all wrong. The best he could do was palm the head, but it didn't matter. He could already feel the tension rising within him with each deliberate stroke of Hutch's big cock.

"Oh. Oh. Oh," Starsky said, short grunts forced out of him by pounding rhythm. Hutch's face was tense with effort, but his eyes were shining, and there was obvious pleasure in the sounds he was making as he fucked Starsky sweet and hard.

"So good, tell me it's good for you," Hutch begged.

"It's good," Starsky moaned. He strained upward, trying to impale himself even further, and Hutch's hands slid beneath his waist, shifting him easily, lifting him as if he were a toy and grinding him down onto his iron-hard shaft.

"God!" Starsky cried out, "Hutch. God, Hutch!" He saw Hutch's tight smile as Starsky started to come, his ass clenching and grasping, his balls tightening as he shot his load, creaming his palm and belly as the pleasure shot through him. "Ahhhh," he yelled his relief as he continued to spurt, the pressure in his balls easing.

Still shaking, he looked up to see Hutch panting down at him, sweat twisting down his cheek and catching on his mustache. His tongue came out to swipe at the corner of his mouth, and then he arched his back, changing the stroke to a vicious, fast, shotgun action, his hips like pistons.

"Starsky," he moaned, and Starsky reached up to clasp the forearms that were straining with effort.

"Come in me. Come inside me, Hutch," Starsky said hoarsely and, as if he'd been waiting for permission, Hutch suddenly threw back his head and groaned low, his eyes closed tight, and Starsky felt the thick cock pulsing inside him. He squeezed his hands on Hutch's forearms approvingly, and Hutch moaned again before lowering himself on top of him, forehead heavy on Starsky's chest.

Starsky took advantage of the change in position to run his hands over the sweat-slicked back. Hutch was still moaning quietly, shaking his head.

"Good boy," Starsky whispered, not exactly sure why.

They rested, both panting quietly, and Starsky waited for his heart to get the news it was over. After a few minutes the glow was gone, and he started to hear the complaints from his abused body. He shifted uncomfortably but Hutch didn't take the hint.

"You gonna get off me, ya big lug?"

Hutch mumbled, "Don't wanna leave."

Starsky smiled in pure joy. "C'mon, Blintz, I'm dying here."

Hutch finally sighed and shifted off, making Starsky stifle a whimper. Hutch immediately hauled him closer and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Thank you," he heard Hutch whisper. He wanted to respond that it was his pleasure, but instead his mouth cracked open in a wide yawn and he drifted a little.

He awoke from his semi-doze when he felt Hutch tighten his arm around him and tilt his face into Starsky's neck. His sweaty hair smelled like shampoo, and Hutch, and Starsky buried his nose in it for a second before pulling away.

"Something else, huh?" he said.

He felt Hutch's nod against his shoulder, but he didn't speak.

"Earth to Blintz….come in, Blondie."

Hutch rolled to his back and cleared his throat. "I didn't know," he said softly. "How could I?" There was wonder in his voice.

Starsky reached over and put a hand on his damp chest, stroking there. Hutch's hand came up to cover his.

"Never knew I could feel this with you…it's impossible." Hutch rolled to his side, still holding Starsky's wrist. "How come you got so smart you figured it out?"

Starsky's heart did a crazy trip-step, and he tried to frown convincingly. "Well, we both know who the brai—"

Hutch's lips stopped the brag, clinging to his for a moment before he let his head settle beside Starsky's on the pillow.

Starsky freed his hand to slide it down Hutch's waist until his wrist rested on Hutch's hip, fingers stroking the smooth skin of his butt. Hutch's eyes met his.

"You're gonna want that, I guess." There was no question in his voice, but his eyes dropped.

"Yeah, I guess." An image popped into his head of Hutch on his knees, head thrown back, Starsky's arms wrapped around his chest as he plunged deep into that tight, creamy ass.

Starsky swallowed heavily. "When you're ready," he forced himself to say around the thickness in his throat.

Hutch's lips lifted in a sweet smile. "Okay," he whispered. The smile turned wicked. "In the meantime, there's something else I want to try…."

He pushed Starsky onto his back, and then that golden head was going down, down.

Oh, my God.

Hutch awoke in the early light, and for a moment was startled to see his partner's tangled curls resting on the pillow beside him. Then memory returned, and with it the swift, sweet ache in his groin. That startled him even more, but he was willing to get used to it.

Jesus, he felt like a hormone-crazed teenager learning about sex for the first time.

How could this happen? How could I just be discovering this, at age thirty-five and change—that the curve of Starsky's shoulder and the lines of his back—

He found himself stifling the thought. And that, in a way, answered his question. Could never let myself think about it before, I guess. But now...I can just touch him. I can just reach out and touch him whenever I want. The thought was purely liberating, and he did just that, putting his hand on Starsky's waist and settling his forehead against the strong back.

Starsky sighed in his sleep, and Hutch lost himself in the memory of the previous night.


He made Starsky come in his mouth, and forced himself to swallow the spurts of fluid as his partner cried out hoarsely. Hutch felt a tremendous sense of achievement. In me. He's inside, now.

He held the softening penis in his hand, feeling a possessiveness he could never have imagined. Tremors were still shaking Starsky's thighs, and he was moaning a little on every breath, a tiny, contented sound.

Then he heaved himself up, and pounced.

Hutch found himself on his back, his crazed partner robbing the breath from his lungs with a demanding kiss. And as unfamiliar as it was to have so much strength holding him, manipulating him, he found he relished it. Because this was Starsky, and Starsky had always had an in.

He proved it, dragging Hutch off to the shower and stroking him with soapy hands until Hutch's cock was screaming for relief again. And then Starsky knelt, his mouth so hot around Hutch's cock that Hutch had to remember to try to breathe. He felt Starsky's deft fingers stroking below his balls to tease his anus.

"Oh!" Hutch gasped.

Starsky released him long enough to look at him and smile with wet lips, his fingertip still tracing the delicate tissue, sending shivers directly into Hutch's nuts. Hutch closed his eyes and widened his stance in silent assent.

His subsequent orgasm, cock deep in Starsky's mouth and ass clenching around the fingers penetrating him, almost blew him unconscious. He felt Starsky's arms around his waist, holding him up, and he leaned gratefully into the embrace. He sighed and planted a kiss on the lips that were smiling at him. Then he slipped his tongue into Starsky mouth, tasting himself.



"What're you thinkin' about?" Starsky said groggily, and Hutch felt the vibration against his forehead.


Starsky rolled over and rubbed his eyes, then peered at him. Hutch felt warmth hit his chest, and he wanted to reach over and stroke Starsky's cheek, touch his hair, but felt suddenly awkward, uncertain how much tenderness he should show now that the sex was over.

Then Starsky raised his hand and drew his thumb caressingly over Hutch's lips.

"What about us?" Starsky said, and Hutch could hear his own desire echoed in the quiet voice.

Hutch cleared his throat, determined to show the same courage. "I guess I'm wondering...why the hell it took me so long to get here. And now that I'm long can I stay?"

A mocking smile. "Gee, I dunno, Hutch. How does forever sound?" But the voice betrayed some uncertainty.

"Forever sounds perfect," Hutch said, his voice squeaking a little on the final word, and he saw Starsky's grin widen.

Shit. I'm doomed. Forever, with someone who knows me inside and out.

And yet, when Starsky kissed him to seal the deal, Hutch found he was smiling.


July 5, 2006
San Francisco, CA