This story was first published in the stand-alone zine, If Love Is Real Addiction published by In Person Press. Comments on this story can be sent, as usual, to:


If Love Is Real: Addiction


Chapter 9

You're my drug, and I don't know if I can give you up
Well you bring me color where once I had just black and white
Now I have rainbows appearing round here in the night
Our true love is growing, and passion is flowing
You're my drug
Well you can slow me down or quick me up
You're my drug
Well you can spill me down and lick me up
You're my drug
And I don't know if I can give you up
Chips—You're My Drug

Hutch woke up an hour later, stiff, sore and aching. He was also having trouble breathing. Thanks to this dead weight on my chest! He was amazed that the two of them had crashed so hard they'd never moved from the last position they were in. No wonder everything hurts.

"Starsky, wake up," Hutch said gently. There was no response. Maybe I should check for a pulse. Then again, that could be dangerous. He didn't dare risk rousing or arousing his sleeping partner right now, not the way he felt. He gently rocked them until he managed to ease them onto their sides. Starsky never showed a single sign of life. Did I wear you out, big boy? Good. You had that coming. Tenderly, he kissed Starsky's temple, pulled a sheet up over him, and eased out of the bed.

That didn't make him feel any better. He was suddenly overwhelmed with an imperative need for the bathroom. Once that was taken care of, he reached for some aspirin and started to run a bath. That was when he remembered—

Everything's at Starsky's. Everything. All the medicinal aids he'd gotten from the health food store, the things he needed right this minute to help his protesting body through its new experience. Damn it. He decided to take a shower instead then remembered all his clean clothes were at Starsky's as well. He hated putting on day-old underwear. He showered quickly and dried off hurriedly. He really didn't want to, but there was nothing to be done but wake Starsky up and take them both back to his place. They could finish sleeping the night there and Hutch could take his bath, use some of his herbal remedies on his more tender parts, and have clean underwear in the morning.

Next time you decide to surprise your partner with a night of unforgettable passion, plan it a little better, will you, Hutchinson?

He was fully dressed before he was ready to tackle the prospect of dealing with his unconscious partner. He'd dumped the towels in the laundry, stowed the Crisco in the bathroom—it's not like I could ever bake with it again after tonight—before he was ready to tackle this insurmountable task.

"Starsky." He shook his shoulder gently. "Starsky, come on, get up. We've got to get going."

To Hutch's surprise, Starsky woke up with a jerk, as if something terrible were happening. "What? What now? Did Huggy call? Where are we?"

"Easy, buddy. We're at my place in Venice. But nothing else is. Huggy called yesterday, but that's over now. Everything's okay. But we don't have anything we need here. We've got to go back to your place—"

Starsky moaned piteously and collapsed onto the bed, his face buried in a pillow. He mumbled something that sounded vaguely like, "Later, mom."

"No, now. Come on. I'll drive, you can sleep. But you can't go like that. I'll help you get dressed. Come on."

It was easier said than done as he pushed and prodded and cajoled Starsky into his jeans and shirt. He gave up on anything more complicated than that. Shoving Adidas, socks, underwear and holsters in a shopping bag, he managed to get Starsky into the passenger seat of the Torino.

"You'd think you were the one who got reamed by a telephone pole," Hutch complained to his softly snoring partner as he gingerly eased himself onto the seat of the garishly painted car. He looked over at his barefoot, boneless friend who was propped against the locked door.

"You're drooling on your upholstery," Hutch said smugly, but Starsky just slept on. Hutch couldn't help but feel proud of himself. There had been one point last night when he had thought Starsky's fierce passion might be more than he could have handled. But he did handle it. And if they were to judge by the aftereffects, clearly, he was the survivor. Grinning, he ruffled Starsky's crazily-canted curls, and started the noisy engine.

It wasn't until he pulled away from the little yellow house that Hutch remembered how much he hated the suspension on this car.


Starsky could make fun of his organic, natural products all he wanted, Hutch thought as he woke up the next morning, but when something is naturally good for you it's just bound to work better. He blinked as he glanced at Starsky's window. The new day looked beautiful. There was a cool breeze wafting under the shade, and bright light peeking around it. Another perfect California morning. Hutch sucked in a deep lung-full of air.

Beside him, his favorite corpse complained and burrowed against him. He hugged Starsky, who had never really woken up last night, even when Hutch had undressed him, then bathed him as he slept. You'd better not get used to that, Hutch warned his friend mentally. You're becoming entirely too spoiled. Good thing we're going back to work on Monday. Maybe life can finally get back to normal.

That gave him a moment's pause. What was normal for them now? He honestly had no idea. And he didn't plan to worry about it this morning, that was for sure. He felt better than he had since before Forrest snatched him—with the possible exception of certain specific body parts. More importantly, he felt like Hutch again, and that had been something he'd never thought to regain. Absently, he scratched at the crook of his elbow where the tracks still itched. He'd put more lotion on them later. Their presence didn't bother him anymore. If anything, he could look at them now as scars of a war he'd survived, a war he'd won. They were no different from the half dozen other reminders he bore from his life as a cop.

He rolled out of bed and stretched languorously. After reaching for the ceiling, he then did a slow bend to the floor, laying his palms flat against it, enjoying the feel of his fit body. He reached for the shade and yanked it up, letting the sunlight pour in, unselfconscious of his nudity. He felt good.

There was a soft protest from the bed as Starsky rolled away from the light, curled into a fetal position, and pulled the covers over his head.

Hutch clambered back into bed with him, shaking him gently. "Starsk, wake up! It's a beautiful day! The air is clean and fresh. The sun is out. It's spectacular! Come jogging with me."

Slowly, the covers were pulled down just enough so that one sleepy indigo-colored eye could peek out. A grumpy voice rumbled, "We live in LA. The air is fulla smog. The sun causes haze and pollution inversion. And normal people wanna stay in bed and have sex in the morning. Not run around in their underwear goin' no place in a hurry and getting all sweaty for no reason."

Hutch had to laugh. "Well, maybe if you're a good boy, we can have sex when I come back from my jog. But first things first. I'll make a pot of coffee before I go. I won't be gone long."

"Too bad," Starsky groused, and pulled the covers back over his head.

Hutch couldn't help himself. He had to slap Starsky's beautifully rounded rump before he went hunting for his running shorts.


About five minutes after Hutch left the apartment, the phone beside Starsky's bed rang rudely. If you really loved me, Starsky complained to his absent lover, you'd have stayed here and answered the phone.

He was totally destroyed and couldn't muster the energy to care about anything but his own recovery, but by the fourth ring he knew whoever it was wouldn't hang up. Moaning in protest, he flung his arm out to grab the receiver. That was when he looked up and saw himself reflected in the mirror over his bed. That baffled him. He'd thought they'd slept at Hutch's place last night. Why had Hutch made them come back here? No wonder he felt like he'd gotten no sleep, if Hutchinson had been dragging him all over the city after giving him the ride of his life. Had they solved any crimes while he was sleeping? He'd have to ask Hutch. This might explain all the incredibly weird dreams he'd had that skittered just out of reach now.

Meanwhile, the phone kept clamoring. Unable to figure it all out, Starsky decided not to try.

After finally managing to put the correct part of the receiver against his ear, he mumbled into the mouthpiece, "This better not be you, Huggy."

"Tough luck, ol' man," said the familiar voice. "It's the one and only."

Starsky groaned piteously. "All my friends hate me."

"No doubt with good cause," Huggy agreed amiably. "I've got two questions for you—"

"Hold it. You got the wrong number. You want the guy who's in charge of answering questions first thing in the morning. That ain't me."

"That's my first question," Huggy went on, blithely ignoring Starsky's attempts to get him off the phone. "Is Hutch there with you?"

That rang a distant bell in Starsky's sleep-fogged brain. Is Hutch here with me? How many times has Huggy asked me that over the years, or asked Hutch if I was with him? He suddenly became very conscious of just where he was. His bedroom. His bed. Where Hutch had been until a few moments ago.

"You just missed him. He's out jogging."

"Oh, yeah?" Huggy said, sounding interested. "When did he go back to jogging?"

"This morning," Starsky said. "You wanna know what he's gonna have for breakfast, too?" Hope it's gonna be me, Starsky thought fuzzily.

"Not really," Huggy said quietly. "I have a feeling the answer might be more detailed than I'd care to know."

That woke Starsky up. He sat up in bed, pulled the phone into his lap. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Ignoring him, Huggy continued, "Which brings us to the second question of the day, which is: Have you two completely lost your minds?"

Yeah...I guess we have, Starsky realized with a sense of dread. "What—?"

"Look, we talked about this when we were helpin' Hutch get clean. And you led me to believe that there was nothin' goin' down between you two."

Starsky's throat locked up; he found he had nothing to say in response to that.

"Now, it's no never mind to me what you two might be up to. You know me, Starsky. Whatever floats your boat is my motto. But the last three-four days you two have gone completely underground, and it's been noticed. 'Specially when you emerged last night in that elegant restaurant to celebrate—whatever you were celebratin'."

How did he know—? How did Huggy know half of what he knew? Starsky couldn't worry about that. "Hutch and I have been workin' out a lot of stuff since he got hooked, you know that. Things have been kinda intense between us, but you know we get like that now and then. Well, we worked it out and last night we were celebrating. What's your problem, Huggy?"

"It's your problem, Starsky. Yours and Hutch's. I'm callin' to pull your coat, babe. You were spotted last night."

"So? We were in a public place, havin' a meal. Who cares?"

"Some dude named Simonetti. Name ring a bell with you?"

"Uh-uh. Never heard of him."

"He's new. Works over in Ramparts. With IA."

Starsky went cold all over. "Yeah? So, what? That ain't even our precinct. Two partners can't have a steak in a public restaurant anymore?"

He could hear Huggy sigh. "Listen, man, let me be frank. You know my waitress, Inez?"

Starsky certainly did. She was a pert, buxom, dark-eyed beauty barely of legal age who had it real bad for Hutch.

"Well, last night she was waiting a certain table. This Simonetti was there, along with a dude name of Lieutenant Fargo, and two older guys who were instructors of yours from the Academy."

Starsky flinched at Fargo's name. The veteran cop was the head of IA at Metro. There wasn't much love lost between IA and him and Hutch. Most of the precinct referred to IA as the "Headhunters" and Fargo as "The Hatchet Man." While Starsky didn't have much time for the politics of IA, he had a grudging respect for the Lieutenant who was known for having no tolerance for corruption.

"Seems this Fargo was old buddies with the Academy dudes," Huggy said. "And Simonetti is his protégé, so he was bringing the rookie along to impart some veteran wisdom. Well, Inez is about to take their first order when she hears Simonetti drop Hutch's name. So, she thickens her accent and pretends she's not so good with English. I never knew she was so quick on her feet. She managed to overhear a lot of what these guys had to say in the course of the night, and it really made her mad."

Starsky closed his eyes and his stomach tightened. He'd feared where this was going as soon as Huggy had mentioned the Academy instructors.

"Seems Simonetti wanted to know if any of the older guys were familiar with you two. Well, everyone at the table laughed and gave him a rundown of your wilder exploits. Then Simonetti asks in this vague roundabout way, just how close you and Hutch might be. The instructors hedged a little, but finally talked about some rumors that used to float around the Academy 'bout you two. How you're rarely seen apart. Stay at each other's pads. How Hutch makes dinner for you. Now, the Lieutenant got uncomfortable, and said it was well known Hutchinson had been married, and that you were the stud of the precinct. He even warned Simonetti not to bring his pretty wife to work, in case you were around that day. Everyone laughed. 'Cept Simonetti."

Starsky was listening so intently he almost forgot to breathe.

"Seems he was in that restaurant when you came in. He recognized you from that picture in the papers a coupla weeks ago. You know, from the story 'bout the shootout involving you two, that crazy sailor, and that used-car dealer whose wife was murdered?"

Starsky remembered it all too well. He and Hutch would never forget Zack Tyler's act of vengeance that had brought about his own death. His status as a local celebrity had been milked by the media.

"Simonetti said that during dinner, the two of you only had eyes for each other, that whatever was goin' on between you two was intense. He mentioned that you had this pretty little redheaded waitress and neither of you even noticed her. He said—" Huggy paused and sighed. "He said the two of you found every chance to touch each other across the table that you could. Once Hutch even wiped the corner of your mouth when you had something on it. He said you—acted like two people in love."

Starsky couldn't talk, couldn't even swallow. He remembered the moment when Hutch wiped his mouth. They both had laughed, neither of them thinking anything of it. But Starsky realized he couldn't remember the waitress at all, and that wasn't like him.

Two people in love?

Huggy went on quickly. "Well, there was this real uncomfortable pause, and Fargo said Hutch had been abducted recently and you'd gone nearly crazy turnin' the streets over, lookin' for him, and that Hutch was havin' kind of a rocky time of it now that he was back. But he defended your records and said he'd spent enough time with both of you to know he wasn't ready to assume anything that serious. Not without some proof. He even gave Simonetti some grief for jumpin' to conclusions about two good cops who happened to be real tight partners. But Simonetti just looked at the two Academy guys and he could see they believed him."

"Hug, I—"

"You don't have to say nothin' to me, Starsky. I'm your friend. I had my hands full with Inez last night, she was ready to put ground glass in their Huggy Specials, like I don't have enough trouble keepin' customers now. But when I start askin' 'round who's seen you, it's like nobody has, like you've both curled up somewhere, just the two of you." Huggy sounded worried now, worried and anxious. "We've been friends a long time, Starsky. I'm not askin' for a confession, you know that. I just wanna remind you of what you said to me upstairs. You said it. Hutch is straight."

Starsky's skin was suddenly electric with the memory of entering Hutch's body, of taking him, of making him, for just that moment, his. His cock nodded, and he stroked it in sympathy.

"You remember that rap you gave me, Starsky? You said, 'Hutch is straight, and I don't play that game anymore.' You're exact words were, 'It's too risky.'"

"I hear you, Huggy. I hear you."

"Okay, bro', I'm gone," Huggy said. "Just watch your back, you hear?"

"Yeah. And...thanks, Huggy."

"Right," Huggy said gloomily and hung up.

At least the feeling of dread had a name now.

Starsky got out of the bed, found his jeans, and slipped them on. He had to think. Had to figure out what to do. He'd be damned if he'd do all that he'd done to save Hutch's life and sanity only to have some greenhorn IA mole screw them over on a hunch. He couldn't shake the sense of anxiety he'd woken up with, the sense of something niggling behind his brain, something warning him, something taunting him.

What goes around, comes around, he decided. He had a sudden memory of Hutch bragging to the Midwestern drug dealer, "...Me and Starsky, we don't make deals..."

That's not really true anymore, Hutch. I've been making deals, only you don't know about it. I made one with the Devil himself. He recalled negotiating with Forrest and how startled Hutch had been when nothing about his addiction had come up during the arraignment. Starsky ground his teeth. And now, I need to try to make one with God. He rubbed his face tiredly.

I need some coffee, he decided, moving toward the kitchen. He'd let the caffeine clear his brain, then watch out the window for Hutch and try to figure out what to do.


Running in Starsky's neighborhood was a lot different than running in his own, Hutch thought. His sneakered feet moved steadily along the suburban sidewalk, his long legs eating up the distance. He was almost home now and that made him smile. He was feeling so good, so strong—a feeling he'd once thought he'd never have again. He no longer troubled himself with anxious moments about his possible "addictive personality." Normal things like beer, wine, and coffee were just that again, part of normal life. He was himself again—thanks to Starsky.

He should be slowing now, cooling down, but as he got closer to Starsky's house he found himself moving faster, anticipating sharing this wonderful new morning with his partner. He could see the house now. He was almost home—

He never saw whatever he ran into, but he and the obstacle went down in a tangle, sprawled in an ungainly heap on the sidewalk. As if I didn't hurt enough before, Hutch thought irritably as elbows, hips, and knees collided with the cement.

That was when he realized the obstacle was alive. "Ow!" hissed a female voice. Small hands started pushing against him.

He was prone, draped on top of a much smaller woman, and was so startled when he realized it that his clumsy attempts to get off her only complicated their entanglement. His leg shoved rudely between hers and one of his hands accidentally fumbled against her soft round breast.

"Hey! Wait!" she protested futilely, writhing to get out from under him.

"I'm sorry!" he blurted, finally getting organized enough to rise up off her and get to his feet. He gingerly took hold of her upper arm and helped her to rise. She kept her weight off one leg and there was blood trickling from that knee. He felt terrible. "I'm really sorry! It's my fault. I wasn't watching where I was going."

She was wearing short blue running shorts and a color-coordinated tank top, which enhanced her athletic figure. It took Hutch a moment to remember who she was.

"You're Sharon, right? Gee, I'm really sorry. Are you hurt?"

She was still catching her breath, and plainly startled by their rude re-acquaintance. She brushed a mound of brown curls out of her face. "I-I think I'm all right."

"Your knee is bleeding," Hutch said, distressed. "Do you need to sit down?" He was still holding onto her arm, helping to support her.

She was staring at her scraped palms. "I—uh, I just had the wind knocked out of me. Guess I'm a little dazed. It was just as much my fault, too. I wasn't watching where I was going either. My roommate had just called me, and I'd turned to see what she wanted, and the next thing I knew—" She finally looked up at him then. "Oh, I didn't even realize it was you, Ken."

Hutch remembered when he'd seen Sharon last. He'd gone running in Starsky's neighborhood right after he'd gotten clean, but he'd been in no way ready to deal with normal social interactions.

There was a smudge on her face near her eye. He brushed back a lock of hair to see it better, worried she'd have a bruise there. "You didn't hurt your eye, did you? Anything in it?"

"No, no, my eye is fine," she insisted, watching him as he fussed over her.

Her hair was clean and soft, and her large brown eyes stared at him curiously. Realizing his hand was lingering on her face, he pulled it away, suddenly self-conscious. She was a very pretty young woman.

"Sorry," he apologized again and smiled, feeling foolish.

"It's okay," she assured him, her voice kindly. "Everyone likes to be fussed over when they've been hurt. What about you? Are you all right?" She did a cursory glance over him, and her scrutiny caused an instant biological reaction. Hutch flushed all over, and had to clamp down on his cock's sudden urge to rise to the occasion.

"Your shoulder and hip look like they took the worst of it," she said. Her fingers tentatively touched the scrape marks on his tee shirt, carefully probing for deeper bruises. Her touch was light yet warm, and Hutch found himself responding. It startled him.

It's just the adrenaline! he told himself. The rush from the sudden impact was still buzzing in his bloodstream. But as she worried over him, the light sweet scent of her perfume hit his nostrils. She even smelled good. He tried to remember details of the last time he had seen her, but the incident was lost in the fog of recovery. He hadn't really been himself then, and was still fighting the demands of his needs.

She tentatively touched the dirt marks on his hip, still worrying over him, then must've realized how intimate her touch must seem. She jerked her hand away self-consciously. "You sure you're okay?" she asked solicitously, staring up at him. Her face was open and honest, her attractiveness more in her attitude and caring than her actual features.

Hutch's ongoing battle with his masculine urges embarrassed him. He started stammering. "I-I-I, that is...yes, I'm fine. I think you took the worst of it. I'd better help you home. I think that knee needs attention." He realized he was still holding onto her arm, but seemed unable to let go.

"Oh, it's nothing," she said, dismissing it. "You know how these knee scrapes just bleed and bleed. I'm okay. I'll clean it up and stick a Band-Aid on it and it'll be fine."

"You sure?" he asked, genuinely remorseful over the accident.

She laughed. "Oh, yeah. But maybe tomorrow morning I can get you to jog with me, instead of against me, huh?" She placed a hand on his arm, patting him in a gesture no doubt meant to be friendly. But the pressure of her soft, feminine hand was sending different signals to his brain.

Suddenly, a second woman ran up to them, nearly breathless. "Sharon, are you okay?"

She seemed embarrassed herself now. "I'm fine, Gloria, really. Ken, this is my roommate, Gloria."

The taller blonde woman ignored the polite introduction. "You don't look fine to me. You're bleeding."

Sharon rolled her eyes, and glanced at Hutch apologetically. "Gloria, you're a nurse. Blood shouldn't upset you that much."

Gloria only scowled at her friend.

"I think she's right to be worried," Hutch insisted. "I wanted to help her home—"

"It's just a scrape," Sharon insisted. "I'll live, believe me."

Gloria peered at the wound more closely. "Yeah, you're right. Looks like you got away with just a flesh wound this time. Those surface capillaries sure like to bleed, though. Why don't I get you home and dress that?"

"Sure," Sharon said, yielding. "Fine. See you tomorrow, Ken?"

Hutch started to say something, but Gloria interrupted. "Seems to me the least a guy could do after involving a lady in a major hit-and-run was offer her dinner to make up for it."

"Gloria!" Sharon scolded, clearly disapproving.

Hutch blinked, and felt himself go red all over. "Well, uh, excuse me, ma'am," he said in his best police voice, "but I never left the scene of the accident."

"That may be so," Gloria agreed reluctantly, "but I figured it was worth a try. I thought I might be able to parlay this modern tragedy into a double date. You and Sharon, and me and your very cute partner?" Gloria grinned at him.

Hutch was so surprised, he had to laugh. Sharon was blushing furiously, clearly annoyed with her rambunctious roommate's antics. That was when they were all startled by a voice overhead.

"I was wondering if anyone was gonna remember me in all these plans and schemes."

Starsky was hanging out his window, chin propped in his hand, watching the tableau with a bemused expression. Hutch suddenly felt as if he'd gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but when Starsky's eyes met his, there was nothing in them but good humor. Hutch felt confused.

Gloria had apparently been hoping for just this moment. "You're a policeman, aren't you, Dave?"

"Last time I checked," he assured her, grinning.

"Isn't there some kind of law about appropriate compensation for grievous injury?"

"I believe you're right!" Starsky agreed all too readily. "And since this dangerous moving object happens to be my partner, it's my duty to see that he follows through on said compensation. You ladies free tonight?"

Sharon glared at her manipulative roommate. "I don't think—"

"Sure we are," the feisty nurse insisted. "Besides, Sharon's wounded. I don't think she'll be able to get away that easily."

"I'm going to kill you when we get home," Sharon swore.

Gloria waggled her eyebrows, clearly unrepentant. "That's okay. It'll be worth it!" She grinned back up at Starsky.

"'Bout six o'clock?" Starsky asked her.

Hutch and Sharon looked at each other in dismay as their respective partners manipulated them.

"Ken, I'm sorry," Sharon apologized. "You don't have to—"

"It's okay," he said, smiling. "It's fine."

Gloria was about to say something else, when a dark sedan suddenly pulled up to the curb near them. Hutch blinked as he recognized the driver. But it was Starsky who responded before he could gather his wits.

"Lieutenant Fargo! I thought you were long past patrolling neighborhoods."

The head of IA at Metro slid over to the passenger side and smiled up at Starsky, but it was Hutch he addressed. "Morning, Hutchinson. How are you doing?"

Everyone in the precinct knew you were abducted, Hutch recalled Starsky saying. He wondered how long it would be before his fellow officers stopped being solicitous of him.

"I'm doing fine, Lieutenant. Thanks for asking."

Fargo glanced at the two woman then back at Hutch and he realized it was up to him to make introductions. "Uh...Sharon, Gloria, this is Lieutenant Fargo. He's from our precinct. Lieutenant, this is Sharon and Gloria. They live one house over." Hutch suddenly wondered about something. "I didn't know you lived around here, Lieutenant."

"I don't," he explained, "but my niece is looking at a rental nearby. I told her I'd check out the neighborhood—see if it was safe. But now that I know you and Starsky live here, I think I'd better tell her to try elsewhere." He smiled amiably.

"Oh, I don't live here," Hutch said casually. "This is Starsky's place. I'm just visiting. I live over in Venice."

"Hey, Lieutenant, is your niece that nice-looking lady I saw with a real estate broker last week?" Starsky asked with a crooked smile. "'Bout so high? Dark hair? High cheek bones?"

Fargo smiled back. "I'll definitely have to tell her the neighborhood is unsafe." He glanced back at Sharon. "Are you all right? Your knee is bleeding."

"Which is why the emergency medical team is here to take over," Gloria announced. "Come on, Sharon, let me get you home and cleaned up or we'll both be late for work." She grinned saucily at Hutch. "You can let go now, officer!" Sharon rolled her eyes.

Mortified, Hutch realized he was still clinging to Sharon's arm and released it.

"But you'll both be ready by six?" Starsky called after them.

"You can count on that," Gloria called back with a wave.

"Gloria—!" Sharon grumbled, but her roommate just chuckled as she led her limping friend away.

Fargo watched the entire interplay with an amused expression. "Well, it's good to see you back, Hutchinson, and looking well and healthy. You two take care. I'll see you around the station."

"Not if we see you first," Starsky called, then laughed at his own joke.

Fargo laughed back good-naturedly.

"Sure, Lieutenant," Hutch said. "Thanks for your concern." The sedan pulled away.

Hutch turned back to Starsky's window, but his partner had gone inside. He suddenly faced the long staircase to Starsky's apartment with apprehension. He wasn't sure what had just happened but he felt he'd done something incredibly wrong.

He trudged up the stairs with leaden feet. Just ten minutes ago he'd thought he could fly.

Entering the apartment, he felt unsure of his reception.

Starsky was bustling around the kitchen, not looking at him. "Have some coffee, Hutch. You're probably ready for it after your near-fatal collision. Why don't you grab a shower and I'll see if I can rustle us up some breakfast. If you're lucky, I just might have the makings for blueberry pancakes."

Hutch strode over to the counter Starsky was fussing over. "Look, I'm sorry!"

His partner turned, genuinely perplexed. "What for?"

He handed Hutch a cup of coffee, but Hutch wouldn't let himself be distracted and put it back on the counter. "It really was an accident. I wasn't trying to pick that girl up. I was looking up at your window and I just kind of fell over her."

Starsky shrugged, picked up the cup and handed it back to Hutch, who took it without thinking. "Seems to me it worked out just fine. I like Gloria. You and Sharon look cute together. We'll have some fun tonight."

Hutch had nearly brought the cup to his mouth when he realized Starsky was using it to distract him. He slammed the cup on the counter, sloshing coffee everywhere. Starsky grabbed a washcloth and started mopping it up.

Hutch's nerves felt raw, his brain buzzing with confusion. He grabbed Starsky roughly by the upper arms and gave him a shake, forcing him to face him. "What the hell just happened here? I was only gone ten minutes! What happened to the guy who wanted to have sex for breakfast when I got back?"

Starsky winced and glanced at his open windows. "Will you lower your voice? It's a small neighborhood."

Hutch felt like he'd fallen down the rabbit hole into a whole new universe. "I said I was sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen out there. You think I would do that to you after all we've been through over the last weeks? I don't care about that girl—"

Starsky's expression softened suddenly as if he couldn't keep his current facade up anymore. "Sure, you do. You like her, Hutch. And why shouldn't you? She's really nice. Not as flashy as some, but maybe that'll be better for you in the long run—"

"The long run—? What are you talking about?" Hutch was angry now, his confused emotions tumbling into something he could manage. "What happened while I was gone?"

Starsky's finally met Hutch's eyes. He sounded dismal. "Huggy called."

"So?" Hutch couldn't imagine what significance that could have with Starsky's bizarre change of behavior.

"Fargo's appearance on my doorstep was no accident. If we check the records I bet we'll find he doesn't have a niece. Some IA cop from Rampart—Ceasar, Seronni, somethin'-like-that—was in the restaurant yesterday, while we were celebrating. Before we went back to Venice—"

Hutch tried to compute what all this meant. He couldn't. He shook his head, not following.

"That place was full of people, Hutch, but for you and me there wasn't anyone else around. We were wearin' our hearts in plain view. We'd been through too much together, we were too close. The way we were feeling about each other—it was obvious. The Rampart cop picked up on it. Told Fargo about it. So Fargo showed up—to check up on us. What would have happened if my car wasn't here and he'd gone over to Venice, huh? Your windows were open all night, Hutch! It would have been easy for him to come up on the porch and look right in. He could've caught us in bed if we'd stayed at your place! That would have been it, buddy. Our jobs, our careers, everything we've worked for, all over in five minutes. Thank God you took us out of there last night. Your little 'accident' with Sharon forestalled a lot of headaches for us."

Hutch realized Starsky was in a full-blown paranoid frenzy, that the call from Huggy had awakened in him all his long-standing fears, the heightened worry of discovery he had always used to keep them apart. He let go of Starsky as he tried to figure out how to react, what he should feel. He was too confused. Too much had happened too quickly. When he'd left this apartment he was Starsky's lover, and happy to be so. He wasn't sure he was ready to give all that up.

Starsky moved away from him, but not before handing Hutch back his coffee. He gulped a mouthful gratefully.

"We gotta be realistic about this, Hutch," Starsky was saying, as he finished mopping up the spilled coffee. He was struggling to use a falsely cheerful voice, the kind of thing he did when he was under a lot of stress. "What's happened between us only happened because of your kidnapping. It was unusual circumstances. But you don't need me anymore, not like you did. That's over now. You're well again. And we gotta go back to work, back to our real lives...."

Hutch rounded on him. "Are you telling me what we've been doing isn't real? What we've been feeling isn't real? Is that what you're saying?"

Starsky sagged, all the fight gone out of him. "No. I'd never say that."

"I told you I loved you last night," Hutch protested. "You said we were lovers...." He could see by the bleak expression in Starsky's eyes that he was fighting a losing battle.

"You think this is easy on me?" Starsky complained. "What do you wanna do, Hutch? You wanna quit the force? Spend the rest of our lives doin' what? We won't be partners anymore if we quit. We'll get separated, end up doin' different jobs, workin' different places. Our lives together will unravel as we deal with all the things we lost because of...because of what's gone down between us. Wanna move to San Francisco? Become part of the gay scene there? You ready for all of that?"

No, he knew he wasn't. Being a cop was important to him. He'd turned his back on his family, lost his wife, all over his choice of career. His head started to hurt. He rubbed his forehead. "Starsky, I—"

"They won't leave us alone, Hutch," Starsky said bleakly. "They'll turn it sour on us, tear us apart over it. It could get us killed on the street." Starsky approached Hutch, but stayed out of arms' reach. "But there's more to it than that. With everything that's happened, I've—I guess I wanted to forget about this. But I can't afford to. Hutch, you're straight."

The words cut into him, sounding like betrayal. He shook his head. "Starsky, don't!"

"It's real. We can't pretend it's not. You're straight, and that's a fact. You needed somethin' from me these last few days, and I was more than happy to give it to you. But a week from now, a month— There are a lot of pretty girls out there, Hutch. Sooner or later you'd start missing them. Missing what sex with them is like. Missing the way they feel, the way they make you feel, the way they smell."

Hutch felt like Starsky was pelting him with words. His unexpected attraction to Sharon shamed him.

"And sooner or later, I'd be the one keepin' you from that. I saw how you looked at Sharon. It brought it home to me real clear."

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut, feeling like he might crumble. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to—"

"What the hell are you apologizing for?" Starsky said to him, nearly shouting. Remembering his own admonition about the open windows, he lowered his voice. "You're supposed to be attracted to women! That's normal!" He sighed, sounding weary himself. "And that's all I've ever wanted for us. To be normal. To have good careers. Families—"

Hutch didn't want to hear all that. Not now. Not while his body still ached from Starsky's fierce loving. Not when it was so fresh and new and beautiful. He wasn't sure he was ready to lose it so soon. But you knew you would lose it sooner or later. Didn't you?

He tried one last argument. "Starsky, it doesn't have to be like this. We can be careful. We're good at that. We can play the game their way, but when we're together—"

"Listen to what you're sayin'," Starsky said tiredly. "You want to live that kind of life—a double life—is that what you're tellin' me? Maybe go out with some girls? Even go to bed with them? Just to throw everyone off the scent? But save the best for each other? Come on, Hutch! Does that even sound like us? Using people for our own benefit? It's bad enough we gotta do that on the job, but it always makes us crazy when we do. We wouldn't last a month playin' those kinda games with people who never did us any harm. Could you use Sharon that way?"

Hutch felt like he was drowning. He stared at Starsky. "I love you. Do you finally believe that?"

Starsky looked surprised. "I've always believed that, Hutch. I never doubted it. But I've always said, the love we have for each's not quite the same."

"You still think that?" Hutch whispered. "After last night?"

Starsky hesitated, suddenly unsure. He moved a step closer, his eyes a fathomless, liquid blue that tore at Hutch's heart. He stroked the side of Hutch's face as if permitting himself one last touch. "I'm not questioning our feelings for each other. It's the only thing that got us through these last weeks. And it's the only thing that'll get us through the future. If we wanna have that future together."

Hutch realized his hands were shaking and put down the coffee cup. "So...we can't be lovers anymore...." He couldn't keep the bleakness out of his voice

"Sure we can," Starsky said softly, startling him.

He felt more confused than ever.

Starsky patted his arms, ran his palms over them, the same way he always did whenever Hutch needed comforting. It was the kind of familiar, non-sexual touching Starsky had always felt comfortable with. Hutch suddenly remembered lying in Huggy's bed, shivering, when only Starsky's loving touch could bring him any warmth.

"We've always been lovers," Starsky insisted, still petting him. "I realized that yesterday, outside Roxie's door. I looked at you standing there, gun drawn, ready for action, and there I was, the same way. Both of us ready to fight for each other, die for each other. Both of us ready to give everything to make a difference. And we did! To Roxie, to those young girls, and to all the people who would've died a little more with Jake's poison runnin' through 'em. We did that, together! We both became cops to help people, to make a difference, and we're doing it. We're damn good at it, Hutch! Better than most.

"Standing beside that door yesterday, I knew that the way we work together—it's 'cause we are lovers that we're so good. We've got a commitment to each other most cops never have. Our coordination, our timing, it's because of our love, don't you see? You had to feel it, too. I got hard standing there, looking at you, waiting for our moment—knowing that when it came we'd both take it at the same time. That's our love affair, Hutch, that's it happening right there, every day, in front of everyone, no hiding. Lovers—partners. Same thing. That's what we are. What we were meant to be."

Hutch couldn't argue with that. Their partnership on the street was a perfectly coordinated dance, each of them knowing what the other was thinking, each of them able to zig in counterpoint to the other's zag, no discussion needed. He thought of the way they finished each other's sentences, how often they didn't have to speak at all to share a thought. Starsky was right. They'd always been lovers. Right in front of everyone.

But the very real memory of Starsky's hands, Starsky's mouth still tingled on his skin. He stared at his partner for a long moment, then impulsively bent to kiss him.

Starsky turned his head so that Hutch's lips grazed his cheek. Shutting his eyes, he whispered, "I can't."

Bitterly, Hutch heard his own words echoed in that plea. I can't. I can't be a cop anymore. I can't do this anymore. But the truth was now he could again. Because his partner—his lover—had given him his strength back.

Hutch shook his head. He'd be damned if he'd let that negative plea be the last word on the topic. "I love you. I'll always love you. And you better never forget it."

Starsky's eyes glittered wetly. "You think I could?" he whispered.

Hutch stepped away from Starsky. "I'm gonna take my shower." Starsky nodded. Hutch walked away from him without daring to look back.


Starsky stood in the kitchen battling his emotions until he heard the shower come on. They'd have some breakfast when Hutch came out, then gather up his clothes and other stuff and bring everything back to Venice. Starsky rubbed his eyes feeling like something was ending that he might never get back again.

It's gotta be this way. He doesn't understand. But even so, he knows I'm right.

Hutch didn't need him anymore, at least not sexually. Starsky knew that, had known it before last night. He hadn't wanted to think about it, but he knew there was no rosy future for two cops screwing each other in LA. This was the only world they had to live in, so they were stuck with it. They'd go out with those nice girls tonight and start getting their lives back on track. Just like they were before Forrest fucked Hutch up so bad. Now if he could just keep Hutch from falling for high-class hookers like Jeannie, maybe his blond partner would eventually find the future Mrs. Hutchinson and life really would be back to normal.

Normal. If he wasn't careful he would start to hate that word.

He needed to start breakfast, but found he couldn't just yet.

He wandered towards the closed bathroom door, pulled to it like a lodestone to iron. You know I love you, too, Hutch. You know that, right? Like I never loved anyone or anything in my whole life. I love you enough to let you go. That's how much I love you.

A normal life. Was that just a fairy tale? He wondered about that as he placed the flat of his hands on the bathroom door. His palms itched with the remembered feel of Hutch's skin, the erotic power he'd felt as he'd held Hutch down in their shared bed and filled him with his body, his seed. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the pain of separation like an unexpected amputation, raw and bleeding, all nerve endings and shock.

He stood there listening to the running water coursing over Hutch's beautiful nude body—a body he'd never allow himself to touch in passion again. As he did, Starsky had a sudden shocking recall of one of his chaotic nightmares from last night—dreams brought on by Hutch's dragging him home while he slept.

It came back sharp and clear, as if he were dreaming it again right now, as he leaned against the closed door.

That big, weird room. All white with no colors. Except the colors in those huge pictures. The pictures that were everywhere around us. Pictures of giant flowers. Poppies, like in the Wizard of Oz, and other big flowers I didn't recognize. Red and white flowers.... In that big white room. And I was layin' on my stomach on a small bed. And all I could see was the flowers. And a long, low couch, in dark blue. Where Hutch was sleeping. Nude. Like he was waiting for me to wake him. Touch him. Take him.

The memory of the dream rattled him, and he knew it would return to plague him. A reminder of this time out of time. Of the love they shared for a brief moment. But mostly the dream would serve as a bitter reminder of what he would have to live with now. His own addiction. An addiction he could never admit to.

His addiction to Hutch.

Withdrawal—The First Hour

You make me hard when I'm all soft inside
I see the truth when I'm all stupid-eyed
The arrow goes straight through my heart
Without you everything just falls apart
My blood just wants to say hello to you
My fear is warm to get inside of you
And I want you
You are the perfect drug
            You Are The Perfect Drug—Nine Inch Nails

The End