Chapter 16

He swore he'd take your love away from me
He said our life was just a lie
And two faces have I
Well go ahead and let him try
      Two Faces—Bruce Springsteen

      Starsky heard the phone ring five times before someone finally answered it. "Detective Baylor!" came the slightly breathless response.

      "Just the cop I wanted to talk to," he said.

      "Well, if it isn't his royal highness," Baylor said jokingly, "who gets the cushy job while the rest of us peons have to slave in the dungeon."

      He smiled. He always regretted that he never got a chance to take Linda Baylor to bed, but there was a part of him that suspected she was way too much to handle. "Find out anything interesting from those two bozos you arrested?"

      "Only that they'll never have the stomach to watch another baseball game again," she teased. "No, really, they didn't have much to share, even when Hutch," she coughed lightly, "leaned on 'em. The only thing we did determine is that whoever hired them was a real virgin. They're the only banditos involved. And since they failed so conspicuously, it's a good bet that there won't be anyone else interested at taking pot shots at the lady no matter what they're offered. You know how fussy mechanics are these days. Very skittish about having their faces bashed in and then having to go to jail besides."

      Starsky chuckled, but felt relieved. He had some concerns about how long his and Hutch's luck could hold out.

      "So, uh," Baylor continued, "I'd say it was okay to call off the twenty-four hour guard. Unless you're just having a good time there . . . ?"

      "Jealous?" he asked, smiling.

      "Maybe. Is the chow any good?"

      Linda and he shared a love of Mexican food, the hotter the better. "Vegetarian," he said. "Without beer."

      "Fuh-get it!" she said. "The job's all yours."

      "Hey, Linda, I need to talk to Hutch."

      "Sorry. He split. There really wasn't anything else he could do here and I didn't have the heart to make him write up the reports, seeing as how he ain't even gettin' paid."

      "He go home?"

      "I guess. He didn't give me his schedule. He might've dropped by the Pits, but they're about to close soon, too."

      "I'll find him. Thanks, Linda. For everything."

      "That's okay," she said, and he could hear the grin in her voice. "Sooner or later you boys are gonna be back here, and then, oh brother, are you gonna owe me!"

      Starsky hung up the phone quietly, then moved back to the bedroom. Callahan seemed so small, sleeping soundly in the middle of her bed, covers over everything but her face, ropes of red hair spread all over the pillow. She looked like a little girl curled up after a hard day of play. Her face was peaceful and her sleep untroubled. Curled against her belly, on top of the covers, was her cat. Buddy opened one baleful eye a slit and focused on Starsky.

      Don't worry, old man. My work here is done. She's all yours tonight. I won't be back.

      He was still trying to decide exactly what it was he was going to say to Hutch, but whatever it was, he knew he had to say it tonight. It couldn't wait. He promised himself he'd be as truthful as he could. They had to find some real meeting point in their feelings, and they had to do that out of bed.

      Starsky still didn't know how he felt about Hutch or about anything, but he knew there wouldn't be any more experiments with innocent parties. Not until he understood all this better. Not until he figured it out.

      He dialed the Pits.

      "What it is?" Huggy said tersely. He sounded tired and irritable.

      "How you doin', man?" Starsky said quietly.

      There was a long pause, but finally Huggy said, "Well, you are the very last man I expected to hear from tonight. I'd like to ask after the welfare of the lady, but I'm afraid the answer might be more than I could deal with."

      "Ease up, Huggy, will ya? I'm lookin' for Hutch." Belatedly, Starsky wondered if that wasn't the worst thing he might've said.

      "You're looking for Hutch? What the hell for? I thought you had your assignment! Or should I say assignation? I saw Hutch give you the job my own self!"

      "Huggy—" Starsky pinched the bridge of his nose. He couldn't imagine what he would have to do to get back into Huggy's good graces, especially if he learned the details of this evening.

      "Hutch ain't here. If he's drowning his sorrows over you, he's found another place to do it. Which is a good thing. Because I would have had plenty to say to him if he showed up. It's one thing for you two to be playing major head games and heart games with each other. It's a whole other thing to go tossing some innocent victim into the middle of your mess."

      "She really liked the food, Hug," Starsky said, desperate to deflect his friend's anger.

      "She did, huh?" Huggy said in grudging gratitude.

      "A lot more than I did. What the hell happened to my Huggy special?"

      He could hear the evil smirk in Huggy's voice. "The last time you ate red meat from my kitchen, you turned into a savage with a weak bladder. I wasn't about to risk that knowing whose company you were in. Just accept the fact that you will never get a scrap of beef out of this establishment ever again. Besides, vegetarian fare is good for you. You'll live longer. Unhappily, I hope."

      Starsky decided Huggy was enjoying himself entirely too much. "Huggy, I need a favor."

      The silence was deafening and he could imagine his friend staring at the phone wide-eyed in shocked dismay. Finally, Huggy managed to say, "It's true what they say about you. You've got more balls than . . . ."

      "I need to find Hutch," Starsky interrupted.

      "I already told you—"

      "I need to go look for him. But . . . I don't want to leave Callahan by herself." He couldn't bear to have her wake up once again to a vacant apartment. "I thought maybe you could rustle her up a decent breakfast."

      "You think that's all it takes to heal the human heart?" Huggy said quietly. "A decent breakfast?"

      "No," Starsky said honestly. "But I think a decent breakfast served by a caring friend can go a long way to make the day brighter."

      There was another long silence. Finally, Huggy sighed. "Well, you're in luck. One of her volunteers is here. I can borrow the key from him. I'll be there by dawn. You're off the hook. For now."

      "Huggy . . . I really appreciate—"

      "Don't! Do not thank me. Just . . . don't make things any worse and maybe in a few years I'll stop bein' mad about this."

      "Deal," Starsky said and quietly hung up the phone. He checked on Callahan once more, but she hadn't budged. He'd already showered again, so he slipped his boots on his bare feet. His dark tee shirt was a casualty of their street war and would only be good for washing the car, so he put on the sleeveless undershirt that was still in semi-decent condition, then donned his jacket and shut off all the lights before quietly exiting. He felt like he was leaving something behind.

      It didn't take Starsky long to cruise past the few late night watering holes Hutch might be hiding out in. Not seeing the midget car Hutch insisted on driving at any of his usual haunts, and being unable to raise his partner on the radio, Starsky decided to stop by Venice Place just in case. He could make sure Hutch wasn't sulking in his greenhouse, and if he wasn't, take the opportunity to grab a clean tee shirt and some socks at the same time.

      He tried to frame what he would say to Hutch when he saw him, but he didn't have the slightest idea. His feelings were just as chaotic as they'd always been. Hutch was the one with the power of words. Trying to frame his emotions into some kind of order he could explain seemed an overwhelming task.

      But if he couldn't . . . he'd lose Hutch. Starsky wasn't sure what he wanted their relationship to be, but the one thing he did know was that there had to be one. He wasn't ready to consider the possibility of life without Hutch in it. He could at least admit that.

      As he drove through the dark streets of Venice, he felt that same kind of electric charge he always got before he and Hutch faced down something heavy. He was edgy, tense. He imagined Hutch in his mind, saw his face soft with caring. He'd understand Starsky's confusion. Hutch always understood him best when he didn't understand himself.

      He blinked, and the vivid dream-image that haunted him night after night was in the forefront of his mind. Hutch. In his white leathers. Tall, lean, and golden. Standing before Starsky who was dressed in black. Then slowly going to his knees. Unlacing Starsky's fly—

      NO! he ordered himself, but it was too late. He was rock hard, strangling in his pants. He grunted in pain and shifted to adjust himself. What the fuck . . . ? He rubbed his palm comfortingly over his suddenly throbbing, rigid organ. Son of a bitch! Where the fuck were you when I needed you, huh? 

      The sudden realization of just what it was that woke up his sex drive was like a cold slap. Great. You'll have a real easy time discussing your relationship with Hutch if you can't do it without throwin' a rod. You're an adult. Control yourself. Unfortunately, he was arguing with the most primitive part of himself, a part he never had had much luck controlling. The part that got him in more trouble than even his mouth.

      There weren't any parking spaces in front of Venice Place, so he pulled the Torino into a space across the street and halfway up the block. Good. The walk back should solve my problem. He left the car, adjusted himself more comfortably, and strode back up the street, spotting Hutch's Belle right in front of Venice Place, parked behind some nondescript Chevy.

      As he drew closer to the building, he saw that the lights were on in Hutch's apartment. Couldn't be better. He's home. We'll sit down, get this worked out . . . .

      He slowed as he drew abreast of the building, still across the street from it. Something flickered in the light of the apartment, as though someone were walking around. Starsky stopped, his eye caught by the activity. The window was in Hutch's bedroom. He was probably getting ready for bed.

      Then there was another flickering shadow movement, and Starsky realized there was more than one person in Hutch's place. He went still.

      Several possibilities filtered across his mind. Some cop could've driven Hutch home and stopped in for a beer. That was no problem, how much longer could they hang out? Starsky would just wait. Or maybe Hutch decided spending the night alone was a martyr trip and went out and found himself some female company. That would be more awkward. He didn't know how to feel about that, but he'd be damned if he'd interfere. After what they'd been through, Hutch was 

entitled. Starsky would just have to find another place to sleep, maybe a motel room, since he still wasn't ready to crash at his own place and—

      The shadows moved again. One of them stepped right in front of the window. It wasn't Hutch. But it was definitely a man. A very tall man. He watched the shadow as though staring at it could make it disappear. Starsky's stomach roiled, as if he'd been sucker punched in the gut. There weren't many men that tall, with that build. Starsky closed his eyes, then looked again. It was Whitelaw. He'd been a cop for too many years not to remember a prime suspect.

      A second shadow stepped forward, and this one was as familiar to Starsky as his own. Hutch moved toward Whitelaw and without hesitation, they embraced. The two men stood in the window, holding onto each other.

Starsky's heart hammered in his chest, making it hard to catch his breath. Of all the possibilities he'd considered, this one had never crossed his mind.

       What a sap you are. What a pushover. You think you would've learned something after Kira, but no. You were the one who kept telling Hutch the guy was after him. So, you just walked away and left the door open . . . .

      He should go back to the car. Go find a hotel room. Get a good night's sleep and deal with this in the morning. It was only fair. He couldn't very well expect Hutch to act like an angel when he'd gone to bed with a woman tonight.

      It was a very reasonable argument. The only problem was, Starsky wasn't listening to it. He couldn't really hear it over the sound of the blood pounding in his ears.

      As Whitelaw held Hutch in his arms, then gave him a long, passionate kiss, Starsky felt all rationale drop away. A tiny voice tried to reach him, telling him to go, to walk away, act like a civilized adult.

      But the most primal part of Starsky thought, The fuck I will. Hutch is mine!

      In a cold rage, Starsky crossed the street to Venice Place. 

      The taste of Peter's kiss was new and pleasant, and Hutch felt arousal building leisurely in his blood as their tongues toyed cautiously together. After being denied Starsky's kiss, his craving for mouth-to-mouth contact would take a long time to satisfy. He was aware of everything, the fullness of Peter's lips, the shape of his tongue as it played with his, and the unique sensation of a moustache brushing against his own. So different. But good.

      Loving this man wouldn't have the white-heat intensity that loving Starsky did, but he was glad of that. He wanted his senses about him while he was with Peter. He wanted to experience this with his awareness as well as his passion. He'd accepted the fact that he could be aroused by a man other than Starsky, and that was the most shocking discovery.

      He no longer heard the music, was no longer aware of anything but Peter's warm mouth, and his large hands that tenderly stroked his back and sides, that played with his hair. Peter wasn't rushing him. He was taking it at a leisurely, careful pace. Hutch was grateful.

      Hutch wanted to take it slow. Make out like kids. Discover the wonder of a new lover. He was beginning to think he could stand here and kiss this man for a very long time. Peter seemed more than willing to indulge him.

      They weren't rushing things below their belts either, just gently rubbing, making sure they were aware of the interest their maleness was showing in the proceedings.

      The heavy bang of the front door slamming shut sounded like a sudden gunshot. Both of them jumped apart. Hutch's heart climbed to his throat as he instinctively expected a violent attack. But as soon as he moved around the bed, he saw Starsky. This startled him even more than the sound of the slamming door.

      He approached his partner, his emotions a turmoil of betrayal and anger. "Starsky, what the hell are you doing here?" Under his leather jacket, Starsky wore only his undershirt. His hair was unruly. He clearly had showered. "We agreed— I told you—"

      Starsky wasn't wearing his blank nothing-about-this-can-affect me expression. He was furious. Sarcastically, he parroted Hutch's words at the crime scene. "'Take her home. Stay with her. Call me in the morning.'" His dark eyes moved to Hutch's side.

      Hutch turned and found Peter standing beside him, looking amazingly relaxed, hands in his pocket as though this were nothing more difficult than a town meeting. "David," he said calmly in greeting, as though they were all good friends getting together for a few beers.

      Be careful, Hutch thought. You don't know him. 

      Starsky glowered at Peter. "Pretty good view from Hutch's window, isn't it, Councilman?"

      Hutch didn't like the deadly tone in Starsky's voice, but right now he was so mad himself, he didn't care.

      "Actually," Peter said mildly, "I wasn't really paying much attention to the view."

      It was the wrong thing to say. Starsky moved aggressively toward Peter, fists clenched, but Hutch stepped in front of him, blocking his way. He had no illusions that Starsky wouldn't hit him, but he hoped he could at least slow him down.

      "Starsky," he snapped, "why did you come back here? I told you not to."

      It was enough distraction to regain Starsky's attention. "You sure did, didn't you! That was pretty slick, Hutch. Not many cops are together enough at a crime scene to set up not one, but two dates, never mind such complicated ones."

      "Starsky—!" Hutch protested wearily, but his partner was on a tear. He wondered when it would occur to Starsky that he wasn't the offended party.

      "Been here long, Councilman?" he asked Peter, but never took his eyes from Hutch's face. "Wha'd'ja do, call him from the station?"

      "Believe me, David, I haven't been here nearly as long as I would've liked!" Peter said drolly.

      "You son-of-a—" Starsky lurched forward again, fists up this time, but Hutch caught him by the upper arms and held him back.

      "Will you two cut it out!" Hutch snapped. He gave Starsky a rough shake. "And what the hell are you so mad at him for? If you've got a problem, it's with me!"

      Starsky nodded as if in agreement. "You made me think you were sending me away for my benefit. You put that head trip on me. But all along it was for you, for your own plans. And you sure couldn't have me around to make 'em happen."

      "Starsky, you are so far wrong, you're not even—"

      "Just tell me, huh?" Starsky demanded. "Was it the last kiss of the night, or just the beginning? I want to know how big a jerk I've been." He wrenched away from Hutch's grip and stood a few feet away, chest heaving with pent-up rage.

      "Oh, no you don't!" Hutch stormed after him, getting right in his face. "Don't you play the betrayed lover with me! You've been pushing me away with both hands since this started. How long did you think I would keep coming back for more? How many mornings was I supposed to wake up to your unrelenting guilt and regrets?"

      Starsky's face was a mask of outrage as he glared at Hutch. The two of them stood squared off in front of each other for a beat, and in the stillness, the record on the stereo that had been forgotten suddenly filled the silence.

      "If she can't love you the way I do," Bonnie's smoky voice sobbed, "God, I want you back again."

      As though someone had flipped a switch, Starsky exploded into action. He darted over to the hapless stereo, knocked the needle off the record, ripped it off the turntable and smashed it on the corner of the set. It shattered violently into dozens of pieces. Next, he went after the stereo itself, as Starsky flung it to the floor.

      Hutch ran over and grabbed him before he destroyed the speakers. When Starsky turned his rage on inanimate objects, he could demolish an apartment. "Stop it, damn it! Will you quit!"

      Starsky turned on him, grabbed two fistfuls of his white leather vest and nearly yanked Hutch off his feet.

      Suddenly, Peter was trying to force them apart. "Hey! Hey! Cut it out! Both of you!"

      That just gave Starsky an excuse to vent his rage on his real target. As he shifted his weight and pulled back his fist, Hutch grappled him around the waist, lifted him off his feet and swung him around. His punch narrowly missed Peter's face.

      "Starsky!" Hutch yelled.

      "Listen!" Peter's commanding voice broke through to them as they struggled. "You two can't afford a police complaint. You know damned well they'd be happy to bust you for disturbing the peace. So simmer down!"

      That seemed to get through to Starsky. He stopped wrestling with Hutch and pulled away. Yanking his jacket into place, he stood with his back to them. He and Hutch were both panting.

      "Peter," Hutch said, as he caught his breath, "I'm sorry. But you'd better go." He shot an angry glance at his partner. "I think it's pretty obvious we've got some things to clear up here."

      Starsky glowered back at him, then turned his attention to the floor. Hutch didn't kid himself. Starsky was still wound tight and likely to go off again. The next time it could be worse. He wanted Peter out of here before that happened.

      Peter glanced between them and shook his head. "I'm not leaving you alone with him. He's violent!"

      Hutch almost laughed. Truer words were never spoken. Starsky had murderous rages, and there'd been more than one occasion when the two of them had ended up fighting because of them. But it always ended in a draw. He could handle his partner. He was confident of that.

      Hutch took Peter by the arm and led him to the door. "It's okay. We'll work it out. You don't have to worry." He could see concern in Peter's eyes. "Look . . . go on home. I'll . . . I'll call you."

      Peter's jaw clenched as he looked at Starsky. His eyes met Hutch's evenly, and Hutch could see doubt in them. And loss. "Sure," he said quietly. "Call me. Let me know you're okay."

      "We'll talk," Hutch said. "I promise."

      Giving his word seemed to reassure him. Peter nodded and left quietly. Hutch locked the door behind him.

      The apartment was ominously still. Starsky continued to stand in the middle of the living room, unmoving, his back to Hutch. Hutch leaned his back against the door and looked at his partner. He was staring at Starsky's back, at the three bullet holes stitched across the dark leather. Hutch could see Starsky's white undershirt through the holes. Even though the pale scars were hidden by the shirt, Hutch could see them in his mind's eye. How long had he watched them grow from huge, hideous wounds, to smoother incision lines, to rigid scars that eventually, over time, softened and smoothed out to subtle reminders of that ordeal? How much aloe had he rubbed into them to heal them? How often had he told Starsky that women would still find him beautiful even with his marks?

      Hutch closed his eyes. He didn't want to think about that now. He didn't want to feel bad for Starsky. He wanted to hold onto his anger.

      When he'd sent Starsky to guard Kelly, he'd had no illusions as to what the consequences would be. Starsky desperately needed to prove his heterosexuality. Hutch thought he'd known how it would go. He had fully expected not to see Starsky until the next day at the Parrot. He'd expected Starsky to bear all the tell-tale signs of a particularly good conquest. Starsky would then tell Hutch he'd either be returning home or staying with Kelly. That was the only scenario Hutch had anticipated. He was willing to accept the inevitability of it. To keep Starsky's friendship, to keep their partnership, he would have to. He'd accepted all of that.

      But he'd never expected to have Starsky show up at this hour, ready for a jealous confrontation over some imagined transgression of Hutch's. To Hutch, it was surreal.

      You come back here after bedding a woman, and act like I've violated your trust because I kissed a friend? Uh-uh. You can't have it all. You can't have her, then claim me, too.

      He decided to take the offensive. "Why didn't you stay at Kelly's?"

      Starsky looked over his shoulder, as though he wanted to keep Hutch focused on the bullet holes. "Why weren't you honest with me about why you wanted me to go?"

      "I was honest with you!" Hutch stormed, coming around to face him again. "I had no plans, no romantic schemes! Grow up! Peter saw our performance on the tube. It freaked him out. He came over to—"

      "I saw what he came over for," Starsky growled.

      Hutch narrowed his eyes. "You've got a lot of damned nerve. Are you going to stand there and tell me you didn't go to bed with Kelly tonight?"

      Starsky flinched and lowered his eyes. "No. I went to bed with her."

      "Are you going to tell me you didn't kiss her? That you didn't spend as much time as you could making love to her so you could prove to yourself what a stud you still are? Now, I'm supposed to be okay about that? That you had sexual relations with a woman, not because you cared for her, but because you were trying to convince yourself that sex with me didn't really mean anything to you?"

      His honest anger seared his soul, like a cauterizing knife on a bleeding wound. If their relationship was going to end, let it be shattered like that brittle album. Let it explode like a nova.

      Hutch's voice got lower. "Obviously, you saw us in the window. Well, in that case, buddy, you saw it all. But I wasn't doing that with him to prove anything to myself about my manhood. And I wasn't doing it to prove that sex with you was meaningless. I did it because I like him and he likes me. And more importantly, he isn't afraid to admit having feelings for me. He was willing to not just kiss me, but to do it in front of the world. I wasn't just a guilt trip with him. He made me feel wanted. I haven't felt like that for a while."

      Starsky's head snapped up. "I don't make you feel wanted? Where do you get off sayin' that to me? You turn me inside out in that bed, and you know it. You take me through hoops, make me beg for it. So don't stand there and tell me I don't make you feel wanted."

      Hutch nodded. "You're right. I know you want me. But don't forget, I've seen you with other lovers. I've been in the same bed with you. I've seen that same hunger come over you for the body of the moment. And the next morning you can't get out of there fast enough, as if you gave too much of yourself away and can't handle it. But you can't get away from me in the morning, can you? Because I'm your partner."

      Starsky was shaking his head in denial. "That is not true. You can't compare it."

      Hutch felt his anger surge anew. He went back to his original question, the one thing Starsky hadn't answered yet. "Why did you come back here? I asked you for one thing, to let me deal with it on my own. But even after having had Kelly, you had to come back here. And when you saw I was with someone, why the hell didn't you go on home?"

      Starsky still wasn't looking at him. "I needed to see you. I needed to talk to you."

      Hutch ground his teeth. "To rub my nose in it? To let me know how well it went? How great it was to be with a woman again? That you were a real man again? That it was finally over between us?"

      Starsky turned to him now. Hutch could see how furious he was. Starsky's pent-up rage was so tightly bottled he was shaking. His voice was forced out between clenched teeth. "You bastard. You were in the goddamned bed with us the whole fuckin' time. Your ghost was so real we could see it. I couldn't get you outta my head, and neither could she. You think I proved I was a man tonight? That's a joke. I couldn't even get it up, not once, with a good woman like that. First time in my whole fuckin' life."

      That announcement stunned Hutch, and it showed on his face before he could stop it. He didn't think anything could come between Starsky and a sexual conquest.

      "I didn't know what to do," Starsky said, his voice breaking. "I didn't know how to feel. And where do I go when I don't know what to do? How to figure things out? I come to you. My partner, the brains of this outfit. And the minute I turned the corner onto this block I threw a rod I'm still carrying. I didn't lose it even when I saw you wrapped around another man like you found your calling."

      Hutch tried not to get too distracted by the painful revelation. But at the moment he had no idea what to say.

      "I never felt so jealous in my whole life," Starsky confessed. "I couldn't see, couldn't hear anything, it was like a red haze fell over my eyes. And all I could think was, 'He's mine. Hutch is mine.' I know I've got no right to feel that way, but it's the only feeling I've been able to really understand since—"

      "That night," Hutch interrupted. "You kept saying that the first night. You were obsessed with it. Kept asking me if I was yours. If I'd ever had any other men. I thought it was just a weird backlash from the drug. But, maybe there's more . . . ."

      "I don't remember," Starsky said plaintively. He squeezed his eyes shut as if in pain. "Can't remember none of it. God, don't you think I wish I could? You think hurting you is something I enjoy? You think none of this is hurting me?"

      Hutch felt his rage sputtering away and clung to the shreds of it. He was too upset to forgive Starsky easily. He didn't want to forgive him. He'd had enough. He tried to focus outside himself just to clear his thoughts. "After everything that had happened to her tonight, not to mention everything we've put her through, how could you walk out on Kelly? Leave her all by herself? Alone?"

      "I didn't just abandon her," Starsky argued. "I did make love to her, I won't deny that. I owed her that much. My failure didn't have to be hers, too. She felt bad enough. When I left, she was asleep." He sighed disgustedly. "For a woman jerked around by two assholes, she was doing okay. I . . . uh, asked Huggy to bring her breakfast. He said he would." He looked at Hutch defensively. "It's not like staying there with her would've made her feel any better, Hutch." He paused, and in a quieter tone said, "She was the one insisted I talk to you tonight."

      Hutch looked at him, blatantly daring him. "So go on. Talk."

      Starsky clenched his teeth then glared at him. "The whole way over here, that's all I tried to do. Figure out what to say. How to say it."

      Hutch felt a reckless need to push him. "It's a pretty simple thing to say—goodbye."

      Starsky looked pained. "That's the one thing I never wanted to say to you. Not ever. That's the only thing I knew for sure. I . . . I can't see my life without having you in it."

      "In it, how? Best friend? Partner? Illicit lover? Perverted secret sex partner? The kind you can deny during the day, but who's always there waiting for you at night? What?"

      Starsky shook his head slowly, but Hutch couldn't tell if he were rejecting the choices or denying that he could make a choice.

      Unable to resist the urge to live dangerously, Hutch approached his partner. "What made the difference, Starsky?"

      He lifted his head, looked Hutch in the eye. Starsky obviously didn't understand the question.

      "You said you couldn't get it up even though you made love to Kelly."

      Starsky looked pained and nodded his head tersely in agreement.

      "And then on the way back here, all of a sudden, you turn a corner and you're fully functional. What made the difference? In bed with a beautiful woman, you can't perform, but alone in your car . . . something happened . . . ."

      Starsky's face darkened and he turned away.

      I'm getting close. "Come on, Starsky, give me something to cling to. Were you at least thinking of me? Did the thought of coming home to me turn you on? Or was it just some stray sexual image you wandered across in the dusty file cabinets of your mind?"

      Starsky wouldn't look at him. "It was you. Thinking of you."

      That's not the whole truth. The guilty look on Starsky's face triggered something and then Hutch realized what it had to be. I should've figured it out before. "No. It wasn't really me you were thinking of. It was the dream again, wasn't it?"

      Starsky didn't move, didn't answer him.

      "You can't get away from that thing, it's making you crazy. But it's not me, Starsky, it's a fantasy. Is that the way you want me? As a fantasy lover?" He snorted humorlessly. "A dream lover. Something you can't control. That fades away in the morning light."

      Starsky squeezed his eyes shut. "I can't help my dreams, Hutch. I'd make 'em go away if I could. I came to talk to you, my partner, my best friend. I . . . I hate all this anger and confusion and bad feelings between us. I just want . . . I just want things to be like they were. When it was good between us, just you and me, with none of this crazy stuff." He swallowed hard.

      The words were out before Hutch could pull them back. "I'm not confused. I'm in love with you, Starsky. I can't make that just go away. I can accept the fact that I can't have you. But if I can't, then you've got to let me find consolation somewhere else . . . 'til I can get over you."

      The heat was back in Starsky's face. "You mean Whitelaw? You told me you didn't want him. You said you were never gonna want him or any other guy. So, what? You've changed your mind? You really want him?"

      "He wants me," Hutch insisted. "Like the song says, 'You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you can get what you need.'"

      "No!" Starsky said through clenched teeth. "You can't!"

      "Why not?" Hutch asked coldly. "Because that might mean that I swing both ways? And that's too close to being gay to make you comfortable?" He moved closer to Starsky until they were nearly nose-to-nose. Using his height advantage, he loomed over his partner. "Or is it because I belong to you and you're not sharing?"

      "Hutch!" Starsky choked out. It was a plea.

      "The truth," Hutch insisted.

      Starsky lifted his head and met Hutch's angry gaze. His expression was full of need, anger, and bewilderment. He couldn't answer, and that made Hutch angrier.

      "You branded me that first night," Hutch reminded him. "You put it right on the line. 'You're mine now, Hutch. Only mine. No one else.' You wanted to be sure there was no question about the way things would be. You wanted to 'put flesh to the marriage' of our partnership. You offered me your body, then confessed how badly you wanted mine. I was afraid to go that far, afraid of how you'd feel about it in the morning. If I'd let you have your way . . . maybe that would've been something you wouldn't have been able to forget."

      Starsky shook his head, but the denial was half-hearted.

      "Maybe you've never forgiven me for not giving in, for not going along with you. If you'd taken me that night . . . maybe it would've satisfied your need to possess me." Hutch paused, trying to put all the pieces together.

      Starsky looked panicked. "Don't!"

      Another piece fit into place. "That's what happens in the dream, isn't it?"

      "NO!" Starsky shouted, then seemed to realize how that loud denial betrayed him. He shook his head again. "No. No!"

      Hutch smiled, pleased with himself. "Oh, yeah. It's your dream. If things can't go the way you want in your own dream, where can they? Tell the truth, Starsky. You fuck me in the dream, don't you?"

      "Stop talkin' about it!" Starsky snapped out, finally finding his voice. "It's a dream, just a stupid dream. It doesn't mean anything!"

      "It's your subconscious trying to break through your thick skull!" Hutch insisted. "You can't let yourself admit what you want. You love me and want me, but you don't dare let yourself feel those things in the day. Too scary. Too real. So, instead, you fuck me in your dreams—"

      Starsky clamped his mouth shut and turned away, walking toward the door.

      There was no way Hutch was about to let him leave now. He grabbed a sleeve of his jacket and pulled him back around. Starsky avoided his gaze.

      "It's not that simple is it?" Hutch demanded. "It's not just a good, thorough fuck . . . . There's more. And it must be hot, too. Look at you. You're like a bomb about to go off. You're still hard, aren't you? From that moment in the car 'til now? That must be some scene."

      "I came here to talk. I came here to try to make sense out of what's happening to us."

      "Passion doesn't always make sense, Starsky. You of all people should know that." Hutch suddenly felt compelled to get through to him, to fight his way through Starsky's anger and get his subconscious to release his memories. He wasn't sure why he felt so driven, unless it was partly due to his own frustrated dreams: himself, perpetually alone on a darkened beach, yearning for the ocean he could never satisfy, never touch.

      He moved closer to Starsky, quickly, not giving him time to react. Grabbing the lapels of his leather jacket, he pulled him near, close enough to feel his heat. Starsky resisted.

      "You want to talk?" Hutch murmured low. "So talk. Tell me how it goes, in the dream. What I do, how I please you. Tell me that."

      Starsky's jaw worked back and forth. He tried to pull away.

      Hutch wasn't letting go. Keeping a good grip on the leather with his right hand, he slid his left down to Starsky's crotch, boldly cupping the rigid swelling there. Starsky's whole body shuddered. In reaction, he grabbed a fistful of Hutch's white leather vest.

      "Please," he whispered. "Don't, huh?"

      "There're two possible things that can happen here." Hutch said it slow so he wouldn't miss anything. "We can recreate the dream, and you'll get over it. Forget you ever had it. Or, we can recreate the dream . . . and you'll remember why you're having it."

      "Or," Starsky said, an edge of desperation in his voice, "we can stop right now, right here. Before something happens we can't take back."

      Hutch frowned. "You're that afraid of loving me?"

      "You don't get it, do you? In the dream . . . what happens in it . . . has nothing to do with love!" He was staring at Hutch, pleading with him to see the truth in his eyes. "I just . . . use you in the dream. The way I want. It's all for me. There's no love in that."

      He's still locked into that whole New York scenario. He's thirteen years old and thinking only with his balls.

      "You're wrong, partner," Hutch said. "It has everything to do with love. The love you don't want to believe in, the love you won't let yourself accept. I'm gonna prove it to you."

      "God, no . . . ." Starsky moaned.

      "Oh, yes," Hutch whispered. He realized it didn't matter what he did at this point. Starsky was so locked into his own fears, that he'd see the fulfillment of that nightmare in anything Hutch did. So, he murmured the same words he'd said to Starsky the first night they made love. The words he repeated, like a vow, the night they watched the film and faced their new reality. He wanted to make sure Starsky remembered them always. "I love you. Like a mate. Like a spouse. Like the best part of me. I'm gonna show you how much."

      Then, if you can leave me after that, I'll accept it.

      Starsky's hand locked onto Hutch's hair, and the fist hanging onto his vest tightened. He seemed desperate. He hadn't looked this upset since the morning Dobey showed them the film.

      Hutch had to wipe that expression off Starsky's face. He almost leaned forward to kiss him before remembering how Starsky felt about that. For once, Hutch thought that not kissing him might be the best idea. While Starsky had carefully showered away any evidence of his passion with Kelly, he still carried the scent of her soap, a different smell than Hutch was used to. He knew he couldn't handle kissing Starsky and run the risk of tasting her in his mouth.

      Instead, Hutch leaned forward and placed a soft kiss at the base of Starsky's throat, enjoying the thrum of Starsky's rapid heartbeat against his lips. Unfastening Starsky's jacket, Hutch slid it off his shoulders, letting it fall to the ground.

      "Hutch!" Starsky gasped, but he seemed rooted to the spot, unable to move, unable to stop what was about to happen. His expression was tense, anguished, almost fearful.

      Like in the dream? Hutch wondered. Does he see himself helpless, unable to stop me? Hutch had trouble imagining himself as a demanding succubus, a role he thought better suited to Starsky. But if that's the way Starsky saw him in the dream, then that's the way he would have to be.

      Having rid him of the jacket, Hutch moved around behind Starsky. He wasn't sure he could play the seducer under that plaintive gaze, and yet he couldn't stop. Moving up close against Starsky's back, Hutch slid his arms around his partner's body, fully expecting Starsky to bolt when he felt the reality of Hutch's erection pressing against Starsky's ass. But Starsky seemed rooted in place, unable to move, to participate, to comment. He stood still, arms hanging loose at his side, not encouraging, yet not resisting either. So Hutch's hands moved to the lacing on Starsky's leather pants.

      Slowly, from behind, Hutch untied the leather thongs and pulled them free. Starsky's erection bloomed out of his pants, rampant and furious. He had to be in genuine pain, aching from having held the erection so long. Hutch took Starsky's cock in his palm, captured it, petted it, stroked it soothingly, possessively. He knew very well how to ease its anger, make it throb with pleasure.

      As Hutch freed Starsky's cock of its confinement, Starsky's expression changed, some of the fear giving away to desire, to raw need.

      Yes, Hutch thought. You need me. Let yourself feel it. I'm going to satisfy that need like no one ever has or ever will again.

      He touched his mouth to the nape of Starsky's neck, tasting him, kissing him gently, tenderly, moving his lips along the tight cords of his throat. As he moved his lips to Starsky's shoulder, he slid his right hand under the hem of Starsky's undershirt, pulling it up to expose Starsky's broad chest, his beautifully defined torso and taut abdomen. He brushed his palm against a rigid nipple, feeling it tighten even more from the stimulation. After pushing the leather pants down enough to expose Starsky's genitals, Hutch watched his own hand continue to rub patterns of pleasure along Starsky's chest as his other hand kept stroking Starsky's cock slowly, gently, wanting to fan the ember into a blaze that would burn them both. Starsky remained completely still, only the rise and fall of his chest giving Hutch any indication of the affect he was having.

      Reluctantly, he let go of Starsky's cock in order to remove the undershirt completely. Starsky's erection seemed to pulse, nodding at him, as if beckoning Hutch for more. He ached for Starsky to give him something, anything, a word, a sigh, but it seemed as if Starsky was locked in place, as though the release of his tension might be more than he could handle.

      But Hutch had no such restrictions. He ran his hands up and down Starsky's tense arms, then moved around to face him once more. Leaning forward, Hutch kissed Starsky's chest, taking a moment to enjoy the sensation of that soft body hair against his lips. Then he kissed his way over to a small, very erect nipple, and let his tongue feel its texture and sample the flavor there. After running his lips gently over the faint ladder of scars, Hutch stopped kissing the broad chest so he could look again at

 Starsky's face. Starsky met his gaze, and grabbed hold of Hutch's white vest, gripping it like a lifeline. Now his expression was nearly panicked.

      Feeling as though he were teetering on a dangerous precipice, Hutch kept watching Starsky's face as he eased slowly to his knees.

      Starsky shook his head, looking frantic. He gripped Hutch's vest tighter, trying to pull him up from the floor. That told Hutch he was on the money.

      He knelt before Starsky and felt his own hunger surge, felt his erection come up so hard it hurt. He ignored it. His focus was totally on Starsky. "Watch me," he ordered. "Watch me please you. Watch me love you."

      The tight black leather pants still clung to Starsky's rear and legs, the silver zippers gleaming, the chrome studs highlighting the unique curve of his calves. As Starsky stood there bare-chested, his heavy cock jutting from his open fly, Hutch thought he was the most erotic thing he'd ever seen.

      When he grasped Starsky's erection at the base, Starsky lurched, overwhelmed by the sudden contact. Hutch didn't give him time to think, time to react, but fed the angry cock to his mouth. He was starving for it, so eager he was shaking. As Starsky's sculpted maleness filled him, as his tongue teased and tantalized the man he couldn't help craving, he knew with an aching certainty that he'd never feel this way about another lover again. Any act of passion he might ever share with another human being would never be more than a pale reminder of his union with Starsky.

      Starsky's body was wracked with violent shudders as soon as Hutch went down on him. Almost immediately, he released his hold on the leather vest and slid both hands into Hutch's hair. His hands were trembling as he gripped the long strands. With a ruthless need, Starsky pulled Hutch onto him, demanding more, needing everything Hutch could give him.

      Hutch gave it willingly. Relaxing his jaw, he took Starsky in deep, enduring the powerful thrusts that nearly choked him. His tongue kept working Starsky's rigid column, tracing the veins, teasing the ridge, pressing against the sweet spot beneath the head.

      Starsky cried out softly, mournfully, but when Hutch looked up he saw Starsky's indigo eyes riveted on his face. It's hot, isn't it? Watching me blow you. Watching me on my knees, a man, light compared to your dark, giving you what you most desire but can't face. No woman ever made you feel like this.

      Starsky went rigid, his hands tightening painfully in Hutch's hair as Hutch fondled his tight balls through the leather pants. Starsky gave a sharp bark of a shout and then he came, the pent-up frustration of the night erupting in a searing flood of semen. Hutch drank it eagerly, letting it fill the hunger deep inside him. 

      You couldn't give this to her, even though you wanted to. You had to save it for me. And I want it, God help me, I want it so bad.

      Hutch expected the orgasm to give Starsky some relief. But that didn't happen. His body was still bowstring tight, his trembling hadn't stopped, and his erection was still achingly hard.

      As soon as he finished coming, he pulled Hutch off his over-sensitized organ. With one hand buried in Hutch's hair and the other gripping his arm, he hauled Hutch up to his feet. Starsky was rough, hurried, and still showed that frantic urgency he'd had all night. But he didn't look panicked now.

      Hutch's own erection was strangling in his pants, but he couldn't pay attention to that. Not with Starsky's rage coming to the surface.

      "You liked doin' that to me, didn't you?" Starsky said, looking him directly in the eye.

      Hutch couldn't move his trapped head, so he smiled lazily and licked his lips. "Sucking your cock? Make no mistake. I loved it. Almost as much as you did. You belong in my mouth. In my bed. And you know it."

      Starsky's jaw clenched and he moaned a low growl. He gave Hutch a short shake. "You never did know when to shut up."

      Reckless, Hutch threw gasoline on the fire. "Don't you want to taste yourself in my mouth? I love your flavor. I love giving you head."

      "Shut up!" Starsky ordered. "You think this is a game? You think you can keep pushing me?"

      "I think you want to fuck. I think you need to."

      Starsky shoved him so hard toward the bedroom, he nearly lost his footing. As Starsky propelled him toward the brass bed, Hutch suddenly shifted, pushing his weight back, stopping them before they got to the bedroom.

      "Oh, no, we're not doing this dry because you're in a rush!" Hutch snapped.

      Starsky looked baffled.

      "Dammit, Starsky, contrary to your jealous fantasies, I've never done this before! The lotion we've been using is too thin. There's Crisco in the kitchen, over the sink. Get it."

      This seemed to confuse him more. "Crisco . . . ?"

      "Don't be dense! We need lubricant! And Crisco works."

      Understanding dawned on Starsky. "For someone who's never done it before, you sure know a hell of a lot about it," he snarled, hauling Hutch over to the kitchen so he could grab the blue and white can off the open shelf.

      "You'd be surprised what a bartender can learn in just a short time," Hutch taunted.

      "You think so, huh?" Starsky said, towing him toward the bedroom. He dropped the Crisco onto the night stand, then, as quick as a snake, grabbed the ends of Hutch's shirt and tore it open, sending buttons flying.

      As Starsky rushed to drag the shirt and vest off his arms in one quick move, Hutch thought he should try to slow this down. The determined anger on Starsky's face hadn't thawed an inch.

      "Starsky, wait," Hutch said softly, trying to cool some of that heat. "I haven't showered yet. Let's do that together before we—"

      "You didn't worry about that with Whitelaw," Starsky said, going to Hutch's waistband. "You think I care about your sweat?"

      Hutch had a jolting memory of lying in Starsky's arms, clawing at him while he was filthy, sweating profusely, trying to dry out from an enforced addiction in Huggy's upstairs room. No, Starsky wouldn't be the least bit fazed by a little hard-earned sweat.

      As Starsky pulled the zipper of Hutch's leather pants down, Hutch ran his hands over Starsky's bare back to soothe his urgency, but he was beyond that. He shoved Hutch onto the bed at the same time he yanked his white pants and underwear down around his thighs.

      Hutch's cock surged at the sudden freedom, and the tension of Starsky's enraged desire was making him incredibly hot. As Hutch reached for his own erection, wanting to soothe it with a gentle stroke, Starsky knocked his hand away, and instead took hold of Hutch's sensitive flesh with a punishing grip.

      The sensation of his warm palm and the tightness of his hold drove Hutch wild and he arched up. "Starsky!" he cried, gripping the bedspread.

      "Yeah," Starsky said, his voice rough, "don't forget who you're with!"

      As quickly as he'd captured him, Starsky released him. But before Hutch could react, Starsky pushed him further onto the bed, then flipped him over onto his stomach. He pulled the white pants down past Hutch's knees.

      Expecting Starsky to strip the pants the rest of the way off and remove his boots, he felt his first surge of alarm when Starsky, still semi-clad himself, clambered onto the bed behind him. Hutch looked over his shoulder, saw Starsky freeing his own cock and balls from the leather pants and reaching for the Crisco.

      "Starsk! Hold it . . . !" He'd thought once he had Starsky in bed, he'd be able to seduce him, satisfy him with a long, slow loving, the way he'd done every other night. He'd never seen Starsky like this before, didn't think he could be this rough in bed. He'd always been a man to take his pleasure languidly, and who was just as concerned with his partner's pleasure as his own. Suddenly, Hutch didn't know this stranger.

      "You wanted the Crisco," Starsky said abruptly, "I got it. What else?"

      "Starsky, come on, this isn't like you. Slow down. You don't have to rush me like this."

      Starsky's eyes met his. They were nearly black with need, dark with all the passions tormenting him. "You wanted to do the dream, Hutch. This is it."

      That hadn't occurred to him. He imagined that he'd been in control during the dream. Thought that was why it upset Starsky so much. That Hutch lured him into the act. Made him do it. He would've never imagined Starsky to be this out of control in his own dream.

      This was your idea, hotshot. Get ready to take it like a man.

      The pants wrapped around his calves were like leg irons as Starsky climbed between them. Starsky's own dark leathers were still on, with his fly open wide enough to allow his genitals complete freedom.

      Is this why the dream always upset you? Because you took what you wanted? Because you forced me?

      Behind him, Starsky put the can back on the nightstand, then reached under Hutch with a slick hand. He grabbed Hutch's cock again and the wild sensation of the cool shortening against his heated erection brought him up on his knees. He hissed as Starsky stroked him, his hold slippery and strong. As apprehensive as Hutch was about what was happening between them, he couldn't escape the raw pleasure Starsky was giving him. He stroked Hutch hard, held him tight, pumping him evenly, forcing his excitement.

      "Starsk! Oh, God, Starsk!" he gasped out, involuntarily surging into the stroke, feeling himself falling out of control, plummeting into the same frantic desire Starsky had to be feeling. His legs trembled, but he kept himself elevated on his knees, wanting Starsky to have all the freedom he needed to make him insane.

      "You like this?" Starsky demanded. "My hand on you? Is it making you hard? Making you hot?"

      Hutch couldn't hold back his groan of pleasure. "It's always good with you," he gasped, knowing exactly what Starsky didn't want to hear. "You hold me just right. Stroke me like an expert. You're so good at this . . . ."

      Starsky's hand tightened so hard around his cock that for a moment Hutch couldn't breathe, then he eased up again and continued pumping him smooth and steady. Hutch was almost dizzy he was needing this so much.

      Starsky reached and fumbled with something, then he was back, barely missing a stroke. Hutch could hear his panting and knew he was incredibly excited. That pleased him so much he didn't care what might happen. Until a slippery finger stroked up and down the crevasse of his ass. He shuddered under that touch as it found his anus. Starsky rubbed a cool dab of Crisco around it carefully, and then, less carefully, inserted a digit in up to the knuckle.

      He lurched forward instinctively to escape the penetration, but Starsky's unforgiving grip on his cock didn't allow him maneuvering room. He tried to stifle his cry of surprise, but couldn't. Then the finger moved inside him, slowly at first then more forcefully, in and out, getting him used to the idea. He couldn't help resisting it, his body's reactions were largely out of control. Starsky just kept working his cock, rubbing and sliding against his overheated hard-on, and soon Hutch's ass relaxed. The finger taking him moved harder, deeper, making him open for it.

      Starsky twisted his hand, and suddenly, his fingertip stroked something inside Hutch. His whole body lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, jeezus!" It was electric, incandescent, and Hutch jerked away, needing to escape the incredible intensity of it. But Starsky wouldn't let him. He had him trapped between his cock and his ass. Hutch grabbed the brass bars of the bedstead and moaned, clutching it like a lifeline.

      Starsky lay across his back until his mouth was next to his ear. "You'd be surprised what a bouncer can learn in just a short time," he hissed.

      Hutch squeezed his eyes shut, knowing things were not going to go the way he'd imagined. He'd lost all control of this situation. And the worst thing about that was his lack of control only added to the frighteningly pleasurable sensations rocketing through him.

      "Starsky! Starsky!" he cried out, asking for something, but he didn't know what.

      "Keep sayin' my name," Starsky growled. "Make sure you don't forget who I am."

      The digit left him with shocking suddenness, but before Hutch could recover and catch his breath, it was back with more lube, and a friend.

      Starsky's two fingers pierced him like an arrow and he shouted, trembling wildly. The invading fingertips zeroed in on his prostate and he nearly came when they stroked it. But Starsky's hand tightened down on his erection, the same way Hutch had held him the other night to slow down his orgasm. He felt sweat break out all over his body as Starsky finger-fucked him into a mind-numbing pleasure. He could hear himself making low groans of delight against the brass bars he now clutched with all his strength. He wondered distantly if a man could die from too much pleasure as his heart drummed frantically in his chest.

      "You like it, huh?" Starsky asked through his own panting. "Say it, Hutch. Tell me you like it."

      "Starsky!" Hutch cried out. The sexual onslaught was drowning him. He could barely catch his breath.

      "Say it! I need to hear it, Hutch. I need to know."

      He could hear an edge of pleading in Starsky's demands and struggled to give him what he wanted. It was his dream, and Hutch had promised to fulfill it. "Your hands! Oh, God, your hands . . . you're making me love it. The way you're handling me . . . damn!"

      Starsky rotated his fingers, making Hutch want to leap out of his skin. He did it again, then forced a third finger in. Hutch grunted, the inescapable truth of where this journey was going filling him with sudden fear. He fought it, not wanting it to affect what was about to happen. This is Starsky. My partner. My lover. The only lover I want . . . .

      He tried to gather his fraying wits. Starsky kept demanding vocal assurances. He remembered Starsky's reaction when he went down on him. He'd wanted Hutch to tell him that he'd liked it, that he'd wanted to do it. He remembered Starsky's tortured expression when he insisted he loved blowing him.

      He doesn't want to rape me, Hutch realized. He wants me to want it. He wants me to offer it to him . . . because I want to. That's the part that bothers him the most in the dream. That I could want to. That I could really like it.

      It would be easy to tell Starsky the truth. Maybe if Hutch was honest, it would break through that black curtain around Starsky's memories. Maybe it would free the love Starsky felt for him.

      He sucked in air desperately. "Starsky. Baby . . . come on . . . I'm climbing the wall for you. Quit teasing me, dammit." He looked over his shoulder, saw the intense expression on Starsky's face. He bit his lip, unsure for a moment if he could get the words out. "Go on! Fuck me, damn you. I need you . . . !"

      Starsky squeezed his eyes shut as if he'd been shot. He bent over Hutch, touching his forehead to his spine. "I want you so bad," he groaned, sounding like a man in pain, "Been wantin' you . . . . Don't ever think I don't want you. No matter what happens . . . don't ever think that."

      Then he rose up over Hutch. Quickly, as though he simply couldn't wait another second, he removed his hand from Hutch's ass, and instantly replaced it with his warm, slick cock.

      Reality crashed in. He's really going to do this! Hutch thought with a fight-or-flight reaction he couldn't suppress. Starsky's going to—

      Over-stimulated, hyper from everything they'd been through, Hutch reacted on pure instinct. He surged away from Starsky's advance, trying to escape his grip. Starsky responded with a predatory need to pursue. The two of them lurched across the bed together, as Starsky clung to him tenaciously. Hutch used the brass bedstead to pull himself up with the sheer power in his arms. As he knelt upright, clutching the metal framework, Starsky impaled him with one forceful lunge.

      The shock of that sudden, stunning entry stopped Hutch cold. He cried out and flung his head back. It came to rest on Starsky's shoulder. Starsky gathered Hutch tightly to him, his chest pressed against Hutch's spine, his groin pressed against Hutch's rear, his left hand holding Hutch's cock painfully tight.

      "Don't move," Starsky gasped. "Just breathe."

      Hutch saw stars spangling behind his eyes as his body fought the ruthless invader. But there wasn't just pain. He expected pain, he could've handled just pain. It was the searing pleasure of Starsky's glans pressing against his sensitized prostate that nearly made him pass out.

      I need to come! Oh, please, God, let me come!

      But Starsky's grip on his cock made that impossible.

      "Breathe, Hutch!" Starsky said, sounding angry. "Breathe, dammit!"

      Hutch forced himself to obey, sucking in a lungful of air. Then he realized that the body supporting him was trembling.

      He's losing it. It's too good for him. To his own amazement, Hutch started to smile. He likes it too much, fucking me, and that's making him crazy.

      "You like being in there, don't you?" he whispered against the side of Starsky's face. "You like fucking me. Now you tell me. Give me that much."

      Starsky shook his head mournfully and wouldn't look at him. But he said quietly, "Can't believe this . . . . So good with you. Every time . . . ."

      The excruciating spasm in Hutch's ass suddenly surrendered, and his lower body relaxed. The presence of Starsky's cock inside him was no longer painful, just tantalizing.

      "Go on," Hutch told him. "Put your mark on me. Make me yours. I want you to. Starsky . . . be my lover . . . fuck me . . . ."

      Starsky moaned throatily behind him and shivered violently. But he did as he was told. As he pumped up into his body, Hutch was stunned to realize he wasn't all the way in yet. He hung onto the metal bedstead as tightly as Starsky hung on to him, until he was fully sheathed. It was an amazing sensation. The stimulation to his prostate was relentless, so overwhelming that he didn't think he could take much more. Having broken down Hutch's resistance, Starsky started fucking more strongly, pumping deeper, harder, steadily taking what he needed. When he combined his powerful penetration with a matching stroke from his hand, Hutch could do nothing but yield.

      He'd never felt helpless in bed before, not even that first night. He'd always felt that as lovers, they were equally matched, just as they'd always been in their partnership. He couldn't say that now. Hutch couldn't move. Impaled by Starsky's cock, kept in place by his controlling hand and the force of his compelling passion, all Hutch could do was cling to the support of the brass bars and the sturdy body behind him. His eyes were open but he couldn't see. All he could experience were the sensations within and without his body. Dimly, he thought, if this is what women had to experience every time they went to bed with a man, he wondered how they endured it.

      "Starsky, please," he gasped, "let me come. I need to come so bad." It occurred to him that he'd willingly given up any control he might've had over his own orgasm. He accepted the fact that he wasn't his own man anymore. It was fact. He wouldn't argue. He needed to come.

      "Not yet," Starsky ordered. "I'll tell you when."

      The words rocked Hutch, but only resulted in heightened sensation, something he'd thought impossible a moment ago. To his dismay, his body obeyed the order, even as his need for release surged.

      Starsky pressed his mouth against Hutch's ear. "You're mine now, Hutch. You belong to me. No one else. Only me."

      Hutch nodded, in complete agreement. No one had ever made him feel half of what he was experiencing now. No one had ever taken him and made him love it. It was unthinkable that he'd ever let anyone else ever try. "Yours," he gasped. "Only yours. Starsky, please . . . ."

      "Soon," he promised. "Not yet."

      He wanted to weep and felt a sob escape before he could stop it.

      "You make my cock so hard, Hutch," Starsky whispered, as if it were a secret they were sharing. "Never felt like this before. You did that to me. Like you always do. There'll never be anyone else for me. I'm yours. Remember that. No matter what happens."

      Hutch gasped as the promised vow ripped through him, tearing into his heart. Oh, God, Starsky. Say you love me. Please, just say it.

      "Hutch . . . ." Starsky gasped, his pumping nearly out of control. He moaned as if there were words on his lips he couldn't bear to release, then with a growl, he bit the back of Hutch's neck, then his shoulders and his back.

      Hutch had nowhere to go to escape the teeth punishing him for the pleasure he was feeling and the pleasure he was giving. He cried out even as he understood. You can't say it, can't release the truth from your own fear. Go on, then, hurt me because I love you. Anything you do to me now is pure pleasure anyway.

      Then Starsky's mouth gentled and he kissed the stinging wounds he'd inflicted. "Hutch . . . ." he whispered plaintively. "Oh, God, Hutch . . . ."

      Hutch's eyes widened as he felt Starsky swell inside. He'll tear me apart!

      Starsky's mouth moved to his ear as Starsky eased the pressure on Hutch's cock. "Come for me, Hutch. Come for me and take me with you."

      Hutch's obedience was instant. He groaned low as he erupted powerfully, jetting against the brass bars and the wall behind it, splattering everywhere. His body tightened with every spasm, milking Starsky's cock with powerful contractions.

      Starsky laid his forehead against Hutch's shoulder and tried to smother a long cry. He sounded like a man in pain, a man who couldn't bear the joy this was bringing him. The sound broke Hutch's heart.

      The orgasm seemed to take so long, but finally Hutch stopped baptizing the wall, and the convulsive rocking behind him slowed and then stopped.

      Hutch's legs felt like rubber, shaking hard, and he wondered how much longer they could hold him in this kneeling position. He wondered, too, if he'd have to pry his hands away from the bars he clung to.

      Starsky didn't move and Hutch was grateful. If he pulled out too quickly, it would hurt like hell. Also, he couldn't bear the thought of separating, afraid of what would happen once they did.

      Starsky released Hutch's shrinking cock and wrapped both arms around him to support him. Hutch wasn't sure how he had the strength to do that, but he wasn't about to complain. Starsky's hands gently rubbed his abdomen comfortingly. It felt good to lie against him like this, feeling warm and safe and more satisfied than he'd ever been in his life. For a few moments, the two of them stayed that way, enjoying the afterglow and holding each other close to their hearts.

      Suddenly, Hutch became aware that Starsky was still trembling. His arms tightened around him, then Hutch felt a drop of warm moisture strike his back. And then another.

      Can I pretend those are tears of joy? he thought, though he knew it was a futile hope.

      Then suddenly, Starsky's organ softened and slipped away from him. It hurt a little, but the sense of separation was far more painful. Does he feel any of that, or is he relieved it's over? Hutch found he craved some reassurance.

      Starsky climbed over his legs, while still holding onto him. "Can you stay there just a minute more?" he asked, his voice soft. He was back in control of his emotions.

      "A minute, maybe," Hutch admitted. "I'm ready to collapse."

      Without comment, Starsky left the bed and went into the bathroom. A moment later, he returned with a clean towel and wet washcloth.

      "Hang on," he told Hutch, then carefully washed and dried his genitals. He was raw from the rough handling and couldn't help reacting even though Starsky was gentle. Then Starsky moved behind him and tenderly washed his ass. He struggled not to show his discomfort but he was really sore.

      Starsky held the warm cloth against his bruised anus and let it soothe. "You're bleeding," he said tightly.

      He sighed. "Virgins usually do, Starsky," he said drolly. "I've got something that'll help in the bathroom. I'll put it on later."

      Starsky nodded solemnly. When he removed the cloth, he must've been satisfied with the situation, since he carefully dried Hutch.

      "I gotta lie down," Hutch said. It was either lie down or fall down.

      "Hang on," Starsky said, and put the cloth and towel on the floor. He moved around to Hutch's feet and pulled off his boots and socks, then removed the bunched up pants from around his ankles. Wedging his shoulder under Hutch's arm, he put a strong arm around his waist, and said, "Okay, I've got you."

      Where are you getting that energy from? Hutch wondered wearily, as he released the brass bars and slung an arm around his partner. His freed legs didn't want to move, but with some coaxing they finally cooperated. Starsky pulled the bedspread away, then the sheets, so Hutch could slide under them. He sighed with gratitude when he was finally horizontal.

      Once Starsky had him carefully settled, he started to stand up and move away, but Hutch reached out, grabbed his wrist and held on. "Where are you going?"

      "In the condition I'm in . . . not very far," he answered evasively.

      "Like maybe as far as the couch?" Hutch guessed.

      Starsky looked guilty but didn't answer.

      "Come on, Starsky," Hutch said, trying hard not to sound like he was pleading. "I need you right now. Here. With me."

      Starsky seemed amazed. "You want me . . . to get in bed with you? After all that?"

      Hutch was too weary for this. "Most especially after 'all that'."

      Starsky seemed torn but finally nodded. "Let me wash up, okay? I'll be right back." It was only then that Hutch realized Starsky had laced himself into his leather pants.

      Keeping yourself safe? Hutch wondered. From me, or from yourself?

      He kept his word and in a few minutes, he returned from the bathroom and removed his pants before climbing into bed.

      Hutch moved against him, craving the comfort of his body contact. Starsky surrounded him with his arms, pulling him close, as if grateful himself. Hutch rested his head against Starsky's chest, enjoying the soothing sound of his steady heartbeat. Starsky's hands stroked Hutch's back with the same gentling touch he'd used on his abdomen after they'd orgasmed.

      Hutch was still basking in the afterglow, but he was worried, too. He knew Starsky was troubled by the ferocity of their passion. He wanted to reassure him. And he wanted to deal with his own disappointment. He knew without being told that Starsky had had no profound revelation because of their lovemaking.

      "You won't have that dream anymore, Starsky. I'm sure of it."

      Starsky's arms tightened around him. "I could have lived with that dream for a thousand nights, rather than live with the memory of how I just treated you." His voice was tight, anguished.

      Hutch leaned up on an elbow and stared into his troubled expression. "Don't regret it, Starsky, please. I don't think I could stand it if you did. It was good for me, I swear it was. Sure, it was a little rough, but we're grown, strong men. We can handle that—"

      Starsky swallowed hard. He touched Hutch's cheek. "That's right, Hutch. We're men. But I sure didn't treat you like a man just now."

      Hutch took hold of the hand caressing his cheek and pressed it to his face. "I felt like a man. A powerful man who could handle anything his lover needed. You didn't do anything to me I didn't want."

      Starsky looked pained. "I was outta control, Hutch. I couldn't have stopped if you'd begged me to. I was totally into my own need. If you'd fought me, I'd have still fucked you. That's not how lovers are supposed to treat each other. Even if they're both men."

      "You needed me," Hutch insisted. "And I needed that from you. No one's ever needed me like that. For the first time in my life . . . I feel totally fulfilled."

      Starsky looked alarmed. "If we gotta have sex like that for you to feel fulfilled—"

      Hutch smiled tenderly. "I think what happened tonight was pretty unique. I can't imagine things will go quite like that again."

      It didn't seem to help. Starsky still had that anguished look on his face. Hutch waited, knowing there was still something else he needed to reveal.

      "I still don't remember the first night," he said. "It's still just a blank spot in my brain."

      "Okay," Hutch said. "You don't remember. We'll live with it."

      Starsky shook his head as if Hutch wasn't following him. "Don't you understand? Even after . . . what we just did . . . . I . . . could never do those things for you. I couldn't even make myself kiss you, even while . . . . I can't imagine being able to go down on you, never mind—"

      "Let me fuck you," Hutch said bluntly. "Look, if that's all that's bothering you, let it go. I'm not keeping score, Starsky. Not every couple is perfectly compatible. I can live with that . . . ."

      "But I don't know if I can," Starsky said. "It's not fair. Our partnership has always been equal. We've had differences, but ultimately, things have always been fair between us. There's nothing fair about this. You're in love with me, and willing to give me everything. And I'm willing to take it. There's nothing fair about that. Even . . . even fuck buddies fuck each other. It shames me that I can offer you so little, after everything you've given me." He snorted a rueful laugh. "Weird, huh? You got fucked . . . but I'm the one who feels like less than a man."

      Hutch didn't think he could take much more rejection. "You regret it." He knew his voice sounded leaden.

      "No," Starsky said, surprising him. "How could I regret the beautiful gift you gave me—all of yourself? No one ever gave me that much, Hutch. I'll never regret that. But I regret the way I treated you."

      It was a relief. Hutch couldn't endure the thought that it had all been for nothing. He lay back down, surrounded Starsky with his arms and rested against his chest. Starsky held him close. "Don't regret it, Starsky. It made me happy. You wanted me for your own. That's what I wanted."

      He felt Starsky's body finally yield and surrender to sleep. Just before he fell completely under its spell, he whispered Hutch's name. Hutch listened for a long moment, thinking that he might have something more to say, but nothing else emerged except the sound of Starsky's steady breathing.

      Hutch knew Starsky's sleep would be untroubled and, as he settled back down against his lover, thought his would be, too.

      But when he finally yielded to rest, he found himself back on that endless beach, walking the darkened shoreline alone. The tide came close, but remained forever out of reach. At least tonight the waves were gentle, almost placid. Yet, Hutch knew if he attempted to walk into the gentle surf it would recede from him and not even wet the bottom of his bare feet.

      He paused suddenly, seeing something from the corner of his eye. A dolphin? Maybe a seal? A figure emerged from beneath the water.

      It was Starsky. He was beautiful as water dripped from his dark, tangled hair and his erect nipples. His lean, muscular torso was shadowed with soft fur that surrounded his nipples and trailed down in a dark line to the water. Hutch couldn't see his groin, which was just beneath the waves, but the partial curve of Starsky's ass that he could see was as shapely as a sculpture. Hutch's heart cried out to him, his beauty making him ache.

      Starsky did not look at Hutch, did not seem to be aware of his presence. As Hutch watched, Starsky's left hand dipped beneath the gently lapping water. His arm moved, the water rippled, and Starsky watched his own actions with total absorption.

      Hutch knew that as he stood and watched, a distant voyeur, Starsky was pleasuring himself in the surf, yielding his seed to the sea, keeping both his pleasure and his treasure for himself. Hutch wanted to go to him, put his hand, or mouth in the place of Starsky's hand and show him how much pleasure a lover could bring.

      But he knew if he tried to step into the surf, it would only recede. Starsky was as bound to the ocean as Hutch was to the shore. And he understood that while they would meet again and again on this beach, they would never share a true union.

      Starsky's hand stilled, and he loosed  his seed into the sea with an expression  of placid bliss. Hutch watched his  rapturous face as it slowly disappeared  beneath the waves. Then he turned and  continued walking alone along the  endless midnight beach.

For every new road there must be a friend
For every broken heart there must be a mend
And the rain only lasted so long
It's over, the thing we had is gone . . . .
            Tears—Bonnie Tyler