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Part One



Charlotte Frost

Part Two

   The mid-afternoon sun greeted me when I left the hospital. I got in my car and drove, not sure where I was going. I wondered if I had imagined the conversation we'd had, or at least imagined my response to it.

   I'd never wanted that for us. It wasn't that I had anything against people who loved members of their own sex, but it was only fine as long as it was them. I'd never considered it for myself, except only as the most passing thought. Not even with Starsk had I ever considered it...except as the most passing thought. And now I had welcomed it, embraced it, without even pausing to ask what I was getting myself into.

   I tried focusing on the traffic, then gave up and stopped at the nearest park. I got out and started walking.

   I know I hadn't reacted to his words as much as to his fear. Calming his fear was paramount. And to do that I had to reassure. And to reassure I had to...lie?

   No, it wasn't a lie. That much I knew, accepted. None of the things I'd said to Starsky had been untrue. Nor had my reactions. He had touched me by what he wanted, and I wanted to give in return... so much...

   But could I? Or was it such a ridiculous fantasy that even he would no longer be interested once he stepped into the sunshine?

   Except he had said it had been on his mind a while. Sleeping together.

   I paused and took a deep breath.

   There was nothing alien or foreign in that thought. Snuggling up next to Starsk... sleeping the whole night through... sharing the warmth of his body. Man, it suddenly dawned on me how much I wanted that. For I'd had a taste of it, a number of times, over the years. Holding him close, comforting him. And I knew damn well how it felt to have him comfort me. To share that, every night....

   And I wondered why I'd never let myself consider it before. I knew the answer right away: because Starsk would never consider it. Or I thought he would never. Obviously I'd been very wrong. I'd have to talk to him about that...about when he'd changed.

   And when had I changed? When had I gone from thinking it was all right for others to having that kind of relationship, to thinking it was all right for me to have that kind?

   And what kind was it, exactly? And was it really so strange? Was there anything bizarre, or unusual, or disgusting, about wanting to make love to the person you loved most in the world?

   I stopped and closed my eyes. There they were...the images that I hadn't allowed to penetrate my brain. Making love to Starsky. I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to imagine. I knew how guys did it, of course, but thinking of just bodies going at it...and then thinking of me and Starsk...images seemed a mockery. But I could imagine what it would feel like, being under the covers with him. He's the warmest, gentlest person I've ever known. But he's strong, too. If I could just hold him and be held by him, I'm not sure I'd ever need anything else.

   But my body mocked me, for I felt the beginning of a hard-on, and I turned back toward the car.

   Did I really want to do that? Stick it into him? God, I couldn't hurt him for anything in the world. Couldn't take pleasure from him like that, no matter how much reciprocation he got.

   Reciprocation. That stopped me in my tracks. And took care of my problem. Really, what would it be like, for him to stick it into me? It was difficult to imagine anything other than how it feels to get that Godforsaken doctor's exam -- not something even the most flaming queen would ask for voluntarily.

   But men did enjoy doing it with each other. At least, I'd always understood that they did. I guess, when it got down to it, I really didn't know much about it. Sure, I'd done it with women, but never as the focus of the activities, and they're just plain less resistant to the idea of...being penetrated.

   When I returned to my car, I headed out of the precinct. No way was I going to take a chance on getting recognized where I was headed. I had to drive for nearly a half hour until I was sure I was safe. One good thing about being a cop is that it's easy to recognize those sorts of places. I stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jeans and went inside.

   I browsed for nearly an hour. Really, I didn't feel very embarrassed or self-conscious. I bought a total of four books and drove until I stopped at a hot dog stand. I ordered something, then ate it in my car while I leafed through the books. Some had illustrations and those did make me blush a little. Guys doing all sorts of things to each other, little smiles of ecstasy drawn on their faces. I couldn't imagine me and Starsk like that.

   No, when Starsk and I got together, our hearts would be beating in tune with each other. We'd be feeling like we were floating on air, we would hardly be aware of each other's anatomy, because all the feelings and sensations would blend together to create one big cloud...of love. It'd be like heaven. And everything would feel good -- feelings those poor saps in the book would never know -- because the love was already in place, would enhance anything physical that we shared. It would be our own special place and it would be perfect.

   I flipped through more pages, and the fantasy disappeared. One illustration had a guy kneeling before another, sucking his cock.

   Oh, yeah, there was that, too. In fact, after reading while eating my lunch, it became apparent that that's what guys seemed to like doing most for each other. One of the books even had statistics -- and outright fucking was way down the list of favorite activities. A blow job was by far the activity of choice.

   Could I really do it? Put my mouth on his cock? God, if women could do it, why couldn't I? After all, I loved him more than any of them ever did.

   Still, it was hard to be comfortable with the idea. And then I felt selfish...until I realized I was just as uncomfortable with the idea of Starsk kneeling before me and doin' it. And it dawned on me it wasn't the mouth-on-cock idea that was repellant, it was the idea of one of us submitting to the other. I was much more fascinated by the thought of us snuggling against each other, pleasing each other by having our bodies pressed close, not one of us simply doing the other a favor. I wanted us to share -- not just insert item A into slot B. The latter was what the men in the books seemed to be doing.

   I then felt a little silly for buying the books. Why had I thought I'd need instructions? Jesus God, I loved the man. And love would be all the guidance I'd need.

* * *

   When I returned to the hospital, he was alone and was just pushing the tray away that had contained his dinner.

   "Hey, there," I greeted. He smiled at me. "I see you cleaned your plate. What did you have?"

   He watched -- beamed at me, actually -- as I made my way to the chair beside the bed. "Roast beef and gravy. Wasn't too bad. And I was really hungry."

   "How you feeling?"

   He settled back against the pillows. "Real sore. But it's not as bad as when I've been shot."

   "Dobey have much to say?" I really didn't want to make small talk, but I didn't want to plunge in, either. I guess a part of me was afraid that maybe I'd misunderstood completely this afternoon, and I didn't want to look like a fool. I wanted him to bring it up first.

   He shrugged a little. "Just the usual. He said Edith wanted to come, but she has the flu."

   "Anybody else stop by?"

   "My Aunt Nellie. She's the one that babbles non-stop, you know?"

   I chuckled softly. I'd met all of Starsky's relatives at various holidays. Aunt Nellie could go a mile-a-minute. "Guess you tolerated that okay?"

   "Yeah, I kind of got some sleep with my eyes open. Just nodded every now and then." Then he turned his head and looked at me squarely. Softly, he asked, "What have you been doing all afternoon?"

   It was a loaded question, voiced with the expectation of a specific kind of answer. I had to look down a moment. Then I met his eye. "I've been thinking."

   He kept gazing at me expectantly, then prompted, "About...?"

   So, it was going to have to be me that came right out and said it. I took a deep breath. "About us." And then, looking at him, thinking of him as a potential...I don't know -- lover? sweetheart? -- I found myself in that tunnel again, not sure I could face the changes ahead without putting a lot of distance between us.

   His voice was quiet, and hedged with worry. "Is it gonna be okay, Hutch?"

   I couldn't stand his uncertainty. Not that I could blame him for it -- neither of us had really come out and outright said anything all day. It was time to stop dancing around the fire...we were going to have to risk getting burned. And with my instinct to protect Starsky so ingrained over the years, I reached to the fire first.

   I let my feelings show on my face. "I love you, Starsky."

   He smiled a little, but I knew my statement hadn't solved anything. We'd loved each other -- intensely -- for years.

   I nodded, but I had to look down again to gather myself before going on. "I think...," I drew in a large breath, "I think I could do it with you." That sounded so awkward. "Make love to you."

   He was studying me so seriously. Gingerly, he eased up on an elbow. In a whisper, he asked, "But do you want to, Hutch?"

   I looked down again. "I want.... I want...." My God, what did I want? Starsky has always been so far ahead of me in that department. He always knew right where he stood...with himself, with me, with the world around him. I always seemed to be struggling in some huge ocean, reaching for something without ever knowing what I would find, or wanted to find. "I want," I tried again, hearing the gruffness in my voice. Distantly, I noticed how clean and sterile the floor looked. "I want to be able," I finally looked up, "to hold you and love you...always. I want to share my life with you. I want us to always be together. I want...I want to give you everything you need. I -- I don't want you to ever have to need anyone else." There was a thickness in my throat, and I had to swallow, for there was one other very important thing I needed to say. "I don't want there to ever be anyone else for you." God, after saying it, I suddenly felt very, very selfish. Maybe that's what he hadn't had in mind at all.

   His smile, which looked pleased, melted my heart, even though it appeared to be a little weary. Then he quickly looked away.

   I knelt on the clean floor, next to the bed, and picked up his hand in both of mine. "Hey," I whispered, "are you just being shy, or is there still something on your mind?"

   "I just," he started, then took a deep breath. It gave him the courage to look at me. "I just didn't expect it to be this simple." His eyes lowered. "I thought, maybe, you'd be turned off or something and it would never be the same between us."

   I squeezed his hand, then relaxed my grip and sort of toyed with his fingers. "You did throw me a bit of a curve," I said with a little laugh. "You know what I thought? When you started talking about 'us' earlier today, and you seemed to hesitant, I thought you were going to say you didn't want me around so much anymore."

   That made him look at me. And I inwardly cringed, because all I'd meant by confessing that was that I was scared, too. But his eyes carried the hurt of betrayal. Voice hoarse with disbelief, he demanded, "How could you have thought that?" When I didn't have an answer right away, he said, "Dear God, Hutch, we've been through everything together. How could you ever think that?"

   This really wasn't the conversation I wanted to have. Plus, I felt bad about upsetting him when he was supposed to be resting. But I had to answer. I shrugged sheepishly. "Sometimes I wonder if I hover too much." I squeezed his hand, and let my heart do the talking. "God, Starsk, I want to love you and protect you from everything. It would be understandable if you found my caring too confining."

   His eyes widened in disbelief. "Do you find my caring too confining?"

   The hurt had intensified, and I quickly said, "No. Dear God, no." Then I looked at him, and heard the desperation in my voice. "You can't ever love me too much, Starsk. There's no such thing. You give it and I'll take and take and take it." And then I found myself looking at the floor again, and I felt a flush of shame that I'd always be so disgustingly needy...a well that could never be filled.

   After a long moment, when I tried to catch my breath, I felt his hand on my cheek. Then it dropped down and a thumb reached out to trace my mustache. Gently, he said, "I want to give and give and give it." I looked up, almost ashamed all over again at my good fortune -- that God or Fate or whoever had given me this man to take care of me. "And I don't want you to get it from anyone else."

   I felt flushed all over, undeserving. But I had to laugh -- almost bitterly -- at his last comment. "No problem, buddy. I haven't even been with anyone in over two months." There just never seemed much point anymore.

   I slowly raised my eyes to look at him, and he smiled firmly. "It's been at least that long for me."

   Oh, God, had we really been headed in this direction all along? Why couldn't I see it? Why couldn't I have made the first move and seduced him or something? Why put him through all these verbal gymnastics when he was flat on his back in bed?

   I knew the answer, and I had to look down again. The pain was so great that I dropped a hand to my stomach.

   "Hutch?" he asked, concerned. His hand dropped from my face to my shoulder.

   "It's okay," I said feebly, wondering if it ever would truly be okay. "I'm such a selfish bastard," I whispered harshly.

   "W-what?" he asked.

   I took a deep breath, held it, then let it out. I straightened slowly, then sat back on my heels. I laid my cheek against the edge of the bed, then reached up to take his hand. Quietly, I said, "Even if I would have been thinking the same thoughts as you, I never would have brought it up first."

   "Why not?" he asked, right on cue.

   "Because, Starsk, you give so damn much, I would always be afraid that you would have said 'Yes' just because I wanted it. And I would always be afraid that, deep down inside, it wasn't what you really wanted."

   He blinked. "Don't you have think I have the same fears, you big dummy?"

   I raised my head, blinking rapidly to clear the confusion. The light was growing brighter at the end of the tunnel. Some huge cloud started to rise up through my body, and then slowly dissipate into the air. I couldn't speak as I experienced the sensation, and I waited until I felt truly free. Then I simply replied, "No, I didn't think of that."

   A nurse walked in, and I guess I looked pretty dramatic, sitting on the floor beside the bed, holding his hand.

   She took the tray. "Is everything all right?"

   We both nodded. Starsky smiled at her and I looked away.

   "Let me get your blood pressure," she said, taking the equipment from the wall.

   I thought about moving to the chair, but that would make it look like I thought there was something wrong with sitting on the floor, holding his hand. So, I stayed where I was. Nobody spoke while she went about her task, though she reported the reading in a pleased voice when she was done. Then she took the tray and left the room.

   Quietly, Starsky asked, "Did you really think I didn't want you for a partner anymore?" He no longer sounded betrayed, but his voice had a scolding quality.

   It was effective, for I felt ashamed all over again. But I tried to shrug it off. "You were talking about Anderson, said something about us putting an end to it, one way or another. I had no idea what you really meant, so...."

   "Oh." It came out a bit apologetic. We were silent a moment, then he tilted his head to one side. "Really, Hutch, if I said, 'Get out of my life,' would you go?"

   I had to think about it, then I laughed sheepishly, feeling foolish that I hadn't realized that before. "No."

   He let out a breath. "Okay. At least we've got that straightened out."

   The floor was getting cold, and since he was looking comfortable in bed, I didn't want to crowd his space. So I moved to the chair. Just as I settled in, I noticed him struggling to restrain a yawn. I patted his arm. "Hey, you've had a tiring day. It's catching up to you."

   "Yeah," he admitted, "but I think we should figure out what we're gonna do...exactly, I mean."

   It sounded complicated and, really, as long as we got to sleep together I didn't care about all the other stuff. But that was being whimsical and naive. And it suddenly struck me that that was usually Starsky's role. But here he was, playing the intellectual, while I just wanted what felt good for the moment.


   His eyes had closed, despite his intentions. "Hmm?"

   "I thought, after everything you went through with John Blaine, you'd be one of the last people in the world consider an alternate lifestyle."

   He smiled, his eyes still closed. "'Alternate lifestyle.' Is that the new buzz word?" I shrugged, though he couldn't see it. Then his expression grew serious. "I'm not sure one has to do with the other. Sure, it'll make us 'queers' in other people's eyes, but I don't have any interest in being hustled by other men, and I'm assuming you don't, either." He suddenly blinked, staring at the ceiling. "But, somewhere along the line, I've lost interest in hustling women." His voice sounded puzzled.

   "So have I," I reassured in a whisper, just then realizing it. Maybe it wasn't so much a lack of interest in general, as simply seeing no reason to participate in an empty lay when you could get every other kind of fulfillment from the person you saw and loved every day of the year.


   I leaned closer. "Hm?"

   He turned toward me. "You know, when I first get out, I don't think I'll be able to.... Well, you know, I probably won't be able to do much for a while."

   I squeezed his arm. "I know. We'll wait until you're ready. We've got a whole lifetime, partner, we don't have to rush it."

   He looked at me hopefully. "But you're still staying with me as soon as I get out, right?"

   He sounded like a little kid who'd been promised a new baseball mitt for his birthday, and was now afraid he might not get it. I smiled warmly. "Of course. And not on the couch."

   Starsky took a deep breath. "I really can't wait until I get out of this hospital, Hutch."

   "Sounds like from what Huggy said it could be the day after tomorrow."

   "Yeah. Eternity."

   I laughed then, but I was feeling a little anxious, too. His eyes had closed again, and I really didn't think I should keep him much longer. But I didn't want to worry him about "figuring it all out," either. "Starsk, I don't think we should worry much about changing things. Maybe we should just let things happen as they will, not try to force anything. Just start out with sleeping together...go from there."

   His eyes remained closed. "'Kay."

   "I think you're falling asleep."

   "I think I am, too."

   I stood, then bent to lay a hand on his forehead. I always liked it whenever he did that to me. "I think I'm going to go now. I'll call you from the station tomorrow to see how you're doing."

   He barely nodded.

   I straightened. "I'll get the light on my way out. Goodnight, buddy."


   As I left there, I don't think my shoes touched the floor.

* * *

   It was hard getting through the next day at work. There wasn't much going on, so as I fought with paperwork, I found my mind going to Starsk again and again, imagining him lying there in the hospital, thinking about me...thinking about the future. But my mind seemed resistant to imagining anything more detailed beyond that. I'm not sure why. I just know it was a heck of a long day. And when I finally got out of there, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and went to see my buddy.

   Starsk was all smiles as I entered the room. "You just missed the doctor. He says I can leave tomorrow morning."

   "Great. I'll give Dobey a call at home tonight and let him know I'll be in late tomorrow."

   The edge of enthusiasm disappeared from his voice. "Guess you'll have to go back to work after taking me home, huh?"

   I nodded, moving sit on the edge of the bed. "I imagine so." I patted his leg beneath the cover. "I'll tuck you into bed, make sure you're all settled." I ruffled his hair. "Then you can get your beauty sleep before I come home." It sounded funny saying it...home. Starsky's apartment had always felt like home, as much as my own, but now the word held special it was ours. It made me wonder how long it would take before I downright moved in with him. And it would have to be me moving into his place. He would never tolerate moving into my apartment; it was too much of a "dump" as he put, for his taste. And that was all right with me, except I'd miss the greenhouse. All those plants... what would I do with them? But that was getting ahead of myself.


   I realized I'd been staring at the covers, and I looked up at him, saw the timid smile. "Hm?"

   "It's going to work out okay, right?"

   It seemed like the tenth time he'd asked that the past couple of days. I picked up his hand, squeezed it. "Hey, what are you so worried about?"

   A mouth corner twitched downward. "Other people finding out, for one thing."

   "We don't have to tell anybody," I tried to assure. I wondered why my mind was shying away from those very concerns. God, I didn't want it to be complicated. I just wanted us to be free to love each other.

   He shrugged a little. "People are gonna figure out we're sleeping together, eventually," he said.

   I traced a pattern on top of his hand. "I guess we'll have to deal with it when the time comes. Maybe we should agree right now not to admit to anything, so the burden will be on them to prove it."

   "If someone was able to...we could lose our jobs, everything."

   I sighed heavily and looked at him. "Okay. There'll be problems. What do you want to do? Call it off?" For a split second, I was almost afraid he was going to call my bluff.

   But he seemed to deflate. He looked away, then softly said, "No, of course not."

   I squeezed his hand again. "Starsky, I'm just saying that we have to take it as it comes. It's not going to solve anything to get all that uptight about it before anything happens. Besides," I added, willing myself to believe it, "with the way gay rights are making some headway, maybe by the time anyone finds out about us it won't be that big of a deal."

   I leaned closer to him and whispered, "Starsk, we're just going to have to focus on the love. That's always been our strength. If we protect it -- keep it vibrant and alive -- we can always draw what we need from it. Because no matter what happens," I vowed, "we'll go through it together. Even if we were to someday get kicked off the force, we'd still be together. Isn't that what's most important?"

   He sort of smiled sadly at me, then nodded. Then he reached out and placed his hand on my side and closed his eyes, like he was absorbing something.

   I liked how it felt...those little touches. I always have. It's amazing how much they can mean, at the craziest times. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't have near the violence we do in the world if people would just touch each other more. There's something about that contact...something so soothing and reassuring. Especially when it's from someone whom you know loves you.

   Starsky smiled again... this time more gently, and he said, "I'll be so glad when I'm healthy again." His eyes opened. "There's so much I want to do with you, Hutch. I just want to make you happy, make you feel good. I'm not even sure I'm going to know how to go about it, but I want to so bad."

   I reached out and stroked back through his hair. "We'll figure it out. And, buddy," I heard the softness in my voice, "just being close to you...all the going to mean so much to me. You can't know how much I want that."

   He swallowed, relaxed against the pillow. Then he dropped his hand and said, "Do you really think you can give up women? You know, forever?"

   I closed my eyes. Already we were talking about forever. Ah, Starsk....

   When I opened them again, I said, "Like I said, it's been two months. I haven't missed it." But he kept studying me, and I found myself searching deeper for the answer to his question. Truly, nothing felt quite like a woman. No matter how creative one got -- trying various positions, putting it here or there, using toys for extra stimulation -- ultimately, the thing that felt best was snug, moist, snatch. Putting it anywhere else could never recreate that sensation. And then there were those wonderful soft breasts, the smooth skin, the curves....

   ...All attached to a person I did not want.

   "Starsky, I want you," I said decisively. "Whatever parts you don't come with, I can do without."

   He gave me lopsided smile, like he'd reached a similar conclusion. "Yeah," he said wistfully.

   A nurse came in then, telling him that he needed to get up and walk around. Starsky didn't protest, and I took his elbow as we left his room and walked slowly around the floor. We didn't talk much, I guess because we were each thinking about how it was going to be. When we returned to his room, he sat on the bed, then reached up and ran a finger along my mustache.

   He's done that occasionally before, and I've always liked it.

   I stood, hunched over, looking down at him, waiting to hear what he had to say.

   "Hutch, it's going to be real hard waiting until tomorrow night."

   I grinned. "Don't get your hopes up. Remember, nothing's going to happen until you're closer to 100%."

   His eyes held a childlike softness. "Yeah, but we'll be together, right?"

   Like that was all that mattered. And it was. I closed my eyes. "Right." He was started to lie back against the bed, and I kissed him on the forehead, ran my hand along his cheek. "I love you," I told him, my voice shaking. I'm not even sure why.

   Next thing I knew, a hand was at the back of my neck, pulling me down. When my face was close to his, he kissed me on the lips. One quick, firm peck, then he let me go.

   Starsky has always been full of so much love. What had I ever done to deserve being the recipient of it?

   His expression was frivolous. "I owed you that one, for right before they took me down to surgery."

   Oh, yeah, I'd done it then, hadn't I? "I thought you were too scared to notice."

   "I was -- scared out of my wits, I mean. But it sure gave me somethin' to think about while I was waiting all that time in pre-op, or whatever it's called."

   I grinned smugly. "That was the intention."

   His smile faded. "I love you, Hutch."

   Ah, man, I couldn't keep this up. So much feeling, splattered all over the room. "I'm gonna go," I told him. Real fast, I kissed the top of his head. "Be here tomorrow at eight to pick you up."

   He settled back. "Okay, blondie. Sweet dreams."

   I couldn't imagine my dreams being otherwise.

* * *

   He wasn't quite as cheerful the following morning, even though he was leaving. After the ordeal of getting his things together, then getting him into a wheelchair, and signing all appropriate papers, he was pretty wore out by the time I placed him in the passenger side of the LTD. He complained about my not bringing the Torino, and then he just shut up, like saying anything else was too much effort. When we reached his place, we decided he'd be most comfortable during the day on the couch, because it was easier to sit up, plus he was closer to the TV and the kitchen. I'd already picked up his pain pills from the pharmacy, so after he took the required dose, and after leaving some snacks out for him, I let him be.

   I called him twice during the day. The first time was to see how he was getting along. He said he'd been able to sleep pretty well and wasn't too uncomfortable. The second time was to tell him that I was helping a couple of other detectives interview a lot of witnesses for a street shooting, so I probably wasn't going to make it in until after seven. He seemed disappointed, but for me, at least, being busy helped make the day go a lot faster.

   Finally, I was home. I found him still on the sofa, in his pajamas. He'd obviously made a few trips to the kitchen, because the coffee table was covered with a lot more remnants of food than I'd left him with that morning.

   "Want somethin' to eat?" he asked as I was getting rid of my jacket and holster.

   "Nah, I scarfed down a salad and some breadsticks while still at the station." I pulled off my shoes with a grateful sigh.

   "How did it go? Get any good leads?"

   I shrugged and sat down in the wicker chair next to the sofa. "It looks like the killer was wearing a Mickey Mouse watch. That's about it." I unbuttoned my shirt and let it hang open. "What have you been doing?"

   He laid back and looked at the ceiling. "I've watched I Love Lucy, Mannix, Star Trek, Bonanza, The Big Valley, and Mission: Impossible."

   My socks were sweaty and I was having to work to roll them off. "Sounds like quite a cultural variety. What was your favorite?"

   He looked over at me. "I dunno. Bonanza was funny because the boys all got in trouble with Pa because they were goofin' off instead of doing their chores. Even Adam."


   "Yeah, the older brother. You know, the level-headed one."

   "Oh, yeah." I hadn't seen the show in long time, plus it kept changing characters.

   The apartment grew silent, and I wasn't sure what else to say.

   He looked over at me again. "Are you gonna sit there by yourself, Hutch, or are you gonna come over here?"

   Well, it was a good thing we both weren't shy. But the couch was awfully narrow. I rubbed at my chest and tried to sound casual. "Are you ready for bed, or haven't you had enough to eat tonight?"

   He surveyed the coffee table. His tone also trying to be casual -- with equal unsuccess -- as he replied, "Yeah, I've had enough to eat."

   Now I definitely felt nervous. I rubbed a hand along my chin. "You're ready for bed then, huh?"

   He looked sharply over at me. Then, almost shyly, "Well, yeah, if you are."

   If we tried hard enough, we could probably have sat there and talked for two hours. But I didn't want that, and I'm sure he didn't, either. One of us was going to have to make the first move to do something. And since I hadn't been operated on during the past week, I suppose that meant me.

   And I didn't really mind. I stood up and went over to him, settled on the floor next to the couch, facing him. My voice was even more gentle than I'd intended. "Think you can haul your carcass off this couch and make it to the bedroom?" I reached out and rubbed a couple of fingers along his forehead.

   His eyes surveyed the part of my body that was revealed by the open shirt. "How am I," he said in a soft, level tone, "going to get turned on by you, when you can't show me anything that I've haven't already seen without getting turned on?" Yet, despite asking the question, he didn't seem worried.

   I ran my hand back through his hair. "I think it's a good thing if you don't get turned least until you're feeling better. We don't want to do anything to aggravate your incision."

   He let his hand drop to the side of the sofa, then gradually it found mine and clasped it. "Do you think you're gonna get turned on by me okay?"

   He asked it so innocently, almost like a little kid. "You know that day you first mentioned it?" I asked. God, had it only been three days ago? It seemed like forever.


   "Well, I went walking through a park, thinking things through. And, just thinking about it, I got a hard-on."

   He presented a crooked smile. "Really?"

   I nodded. "Really." But then I rested my chin on the edge of the couch, and with the hand that wasn't in his hair, I touched his stomach through the blue cotton pajamas. "But you know what?" I said softly, "Sometimes I feel like I don't really care about the other stuff. All I want to do," I was petting back through his hair, "is just hold you and keep you safe. Just let you feel how much I love you. The other'll just be icing on the cake."

   His eyes were riveted on mine. Breathing deeply, he said, "Let's go to bed right now, Hutch."

   I closed my eyes and kissed his hand. "Okay."

   I stood up and he started to straighten. He moved gingerly, and I reached to help lift him, and then he leaned against me as we made the short journey to the bedroom.

   "We need to get the lights," he said.

   "I'll do it as soon as you're in bed."

   We both pushed the covers back, then I helped as he carefully lowered himself to the mattress. He grunted as he shifted to get comfortable. He really didn't have much choice except to lay on his back or on his left side, since the incision was on his right side; and since I was going to be with him, I assumed he wanted to be facing me. I fixed up the pillows as best I could, then when he waved a hand to indicate he was as comfortable as he was going to get, I went back through the apartment and shut off the lights.

   My heart was pounding, and I'm not really sure why. After all, it's not like anything was going to happen. But I felt that simply being in bed with him, snuggling close, was going to be the most wonderful thing....

   And it's funny that it really wouldn't even be the first time we'd slept together. We've done it before...well, Starsky has slept with me, that is. After I was sick with the plague, and Starsk finally took me home from the hospital, he put me to bed and curled himself around me and we both slept. Then, after I woke up, he slept for another two days. It wasn't until then that I realized just how much energy and effort he'd put out looking for Callender. And, before that, there was the aftermath of...well, what Ben Forrest's cronies did to me. Even weeks after the worst of it was over, I still had occasional relapses. And Starsky would sleep with me then -- hold me close -- to make sure I wasn't going to feel that some little white powder would be a better crutch against the pain I was feeling.

   Hell, thinking back, I guess the Ben Forrest ordeal was when I realized that Starsky loved me. I mean, really loved me. Not the you're-my-partner-and-we-have-to-look-out-for-each-other kind of love, but the deep down, know-it-in-your-guts kind love. The unconditional kind. To be honest, I think there's probably only a few people in the world who ever experience that kind of love, and probably fewer still who experience it with their friends -- as opposed to family members and spouses. So, I guess, it's easy to feel special when you're involved in that kind of relationship.

   And you can't help but wonder what the hell you ever did to deserve it.

   "You comin', blondie?"

   I was poised over the sink, filling a glass with water. "Be there in a minute," I called to him. "Do you need to take your pills?"

   "Just took them a few minutes before you got here," he called back.

   I drank from the glass, then set it in the sink. The street lamps outside kept the interior lit enough to find my way around in the dark, and I returned to the bedroom. My stomach started feeling funny as I stood there next to the bed, and took off my clothes. Maybe it was nerves, but I also knew it was the most wonderful kind of excitement, knowing it could be like this from now on...knowing that there was nothing to stop it from being like this...except ourselves. And we weren't ever going to let that happen.

   When only my shorts remained, I took a t-shirt out of his drawer and slipped into it. Then I pushed the covers back and crawled into bed. I was careful not to jostle the mattress, because while Starsky seemed to be doing real well since his surgery, I knew from my own experience that sometimes the smallest thing could send a wound into a fit of throbbing. Slowly, I slid across the sheet until my knees bumped into his.

   "Where are you?" he asked, reaching out.

   "Right here," I whispered. I settled against the pillow, then reached for his hands. I found them in a moment, and we both silently straightened our legs, so I could slide a little closer. I could hear his breath, smell the healthy musk, and my hands were relaxed against his arms. But I stretched one out to lay against the top of his chest, where I could feel his hair through the top open buttons of his pj's. "I love you."

   "Mmm," was his only answer. He laid his hand against my chest, too, or rather against my t-shirt. Then, after a few moments, it drifted down and came around to my waist, and then he just let it rest there.

   "Can't believe this is happenin'," he mumbled.

   "Yeah," was all I could say. I moved my hand up to his face and felt the brusqueness of his whiskers. "How long since you shaved?"

   "I did this morning, after you left."


   "Yeah. Grows back fast, huh?"

   I chuckled. "Must be an extra dose of male hormones."

   He sort of laughed too, but then the hand on my waist started to pet up and down, and it gradually worked up the edge of my shirt, so he was feeling the skin beneath. "You know, Hutch," he said quietly, "I really like it that you're smooth all over. I mean, I like being hairy, but I'm glad you're not."

   "Yeah? Well, I like it that you're just so damn...male." The words came out stronger than I'd intended.

   "You're no less male than I am," he said, his tone sounding like he was wondering if I was questioning my masculinity.

   "I know," I assured. "But you have such a...a ruggedness about you. I've always found it...I don't know, soothing, I guess. I mean, I wouldn't want some 120 pound flake watching my back."

   He chuckled real soft. Then his hand went from my waist, up to my hair. The fingers furrowed in it, and I lay real still, soaking it up.

   "You're just so damn beautiful, Hutch." His voice was amazed.

   I swallowed because I've never really known what to say when people tell me that. It's nice being good-looking, but when people dwell on it, it's always made me uncomfortable.

   "Really," he said. "I mean honest, Hutch, I'd still love you to death if you were one ugly mother's son. But I feel like it's a fringe bein' so damn gorgeous an' all."

   I closed my eyes. His voice sounded so passionate.

   "Sometimes I wonder," he went on, "what the hell someone as beautiful as you is doing wasting your looks on someone like me. I mean, you ought to be married to someone like Miss Universe."

   I swallowed and opened my eyes. "I a manner of speaking."

   He had to take a minute to let that sink in. "Well, I know," he finally said, "Vanessa was one gorgeous lady, and --"

   "Exactly," I interrupted, wanting to close the subject, "but it was a whole different story on the inside." I gripped his scrubby cheek. "You're the most special, most precious person I've ever known. I don't want anything else on the outside if they can't have your insides."

   He was quiet a moment, then he said, "But you're beautiful on both the inside and the outside."

   He was so damn serious about it. All I could do was laugh a little. "Well, I think there are a number of people -- including Vanessa, God rest her soul -- who would disagree with that."

   "Doesn't matter," he whispered, stroking my cheek, "you're mine now. No one else can have you."

   I took a deep breath, wanting to believe that with all my soul. People always seems to think that commitment ties you down -- but, really, it sets you free, because you have the security of knowing there's someone who loves you and will support you and stand by you. That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. And I know with Starsk, it will. Because we've been standing by each other and supporting each other for forever.

   We both lay there for a while in the stillness of the night, relaxed and content. Every now and then one of us would move our hands to a new location...rub and scratch a little.


   My eyes had closed. "Hmm?"

   "What do you think it'll be like? You know, when we do it?"

   He was still so serious. I shifted a little, then lay very still. I tried to answer as honestly as I could. "I don't know." Then it occurred to me he could have meant a couple of different things. "Do you mean just 'do' something in general, or...?" I didn't know how to phrase it.

   "I mean when we get serious. You know, do it. Fuck each other."

   I wanted to make a joke about his choice of words, but realized my heart wasn't in it. I shifted a little to lay on my back. "I don't know, Starsk. I've never done it before...with a man, I mean."

   "But you have with women, right?"

   I shrugged. "Occasionally." I looked over at him. "Haven't you?"

   "Well...yeah." I sensed there was more he wanted to say, but he was afraid of saying it. I moved my hand across the mattress until I felt his hand, and I stroked it with the backs of my fingers. And waited.

   After a time, he swallowed and said, "I really didn't like it much. I mean, not as much as doin' it normally."

   I rolled onto my side and whispered, "I didn't, either. As much, anyway. Nothing feels quite like a woman."

   He thought about that a long moment. Then he said, "Do you think maybe we're makin' a big be thinkin' we might do it someday?"

   I wanted to put that fear to rest right away. He was already saying 'might' instead of 'will'. My fingers found his and curled around them. "No, Starsk. Not at all. We'll make do with the parts we have available to us. I think...I think...," God, what was the right phrase to use? "...that that will be the only way we have of being physically joined. I guess I see it as an ultimate, as far as the physical, and I at least would like us to be able to share that. If we enjoy it, that is. Obviously, some men like doing it."

   "Yeah," he agreed quietly. Then he cheerfully said, "Hutch, are you ever gonna kiss me?"

   I glanced up at him, feeling a bit guilty. He said it like he'd been waiting for it ever since we got into bed. Of course, he couldn't make the first move without being awkward because of his stitches. At the same time, I had thought.... "Hey, buddy," I squeezed his hand, "I wasn't planning on any of that yet."

   "Just a little kiss, Hutch."

   He sounded like such a little kid. That always gets to me. I took a deep breath. "Buddy, I'm afraid it might be difficult to keep it little." I sighed, hearing the frustration in my voice. "And I don't want to start something that we aren't going to be able to finish. I thought we'd just sleep together for a while."

   He blinked, his eyes so wide and innocent looking and full of life. "Can't we just play around? You know, like in high school? Back before it was proper to go all the way?"

   I smiled -- or tried to. Maybe it was more of a grimace, because just talking about it was starting to get to me, and I had to shift a little, but it didn't help. "Starsk, we aren't kids anymore. We have adult desires." I took a deep breath.

   "We'll handle it, Hutch." He reached out and patted my cheek. "I really would like it if you kissed me. If it weren't for this damn surgery, I would've been all over you as soon as you got into bed."

   I shifted again, took another deep breath, tried to blank my mind....

   But damn, he was lying there, so expectant, waiting for me. And, dear God, when you love someone as much as I do him, it's very difficult to say "No" when they're asking for so little. Just wanting a little pleasure. Who was I to deny him that?

   It felt like I was diving off a cliff, as I carefully slid closer to him. I got up on my elbow so I could lean down. His eyes were wide open, watching me, waiting for it to happen.

   I closed my eyes and lowered my head. Honest to God, I meant for it to be a kiss -- nothing more, nothing less. But as soon as my mouth touched his, Starsky's lips parted and he pressed up against me, and I pressed down...and it was like being sucked into a well...except instead of falling, I was floating...and soaring...and it was like an addiction and we both just pressed harder and harder....

   It was Starsky who broke the spell, squeezing my shoulder so hard that I finally pulled back, and we gasped like two badly conditioned athletes who had just run a marathon, our foreheads leaning against each other.

   "I love you," I finally managed. I kissed his cheek, dragged my lips up to his nose, his forehead, tasting the salt of him, wondering why we had waited all this time, but glad that we had this specialness now to share.

   He tilted his chin up, reached with his hand to clasp my jaw, trying to pull us together again, but I pulled back. "Starsk, no," I gasped, wondering if I meant it.

   In his lying position, he could only let go. "Why?" he asked breathlessly.

   "Buddy," I warned, shaking my head, "I won't be able to stop...."

   "Who's asking you to?" I felt a hand on my abdomen and I tried to pull my hips away. "Don't hold back from me, buddy," he said with quiet deliberateness. "There's nothing about you that I don't want."

   Damn, but he was determined. Was this the same man who had kept asking if it was "going to be okay"? I didn't know whether to curse him or love him all the more. With my desire so strong, giving him what he wanted could only be torture for me, because I didn't know how the buildup of pressure could possibly be released....

   His hand went lower, stretching to fumble at the waistband of my shorts. I knew the movement had to have pulled at his stitches, and I sensed his flinch of pain. But still his hand pestered, trying to get inside.

   I raised up a little more. "Just a minute," I told him. I couldn't stand to see him hurt himself like this. The least I could do was not make it so hard on him, so I pushed at my underwear, forcing it down until my cock sprang free. In retrospect, I guess it sounds silly, but I almost expected him to hesitate, maybe think it was a little bit gross, just because it was so male....

   But even while I was still trying to kick my underwear off, he was touching it, stroking it. His grip was so soothing, so strong, so encouraging....

   I finally had the shorts off and I pressed against the mattress with my hands and toes, arching up, making myself more accessible to him.

   He had calmed down considerably...not being frantic like when we were kissing. But my insides were on fire, and I heard myself moan, "Oh, Starsk...." I didn't know what else to say, how to tell him how to help me.

   But I shouldn't have worried.

   "I'll get you off, Hutch," he said confidently. "I can make my hand feel just like pussy."

   I collapsed against the mattress, not knowing whether to laugh or groan at what he'd said. Pussy was the very thing we'd given up. But my cock ached all the more at the promise.

   His hand left me to go beneath. He carefully picked up my balls, then rolled them in his hands.

   "Feel good?" he whispered.

   I could only nod, trying to hold my breath as I watched him. God, most women had no idea how good it felt to have your scrotum played with. They seemed to think a quick feel was enough. But Starsk knew. He kept rolling them...and rolling them.

   I must have moaned or whimpered or something, because he carefully let them go, and said, "I'll get you off, Hutch. I know just how to do it."

   I had no doubt he knew how to do it for himself, but surely another person was a whole different matter. But he wrapped his hand firmly around my barrel, then pulled forward, tightening just behind the head as his hand passed over it.

   "Oh, God," I said. I'm sure it was a whimper this time. He was better than I'd imagined. He kept stroking, so steady, over and over....

   And I couldn't stand that he wasn't getting anything out of it. Trying not to dislodged his position, I got back up on an elbow and attacked his mouth, gripped his hair, reached down instinctively and pinched at the little nipples there.

   He groaned, too, kissed back just as vigorously. And still his hand kept its steady motion...and suddenly I felt it coming and threw my head back, and he pumped faster...faster...tighter and tighter....

   I know I cried out. It was such an all-encompassing feeling...something I hadn't experienced in quite a while, and I let it consume me, felt myself go limp as the juice flowed out of me, and I was numb all over until I realized I was spread out on the mattress. I think I was still groaning a little.

   "How the hell did you know how to do that?" I gasped, just now looking over at him.

   He was grinning smugly, a hand tucked under a cheek. Then he shrugged. "What's to know? You think I'm not a master at beating my own meat?"

   I blinked, recovering enough to turn back onto my side. "Beating your own meat and beating someone else's are two different things, partner."

   "Not really," he said. Then his smile faded. "You're so damn beautiful, Hutch. If there was some way I could make you feel good twenty-four hours a day, every day, I would."

   I was finding it harder and harder to know what to say when he gets so passionate like that. I decided to keep things as mellow as possible. In my state, I'm not sure I could handle anything else. "I'll accept what I can get for the time being." And I sighed dramatically.

   Then it occurred to me that I was being incredibly selfish. Gently, I asked, "How are you doing?" I tried to look, but the covers were still almost up to his waist.

   "I'm okay, Hutch," he said cheerfully. "I just wanted to do that for you." Then, like a mischievous little kid, "It got me my kiss, didn't it?"

   I reached to ruffle his hair, but stopped right away when my hip felt a coolness on the sheets. I sighed again, then rolled toward the other side of the bed. "I'll get a towel." I got up, feeling the wonderful wobbliness in my legs. I tried to rationalize it all and tell myself that an orgasm was an orgasm was an orgasm...that any woman -- any bed partner -- could have gotten me off like Starsk did. Made me scream. Made me feel like I didn't have a care in the world.

   But there was no other I had looked forward to returning to bed to as much as I was looking forward to returning to Starsk...even just to curl up and sleep.

   I switched on the light in the bathroom and found myself facing the mirror. I looked at the man there, trying to see him as someone else would.

   I knew, despite all the compliments, that he wasn't as handsome as he once was. Some said the mustache added character; however, some had also said it made him look sad. His face was paler than it used to be, bags a little bigger around the eyes, hair thinner, though longer. Without that color of blond, I knew he would be an entirely ordinary specimen of the human race. With the blond, he merely had an attractive exterior.

   And that man in the bedroom thought he was some kind of angel...or wise man...or god. Or perhaps just a soul who badly needed love.

   I picked up a hand towel off the rack, squeezed it around myself for half a second, then turned off the light. My search was over, though I couldn't help but wonder if it was necessary for all those years to go by before its conclusion. It's not that I felt they were wasted years -- all of life's experiences give us knowledge that enhance our existence -- but I wondered if I'd had any courage, if perhaps I could have been loving in return for some time now.

   And if Starsk hadn't had the courage, how much longer would we have gone on as we had?

   It really wasn't such a bad thought. The love we shared had been tops in both of our lives for some time now. After Gillian, after Terry, it seemed that for the serious stuff, we turned to each other. We just used and let our bodies be used by others. We worshipped each other, but we were indiscriminate with our pleasure.

   No more.

   They say that, eventually, everyone returns to their roots. Everyone must make peace with their past in order to have peace in their future. And Starsky and I had returned to the only real home each of us has ever known.

   The bedroom seemed darker after losing the brightness of the light, and I bumped into the edge. "Sorry," I said, thinking of his wound.

   His voice hinted at amusement. "Hurt me less than it did you."

   As I knelt on the mattress, I held out the towel. "Need this?"

   He sort of looked at his hand, then rubbed it against his pajamas. "Nah. Hardly got any on me."

   I felt for the wet spot, then laid the towel over it. Then I found my underwear and put them back on.

   "What took you so long?"

   "Just thinking." I settled against the mattress, feeling rested and renewed and at peace.

   "About what?" He sounded suspicious.

   I felt for his hand, then held it loosely. "Me. You. Life. Love. Things like that."

   With scolding hesitation, he said, "I don't know if I can let you go to the bathroom alone anymore, Hutch."

   I chuckled and squeezed his hand. Then I said, "I love you. You can't know how much."

   "If you say so. But I hope you don't mind my taking the rest of our lives trying to find out."

   My eyes watered then. I'm not really even sure why.

   I turned on my side, clasping his hand in a firmer grip. "Buddy, I'll be damn glad when you're healed, because I want to hold you so much I can hardly stand it."

   "I know. I want to hold you, too." And, slowly, he inched a little closer.

   I wanted to put my hand on his waist, but that was too close to his incision. So, I put it on his hip.

   "You know what's funny?" he asked.


   "I feel all mellow -- like I came, too, even though I didn't."

   I reached out, put on hand on his chest. "Wait until you're healed, partner. You ain't seen nothing yet." I rubbed a little, feeling the hair beneath the cotton.

   He grunted, then I felt fingers reached for my lips, gently searching around them.

   I captured a digit with my mouth, sucked it briefly. Then I pushed with my nose until I found his hand, and I kissed the center of it.

   He was lying back, looking at the ceiling. "You ever wonder if it'll all run out?"

   I released his hand. "What?"

   "The love." He looked toward me. "Do you ever think it'll get used up? Do you think that's what happens to marriages when they don't love each other any more?"

   "No," I answered immediately. I had experience with that. I moved a little closer to him. "I think what happens is that two people fall in love with the anticipation of meeting each other's needs. Then they get to know each other and, sometimes, they find out that they want different things." I drew a circle in the center of his chest. "That won't happen to us, because we've been meeting each other's needs for a long time now. We both know what we're getting."

   Starsky made a big sigh of contentment. Then he corrected, "Not what we're getting -- what we have."

   He was right, and I moved my hand from his chest to squeeze his arm. Then I felt a yawn coming on. "Buddy?"


   "Think you might be able to sleep with your head on my shoulder?" Say yes, please say yes.

   "Yeah, let's give it a try." He raised up a little, then gingerly tried to move nearer with an elbow.

   I inched closer to him, then put a hand on his back. When he first tried to lay down, his head was almost level with mine, so he slid down the mattress until it was on target. Carefully, he let my shoulder take his weight.

   I had my arm around his shoulders, and I couldn't help but pet a little up and down his back. "Comfortable?"

   "Yeah," he flinched a little, "I think this will be okay." Then, "Better than a pillow."

   "How does your incision feel?"

   Another slight flinch. "It kinda stings a little. Not bad enough to keep me awake," he assured.

   I let my hand drift up his back, into his hair. I twirled my fingers around it. "Let me know if you need anything."

   "Okay," he said tiredly. "Go to sleep, blondie. You've got work in the morning."

   I grunted at his feeble attempt to be commanding. But I obeyed. And I was confident that all my mornings of the future were going to be better than all those of the past.

The End

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