Part One



M. Decker and C. Davis

Part Two

    Snaking a tortuous path around the crowded periphery of the room finally brought him near his destination. A clear view of their corner table stopped him in his tracks. Hutch was sitting back in his chair, relaxed. A single finger was tracing a random pattern on the surface of the sweat-dewed glass sitting in front of him. He was not alone.

    A slender, dark haired man stood close to Hutch, flaunting indecently tight pants and a form fitting top. His posture was one of blatant invitation. Whispering something, he bent towards the seated blond, and Hutch smiled slightly, shaking his head. No thought went into Starsky's next actions.

    Hutch looked up as Starsky approached. A welcoming smile began forming on his lips, then died as he seemed to pick up on the unspoken danger signals that radiated from the approaching figure.

    "Starsk, there you are. Wondered if you had fallen asleep in there." The note of lightness in Hutch's voice was strained. It was obvious he had picked up on Starsky's changed mood.

    The stranger turned at his arrival, a challenging gleam in the dark eyes which fueled Starsky's initial instinctive response. "Nope," he forced himself to say calmly. "Just took a little longer than I thought." Casually, as if it were the most natural act in the world, he deliberately positioned himself between the stranger and his seated partner. He maneuvered close, pressing his hip against Hutch's arm, while with an easy familiarity supported an arm along the other man's broad shoulder. His statement of ownership was clear.

    Starsky felt Hutch tense, but the blond did not challenge his position...or his claim. He couldn't afford to meet the puzzled eyes he knew were staring up at him, demanding an answer. His own gaze was locked in a silent battle with the intruder.

    Hutch cleared his throat uneasily. "Starsk, this is Harry...."

    "King," Harry supplied. "Your friend here looked a little lonely; thought I'd come over for some conversation."

    "That was real friendly of you, Harry. But, as you can see," Starsky pressed fractionally closer to Hutch, "he's not alone."

    "Yes," Harry almost purred, voice heavy with sarcasm, "I can see that." His eyes sought out the blond. "It was nice talking to you, Ken. Maybe some other time...." He smiled knowingly and slowly walked away.

    "Yeah...." Hutch whispered.

    I could do better than that..., Starsky thought as he watched the exaggerated swagger of the retreating figure. In the pregnant silence that followed he moved around the table and reclaimed his chair. He met the demanding gaze boring into him from across the table.

    "Starsk..." Hutch began hesitantly.

    "Hey," Starsky interrupted, abruptly consulting his watch, "it's almost closing time. We can fit in one or two more numbers if we dance fast." He grabbed Hutch's beer and finished it off for him. "C'mon and strut your stuff, Blondie. Everyone's watchin' ya, so let's give 'em a show."

    "It's not me they're...." Starsky cut him off by grabbing his arm and pulling him from his chair onto the dance floor.


    They shrugged into their jackets, paid the bill and filed outside with the others who had stayed to close the place down. Starsky watched as the little crowd dispersed along the sidewalk. Some walked despondently alone, others in couples, I know what you're going to be doing tonight, or even more intriguingly in groups of three or four. Outside, the cool night air re-energized him, but he felt keyed up, restless. The last thing he wanted right now was to be cooped up in their room.

    He save a sidelong glance to his partner. Hutch was being very quiet. He nudged the man in the ribs. "How 'bout a drive? Maybe find a place with a view of the city." He rubbed his hands together. "God, I love vacations."

    "Aren't you tired?"

    "Tired? We can be tired when we get back to LA. Let me take you for a ride, schweetheart, and I'll show you some sights."

    Warmth slowly spread over Hutch's face, finally emerging as a smile. "Sure. Sounds good. I've always loved the way cities look at night with the lights and all."

    "Like a giant Christmas tree."

    Hutch gave a small snort of amusement. He fished into his jacket pocket and pulled out the key ring on which swung the keys to the Bayberry and the Torino. "Here, catch." He made a quick throw. "Just take it easy, otherwise you can make this a solitary jaunt all by your lonesome."

    Starsky tossed the keys in his hand. Pushover. He gave Hutch a victorious grin. "Admit it, secretly you love the way I drive."

    "I may be sorry about this," Hutch muttered as be slid into the passenger's seat.


    He drove towards one of the higher peaks surrounding the city. There was little traffic, and he played the accelerator like a virtuoso. He knew Hutch would understand. With the Torino responding so willingly to his touch, he didn't have the heart to make her crawl. He pulled on to the dirt semicircle of the overlook and let her purr a moment before silencing her.

    He was the first out of the car and over to the edge of the cliff. He bent to lean his arms on the safety railing and looked out over the patterns of the city below. He heard footsteps, then Hutch was beside him, silent, but radiating faint disapproval. He waited until the other man turned his attention to the urban light show. "Fuckin' beautiful," he sighed. He gestured outward. "You can live in a city, and there's a creep everywhere you turn. Up here, it's civilization at its best. Lookin' down on it."

    "Like a god?" Hutch's question was lightly mocking.

    "Naw." He turned and grinned at his companion. "Gods die. We're gonna live forever."

    "I oughta arrest you for DWI."

    "I am not drunk. I can touch the tip of my nose with my finger...."

    "You could do that unconscious. Try a smaller target."

    His smile faded. "What's eating you?"

    Hutch's mouth opened, but no words came out. Instead the blond turned his attention back to the scenery and took a couple deep breaths. It seemed to calm him. "I can smell the sea." Hutch's nostrils flared slightly as he tested the air. "It always smells so...clean, untainted."

    Starsky scented the salt on the air. Like the sea is sweating. Pounding itself into the beach again. And again. Into the slowly yielding beach for all eternity. He shook his head in an effort to clear it. He strained for conversation. "That why you stay in Venice?"

    "One of the reasons. What I'd really like is a place overlooking the ocean, like the house Professor Gage had."

    Starsky grinned. "If you had a house like that you might have a permanent housemate." He swung his legs up over the rail and sat on it.

    "Sure we wouldn't kill each other?"

    Starsky laughed. "There's always that possibility." The answering laughter was comforting. His line of sight was even with the horizon, which drew his gaze up in an arc directly overhead. The city suddenly seemed like a congested reflection of the natural lights above. "Look at the stars!" All those scattered burning bodies. The lingering traces of the biggest bang of all. He shook his head again, and then strong arms were around him.

    "You're gonna fall, idiot."

    He twisted in the embrace and grabbed the sides of Hutch's face and kissed him before the startled man could back away.


    The pulsing beat of his blood drove Hutch as he contested with Starsky in the age old game of dominance. First one, then the other rose to the top of their pyramid of two on the wide expanse of bed. Their naked bodies pressed tightly together, blindly seeking; their mouths found warm darkness where their tongues played a teasing game of hide-and-seek. The adrenaline high fueled by their precipitous race back to the Bayberry still echoed in Hutch's body.

    "Mmmmm," Starsky breathed when he pulled back some time later to catch a lungful of air. "You taste good." He leaned forward again, parted lips demanding another sample.

    Hutch found the sensation strange, as if he had suddenly fallen through the looking glass into another reality, but at the same time it was incredibly erotic. He surged forward automatically in response. The dark head fell back on the pillow in reply, exposing the curve of his throat. It was too much of a temptation for Hutch and he moved his attention to this new territory, kissing and licking his way down its length. "Don't...taste bad...yourself," he managed to get out between fast, panting breaths. "Salty..." his tongue delved into the moist hollow, "n'sweet...wonderful." His teeth fastened lightly into the tender skin of a shoulder.

    Starsky moaned deep within his throat. "Oh...god," was all he managed to sob before Hutch rolled over, pinning him beneath, and began thrusting wildly. Starsky's corded thighs wrapped eagerly around Hutch and began moving in counterpoint.

    Hutch's conception of reality soon narrowed down to the burning throbbing of his cock, and the incredible sensation of sweat-sheened flesh beneath him, matching him move for move, passion for passion. Always in tune with each other, this rapport was not altogether strange, but he had never experienced it at quite this intensity, hovering on the fine edge of overload for both mind and body. Hutch vaguely realized small animal-like sounds were being torn from him, intertwined with the familiar pattern of his partner's name. His blood somehow transformed itself into liquid fire, coursing through his veins, pounding loudly in his ears in time to a primitive rhythm. His hands, ungentle now, clutched and clawed at the flesh beneath him, trying to draw the other into his substance. Unity with Starsky seemed so close. He clutched at the heaving, thrusting, beloved flesh as if this could make it true.

    It was going to happen. It was pain; it was pleasure; it was unendurable sensation that he prayed would never end. "Oh, babe," he panted. "!"

    Hutch heard his own name being shouted but as if from a great distance. The body beneath him gave one last thrust-and-shudder and then froze into muscle-tightened immobility. Teeth sank into his neck but it didn't matter. A sudden warmth bathed his belly, spreading between their close pressed flesh.

    Starsky's seed joining them together was the last thing needed to topple Hutch over the edge, to fall with his partner into oblivion. A gathering tightness centered in his balls and ran like lightning down the length of his swollen cock. His fingers dug desperately into his companion's hips. One last thrust and he exploded with an overload of pleasure. The orgasm seemed to go on forever, his body caught in a web of ecstasy.

    As the 'little death' took him, he felt cast adrift in the great dark. He was suspended in time--mindless, bodiless, but not alone. Never alone. Starsky and he were still together, floating like two small sparks cast out from a great fire. Peaceful. Vulnerable. Slowly the real world returned. Hutch sighed, feeling his heartbeat and breathing slowing to normal. Starsky lay lax and equally spent beneath him. His arms stole slowly around the solid warmth, nuzzling into the sweat-damp neck. He sighed again, feeling wonderful, noticing that even his toes seemed to be tingling with the aftereffects.

    The dead lump that was his partner finally stirred and a tousle-haired head rose wobbly from the pillow. "Wow," Starsky breathed, and his unfocused eyes fixed on his partner's face. An expression that could only be described as smug slowly emerged as a smile.

    "Yeah," Hutch agreed, feeling similarly articulate.

    Hutch reached up and gently carded through the dark riot of unruly curls. This was the extent of his capacity for renewed movement and he sank back, snuggling his face into the side of his partner's neck.

    "Hey," Starsky whispered into Hutch's ear.


    "Uh-uh," Starsky chuckled and nudged him.

    "Wha?" Hutch mumbled, and lifted his head up again.


    "Lights?" The blond felt totally disoriented, then he peered towards the table lamp across the room. "You wouldn't want to...?"

    "Nope." Starsky smiled sleepily and reached up for a kiss. "You're on top. You gotta move anyway. You don't want a flat partner, do ya?"

    "Smartass," Hutch growled, but forced himself to sit up. He stumbled across the room to the light and the chamber was plunged into darkness.

    Hutch made his way slowly towards the bed, one arm outstretched protectively. He dimly saw Starsky sit up, to grab the end of the sheet and a blanket. When he had groped his way back to the bed Starsky wrapped one arm around him and pulled him under the covers, cradling him in an affectionate embrace of tangled limbs.

    "'Night, lover," he heard Starsky mumble as sleep took him. Somehow the word seemed right.


    Hutch sat at the window of their room, staring down into the deserted street, watching the shadows crowd around the pale island cast by the streetlight. Somewhere in the distance a car roared, tires screeched. A floorboard creaked somewhere above him and was answered from below--the sounds an old house makes as it stretches in the night. Hutch settled more comfortably in the armchair and rested his head against its back. He felt warm and totally contented. He turned his head till he could see the dark ball curled in the middle of the bed. Starsky had fallen asleep almost as soon as the light had been turned off. In his own contrary way, Hutch found his mind had spun into high gear. Rather than disturb his partner, he slipped on his robe and settled in for a late-night vigil.

    The subtle scent of their lovemaking clung to him still, conjuring up the sight and sound and feel of Starsky in his arms. He smiled slightly to himself. He turned his eyes back to the street. Can't lie and say that I'd never thought of it. Starsky, you sure took me by surprise tonight. If I'd had time to think.... But he hadn't; he'd only had time to react. His body had known what it wanted. He needed this time to himself so his mind could catch up with it.

    There were so many things he had to talk over with Starsky. Problems of the real world to face. Decisions to make. But somehow he already knew his decision had been made. He turned the thing around and around in his mind and it came up the same way every time.

    He realized he was cold when a sudden shiver shook him. He rose and padded quietly back to the bed. Slipping out of his robe, he slid under the covers and curled around his partner's warmth. I love you. It was as simple and as complicated as that. He knew all the rest would somehow work itself out as long as they were together in this.


    Starsky awakened slowly as his body told him the warmth that had lain against his back was gone and now he was cold. The sound of running water told him where Hutch had gone. He cracked his eyes open enough to see that it was just beginning to get light out. Getting up at this ungodly hour during a vacation was inhuman. He pulled the bedclothes up around his shoulders and curled back into sleep.

    He felt as if he had just drifted off again when he was roused by the bed rocking. That didn't make sense. Nobody takes a shower and then gets back into bed unless...his eyes opened of their own accord and he was suddenly very much awake.

    His mind raced. Should I say a was drunk? Should I say at was all a mistake? He rolled onto his back and there was Hutch looking at him with that smile. He didn't know why he thought of it as 'that' smile. He wasn't even sure he had even seen it before, but the sight called up one of his own. He was sure it was idiotic.

    Hutch was bending down for a good-morning kiss. He could smell the soap and shampoo scents clinging to the man, while he must smell like an old sock. Hutch's lips met his, and he closed his eyes, but wouldn't open his mouth to the inquiring tongue. The gentle pressure stopped and he opened his eyes to the wary look the blond was giving him.

    "Can I please brush my teeth first?"

    That smile was back. "Nope."

    Boy, are you gonna be sorry. "Okay...." He reached up and caught the nape of Hutch's neck and drew him down for a real breath-stealer. Hutch shared the taste of his toothpaste with him and soon he wasn't thinking about morning-mouth or anything else.

    Hutch drew back. "Ever had your teeth washed like that before?"

    "Never on a first date." Starsky craned up for a quick kiss then pushed Hutch over onto his back. Positions reversed, he smiled down into the startled face. Then he let his eyes travel down the length of Hutch's torso about midway. "Always knew you were an early riser." He patted Hutch on the belly.

    Hutch grabbed his hand. "Don't tickle."

    "Wouldn't dream of it." He started to rub slow circles into the abdomen. Move your hand down. Go ahead. It's easy--just do it. He slid his hand up to Hutch's chest, palm cupping a nipple, and tried some intricate smaller circles. Hutch shivered and closed his eyes. Okay--now. Grab him while he's not looking at you. He bent and kissed the slightly open mouth, then trailed his lips down over chin, onto throat, across collarbone to the areola he had been neglecting, then he sucked. He got a reaction on that. A distinct moan. He pulled up to look at the contented face, and stroked his way back to Hutch's belly. Hutch's hips rose. This sure is weird.

    He sat up, facing the blond's feet. He had the feeling Hutch had opened his eyes and was looking at his back. If I turn and look I'll never get this going. He changed his stroking hand. Less awkward. One small step for man.... He was surprised to find his left hand firmly holding Hutch's cock. His mind went blank as he stared. Move. He stroked up the length until he had his thumb resting on the glans. He rubbed it just a little. He became engrossed in exploring, tracing veins, fingering the shaft, touching the head; ignoring the moving hips, the beading sweat, and the assorted noises that Hutch was making. He was fascinated. He could never have done this to himself without.... Oops. He chanced a look over his shoulder. Hutch was lying there, eyes wide open, clenching as much of the bottom sheet as he could get in his white-knuckled fists. Okay, okay. Enough fooling around.

    He closed his hand around the distended organ and pumped. Then again. Again. He couldn't find the rhythm. Know it well enough. Done it a million times.... This was different. He was used to feeling this from the inside. All right. Don't panic. His right hand found his own cock. Have to really work to get caught up with Hutch.... He pumped to a hard, fast, steady beat. Then he noticed Hutch's toes were curled tight to form feet-fists. He realized both hands were moving in symphony. Wouldn't you know, the only time I don't want it to happen, my left hand knows what my right is doing. He dared another look over his shoulder. Hutch's eyes weren't open any more, they were squeezed shut. His lips were drawn back over his teeth. It was horrible. Starsky dropped everything he was holding. "Hutch. I'm sorry! I'll stop...."

    "Don't. You. Dare," issued from between clenched teeth.

    "All right. I'll try to be more careful."

    Hutch enunciated all his consonants, but there weren't any vowels in between.

    Starsky clambered up to his knees and bent over Hutch's groin. He took hold of the throbbing cock. It seemed to have a life of its own. Pretend you're churning butter. He'd never churned butter in his life, but the imagery helped. He could tell Hutch was close; he studied the droplets forming at the tiny opening of the head.

    A moment before it happened he remembered someone telling him: 'Never look into the barrel of a gun to see if it is loaded.' His automatic reflexes closed his eyes for him a split-second before Hutch erupted into his face.

    He stumbled, eyes only slitted open, into the bathroom, slammed the door, splashed water on his face, dried off, sat down on the closed toilet lid and decided to kill himself. What a wonderful sex partner he was turning out to be! He should have stayed in there with Hutch, held him, maybe even given him a compliment or two. He imagined himself, bending down for a kiss, his face glistening with semen...a harsh laugh escaped his lips. So much for the poetry of the moment.

    He heard hesitant footsteps outside the door, and then a timid knocking. "Starsk, you all right?"

    Starsky leapt into action. He turned on the tap. "Yeah, just brushing my teeth." He squeezed too much toothpaste on to his brush and started scrubbing noisily.

    "Can I come in?"

    "Sure." He took the washcloth and wiped the mint scented spray off the medicine chest mirror. When he raised his head from rinsing out his mouth, the mirror reflected Hutch standing behind him looking...worried.

    "You sure you're okay?"

    Starsky turned and stepped back against cold porcelain. He shivered. Was it good for you? "I'm fine. You?"

    Hutch was studying him. "That was some sprint from the bed to the bathroom."

    Oh, great. The perfect memory. Either Hutch would tease him about this forever, or never mention it again, insuring that they'd never forget it.

    "I, something in my eye," he lied lightly.

    "Uh-huh. Get it out?" The worried look was lifting.

    "Yeah...." He was distracted by hands stroking his forearms.

    "Coming back to bed?"

    "Do you want me to?" Incredulous.

    Hutch laughed. "Yes. I want you, too."

    "Give me a minute?"

    "Oh. Yeah, sure." Hutch exited with a knowing look.

    When Starsky came back into the room, Hutch scooted over to make room for him in the bed. He climbed in feeling very naked. His hand was stopped from reaching for the sheet.

    "You won't be needing that."

    The pillow was arranged beneath his head and a kiss planted on his nose.


    "Yes." His voice squeaked. He wanted to die. Why does it have to be so light in here? Hutch was smiling down at him. It wasn't 'that' smile. The man was trying not to laugh. If this is a contest, do your worst. I already lost.

    Hands cradled his face and then he was being kissed. Slowly. Thoroughly. One hand moved up to cup the nape of his neck, the other moved to caress shoulder, throat and chest. He was turning to Jell-O. With great effort he moved his arms up and across the broad back. I'm being seduced.... He would have giggled, but the little breaks for air he was being allowed had to be used for the next kiss. He lost track of everything except for the expert tongue in his mouth.

    Hutch wasn't kissing him any more, he knew that, but he was jolted out of his drifting state by the thought that Hutch must have grown another pair of hands. There seemed to be hands all over him. He dropped his arms from around Hutch to give the man easier access, then felt a solidity settle low across his chest He opened his eyes to a long expanse of spine, Hutch lay athwart him. An elbow on the bed kept most of the physical weight off him, but he felt divided in half. Not that easy in the light of day, is it? He reached out and stroked the smooth side from shoulder to hip. It reminded him of the giant slide at the amusement park and as he chuckled softly, he felt a hand on his belly going along for the ride. Then the hand moved and he didn't feel like laughing any more.

    He had been masturbated before, but never with such authority. Hutch didn't bother him with coy little questions like 'does this feel good?', or 'do you like it when I touch you here?', he was kneading, and pulling, and...oh god.... Starsky bent his knees and planted his feet firmly on the mattress. Never one to be still when there was a driving beat going, even in his own ears, he had to move. He matched his hips to Hutch's tempo, and then on one perfect upstroke he shattered.

    As he lay panting, he felt an arm slide under his neck and was pulled into a loose embrace. "Think I disturbed the neighbors?" he managed to gasp.

    "Only if they're on the same block."

    He tried to bury his face in Hutch's neck. "Argh."

    Hutch rubbed his back slowly. "I was only kidding."

    Even as he felt the heat of embarrassment leaving his face he fell asleep.


    Starsky awoke still chest to chest with Hutch. He shivered. Carefully he disentangled himself from Hutch's arms and reached down to the foot of the bed for the covers. "Hope this ain't the start of a trend," he muttered. "Don't wanna sleep with you if I'm gonna keep waking up with a cold back." He arranged the sheet to cover Hutch, then wrapped himself in the blanket. After propping his pillow against the headboard, he leaned back and, looking at his still sleeping partner he tried to think. Now that I've got ya, what the hell am I supposed to do with you?

    He watched Hutch's face going through it's pre-awakening aerobics; eyes moved behind the lids, nose twitched, and the lips compressed and relaxed. Then the eyes were open and looking at his knees.

    "Morning, again."

    Hutch's head tilted back in his direction. "Morning."

    "What's new?"

    Hutch smiled. "Not much. What's new with you?"

    Starsky shook his head. "Wrong answer."


    "Think about it."

    Hutch levered himself up on an elbow. He pulled the sheet closer around himself. "Having second thoughts?" .

    Starsky shrugged. "Nope. Just a couple first thoughts."


    "And I was just wondering where this is going."

    "Not going anywhere if you stay up there."

    Starsky laughed. It felt good to be able to.

    Hutch reached out and grabbed the nearest foot. Starsky didn't pull away. "Where do you want this to go?"

    "My foot?"

    "Don't be obtuse," Hutch chided.

    "Don't be erudite."

    Hutch's turn to laugh. "All right. What's this all about?"

    "That's what I'm trying to figure out. I mean...suddenly last night I wanted to sleep with my best friend.... Strange, huh?"

    "Maybe it's not so strange...."

    Starsky broke in. "Trust me, Hutch. It's strange."

    Hutch wrestled with his sheet as he sat up. "Look, I've always enjoyed touching you...."

    Starsky leaned forward and grabbed Hutch's hand. "I like to touch you, too. But I could touch you like this," he gave the hand a shake, "from here to Tuesday and it still wouldn't....

    "Would you please let me finish a sentence?"

    "Sure. Sorry...carry on." Starsky gestured his permission. He leaned back against the headboard again and fixed an attentive look on his face. Hutch was going to be pedantic. He was going to try to explain what was happening to them like a page out of a Psych 101 textbook. That wasn't them. They weren't statistics. He didn't want to hear it. They were both having a good time; why did Hutch have to get so serious about it? He was brought out of his inner grumblings by the intent look on Hutch's face and the hand on his arm.

    "...and that's the way I feel," Hutch finished.

    Starsky's eyes grew wide. He'd missed the whole thing. And by the way Hutch was looking at him he knew he couldn't ask the man to repeat himself. Still, he knew an answer was called for--he'd have to gamble.

    "Aww...Hutch." He scooted forward and took his partner in his arms, wishing he had some idea of what was going on. Ya snooze, ya lose. Hutch seemed a little tense, a tiny bit startled in his embrace.

    "So you don't want to stop?" Hutch asked.

    Either, Hutch, please say 'either.' Give me a hint, damnit. The body he held was relaxing. Thank you. "No...want to do it till I get it right. Get you off good and proper. After this morning...."

    "C'mon, Starsk. This morning was incredible."

    "Yeah? No, listen, you don't have to say that just...."

    "Incredible," Hutch stressed. "Unique, but incredible."

    "Shucks. I didn't even know what I was doing."

    "You knew. Maybe you weren't sure how...."

    "Need more practice. "

    "Stop fishing for compliments." Hutch helped him free of the restraining blanket. "But if it's practice you want, c'mere."

    Starsky maneuvered to lie down beside his partner. It had been so much simpler last night. Not that he wanted the closeness with Hutch any less, but he felt more self-conscious with the daylight pouring in from the windows. Then there was a hand in his hair and he was being pulled down towards the waiting lips. His gaze went from mouth to eyes and he stopped short, hypnotized. Hutch was down there, looking up through warm baby-blues. He wanted to stay and catalog the colors, but the hand guiding him was impatient. He surrendered to the pull.

    He leaned back when be felt Hutch's growing hardness nudging at him. He knew he had to be nudging back. Shifting slightly, he matched their expanding cocks centimeter for...well, not really. As he compared sizes he felt his earlier mood change a little, tinged with a bit of 'healthy' male jealousy. Somehow that didn't make him feel any better. Hutch seemed in no way bothered by the inequity--but then why should he?

    He cleared his throat noisily. "Did anyone ever tell you you've got a really huge cock?"

    Hutch's short laugh was embarrassed. "Only some of my cruder dates. Never had any complaints before...."

    "Oh, I'm not complaining. Wanna trade?"

    Hutch seemed to think this was very funny and started to giggle, which was contagious. After a few moments Starsky joined in. When they had quieted, Hutch rolled over so he was partially on top of Starsky. "Won't trade, but I'll share."

    Starsky couldn't help himself. "That's mighty big of you," he teased. He was grabbed by a gentle hand.

    "C'mon. I know what this can do. Let's get it going again."

    Starsky's hand covered the one holding him. "I want us to do it together." He was released and Hutch moved over. They lay on their sides, face to face. "Wanna watch you get off." He arched his belly forward and ran the tip of his cock up the underside of Hutch's. He was rewarded by a shiver, and two large hands clenching his ass to pull him inward, crushed-together close. There was room for nothing, especially not subtlety, between their bodies. They ground against each other frantically, trying to reach the top of the cliff at the same time so they could both fall over it.

    Starsky wanted to watch Hutch, but soon his eyes were as tightly closed as his partner's. In his mind he saw a finish line, and he knew he was racing towards it as fast as his partner. Their labored breathing synchronized and locked as their eyes couldn't. His last coherent thought was if they didn't stop pushing against each other at the same time they would end up on the floor. Then he fell, but he didn't hit the floor.

    When he again had the capacity to do more than pant, he was surprised to find himself still on the bed. He even felt as if he had become part of the bed, spread out into a thin suntanned sheet. Hutch evidently had more energy than he did. He felt fingers carding through the hair at his groin.

    "You've got to be kidding," was all he could mumble.

    Hutch laughed. Starsky liked the sound of that. "No, just checking. Thought we might have started a brush fire."

    "Not a bad idea. We could have a weenie roast."

    Hutch was all laughter and two big feet as he pushed Starsky off the mattress. "Get out of my bed."

    Starsky slowly levered himself off the floor. "I'll get out of your bed...." Putting on a show of ruffled dignity he walked over to the bathroom. Before he closed the door all the way he stuck his head out from behind it, "...and into my shower." He already had the door shut before the pillow hit it.


    When Hutch emerged from the bathroom, toweling his hair from his own shower, he noticed that Starsky was seated by the window and dressed--except for his shoes.

    "I don't want to leave this room," Starsky sighed.

    Hutch smiled. "We're going to have to go out sooner or later."

    "No, I don't want to leave till we check out."

    "C'mon, Starsky, we've got to give them a chance to clean up the room."

    "Okay, I'll go if we can take the sheets with us."

    Hutch thought this was rather kinky, but it was also theft. "We can't do that...."

    "We'll take them to a Laundromat, then bring them back," Starsky explained reasonably.

    "Oh," said Hutch, giving the bed a lingering look. He'd seen worse, and was sure their hosts had as well. He shook his head. "Put on your walking shoes. We're going out for lunch," he handed Starsky his Adidas, "sans sheets."

    "Hutch, when they come in they're gonna know."

    "So? The worse that can happen is we'd be thrown out-- and I don't think that's likely. Now, get your ass in gear. I'm hungry."

    Starsky finished tying his shoes, then regarded his partner. "I have an idea. Why don't we buy a set of sheets, change the bed when we get back, change them again in the morning, take those sheets to the Laundromat ourselves and bring 'em back, and...."

    Hutch gripped Starsky's arm and levered him out of the chair. "No."


    "I'm not ashamed. Are you?" Hutch looked down into Starsky's eyes.

    "I just don't think it's anybody else's business."

    Hutch thought for a moment. By the rather baroque plans for linen exchange he knew Starsky didn't want to return to celibacy. "I don't think Keith or Rolf will make it their business. I don't even think they would care, and if they did they'd probably just throw us a party." He gave Starsky a push to the door. "Think food, that should give your overactive imagination something to focus on."

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    The lunch at the sidewalk cafe had featured bland food, a noisy sideshow of pedestrians, and extraordinarily slow service. Waiting for the bill to arrive gave them plenty of time to not talk. They chatted about the drive up the coast, the incline of the streets, the fog, and the chance of rain. Starsky felt as if he were on a first date. For the first time in what seemed like forever he felt as if he couldn't really share what he was feeling with Hutch. He seemed constrained to the same banalities that his partner was filling up the silences with. Of course, to be able to share his feelings, he'd have to decide what they really were. Perhaps a little chitchat wasn't such a bad idea.

    "What now, Hutch?" Starsky asked as they stood in the middle of the sidewalk.

    "I don't know. What do you want to do?"

    Starsky grinned. "Left your itinerary behind?"

    Hutch looked startled. "I thought you wanted me to. Thought you wanted a little more spontaneity."

    "Look where spontaneity has gotten us so far," Starsky said disgustedly.

    "What do you mean?" Hutch's question came out sounding wary.

    "Got us a really mediocre lunch, that's what. I'm on vacation. I could have gotten that kind of meal at the Pits."

    Hutch shook him head. "So, it wasn't the best. Next time we don't stop at the first place with a menu out front, how's that? Think of it as an experience." Hutch grabbed a sleeve of the other man's shirt and started then in the direction of the Bayberry, "Nobody says we have to eat there again."

    Starsky noticed where they were heading. "We going back already?"

    "Thought I'd pick up the tour guide. You were feeling lost without it."

    Starsky circled around Hutch to face them in the other direction. "Let's take a longcut. I feel like exploring." He took the lead with Hutch still holding a handful of his shirt. He looked down at his arm. "You don't have to rip my clothes off, ya know."

    Hutch dropped his hand as if stung.

    Starsky read the look on Hutch's face and added in a whisper, "At least not in public."

    They ended up on the street backing their bed and breakfast, which turned out to be lined with antique shops. They stopped in a few, playing if-I-had-the-money games with the overpriced pieces. While Starsky was admiring a mahogany table with lions' heads carved on the legs, Hutch asked the proprietor if he could use the phone for a local call. Starsky thought that a bit odd, but figured it was probably for a reservation of some sort. Sometimes it was better to be surprised.

    They finished their circuit of the block and ended up at the Bayberry's front door. Hutch lead the way up the steps and into the foyer. Starsky shadowed him, and made it a point to look around at the few people in the sitting room. No one pointed at him. No one whispered. No one even noticed him. He focused on two men sitting very close to each other on the couch arguing quietly about something and pointing out passages in a duplicate of Hutch's tour guide. He snorted a laugh of kinship and followed Hutch up the stairs to their room.

    Their cleaned room. A wicker basket filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies sat on the bedside table alongside an icebucket with what looked to be a bottle of champagne resting amid the slushy water. Starsky realized it must have been sitting there in the room for some time in order for the ice to have melted as much as it had, then he remembered Hutch's phone call. He knew it had to have been Hutch. No place gave out two complimentary bottles of fermented grape, at least no place he had ever been.

    He felt Hutch was watching him, waiting for a reaction, even though the man was standing at the window feigning disinterest. Starsky threw back the covers on the bed, then searched under the pillows. This got the attention of his curious partner.

    "What are you doing?"


    "I can see that. Just what do you expect to find?' Hutch left his station and advanced to the bed.

    "I found the cookies and the booze. Just wondering where you hid the box of chocolates and the flowers."

    Hutch edged between the hunter and the bed. "You won't find any. I didn't want to spend too much on you right away." He reached up and undid a button of Starsky's shirt. "How am I to know if you'll be worth it?"

    Starsky removed the bottle from its resting place and peeled the silver wrapping from its neck. "Sweet-talker." He aimed the cork he was prying loose at Hutch's crotch. "Keep that up and you'll have me in your bed in no time."

    Hutch reached out and pointed the bottle up towards the ceiling. "Hit me with that cork and there won't be any reason to have you in my bed, turkey."

    The stopper exited with an satisfying pop. Starsky looked around for a few seconds, then at Hutch. "Glasses?"

    Hutch stared disbelievingly at the table. He disappeared into the bathroom and emerged with two water tumblers, "Guess we'll have to improvise." He held them out to be filled.

    Starsky claimed his. "Tacky," he mumbled.

    "So are you." Hutch raised his glass, "To the Labyrinth."

    "Oh." Starsky felt befuddled. "I thought we'd be staying in tonight."

    Hutch lowered his glass, and gaped at his partner. He seemed to take a second to gather himself together. "That was supposed to be a toast."

    Starsky laughed. "That's okay, then. To the Labyrinth. That undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns...unchanged. Cheers." He lifted his glass and took a long swallow.

    Hutch watched, fascinated. "Sip. You're supposed to sip champagne, not gulp it. How do you expect to savor the myriad of complicated flavors...."

    "Fine wine, I'll sip. This is silly ginger ale."

    "But I promised to toast you with champagne...."

    "Yes, but you were referring to a night club just now, if I'm not mistaken."

    Hutch sighed and raised his glass again. "To you, Starsk. One of the most aggravating people on earth. If you weren't so cute I'd murder you."

    "And if I were just a tiny bit more docile I'd let you." He sipped delicately. "Not bad for seven bucks."

    "I beg your pardon?"

    "They left the price sticker on the bottle."

    "Tacky." Hutch retrieved the bottle to top their glasses.

    "True. Just can't get good help these days."

    Hutch set his drink down on the table and sat on the edge of the bed staring at Starsky, who just grinned at him.

    "I can hear the wheels turning. Bet you're wondering how you're gonna get me out of my clothes, aren't ya?" He undid three of his shirt buttons and slipped a sleeve down over his raised shoulder. "Yours, sailor," he leered in invitation.

    Hutch got up, unbuttoned the rest of the shirt, and slipped it off the tanned torso. His hands went to Starsky's bare waist and pulled the shorter man in for a kiss. "I was only a sea-scout," he confessed.

    "Any port in a storm." Starsky pushed Hutch backwards onto the sheets. It was infinitely easier than asking if he wanted to go to bed. He would have leapt on top of the blond, but he didn't want to risk collapsing the furniture. After all, it wasn't his. He climbed over his partner and lay down beside him,

    Hutch smiled smugly. "Ready for a roll in the hay?"

    Starsky looked thoughtful. "No, not really. I've rolled in hay. Isn't much fun. Too prickly." He worked his sneakers off with his feet and kicked them over the foot of the bed. "I'm less dressed than you are," he accused.

    "And whose fault is that?" Hutch started unbuttoning his own shirt. Other fingers went for his belt, snap, and zipper.

    Starsky concentrated on helping with the undressing process. After he had gotten Hutch down to his tan he stripped himself, with as little jostling of the bed as possible. As he reached out to rub Hutch's chest his arm crossed with the blond's who was attempting the same move. Starsky cleared his throat. "I believe I have the right-of-way."

    In answer he was tumbled on to his back, and a heavy body leaned on him. "Nope. This time you're going to yield." The wide mouth covered his with deadly accuracy. Starsky thought it might be a better idea to merge, but remained silent.

    The feel of large, broad hands moving on his body was something Starsky was finding to his liking. The touches were gentle, but commanding. There was little ambiguity in their demands. They moved down to hold his hardening cock. His hands moved down also, but were impeded by the tangle of arms.

    "Hold on a minute." Starsky sat up.

    "I am holding on."

    "I mean let go a minute. This isn't gonna work. It's like trying to move in a log jam." He reversed his position, head to foot, to gain unimpaired accessibility, and gave the head of the shaft presented to him a quick kiss. "That's better."

    He felt Hutch copy the kiss. Intrigued, he delivered a slow experimental lick up the underside of the swelling organ, and damned if the same didn't happen to him. Soon they were playing 'follow the leader' on a very adult level. Starsky took the now stiff organ into his mouth and every attention he paid to it echoed in his own body. He started to fantasize that he was sucking himself off. Lost in this daydream he did everything with his hands and mouth that he had always wanted done to himself. He was taken by surprise when his mouth was flooded with viscous liquid; he hadn't been quite ready to come yet. He swallowed by automatic reflex. His mouth and tongue were tired, but still sensation surged and built. He rested his head on the inner side of a long, muscled thigh and exalted in his shattering climax.

    Hutch groaned and lay back on the bed, dislodging Starsky from his resting place. "Oh, god. That was fantastic."

    Starsky roused himself from his reverie. "Yeah," his appreciation was quiet but heartfelt. "Fantastic." His gaze took in the valley of sheet between them. "Not bad doing it this way. Keeps the sheets respectable."

    Hutch laughed weakly. "Except for the sweat."

    Starsky sniffed noisily. "There is that." He stretched lazily. "How about we grab a shower then find some solid food. I'm hungry." He slowly got himself off the bed. "C'mon. You can wash my back."

    Hutch followed him into the bathroom. "You can pick the place for dinner," he offered.

    "Naw, your choice. That way I can blame you if I don't like it."


    They woke slowly, eased awake by the soft morning light, and then made leisurely love. Afterwards, when the last cry of passion had faded into silence, they lay side by side, bodies relaxed and sated. Their hands, mirror images of each other, lay nestled between them, fingers loosely intertwined. For a long time they did not speak, feeling no need to break the easy silence.

    The blond was the first to stir. Turning his head, he studied the familiar profile and a smile touched his mouth. Starsky, as if sensing the gaze directed his way, turned his head towards his companion.

    "Hi." Hutch greeted his friend with the first word spoken that morning.

    "Hi, yourself."

    Turning onto his left side, Hutch leaned up on one elbow so he could see better. "Not a bad way to start the day."

    "Yeah, you could say that."

    There was a moment of strained seriousness and then they both grinned at each other. Starsky reached up and slowly stroked Hutch's bare chest, circling a nipple, then trailing down the sensitive side.

    "So, waddya want to do today?" Starsky's eyes were half-slitted, making him look like a cat, all sleek and dreamy, but filled with an unlimited potential for mischief.

    Hutch captured the wandering hand, bringing it up to his lips for a quick kiss. His voice, strangely at odds with this confident action, was hesitant. "Um, I'm...I don't know. What do you want to do?"

    "Dunno," Starsky echoed. "Wanna stay in again?"

    Hutch for once could not read the bedeviling face. "I don't know...." Suddenly, he realized they were on a merry-go-round, turning round and round and going nowhere. "This is ridiculous."

    "Yeah, it is," Starsky agreed quietly. "What do you really want to do?"

    "I'd like to go out. Do you mind?"

    Starsky smiled up at him, a teasing twinkle in his dark blue eyes. "Thought you'd never ask."


    "Well, aren't you wiped?"

    Hutch started laughing helplessly. "Ah, babe, you sure get to the heart of the matter. If you must know, I don't think after yesterday's marathon session of ours I'll be able to get it up for a week." He paused, frowning down at the amused face. "If you say you can...."

    Starsky let out a sudden whoop. "Wish I could say yes, but I think I could use a break myself. Y'know what they say: 'man does not live by love alone.'"

    "That's bread, Starsk."

    "Mine sounds better."

    "Asshole," Hutch said affectionately and planted a kiss on the upturned mouth.

    "Birds of a feather...," Starsky shot back sweetly as soon as his mouth was released. "So what's on the agenda?"

    The change of topic left Hutch with no chance for a comeback. Instead, he flopped across his partner's chest to get at the nightstand drawer. He heard a small 'wuff' as his weight settled on the recumbent form. He smothered a grin. Serves him right, trying to get the last word. It took just a moment for him to retrieve the small notebook and settle back on his side of the bed. Sitting up, he propped his pillow behind his back as he settled comfortably against the carved headboard.

    "Let's see," Hutch muttered to himself, leafing through the pages to find the appropriate entry. "Today's Friday...."

    Meanwhile, Starsky had forced himself into a sitting position and was now leaning against his partner, peering over his shoulder.

    "Here." There was satisfaction in Hutch's voice as he pointed at a page.

    "Redwoods?" Starsky asked, eyebrows rising. "You mean trees and wild animals and poison oak and...."

    "I'm not dragging you off to the jungles of Africa, Starsky. It's a state park just north of here. They have nice easy trails and even a concession stand if you can't live without your quota of junk food. Anyway, have you ever been in a redwood forest?"

    "No...." The single word sounded distinctly hesitant.

    "If you don't want to, we won't," Hutch said softly. "But it's something I'd like to show you."

    "You really want me to?" Starsky asked.


    "Well, why didn't you say so before, Blintz?" Starsky rolled out of bed, making a beeline for the bathroom. "I get the shower first," he called over his shoulder as he disappeared into the other room.

    Hutch sat staring at the bathroom door, shaking his head. Well, it's certainly never dull with you around. "Just don't take all day," he projected over the sound of running water. "We'll pick up some food and have a picnic lunch out in the beauties of nature."

    He grinned as a soul-felt moan issued from the bathroom.


    Two men strolled through the hushed silence of the redwood grove, their footfalls muffled by the thick carpet laid down by the forest over the long years. Starsky, his head thrown back so he could peer up into the dim vastness of the trees, was not paying any attention to where he was going and kept bumping into his companion. Hutch, without comment, simply guided him back on course with a touch. A few mote-filled shafts of pale light managed to struggle through the dense upper levels to illuminate small patches of forest floor. Starsky stepped into the heart of one such beam of sunlight, standing very still in front of one forest giant, his wondering gaze marking its dimensions of girth and height. The light became caught in the dark curls and embraced the slender form. Hutch stood quietly beside him, a look of awe and wonder on his face, but whether directed at their surroundings or his partner was not clear. Somewhere nearby a few notes of birdsong, clear and sharp as crystal, were woven into the rich tapestry of silence.

    "Jeez, Hutch," Starsky finally said in hushed tones, turning to stare at his companion. "I didn't know it'd be like this."

    "I know. Hit me the same way the first time I visited the redwoods. Like being in a cathedral...only more so."

    Starsky nodded his agreement, eyes looking upwards again. "Yeah. It makes you wanna talk in whispers." He grinned impishly. "Like we're both doin' now."

    The blond chuckled softly and punched Starsky's arm playfully. "C'mon, let's finish this walk."

    "And then lunch?" There was a distinctly hopeful note in Starsky's voice.

    Hutch shook his head despairingly, but he was smiling. "All this...and you're thinking about your stomach."

    "Wha'd'ya mean? It's hard work walkin' all over these trails." Starsky stole his arm around Hutch's waist and gave him a quick squeeze before releasing him. "Anyway, food's not the only appetite I'm thinking of satisfying right now."

    "Starsky!" Hutch said with mock indignation. "We're in public. You've just got to wait."

    As if to punctuate his words, the sound of human voices and the high laughter of children floated towards them. The dark haired man shook his head. "I'll try, partner, but I'm not promisin' a thing."

    It only took another fifteen minutes to finish the last loop of the marked trail and to arrive back at the visitor's center. They found the Torino in the parking lot and retrieved the brown grocery bag that held the makings of their lunch. Starsky nodded towards the picnic area. "Over there?" He noted the slight frown as Hutch glanced over at the crowded tables and the lack of real scenery.

    "How 'bout if we ask someone who works here if there's a place a little less...."

    "Crowded," Starsky finished for him. I could use a little more privacy with you, myself. "Sounds good to me. So lead on, McDuff." He waved his friend towards the nearby visitor's center.

    He watched Hutch tighten his hold on the grocery bag and approach a man dressed in a uniform of some sort. Park police? Wonder if they arrest many hardened criminal thievin' squirrels, assault and battery bears.... A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth at the absurd images this conjured. He forced his wandering attention back to the tail end of the conversation.

    "Okay, and thanks," Hutch was saying to the man. He rejoined Starsky, grinning widely.


    "The ranger told me there's a real nice place about a mile in that direction." He pointed back into the trees.

    "A mile?" Starsky realized a note of dismay had crept into his voice.

    The Hutchinson smile turned evil. "A mile." It was said with finality. "You go down the trail until you hit a place with a water dispenser, then you go to the next waste basket and there's this small natural trail that heads off deeper into the woods. It takes you right to the river. There's even some strips of sand down there to lie on. Not many people know about it or want to foot it, so it should be nice and peaceful. Isn't that great?"

    Starsky loved Hutch's enthusiasm, but when it came to the great outdoors he sometimes carried it to extremes. "Yeah, sounds nice. But if I faint from hunger on the way you're gonna haveta carry me."

    "If I have to choose between the lunch and you...." Hutch shrugged noncommittally as he headed towards the trees.

    Starsky hurried to catch up. He refused to let his partner have the last word on this one.

    The almost nonexistent trail threaded its way out of the redwoods and down into a small valley. Hutch, leading the way, was for once as sure-footed as a hunting cat. Starsky suddenly noticed how golden and graceful he seemed. He also realized with a slight shock that he never really noticed how nicely his partner filled out his jeans or, how his legs just seemed to go on forever. It must be a matter of perspective, he decided philosophically. He was seeing a lot of things with different eyes after the last two passion-filled days. A sudden wild urge washed over him and before common sense could take over, he acted.

    Hutch let out a surprised yelp and spun around with a shocked expression plastered on his face.

    "Whatsa matter, Hutchinson? Never been goosed before?" His face was a study in innocence.

    "Goosed? I'll give you goosed...," Hutch threatened, taking an ominous step towards his partner.

    Starsky threw up his hands as if to ward off the impending attack, but ruined the impression of cowed terror by giggling.

    "Here," Hutch thrust the bag of food into Starsky's hands. "This will keep those hands of yours out of trouble."

    Starsky juggled the awkward weight until he had it comfortably within his grasp. He called out after the retreating back. "Spoil sport."

    Hutch's laughter floating back was his only reply.

    They picked their way carefully over the uneven terrain. The redwoods had been left behind and the two men were surrounded by broadleaf and fir trees and an increasing amount of scrub brush. To their left the blue, open sky accompanied them. Pushing through one last patch of greenery, they found themselves standing on a steep bank of tumbled rock and brush. Twenty feet below them beckoned the river, cool and inviting after their long, hot walk.

    Starsky let out a yelp of relief. "Finally! C'mon, Hutch, let's eat." He scrambled down the remaining few feet and scurried across the pebble strewn valley towards the water. He heard his noisy partner making the descent, so he knew he was right behind him. Heading directly for an inviting strip of clean white sand, he dropped the bag onto the soft, yielding surface.

    "Hey, this is kinda nice," Starsky said to himself, looking around appreciatively. Dark trees lined both sides of the river, while above him a long band of deep blue sky followed the open course of water. On the riverbed Starsky could see individual stones through the ripples and eddies of the fast moving stream.

    "Told you so," Hutch said virtuously, then knelt down by the bulging paper bag. "Help me set up."

    It took little prompting for Starsky to help lay out the food. A thin blanket was spread out, then the food was arranged in a haphazard manner on top. Starsky was just spreading a thick layer of mustard on his bologna and cheese sandwich, when Hutch returned from putting a bottle of wine into the water to chill. The two men were both ravenous, and focused their attention on the serious business of eating.

    After finishing off their satisfying lunch of cold meats and other deli-delicacies, Hutch retrieved the bottle. They found themselves sipping the chilled wine slowly, enjoying the peace and beauty of their surroundings.

    Hutch, leaning on one elbow, looked over the rim of his plastic cup at his partner. "What's the line... 'a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou....'?"

    "Yeah." Starsky reached for the bottle. "By that Omar Whatchamacallit."

    "Right, by Omar Whatchamacallit," Hutch agreed.

    Starsky grinned back wickedly. "I noticed you didn't mention me 'singing in the wilderness.'"

    "I may love you, Starsky, but I'm not crazy."

    After their lunch was put away, Hutch lay back on the blanket watching the white clouds float past. In the distance the sounds of children playing in the water floated upstream. A few hundred feet away a family was obviously enjoying an afternoon together.

    Starsky was in no mood to laze and after realizing no amount of prodding was going to stir his recumbent partner, he decided to set off on his own. He removed his shoes and socks and rolled up his jeans, so he could explore the cool river. He decided he liked feeling the bottom with his toes. After exploring the immediate area around their picnic site he slowly waded downstream. After a few minutes he perched on a large dry boulder on the side of the river and settled in to watch the kids he had spied earlier playing an aquatic version of Frisbee. He grinned at the escalating competition going on. His eyes strayed to the bank where the mother and father were enjoying relative peace and quiet. The woman was pretty and had long brown hair. It suddenly reminded him of Rosie. And Terri. That could have been him and Terri and their kids. His eyes went back to the children, becoming slightly unfocused. Someday he'd have it all. The wife, the kids, a home. It was only when the family started packing up to leave that Starsky realized how much time had passed.

    He trotted back, feeling a little guilty at having left Hutch for so long, only to find him sprawled out on the blanket fast asleep. The fair skin already looked a little flushed from the sun. He knew he should wake him, but he was held captive by the arresting sight. The pale hair was tousled and soft looking, standing in stark contrast against the dark blue of the blanket. He watched, fascinated, by the even rise and fall of Hutch's chest and then focused on the slightly parted lips. A sudden need rose in him to press his own lips against the moist, tender flesh. Out of the corner of his eye a splotch of brilliant color caught his attention. He smiled as he reached for one of the yellow flowers.

    He had soon settled himself beside his sleeping partner, his head propped up on one hand, while the other held a small wildflower. He took the delicate blossom and trailed it feather light down the length of Hutch's nose. The feature in question wrinkled and his nostrils twitched. Starsky valiantly restrained his urge to laugh. The flower next made a leisurely circle around the chin. A hand automatically batted at it and then fell back to its original resting place. Determined to see this through, Starsky resumed the sensuous assault, slowly outlining the full lips that suddenly curved upward. The eyes obstinately remained closed.


    "Nope." The smile grew wider.

    Starsky realized it was time to put his first plan into effect. Leaning down, he covered the inviting lips with his own. They parted eagerly and his tongue slid into the wet heat where Hutch's tongue met his in a slow dance. He shivered with the sensations engendered by one kiss. Then Hutch froze suddenly and pulled away from his embrace.

    "We're not...."

    "It's okay, Hutch," Starsky soothed, knowing what had triggered the reaction. "We're alone. That family left us the river all to ourselves."

    The big body relaxed perceptibly, muscles easing beneath his hands. Hutch reached up and dragged the dark head down for another kiss. "Should always finish what you start, Starsky. Didn't your mother ever tell you that?"

    The kiss was long and breath stealing. When they parted they were both breathing in short fast pants.

    "I always finish things," Starsky said smugly, peering down his nose at his partner. "But I don't think here's the right place. You 'bout ready to head back?"

    Hutch turning his head slightly, stared for a moment at the trees' lengthening shadows. "Yeah, guess it is getting a little late." He sighed and looked up at the deep blue eyes which were focused intently on him. As if without conscious volition his hand stole up Starsky's arm, exploring the textures of muscles and firm flesh.

    "You do that anymore and we won't be going anywhere," the dark haired man threatened. Reluctantly, he pulled himself away from the tantalizing touch and sat up. "Come on, Hutch, let's pack it up and go home."

    Hutch rose with a protesting groan. "Slave driver," he muttered under his breath.

    It only took a minute to gather up their few belongings and stuff them into the slightly tattered bag. Starsky, after putting his shoes and socks back on, glanced over at his unsuspecting companion, who was just bending over to retrieve the blanket.

    A surprised yelp echoed and re-echoed in the narrow valley. Wrath flared like flame from the Nordic features. "You did it again, you little...."

    "Well, you asked for it, bending over like that." Starsky was already backing away from the approaching storm, but laughing so hard it was difficult for him to stand upright.

    The avenging angel made a quick lunge, but missed the elusive sprite by a mere inch. Starsky ran for his life with Hutch pounding in hot pursuit. They sprinted along the river bank, their feet tossing up sprays of water. Starsky tried a feint towards the trees but was instantly cut off by his faster partner. He realized he had to do something quickly if he was not going to be caught. Putting a fast reverse into play, he tried to get back to his starting point. A flat boulder lay directly in his path, jutting out into a slight bend of the river. He leapt on top of it, meaning to use it as a short cut to the bank. However, fate took a hand as Hutch finally caught up with him. The extra weight landing at just the right spot made the rock tilt a mere quarter of an inch towards the swiftly coursing river. Arms wildly flailing, Starsky grabbed onto the closest solid object. Unfortunately, the closest solid object was no more firmly planted than he.

    Cold water closed around them as they hit the surface with a loud splash. Sputtering, Starsky sat up and shook his head like a dog trying to clear his eyes and hair of water. His first sight was a soaking wet Hutchinson, sitting up to his armpits in river water.

    They stared at each other, both momentarily somewhat dazed. Starsky, knowing his volatile friend, was uncertain of the reception to this latest turn of events. He's going to kill me, was the only thought that echoed in his mind. He was just about to stammer an apology, or else run for his life, when Hutch opened his mouth and a chuckle emerged.

    "Damn," Hutch muttered and then started laughing in earnest. Soon, they were both in hysterics, laughing uproariously at their predicament.

    Hutch cupped his hand and splashed a large plume of water at his waterlogged companion. This initiated a full scale battle that only ceased when exhaustion made them call a cease fire. Leaning on each other they managed to struggle to their feet.

    "Damn," Hutch said again, looking down at the state of their dripping clothes. He shook his head. "Starsky, there are days...."

    A brilliant smile was flashed in reply. "Yeah, but then there are nights...."

    "Speaking of night," Hutch prompted.

    "Yeah. Getting dark. We'd better boogie." Starsky led the way back to their belongings and took up the easy to carry blanket, leaving the bag for Hutch.

    As he followed Hutch through the underbrush an old song kept repeating itself in his head. If you go down in the woods today, you'd better not go alone. It's lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home. For every bear that ever there was, will gather there for certain because: today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic. He had to consciously keep himself from humming the tune. It wouldn't do for Hutch to overhear. It just wouldn't do. He had his image to think about.

    After ten minutes of trudging uphill and down in slowly drying clothes and squishy sneakers, Starsky put on the brakes. "Wait a minute," he called. "I know that tree. We've already passed it twice."

    "No, we haven't. C'mon, it's getting late."

    "I beg to differ. It is a little difficult to be mistaken about a tree with 'Mark Loves Lucy' carved into it at eye level." He stood with hands on hips as Hutch backtracked to stare at the message with him.

    "Yep. Looks familiar, just like the one over there," Hutch pointed up the path, "and the three or four we passed along the way. Mark must have gotten himself a pocket knife about twenty years ago. Stop worrying, I know where we're going."

    After what seemed like an eternity, Starsky angled his watch to catch what light there was still sifting through the canopy. Fifteen minutes since they had last stopped, and still no sign of the parking lot. It didn't seem like it had taken them this long to get to the stream. At least he was getting a bit of enjoyment from watching Mr. Wilderness starting to emit traces of confusion. "You've gotten us lost," he accused conversationally. "I should have left a trail of breadcrumbs."

    "The birds would have eaten them." From the faint echo of defeat he heard in Hutch's words he knew he was right. They were lost.

    "Next time I'll tie a rope to the car." He jostled Hutch with his elbow. "I'd knot the other end around your middle and leave it there. We'd never get lost again."

    "It'd be a little messy chasing the bad guys," Hutch muttered.

    "True, but when we caught 'em we could always tie them up."

    Hutch's amiable snicker changed to a triumphant "Ha!" He pointed ahead. "Always darkest before the dawn! The light at the end of the tunnel!"

    "The Charge of the Light Brigade!" Starsky added as they cantered to the demarcation line of the forest and...a freeway. "That may have been the end of the trees, but we're not out of the woods yet. Where the hell are we?" he panted.

    Cars flashed past them; a few of them already had their lights on. Hutch pointed at an exit sign about twenty yards down the road. "We took that turn off, and it was about a five minute drive to the park. If we hurry, we might make it before dark."

    "We've hit civilization. We're safe. What's the big rush?" Starsky demanded as he broke into a trot beside his partner.

    "The park closes at night. They lock the gates,"

    "My car! We'll be stranded here!" He began to sprint, After some consideration he slowed again. There was sure to be a kindly Ranger there who would take pity and let them get his car out. And if there wasn't, he'd just drive through the barrier. Piece of cake.

    When they finally arrived at the parking lot it was deserted. With grim determination, Starsky unlocked the car and leaned on the horn until a rather disturbed looking Ranger came loping down a path in their direction. Since Hutch was still outside the Torino, he was designated diplomat. Starsky watched the animated discussion, which seemed to be a lot of arm waving from the Ranger, and one handed responses from his bag-burdened companion. They came to some sort of agreement, and Hutch headed back to the car. Starsky unlocked the door.

    "We are free to leave," Hutch informed him.

    Starsky laughed. "I didn't really think he'd want to keep us here," He gunned the engine and headed towards the road, "Now, does my favorite pathfinder have any ideas on getting us back and locating a place of fine eats?"

    Hutch was quiet for a few minutes. "You're taking this all very well. I was expecting... "

    "Expect the unexpected," Starsky lectured.

    "Well, for starters, if we find a restaurant still open after we've gotten a chance to shower and change, that will be unexpected."

    "It's past my feeding time," Starsky warned. He wanted to get into some fresh clothes, set some food in his stomach, and then a good night's sleep. Anything else was gravy. He was a tired little Teddy Bear.