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Part Two

Charlotte Frost


The breeze blowing from the ocean was just enough to curb the uncomfortable heat of the afternoon sun. Starsky sat on a small hill overlooking the beach, his arms wrapped around his drawn-up knees.

It had been five days since Mary Ann's grandmother died.

Starsky wasn't surprised when a hand suddenly appeared on his shoulder. Its grip was firm and strong.

"How did you find me?" he asked without looking up.

The tall figure plopped down beside him, and he felt an arm find respite across the back of his shoulders. The fingers squeezed. "I was starting to get worried when I found out the funeral was two days ago and there still hadn't been any word from you. I stopped by Mary Ann's place, managed to get past the lock, and I saw her ring on the counter." A pause. "That's when I knew your heart was broken."

And, Starsky knew, Hutch had set out to investigate those places his partner tended to visit at such times. "She went to San Francisco without me."

Dark shades turned to him. "You've been here the entire five days?"

Starsky shrugged. "More or less."

He was hugged against the other. "Ah, buddy."

Starsky rested his head against Hutch's shoulder, because it felt so good to do so. He found it incredible that he'd ever managed to give Mary Ann the impression that Hutch was needy or weak. Right now, nothing felt more powerful than his partner's strength. He wanted to absorb it into himself.

His shoulder was squeezed again. "Any chance of patching it up?"

Starsky shook his head. "I wanted to but she didn't." He swallowed. "I've come to realize that she was right not to."

"How so?"

"Don't wanna talk about it right now."

Fingers scratched at the back of his neck. "You need a shower."

Starsky didn't care if his buildup of body odor was offensive. "Never again, Hutch."

"Take a shower?" the other said incredulously.

"Have a relationship with someone."

Fingers massaged his shoulder again, his partner's voice tender. "Ah, buddy, we all think that when we've had our heart ripped out. You just need to give yourself time."

"No," Starsky whispered. "I gave everything I had to her, and it wasn't enough."

"Buddy," the other said with equal softness, twisting to look at him, "you have to admit she was a pretty demanding person. Just because you couldn't meet all her needs doesn't make you unlovable."

Starsky opened his mouth to reply, but Hutch put his hand over it. "Your breath stinks."


"Besides," Hutch said more cheerfully, "I still find you lovable despite the fact that you need a shower and a strong dose of mouthwash." He pulled at Starsky's brief whiskers. "And a shave."

"Guess there's no accounting for taste."

"Guess not."

Hutch eased his hold and gazed at him. "Since your pride's been trampled to shreds, I don't guess you'd object to my taking you home and cleaning you up, feeding you, and putting you to bed?"

Starsky shook his head. Hutch was right. He had no pride left. And as though fulfilling a prophecy of Mary Ann's, he was willing to wallow in all the neediness that Hutch would allow and milk it for all it was worth. He put his arms around Hutch's neck. "Take me home."

"Starsky, I'm not going to carry you."

Starsky sighed forlornly as Hutch helped him to his feet. "You can't blame a guy for tryin'."

* * *

At his own apartment, which he'd rarely visited in past months, Starsky put the toilet lid down and sat on it. He pulled off one shoe, then the other, not caring that a good helping of sand poured onto the floor.

Hutch reached into the shower stall and turned on the water.

Slowly, Starsky peeled off a sweat-soaked sock.

Hutch stood back, watching him. "At this rate, the water's going to get cold before you even get in there."

"Don't care," Starsky mumbled. He pulled up his leg and fought with the sock on the other foot.

"I care," Hutch said. He reached to the buttons of Starsky's shirt. When a few were undone, he tore the rest apart. "It needs to be burned, anyway," he noted, tossing it out the bathroom door. "Come on," he tugged at the T-shirt remaining, "put your arms up."

Starsky's feet were now bare, and he raised his arms. "Hold your breath."

"No kidding," Hutch said tightly, pulling the T-shirt up and off. "Stand up."

"Don't think I want you to see my underwear," Starsky muttered as he stood and opened his fly.

"I promise not to look."

Starsky fought to get the lower clothing past his hips. Hutch's hands were there, pushing, and when they'd made it, he stepped out of them in a hurry.

Hutch swatted his rear. "Come on, get in," he said, holding back the shower curtain.

Starsky obeyed. Just before closing the curtain, he saw Hutch gather up his clothing. He knew they were going into the trash.

The warm water felt good. He used soap and shampoo liberally and was starting to feel human again.

But along with the new vigor in his body came a more alert thinking process. And he was so tired of thinking.

Hutch had left plenty of clean towels for him, as well as his robe. Starsky dried thoroughly, put on the robe. Next came shaving, brushing his teeth and gargling with mouthwash.

"What are we havin'?" he asked when he emerged.

Hutch was rinsing out dishes that had been in the sink and had his back to him. "I ordered pizza."

"Oh." He hadn't expected a treat like that.

The blond glanced back at him. "Feeling better?"

Starsky shrugged. "Yes and no."

Hutch wiped his hands with a dish towel. Seriously, he said, "The way I see it, partner, you either have to talk about it or agree to a lot of distractions."

Starsky shook his head, his eyes lowered. "Not ready yet to talk about it, Hutch."

The blond head nodded with understanding. "Then sit down and find something on TV to watch while we're eating."

Starsky moved to the bedroom to put on a pair of underwear beneath his robe. Then he returned to the living room and obeyed.

"Thomas Whitley confessed," Hutch said, joining him. He handed Starsky a soda and sipped from his own glass of water.

Starsky rested his head on the back of the couch. "Yeah? What was the connection between him and Jennings?"

"They used to do a lot of business deals together, oil and stuff, always for millions of dollars each. About five years ago, Jennings agreed to give him the financing to get involved in another deal with the big oil barons. Up to that point, they'd both been small fries. Then Jennings up and disappeared. Took all the money he was able to get his hands on by himself. Whitley looked like a laughingstock in front of the big boys, and he was forced out of the oil business. He made it the focus of his whole life to find Jennings and get back at him."

Starsky considered that. "And he thought leaving him in the desert to be a way of getting back at him, 'abandoning' him?"


"Geez. If he felt that strongly about it, it's a wonder he didn't want to see Jennings in person when the deed was done. If he'd been with his goons, he'd have seen you were the wrong guy and they coulda let you go. If you were blindfolded, you wouldn't have been able to identify them later."

Hutch sighed. "Believe me, partner, I made that very same point to Whitley. Of course, I didn't get rough with him like you did, but he said he was sorry up and down for about two straight hours. He said he thought not being there in person was the only way of guaranteeing it would never get traced back to him. He hired the muscle, sight unseen. They all wanted it that way."

"But he couldn't resist telling them to give 'Jennings' his name, so he would know who was responsible for leaving him to die."

"Right. His only mistake."

Starsky looked at him fondly, his head still comfortable against the back of the sofa.

"Wrong. That was his second mistake."

"What was his first?"

"Messing with my partner."

Hutch lowered his eyes bashfully. "Yeah."

Two pizzas arrived and Hutch took it upon himself to bring them to the table, along with a good helping of napkins. "What are we watching?" he said as he sat down on the floor next to the coffee table.

"Don't know. Some movie."

They ate in silence, neither paying much attention to the television. When he was finally starting to feel full, Starsky asked, "How mad is Dobey at me?"

"I'm not sure. I think your first three days he'll fudge compassionate leave days, even though Mary Ann's grandmother wasn't officially a relative yet. The last two days..." he shrugged. "Don't be surprised if you have a short paycheck."

"Does he know I'm in town now?"

"I called him while you were in the shower. He wasn't too happy about me kissing away the rest of the afternoon. He's expecting us both in tomorrow."

There was still pizza left, but Starsky couldn't finish it. He sat back with a sigh and closed his eyes, thinking how comfortable it felt, just him and Hutch. No expectations of him except his usual grind at the salt mines. And that wasn't until tomorrow.

A few minutes later he felt a pull on his robe. "Come on. To bed."

It was still well before sundown, but rest sounded good, though he doubted he'd be able to genuinely sleep. He got to his feet with an exaggerated groan, then allowed Hutch to herd him into the bedroom.

Hutch started to pull the covers back, but Starsky plopped down on top of them instead. He shifted to lay on his side, propped on an elbow, and grabbed Hutch's shirt. "Stay."

Hutch batted his eyelashes, the way he did when he was feeling particularly sympathetic. He stretched out facing Starsky, mirroring his stance. "You ready to talk?"

Starsky shook his head. "Just stay with me."

Softly, the other said, "It's gonna hurt for a while, buddy. There's no getting around it. There aren't any shortcuts."

"I know. Not expecting any."

Hutch reached out, clasped his robed shoulder, massaging through the thick material.

Starsky closed his eyes, liking it, wanting nothing more than to be on the receiving end of such kindness. He rolled to lie on his back, keeping a hold of Hutch's shirt to pull the blond with him.

Hutch's head rested on Starsky's chest, the gentle hand still kneading. Thinking of another time, another place, Starsky said, "You're my pal, Hutch."

The blond head moved so that the blue eyes could look at him. "I always will be."

Starsky put his arms around Hutch, lacing his fingers behind him. "You know, she said that. More or less. Mary Ann," he clarified.

"Said what?"

" important we were to each other. And had been for a long time." Starsky swallowed. Once he said it there would be no turning back. He had to force the issue, or forever be afraid of it. "She said she couldn't compete." The timing was wrong. He felt the sudden stiffening of various muscles within his arms.

Hutch pulled back to look at him, mouth open. "Starsky. Are you saying...are you saying...she left you because of me?"

"No," he replied simply, then corrected, "She left because of me. Because of you."

The blue eyes narrowed and Starsky knew he needed to make more sense. "She left because of me and how I feel about you."

Hutch struggled to his knees, but still hovered over the other. "Starsky, the last thing I ever would have wanted was to come between you two."

"I know that," Starsky said forcefully. "She knows that, too. She doesn't blame you, Hutch. She made a point of saying that. She ended up liking you a lot. But," he closed his eyes, feeling his throat tighten. When he opened them, he managed, "She knows it's not your fault that...that I need you so damn much."

Now the pale features softened. "Ah, buddy," Hutch said. He bent to cover Starsky with his upper body, hands rubbing up and down the other's arms. "How did things get so mixed up?" he wondered out loud.

Starsky's voice was still unsteady. "It was my fault, Hutch. I wanted the three of us to be closer together, so much. But, in reality, I kept trying to keep you both separate. I divided my love right down the middle, trying to make sure there was enough for both of you. Trying to not shortchange either of you. When I was with you, I felt like I wasn't being fair to her. When I was with her, I felt I wasn't being fair to you." He swallowed thickly. "In the end, it was obvious that your side wound up with a whole lot more than hers. I can't blame her for noticing. Or for not wanting the lesser half, even if she had the token proof of a wedding ring. She deserved more."

Hutch shifted to lie next to Starsky on his side. Gentle fingers brushed along Starsky's face.

"I'm a fraud, Hutch. I'm a fraud and I didn't even know it. She had to point it out to me."

"Starsky, you're not a fraud. You gave her everything you were capable of giving."

"Which was only what was left over after I gave all of myself to you first."

Hutch shook his head. "Starsky, you can't--can' like that. I don't believe there's any such thing as having enough or running out. It doesn't make sense. If you love yourself first, there's no shortage of how much you can give to others."

Starsky looked away, feeling he wasn't up to the argument.

The fingers paused, and then a thumb brushed along Starsky's lips. He closed his eyes at its tender feel, moved his head just enough to indicate that he wanted more.

Hutch obeyed, the thumb running along his lower lip more firmly.

Eyes still closed, Starsky tried to kiss the thumb.

Hutch shifted closer, and Starsky felt his chin taken in hand. He let his eyes drift open.

Hutch was looking down at him, his expression such a mixture of tenderness and concern, holding his chin, his front pressed against Starsky's side.

As Starsky's eyes drifted shut, he nodded his head. A moment later soft, tender moistness touched his lips. He detected the musky, clean smell of the other's skin, and breathed deeply, trying to inhale the familiar scent that had always been a source of strength and security.

The lips against his pressed a little harder. He opened his mouth, but they pulled back.

When he opened his eyes again, Hutch was still looking down at him, so concerned. The blond whispered, "This is what you want?"

Starsky closed his eyes again. And nodded. But he knew he had to speak so there would be no mistake. "Yes," he replied in a barely audible voice.

The mattress shifted, and the top of his robe was parted. A wet tongue licked at his chest, then Starsky felt a nose against his neck, as he was kissed there. Hutch made a noise that could only be defined as some sort of approval of what his senses told him, and he held Starsky's cheeks and kissed him.

Starsky didn't kiss back. He couldn't even muster enough pride to participate. What had Mary Ann called it? Unconditional love? She had cautioned him not to throw it away. She need not have worried. He was going to milk it for all it was worth.

Lips kissed down to his navel. Hutch must have gotten bored with his lack of participation, for now Starsky felt his underwear shifted. The elastic band only had to be pulled down a little ways before his erection found its way free.

Starsky had to open his eyes for this part. He found his clothed partner staring at his desire, as though not sure what to do with it. Then Hutch glanced up at him. Starsky managed the bare semblance of a smile. Hutch's tender face smiled back. And then he lowered his head.

Starsky escaped to darkness once again, feeling that wet mouth working on him. This was unbelievable, Hutch sucking him.

He forced down a thick swallow. His whole world had turned upside down and nothing in his life made sense anymore. Least of all that he had reduced his partner to sucking on his dick.

Starsky felt himself shrink as the confusion of it all pushed his sorrow up through his chest. Hutch was sucking harder at the now-cowering flesh, and Starsky threw an arm over his eyes as a sob escaped his throat.

The ineffective sensations went away. The mattress shifted. And then arms were lifting him, cradling him, as his partner's sorrowful voice said, "Ah, buddy, that's not what you need. That's not what you need at all."

He hooked his chin over Hutch's shoulder as a hand pressed against the back of his head, securing him there. Even though strong arms were locked around him, Starsky still grabbed at his partner's clothing, needing to hang on.

His harsh sobs shook both their bodies. He wished he'd had more practice at crying. He knew he sounded awful and it was difficult for Hutch to keep his arms around him. He felt he should apologize.

A hand pulled at his underwear until it was more secure around his hips. Then it rubbed up and down his bare back, inside the robe.

"I know it hurts so bad," said a sympathetic voice next to his ear. "So, so bad." The hand on his head dropped to his neck, fingers rubbing there.

Starsky gripped Hutch tighter. And cried harder.

* * *

He didn't remember falling asleep. When he woke, the room was dark, save the light from the open doorway. Sounds from the television indicated he wasn't alone in the apartment. A blanket covered him.

Starsky shifted, rolling from his back onto his side. The bedside clock said that it was after nine. He'd slept some four or five hours and felt refreshed. Renewed. In mind and in body.

Hutch was out there, keeping himself occupied with the TV, while watching over Starsky's sleep. Playing the watcher. The protector. Any role that Starsky needed. As he always had. As he always would.

One could not put a price on that.

Starsky's eyes closed. There was a flush of shame at the memory of what--in all his confusion --he'd asked Hutch to do.

And Hutch had done so. Willingly. Hutch had done it because that was what Starsky had wanted. But the fact that Hutch had correctly read the wish that wasn't verbalized--and the fact that he'd acted without any sign of distaste--didn't that mean that Hutch found the idea not offensive at all? Had he, perhaps, even allowed the idea of it to cross his own mind before now?

Starsky frowned at the thought, not liking it: the possibility that Hutch had perhaps thought about this before...and kept his thoughts to himself in deference to his partner's other plans. But Hutch had not lowered himself on his partner with the air of one who was finally getting something he'd always wanted. If anything, he'd seemed...merely curious.

And, it was the big blond who had so rightly figured out that any such activity wasn't what Starsky needed at all. And he had abandoned the task just as quickly, all so he could take Starsky up in his strong arms and allow him to purge his heartache and sorrow.

Funny, how Starsky now so fully understood why Mary Ann had been upset when he had wanted to make love to her when she had found out her grandmother was terminal. Sex was for expressing love. Not easing sorrow.

What Hutch had given him instead had eased the worst of the sting of Mary Ann's rejection. In fact, Starsky was no longer interested in analyzing what went wrong between them. He was much more interested in that blond pillar of strength who was always there for him to return to.

Didn't Hutch deserve something in return for all his loyalty?

Only it wasn't loyalty. Mary Ann had definitely been right about one thing. It was unconditional love. Hutch would love him no matter what.

But shouldn't that love be a blessing, if also a burden? Didn't Hutch deserve something in return for all his love other than Starsky going off and trying to make a life with someone else? Something other than being asked to suck his partner's cock?

"Hi," came a soft voice.

Starsky looked up. A tall silhouette stood in the doorway. He reached to the bedside lamp and turned it on. "Hi, yourself." He waited until Hutch took a few steps into the room. Then he relaxed back against the headboard. "We need to talk."

The blond sat down on the bed, near the lamp, leaning his weight on an arm that was braced against the mattress. The light revealed the sincerity of his expression. "Starsky, it's o-kay."

"What? That I went limp on you, or that I wanted it in the first place?"


Starsky shook his head. "That's not really what I want to talk about. Not specifically, anyway."

Hutch brushed a hand against his covered knee. "Mary Ann?"

Starsky lowered his eyes to the mattress, not sure how to answer or how to begin. After a moment, he looked up and asked, "What do you want most in this world?"

The blond's expression showed that he didn't appreciate being put on the spot without warning. He shifted, turning to sit with both legs on the floor, hands clasped between them. "I guess to have enough meaning in my life that I don't wake up every morning wondering what the point of it all is."

Starsky's head tilted to one side. "You wake up often wondering that?"

Hutch shrugged. "Now and then. Not all the time."

"What do you consider meaningful?"

The other thought. Then, "Putting away the bad guys. Watching the Vikings make another losing trip to the Super Bowl. Eating rare foods cooked to perfection." He glanced at Starsky. "Taking care of you."

"What about sex?"

"What about sex?"

Starsky shrugged. "That isn't important--meaningful--to you?"

Hutch reflected briefly. "I like it as much as the next guy. Sure, it's meaningful when I have it. Sometimes," he said after hesitating, "it's not meaningful enough to go through the games that it takes to convince a lady that it'll be to her benefit to share my bed." After another moment, he asked, "Why?"

"It seems like all I've done the past five days is think about what Mary Ann wanted and what I wanted. I haven't given much thought to what you've wanted."

"Starsky, I'm basically a happy guy. Don't get yourself into a titter about it."

"Thought I was, too."

After a long moment, Hutch prompted, "And?"

Starsky sighed and looked up at him. "Is there any pizza left?"

Hutch deflated. "A few slices."

Starsky pushed the blanket aside. "Good. I'm starved." He got up and went out to the living room.

"It's in the refrigerator," Hutch said behind him. "It'll be cold."

"Doesn't matter."

He didn't bother heating it up. He bit into a slice and chewed for a while, then washed it down with soda. After a while, he joined Hutch on the couch. "So, what have you been thinkin' about while I've been sleeping?"

"Guess," Hutch demanded, his ultra-sensitive mode having slipped away with Starsky's renewed energy. He stood and leaned on the top of the chair with the wide, fanned back.

"Well, let's see. I would tend to think you were either thinking about how Mary Ann could have messed me up so much. Or, how long it's gonna be before I'm back to normal. Or, if I wasn't so messed up right now, what would it have been like if we'd done it?"

Hutch said, "Try all three."

Starsky shrugged, not surprised. He moved to the television, kneeling beside it, and turned if off. He stretched out on the carpet, chin propped in his hand. "I'm gonna be okay, Hutch."

The other's expression was sympathetic again. "Don't sell yourself short," he said, leaning his hands on the back pockets of his jeans. "It can take a long, long time for that kind of hurt to heal."

Starsky studied the tall blond standing a few yards away, looking down at him. Held within that receptacle of flesh and blood and heart and soul, there rested a glow, a warm spot, that housed all the love that Hutch felt for him. He had one of those places within himself, Starsky knew. That was the place that made him want to make all those excuses about Hutch to Mary Ann, so that he could keep Hutch close to him, so that warm spot would not be deprived of shining itself upon the subject of its existence.

Starsky rubbed a finger along the nap of the carpet. "You know what I want more than anything on this earth?"

Hutch looked intrigued as he took a step closer. His voice was soft with curiosity. "No. Tell me."

"I want to pick a day, Hutch. A day in the future. But not too far in the future. And when that day comes..." he trailed off, unsure of how to phrase it.

Hutch knelt where he was. "Yes?" he prompted.

Starsky shrugged, then grinned at the other. "I want to make it the most wonderful day in your life."

The blond seemed fascinated, but his contrariness kicked in. "Ideally, we should all strive to make every day like that."

"No, no," Starsky corrected. His voice softened. "We can't have it be tomorrow, or the next day, or next week. We've got to give ourselves time to...anticipate. And to change our minds, if either of us gets cold feet. But Hutch," he propped up the other elbow and placed his chin in both hands, eyeing the expression that kept switching back and forth between curiosity and puzzlement, "when that day comes, I'm gonna be all ready for you. 'Cause, in the meantime, I'm gonna educate myself. And I'm gonna learn every possible way I can make it the best day of your life. And when that day comes, I'm you how I feel about you."

Hutch shook his head, as though to clear it. "Starsky, are you talking about sex?"

He shrugged. "Well, if that's the word you want to use. Personally, I'd consider it making love to the person I love most in this world. And who I, truly, want to give all of myself to."

A brief, disbelieving laugh. "That's crazy."

"Why?" Starsky asked simply. But he realized he had to remove any semblance of a trap. He batted his eyes as innocently as he could. "If you don't wanna, all you have to do is say no."

Hutch stared at him with his mouth open.

"Let's see," Starsky continued as though his partner wasn't looking at him as if he'd lost his mind. "I was planning on the 22nd being a very special day. It'll still be special," he decided, liking the idea. "That's sixteen days from now, a Saturday." He nodded. "Good, we can have the whole weekend." He pushed off the floor, sitting up, "And that gives me enough time to do some research."

The blond's mouth hadn't closed. "Research?"

"Well, yeah," Starsky replied casually. "I've never had any practice doin' it with someone with your parts." His voice lowered with sincerity. "Wanna do it right, make it special."

Pale eyes batted at him repeatedly. Then, in disbelief, "Starsky, are you telling me we're going to go to bed together and do things to each other based on what you read in a book?"

Starsky shrugged. "Books, movies...what difference does it make?" Seriously, he added, "But this isn't about doing things to each other, Hutch. This is only about what I'm gonna do to you. It's gonna be your special day." Now a grin. "If you don't like it, all you have to do is say no."

"Starsky, I am not going to make love with a sex manual!"

The smaller man gazed at his partner. Then he said. "Okay. If you don't want to do it, just say no."

The blond's nostrils flared. "I didn't say that!"

"Hutch, I think you're getting a bit worked up. And, you know, we still have sixteen days before anything's gonna happen. So...why don't you go water your plants or somethin'?" He allowed a tiny smile. "I'm okay."

Hutch picked up his jacket and hurriedly put it on. He started toward the door, but then turned, shaking a finger at Starsky. "I'm going to forget this conversation ever took place." The door slammed behind him.

Starsky laughed out loud. Then he got to work.

* * *

Hutch was true to his word. But on the afternoon of the second day, while they were on patrol in the Torino, the blond tossed his almost-empty cola can into the backseat.

"Hey!" Starsky protested. "Don't let that drip on my books."

Hutch turned to the backseat. "What books?"

"Books for my research project."

Hutch looked at him. "What proj--" He abruptly shut up as his eyes widened.

Starsky answered as if Hutch had finished the question. "You know, the one where I'm finding out all I can about how to make you feel good. I mean, especially good."

Hutch put a hand over his eyes, as though in pain. "Starsky, dare I ask what kind of books those are?"

"Well, let's see," Starsky tapped the steering wheel. "There's How to Please a Man In Bed, What Every Man Wants, The Male Sexual Organs, The Joy of--"

Hutch gripped Starsky's arm to stop the flow of titles. His other hand was still over his eyes. "Starsky, I had hoped you weren't serious about continuing with this. I thought surely by you would have come to your senses."

"Hutch, I assure you: my senses are very intact, thank you. And I'm quite serious."

"Control One to Zebra Three."

Hutch pulled his hand away, took a deep, deep breath, and answered the microphone, looking grateful for the distraction

* * *

On day five, they stopped for burgers and ate in the car. Starsky had been hungry, so his food was scarfed down first. Bored after finishing off the fries, he turned to watch his partner take a bite of his own burger. "Did you know that there's an incredible number of nerves in the anal area of the human body?"

Hutch choked, and spit out the piece of burger. His face screwed up to an incredible degree. "Starsky, that's gross. That's disgusting. I'm eating!" He closed his eyes and seemed to be counting to ten.

"Well, it's true."

The eyes didn't open. "That is the grossest, sickest--"

"Well," Starsky pouted, "if you're gonna be upset about it, I can consider that part of your body off limits." Firmly, he reminded, "Whatever you want, Hutch."

Hutch looked sharply at him. "You ought to be institutionalized. I can't believe I even agree to sit in the same car with you. I must be as crazy as you are. We both need to be institutionalized." He bit determinedly into his burger.

"Well, I'd recommend waiting until after eleven days from now before calling the men with the white coats. Eleven more days, Hutch."

* * *

It felt good to be standing before the urinal, his bladder relieving itself of its burden. Starsky was surprised when Hutch walked in, because the other had been down in Records. It was the tenth day.

"They'll have the files by tomorrow morning," the blond said, moving to stand beside Starsky. There was the sound of his fly lowering.

"You know, Hutch, I was watching this movie last night."

The blond closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, as though preparing for pain...or trying to hold himself back from causing it.

"It was really sort of interesting. See, these two guys were on an empty bus. And one guy was standing on two seats on opposite sides of the aisle--one leg on each seat, so he was sorta spread-eagled across the aisle." Starsky zipped up his fly. "It gave him great leverage. He'd lower himself down onto the other guy's prick. The other guy didn't even have to do anything, because the first guy was raising and lowering himself on it... I mean, the first guy was being fucked, but at the same time it was it was like he was doing the fucking." Starsky moved to the sink and ran his hands under the faucet for a couple of seconds.

Hutch's voice was steel. "Dammit, Starsky."

"You know, Hutch," Starsky said as he dried his hands, "you keep saying that, and I'm afraid people are gonna start thinking my first name is Dammit."

Wide eyes turned on him. "It would fit, wouldn't it?" the blond noted tightly.

Starsky grinned. "What's a matter? You all hard and now you can't piss?" He exited in a hurry, leaving a string of swearing in his wake.

* * *

"That's a great price for oranges, don't you think?" Starsky babbled as he carried the crate to the Torino from the farm truck parked beside the road. It was the twelfth day.

"Yeah, yeah, terrific," Hutch replied without enthusiasm.

"You can take some home with you, if you want."

The blond shrugged. "Maybe."

Starsky set the crate on the ground, got out his key, and opened the trunk. He pushed a paper sack aside, upsetting the contents, and heaved the crate into the space. When he straightened, he saw that Hutch was staring at the sack, eyes wide, mouth dropping open--both expressions having become familiar in recent days.

"S-S-S-Starsky," his partner stuttered, "w-w-what is th-th-th-that thing?" Then, obviously having answered his own question, Hutch flung himself away, a hand over his mouth, as though he were going to be sick.

"What do you think it is?" Starsky asked reasonably, his hands behind his back.

"Starsky," Hutch swore, shaking his finger at the sack, "there's no way on Earth I'm going to sl-sl-sleep with some-some-some toy." He whirled on his partner. "Do you understand?"

Starsky didn't flinch, other than holding up his hands in a soothing gesture. "Hutch, you got it all wrong. That's not a toy. It's just a...device. To assist in the preparation. Just like lubricant." He reached into the sack and pulled out a huge plastic tube. And smiled. "See?"

Hutch looked away, his expression one of long-suffering nausea and disbelief.

"See, Hutch," Starsky continued easily, putting the tube back, "all the instructional stuff I've been reading and watching say that one should use a vibrator first know, stretch things out." His partner turned to look at him, still wearing an offended, confused, the-world-makes-no-sense expression. Sweat was popping out on the broad forehead. "It's very important to be real careful, Hutch, so the whole experience is just...nice. Nothing but nice."

The blond's breath was getting heavy as he stood there, looking at Starsky incredulously, his mouth still hanging open.

Starsky closed the trunk. "Uh...Hutch? I think you're getting a bit heated up. So, see that little sandwich shop down there?" The blond's dazed eyes followed the direction where he was pointing. "Why don't you go there and like, maybe, order yourself a nice, cold milkshake. Think of things like...I dunno...the polar ice caps. In the meantime, I'll take this stuff home, and then I'll come back for you." He patted the blond's arm, gave him the lightest of shoves. "Just be a good Blintz and go on down there and I'll come back for you." He winked and added, "Four days, Hutch. That's all."

Starsky got in the car and looked in the rearview mirror. He grinned as he started the motor, watching his partner shuffle stiffly toward the sandwich shop.

* * *

His partner had been unusually quiet all day. Comments weren't responded to, and questions were greeted with nothing more than grunts. Hutch invested a lot of time in staring out his side window.

Starsky was afraid that an explosion--of some sort--was on the horizon. And they still had two days.

Probably best to try to diffuse it....

He pulled the Torino into a grocery store parking lot. He looked over at his silent partner and cheerfully said, "I need to stock up. And since you look like you can use some alone time, I thought I may as well do it now." He patted the nearest knee. "You just wait right here." He got out of the car.

A soft "What?" was asked, as though the speaker were in a daze.

Starsky poked his head back in the car. Hutch was looking at him with that wide-eyed, blank expression. "I'm gonna get some groceries."

The blue eyes closed wearily and Hutch brought a hand up to his face. "Oh, dear God, I can't even imagine.... I don't want to imagine...." He lamely gestured toward the grocery store. "What it is that you're possibly going to be in there for.... God, I think I'm going to be sick."

Starsky blinked innocently. "Hutch, you got it all wrong. See, I'm gonna go in there and buy things like...milk, bread, cheese, toothpaste, salami, Doritos.... I mean, I gotta eat just like the next guy."

"That's all?" Hutch asked hopefully, looking at Starsky with the same confused expression.

"Well...yeah." Starsky stuck his head further into the car. "Gee, Hutch, what else did you think I was gonna be going into a grocery store for?"

The blond looked at him again. Blinked. There was a spark growing behind those sea-blue eyes that Starsky recognized as being dangerous. That spark usually meant one thing: RUN!

Starsky whirled and tore out of the lot. Thankfully, there was a park two blocks away. He headed for it at full steam. Of course, he'd gotten a good head start--and he could out-sprint Hutch any day--but he could hear pounding sneakers on the pavement behind him, and he knew that over a distance of ground those long legs would catch up to him.

He ran past the little pond, past the Little Leaguers playing softball, past the lovers on blankets beneath trees. He started up a hill, panting for breath....

He was tackled from behind. Brought down to the grass in an unglamorous heap. The heaving blond straddled his exhausted body. Though he couldn't really see it, Starsky knew from the tenseness of his partner's muscles that Hutch was sporting an aching erection.

"We're in public," he hissed, afraid that Hutch might try to press against him to relieve the ache.

The blue eyes gazed at him for the longest time, Hutch's chest heaving, his mouth hanging open. Finally, he simply asked, "Why? Why are you torturing me like this?"

Starsky gasped, "Just two more days, Hutch. That's all."

"And then what?" Hutch managed. "More torture?"

Starsky was appalled. "Oh, no, Hutch. No, no, no." The innocence was back in his voice. "Maybe I haven't explained things well enough. See, Hutch, two days from now is going to be the best day of your life. The best day, Hutch. That means nothing but good things are going to happen to you. Not torture. Only good things, Hutch. Isn't that worth waiting for?"

Hutch abruptly released Starsky, throwing himself to one side. He sat on his knees, shoulders hunched, still gasping for breath.

"You know, Hutch," Starsky said, pulling himself into a sitting position, "you told me not so long ago that what you wanted most in life was for there to be enough meaning for you to not question the point of it all--the reason for your existence. Haven't you found meaning in waiting for your special day, Hutch?"

The blond closed his eyes, as though it were all too much to assimilate. He staggered to his feet, and Starsky did likewise.

Hutch vaguely indicated a patrol car in the distance. Wearily, he said, "I'm going to have them take me home."

Starsky watched Hutch start down the hill toward the black-and-white. He was relieved at the separation. It had taken all his willpower to keep from arching himself up against Hutch when the blond was on top of him.

They still had two days.

* * *

It was past nine-thirty p.m. on the fifteenth day.

They had looked for every possible excuse to stay away from each other since the incident in the park, but sniffing out the trail of a suspect who had murdered two clerks in a gun store heist had drawn them together in search of their prey. They had already put in a twelve-hour day. After interviewing various witnesses and following up on the resulting leads, they were now creeping down an alley, closing in on the makeshift shelter that the suspect was reputed to live in.

From where they were, moving from one garbage dumpster to another, they could see the glimpse of white in the darkness that indicated the sheets used as the basic structure for the suspect's "home."

They were now hiding behind the dumpster nearest the makeshift tent. Starsky looked at Hutch. The blond nodded to him.

Starsky moved to stand next to what looked like an entrance. With his gun raised, he called, "Ernest Tallman? Police. Come out with your hands up." He looked toward his partner, who was waiting against the dumpster with his gun aimed at the entrance. Starsky tried again. "Police! Open up or we're coming in."

There was no sound, and Starsky felt a sense of disappointment. He couldn't detect any noises of movement from within. Finally, he nodded at his partner, who nodded back. Starsky reached to yank back the covering that acted as a door. Hutch lunged into the entrance, gun drawn.

Hutch backed out before Starsky could even follow him. "No one there," the blond said simply.

Starsky's shoulders slumped. "Damn." He put his gun away.

Hutch did as well. "Nothing even in there. Not even a mattress. Just a towel on the ground and a candle."

"Man," Starsky sighed. "How much you wanna bet that he got wise and hightailed it out of town?"

Hutch didn't answer. The black jacket across the blond's shoulders grew tight as he led the way back down the alley.

Starsky followed silently.

Suddenly, Hutch lunged at a dumpster that was so over-filled with cardboard boxes that some of the boxes had tumbled to the ground. The blond kicked at a box with all his might, then another...and another. "Damn it!" he raged. "Damn it, damn it, damn it!" He kicked the boxes a few more times for good measure, using both feet this time.

Then he collapsed to one knee, hiding his head in his hands.

Starsky knelt behind and grabbed him around the shoulders. "Hey, partner, what was all that?"

From above, a window was heard to open. A woman's voice screamed, "You down there! Quit making so much noise or I'll call the cops!"

Hutch looked up and his lips twisted as if he were going to say something not-nice in reply.

Starsky clamped a hand over his partner's mouth. By doing so, he was drawn closer to his partner's body. Once again, Hutch was panting, his body tense with frustration.

"Look, Hutch." He turned the blond's head toward the corner of the opposite building. Inside the glass walls of the bottom floor was a dry cleaning shop. It was closed and unoccupied, but a nightlight illuminated the clock on the wall. Starsky whispered, "See? It's almost ten o'clock. You know what that means? Just two more hours."

Hutch's mouth moved and Starsky lowered his hand.

"Two more hours?" Hutch's disbelief made his voice high-pitched.

"Yeah, just two more hours," Starsky assured with a grin.

The blond head turned to look at him. "We don't have to wait until tomorrow morning?"

Starsky blinked. "No, Hutch." And then he realized that his partner truly hadn't realized that crossing from one day into another would, literally, be the twelfth hour. "I guess I didn't explain that part," he admitted. His lips almost touched the nearest ear. "See, Hutch, as soon as the clock gets one second past midnight, that means your special day is here. I plan to get started on the celebration right away." He squeezed Hutch's shoulder, and then shifted back so that they were no longer touching.

Hutch stared at the clock, his mouth open once again. "Just two more hours?"

Starsky felt a need to be soothing. "Hutch, look. I've still got some preparing to do. So, I gotta get home. Listen real careful, 'cause this is what you gotta do: First, I'm gonna drop you off at Huggy's so I can get on my way. You gotta stay there and...whatever--but don't drink too much booze--and wait until it's almost time. In fact, it would probably be good if you ate something. Something to give you energy. Then have a taxi bring you to my place. But Hutch," he emphasized, "don't come to my place a second before midnight. Because then you'll have to wait outside my doorstep until the clock strikes twelve and it'll make us both crazy. Okay?"

Hutch only staggered to his feet in answer.

Silently, they returned to the car.

* * *

All the lights in Starsky's apartment were out. The walls carried an almost eerie illumination from the array of candles burning in every room. An entire row was stretched across the headboard of the bed, for he wanted him and Hutch to be able to see each other's eyes.

It was a minute past midnight and there had yet to be a knock on his door. Starsky sat on the couch, trying to convince himself there was no way, after all this time, that Hutch wouldn't show. If the blond had disagreed with the idea, he would have said so at some point during the past sixteen days.

Starsky resisted the urge to study himself in the mirror once more. It wouldn't change how he looked. He hoped so much that Hutch would find him appealing. He was dressed in loose-fitting, black silk pajamas with gold trim on the sleeves and neck. It had taken some inquiries and a long hunt to find the perfect attire.

Dark and light. The apartment. Himself. He and Hutch together.

Starsky watched the clock. Two minutes past. He'd told Hutch to make sure he wasn't early, but he hadn't given any warnings about being late. After all, getting there at a precise time didn't have any bearings on things; Starsky just couldn't conceive why Hutch would waste precious minutes being late. After all, his special day had a finite number of minutes in it. But maybe Hutch hadn't considered that.

It was also possible that the big blond had left Huggy's to go to his own apartment, perhaps to change or get cleaned up after their twelve-hour shift. Starsky hoped not; for that task was something that he had laid out in his plans.

Of course, he reminded himself, as he had numerous times in the past sixteen days, Hutch's special day meant that Hutch could have anything, and Starsky had to be careful that the blond's wishes came before his own. Some of Starsky's fantasies might have to remain just that, if Hutch chose not to participate in some of the things Starsky had in mind for them.

A single knock sounded at the door.

Starsky jerked his head toward it, listening breathlessly. There was no further sound. He swallowed thickly, then moved to the door, aware of his heart thundering in his chest. He hesitated, then opened it wide.

Hutch looked at him, apprehension dominating his expression. Then he looked into the apartment, eyes amazed at the eerie lighting. Breathlessly, the blond whispered, "Is this heaven or is this hell?"

"Heaven, Hutch. Nothing but heaven."

The sky-blue eyes darted to his. Hutch was still dressed as he had been before, meaning he'd obeyed orders and stayed at Huggy's...waiting for time to pass. His clear orbs reflected the glow of the candlelight, but Starsky thought he also detected excitement, perhaps fear, and anticipation in those storybook depths.

Starsky's throat was so thick that his next words were barely audible. "Come in." He stepped back.

Hutch entered enough for his host to close the door. Then the blond man closed his eyes. "If you touch me," he warned in a painful whisper, "I'll explode."

"Then explode." Starsky reached for him.

For a moment, Hutch held up his hands as though to keep Starsky away. But as soon as Starsky gripped his leather-clad arms, it seemed the blond was lost, for he wrapped himself around Starsky with a desperate grip and locked their mouths together.

The mustache felt funny--Starsky hadn't noticed it when they had kissed briefly before--and he reminded himself that there would be plenty of time later to explore the unique texture. For now, he felt the steel hardness grinding beneath his beltline, and Hutch's beer-flavored breath stealing his own breath away.

If he could have, Starsky would have used his hand to help ease his partner's need. But Hutch had his arms in a vise-like grip, and he could only stand there and be used as an instrument of relief. Hutch was thrusting hard against him, and the force caused Starsky to step back until he felt the arm of the sofa against the back of his legs.

Hutch used it to his advantage. He dumped Starsky's upper body onto the seat cushions, then pinned him with his hands. And then the rock-hard, denim-clad groin was thrusting against Starsky's upraised crotch, which was supported by the sofa arm.

Starsky's own groin was on fire. But not as much as his heart. Hutch was looking down at him, the most intense passion Starsky had ever seen reflected by the candlelight in the hooded eyes.

And then Hutch cried out, squeezing his eyes shut as he did so. Over the next few seconds, the frantic motion of his hips stilled, and his flesh turned to putty. He slowly collapsed on top of Starsky.

The blond head was resting on Starsky's stomach. The darker man couldn't resist reaching out and running his fingers through the delicate, sweat-damp strands.

After a moment, Hutch tilted his head up so that Starsky could see his face. The blond's soft voice was both bashful and apologetic. "Haven't come in my pants since I was a kid. Couldn't help it."

"I know," Starsky soothed. His voice was cheerful as his fingers continued to stroke. "Now, you're all nice and relaxed. That's exactly what I wanted."

"Played right into your hands, huh?"

"Hey," Starsky whispered, dropping his thumb off the end of the other's nose, "if I know one thing in this life, it's my partner." Then he was soothing again. "No reason for you to hold back, pal. Anything you want on this day, you get."

"I really didn't want sticky underwear."

It felt so good, Hutch resting against him. Starsky's erection had eased with acceptance that it wasn't his turn to receive any favors yet. But he loved having the big, spent blond on his chest. Right where he could keep an eye on him.

But movement was inevitable, at least for the time being. Starsky gripped his partner's shoulders as the blond started to move off him. "You stay put." He eased his way out from beneath the other's body. "Just relax for a few minutes and I'll go start a nice, warm bath so we can clean you up and you can get more comfortable."

Hutch obediently stayed where he was. Starsky went into the bathroom.

He turned on the faucet full-blast, making sure the temperature was warm but not hot. He dumped an oily bubble-bath solution into the water. The light wasn't right. Starsky went into the bedroom and took a candle from the far corner and placed it on the sink, which helped illuminate the tub more.

He came into the living room, where Hutch had fully stretched out and was now staring at the glow from the candles on the coffee table.

"Bath's almost ready," Starsky announced in a low voice.

Hutch looked up at him. Then got to his feet.

Starsky followed him. When the tall form stopped before the tub, Starsky slipped the black leather jacket off the long arms. He then unsnapped the shoulder harness and pulled the holster and straps away. He reached around to unbutton the shirt, loving it that Hutch was staying still and letting him do it. When that was tossed aside, Starsky reached to the front of the other's waist, pulled apart the snaps to the jeans and lowered the zipper. He pulled at the blond's hips, beckoning the denim and underwear to the floor. Hutch stepped out of them.

Starsky watched while his partner lowered himself into the water. He then sat on the floor closer to other end of the tub, so that he was almost next to Hutch but still able to face him. He pushed at the blond's shoulder. "Just sink all the way down in there." Hutch did so, submerging all but the tops of his shoulders, which made it necessary for his knees to come out of the water. "That's good." Starsky approved. "Now just lie there and relax."

"Might fall asleep," Hutch warned.

"Go ahead. In fact, it might not be a bad idea considering all the energy you're gonna need later."

Hutch eyes were searching his partner's face. Then he softly said, "Starsky...why?"

"Well, tell you the truth, I was really hoping you weren't gonna spend too much time thinking about it all. I'd really rather you just enjoy yourself. But, to answer the question, just because, plain and simple, I wanted to do something nice for you, Hutch. Special."

A hand emerged from the layer of bubbles. It reached up, the wet fingers drifting across Starsky's nose, then settled on his cheek.

"You don't think," Hutch asked, "that having you as my partner, day in and day out, is special enough?"

Starsky was touched by the sentiment, but shook his head. "No. Especially not lately. I've hardly made any time for you outside of work."

The other stared at the bubbles a moment, gathering his thoughts. Then he took his hand away and, with tender scolding, said, "Starsky, I've never felt...neglected. I've told you before: I was happy for you and Mary Ann. I never envied her time with you."

Starsky swallowed. "I guess maybe that's the whole point. You loved me enough to let me be free to love somebody else. But I was trying to keep you both--tryin' to balance it all. And I've come to realize--as she did--that I would always be trying to include you as equally as I did her. I'll never be able to give myself wholeheartedly to someone else, Hutch, because I'll always be looking behind me, making sure you're coming along for the ride, too. So, if I'm always gonna feel like that...then, I may as well take the whole trip with you."

Hutch closed his eyes a moment, shaking his head. Though Starsky would rather they have not gotten into this conversation right now, he was glad that Hutch was still relaxed against the back of the tub. When his eyes opened, the blond said, "Starsky, you're missing the obvious here. It wasn't that way with Terry, buddy. What makes you think you can't have that kind of relationship again?"

"That was different, Hutch." He'd already thought the Terry issue through. "You were involved with Terry and me from the very beginning. She liked you and with you volunteering to help with the kids..." he shrugged, "it's like you were a part of us all the way around. I didn't feel like I was leaving you behind. If we would have gotten married, you woulda been a regular part of our lives. It would have enriched all three of us, rather than taking anything away from any of us."

"So, why don't you think you can ever have that kind of relationship again?" Hutch repeated. "Just because it didn't work with Mary Ann...."

Starsky reached up to a towel rack and pulled off a wash cloth. He rolled up his sleeves, then dipped the cloth into the water, shifting to run it across Hutch's neck and shoulders. He squeezed the water out as he did so, taking satisfaction in watching it drip down his partner's pale skin. "Things are different now. You and I are closer than ever." He dipped the cloth again, then rubbed it against the back of the blond's neck. "I'm always gonna want to protect what we have. I don't want to lose any of it. That's why it interfered with me and Mary Ann; I was always so focused on you and your needs." He took a deep breath. As he dipped the cloth again, he confessed, "Mary Ann had to point out to me that focusing on your needs was really my need. I...needed to do that more than I needed to care for her." He shook his head. "I can't argue with the truth, Hutch." He ran the cloth along the broad forehead.

"Don't take this the wrong way, buddy," Hutch said, closing his eyes as the cloth moved over his face, "but I intend to take everything you say about relationships these days with a grain of salt." His eyes opened as Starsky finished. "You might find that you feel differently once the hurt has a chance to heal."

Starsky shrugged. "Fair enough." He put the cloth down and stood. "Stay right there. Be back in a sec."

He went into the kitchen and took a pitcher out of the cupboard. When he returned, Hutch asked, "What's that for?"

"Gonna wash your hair." Starsky knelt down again and scooped up a pitcher full of bath water. With one hand, he formed a barrier over Hutch's forehead; with the other, he poured the water over the blond strands.

He put the pitcher down and grabbed a bottle of shampoo. He took a moment to open the spout; and when he looked up he found Hutch looking at him with a tender expression.

Hutch nodded toward the candles. Softly, he said, "You didn't get the idea for all of this from reading sex manuals."

Starsky felt a smile light his face, for he was glad that the prior subject was behind them, at least for the time being. He shook his head. "Right. Dreamed it up on my own."

Hutch nodded with approval. "Romantic."

Starsky leaned forward to squeeze out shampoo onto his partner's head. "Thought the darkness would help you relax more, too."

"The way you keep using that word 'relax', you'd think I had an ulcer."

Starsky put the bottle aside and rubbed at Hutch's hair, creating a lather. Bashfully, he replied, "Just wanna take care of you. For just one day, I want to enjoy pampering you."

The blond's eyes closed as Starsky used his fingernails to scrub. "It's not like you've never pampered me before. I seem to remember you hovering long after I was recovered from the plague. For starters."

Starsky found the pitcher again and re-filled it with water. "Right," he said as he rinsed the shampoo out. "After the plague, after what Ben Forrest's cronies did, after you were trapped under your car...." Starsky did a second rinsing, then sat back to look Hutch in the eye. "Those were all times after you'd been through a rough time." His voice softened. "Just once, I'd like to take care of you just because I feel like it, not because you need it."

Voice low, Hutch replied, "Okay."

The barely-audible word put Starsky's chest into a flutter. He reached for the cream rinse and squeezed a small helping out, then rubbed it in. Hutch kept his eyes closed through the rinsing, the tiniest smile lighting one mouth corner.

No further words were spoken as Starsky covered Hutch's barely-noticeable five o'clock shadow with shaving cream and applied a razor to it.

Afterwards, Starsky grabbed a hand towel and used it on his partner's face, then his hair. He rubbed briskly all about Hutch's head. When he was finished, he asked, "Ready to get out?"

Hutch gazed at him for a long moment. "Depends on what's next on the agenda."

Starsky took a deep breath, meeting those eyes that glowed from the reflection of the candles. "Gonna take you to the bedroom and lay you down. And then I'm gonna give you a nice massage, all over. That might be a good time for a nap, if you're worn out."

As they continued to gaze at each other, a subtle change came over the blond's expression. Gently, he said, "I'm ready to get out."

Starsky rose and took a bath towel from the rack. It was new, black, plush, and huge. He unfolded it and held it open. "Stand up here."

Hutch did as told and Starsky began drying him off, starting with his shoulders and working down. Afterwards, he straightened and wrapped the towel around Hutch so that it included his arms.

Starsky stood back and looked at that blond head atop the body wrapped in black. He grinned. "You're beautiful, you know that?"

Hutch couldn't hide that he was pleased at the compliment, but he swallowed and said, "It's all in the eyes of the beholder."

Starsky wanted to kiss him then, but he denied the impulse. If Hutch was all warm and mellow and snug, Starsky didn't want to take that secure feeling away from him. They'd have plenty of time later for other things.

Starsky guided Hutch to the bedroom. Hutch paused in the doorway, sucking in his breath, as though amazed at the row of candles on the headboard.

Starsky gave him the gentlest of shoves. "Go on in there and lay yourself down. I'll be right back."

When he returned, Hutch was sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to divest himself of the towel. He had one arm free. Starsky handed him a glass of wine.

Hutch accepted it, but paused before taking a sip. "Is it drugged?"

Starsky grinned. "If you wish it were, then pretend." He sipped from his own glass.

The other grinned back. And drank.

Starsky helped unravel the towel and eventually took the wine glass away. "Just lay face down and go ahead and nap, if you want. I'm just gonna be doin' some nice things to your muscles."

When Hutch was prostrate Starsky put the towel over him, but pulled it back at the shoulders. He reached for some oil and squeezed a helping into his hand. He straddled Hutch's back while warming the lotion between his hands. Then he went to work.

He did Hutch's shoulders first, taking great care to massage each muscle. He branched out to the arms, then came back to the spine. He worked slowly and deliberately, pulling the towel back as he moved down Hutch's body. There was a periodic "Mm" from his partner, but otherwise the other seemed to be drifting on the lassitude created by the friction of Starsky's hands.

It was rewarding doing this for Hutch, in the candlelight and silence, his lubricated hands creating pleasant friction against the other's skin. When he reached the buttocks, he squeezed liberally, drawing another noise of appreciation. He liked it that Hutch didn't feel nervous about him being back there. Such priceless trust....

After a time, he finished the legs and topped off the massage by rubbing Hutch's feet. He moved to the front of the bed and bent down to the closed eyes. He whispered, "Wanna turn over so I can do your front side?"

The eyes remained closed, and a sleep-heavy voice whispered back, "Already in heaven. Sleep."

"'Kay." Starsky put the towel back over Hutch. Then he curled up in the almost too-small space beside him. He watched Hutch's peaceful face for a long time; then his own eyes eventually closed.

* * *

It was the shifting of the mattress that woke him. He opened his eyes to see that it was Hutch who was watching him now, in the soft glow created by candlelight. The blond reached out and touched his cheek.

"What time is it?" Starsky asked.

The features remained soft. "Don't know." The tone said that he didn't care.

Starsky grinned affectionately, then propped himself on an elbow so he could see past Hutch to the clock on the opposite nightstand. "Four forty-two a.m."

Fingertips fluttered across Starsky's forehead. "Guess that means we have a little time before daylight."

Starsky's heart jump-started as he realized now the time was here. And Hutch was ready and willing. "Wanna get under the covers?" he asked hoarsely.

"Undress first." It was a whisper, but also an order.

Starsky swallowed and rose from the bed. He turned around with a deliberate motion, facing Hutch, who was slipping his long legs beneath the bed clothes, having tossed the towel aside.

Starsky unbuttoned the silk pajama top. Hutch was propped on an elbow, watching him, but not staring lewdly.

Starsky took his pajama top off.

It seemed strange to him, Hutch wanting to watch him undress, for the other had seen his nudity numerous times before. But he couldn't deny that it excited him that Hutch had commanded the unveiling.

He pushed the bottoms down his legs and stepped out of them. He was a little embarrassed to be standing half-erect, in full view. But the gentling of Hutch's eyes soothed him.

Hutch held the covers open.

Starsky got into bed, his excitement increasing. Before he was settled, Hutch's lips were upon his, the blond's strong upper body pinning him. A shudder went through him as all his well-laid plans, about what he was going to do Hutch, evaporated. Hutch seemed to know exactly what he wanted, and the big blond groaned appreciatively against Starsky's mouth.

Starsky was gasping for breath, his erection poking against his partner, and he felt some relief when Hutch seemed to calm and the kisses became more leisurely. He could focus on the mustache now, how it felt against him. The hands that were running up and down his arms, alternating between that and holding his cheeks, stilling his head for more breath-defying kisses, and rubbing against his upper chest.

Finally Hutch pulled back, his face all love-soft.

Starsky found some semblance of his voice and croaked, "You know you take my breath away?"

The hooded eyes softened further. "You know I'm so crazy for you that I want to eat you alive?"

The nerves throughout Starsky's body shimmered. He groaned happily, dropping his head back and exposing his throat. Hutch started there, sampling him, gentle nips working down both sides of his neck. And then a wet tongue was lapping along his collarbone, tracing it. Starsky grabbed Hutch by the sides, impatient to have his hardness soothed, and he rocked it against the stomach that trapped it.

Hutch moved more quickly, licking down Starsky's chest and stomach. Starsky kept thrusting, groaning his frustration, and then Hutch was there. The blond had pushed back the sheets while moving down Starsky's body, and Starsky could see Hutch grab the swaying cylinder with both hands, as though holding a baseball bat, and then lower his mouth on it.

Starsky stilled immediately, not daring to disrupt the sensations. The grip of Hutch's hands was perfect--just how he liked it--and the tongue inside those generous lips was working on the upper part of his penis, the sensitive underside that was most receptive to suction from the active tongue.

"Oh, God," Starsky moaned, wanting Hutch to know how perfect it was. "That's incredible," he gasped. "Just incredible." His hand inched down, felt along the blond's nose and cheek, then dropped down to feel the muscles of the jaw that was working so hard at pleasing him. He surged with love and grabbed the delicate hair, stroking along the top, not sure how else to express what he was feeling.

The power was building, threatening to peak at the point of no return. "Gonna come," he warned. As he said it, the sensations flew forth. He cried out, and his hands had to fall away when Hutch suddenly released him.

He squinted his eyes open as the fluid shot from him, spurting onto his belly, and he had a whole new rush of feelings as Hutch knelt there, watching the eruption, as though enraptured by it.

Starsky's eyes closed again as he sighed deeply, letting the afterglow settle in. When he felt Hutch's hands on his sides, he made the effort to open them, and the blond was looking at him with another one of those soft expressions that served to make his partner turn to mush. Then Hutch ducked his head and stuck out his tongue.

He went about it so precisely and delicately, lapping at the little white puddles. Starsky knew that if he hadn't been totally drained he would have gotten another hard-on. The tongue tickled gently along his skin as it worked, and Hutch went about it in such a worshipful fashion that Starsky found himself speechless. He let it continue.

When the cleaning chores were done, Hutch moved up on the bed and matched his lips to Starsky's. Starsky returned the kiss eagerly, and the full lips opened readily for him when he pushed his tongue inside to show his willingness to share. The flavor was vaguely familiar, a remembered taste from adolescent samplings. Starsky wrapped his hands around Hutch's head, holding him. When he shifted his knee it brushed against a steel hardness.

He moved his hands to lightly grasp his partner's jaw, stilling it. Hutch slowly pulled away and looked at him.

Starsky panted, "You ready for your reward for being so good to me?"

Hutch didn't reply, merely gazed at him with a mixture of soft amusement, wonder...perhaps hope.

Starsky swallowed, as the moment he'd been waiting most for drew nearer. "You can have it any way you want it," he whispered. "Any way at all."

Again there wasn't a reply, only the intensifying of the blond's gaze. Then, abruptly, Hutch straightened and looked to the nightstand.

Starsky took the other's arm in a gentle grip. "I'm all ready for you," he informed him. "Got all ready before you came over. Just tell me what position you want me in."

The blond's breath had grown heavier, his eyes brightening as the soft lines of his face grew more firm. He sat back on his heels, placed his hands on Starsky's thighs and gently pushed them apart.

Starsky swallowed, feeling a sense of excitement and vulnerability. Hutch inserted a finger into his own mouth, then reached between the spread legs.

Starsky's eyes sought the ceiling as the finger probed at him, then entered. His lubricated anus accepted it easily. After a moment, he gripped the digit, demonstrating his willingness. His eyes sought his partner's. "Told you I was all ready."

The finger moved around. It pulled at the opening, and Starsky said again, "I'm all stretched for you, Hutch. There's enough room in there."

Hutch pulled the finger out and closed his eyes, swallowing. He then looked at Starsky, almost as though he wanted to say something scolding in nature, like "you didn't have to do that." But he seemed to decide it was a moot point for, breathing heavier still, he reached to the nightstand and opened the top drawer. He fumbled around and then pulled out a tube of K-Y, which had already lost its roundness from Starsky's practice sessions.

Hutch sat back on his heels and squeezed a little of the substance into his palm. Then, very carefully, he applied it to the head of his erection.

It looked pale and long and big. Though he didn't think it was necessary, Starsky also felt it rather thoughtful for Hutch to apply the grease to himself.

Stroking himself in a soothing gesture, Hutch rose on his knees. His voice was thick and halting. "Need pillows."

"There's a couple under the bed," Starsky told him.

Hutch reached under the bed and pulled out one, then another.

Starsky turned onto his side and waited while Hutch placed them, one on top of the other, near the small of his back and his butt. The blond then helped him turn back on top of them, so that his hips were in position.

Starsky was breathing heavily, for it seemed like a point of no return. Hutch could do anything to him in this position, and it would be difficult for him to defend himself in any way. That was also the exciting part about himself so whole-heartedly to Hutch.

The blond moved closer, penis in hand. But then he looked up at Starsky and whispered, "I haven't been with anyone in a while."

The vulnerability in the tone pulled at Starsky's heartstrings. He grinned shakily. "If you come too fast, it'll just mean we'll get to do it all over again later."

Hutch let out a breath, looking relieved even though he couldn't have expected any other answer. The blond's voice was firm. "If I hurt you, I want to know about it."

Starsky nodded. He was expecting a degree of pain, for Hutch's erection looked much larger than the vibrator he'd practiced with. But he was expecting to enjoy it, too. He wondered if Hutch had any idea how much.

Hutch leaned forward and Starsky placed his legs over the other's shoulders, intensifying his vulnerability.

Firm flesh bumped against him.

Hutch looked up once again. This time his voice was very gentle. "Starsky, relax."

It was then that Starsky realized how harshly he was breathing. He let himself exhale for a long moment. The tension flowed out of him as his breath steadied.

Hardness pressed against his anal area. Hutch was looking down at their bodies; he adjusted the angle, and Starsky felt the head push against his opening. He'd learned how not to fight the resulting pressure, and even though the pressure was much greater this time, he was able to accept it.

Hutch hadn't looked up and he continued to watch them as his penis pressed into the sheath provided.

Starsky squirmed as more of the firm length reached inside. A gasp escaped.

Hutch looked up sharply, his mouth open as his chest heaved with the force of his restraint.

"Just feels huge," Starsky explained, panting himself. He let his head drop back on the top of his pillow and made another effort to steady his breath.

The blond's eyes closed. "Feels tight," he said appreciatively.

Starsky grinned. "Then shove the rest of it in there so your whole prick can enjoy it."

The thickness moved back, and for a moment Starsky was fearful of losing it. But then it pushed forward powerfully, and he felt more of himself penetrated. His muscles had adjusted to Hutch's girth, and now all he felt was a greater fullness. But he still couldn't feel Hutch's groin. "All of it, Hutch," he gasped.

There was more of the pulling back, and then a grunt as Hutch pressed himself against Starsky, trying to fit more of his length. For a moment, he stretched out his arms and grabbed Starsky's shoulders and braced against them, trying to bring their bodies closer together, and the darker man felt the soft wiriness of pubic hairs.

But then Hutch let go and settled back on his knees, a few millimeters slipping back out.

Before Starsky had a chance to mourn the loss, Hutch demanded, "Tell me what it feels like."

Hutch apparently liked to hear words. Starsky filed that information away for future use while he took a deep breath in preparation to answer. "Like something big and huge and powerful shoved up my ass. Can't wait until it moves back and forth."

Hutch pulled back slowly, then pushed back in with a quick thrust.

Starsky gasped.

"Play with yourself."

"Huh?" Starsky's eyes had closed and now he opened them to gaze at the impassioned expression hovering over him.

"Play with yourself."

It didn't occur to him to disobey the order. Starsky put his hand to his mouth, drooled on it, and then reached for his slightly erect penis, coating the head with saliva.

Hutch grabbed the tube of K-Y. Starsky took it from him and squeezed out a small helping into his palm. Then he dropped it to the bed while rubbing the substance along his length. He gripped both his hands around the barrel and stroked it. He panted as it flared in his grip. He'd never jerked off in front of anybody before, and he was surprised at how exciting it was, watching Hutch watch him.

The blond's breath was still heavy as he pulled out again and pushed back in. Starsky gasped more intensely, feeling the dual sensations, one inside his body, and one outside.

His erection was huge. Folded back as he was, it took an extra effort to keep a satisfying grip on his length. And then suddenly the fullness inside him retreated, and he made a noise of disagreement as he was left hollow inside, his legs dropping from Hutch's shoulders.

His hands continued stroking, for Hutch was still watching. The blond's eyes glittered in the candlelight, and he now guided his erection up to Starsky's crotch. He rubbed the head against the area between his balls and his ass. Starsky's noise was of agreement this time, and he stroked himself more firmly, feeling the head of his own penis flare encouragingly.

Hutch's prick moved upwards, and it now traced the seam between Starsky's nuts. He groaned in disbelief, stroking harder. And then he closed his eyes, feeling the hardness press against one of his balls, as though threatening to puncture it.

"I'm going to put it back in," Hutch told him. "And when it's all the way in, I'm gonna come." A breathless pause, then, "Raise your legs up."

Still stroking, Starsky managed to tilt himself back so that Hutch could fit his legs over his shoulders again. He felt himself breathing harshly, trying to bring himself up to the point where Hutch was, but not letting the sensations tip over the edge. He felt he was very, very close.

The steel flesh poked at his anus once again. Hutch said, "I'm going to shove it all in at once, and I'm going to come."

Hurry! was all Starsky could think. His male organs were tightening in preparation to send their seed on their fatal journey. He was gasping so hard for breath that he was afraid he was going to suffer oxygen deprivation.

Thick flesh speared him.

Starsky cried out as semen spurted from him, and he was aware of a more powerful scream as a quick series of thrusts rocked his body.

His legs fell away, and he felt disappointment when Hutch pulled back, knowing that the thickness had left him for good...or at least for a while. He lay panting, still pampering his shrinking erection, and feeling good things in his chest while listening to Hutch's harsh gasping beside him.

Starsky waited until the heavy noises eased into gentle, blissful ones. He made sure he had his own breath back, then he said, "I've never known anyone who could fuck like you."

There was the pause of a couple of breaths, and then an almost-casual reply. "I've never known anyone that I've wanted to fuck like that."

Starsky looked over at him. Hutch was lying stretched out beside him, his stomach muscles still contracting. "We make some beautiful music together, Hutchinson. I can't remember the last time I was so turned on."

Hutch grinned.

Starsky reached to the covers and rearranged them over them both. He then settled on an elbow next to the blond. He was feeling a wonderful lassitude. "Where did you learn all that, anyway? You gave me a blow job like a pro."

The other turned to look at him. "What makes you think you're the only one who did any research?"

Starsky felt his mouth drop open.

"I had the same time to prepare as you did," Hutch went on, obviously enjoying his partner's surprise. "Just because you're the one who was doing all the talking...."

Starsky punched him in the arm, but it didn't have much force, for the afterglow still present. He couldn't deny that he'd been had. Yet, another glow was working its way into his nerves, created by the realization that Hutch had made the effort to make sure this day was special, too.

Speaking of day....

Starsky looked to the window and saw that the faint glow of dawn was shielded by the curtain. He curled beneath the covers. "You ready for some shut-eye?"

The mattress shifted and Hutch leaned over him. "I'm ready." And then those full lips smiled and moved toward him.

"Mmmm," Starsky said as they tasted each other. Hutch's hands held a light grip on each of his arms, and Starsky felt himself floating on a cushion of warmth.

When Hutch pulled back he was no longer smiling. He looked at Starsky a long time. "I love you."

Starsky grinned bashfully. Then, "Surprise, surprise, I love you, too."

Hutch kissed him again, gently this time, and Starsky was disappointed when he pulled away. But the long body curled up close beside him.

Within minutes, both were asleep.

* * *

When Starsky woke again, he was alone in bed. He was also aware of hunger. It was past noon and the candles had all burned away.

Hutch appeared in the doorway, dressed in Starsky's robe and toweling his hair dry. "How long you been up?" Starsky asked.

"Maybe twenty minutes. I helped myself to the fruit in the crisper. Want anything?"

"I guess," he replied off-handedly, thinking it was he who was supposed to be serving Hutch.

The blond disappeared. Starsky took the opportunity to use the john while there was the sound of the microwave working. When he was back in bed, Hutch showed up with a muffin on a plate and a glass of orange juice. He abandoned the robe and joined Starsky under the covers, eating a banana.

Starsky focused on devouring the blueberry muffin. He was conscious of the fact that it was particularly satisfying, sitting in bed with Hutch on a weekend morning.

Hutch finished first, and he turned onto his side, propping himself onto an elbow. With his other hand, he reached beneath the covers and rested it on Starsky's thigh. Softly, he said, "I had a good time."

His eyes were so bright and sincere. "Not over yet," Starsky noted around the last mouthful of muffin.

A gentle laugh. "Don't know what we can do for an encore."

Starsky took a healthy swallow of orange juice. After putting the glass aside, he said, "There's certain parts of yours I've been wanting to explore. Can't imagine you'd object."

"We've still got all weekend."

"You got a better idea for the present?"

Hutch put an arm across Starsky's waist. "How about just lying here for a while and giving the food a chance to digest?"

Starsky grinned at the practical suggestion. "Anything you want."

Hutch nodded. "That's what I want."

Starsky snuggled beneath the covers, facing his partner. There was something so nice about simply being together without any expectation to perform.

Hutch reached up and traced Starsky's lips with a finger. Then he said, "What do you think's going to happen when the weekend is over?"

The tone was one of curiosity; yet, Starsky knew his answer was very important for them both. Honestly, he replied, "I hope that we can both still have fun with each other, like we did last night." He paused a moment, then softly noted, "It's up to you, Hutch. When it gets down to it, it's your call. 'Cause I'm gonna want to keep going on with what we've started. You're the one who's gonna have to say no."

"I can't do that. I can't say no to you when you want it this much."

With frustration, Starsky said, "But what do you want? This has been my idea all along. I don't see you disagreeing with anything's that's happened, but you've never said anything about how you really feel about all this."

The other's face softened tenderly. "Ah, Starsk. Do I have to tell you what it's been like for me, knowing that you were willing to go through this big charade, just for me? Just because you wanted to make me feel special?"

Starsky grinned. "You've liked it then, huh? Even with having to wait all those days?"

"Of course, I liked it. And I'm still liking it. But Starsky," his voice became more earnest, "I can't lie here and make plans with you for the future." Now, softness again. "You're wounded, buddy. When those wounds heal, you may very well find yourself feeling grateful for what we had, but wanting to go on again to something more..." Hutch shrugged, at a loss for a better word, "normal."

"Okay," Starsky shrugged. "Let's just keep enjoyin' each other until I'm not wounded anymore." But something sounded wrong about it all, and he pressed again, "What do you want, Hutch? You want something more normal for yourself, too?"

The blond looked away. "I don't know," he muttered. "Can't say I've had much success with it, in any case."

"You know what?" Starsky said, just now realizing a truth.


"I've never felt this way before, but honest, Hutch, I think if you were to fall in love with somebody now...I'd feel jealous. I mean," he rushed to clarify, not liking how the word sounded out loud, "I wouldn't want you making someone else feel good when you could be making me feel good, like you were last night."

There was a heavy sigh as Hutch lay back against his pillow.

"Does that upset you?" Starsky asked worriedly.

"No," Hutch said quietly. "It's hard to be upset about a thing like that. I mean," he looked at Starsky and managed a tiny smile, "someone loving you enough to feel that possessive of you."

"Oh. Well, I thought you loving me enough to let me love others was real love. Which would mean that my jealousy means I love you less than you love me, because you love me enough to let me be free. Yet," his brow furrowed, "I can't imagine that I love you any less than you love me."

Hutch chuckled. "You goofball." Then, after a moment, "There's nothing wrong with trying to take what you want."

Starsky swallowed. "But you don't want me enough to try to...'take' me? You'd be willing to let me go."

The blond presented an ironic smile. "Starsky, you can't discuss this stuff in a vacuum. Hypothetical situations don't have anything to do with real life."

"Then forget hypothe...whatevers. Let me put it to you this way: If you could have me any way you wanted me--without it having any effect on my happiness--what would you want for us? Plain and simple."

Hutch thought. Then, weakly, "I'd want us able to share whatever we could together. Everything else we've always had. Now the sex...all of it. Whenever we wanted."

Starsky grinned from ear to ear. It had been like pulling teeth, but his persistence had been worth it. He leaned over Hutch and kissed him briefly. Then he said, "You want it, Hutch. But you're afraid of wanting it."

Hutch was thoughtful again. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Why?" Starsky whispered.

Hutch swallowed thickly. "I guess because love that strong has never worked out for me."

Starsky rolled on top of Hutch, straddling him, feeling his confidence increase in direct correlation to his partner's vulnerability. "It's worked out this time, Hutch. It has, all along. All these years we've known each other. This doesn't have a damn thing to do with being wounded or with Mary Ann. It has to do with me and you. And Mary Ann herself would tell you not to throw it away, because you already own what she wanted: my heart. And if I ever have any doubts, all I have to do is remember the dream I had, Hutch, and how it led me to you when you needed me most. I'm not talkin' about anything psychic or angels on our shoulders, or anything like that. I'm just talkin' about love that goes so deep it blows past all barriers." His voice softened as another truth occurred. "Just wish I woulda paid attention to the dream earlier. Then we coulda found you sooner and you wouldn't have suffered so much."

"You found me," Hutch noted softly. "That's all that matters."

Starsky kissed him, glad that Hutch wasn't arguing with what he'd said. He pushed his hand down the other's body, encountering delicate flesh that surged toward him. "You done digestin' yet?" He fondled the soft-skinned organs.

Hutch smiled. "Yeah. For sure."

"Good." Starsky began to scoot beneath the covers. "Cause I got some major feastin' to do." He felt Hutch's hand on his head, encouraging him to go lower beneath the sheets. And when his mouth came into contact with the meal before him, he savored everything slowly...and then devoured.

* * *

"Mary Ann, this one's for you."

Mary Ann accepted the envelope from her mother. "Who's it from?" she asked, but there wasn't a return address.

"It doesn't say, does it?"

Mary Ann walked toward her bedroom and encouraged the flap open. She pulled out a card. There was a beautiful sunset on the cover. Inside the card was blank...except for the message written there.

Mary Ann,

I hope it doesn't upset you to hear from me. But I thought you would want to know.

I'm sorry for how things ended up between us, but I have to tell you that you were right. And Hutch and me are very happy.

I'll always remember you.

All my love,


Mary Ann carefully folded the card closed. She swallowed, old feelings churning inside.

She placed the card in a desk drawer.

And then she smiled.

The End

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