Go back into the darkness
Like the wild thing that you are
Your teeth are far too sharp, my love
I'm afraid you'll go too far.
            Wild Things—Chris Williamson

      "I'd forgotten what real beef looked like," Starsky said, in awe of the perfectly cooked prime rib Huggy Bear placed before him. "Forgotten the smell! Huggy, will ya marry me?"

      The slim bar owner peered suspiciously at his ravenous friend, as Hutch cut into his own piece. "Hutchinson, you need to let him out more often," Huggy admonished in mock-seriousness. "The man's close to tears over a cut of dead animal, proposin' permanent relationships with people not physically compatible with him. I can remember when he only made noises like that over a lovely lady!"

      Starsky cut a small piece of the still sizzling slab and slipped it into his mouth. His eyes closed in bliss. "This ain't food," he said. "This is heaven!" He chewed slowly, savoring the flavor, the texture he hadn't had in so long. His mouth filled with saliva.

      "Twice a week," Hutch said in between bites. "I talked to the nutritionist. She said we could have beef only twice a week to maintain."

      Starsky looked at Huggy for relief. "It's no wonder I'm not interested in women. Every time Hutch starts with 'the nutritionist' I know I'm gonna be deprived of somethin' I love. It's like aversion therapy, where they keep shocking you to make you give up bad habits. The nutritionist is this beautiful redhead," he shaped his hands in the air, then kissed his fingertips in homage, "who won't let me eat anything I like. The physical therapist!" He rolled his eyes. "A stunning brunette—with the gentility of a domino-trucks!"

      "Domin-a-trix," Hutch said automatically around his mouthful.

      Starsky acknowledged the correction with a nod, then continued: "The sports doctor? A blonde goddess. Hands of ice, a frigid stethoscope, a scary preference for anal thermometers, and the bedside manner of a storm trooper." He shook his head in mock misery until Huggy was roaring. "The very mention—never mind appearance—of the three witches causes 'little Davy'," he pointed at his groin, "to act like a turtle in winter."

      Hutch, who was taking a sip of his beer, nearly sprayed Starsky with it. He gestured in the area of his partner's groin. "Care to tell me exactly what part earned the name, 'little Davy'?"

      Starsky just chuckled around his next bite. Hutch could afford to make jokes. While they'd showered together—and nursed each other—often enough to be well aware of their endowments, Starsky knew Hutch's manhood was exactly where it needed to be—in his mind. Hutch's masculinity fit him so comfortably, he'd never rise to the baiting of a man like Russo. Starsky wished he could be like that, but as a kid in New York, masculinity was something he'd had to prove again and again. It was stupid. He wished he could be more like Hutch.

      "Y'know, you two are gettin' worse," Huggy said, adding his own steak to the table as he sat with them.

      Both partners looked puzzled at the man who was both their informant and good friend.

      "You've always had this code between you," Huggy explained. "This enchanting dialect that the rest of us mere mortals could never decipher. But lately, it's gettin' worse."

      "Must've been all those weeks of training," Starsky figured. "Got so we hardly had to talk." In spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears involved in his recovery, Starsky felt nostalgic over that time spent alone with his partner. There'd been nothing between them then except the work they had to do and Starsky's progress. They were together, a unit, in a cushion of security, knowing the only person with them was completely trustworthy. In spite of his wounds, he'd felt good about it.

      "Hey, I was talkin'!" Hutch protested around a mouthful. "You just didn't listen t'me."

      "True," Starsky agreed. "Hutch thought if he'd just talk to me like he does his plants I'd grow some new leaves or somethin'."

      "Worked, didn't it?" Hutch said smugly.

      Starsky chewed happily and smiled back.

      "It's good to see you two back in top form," Huggy admitted. "Hope LA can handle it. This calls for somethin' special." He signaled to the waitress who was bringing over new beers. "Forget that, Suzie. Break out that bottle of champagne I been savin'. Three flutes!"

      Starsky was surprised when the bottle was brought over, instead, by Huggy's bartender, Alphonse. The handsome, fair-skinned man had draped a clean towel over his arm, as if he were a waiter in a fine establishment, and balanced a full tray expertly on his hand.

      "Boss says break out the best," Alphonse said, "then the best it is. And the best gets special delivery." He picked up one of the flutes and twirled it around his fingers, then placed it delicately in front of Hutch. The second flute went to Starsky, and Huggy got the last. With a practiced hand, Alphonse uncorked the champagne without spilling a drop, then poured it carefully into each glass in the same order, using the towel against the bottle's lip.

      "Where'd you steal this guy from, Hug?" Hutch asked, amused. "A real restaurant?"

      "In serving The Bear, the honor is mine," Alphonse assured them, giving a salute.

      They lifted their glasses in unison, touched rims, then gave themselves a toast before downing the champagne through their laughter.

      When they'd killed the bottle they went back to beer. They traded old stories and made up new ones, and the hours ticked by in a happy haze. It reminded Starsky of the night they'd celebrated graduating from the Academy. Everything had been so sweet then, so full of promise. He felt like that again and looked fondly at the big blond who'd given it to him.

      By ten, he was leaning on Hutch and swearing drunkenly, "Y'know, I love you, man."

      "I know," Hutch said warmly, smiling, just as drunk. "And I love you."

      "No one would'a stuck by me like you did, pal," Starsky insisted.

      Hutch waved it away. "Any good partner—"

      "Y'mean, like Russo and Wilson? No. Uh-uh. Nada. No way. I'm tellin' you true. I wouldn't be here today, not fit like this, not feelin' this good, 'cept for you. Y'know my runnin' time's faster than when I gradjatated—uh, gradiated—got outta the 'cademy? My firing range average s'improved. Know what it felt like when I ran down that dude this morning and caught him, slapped the cuffs on him, got him dead to rights with the goods?"

      Hutch giggled helplessly. "You didn't just run him down, Starsk!" He turned to Huggy. "The guy jumped into his car and Starsky ran him down on foot, before the joker could get into second gear. He was like an antelope! He caught the Mercedes, leaped onto the trunk and over the roof before the guy could finish shifting. Never saw anyone move that fast! Motivated. The man was motivated, I'm tellin' you!"

      "Know what that felt like?" Starsky repeated in the slow way the seriously inebriated had. "To be that fast, that strong, after what those bastards did to me? Felt better'n sex. You did that for me, Hutch. An' I love you for it."

      Hutch peered worriedly at Huggy. "You're right, man. I need to let him out more. Hey, if you think chasin' a bad guy's better n'sex—shit, Starsky, we gotta work on that." Hutch stood shakily on his long legs. "I gotta recuperatin' cop here," he announced to the crowded bar, "a hero to our fair city, who desperately needs to get laid! Any lovely ladies care to volunteer?"

      Huggy and Starsky both grabbed Hutch by the arms and forced him back into his chair before he could follow up on the random offers being sent their way. The two partners fell into a fit of drunken giggles.

      "Have you two been sippin' the joy juice when my back was turned?" Huggy asked seriously. "I can't remember ever seein' you this destroyed. Not over a bottle of champagne and a few beers. You're both wasted." He grinned, deflecting the sting of his criticism.

      "'S'okay, Huggy," Starsky told him with a drunk's sincerity. "We take care of each other, even when we're drunk! Right, partner?"

      "'S'right," Hutch agreed, his elbow slipping off the table, causing him to nearly ooze out of his chair. Starsky and Huggy righted him, then Huggy waved to his waitress.

      "Suzie," he called, "I'm'a hafta take these two sorry-asses home before they fall and sue me for damages. I'll be back before closing."

      "Got it, Huggy!" the harried woman called back, her tray piled high with glasses.

      Huggy grabbed each of them by the elbow and urged them to their feet. "Gonna be able to make it to the car? Don't think I can carry you both."

      Hutch was in the worst shape, Starsky realized, and he felt proud that he could hold his liquor better. He could afford to be generous, and slid an arm around Hutch, pulling him close.

      "I got you, partner. You can lean on me for a change," Starsky told him.

      Hutch turned warm eyes on him and slung a long arm around his shoulders. "I know that," he whispered, a lot of meaning in those three simple words. "I've always known it."

      Man, we are really drunk, Starsky thought, as a lump grew in his throat. "Come on, buddy. Le's go home." They'd crash at his place tonight—it was closest to the Pits.

      They hadn't spent a night apart since the shooting. During all those weeks of recuperation at the hospital, the staff got tired of tripping over Hutch, so finally just made sure there was a spare bed for him wherever they put Starsky. Once he was released, there was physical therapy. It seemed natural to collapse at either one's residence after all that work. Both apartments only had one bedroom, and they were used to trading couches. But Starsky's injuries and Hutch's temperamental back made that impossible during Starsky's lengthy recovery. Sharing their big beds became the only sensible solution. They hadn't wasted a lot of talk on it, it just kind of happened. Starsky wondered about that a little. But Hutch had been worried about Gunther's cohorts who might still be gunning for them. It seemed easier to stay together for their mutual safety. And after coming that close to death, Hutch's presence was a genuine comfort. Starsky didn't mind admitting that.

      He'd have the rest of his life to sleep in empty apartments and empty beds. This time with Hutch was nice. It was special. He wouldn't look at it any deeper than that.

      Arms draped around each other's shoulders, they stood.  Huggy slipped the Torino's keys out of Starsky's leather jacket with practiced ease. Huggy tried guiding the swaying partners toward the door as Starsky struggled to keep both of them on their feet.

      "Just a little further, m'man," Huggy encouraged as the exit drew near.

      But then something came between them and the door. Something large.

      Starsky blinked, his mind warning him with a cop's instinct for trouble. Stand up straight. Look alert. Fake it! He drew himself up, pulling Hutch erect beside him.

      Hutch picked up the vibes and stood straighter, glancing around.

      "You two still at it?" a voice grumbled.

      The hairs on the back of Starsky's neck rose. "Russo. Don't start. Not here." It was a clear warning. Hutch heard it and came to.

      "Can't keep your hands off each other, even in a public place," Russo sneered.

      Starsky went rigid, his mind clearing, a red haze covering his eyes.

      "Starsk, don't," Hutch begged. But Starsky wouldn't look at him.

      Huggy was suddenly between Russo and Starsky, something akin to panic on his face. "Be civilized, Russo! 'Less you wanna get banned from the Pits for life!"

      The beefy cop ignored him. "Time for bed already?" He glanced at his watch. "Kinda early, ain't it, hot shots? Just can't wait, can you? That shower was a long time ago."

      Hutch's grip on Starsky's shoulder tightened. His right arm crossed Starsky's chest, holding him back. Starsky shrugged his partner off and stepped clear, moving into a defensive stance: legs slightly spread, arms loose at his side.

      "You got somethin' to say, Russo," he said softly, his voice as clear as a bell, "let's take it outside." It was pure Brooklyn bravado. Starsky smiled. The entire bar grew still.

      "Starsky!" Hutch snapped.

      Russo took a step forward. "Sounds good to me, cocksucker."

      His friends both tried to grab Starsky's arms, to stop him from walking toward the door. Russo took advantage of the confusion. Starsky saw it as if it were in slow motion, the big man's fist balled for action, coming up to catch him full in the face in a sucker punch while his friends restrained him. Starsky grabbed fistfuls of Huggy's and Hutch's shirts and yanked them down, out of range of Russo's swing. At the same time, he dropped to avoid the blow. Russo was left swinging at empty air. Starsky spun around under his arm and came up behind him, then tapped Russo on the shoulder.

      Confused, he turned, only to have Starsky punch him hard on the chin, then the cheek, then full on the nose; one, two, three strong blows that didn't even make Starsky breathe hard. He danced away on the balls of his feet as Russo went down on one knee holding his bloody nose.

      That felt good! Starsky thought, as he moved lightly, ready for Russo's response. He was grinning, licking his lips, and his cock started to rise. Yeah!

      "Come on, asshole!" he taunted, fingertips calling the man on. He was sixteen again, the baddest kid on the street. "While you're on your knees, why don't you put that mouth to some constructive use." He grabbed his dick with both hands, just to rub it in.

      Russo's face turned beet red. His hand plunged into his jacket. There was a shocked scream and suddenly Hutch yelled, "GUN!" as Russo pulled his .38 into view. Hutch dived for that arm, as Starsky's foot came up in one smooth, long arc, catching the weight-lifter under the jaw. His crew-cut head snapped back with the kick and Russo grunted. Hutch grabbed his thick wrist, controlling the hand holding the weapon and forcing it to the ground. But Russo was already out cold.

      Hutch confiscated the weapon and cuffed the unconscious man. "Call the precinct," he told Suzie. "Let him spend the night in the tank. We'll lodge charges in the morning. He's on suspension soon as Dobey finds out." He looked up at Starsky, his expression apprehensive.

      Starsky felt the adrenaline rush fade, felt his legs go to rubber. But his dick was still hard, and he was grinning. Wetting his mouth, he said to Hutch, "Let's piss on him."

      "Not in my bar," Huggy roared, grabbing the two of them by the shoulder. "You've both had enough fun for one night. I'm puttin' you to bed. Piss on him? Whoever heard of Batman and Robin pissin' on anyone? Shame on you, Starsky. Anymore of that, and you'll get banned, too."

      But Starsky only giggled, full of himself, the power of his healed body, and the surge of blood in his veins. "Must'a been the red meat," he told his friends. Hutch shook his head ruefully as he and Huggy towed Starsky out of the bar.

      By the time they arrived at Starsky's apartment, they were both singing—badly—a medley of Motown numbers with simplistic lyrics that Huggy had recommended. They could handle the repetitive chorus of "Land of a Thousand Dances" pretty well, but they kept mixing all the "Na-na-na-na-na's" with the words to James Brown's "I Feel Good." Soon, both songs were a cacophonous mess. Hutch couldn't believe how patient Huggy was being with them. It was the shooting, he knew. Even their friends had been badly affected.

      Huggy called for a cab to get back to the Pits, then once more ran through proper bathroom procedure with Starsky before leaving. "You got it, bro'? You don't piss on your friends. You don't piss on your enemies. You save it for the john. Still can't figure out how you two got so wasted so fast."

      "Ain't so wasted I couldn't handle Russo," Starsky gloated, then staggered into the bedroom, shedding clothes. He launched into another chorus of "I Feel Good."

      "Take care o' him, will ya?" Huggy said, as he let himself out.

      Hutch nodded as he leaned against the kitchen counter, then wondered, Who's gonna take care of the caretaker?

      His head was floating, even though his equilibrium wasn't too bad—as long as it was supported by the steadying presence of furniture, door frames and walls. And like most drunks, Hutch was convinced he was far more clear-headed than he really was.

      The first thing you lose under the influence of alcohol, he remembered from Academy lectures on drunk drivers, was fine motor coordination and judgment.

      Good thing! Hutch thought and giggled.

      That was when Gillian appeared.

      He stared, recognizing her instantly. It wasn't the first time his dead lover had appeared to him in a drunken haze, but usually he had to consume a great deal more alcohol than he had tonight. The last time he'd seen her vision was during the horrendous binge he'd gone on when her killer, Albert Grossman, had been sentenced to life in prison.

      Getting drunk had released his pent-up pain, and he'd sobbed all over Starsky that night. He couldn't understand how Grossman could get condemned to life when Gillian had been condemned to death. Starsky had held him, sharing the drunk and the pain, and cried, too.

      Gillian had appeared after they had both fallen asleep in a tangle of arms and legs.

      She looked, that night, as beautiful as she did now. Just as she had then, she smiled at him, touched his cheek and said, "It'd be nice to be Hutch; in one lifetime you have two people love you so much."

      When he had talked about the vision the next day, Starsky reminded him that Gillian had originally said that to him. He had told Hutch about it after her death. It had hit Hutch hard when Starsky had first repeated it, but hearing it in Gillian's voice was more than he could bear.

      He felt a dull ache now as he looked at her, but there was little left of the consuming passion he'd once had. Since Starsky's shooting, he hadn't had much energy for anything that didn't directly involve his best friend's well-being. He thought he should apologize to Gillian for that, but she disappeared before he could figure out what to say. Running a hand over his face, he listened to Starsky's off-key chorus.

      "I feeeeeeel good, nah-nah, nah-nah, nah—Knew that I would. I feeeeel right! Yeah! Sugar and spice—"

      That was the thing Hutch didn't want to examine much. How good he felt. How very good. Wouldn't think about it. Not now. If he thought about it—

      Might remember. Feeling like this. Once. So good. He tried to shut down his brain before it told him something he didn't want to hear. I feel good. So damn good.

      "Hutch, you okay?"

      He blinked, then turned to Starsky's worried blue eyes and furrowed brow. He couldn't help but smile. You're still here. Still alive. Healthy. He felt suffused with love.

      "You stopped singin'," Starsky complained, gazing up through long lashes, reminding Hutch of a ten-year-old. Ten-year-old on a bender, he amended, laughing at the image.

      Starsky still had jeans on, but his shirt, shoes, and socks had been discarded. Hutch tried not to focus on the scars almost hidden under the mat of dark chest hair, but he couldn't seem to look anywhere else. The rest of that chest was perfect, leading to a washboard stomach that Hutch knew he could take some credit for. But the scars would always be there, reminding him of his own personal failure. The day he wasn't there fast enough for his partner.

      "Don' wanna sing anymore," Hutch said softly, but couldn't stop grinning. Why not? Starsky's still alive. Still my partner. Even if he is scarred. Impulsively, he reached out and placed his fingertips gently on the highest scar, outlining its whorled center.

      Starsky's beautiful heart-shaped face swam before his bleary eyes. "It don' hurt no more, partner," he said softly. "Betcha even Superman's got dimples where the bullets bounced off."

      Hutch's cheeks ached from grinning. Odd. Alcohol usually made him melancholy. "Not Superman. Batman. Batman and Robin. Were you really gonna piss on Russo?"

      Starsky giggled and pitched against him, slinging his butt out and spreading his legs for balance. He buried his face against Hutch's chest, as if needing to rest from the labor of standing. "Sure. 'S'what we did when we were kids."

      "What?" The words had been muffled, and Hutch wasn't sure he'd heard them right.

      "Call a guy a faggot, beat his ass, then piss on him," Starsky said, looking up. His eyes had grown cold. He turned away. "'S'better if you got at least five dudes to help. That's how you cure a queer. You din't know that?"

      Hutch felt a chill creep up his back. "Guess we didn't try to cure—gay kids in Minnesota. Starsk?"

      Starsky wouldn't face him.

      "Did you do that?" Hutch asked. Starsky didn't respond, and then Hutch knew. "No, you wouldn't. But they did it to you. Shit."

      He felt Starsky's jaw work against his chest, teeth grinding. "You callin' me a queer?"

      "Cut the crap," Hutch said gently. "I'm not the enemy. Did that happen to you?"

      "Just once," Starsky said tonelessly, but Hutch could hear the cold rage. "Long time ago."

      Hutch wanted to go back in time and find the kids who did it. Find them and hurt them bad. Now he understood Starsky's knee-jerk reaction to Russo. Russo was the classic playground bully, and Starsky had probably been waiting for years to pound him into the ground. Hutch's arms went around his friend, pulled him tight to his chest. Unconsciously cuddling the slouching, drunken body, he leaned his cheek against the top of Starsky's head.

      "Wish I'd known that before," Hutch complained. "We coulda both pissed on Russo." Then they giggled some more.

      Starsky's arms rested around Hutch's waist as they stood swaying, trying to keep each other from falling over.

      "Hutch?" Starsky asked.


      "Why're we so drunk? I mean, how'd this happen? Can't remember. Feel weird."

      Don't ask me that, Hutch thought worriedly. Don't want to look at it. Don't wanna feel the difference, put the name to it. "We're okay, Starsk. We're home." We're together, so wherever we are is home.

      "Man!" Starsky moaned. "I am fucked up. Can't remember feeling like this in—ever!"

      "Just used to bein' healthy now," Hutch insisted. "We been sober too long." No alcohol. No women. "Like a coupla monks." Don't make me look at it, Starsk. Don't make me analyze a simple drunk. He hugged his friend tighter.

      Then he caught sight of his mother over Starsky's shoulder. The kitchen suddenly looked two football fields long, and his mother stood at its farthest end. But he could hear her as clearly as if she stood beside him.

      "Just look at you, Kenneth," she said sadly. "This is as bad as that day the dentist pulled your wisdom teeth when you were sixteen. I thought I'd never survive the embarrassment. You're a grown man now. I hope you've learned some self-control."

      He frowned as she faded away. Whatever chemical concoction the dentist had given him that day had eliminated his pain and left him convinced he was lucid, functional, and totally charming. His mother had had to hide the car keys, and he'd propositioned the housekeeper so crudely, the woman had nearly quit. His mom had read the dentist the riot act.

      Starsky's head slid further down Hutch's chest as his slouch became more pronounced. "Stay with me tonight," he said plaintively.

      "Couldn't very well leave now," Hutch reminded him.

      "Stay with me," Starsky insisted, pulling Hutch against him harder.

      Hutch grunted a little, the air whooshing out of him. "'M right here, babe. Ya got a death grip on me, couldn't go anyway." He rested a cheek against Starsky's curly head. Where else could I go that would be home anymore? He had no answer except the one in his arms.

      Suddenly, Starsky stood up straighter, his groin brushing Hutch's thigh. To his surprise, Starsky was hard as rock. Amazing, Hutch thought. I can never get it up when I'm drunk.

      "Come on," Hutch said. "We need to hit the john, then head for bed."

      "Funny," Starsky said in a throaty whisper, "I was thinking the same thing myself."

      Hutch rolled his eyes. Great. He's gonna get amorous. Huggy's right. I've been keeping him too close to home. When was the last time Starsk got laid? For that matter, when was the last time I did? He could not remember. Kira? Almost a year ago. Before the shooting. For either of us. Christ, no wonder Starsky's throwin' a rod at a little body contact.

      Well, that wasn't a problem he could solve tonight. Tomorrow. He'd set something up tomorrow. Assuming every phone number in his little black book wasn't so old it was useless.

      He disentangled them and turned Starsky around. "First, bathroom. Then bed. Let's go."

      "Let's!" Starsky said cheerily, pointing toward the bathroom as if his index finger would help him find the way.

      Hutch steered, and finally got his partner in the john. "You're not gonna fall in, are you?"

      "Won't fall!" Starsky growled, staring at the bowl as if it were a moving target.

      Good thing Dobey wasn't expecting them early. Hutch could hear Starsky's steady stream as he started fumbling with his own clothes, dropping them wherever they came off. He was proud that, despite being totally wasted, he was fairly steady on his feet, only barking his shins once on the king-sized bed. He was more drunk tonight than the night they'd flooded Starsky's hospital room after Hutch had arrested Gunther.

      Hutch couldn't remember how much he'd imbibed on the plane back from San Francisco, but the stewardesses had kept his glass full. He remembered Starsky's slurred voice mumbling, "Had four pain killers. Feelin' no pain." He giggled as he struggled to get out of his cords. Hopping around on one foot with the pants wadded around his knees, he worked to free the other foot before realizing he hadn't removed his shoes. Standing stork-like, he had to think before recalling that shoes had to come off first.

      He was down to the borrowed briefs he'd appropriated from his partner's clean laundry when Starsky finally emerged from the bathroom. His tight jeans—how the hell does he stuff himself in those damn pants?—were unclasped at the top. It looked like the straining zipper had all it could handle trying to keep his half-erect rod inside.

      And then Hutch wondered, Why am I so worried about it?

      He felt woozy, his head reeling. And he knew, suddenly, that he really wasn't drunk.

      Stoned. Goddammit, we're stoned. Something in the drinks? That didn't make any sense. Huggy wasn't half as tanked as they were. He couldn't work it out. But he knew how he felt. Oh, man! He struggled not to panic.

      Unbidden came the memory of Vic Bellamy drugging Starsky senseless then injecting poison into him. That had happened in a bed very similar to this big, ornate four poster. Starsky had sold that bed after he'd recovered, never wanting to lie in it again, but ended up buying a duplicate just recently. As if he'd once again been ready to celebrate life to the fullest, and needed the world's biggest and flashiest bed to do it in—even though the only body he'd been able to share it with so far had been Hutch's.

      Hutch couldn't shake the memory of those terrible twenty-four hours. They'd saved Starsky, but it had been a terrifying race against the clock. Could this be part of a similar plan? He was swamped with paranoia. Painstakingly, he locked the windows, without remembering that Huggy had left Starsky's key on the lintel over the front door where anyone could find it.

      The first drug Bellamy had given Starsky had left him barely capable of punching out Hutch's phone number and whispering a two word plea for help before passing out. Yet, earlier tonight, he had defeated the sober Russo with no difficulty. So, if that wasn't it—


      Unless it's narcotic—

      Hutch had sweated out a heroin addiction forced on him by criminals. If it hadn't been for Starsky, he'd still be looking for a fix. He could feel the sweet hum in his body, a sensation he hadn't had in so long. It felt good. No. Not again. I can't go through that again.

      "Whassamatta, Hutch?" Starsky asked softly, coming up behind him. "Ya look scared."

      He was scared. But until he had a better grip on the problem, he wouldn't alarm Starsky. Even if someone were trying to re-addict him, there was little point in bringing it up now. If Starsky even suspected, he wouldn't get a wink of sleep worrying. And the one thing they both needed was sleep. He'd get through the night and deal with everything in the morning.

      But the sweet, narcotic buzz wasn't the primary reaction Hutch was having to whatever they'd been given. Was the narcotic merely the carrier? He thought about the drug his dentist had used, how clear-headed he'd felt on it, how lucid he could be if he needed to. The more outrageous his behavior, the more logical it had seemed. His dentist had told him it was some drug they gave women in labor, that it was really safe. That only confused him more.

      Who'd do this to us? And if the drug is safe—why?

      Starsky moved closer, touched his face gently. "You need to use the john? You 'kay?"

      Hutch tried to shape his thoughts into words, but couldn't sort them. "No, I, uh, don't need the john," he said roughly. "Must be the champagne. Went right to my head."

      Starsky swallowed, the noise loud in the bedroom. "Yeah. Me, too. Le's go to bed, babe."

      Hutch nodded, shivering. Maybe he could figure it all out in the morning.

      Starsky led him to his big bed and sat him on the edge. "Hutch, you sure you're okay?"

      "I don't know. I feel—really weird." But it's not heroin. Can't figure out what it is.

      "Me, too," Starsky said, his voice strange, husky  . . . different.

      Hutch looked into Starsky's deep indigo eyes. He was the only person on this earth he trusted more than himself. "Starsk. I am scared. I don't know what's happening."

      His blue eyes were full of caring. "Don' be scared. I'm here. I'll take care of you, Hutch. I love you. You know that, don't you?"

      Hutch felt more disoriented. Starsky suddenly sounded sober. Just like in the bar before he pulverized Russo. How could he do that, go from being drunk—or stoned—to lucid when he needed to? And what was it that was making him so clear-headed now?

      Hutch glanced at his partner's groin. With him sitting and Starsky standing, it was nearly at eye level. Hutch tried to figure out how the zipper was keeping itself together with that heavy monster behind it trying to push its way out. The more he wondered about it, the more his own phallus nodded in sympathy.

      Starsky touched his face again, drawing Hutch's attention back to those warm, bottomless orbs. He shivered as Starsky said, "You love me, too, don't'cha, Hutch?"

      He closed his eyes. Oh, shit! The drug, whatever it was, was going straight to his groin, so it had to be doing the same thing to Starsky. They had been celibate too long. If he let nature take its course, Starsky would not be able to deal with it in the morning.

      And what the hell was Hutch supposed to do if his mother showed up again?

      Starsky's fingers traced a scar on Hutch's wrist and his eyes jerked open. It was the knife wound he'd gotten fighting off Gunther's assassins while Starsky lay dying in intensive care. They'd both come so close to buying it that day.

      Starsky followed the thin line that ran across his artery, then trailed his fingertips along Hutch's bare forearm. His body came alive at that touch, so familiar yet so foreign. His nipples hardened, and a blush crept across his skin.

      "Guess Robin's gotta have some scars, too, huh?" Starsky murmured. His hand slid over Hutch's sensitive skin, up his arm onto the shoulder. "Skin's so smooth. Not soft like a woman, but smooth. Different. Never thought 'bout it before. Nice." The wandering fingers traced a path over the nape of Hutch's neck and tangled in his long hair. Starsky leaned closer, holding Hutch's head still.

      "Don't, Starsk," Hutch begged, searching his face. He was pleading from the bottom of his heart. "This feeling will pass. We'll get through it. But if we do this—you'll never forgive it. Never forgive me. Don't do this to us."

      It was Starsky's call, because the drug was thrumming through Hutch's veins, waking up all those sleepy responses he thought were dead and buried. His friend's familiar touch was starting a fire inside him he'd never felt before, never dared let himself imagine. Once Starsky kissed him, he'd be lost in the love and desire of the one human being he cared for the most. He'd be helpless to resist the lure of Starsky's passion.

      "Please, Starsk. Please."

      "It's okay," Starsky promised, his thumb stroking Hutch's cheek in a comforting gesture. "We love each other. We can't go wrong together."

      Hutch knew they were finished. As Starsky's mouth claimed him, as their lips met in their first real kiss after all these years of friendship, Hutch felt the pull of the drug exciting him, waking his desires. A drug couldn't make you do something you would never have done, but he and Starsky were too close, especially after this last year. They were too physical, too dependent on each other. They'd gone from spending seventy-five percent of their time together to a hundred percent. They knew each other's scent, every separate foible. They knew everything—except this. And now, drugged to the gills, Hutch yielded to the pressure of Starsky's sweet mouth, knowing that tender kiss was the beginning of the end for them, yet helpless to stop it.

      Starsky's mouth bore down on him, full of tantalizing promises and delicious lies, and Hutch dissolved under its power, opening his own with a moan. Starsky's tongue took advantage, sliding between Hutch's lips, tracing his teeth, discovering the new world of Hutch that was yielding to it. Starsky whimpered into his mouth, as if he couldn't believe his good fortune. He moved aggressively, confidently, the way Hutch would have himself had he made the first move. Starsky eased him onto his back, putting one knee on the mattress beside him, then slid down gently against him, as if a sudden move would make Hutch bolt. Which it might.

      Gotta stop this. Still can, Hutch thought. He was light-headed under Starsky's assault, the mouth covering his, the tongue tracing patterns of pleasure on his lips, on his palate, against his own tongue which joined the battle joyfully. Whatever made him think Starsky wasn't a good kisser? When he started to pull away, Hutch's arms came up, encircled his neck. He followed those departing lips until he saw the smile on his partner's face.

      "Tried to tell ya," Starsky purred with saucy confidence. "I'm gonna make ya love this."

      Hutch shuddered, terrified he was right. "Starsky, wait. Listen—"

      But the only thing Starsky seemed to be listening to was the blood pounding in his own veins. His mouth met Hutch's again, making him groan in joy and terror. Their tongues wrestled wetly as Starsky's expert hands examined him, sliding over his bare skin, leaving heat and need in their wake. Hutch looked in the mirror over the bed and watched himself getting handled. He hated that damned thing, hated waking up and staring at himself, feeling as if the Hutch in the mirror might fall down on the Hutch in the bed and crush him. Only now, the Hutch in the mirror looked so different he stopped worrying about him falling. The Hutch in that mirror was so full of longing, so achingly hot under those searching hands, the Hutch in the bed wanted to give his other self relief until he realized that was crazy.

      "Starsky!" Hutch called around his impassioned kisses. "Starsky!" They could still stop this. There was still a chance.

      "I'm here," his partner said, pulling Hutch tight against him, possessively laying his slight weight over Hutch's helpless body. He levered a denim-clad leg between Hutch's bare ones, nestling his knee against Hutch's tight, brief-encased balls. "I'm here for you. Talk to me."

      Yes, thought Hutch. He'll listen now. He's sobered some.

      But then Starsky ran the tip of his tongue over Hutch's ear and he was wracked with desire. He couldn't remember whatever it was he'd been about to say. His resolution fled. "Oh, God, Starsk! Just love me tonight! I need you!"

      Where had that come from? What well of loneliness and hunger? How long had he felt like this? He had no idea. But the drug had stripped him of his inhibitions and it was suddenly all in front of him, the raw, ugly truth. He wanted Starsky. Wanted him with a white-hot need he couldn't ever remember having, not for anyone, not Van, not Gillian, no one.

      Then it was back, the clear-headedness, for just a moment. It was a weird drug, allowing you a moment of lucidity, only to snatch it away a second later, replaced with a gut-clenching desire. Starsky nuzzled his neck, nipped him lightly behind his ear, making him crazy, but Hutch pushed away by sheer force of will. "Wait! Starsk, ya gotta listen—"

      "Listen to this," Starsky growled, sounding angry, as he grasped Hutch's turgid cock roughly through his briefs. "What's this for if not for me, huh? Tell me you don't want me, Hutch. Say it, and I'll stop."

      "Don't!" Hutch pleaded, even as he thrust up into that perfect grip, that masculine hand that felt so different from all the others that had been there before it. Starsky's hand, touching him. The safety and security of Starsky's hand. Pleasure rocketed in his brain like fireworks behind his eyes. It had never felt like this with any woman! Still, he protested feebly, "Don't!"

      "Don't stop, y'mean," Starsky insisted, and Hutch knew that was the truth. "It's always been so right between us, all these years. Everything but this. Me and thee. In the streets. In the car. In life—and death. You chased after me—y'know that don't'cha?—right into death."

      Hutch stared at him wildly, but Starsky couldn't stop. "They tol' me later. It all quit. My heart. My lungs. Everything. No one home. I was leavin'. Saw the white light. Moved towards it. Seemed like it was time. I could see my father. The doctors kept shockin' my heart. But I didn't care. Time to die. No reason t'stay."

      No, Hutch thought. Not that. 

      He hated remembering that—Dobey's voice over the phone—"I think you'd better get down here right away, Hutch,"—and knowing exactly what that meant. Driving to the hospital at reckless speeds, the wrong way down one-way streets, through alleys to cut time, abandoning the car without taking the keys or shutting the door, then racing into the building, so full of fear.

      His mind had been screaming, WAIT FOR ME, STARSKY! WAIT FOR ME! as if Kenneth Hutchinson could have any control over anyone else's life and death.

      Starsky hadn't removed his hand from Hutch's cock, just gripped it tighter, taking ownership, giving a scary, intense pleasure as his thumb rolled over the crown. He whispered against Hutch's ear. "Dobey tol' me. Huggy, too. Doctor said, 'It's over. We've lost him.' Then you came bustin' through the double doors, pushing people outta the way, like a big, klutzy avenging angel—runnin' to get to me. To me. To pull me back. They said as soon as you hit the floor, my heart gave a thump after they'd all given up."

      Hutch closed his eyes. Dobey and Huggy had told him all that?

      "I was standing on the threshold, Hutch. Saw my dad, saw the light, even thought I could see Terry waitin' on the other side. I hurt so bad. Just wanted to rest. All the pain, it could've been over. But you wouldn't let me. I heard you. Felt you. Runnin'. Coming for me. And you were so scared. So scared I was gonna leave you."

      Hutch shuddered, but not from Starsky's touch. He'd never been that scared. Not by bad guys, not by car bombs, not by anything. He was losing Starsky. And that meant losing everything. He knew if it had happened, if Starsky had died, he wouldn't have survived it. Half a man cannot live. He would've eaten his gun as soon as he'd killed Gunther.

      "I turned around," Starsky continued, "away from the light, from my dad, even from Terry . . . and I could see you. You were so far away, down this long, dark hallway, but you were runnin' faster than I'd ever seen you move. You were trying to catch me. To stop me. I turned back to Dad and asked, 'Can we wait up for Hutch?' And Dad said, 'No. He's not coming with us. Not yet.' Terry looked at me and just shook her head, then blew me a kiss and walked away. I looked back at you, still so far away. And I saw all that fear on your face. An' all I wanted to do was wipe it away. Make you smile. See the light in your beautiful face. So, I told Dad, 'I can't come now. Not without Hutch.'"

      Hutch realized Starsky only remembered this now, that the drug had freed this memory of his near-death experience. He'd always insisted he couldn't recall anything once he'd been shot. Hutch remembered sliding to a stop in front of the glass window outside Starsky's ICU just as the doctor exited and said, in amazement, "He's alive. Still not out of it, but I'll be damned if he isn't alive!"

      It had been the most terrifying moment of Hutch's life. He touched Starsky's cheek, fingertips grazing the familiar mole as if trying to ensure his reality. "How could I let you go then? How can I now? You're half of me."

      "Time to put flesh to this marriage," Starsky said. He was sober, serious, and hungry.

      "No," he said plaintively. He thought of little boys in Brooklyn beating up a curly-headed kid. Thought of Russo. Thought of the morning. "This isn't us, partner. I wish it was, but it's not. Starsk, we've been drugged—"

      "Fuck that!" he said angrily. "Think I don't know that? Think I care? I want you, Hutch. Not a pair of pretty women we pick up for a couple of hours to take the edge off. That's all it ever does. I want the real thing, and I want it now. Red meat. No—blond meat. Yours."

      Hutch tried to look away from the fierce expression on Starsky's face, but Starsky squeezed his cock so hard, he didn't dare.

      "You're mine," Starsky told him clearly. "I'm yours. You pulled me back from death. That makes you responsible for my life. And I guess I earned the right to be responsible for yours a time or two. We belong to each other. Now, I'm takin' what's mine."

      As Starsky's mouth claimed him again, Hutch trembled, wondering how a man in as much control of his life as he was had suddenly become so passive. Starsky's aggression made him shake, but he loved it, even as their tongues battled furiously in a wonderful, wet war. Hutch heard himself gasping, sighing, making sounds of passion he'd never made before, feeling things he'd never felt before. How many people ever got this lucky? How many would be prepared to pay the price they might have to pay tomorrow?

      If he didn't stop thinking about tomorrow, he'd never get through this. Maybe they'd wake up and it would all be just a sweet wet dream that they could get sheepish about when they changed the sheets. Then Starsky's hand slid inside his briefs, and any notion about dreams dissolved.

      "Oh, damn!" Hutch cried out, shocked at the effect of that bare-handed grip. "My God!"

      "Takes two hands for alla' that, Hutch," Starsky said, grinning, fondling him, getting his feel. "Or maybe a hand and a mouth."

      "No! Starsk, don't!" he begged, digging a hand into his thick curls. He hung on roughly to Starsky's descending head. "Just—kiss me. Touch me. It'll be enough."

      "You always ask for so little," Starsky said softly, his eyes sad. "I want this. Want you."

      How much of me? Hutch thought, rattled. My body? My heart? My soul? But Starsky had owned those for years. If he were going to add Hutch's ass to the list it seemed a small enough matter.

      Starsky slowed down as if to ease Hutch's worries, and planted gentle kisses against the corners of his mouth, his chin, his cheek. He kissed Hutch's eyelids, his brows, then nuzzled his ears. His tenderness made Hutch crazy, as crazy as Starsky's aggression had. Before he could catch his breath, Hutch found his own hands fumbling with Starsky's tight, straining zipper. Once he unlocked the tab, the zipper parted on its own with a squeal.

      "Touch me, Hutch?" Starsky asked plaintively, still sounding like a ten-year-old.

      "All you had to do was ask," Hutch assured him. He slid his hand inside the jeans and under the briefs to stroke that beautiful round ass. The cheeks fit in his palms, warm and smooth and pliant. It made the blood roar in his ears.

      "It's yours if you want," Starsky said, smiling. "I want yours so bad it hurts."

      Hutch shook his head. How much thought had Starsky put into this? "One step at a time. We just got here." He couldn't believe how good his best friend's ass felt. "Can we get these pants off?"

      Starsky snickered and rolled away from Hutch, hitching off his tight jeans and tossing them over the side. Hutch discarded his briefs and rolled back to be captured by his partner, now completely nude, erect, and ravenous for him. Starsky's pelt rubbed against his bare skin as Starsky gathered him up in his arms and hauled him close. They rolled around in the big bed, watching their erotic dance in the mirror. Their mouths locked together, legs wedging between one another, and finally a heavy, dark shaft bumped against a long, fair one, creating a sizzling current.

      When the curly head descended again, Hutch knew he'd be helpless to stop his partner this time. He'd run out of arguments. Starsky's mouth was too good as he licked a slick trail down Hutch's neck, over his chest, until he surrounded a small, copper nipple in a wet, hot furnace. Hutch arched, moaning as Starsky's mouth sucked, nursing at the tense, sensitive aureole. Hutch buried both hands in the thick lion's mane of curls and rode the pleasure out, going weak inside. Starsky worked on that nipple until it was raw, as if he'd never had one before, as if it were a rare and lovely prize. He lapped the sensitized flesh, nipped it when Hutch wasn't expecting him to, then kissed it when he'd hurt it too much, alternating pain and pleasure until Hutch was gasping, sighing, crying out his name like a mantra. "Starsky. Starsky. Starsky!"

      When Hutch thought he couldn't take anymore, that wonderful warm mouth trailed over to the other nipple and started the process all over again. By this time, Hutch was humping like a dog against his lover's hip, and Starsky encouraged him, as if he wanted his partner razor-sharp, so wired he couldn't think, couldn't object, couldn't defend. Hutch's head tossed on the pillow as he pulled Starsky's hair, clawed his back, arched his hips. Starsky's head moved lower, licking and nipping Hutch's abdomen, drilling a hot, wet tongue into his navel, placing a bruising hickey on the soft skin beside it.

      Hutch was cursing now, nearly sobbing. "What are you doing? Goddamn you!"

      Starsky only chuckled and inched lower. Those talented lips kissed the juncture of Hutch's leg and groin, then Starsky's tongue ran over the inner skin of Hutch's thigh, then licked the underside of his knee. Hutch lost his grip on the thick, dark hair and had to content himself with clutching the sheets and staring wildly at his own sprawled, spread-eagled image in the mirror. Starsky was on his knees torturing Hutch, leaning over his body so that his spine arched in a bow. Even in the mirror, Hutch could see the scars on Starsky's back, the exit wounds.

      "Damn! You're blond all over," Starsky said, as he rubbed his scratchy cheek against the downy hairs on Hutch's thighs.

      "You've seen me a thousand times, Starsk," Hutch reminded him. "It's nothing new."

      "Seein' it different, now," Starsky said, his voice low. His tone made Hutch shiver.

      Then his warm breath blew over Hutch's bobbing, furious erection. He gasped and tried to remember where he was, who he was with, what his insane lover might do next. Would he—? Had he ever—? Hutch couldn't complete a thought.

      "Blond all over," Starsky purred, staring at the pulsing flesh, so different from his. Hutch's cock was bright red, angry looking, while Starsky's was a dark, dusky color. Starsky was cut, like any good Jewish boy, while Hutch was intact. The fine hair clustered at the base of Hutch's erection was sandy-colored, soft and fine, nearly straight. Starsky's groin hair was thick, dark, coarse and curly.

      Hutch watched Starsky examine their differences. "Blond meat. All for me." His blue eyes were shadowed as he looked at Hutch. "All mine. Got that? I mean it, Hutch. You're mine."

      The possessive words were a shock running up Hutch's spine. Starsky couldn't mean that. He'd be sober in the morning, and probably wouldn't even recall saying it. But right now he damn well meant it and Hutch knew that.

      "Answer me," Starsky demanded, when Hutch remained quiet. "Is it? Is it mine?"

      He's serious, Hutch realized. They were just getting deeper and deeper. But the demand came out of a deep well of insecurity, and it cut his heart out to think his partner wasn't sure of him.

      He ran the back of his hand over Starsky's cheek. "There's no one else. There never will be. Just me and thee. Like it's always been. I'm yours." But how much longer will you want me? Tonight? Tomorrow?

      Then Starsky bent his head and Hutch froze, realizing they were on the cusp of something amazing. He watched, mesmerized, as Starsky pulled his foreskin down, then ran his tongue wetly around his crown. The sensation was electric, so startling and pure all Hutch could do was gasp, and wait for Starsky to do it again. Which he did. And again. And again. Until Hutch was staring and sighing in disbelief, as his partner laved this intimate part of him.

      "Oh, Starsk—!" he breathed, loving every beautiful second of it. He didn't dare move, for fear he'd break the mood. He was wracked with sensation as jolt after jolt of incredible pleasure raced down his legs, up his spine, until he thought he couldn't breathe. He touched Starsky's beautiful face, stroked his brow, petted his cheek, then ran his thumb over his lower lip, right where his full mouth rested against Hutch's crown. As he did, Starsky's heavy-lidded cerulean eyes examined his face, searching for the pleasure there. As he gauged Hutch's reaction, Starsky opened his mouth wide and deliberately took Hutch's cock deep inside.

      Impulsively, Hutch buried his hands in the thick curly hair. He ordered himself not to pull, not to push, not to try to control Starsky's head, but the drug wouldn't let him listen, and he did just that, forcing his lover to take more, more. He couldn't help it. He moaned, his head tossing back and forth on the pillow, his body thrashing, alive with the most intense sexual pleasure he could ever remember. From Starsky. His male partner. From Starsky's mouth.

      Starsky's tongue and lips never stopped giving, licking, loving. Hutch thought he would die from the beauty of it. Starsky kept delighting him, taking his hypersensitive organ deeper inside, then lapping its length, using his hand to excite what his mouth couldn't handle.

      Hutch finally remembered Starsky's plaintive plea for Hutch's touch. He'd been acting like the kind of woman he despised in bed, the beautiful ones who would give him carte blanche while contributing nothing but their presence. It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but Hutch forced himself to slide around in the bed, and finally got Starsky to release him.

      "Did I hurt you?" Starsky asked worriedly, even as he licked his lips as if still tasting Hutch. His eyes never left Hutch's face.

      "Hurt me?" Hutch said. "You were killing me. Destroying me. But hurt me—? You'd never do that." He smiled, and Starsky's face lit up. "Think all I wanna do is just lay there?"

      "Don't'cha just?" Starsky said naughtily, and moved to capture Hutch's shaft again.

      He scooted out of the way. "You wanted me to touch you. Change your mind?" He was startled to see Starsky shudder at the suggestion. Could Starsky really want him that much?

      "No," Starsky said, his voice husky. "But—only if you want to."

      "Want to?" Hutch had to chuckle. A sexually shy Starsky would be something new. "Think it's time you stopped assuming the lead in this scene. Just 'cause you taught me to dance, doesn't mean you need to teach me this." He moved quickly, before Starsky could react. Taking Starsky's shoulders, he pushed him onto his back, covering him with his larger frame. Let's see how you like being overwhelmed, lover. His mouth possessed the parted lips beneath him, his tongue piercing, claiming, fighting to steal Starsky's breath. When he raised his head, his partner's blue eyes were wide and a little scared. That pleased Hutch.

      "Damn!" Starsky breathed, but Hutch didn't want him to have time to think. He found an ear buried under thick curls and tongued it, found the lobe, caught it between his teeth. Starsky went rigid against him, his eyes rolling up in shocked delight. "Hutch!"

      He nipped the lobe hard, felt Starsky's whole body buck, and chuckled wickedly. This was fun. He released the ear, moved down the throat, licking then nipping. A bit of pleasure, a touch of pain, then pleasure again. Starsky was as rigid as a board, complaining, moaning, trying to escape. Hutch rolled on top of him, caught his wrists, and pinned them to the bed.

      Starsky panicked a little. "Hutch! Hutch!"

      He laughed as he left a trail of small bites over Starsky's neck and shoulders. Damn, the man tasted good. Felt good beneath him. Felt right. His partner. His lover.

      'Til tomorrow.

      Hutch wouldn't think about that, couldn't think about that. They could hide behind the drug, blame it on that. He didn't care. He wanted this man, the promise of his body, his mouth, and his beautiful hands. He nuzzled lower, not releasing the struggling wrists. Hutch's swollen organ pressed against Starsky's spread thighs and he rubbed it against him flagrantly, craving the contact. Starsky's double handful of manhood sat like a burning log between their bodies. It felt good there, pulsing, dripping hot liquid from the pleasure Hutch was giving him.

      Then Hutch's nose brushed through the dark hair covering Starsky's chest and bumped against the highest scar. Both of them froze. Their eyes met and Hutch felt a chill. None of this would've happened but for that.

      Hutch saw it all again and wished he didn't—the police car coming toward them; his sensing something wrong; the gun coming out the window; Starsky with his back to the shooter, turning, reaching for his gun, but not fast enough; Hutch screaming his name again and again—and getting no answer. He saw again with perfect clarity the shattered glass of the Torino covering everything like diamonds, the dark stain of Starsky's blood pouring onto the macadam, his partner's head nestled into the tire as if he were resting. The line of shots riddled across the back of the brown leather jacket.

      "It's just a scar, Hutch," Starsky said.

      "No. Not just a scar," Hutch whispered, and bent to kiss it with all the gentleness he could. As he pressed his lips against the fur-covered ridge, he released Starsky's wrists. Starsky's hands cupped his head, tangling his fingers in the long blond strands. Hutch's head moved lower, kissing the next scar, then touching it with his tongue.

      "When I called Dobey, and he told me to get back to the hospital—I thought—I just thought," Hutch began, having no idea what he was trying to say, "if I could just get to the hospital in time, I'd have one last chance to see you, be with you, before you left me. They kept telling me there was so much damage, there was only a slim chance you'd survive. Huggy and Dobey insisted that there was still a chance. But I—I didn't believe it. I'd already lost you in my mind. I was already—planning to join you. Soon as I got the ones who'd killed you. I was shutting down. I couldn't have stayed behind without you, Starsk."

      "It's okay," Starsky whispered, his eyes glittering. He stroked Hutch's face.

      "I had to get there," Hutch continued, not hearing him, "to say goodbye. I just wanted you to live long enough—to let me say goodbye."

      "Just goodbye?" Starsky said, clearly disbelieving him.

      Hutch shook his head. "No. Not just goodbye. Wanted to say—to tell you—"

      Starsky touched Hutch's mustached mouth with his fingertips. "I know what you wanted to tell me. I know."

      They'd said it to each other so many times, why was it sitting like a stone in Hutch's throat now? Because it wasn't quite the same anymore, was it? I love you, Starsk. And you love me. A thousand times, a thousand ways they'd said it over the years. But never like this.

      Then Starsky pulled it into the light. "Tell me now. The way you wanted to then."

      It fell out of his mouth so easily, Hutch knew the drug was still working in him. "I love you, Starsky. Like a mate. Like a spouse. Maybe I always have. I don't know. But the day you were shot I knew exactly how I felt. And I had no intentions of being left behind without you."

      Starsky's eyes were gleaming in the low light of the bedroom. They seemed endlessly deep and happier than Hutch could ever remember. "And I love you. In every way. Make love to me, now. Put the flesh to this marriage."

      Oh, we're gonna pay, Hutch thought miserably, suddenly terrified, half expecting lightning to strike them both dead through the mirror over the bed. We're gonna pay big. The price, what the hell will the price be for this?

      They kissed again, their need for each other ferocious, their tongues fighting, their teeth clicking in their wonderful, unique joining. The edge of one of Starsky's teeth caught Hutch's lip and they tasted blood, but just kept kissing. Then Hutch slid his mouth down Starsky's body again. He kissed and tongued the scars, then unearthed a dark nipple hiding under hair and had to restrain himself from chewing it off. Starsky groaned, thrashing.

      His teeth came down so hard on the other nipple, Starsky shouted, "Shit! Hutch!" and pulled his hair hard, but even that felt good. Hutch bit the rippled stomach he'd helped shape, got hair caught in his teeth and laughed at that.

      Sliding his hands under Starsky's ass, Hutch grabbed both cheeks, stroking the plush flesh. He bit the tight skin over Starsky's hips, rode the flailing body as it bucked in protest. Starsky wouldn't release his head, tangling his hands deep in Hutch's long hair, but he still couldn't control his partner. Hutch's teeth found Starsky's big thigh, left a trail of nips all along its length, until Starsky was finally forced to give up his hold on Hutch's hair. Hutch kept traveling lower, aching to kiss, lick, and bite those sweet, bowed legs. He couldn't believe how easily Starsky parted them for him, leaving himself so vulnerable. Was it trust or just passion? Hutch's tongue tasted Starsky's narrow knee, and nearly got hit in the teeth by it.

      "Tickles!" Starsky protested, giggling, so Hutch anchored the leg in place and did it again, making Starsky shriek, "Quit!" Then he slid his tongue wickedly down Starsky's calf, making him moan. He'd never heard Starsk make sounds like this before, even when they had made love to women in the same room. They were delicious, throaty animal sounds, full of delight and wonder, and Hutch was making them happen.

      When he reached Starsky's feet, he ran his tongue over the top of the finely arched foot. Starsky pleaded, "Not that, Hutch. You shouldn't do that. Don't kiss my foot." He really meant it, meant he didn't deserve that kind of attention from his lover. His humility broke Hutch's heart.

      He shook his head. "Every part of you," Hutch said raggedly. "I'll kiss every part. Every inch. I love you." And gently, he pressed his lips against the ball of Starsky's foot, then his ankle, then over the joint of his big toe.

      Dark blue eyes bore into him, Starsky's expression intense. "Hutch! Hutch!" His body went rigid and he gasped, "Your mustache—tickles!" And the mood was shattered as Starsky jerked his foot away and convulsed in uncontrollable giggling.

      In an attempt to escape his mad oral attention, Starsky rolled onto his stomach and tried to crawl away, but Hutch caught him easily, laying his long body over the strange masculine curves of his lover. They wrestled clumsily, completely uncoordinated until Hutch's heavy cock fell into the deep valley of Starsky's plush ass. The sensation—the suggestion—shocked them both.

      "Go 'head," Starsky whispered without thinking about it. "Do it. I want you to."

      It was the drug talking, Hutch feared, even as his cock pulsed and nestled deeper. He feared his own desire. They'd been playing with each other too long after such an extended stretch of celibacy. The drug was probably keeping them both from orgasm, but Hutch knew if he allowed himself this pleasure, he'd be too impatient to consider Starsky's needs, never mind his pain. No. They were too stoned. And it would be too good to control.

      That he could think this clearly told Hutch the drug must have already peaked and was wearing off. Not that it mattered. Their own desire would carry them the rest of the way.

      He eased off Starsky's back, gently kissing the scars, then rolled him over so they were face-to-face. He touched Starsky's cheek with his knuckles. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever offered me. I love you for it."

      "So?" Starsky asked, and Hutch could see the glimmer of fear along with deep desire.

      "Next time. Ask me when we're sober."

      Starsky swallowed. "There may not be a next time. I don't know how I'm gonna feel tomorrow when this stuff wears off."

      "I know. Same here. But we're not ready for that. We can't squeeze a lifetime of loving into one stoned experience."

      Starsky wet his mouth and it was everything Hutch could do not to go after his tongue. "But . . . I want you."

      Hutch grinned. "God, I love hearing you say that. I'll never forget how you look at this moment, how you sound, telling me that."

      Starsky smiled and said it again. "I want you. I love you."

      They met in a slow, lazy kiss that just stoked the fire higher.

      When they pulled apart, Hutch scolded with a ragged voice, "Stop distracting me. I gotta do something."

      Starsky collapsed dramatically against the mattress, flinging his arms out, watching himself in the mirror. "I'm putty in your hands."

      "Oh, yeah?" Hutch said, smiling. He kissed his way quickly past hardened nipples and a tempting navel. "Putty, huh? Well, if that's what you are in my hands—" he moved lower, poising significantly over the pulsing, dark organ, "—what'll you be in my mouth?"

      Starsky stared at him. "What d'ya think? Lava. Runnin' to the sea."

      With a sigh, Hutch lowered his head and pressed his lips to the base of Starsky's impressive cock.

      "Oh, shit!" he swore, his body going tight as a bowstring. Hutch planted another kiss lower, on the heavy sac swollen with seed. Starsky's coarse hair tickled him, making him smile. He nuzzled the gravid sac with his nose, inhaling a scent familiar yet new—male scent, Starsky's musk. He could smell sweat, sandalwood soap, baby powder—all so familiar to him from years of sharing clothes, beds, car seats with this man. But now it was all pheromones, igniting his desire. Forcing himself to be gentle when he wanted to devour, he extended his tongue and licked the sac, sending Starsky into a frantic convulsion.

      Was it the drug that was making them so sensitive, or was it the newness of it all? Or could it be the depth of their love making everything so special, so perfect?

      He licked the sac again and Starsky went boneless with a low, throaty moan. His tongue danced over the sensitive orbs, until his tongue tip inched its way back up the heavy shaft. Starsky was clutching the bed sheets as if he might tumble off the edge. His head thrashed back and forth while the rest of his body alternated between being tense as a stone and as limp as a rag. Hutch loved having this power over this strong, capable man.

      Hutch moved his mouth along the column, licking, sucking, kissing. He didn't bite, though he wanted to. He wanted to take big chunks out of it, devour and swallow it. He wanted to make Starsky scream. He wanted to make Starsky come. Inside him. Inside his own mouth.

      It was an alien notion for most men. It amazed him when women would do it for him without being asked. And he never asked.

      He remembered the curse Russo spat at Starsky—cocksucker—the worst thing one man could call another. And he didn't care.

      He took hold of Starsky's dark flesh, making him whimper. In a moment of hesitancy, Hutch brushed his cheek against the hot crown, feeling its smooth, velvety texture. A bubble of liquid sat like thick nectar at the slit. Curiously, Hutch touched his tongue to it. It was warm, viscous, thick like honey, but almost tasteless, with a hint of bitter tang and salt. Starsky's fluid.

      "Hutch!" Starsky suddenly sat up, buried his hand in Hutch's hair. "Tell me again. Tell me there's no one else—'specially . . . no other guy. It's makin' me crazy. I gotta know you're mine."

      It was the drug, Hutch decided, making Starsky so insecure. "No, babe, no. Who else? When? Don't be crazy. I'm yours, Starsk."


      Pulling his eyes from Starsky's tormented expression, Hutch gave his lover something else to concentrate on. Taking a deep breath, he took Starsky's crown deep into his mouth.

      Starsky shuddered as Hutch, too, shivered, reacting to the heavy male mass in his mouth. There was so much of him. Was this what it had been like for Starsk? He tightened his lips, moved his tongue, tasted his lover. Starsky's cock was so hot in his mouth. He salivated, like he had over the steak, and took the cock deeper till the heavy head threatened to gag him.

      Technique, Hutchinson! He used his lips, his tongue, added some pressure, started moving his head up and down. Starsky cried out and the sound was like music. Yes! He could get good at this. He could learn to love it, if Starsky kept sounding like that. He used his hands, grasping the heavy rod, fisting it. Starsky was babbling, thrashing, losing it completely. Oh, it felt good to please someone you loved this much.

      Suddenly, Starsky moved against him, inching around, prodding him to shift his hips, until Hutch figured out what was going on. That was just before Starsky captured him, inhaled him into the furnace of his mouth, swallowed him alive. Hutch nearly screamed around the bulk in his mouth as they both picked up the pace, carrying each other along on a tide of frantic desire. They were on their sides, each at the other's groin, sucking, licking, stroking, moving like a single organism devoted to one purpose—intense, soul-wracking pleasure.

      They rode each other hard, their mouths growing raw, their hearts pounding. They'd never been such a perfect team. Hutch was dizzy, struggling for air. He'd never yearned for anything the way he did for Starsky's completion. He didn't care if he ever came as long as Starsky did.

      Suddenly, Starsky's organ swelled larger, taking Hutch by surprise. For one scary second he thought his jaw would unhinge as the flaring crown filled the back of his throat. Then Starsky's whole body went taut, he growled, and someone unleashed a fire hose. Thick, ropy, searing fluid filled Hutch's mouth, his throat, his sinuses, so suddenly he didn't have time to react. It was drink or drown, and Hutch gulped. It scalded him, the sharp bitterness of Starsky's semen burning his throat, making him shudder in surprise.

And it kept coming, a year's celibacy drowning him as Starsky pumped his essence into Hutch's mouth.

He drank until he couldn't anymore, then let it flow down his chin and over his hand. Pulling his mouth away, he coughed, gulping air, wiping his chin on Starsky's belly. For a scary moment, he thought he'd puke.

      Shuddering, he collapsed against his lover's abdomen. He realized Starsky was still working on him, pulling him to orgasm. Hutch hovered on the cusp and tried to pull away, fearing that Starsky couldn't handle it. But his partner knew him too well. His mouth and hands worked their magic. Hutch felt his orgasm travel up from the soles of his feet, into his balls and out through his cock right into Starsky's mouth. He roared, the sensation was so intense, his whole body ejaculating, pulsing again and again in the sweetest release he could remember. But, God, he'd wanted to spare Starsky this.

      Starsky wouldn't yield, taking Hutch in gulping swallows that were so erotic, Hutch spasmed again. Then Starsky was pulling on an empty bottle, so Hutch begged him to stop.

      Starsky freed him, then collapsed on his back. Rubbing a hand over his abused lips, he groaned, "Man, that was horrible!"

      Hutch had to laugh, rich laughter that shook his entire frame. "You're right about that!"

      "All those women—how do they do it?" Starsky asked the mirror. "That had all the culinary delight of snot mixed with Drain-o." Then the sparkling blue eyes glanced guiltily at him. "Nothin' personal, Hutch. I'm sure it wasn't too great for you, either. You okay?"

      Hutch couldn't stop laughing. "Better than that. And you're right—it was rough. But, I gotta tell you, partner, when you did that—it was incredible for me."

      Their eyes met from different ends of the bed, and Starsky reached out to touch Hutch's mouth. "Incredible doesn't touch it. I can't believe you did that for me."

      "So I guess that's the secret," Hutch said softly, clasping Starsky's fingers and kissing them. "I'd do it again, just to please you."

      Starsky smiled wearily, then asked, "Tonight?"

      Hutch shook his head. "No. Not tonight."

      Starsky crawled down to be close, and gathered Hutch in his arms. "Made me love you so much."

      "But will you respect me in the morning?" There was humor in his voice, but the concern was real.

      Starsky nuzzled his neck. "Oh, I'll respect you even more."

      If I could only believe that, he thought. Suddenly, morning seemed moments away.

      "Will we remember this, Hutch?" Starsky asked, sounding worried.

            "I don't know. I don't see how we can forget it, but— Won't know till we wake up."

      "Makes me not wanna sleep," Starsky muttered, his voice thick with fatigue. "Just 'member, Hutch. You're mine now. No one else. Me and thee. We'll get through this. Find the fucker who slipped us the mickey—" he giggled, "and kiss them on the mouth."

      "I chased you into death," Hutch said, feeling sleep steal over them. "Now, all I gotta do is chase you into life."

      As Starsky drifted into sleep in his arms, Hutch wondered if he could stay awake all night to keep his memories. But the narcotic hum still thrummed through him, if subdued, and the need to sleep was hypnotic. He kissed Starsky's shoulder and blinked tired eyes.

      Then he saw Gillian again.

      She was reflected in Starsky's bedroom window, against the darkness, and her image wasn't very clear. But Hutch knew it was her. She wore that same smile. She was still beautiful. He waited for her to tell him how lucky he was.

      Instead, she said, "No matter what happens, Hutch, don't forget. He really loves you. More than I ever could.  It'd be nice to be Hutch; in one lifetime you have two people love you so much."

      Hutch smiled and promised to remember. As he yielded to fatigue, he felt at ease. Starsky would always love him. Gillian promised. And Gillian wouldn't lie—would she?

Came on so fast
Whenever did I feel this fine
Oh, yeah,
On white lightning and wine
Drinking white lightning and wine
            White Lightning and Wine—Heart