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Part 1

Charlotte Frost

Part 2

Hutch's heart had been immensely heavy ever since Todd Runyan's visit. Now it was heavier still.

He stood back against the sliding glass door of the kitchen, head bowed, his hands noting the coolness of the window, a contrast to the summer evening outside.

Starsky had his rigid back against the refrigerator, beer in hand, his mouth working frantically, his eyes glaring with anger, his chest heaving. But he had not said anything. Not since Hutch had finally delivered the full message, which had taken a long time because of Starsky's explosions of disbelief and... his deep hurt.

Finally, words again. "I care about those kids!" Starsky bellowed.

"I know," Hutch said simply.

"What?" Starsky demanded rhetorically, gesturing with the beer bottle. "So, I'm not supposed to encourage them? Show them I care? Because I lay a hand on their shoulder or something, that means I wanna take them behind the dugout and...." His teeth ground together. Suddenly, his arm flew backwards and the beer bottled collided with the stove, shattering. He looked at the remaining lower third in his hand, then, face twisting in rage, crashed it down against the edge of the counter. More glass and beer covered the kitchen.

Girlfriend, who had been under the table, slunk to the other side of the kitchen with her tail between her legs.

Starsky glared at her, then approached her.

Hutch watched worriedly; his partner's stance hadn't softened. He wondered if, for the first time, Starsky might take his anger out on his precious pet. But Starsky only scooped her up in one hand and, walking across shards of glass with sneakered feet, opened the glass door as Hutch stepped aside, and gently tossed her out onto the patio.

Relieved, Hutch went to fetch The General, who was chewing on a toy around the corner. He silently took the dog by the collar and guided him along the edge of the kitchen opposite the glass. He pulled the door back and tossed the toy out into the yard, grateful when General followed. He slid the door shut and straightened.

Starsky's chest still heaved, as he covered his face with his hands, then rubbed frantically at his hair.

Softly, Hutch said, "It's possible nothing will happen."

Starsky's head snapped up. "Does it fucking matter?" he demanded. "Whether they file a formal complaint or not, the fact of the matter is they think I want to molest their children!" His teeth clenched again and he looked around as though needing something else to break.

Hutch tried to distract him. "Ironic, isn't it?" he whispered. "We always thought, if it came to something like this, it would happen at the Department."

"Right," Starsky said, nostrils flaring, "but instead I'm lower than slime because I goddamn care!" Some of the anger in his voice was replaced by desperation. "Just the other day, Tommy Ellison hit a home run. His first home run. His mother was in the bleachers. And I looked over at her while he's running the bases, and she's got her goddamn nose buried in a goddamn magazine. Her son is having the greatest moment of his life, and all she can goddamn care about is reading Max Factor ads. And most of these kids' fucking fathers don't even know their sons play baseball, let alone give a flying fuck about being there to encourage them or praise them for doing well, or even just for trying." His thumb hammered his chest as he screamed, "And I'm the bad guy!"

Hutch closed his eyes, assaulted by so much hurt and anger that he fell deeper into his own despair. There was absolutely nothing he could say that could soothe this much pain.

He heard the sound of a cupboard, and as he looked up, Starsky took a glass and flung it against the opposite wall. It shattered. He took the next glass and hurled it at the same spot. It, too, shattered. With each glass, Starsky threw more forcefully. When the glasses were done, he started on the plates. They were heavier, and he threw them even harder. The fourth one hit the wall so hard that the clock came crashing to the floor, shattering.

Hutch had never seen a flare of temper last this long. Usually, it didn't take much to bring Starsky back to earth when he lost it. Maybe standing idly by while his partner took his anger out of the dishes hadn't been the best choice. "Starsky, stop it."

Starsky looked at him, eyes flaring, his arm pulled back with another plate. Defiantly, he threw it as hard as he could, and paint chipped off the wall from the impact.

"Stop it!" Hutch hissed, stepping over to him just in time to wrestle Starsky for the next plate. Starsky had the upper hand, and he ended up throwing it to the floor at their feet. Then he wrenched away from Hutch's grip. He left the kitchen and went down the hall toward the bedroom.

Hutch knew that he should follow to see what Starsky would do next, but he had no wish to. He couldn't imagine any worse damage than the war zone before him.

The only thing Hutch knew for certain was that he had to get the mess cleaned up. Otherwise he wouldn't be able to let the dogs in before bed, and they'd never been left out all night. Already, darkness had fallen.

Sighing heavily, he grabbed a broom from the corner and started sweeping. First sweeping the glass from the stove to the floor, and then the multitude of shards, large and small, all over the linoleum. When he had everything in a large pile, he pulled the trash can near. Then he bent and scooped glass with the dust pan and dumped it into the trash. Each scoop felt very heavy.

As he worked, he realized that the house was silent. He didn't know what Starsky was doing, but at least it was fairly safe to assume he wasn't breaking anything else. Hutch wondered if he shouldn't have told Starsky - that had certainly crossed his mind after Todd Runyan had left - in case the whole thing blew over and the parents never said anything. But this situation had already caused an irrevocable change.

The glass blurred before Hutch's eyes as he continued to work. He could never again go to one of Starsky's games. He'd always considered the Little League games something that Starsky did separate from himself; just like he himself tended to invest a lot of time in walking and jogging with the The General - activities that Starsky and Girlfriend rarely got involved in. Still, there had been a freedom in knowing that he was always welcome at Starsky's games if he did decide to stop by the park, and watch unobtrusively while Starsky helped young lives better themselves. Starsky's coaching involved a lot more than just teaching kids how to play baseball. He used baseball to teach the kids other important things about life - teamwork, leadership, and tolerance for another's strengths and weaknesses.

Even if all that still went on after this blew over, Hutch would never again be able to stand back and watch it. Stand back and feel proud of all that Starsky accomplished. It would be too risky. Even if Starsky coached an entirely different team next summer, they wouldn't dare risk causing talk among the parents if Hutch simply dropped by to see how it was going.

Innocence lost.

Hutch snorted at himself, trying to find humor in the idea that they had any innocence left. But it wasn't funny. They'd always known something like this would probably happen, but they had expected to be defending their lifestyle before Internal Affairs. Not before parents who thought the charismatic Coach Starsky might have lewd thoughts about their little Johnny.

Hurts so much. Hutch dumped the last full dust pan into the trash. He stood and ran the broom over the floor again, finding yet more tiny shards. When he finally had those cleaned up, he stood over the stove and lifted up the burners, absently picking up small pieces of glass and tossing them into the trash. When he couldn't find any more, he turned to the sliding door where the dogs were waiting and let them inside. While The General bounded happily around the kitchen, Girlfriend trotted off down the hall to find her master.

He'd never hurt her, Hutch knew, recalling his moment of fear when he'd thought Starsky actually might. But Starsky would never hurt an animal. Or a child.

How could those parents possibly think....

Hutch turned out of the kitchen, down the hallway. Perhaps Starsky had gotten rid of enough anger that he could at least recognize Hutch as a friend instead of another foe in this incredibly hostile world - a foe who'd had the nerve to deliver such gut-wrenching news.

All the lights were off in that end of the house, and when Hutch entered their bedroom he was relieved to see that Starsky was curled up beneath the covers in bed, albeit stiffly and staring into darkness.

Hutch undressed silently. And then he slid into bed beside him, sighing out loud when he realized that anger still covered the other's body like a bulky cloak.


* * *


Starsky grit his teeth when he heard Hutch's sigh. The last thing he wanted to do right now was tend to any needs of Hutch's. He was too smothered by his own hurt and outrage.

The mattress rocked as Hutch settled, not touching him.

The air was thick as neither spoke for a full two minutes.

A hand settled on his shoulder. Gentle voice. "Starsky...."

Starsky wrenched his shoulder away. Harshly, he spat, "If you want to fuck, I'm not interested." He knew he was being a total jerk.

Still soft. "You're not the only one hurt by this."

Starsky closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. How dare Hutch say I hurt, too when Starsky hadn't had a chance to get over his own pain first. His voice was carefully level. "You haven't been accused of being a child molester." If Hutch got technical and said some stupid-assed thing like you haven't been accused yet, either, Starsky was going to turn around and slug him.

Instead, the bed rocked heavily, and then the mattress was lighter as bare feet padded against the hardwood floor. "Asshole," Hutch snarled. And then the tall silhouette was disappearing down the hall. A few moments later sound came from the living room and the glow from the television set lit the hallway.

Starsky let out a breath of relief. Thank God. At least the TV filled the house with noise. If Hutch would have tried to sleep on the couch without turning on the television, then the silence would have been utterly oppressive.

Starsky closed his eyes and his thoughts returned to where they'd been ever since he came home from practice and Hutch had told him about Todd Runyan's visit.

Starsky loved coaching Little League. Even more than he'd imagined. It seemed to fill a void that was left by the fact that he and Hutch could never have children. He liked helping those kids learn more about themselves and about life, while trying to help them be the best they could playing the game of baseball.

And now he was a monster. By virtue of being automatically associated with a monster he didn't even know in Pasadena. An assumed monster because his handsome partner showed up at the games on occasion. An assumed monster because he showed those kids affection and approval. Because he patted them on the head or the shoulder or the butt.

Starsky blinked repeatedly as the worst of the hurt pierced his gut yet again. When he was a kid, he loved getting that kind of attention from an adult he looked up to. Especially a male adult. It made him feel loved and secure and that he'd done something good to earn it. That he'd taken another step toward manhood because someone already there approved of him. Boys yearned for recognition from men... especially men whom they wanted to be like.

Even in adulthood, the yearning was there. Or, perhaps, it wasn't really yearning; just a grateful willingness to accept that affection and approval whenever it was offered. And Hutch had offered and offered and offered....

Starsky cringed, hiding himself farther beneath the covers. He was going to have to go out there and apologize to Hutch. Apologize big-time. Hutch had put up with his screaming and yelling and violence. Starsky had heard him out there cleaning up the mess.

Ah, shit, Hutch, I know this hurts you, too. Hurts you like crazy. He wondered what it had been like for Hutch listening to Todd Runyan tell him what the parents were thinking. Starsky supposed that he should feel grateful that there was one parent on their side. Yeah, he'd done good by Danny Runyan. That kid used to be so bashful and self-conscious and completely lacking in any confidence whatsoever. And Starsky had worked with him without giving him special attention; just catering to his specific needs when it was his turn at practice or in the games. In fact, the amazing thing about Danny was that it had actually taken very little to turn him around. Just a little bit of instruction, a little bit of praise, and a little taste of success... and Danny was now on his way to growing up to be a confident, capable man.

And now, if the parents had their way, there would be no more success stories like Danny Runyan.

Starsky clenched his fist against the pillow, feeling the sadness take hold.


Starsky's eyes opened wide. The word - an endearment they didn't use often any more - had been spoken in a very soft voice. A soft voice Starsky didn't deserve. More importantly, it was for him to go to Hutch and apologize. Not vice versa. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely, before Hutch could say it first.

Now a touch of humor. "Is it safe for me to come back to bed?"

Asking permission to be in your own bed. Ah, Hutch, I'm so sorry. "You left the TV on," he accused playfully, but he was sitting up and pulling back the covers.

"So," Hutch said. He came around to his side and got on the mattress.

Starsky wasted no time in putting his arms around that big, strong form and snuggling up to him. He made a "Mmm" noise when Hutch's arms pulled tight around him.

Starsky buried his face against his partner's smooth chest. "Just hurts so much."

A large hand pressed against the back of his head, holding him closer. "I know."

"I know it hurts you, too," Starsky said sadly, though he knew he didn't need to say that.

Hutch kissed his hair. "I know."

"It's just... the injustice of it all."

"I know."

Starsky tilted his head back, so he could see the outline of Hutch's face in the darkness. "Is there anything you don't know?"

A hand now rested against his hip. "I wasn't sure I was still in love with you while I was cleaning up the mess you made."

Starsky knew he didn't mean that. Nevertheless.... "What about now?" His head was still tilted back.

Soft chuckle. "You're impossible."

"That's what makes me lovable. Right....?"

Hutch started to say something, and then those soft, full lips were upon Starsky's. They pressed in a way that Starsky recognized as one intended to shut him up... or at least change the subject. He started to melt as a tongue darted out to draw a leisurely line along his lips. Just when the attention starting to become more arousing than affectionate, Hutch released him, and rested his stubbly cheek against Starsky's.

Starsky sighed. As much as he hated to admit it, he finally said, "Maybe I shouldn't feel that way about those parents, huh?"

Hutch tilted his ear closer. "Hm?"

"I just feel so pissed off that they'd think that about me. But maybe... maybe I shouldn't really blame them for being worried about their kids. I mean, if I were a parent and I'd read something like that in the newspaper, and if I had the slightest reason to think anyone who was an authority figure to my kid might be the 'type', I guess, who might do something... well, I wouldn't just sit idly by."

"You haven't done anything," Hutch pointed out. "Not even the slightest thing."

"Well...," Starsky wondered, "maybe it's wrong that I - you know - touch those kids and stuff. Maybe I shouldn't touch them, Hutch."

"Starsky, I can't believe you're serious."

Starsky was grateful that Hutch saw it that way. "I guess you're right."

"Do you think," Hutch challenged, "that that coach in Pasadena was anything like you? Do you think he did anything that would have given anyone a reason to be suspicious? He was probably the straightest-acting coach there was. And those kids couldn't have possibly looked up to him - not after what he did to them. They would have been terrified of him. But way too scared to tell their parents. All these parents here have to do is ask their kids what they think of you. That'll be the only answer they need as to whether or not you've behaved the least bit inappropriately around them. And I'll guarantee you that every one of those kids will have nothing but good things to say."

That was a nice thought. And maybe it was really that simple. Maybe that's how he should approach the parents when he confronted them about this.

Hutch relaxed more heavily against the pillows, but his arms tightened around Starsky. "Remember when I was strung out?"

Starsky blinked. Hutch was going a zillion years back in time. "Yeah?"

"I would've still kicked it, Starsky, as long as you'd guarded that door. As long as you were in the room. As long as you prevented me from getting a fix. And I would have stayed off of it, for no other reason than wanting you to not be disgusted with me. Wanting your approval."

Starsky wasn't sure if what Hutch was saying made any sort of sense, let alone being able to agree with him. He waited for Hutch to make his point.

Instead, the blond seemed to change the subject, his voice very soft. "You know, when I was a kid, there were certain things that were expected of me. Certain things that I expected of myself."


"You know, I had a lot of friends. I was active in a lot of things. And I," self-conscious laugh, "never hesitated to give advice to any of my friends. Tell them how they should live; whether it was how to be better in a certain sport, how to do well on a test in a certain subject, things like that. And, you know, a lot of my friends looked up to me. I always had an answer. I was a problem-solver. And I enjoyed being one. Helping other people."

Starsky had no idea where Hutch was leading and stayed silent.

"In high school, I'd been going steady with a nice girl. I really liked her a lot. And when she dumped me because - hell, I don't really remember why - I was pretty shook up about it. I remember telling my parents and they just sort of seemed amused. You know, like it was typical high school trauma. Nothing they needed to worry about."

"Yeah?" Starsky prompted when Hutch paused.

"Jack Mitchell was my best friend in high school."

"I remember him," Starsky encouraged.

"Well, I remember, so vividly, going over to Jack's house after this girl had said she wasn't going to see me any more. I felt so... devastated... that I was being dumped by somebody I really liked. She was my first real love and, of course, Jack knew that. So I went over to his house, feeling lower than low, and drowned my sorrows with him over a beer. And -" Hutch suddenly stopped.

"What?" Starsky nudged him, caught up in the story, though still having no idea as to its point.

A harsh laugh. "He was... sympathetic. But... not like I'd wanted. I mean, he was telling me to 'cheer up' and all that and saying that I had my whole life ahead of me and there would be plenty of other women I'd fall in love with and on and on and on."


Hutch hesitated, as though unsure of the right words. Then, "It was like he was trying to solve the problem for me, but he wasn't addressing me - the hurt I felt. And it was like - it's hard to explain - but I really got the sense that I'd disappointed him."

"Because a girl dumped you?" Starsky asked in disbelief.

"No, no. Th-that I'd needed something from him. I needed - wanted - something. Wanted his compassion. But it wasn't supposed to be that way. Kenneth Hutchinson was supposed to be the one who helped everybody else. But when he needed help, it was too scary for others to deal with. It meant he was other than what they'd thought. He wasn't the strong, perfect, all-knowing person he'd presented himself to be. So, instead of wanting to help him when he needed help, they were instead disappointed in him. And they turned away."

Starsky thought his heart was going to break. "Ah, Hutch." He took an arm that was around him and clasped it closer, petting along it. He'd never known Hutch had ever felt like that. Never known it at all.

And it occurred to him that this was the first time in a long, long time that he and Hutch had snuggled together in the dark and simply... talked.

"I remember the moment so vividly," Hutch went on. "The moment, in Jack's house, when it consciously crossed my mind that I could never be a person who could be weak - vulnerable - in front of others. Because they would always think less of me if they caught a glimpse and saw that I was an ordinary person."

Starsky petted the arm he held.

"But it wasn't," Hutch snorted now, "like I even felt sorry for myself, when I realized that. It was just," Starsky felt a shrug, "a fact. And from that moment on I saw more clearly how I fit into the world. So, it was actually a good thing. An enlightenment. I was supposed to go through life helping people. But people weren't supposed to help me back, or it would ruin their trust in me. So I just... accepted it."

"Jesus, Hutch." Starsky drew a deep breath. Then his brow furrowed. "So, what does this have to do with... well, you started out talking about the heroin thing."

"Yes," came the eager reply, as though Hutch were anxious to tie the two subjects together. "Like I said, Starsky, I would have kicked it as long as you were there. Even if you'd treated me with disgust. Because it would have hurt too much to disappoint you, so I would have tried like crazy to never disappoint you again."

"But...," Starsky struggled to understand, "I wasn't disgusted with you, Hutch. Or disappointed. Jesus, none of that was your fault."

"Right. But it not being my fault didn't change the fact that what I'd been turned into made me lower than slime. I was helpless. Needier than a two-day-old infant. I'd crashed through the rule I'd made at Jack Mitchell's place about never needing anybody. And—" Abruptly, he stopped again, his voice dry.

Starsky kissed his chin. Then kissed all along his jaw. "Tell me," he commanded gently, after settling back against the smooth chest.

Hutch swallowed. Then, finally, "I-I guess it's hard to explain. B-but... I'd been lower than slime, Starsky. Lower than slime for what I'd become. But...," very soft now. "But... you loved me, anyway. I was weak, incredibly vulnerable, and you weren't disappointed in me. You weren't disgusted by me. I didn't come away feeling that I'd let you down."

"Of course, you hadn't." Extreme tenderness.

Hutch's voice was stronger now. "As the fog began to clear over the next few days, weeks, months maybe... and I looked back at what had happened with a clearer mind, I came to realize that - that - that... that it had actually happened to me. That I'd been thoroughly needy and dependent, but someone was more interested in taking care of me than being disappointed in me, than judging me for needing them. I had thought I'd never be allowed that in my life. Things like that weren't supposed to happen to me." Soft and strained now. "All that love... It meant so much."

Starsky felt overwhelmed by the confession. What he had done at that time had seemed perfectly normal. Natural. Someone he loved very, very much was suffering terribly, and he'd done what he could do for him. Which certainly hadn't seemed like much. In fact, he'd caused Hutch tremendous pain by not giving him what he wanted, what he craved, what he was certain he had to have to survive. So, all he'd been able to do to compensate was... love him. Hold him and hug him and pet him and speak softly to him and encourage him. It was all Starsky had been able to give.

Gentle fingertips brushed along Starsky's forehead. "Am I making any sense at all?"

Starsky tilted his face up while still keeping his cheek against the smooth skin. "Sort of." He found the nearest hand and squeezed it. "It's just... well, gee, Hutch, there'd been times before that when I'd helped you. You know, when you were feeling really down. Like when you went through your divorce. You were a mess for a long time. I helped you then, didn't I? Without judging you or being disappointed in you?"

"Yeah," Hutch agreed quickly. "But... I guess that mess was dragged out over such a long time... it seemed like just a normal part of life." Pause. "I guess it took the heroin thing to really blow the picture up in front of my face and bring home the fact that you were somebody very, very, very special in my life. Beyond the fact that you watched over my backside on the streets. Someone incredibly precious. I liked... being loved like that. Almost...," heavy breath.

Starsky squeezed his hand again. "Almost what?"

"Almost to the point of being addicted to it. As soon as I found out how good it felt to have someone love me even when I was weak... I.... I started craving it. Wanted it even more. Looked for any excuse to interact with you, especially physically."

"And I loved it, too," Starsky pointed out. He considered a moment, then, "I guess I never really thought about it before, but I liked the way we were always so all over each other. And, you know, it's not like I'd ever been that way with anybody else." He squeezed the hand again. "Just you, Hutch."

They were silent for a while, gently petting each other. Then Hutch said, "You be good to those kids, Starsky. You never know when the love that you show them will be something that means a whole, whole lot somewhere down the line. When they might look back and realize it taught them something... something they couldn't get from their parents. Or from their other friends. That love is good. And, more importantly, they deserve it."

Starsky sighed quietly. Not sure the kids I coach are as messed up as you were, Hutch. Then he reluctantly turned to the more immediate problem. "Gotta figure out what to do."

"Tomorrow," Hutch said. His arms tightened. "Sleep for now. I'll hold you for a while."

Starsky wasn't sure that sleep would come that easy, but he enjoyed where he was right now and didn't want to lose the closeness they were feeling. But something was missing. He tilted his lips up. "Kiss?" But it was more a demand.

Soft lips touched his, then pressed.... A tongue licked diligently along Starsky's mouth. Shit. As depressed as he'd been feeling, there was nevertheless a stir at his groin. It didn't seem to matter which end Hutch's tongue tended to; it always sent waves of pleasure through him.

But Hutch pulled back and then relaxed.

Starsky knew that sleep definitely wasn't going to come soon. He was almost tempted to request that Hutch fuck him for the sole purpose of pounding the tension out of his body. But he had the feeling Hutch wasn't in the mood; otherwise, he would have continued the provocative kisses.

Starsky sighed sadly. "You know, what I really hate is that those parents are imagining what you and I do together... and making all the wonderful things we feel together into something dirty."

"Only dirty in their minds," Hutch reminded.

"I know, but...." Starsky sighed again, starting to feel even more depressed, now that the anger was spent. "I wish, sometimes, that I could share how much I love you with other people. That they could see how beautiful it is between us. But, instead, they're going to make it into something filthy and evil." It certainly wasn't the first time they'd had a conversation like this; but it had been a while.

Hutch's fingers gently massaged his arm.

He relaxed even more against Hutch's chest, wanting to bury himself in that strong body. "I love the life we've made for ourselves, Hutch. I know we've always known, depending on how bad the fallout was, that we might have to give it up and start over somewhere else if IA ever wanted to act on their suspicions." They both knew that there had to be suspicions. But they were good cops. No one in the Department would want to lose them unless the political implications caused too much pressure. "But this...," Starsky swallowed thickly. Then, sadly, "I really didn't think I could I ever feel pain like this. As long as we were together and both healthy and happy, I didn't think there was anything on Earth that could hurt this much." He straightened, then circled his arms around Hutch's neck and rested his cheek against the top of the blond man's shoulder, needing the closeness.

Hands petted up and down his back. "Of course, we can be hurt like this," Hutch said. "Just because we're fortunate enough to have someone we love so much doesn't mean we aren't still human."

Hutch was right. And none of this precluded them from still being very capable of hurting each other. "'M sorry I was such a prick earlier," Starsky said in a small voice.

Hands tightened against his back. "Love means never having to say you're sorry," Hutch quoted tenderly.

Starsky raised his head, glad to have an excuse to get away from the more depressing subject. "That's a stupid saying. The person you love the most is the person to whom it's most important to say 'I'm sorry'."

"Maybe so," Hutch relented. "But I think what that saying means is that even if you don't say you're sorry, the other person won't love you any less. Any bad thing you've done or said is automatically accepted, because the love is unconditional." He planted a kiss against Starsky's neck.

"Hmm," Starsky said, thinking that kiss seemed awfully tantalizing for being such a light touch.

Hutch straightened a little, his arms lowering to rest at Starsky's waist. "If you really want to show how sorry you are, then tomorrow why don't you go to K-Mart and get some new dishes and some lawn chairs and whatever else we might need for the barbecue. And a new clock for the kitchen. And also a light bulb for the back porch. I'll get the food."

Oh, yeah. They were having the sisters from next door, Toni and Annette, and Huggy over tomorrow. Starsky balked at the thought of company. "Think we ought to tell them what's going on?" he asked doubtfully.

A finger ran down his nose in a scolding gesture. "Of course, we'll tell them. When we're hurting like this, buddy, is when we need to let our friends be around us, instead of pushing them away."

That made so much sense. Starsky bent and rested his cheek against his love. "You're right." He suddenly felt more optimistic; this was something they didn't have to face alone.

They rested quietly, but Starsky knew sleep was impossible with so much to think about. He finally pleaded, "I want you deep inside me, Hutch. So deep that you pierce my heart."

Gentle hands settled on the sides of his face, tilted it up. Starsky looked into those eyes he could barely see in the darkness. Then they slowly closed, as Hutch bent his head.

Hutch's breath exhaled against Starsky as a hairy lip settled upon his, then pressed in a way that, finally, left no doubt as to its intent to arouse.

Yet, even then, Starsky sensed hesitation. And he knew why. With the tension they'd felt all evening, Starsky knew his body would be more resistant to invasion than usual, despite his desire to take Hutch deep inside himself. That meant more foreplay than ordinary would be necessary, which meant Hutch would be particularly intent on working his tongue back there to try to relax Starsky as much as possible before penetrating him with increasingly larger digits. But Starsky hadn't washed up since showering before work early this morning. And he knew neither of them was too keen on disrupting the current mood to make a trip to the bathroom.

But practicality was going to win. Hutch ran his soppy tongue from Starsky's mouth to his ear. Then he enticingly whispered, "Let me put you in the shower, clean you up, pamper you and baby you, bring you back to bed... and love you." And then his tongue was back at Starsky's lips, circling around them, as though promising that the trouble would be worth it.

Starsky had no doubt of that. He'd been such a complete ass earlier this evening... and all Hutch wanted to do in return was love him.

His big blond wasn't waiting for an answer. Instead, he kissed Starsky on the neck, gently pushed him to one side, then got out of bed. He took Starsky's hand, and Starsky followed willingly, feeling eager now.

The bathroom light seemed a rude intrusion. Hutch got the water going while still holding Starsky's hand. And then he beckoned him into the tub. Starsky didn't do anything, for Hutch had promised to take care of him. He let his love turn him this way and that, soaping appropriate areas, then carefully rinsing him off. Hutch then let go to tend to his own bathing, and Starsky took the opportunity to drop to his knees. He took the partially erect shaft in his mouth, savoring it, enjoying the way the water bounced off the back of Hutch's shoulders to cascade in a circle around them both.

Hutch groaned appreciatively and hardened in a way that Starsky found very satisfying. He worked leisurely on the flesh, not wanting to tease it too intently, and pulled down on the heavy scrotum, easing the most intense sensations. Hutch's upper body was twisting a little as he bathed and rinsed. And then he tugged on Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky rose to his full height, and beautiful blue eyes met his own. There was a trace of sadness in their depths, and Starsky found himself wishing that they didn't need to prove to each other how this was all worth it. But they were both very conscious that their joining would be something for them alone, something that many people - if not most people - wouldn't approve of. But they were going to defy those attitudes and do it, anyway, telling themselves that it didn't matter what others thought, even though the ache in both their hearts proved that it did.

Strong arms wrapped around Starsky, then rocked him back and forth. He rested his head on Hutch's shoulder, eyes closed against the stream of water. Those hands traveled down to his rear, gripping his buttocks in a way that he always found very stimulating... and which gave him a tremendous feeling of security. Covering his ass in the most literal fashion....

Hutch turned the water off. Starsky was beckoned from the tub, and he stood quietly while he was toweled off, slowly and carefully. Hutch knelt before him and, with reverence, leaned forward to take Starsky into his moist mouth.

"Oh, babe." Starsky laid an appreciative hand on the top of Hutch's golden head. He hadn't thought he had the energy to come, but the sensation was already building. Hutch swallowed around him, then drew his head back with a long motion, while also keeping his mouth snug around Starsky's flesh. It was incredibly stimulating, watching and feeling Hutch pulling off his cock, but then gobbling it back up just before it would have fallen from his lips. The suction was incredible, the pulling sensation not quite anything Starsky had experienced before.

"Jesus God," he swore with reverence, "you're gonna pull the cum right outta me."

Hutch stopped pulling back then, but he now sucked Starsky to the back of his throat... and kept swallowing.

"Ohhhh," Starsky threw back his head. "That's so beautiful, babe. That's so damn beautiful." Hutch was the most incredible lover he'd ever known, and he petted his head frantically, wanting to love him as much as possible without moving and disrupting the ecstatic sensations.

Then he was at the peak, and he bellowed loudly as fluid and sensations flushed through him, rushing out of his barrel... filling up Hutch's throat....

Starsky collapsed to his knees as soon as he was released. He swallowed, breathing heavily, then looked up at that soft, pleased face across from him. He wrapped his arms around Hutch's neck. "Feel a little better," he admitted in a whisper, then touched his lips to the partner's. "But I still want you deep, deep inside me." The orgasm had relaxed him nicely, even if meant he wouldn't be able to come again when they fucked.

Hutch kissed him. Then embraced him. A soothing hand slid up and down Starsky's back, the affection he felt making him all the more eager to have Hutch inside himself.

Hutch stood, taking Starsky's hand, and led the few steps it took to cross the hall and enter the darkened bedroom. He bent and pulled out the extra firm pillow that had been a gift from Huggy many years ago. It was placed on the mattress, and Starsky positioned himself on top of it, on his back, so that his hips were elevated. As Hutch got on the mattress, Starsky reached down and pulled his cheeks apart, while folding his legs back to his chest, showing his eagerness for Hutch to tend to him, so they could be joined.

The bed rocked with Hutch's weight as he got settled. A moment later, Starsky felt that talented tongue at his center, dancing around his sensitive region, then licking diligently with a strong sense of purpose.

This was such a special thing that Hutch did to him. Such a beautiful and precious thing. When they joined with each other, Hutch was on the bottom about three-fourths of the time. It was automatic. Starsky only took the submissive role when he particularly wanted to get fucked, as with tonight, or if Hutch particularly wanted to do the fucking, which wasn't all that often. Therefore, Hutch seemed to treat those rarer occasions when he was on top with a degree of worship, almost as though it were a sacred act. His preparing Starsky this way, in addition to being necessary foreplay, also had an air of ritual, as though Hutch needed to pay homage to Starsky before taking his pleasure from him. Hutch's well-practiced tongue had to be one of the most erotic tools on Earth.

Usually, that moist flesh had Starsky writhing and crying out within a matter of moments. But Starsky didn't feel very sensual right now... just needy for his partner's strength and security. Still, the sensations at his opening - Hutch was now swishing his tongue around the rim - made Starsky shiver. The next thing he knew he was uttering little noises of delight. He moved one of his hands and placed it between his legs to pet Hutch's hair. He felt Hutch's head dip and bob, which allowed that tongue to be as thorough as possible.

New noises penetrated the darkness. Wetness. Thick saliva sandwiched between talented tongue and tender skin. Starsky drew a deep breath and slowly released it, trying to help Hutch along. He knew Hutch wouldn't quit until his asshole changed "texture" - a word Hutch had used when Starsky had bashfully asked him about his technique a long time ago. Hutch had to feel the muscle relax to a specific degree - and he considered only himself worthy of making that judgment - before he'd stop and use his fingers. He'd only use one finger until he felt the Starsky's flesh reach a certain texture, and only then would he resort to two. And he wouldn't fuck Starsky until he could comfortably put three inside there. Starsky didn't think he really needed to be treated with so much caution anymore, but Hutch still seemed to want, to need, to go through the ritual. Granted, there were a few rare occasions when they skipped it completely - Starsky had a fond memory of getting fucked while bent over the kitchen stove quite a number of months ago - but, for the most part, the foreplay followed the set pattern. It made Starsky feel so worshipped and loved.

Starsky shuddered as that tongue touched a nerve in a new, different way, and he felt saliva start to run down his crack.

"Ah, Hutch," he whispered appreciatively. The blond's tongue continued to work, so diligent, loving him so much. Starsky suddenly felt heavy-hearted, knowing that others would consider what Hutch was doing to him to be filthy, degrading, disgusting. Some might even consider it evil. He closed his eyes and tried to force back the thought, sorry that he'd allowed it to enter his mind. Allowed the outside world to enter this sacred place between them.

Hutch paused. Kissed the back of his thigh. Then waited.

Starsky knew he'd just destroyed all the good work Hutch had done, and he was sorry. He was tense again, his heart beating rapidly. Trying to sound cheerful, he whispered, "Let's just do it. Okay?" He let his legs unfold and relax.

"No," Hutch replied simply.

Starsky rolled the single word around in his mind. Hutch's tone hadn't been defiant. Or angry. Or stubborn. Just refusing. Refusing to rush when Starsky wasn't ready. Okay, okay, you win. Starsky sighed, trying to get the air circulating through his lungs again. He folded his knees back to his chest and gripped them.

Hutch's tongue went back to work... so patient. Since he hadn't asked what was wrong, he obviously had a pretty good idea of what had been going through Starsky's mind. His tongue slowed, and then his lips touched Starsky's skin. Gentle, butterfly-soft kisses brushed against Starsky's asshole.

"You beautiful thing, you," Starsky said with love, feeling the heaviness lift from his heart.

The eager tongue moved up to his balls, washing them. Then Hutch tried to draw both ovals into his mouth at once, creating a peculiar sensation that caused Starsky to squirm and make a noise of delight. For a moment, all sensation left him. And then his asshole tingled, and it was a moment before he realized that Hutch was sucking at it, trying to draw the skin into his mouth.

"Oh, God," Starsky whimpered, feeling a quiver race through his body. Hutch didn't always do that. Just... sometimes. Apparently, when he thought Starsky needed something extra.

It must have worked, because now Hutch straightened and stretched to grab the lubricant from the nightstand. Starsky let his legs relax, his feet finding purchase on the mattress, his knees still drawn up.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Hutch asked tenderly while fussing with the tube of gel.

Starsky grunted, loving the pride that Hutch took in his ability to properly prepare his partner for fucking. "That tongue of yours ought to have a damned patent."

"Uh-uh," Hutch corrected in an enticing voice. "A patent isn't necessary, because it's only for pleasing you. " He reached between Starsky's legs.

Starsky felt the greased digit go in without any problem at all. He gripped it tightly, having learned that technique from Hutch when the tables were turned. Gripping and relaxing tended to make one's passageway very conducive to being visited by a big, huge cock.

Hutch pulled the finger out. And a moment later two were in there. They rubbed upward, pressing against Starsky's prostate.

Starsky groaned, feeling that incredible sensation behind his balls. "You're so damn good to me."

"Of course, I'm good to you. I love you, stupid."

Starsky felt a bubble of laughter well up. It came out as a soft chuckle, and felt very good.

Hutch had pulled out and now had three fingers working their way in. Rarely had Starsky made it through the "finger hierarchy" in such a short time.

"I want you so bad," he said simply.

"Like this?" Hutch asked gently, while his trio of fingers felt inside. "From the front?"

Starsky nodded. It was the way that provided the deepest possible penetration. They could be so close to each other.

He sucked in a silent breath as the fingers bowed out, stretching him wide. Then he made a conscious effort to grip them... hold them... then release them.

Hutch carefully pulled them out, then pushed back in with a fucking motion. With his free hand, the blond applied gel to his phallus.

"Mmm," Starsky said as the in-and-out motion continued. He throbbed with the knowledge that Hutch was getting himself ready.

"All right, my love," Hutch said tenderly. He'd pulled his fingers out and taken his phallus in hand, positioning himself between Starsky's legs.

Starsky drew back his knees and hoisted his legs over Hutch's shoulders. He felt a hot, moist thickness poking at his asshole. "Real deep, Hutch."

Hutch nodded. He aimed it more accurately, then pushed with a steady, practiced motion.

Starsky closed his eyes and let out a breath as he felt himself part, making way for that thick spear of flesh. It didn't hurt... just made him feel very full. And very special when he heard Hutch's little moan of delight.

It took an extra push before the last inch was fully ensheathed. Starsky grunted from the extra pressure; he'd rarely felt so deeply penetrated. He opened his eyes. Hutch was gazing down at him, eyes shining with love. He placed his hands against Hutch's chest and rubbed them around, massaging that smooth skin. "Fuck me good."

Massive flesh pulled back, then slammed into Starsky, creating a smack as body met body. The motion repeated... again and again and again.

Starsky's hands were still on Hutch's chest, but now they were merely bracing against him, as Hutch slammed into his body. He closed his eyes, focusing on the beautiful sensation of Hutch moving within, filling him... over and over. He concentrated when Hutch next pulled back, and waited, imaging his heart inside his chest. When Hutch slammed back in, he imagined that thick spear tearing through his intestine and reaching up inside his body to penetrate his heart... like a valentine.

Starsky groaned at the poignant image, and knew he wanted even more of Hutch. "Fuck me," he demanded. "Fuck me good and hard."

Hutch obeyed, hips moving faster, pounding against Starsky's ass rhythmically. "Feels so good."

"So good," Starsky agreed. He forced his eyes open as his body was buoyed back and forth with more powerful thrusts.

Hutch's bright orbs met his in the darkness. "Gonna come."

"Come deep inside me, Hutch. Plant your seed way up inside me."

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut, as though the image created by Starsky's words was too much to bear. And then he was crying out, pounding more shallowly now, gripping Starsky's shoulders.

"That's my love," Starsky approved. It was a rare treat, watching Hutch throw his head back as his yell gave way to inarticulate murmurs, his hips coming to a sudden stop, but not before pressing hard against Starsky's rear.

Hutch's eyes opened as he panted, sweat dripping from his forehead to Starsky's chest. "Oh, damn," he finally said. A couple of deep exhalations, then, "We should try it this way more often."

"Yeah," Starsky agreed. "I love watching you get yours."

Hutch ducked his head bashfully, then withdrew with great care. He collapsed to the mattress.

Starsky carefully dislodged himself from the pillow, feeling an ache from having his legs folded back for so long. He tossed the pillow to the floor, and also brushed the tube of gel from the bed. He took a moment rearranging the covers, then pulled open the drawer of the nightstand and handed Hutch a towel.

Hutch groaned and rolled toward him. After using the towel and tossing it aside, he rested his head against Starsky's shoulder. Starsky reached down and stroked damp bangs.

They stayed like that for many minutes. Eventually, Starsky heard the deep breathing of sleep. He pulled the covers more snugly around them both.

He drifted into unconsciousness for short periods throughout the night. But genuine peace remained elusive.

Part 3