Chapter 4

We'd seen each other in a dream
Seemed like he knew me
He looked right through me, yeah
Come on home . . . 
He said with a smile
You don't have to love me . . . 
                  Magic Man—Heart

      Starsky lay in Hutch's big brass bed and stared at the ceiling. He could see the spot where smudged fingerprinting dust marked the place where a tiny camera had been hidden. He examined the spot through the stark black and white streaks of light coming in from the street lamps. How could Hutch fall asleep so quickly when all he could do was lie here and examine the ceiling? After an hour, he gave it up. Easing out of the bed, he padded into the kitchen. He poured some milk, then plopped onto the couch.

      There was too much stuff running around his brain. It felt as crowded as a New York City subway car at rush hour. All the people they knew. All the things that had happened in two short days. The bitter memories of his childhood. His confused feelings for Hutch. He wanted to pop his skull open, remove his brain, and pickle it for a few days just to give himself a break.

      Instead, he reached for the phone. He had an urge to call some women and throw a party. Maybe if Hutch woke up with an affectionate, female blonde in his bed, he'd remember where his heart and his desires really belonged and get over this foolishness. He probably should've given it up when he realized he couldn't remember a single woman's phone number. He used to pride himself on how many he could memorize. He found his wallet and dug around for his black book. The first three numbers weren't even connected, and the fourth had been given to some guy who didn't appreciate the late night call. Instead of taking the hint, in desperation he pressed on. They had dated dozens of women. Somewhere in LA there had to be a woman who would at least talk to him!

      There was. It was Cindy, one of the lovely, open-minded stewardesses he and Hutch had dated. They'd each gone out with her at some point, and had even double-dated with friends of hers. Some of those evenings had been pretty intense. Apparently, Cindy recalled them as well—but with a different slant.

      "I can't believe you had the nerve to call me!" Cindy said, in a low, angry tone. "I haven't heard a word from you in a year. I've gone out with some twisted guys, but you and your partner take the cake. It was tough enough getting one of you out without the other one before this—God knows, I should've been able to figure out your story without a calculator—but for you to call me now? You always did have more balls than sense. If you think I would be willing to cover for you again—"

      "Cindy, wait. You don't understand—"

      "I don't understand? Do you think you're the first gay guys looking to cover your relationship with window dressing? You two were notorious among the stews before I went out with you! But I figured, who cared if you were gay, or bi, or tri, or whatever! You were cute, and you were fun, and Dave, you're a hell of a lay, but there isn't a woman in this town who'll be seen with you now! It would just make her look like the biggest fool on the planet."

      "Cindy," he stammered, "let me ex—"

      "Apologize," she put in for him. "That's the only thing you can say, Dave. Just apologize, and I'll forget this call. You know, every time we double-dated with Hutch, I never felt like you were there at all. I thought it was me. I thought I wasn't fun enough, cute enough, bright enough, sexy enough. It used to depress the hell out of me. You were so wrapped up in each other, me and Hutch's date didn't even need to be there! So, don't ask me to be your cover now. No one would believe it anyway. Good night, Dave."

      And before he could say anything else, she'd hung up in his ear. With a sigh, he tossed the address book in the trash.

      When the stillness of the apartment grew too loud, and he'd read the same page of the same book for twenty minutes, he turned the TV on. Rewinding the video tape, he played it, curling up on the couch to watch it. He told himself he wanted to find more splicing spots that might have a complete code. But after watching for two hours, he could no longer see it with the objective eyes of a cop. The truth was he was watching Hutch fall in love with him. The metamorphosis was clearly visible in his open, handsome face. And the sickest thing was that it made him feel good. If he were being honest, he'd admit that it turned him on like crazy.

      He remembered talking to Peter Whitelaw in his campaign office after John Blaine's death. Starsky had tried to keep his face neutral, but Whitelaw had seen the confusion—the repugnance—in his eyes, and had nailed him on it. "When you see two men together," Whitelaw had said, "you think, 'how ugly'." And that was exactly what Starsky had been thinking.

      But now he didn't see that at all. How could he? Hutch was beautiful, radiant, and so open about his love, it was something wonderful. It made Starsky feel even dirtier. He didn't see love on his own face—just pure, unmitigated, carnal hunger. The same hunger he felt whenever some woman he'd courted finally yielded in his arms.

      His love for Hutch, his friendship for this one man above all others, had been the purest, cleanest thing in his life. That love made him feel honorable, worthy, deserving. He loved Hutch with an innocence, an honesty, that he'd never found in any other part of his life. Now he'd sullied that. And so easily, too.

      He watched the tape again. Seeing himself gulping Hutch's semen no longer made his stomach do flips. At least he'd given his friend that small pleasure. He shut off the set. This was getting him nowhere. He had so much guilt and confusion he couldn't even jerk off—usually a sure-fire sleeping cure. He wondered if he'd be able to enjoy sex with anyone ever again.

      He considered trying to sleep on the couch, but was afraid Hutch would see it as rejection. With a weary sigh, he ran his fingers through his hair, hiked up his pajama bottoms, and headed back to bed. It wasn't like they had to be anywhere first thing in the morning. He might as well lend the security of his presence to his friend and examine the ceiling some more.

      He eased back into bed as carefully as he'd left it. Hutch had been lying on his stomach, but was now curled on his side, away from Starsky. He seemed tense, his hands curled into fists.

      Gently, Starsky rubbed his back, wanting to help him relax. Bad dreams, babe? He tried not to think of the erotic, disturbing dreams that seemed to be the only kind he had anymore.

      Still sleeping, Hutch responded to his soothing touch with a sigh, then made a troubled sound in his throat. Whatever was happening in his mind still held him captive.

      Man, I know what that's like. Starsky enfolded Hutch's taut body in his arms, spooning up against his curved back. His knees fit perfectly behind Hutch's, and the comforting heat of his body was like a salve on his wounded soul. Pretending I'm helping you, when it's really the other way around. He cuddled against Hutch as he had during many nights since the shooting.

      He remembered those first weeks in the hospital. Unless he was wiped out on pain killers, he couldn't sleep at all, but he was too scared of getting addicted to them to use them much. So, Hutch would crawl into the narrow bed, rub his back, and talk about nothing until he went out. Then he'd sleep like a baby.

      He pulled Hutch tighter against him, still feeling his tension. What is it, babe? What's botherin' you—besides me. Suddenly, he became aware of Hutch's rump rubbing against him. Pushing himself up on one arm, Starsky peered at Hutch's face. His eyes were moving frantically under his lids. Dreamin' so hard. Half afraid to look, Starsky leaned over and allowed himself finally to see Hutch's groin. Hutch had kicked off the sheets and was wearing his cream, drawstring pajama bottoms. His erection tented the pajamas, straining the thin fabric. The motion of Hutch's hips was his attempt to hump. Oh, jeez! We're a little old for wet dreams, aren't we, Hutch?

      Lying back down, Starsky thought about his own condition when he'd woken up this morning, how painful it had been to come up like that, unfulfilled, yearning.

      Nine months we shared a bed, never had this problem. Neither did they miss the pleasures of women. His head hurt some more.

      He kept rubbing Hutch's back, trying to ease him out of the dream. Hutch responded to the attention, pressing back against Starsky, sighing.

      Should I wake you? I don't know what to do to help you that won't make things worse.

      It couldn't last much longer. Dreams felt as if they went on for hours, but actually they only lasted minutes. He wished he could ease Hutch's longing. Well—of course, he could—

      What am I thinking? That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

      Hutch moaned softly, his hips moving rhythmically, the dream growing more intense.

      What am I doin' to you in your dream, Hutch? The same things you do to me in mine? He shut his eyes, his head pounding.

      Hutch muttered something, and Starsky feared it was his name. Pulling Hutch's slender body against him, Starsky rubbed Hutch's arms. "Easy, boy, easy." But Hutch only ground his ass into Starsky's groin and whimpered.

      Starsky was grateful that there was a bunched-up mound of covers between his crotch and his partner's ass. After watching that film, the last thing he needed was to act it out with Hutch while he slept.

      Then Hutch latched onto one of Starsky's hands, dragging it down to his erection, pressing the palm against it. Stunned by the sudden move, Starsky pushed up on one arm again and leaned over to peer at Hutch's face, but his lids were still shut tight, his mouth open, panting, his eyes tracking back and forth. Hell, Starsky had punched people in his sleep, so Hutch's action wasn't that weird. Besides, Hutch's poor cock was so hard, it had to be aching.

      Would it kill him to help out a friend?

      I'm here for you, Hutch, just like I said. I mean it. It's not pity, either. I can't think of any other way to help you. Just, please, don't wake up!

      Lying back down and spooning up against Hutch's back, he carefully slid his left hand—the one Hutch still gripped tight—inside his partner's pajamas and grasped his erection. That made Starsky shudder, and then, to his dismay, made him go hard. The wad of covers between them would hide that, though. And this couldn't take more than a few seconds; Hutch had to be right on the edge.

      Damn, Hutch, you're so hard! So hot! And the skin of your dick's so soft—like velvet—

      Starsky tried to shut his brain off and get to business; he wasn't supposed to be taking the scenic route! He was here to help his friend, not getting off on it. He didn't need to compound his sins.

      Holding Hutch like this was little different than stroking himself. He moved his hand lightly, wishing he had lubricant, but knowing how to maximize his touch without it. Hutch moaned, tossed his head, and humped hard into his palm.

      Come on, babe, you gotta be close. Starsky pulled Hutch tighter against him, burying his nose in his soft blond strands, smelling vanilla and pure Hutch. Sliding his right arm under Hutch's waist, he rubbed his right thumb over the hickey on Hutch's stomach.

      Pre-come erupted from Hutch's slit and Starsky caught it, used it as lube as he moved his hand expertly over the straining, swelling organ.

      Damn, you're big. Bigger 'n me. Can't believe I fit that monster in my mouth!

      Hutch's body went rigid and his cock swelled harder, turning to steel, as the head flared.

      That's right, babe, come on. Give it up!

      Hutch's eyes jerked opened as he gasped and came in Starsky's hand, his cock spasming hard. He moaned softly in relief, and the sound tore through Starsky. "Starsk?" he murmured sleepily. He was still more asleep than awake.

      Oh, shit! Starsky cringed, waiting for the explosion. "Ssssh," he soothed. "Go back to sleep. You were dreaming."

      But Hutch had a death-grip on his left wrist, and his hand, sticky with semen, was still wrapped around Hutch's deflating cock.

      Hutch tensed. "Did we have another party and I slept through it? Would it be more convenient for you if I slept in the raw?"

      "Don't be mad," Starsky begged, feeling ridiculous with his hand trapped in Hutch's pajamas.

      "I'm not sure how I feel," Hutch confessed, still panting. "Wanna tell me what happened?"

      "You were having some weird dream. I've been havin' 'em, too. Maybe it's from the drug. You were thrashing around, making sounds—and you were, well

 . . . kind of excited. And I—"

      "You felt sorry for me," Hutch said coldly.

      Starsky wished he had the nerve to ask for his hand back. "Not true. I told you I've been havin' weird dreams myself. This mornin'. And at the dojo. I know what it feels like to wake up—"

      "Wanting me?" Hutch pressed.

      Starsky shut his eyes, and rested his forehead against Hutch's shoulder. "It hurt me to see you like that, knowing it was because of me. I thought I could get you through it, that you'd stay asleep and never know."

      "Just how heavy a sleeper do you think I am?" Hutch asked incredulously. He rolled onto his back, propped himself up on his elbows, and looked at the hand still buried in his pajamas. "You just gonna leave that there, Starsk, or are you waiting for a tip?"

      Realizing that Hutch had finally released him, Starsky jerked his hand away and rolled away from him, hoping Hutch wouldn't notice his own persistent arousal. "Okay, it was a bad idea." He reached for a tissue from the nightstand and cleaned his hand, keeping his back turned.

      "Your stomach okay?" Hutch asked quietly.

      "Yeah. No problem. Thanks for asking. I had good intentions. I hate to see you hurting."

      "I appreciate your 'good intentions,' but—" Hutch exhaled noisily and ran a hand through his tousled hair. "It was weird to dream about . . . us, and wake up to find it wasn't all a dream. When I woke, I thought, well, I guess I hoped—"

      "You thought I finally remembered what happened," Starsky realized. "You thought—I was lovin' you the way you want me to."

      He felt Hutch turn onto his side to face Starsky's back. Hutch propped his head on his hand and said, "Let's just say this isn't helping me get over you."

      "Guess I didn't think about that."

      "Either that," Hutch said mildly, "or you really don't want me to get over you."

      Starsky looked over his shoulder. His cock was calming down, but was still too prominent for him to roll over onto his back. "Not true. I can prove it. I made some calls after you went to sleep, tried to line us up some dates."

      Hutch raised his brows. "With women?"

      "Well, of course with women!" Starsky snapped, rolling back onto his side and refusing to look at Hutch's amused expression.

      "When are we going out? And with whom?"

      Starsky shut his eyes. "I said I tried. I didn't say it was happenin'."

      Hutch was silent for a beat, then said, "I'm sorry you had to find out that way, Starsk, but I'm not surprised. But . . . don't feel bad on my account. I'm not really interested—"

      "You said you wanted to get over this—over me!" Starsky protested.

      "No, that's not quite what I said. I said I can get over it. I'm a grown-up. I've dealt with this kind of thing before. But I never said I wanted to. I don't see anything wrong with loving you. You do. So, I'll get over it to make you comfortable. But, don't let me cramp your style, partner. If you want to go party, be my guest. I won't sit home crying into my beer."

      "Very funny," Starsky grumbled.

      "So, uh, why were you up at this hour, calling women who didn't want to talk to you? You should've been asleep, leaving me to handle my dream lovers on my own."

      Starsky shrugged. "Couldn't sleep."

      The silence between them could only be described as pregnant. Starsky realized that Hutch had a solution for his sleeplessness, but was hesitant to suggest it.

      Finally, Hutch said, "Starsk?"

      To forestall any suggestions Starsky wasn't ready to deal with, he said, "Wanna do something for me, Hutch?"

      He paused. "Anything, Starsky."

      "Remember how you used to rub my back in the hospital when I couldn't sleep? When my wounds ached? I'd fall asleep while you were in the middle of it and wake up the next day feelin' great. Would you rub my back, Hutch?"

      Starsky sensed Hutch's smile. "Sure. I can do that."

            Hutch left the bed and went to the bathroom. When he returned, he moved close to Starsky. Rolling onto his stomach, Starsky shifted to make his dwindling erection more comfortable. As he hugged his pillow, Hutch knelt and leaned over him. Hutch poured the baby oil he'd taken from the bathroom into his hands, rubbing his palms together briskly to make heat. Placing his warmed, oiled palms on Starsky's shoulders, he started a gentle rubdown. It was not a deep massage, though Hutch had given him plenty of those, too. This massage Tsuka had taught him. Hutch would tell Starsky how his chakras were out of alignment as he trailed lightly lubricated, heated fingertips over his shoulders and along his spine, tracing the path of his itchy, aching wounds as if he could pull the pain out of them. And usually, he did. The film of oil helped keep the scars soft and flexible as they healed.

       "That's nice," Starsky murmured into the pillow, as hands eased his tension.

      "Glad you like it. I enjoy doing it."

      He had a sudden insight. "Hutch . . . what I did for you . . . well, I felt kinda good doing something nice . . . for you. Like that." His tongue felt too big for his mouth.

      Hutch mulled that over, then asked, "Are you saying you enjoyed touching me?"

      Starsky closed his eyes, felt heat in his face. "I guess. Yeah. It's just—"

      "Not the way you're supposed  to feel with a guy?"

       "Well, it's not! I'm worried about us, Hutch. We're like two prisoners in this place, and—"

      Hutch's hands worked up to his neck and started over, feeling the tension surge anew. "Starsky, is that part of the problem, that prison mentality thing? Come on. We're not prisoners. Our social circle has dwindled a bit—"

       "A bit?" Starsky turned to look at him.

      Hutch pushed him back down on the bed. "Hold still." He used more oil, kneading Starsky's back more forcefully.

      "Pardon me if I'm not terribly flattered by the comparison with convict sociology. Which one of us gets to play the tough, hardened lifer or the sweet, naive fish?"

      "I didn't mean it like that," Starsky mumbled, but, in fact, that was exactly what he had meant.

      Hutch rubbed his palms together again, then cupped the scars along Starsky's back, rubbing in the oil. Starsky shut his eyes blissfully. They still itched and ached, especially when he was tense.

      "Starsk?" Hutch asked as he relaxed.

      "Mmmm?" Starsky muttered.

      "What happened when you were a kid?"

      "Lotsa things happened when I was a kid."

      "When you called Russo out," Hutch said, "then mopped the floor with him—you wanted to urinate on him right in Huggy's bar."

      Starsky's eyes snapped open. He didn't remember that. "Did I—do it?"

      "No, Huggy and I stopped you, but you really wanted to. I thought it was kind of weird, 'til you told me it was something that had happened to you when you were a kid. Why would anyone do something like that to you?"

      "I—I told you about that?" He couldn't believe he'd talked about that.

      "Starsky, what's the story?"

      He shook his head. "I—I never told any one about that. Don't make me talk about it."

      "About something that happened to you when you were a kid? Starsk, you're a grown-up. You live clear across the country from New York. What difference could it make now?"

      He could feel Hutch's surprise when he sat up abruptly and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His whole body spoke of flight. The topic had deflated his cock more effectively than cold water. "Don't ask me about that."

      Hutch sat next to him. "Oh, no, partner. You're not pulling that stuff on me. Not after what we've been through these last two days. I've got a feeling this is the key to this whole event . . . to you. To why you can't let yourself feel for me. I've got the right to ask."

      Starsky nodded. He couldn't deny that. But, dammit, he couldn't imagine talking about it.

      Hutch put his warm hands back on Starsky's shoulders. "You're all tense again." He knelt behind him and kneaded the muscles. "You don't have to look at me. Don't worry about what I'll think. But you do need to talk about this."

      Starsky had a fist-sized knot in his chest. He didn't know where to start. Staring at the floor, he concentrated on the feel of Hutch's hands. This was his partner, his best friend. If he couldn't tell Hutch who could he tell? It was old shit, water under the bridge, but still—

      "You know, I grew up in a tough neighborhood," he started lamely.

      "I know," Hutch said quietly. "That's why you're such a big, bad cop."

      "My dad was a cop, a beat cop, you knew that, too, right?"

      "Uh-huh." Hutch worked on the column of his neck where all the tension sat. He got off his knees and sat behind him, straddling Starsky's hips with his longer legs.

      Without thinking, Starsky reached down, placed a hand on Hutch's knee, as if to anchor him there. "I had a friend when I was a kid. Eddie. Tall kid. Kinda gawky. Little younger'n me." He swallowed. "Blond."

      Hutch said nothing, just kept up the massage, rubbing his shoulders and his scars.

      "I was his best friend," Starsky said, hearing the misery in his own voice. "But—it wasn't like with us, Hutch. He wasn't my best friend. I liked him, but when I hit thirteen, I wanted to fit in with the older kids. You know how that goes. And Eddie was kind of a geek. None of the guys would have much to do with him, except me. I think they must've figured what was goin' on with him—and I was too dumb to pick up on it."

      Hutch stopped for a moment. "Was he—?"

      "Yeah. I think. I guess. Anyway, he was that way about me. Gay. It took me by surprise. I was thirteen. Hadn't hit my growth yet, so I was kinda small, but my glands were in full gear. Had nothin' on my mind but sex. You know what that's like. One day . . . Eddie showed me how much he loved me. He jerked me off in this out-of-the-way spot in the park. No one had ever touched me sexually before, so it just about killed me. Next day, he went down on me. Swallowed me. I thought I was gonna faint when he did that. It didn't matter that he was another guy—it was my first sexual experience. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

      "He never asked me to touch him. I guess it was enough for him to have me. I dunno. It's not like we spent any time talkin' about it. We'd hang out, play ball, go to movies . . . then sneak off. I was the happiest kid in New York."

      "How long did that last?"

      "A year. Then my dad was killed. It changed me. I was bitter, full of anger. I took a lot of that out on Eddie. I was still tryin' to fit in with the older kids, but they let me know that as long as I hung around with Eddie, there was no place for me. I dropped him two or three times, but . . . I couldn't give it up. It was too good. All the guys ever talked about was gettin' laid or gettin' head, and I was the only one really gettin' any. He was good at it, too. He always took me back. Said he loved me. I just ignored that. Sometimes I'd say it back while he was doin' me—but it was a lie. I was just usin' him."

      Hutch's hands had slowed. Their steady progression seemed to pull the story out of him the way they used to pull pain out of his wounds.

      "I used that poor kid for my own benefit. I never gave him anything. That's the way I thought I had to be back then. To survive. After Dad died, I got worse. Eddie was just a mouth to me. He wasn't even a person anymore."

      "Then what happened?" Hutch prodded.

      "What'd'ya think? We got caught!"

      "Your mom?" Hutch asked.

      "I wish! I would've been grounded for life and yelled at for two weeks, but that would've been nothin' compared to—" He stopped.

      Hutch slid his arms around his chest and pressed close to his back. Using his hands to massage the muscles around Starsky's upper chest, he whispered, "Tell me."

      This was how Hutch pulled the truth out of reluctant witnesses. That soft, low voice. Persistent. Hypnotic. Tell me.

      "The guys caught us in the park. The whole mob. Eight of 'em." He broke out in a sweat and went rigid in Hutch's arms. "They beat the hell out of us, but I could handle that. It wasn't the first beatin' I'd had. I fought 'em, too, 'til I couldn't any more. Then—then, they dragged Eddie away. I could hear him cryin'. I tried to help him, but there were too many of them. Shit, Hutch, to this day I don't know all that they did to him. They might've even raped him. Some of those guys were pushing seventeen, and they were gangsters already."

      "What happened to you?"

      Tell me.

      "You mean besides getting the royal shit kicked outta me? Couple of 'em pissed on me and Eddie, too. Then, like that wasn't bad enough, the oldest, a big guy named Patrick—he, uh . . . ." He closed his eyes. Tell me. "He . . . made me blow him."

      Behind him, Hutch froze. Starsky was grateful not to have to look in his face.

      "When he came in my mouth he shoved in so hard he hit my gag reflex and I puked all over him. It probably saved me from having to do the whole gang, but I got the shit kicked outta me some more. I lay there on the ground, hurtin' all over, reeking of piss, and pukin' my guts up. Some passerby broke it up, and I crawled home. Nearly gave my mother a heart-attack."

      "What'd you tell her?" Hutch asked, still rubbing rib and abdominal muscles.

      "Not a fuckin' thing. I took a bath, threw out my clothes, and brushed my teeth for an hour. Then I went to bed and cried like a baby all night. I wouldn't go to school. Wouldn't leave the house. I was terrified, and so humiliated I considered suicide."

      "What happened to Eddie?"

      "No idea. When the party broke up, he was nowhere to be seen—not that I went lookin' for him. I never saw him again. Never spoke to him. Overheard my mother saying his parents sent him to live with relatives in Florida. That's what gave her the idea."

      Hutch rested his forehead against Starsky's shoulder. "That's when she sent you to LA?"

      "Not right away. Ma didn't want to. She'd just lost her husband. Givin' up her oldest son was gonna break her heart. But I wanted to go. I jumped at the chance to go somewhere where no one knew me. Where I could leave the house without bein' called a faggot and worryin' about the guys getting me in the alley and makin' me do them. 'Cause that's the way it would've gone from then on. When I got to LA, I made sure there wasn't a girl within a twenty mile radius safe from me. And if anyone suggested some guy was queer, I wouldn't even sit next to him in class. I'm not proud of any of that, Hutch, but it was the only way I could cope. I was a lot of trouble for my aunt and uncle. Johnny Blaine lived next door, and he channeled all my anger into constructive stuff. He helped me a lot."

      "Helps me understand how hard it had to be when you discovered he was gay."

      "Yeah. One of your ironic twists, huh? Johnny made a decent man out of me, or at least started the process. If he hadn't been there for me, I'd've ended up in jail, or worse."

      Starsky paused, then added, "Then I met you in the Academy. Something about you made me look at myself, the way I was, who I was, how I treated people. You were always fair, always ready to look at the other person's side, always ready to help, to give— And people respected you for it. You helped me let go of a lot of that stuff, Hutch. You helped me stop bein' afraid of being open, honest, vulnerable. You made it okay again to let someone inside."

      Hutch was just holding him now, hugging him close, and it felt so good Starsky wanted to cry. He hugged his arms back and sucked in a breath to keep a grip on himself.

      "When I first saw that film in Dobey's office," Starsky said, "and saw myself goin' down on you—it brought all that stuff back so strong. I must've been in love with you that night. I can't think of anything else that would've made me do that. But I could see that look on my face, too. The same look I had when Eddie would do me. I was usin' you, too, like I used to do him. And it makes me sick inside."

      "Stop," Hutch begged. "You didn't use me. Don't you understand what's happened to you?"

      "Yeah. I understand. I fucked up the best relationship I ever had in my life, my partnership with you. That's what I understand."

      Hutch pulled away and sat on the bed with his back to the edge so Starsky would have to face him. "Didn't you pay attention in the rape sensitivity classes we took a few months ago?"

      "Uh, yeah, sure, but—"

      "Starsky, you're a rape victim!"

      He shook his head. "Oh, come on. It was just a blow job. It was gross and all, but—"

      "That's classic victim thinking," Hutch insisted. "Diminishing what was done to you. That kid forced you to engage in an unwanted sexual act. He penetrated you. And all this pain inside you, all this anguish about what's happened to us is all from that, something you've never gotten over, or even really dealt with. And I'll tell you something else. Gunther found out about it. I couldn't figure out why he chose this particular vengeance, and now it's so clear—"

       Starsky stared at him. "Gunther—but how—?"

      "Your mom said that people in the neighborhood had been telling Nicky things—so someone's willing to talk about it."

      Starsky thought about that. "The guys that did us, the ones that aren't in jail now—most of 'em still live in the neighborhood. You never met them—I made sure of that when we visited."

      "Gunther had our backgrounds checked out every which way from Sunday. He didn't want to just ruin our reputations and our careers—he was counting on your reaction to break up our partnership. That's why he did this instead of half a dozen other things he could've tried."

      Starsky tried to put all the pieces together. His own anguish was so strong, it was hard for him to accept what Hutch was telling him.

      "Starsk," Hutch said, hugging him. "You've been carrying this alone such a long time."

      "I'm not carrying it alone anymore," he said hopefully, accepting the embrace. "I never wanted you to know about how I used to be. After I put the moves on you, I thought, now he knows the worst. The way I really am. But how I've always felt about you, Hutch, well—it was like the sensei was sayin' about the samurai guys. It was honorable. And now that's gone."

      "Why?" Hutch whispered into his hair. "Because we loved each other one night? Because other people know that? You've got this all mixed up in your head with that terrible day when you were a kid. If you could only remember what it was really like between us you wouldn't feel this way. It was beautiful, and right, and as honorable as love can ever be between two people. You didn't use me, you loved me, with the same open-hearted goodness that you showed me less than an hour ago when you tried to help me out of a bad dream. You offered me everything, even your body, you loved me so beautifully with your mouth—and you asked for so little from me in return, just my touch, that's all you wanted. You even tried to stop me when I went down on you."

      "You almost make me believe it, Hutch," Starsky said quietly.

      He pulled away so he could look into Starsky's face. "I could show you."

      Oh, shit! Starsky thought, clutching.

      Hutch touched his cheek tenderly. His voice was low. "You've been battling an erection the whole time we've been here. Believe me, Starsk, I'm totally attuned to your body, to its needs. You're not gonna be able to hide that stuff from me anymore. And your body remembers what your brain doesn't. Your body wants me to love you. I just wish your head would cooperate."

      This discussion only made the situation worse. His organ's selfish needs throbbed. "It'll go away, Hutch. Just 'cause the flagpole's up don't mean I gotta salute."

      Hutch smiled. "Yeah, but it's not gonna let you sleep. You solved my problem for me—can't I do the same for you?"

      Starsky rolled his eyes and extricated himself from the embrace. "I gotta tell ya, Hutch, I never saw myself as the naive fish in that prison scenario—but that's what I'm feelin' like now."

      Hutch backed off instantly. "Sorry, Starsk. I didn't mean to pressure you. I just—I love you. And, as you said to me, I hate to see you hurting. Or wanting. Especially—when I want you. Want so much just to please you."

      "You always make everything sound so—reasonable!" Starsky said irritably.

      "Well, what's unreasonable about two friends loving each other?" Hutch asked, frustration in his voice. "When I thought you were repelled by my touch, it was easier to back off."

      "You really thought that?" Starsky said, dismayed.

      "What was I supposed to think? You puked your heart out in Dobey's office when we saw the film, and when we watched it here you went white as a sheet and broke into a cold sweat. I understand now what that was about. At least I think I do."

      Starsky owed him the truth. "Your touch could never repel me, Hutch. You brought me back from the dead, f'cryin' out loud. You nursed me day and night, eased my aches, cleaned up after me, bathed me, washed my hair. I don't feel safe at night unless you're in bed with me, so I can touch you whenever I need that reassurance. And when we touch that's what I get—reassured. Hutch is there. Everything's gonna be okay."

      He nodded, but Starsky could see sorrow in him, raw wanting, and it cut into him. Now he knew how Hutch must have felt when Starsky had come on to him so strong, so confident, wanting him so much. And frankly, his cock was killing him. It was aching and angry and wondering what the hell was wrong with him that he couldn't just let this happen.

      "Hey," Hutch said more lightly than Starsky knew he felt, "I know how to get you to sleep."

      "Yeah?" Starsky wondered, trying to keep the trepidation out of his voice.

      Hutch grinned. "I'll take you to the beach. You always fall asleep during total relaxation in yoga. Let's try it. Lay down. Get comfortable."

      "Okay," Starsky agreed, adjusting his persistent hard-on. Laying down on his back, he placed his arms at his side, palms up. Hutch covered him with a sheet for warmth, and sat on the other side of the bed in a lotus position.

      "Close your eyes, Starsk."

      He obliged and Hutch led him through the exercise, having him tighten then relax each separate muscle group until his entire body had tensed and relaxed from toes to scalp. He could feel the blood flowing into taut muscles, tight nerves, and bit by bit felt his unease flow out of him. Even his erection subsided. Hutch's soothing voice brought him through the relaxation, then built the image of the beach. Starsky saw himself there with the rushing ocean and the open sand, walking along the shore dressed in soft, white, cotton drawstring pants, no shoes, no shirt, just taking it easy. And beside him in the bright sunshine walked his friend, his partner, dressed the same, just being with him. He felt himself melting into the bed.

      Little by little, Hutch led him along, and the safety and security he felt was hard to describe. When Hutch's voice hummed the Om, the sacred word filled his heart, his soul. He watched the ocean wash up on the beach and remembered Tsuka's words. The ocean was like love.

      As the Hutch in the bed murmured the Om, the Hutch on the beach turned to Starsky and said, "You're the ocean. I'm the beach. I'm standing with my arms open, waiting for you. You run up, touch me, then run away, so afraid of our love. But that's okay. I can wait. I'm the beach, and I can wait forever." He held his arms open, smiling, his heart open and vulnerable.

      The dark ocean rushed up, covering their feet, as warm as blood. It lapped at the endless, white beach as Hutch, in the bed, murmured the Om, drawing the syllable out timelessly. Starsky, lying still beside him, gasped and felt his heart fill with longing, felt his phallus surge like the ocean and swell anew. A tear, a drop of saltwater, of ocean, slipped out from under one of Starsky's lids, and Hutch touched it, wiped it away. The Om hung in the air between them, as Starsky opened his eyes and looked at his friend.

      "You're not asleep," Hutch said, disappointed.

      Struggling to express a single thought, Starsky captured the hand Hutch had used to wipe his tear. "I've got company on the beach."

      Hutch smiled, yet his eyes seemed sad. "Anyone I know?"

      "Yeah." He tugged his hand, pulled it to his groin. "Hutch?"

      His partner eased out of the lotus, sliding his long legs beside Starsky's. "Yeah?"

      Starsky pressed Hutch's palm against his hardened mound. Hutch shuddered. "I can't lie to you," Starsky said. "I don't know my own head anymore. Can't figure out how I feel, what I want—sometimes I'm not even sure who I am. And—I don't know if I love you the way you want me to. I just know that now—"

      "It's okay," Hutch soothed, petting Starsky's cloth-covered erection, gentling its anger, easing its terrible ache. "It's a big change for us. We don't have to jump into anything with both feet. We can take it slow, one step at a time, see how we feel about things. I never want anything from you that you don't want to give me. I don't want you to say what you don't mean. The love we've always had is enough for me. If—we can find a little pleasure with each other, that would be nice. But I don't ever want you to feel pressured. I only want what you want."

      "I don't know what I want!" Starsky complained.

      "Maybe we can find out together," Hutch suggested, still fondling him.

      "That feels good," Starsky whispered, afraid to say it too loud. "You touching me like that."

      "That's all I want, babe. To make you feel good. To make you happy. Will you let me try?"

      Starsky swallowed hard and nodded.

      Hutch smiled and eased closer. His body heat warmed Starsky, feeling comfortable and familiar. "Try to relax. Shut your eyes."

      He obliged without realizing that shutting out the visual distraction of Hutch's handsome face would only make the sensations that much more intense. Hutch toyed gently with his hard-on, as if trying to get him used to the feeling of his big masculine hand as it gave Starsky an intense, scary pleasure.

      "All you have to do is say something," Hutch assured him, "and I'll stop. If you're unwilling. Uncomfortable. If I'm not pleasing you."

      Starsky snorted as desire raced along his nerves. "Not pleasin' me? Shit, Hutch, you're too good at this to not please me."

      "Am I?" he asked, and Starsky heard surprise in his voice. Hutch tightened his hand, moving it more confidently. Starsky's hips thrust up of their own volition. He couldn't not move, couldn't stop it if he tried.

      Hutch slid his left arm under him and drew him closer, pressing them together. Starsky returned the embrace, wanting to be nearer, needing the warmth, the closeness. He pressed his palm against Hutch's back, feeling his strength, his familiarity during this oddly unfamiliar act. Hutch released his cock for a moment, then slid his hand under the sheet and into Starsky's pajamas.

            "Hutch!" he hissed, his eyes snapping open as Hutch took hold of him. Hutch must've taken the time to collect some baby oil, because his palm was wonderfully slick and warm and sensuous, and that made everything about a million times more intense.

      I'm here," Hutch reassured him, whispering into his ear. "Hutch is here. Everything's okay."

      "Oh, damn!" Starsky groaned, surging up into that warm, oiled grip. Hutch handled him like a pro, sliding his hand along the length of him, fondling his crown, slipping down to cup his tight sac. "Hutch!" He was breathless with need. As he pumped  into that incredible hand, it  tightened around him. Jolts of  pleasure rocketed up his spine,  down his legs.

      "Want me to stop?" Hutch  asked worriedly.

      Hutch's breath was on his  cheek, against his ear, making him  wild, making everything that  much more potent.

      "No, God, no, please— don't stop!" Starsky moaned, thrusting up and up, like the ocean pounding on  the shore.

      "Don't worry," Hutch promised, his voice harsh, "I won't. I love giving you this, Starsk."

      He opened his eyes, looked at the man lying so close, so willingly pleasing him. "It's good!" he managed to say. "You're really good to me."

       "I'd give you anything. Please you anyway you'd like," Hutch whispered, body taut.

      "Yeah? That's nice," Starsky gasped. "Then give me some oil."

      Hutch blinked, confused, slowing his stroke which made Starsky groan.

      "Come on," he insisted, "gimme some."

      Confused, Hutch released him and grabbed the bottle, pumping a dollop in Starsky's hand.

      "Too lonely like this," Starsky complained breathlessly. Reaching, he slid his oiled hand into Hutch's cream colored pajamas. He tried to be gentle, but his hand was shaking. He knew he gripped too hard by the way Hutch jumped.

      "Starsk! What—? You already—?"

      No sooner did Starsky take hold of him than Hutch's flaccid organ sprang to life, the spongy flesh firming, building heat and size.

      "Oh, yeah," Starsky sighed, stroking him to hardness. "Oh, yeah." His slick hand moved easily over the heated, swelling organ. He closed his eyes again and waited for Hutch to catch up.

      It didn't take long. Rolling close to Starsky, Hutch took possession of Starsky's dusky hard-on. Sliding his palm over Starsky's size, Hutch thrilled him, excited him. Their forearms rubbed as their right and left hands stroked.

      "So nice, Starsk!" Hutch moaned into his ear. He sounded amazed, completely surprised, like he couldn't believe his good fortune.

      Hutch's dry lips brushed lightly against his temple. Starsky choked back an inarticulate sound of pleasure as Hutch worked him. He could barely concentrate on what he was doing. Soon both of them were humping hard, working slavishly toward their mutual pleasure. He couldn't believe how good, how right it felt to be doing this with Hutch. He'd had a hundred women give him hand jobs, but that had all been foreplay, his mind distractedly anticipating the next step. He'd never been that focused on the moment, enjoying it solely for its purity of sensation since he'd been a kid. And this moment with Hutch was as white-hot and intense as that had been in its innocence. Hutch was touching him. Hutch.

      Hutch rubbed his face against Starsky's like a cat begging to be petted. He brushed his lips against Starsky's forehead, his cheek, his ear, but he didn't kiss, as if terrified that would break the spell or push Starsky past what he could endure. His instincts were right. This was all Starsky could handle, being stroked and touched and played with by his best friend, his male partner. Starsky felt as if he were on the razor's edge of his endurance. Only the powerful waves of physical pleasure were rooting him to this spot, where his friend could touch him and love him and he could bear it. It was too beautiful to believe, too wonderful to permit. He pressed his face into Hutch's shoulder, as if to hide.

      Starsky gasped, needing to tell Hutch how his heart held feelings too powerful to contain. His soul felt conflicted by the security of Hutch's presence and the scary reality of his powerful sexuality. His body rejoiced in the touch that was so sweetly sexual he didn't think he could survive it. But he had no words to tell Hutch any of these things. He could only call out his name with a desperate hunger. "Hutch!"

      "I know," he soothed, in spite of his own excitement that made his hips thrust into Starsky's grip. "I know, babe. Me, too."

      Hutch's hand tightened, and it felt like he was squeezing Starsky's heart, not his cock. He shuddered wildly, needing completion like he'd never needed anything. He tried to move closer, wanting to crawl inside him, as his mouth found Hutch's ear.

      "Can we do this together?" he breathed. "I want that. Me and thee. Together." Would Hutch even understand that he wanted them to come together, at the same time? He wasn't even sure if he understood himself.

      "I'm so close," Hutch said in answer. The big body was wracked with a violent shudder, and Starsky realized it was from his warm breath blowing in Hutch's ear. It amazed him that such a simple thing could affect his partner so much. He brushed his lips against his ear and Hutch twitched, grew taut. Starsky smiled.

      "Me, too," Starsky told him, speaking softly, keeping his voice low, his breath hot. "Come with me. Give me all you got. I really want it."

      Hutch trembled, making a low, painful animal sound in his throat. His hand pulled at Starsky's cock desperately, wanting him, needing him. Hutch's beautiful face was glowing with pleasure, pleasure Starsky was giving him. It made him want to weep, but he wasn't sure why.

      But then it was too much, coming on him so quickly he was taken by surprise. He cried out, "Oh, Hutch!" and it happened. His cock jerked, his balls tightened, and he erupted in short, hard spasms, spewing heat and liquid everywhere. Hutch shouted one short exclamation and joined him. The joy of it excited Starsky so much, he spasmed again, nearly fainting. He kept coming, as did Hutch, and they trembled and shuddered for long moments of suspended time. Starsky squeezed his eyes shut so tight he saw stars, and his legs trembled violently and went weak.

      When it was over, all he could do was lie there like a rag, completely limp, gasping. All over a simple hand-job. That made no sense.

      Hutch's arms surrounded him, pulling Starsky nearly on top of him. He could feel the big body trembling like a tuning fork that had just struck a pure note. Weakly, Starsky tried to hug him, but could barely move his arms. He buried his face against Hutch's long neck and tried to find his wind.

      "You okay?" Hutch whispered roughly, sounding scared. "Starsk? Gonna be sick?" He was holding Starsky so tight he could barely catch his breath.

      But Starsky didn't have the strength to ask for release—and didn't want to. All his security was right here in these arms. He'd never felt safer in his entire life. They were glued together by semen, by salt water, by ocean, and that was fine. At least for now.

      "'M'okay," Starsky muttered. "I feel good." Hutch nodded, as if reassured, but Starsky knew he needed more. "That was—incredible, Hutch."

      Hutch nodded, his body calming. "Didn't you think we'd be as good at that as we are at everything else?"

      For some reason, that struck Starsky funny, and he chuckled. Hutch was right. Of course they'd be as good at pleasing each other as they were at catching bad guys, being cops, being friends. It was the samurai in them.

      "Think you can sleep now?" Hutch asked.

      Starsky felt his whole body smiling. "Try and stop me." He snuggled closer to Hutch's warm, musk-scented skin. "You're so good to me. Don't deserve you."

      Hutch's mouth brushed against his forehead and into his hair in that gesture that was not quite a kiss. "You deserve so much more. Sleep now. I've got you. Everything's gonna be okay."

      Hutch wouldn't deliberately lie to him, even though that statement was an impossibility. They were both standing on a slippery slope, the sand crumbling beneath their feet. The world wouldn't let them love each other, and yet their souls demanded it. How they would keep themselves on an even keel, Starsky had no idea. He was frightened and thrilled all at the same time, and still could not articulate his feelings. All he knew was that at this moment, he felt satisfied and secure, and really happy. How much happiness he'd be permitted with his friend, he didn't know. How much pleasure he could allow his friend to give him was also unknown. And his brain, which couldn't resolve this problem, refused to work on it anymore, and simply shut down.

      Snuggling against his best friend, Starsky sagged into sleep, feeling Hutch join him, and hoped they'd both end up on the same beach.

Love is the evening breeze touching your skin
A gentle, sweet singing of a breeze in the wind
The whisper that calls out to you in the night
And kisses your ear in the early moonlight
And you don't need to wonder, you're doin fine
My love, the pleasure's mine
To go crazy on you
Crazy on you
                    Crazy on You—Heart