Part One

Part Two


MAY 2, 1979


        Hutch was under the impression that he was expected, and Starsky's door wasn't latched, so he just walked in.

        The tall, blond woman standing in the middle of the room whirled around, then seemed unconcerned about the intrusion once she got a look at him, although she only had a towel wrapped around her. "Hello. You must be the other half."

        "Uh..." Hutch was flustered, at the situation, and also at the way she studied him as if he were the one standing there almost naked. "Excuse me, I thought--"

        "Are you the better half?"


        "Never mind. I'm a good detective; I'll find out."

        Hutch wondered why he felt like he knew this woman and knew her well. "Hold it. You're getting ahead of me there. I came here to--"

        "Oh, right," she interrupted. "Never outdistance a man. Got to watch that."

        Hutch had had enough. He extended a finger toward her and opened his mouth to state exactly what he thought of her attitude.

        "I'm sorry," she said before he could speak, all of a sudden looking like an embarrassed little girl. Hutch thought she managed the turn-about rather charmingly. "When somebody has me at a disadvantage, I tend to compensate by coming on too strong." She motioned at her barely-clad state.

        "You call that a disadvantage?" he couldn't help saying. She smiled. Only a Madonna should have that smile, he thought, caught in its enticement.

        "Let's start over, okay?" she said. "I'm Kira. You're David's Hutch. We'll be working together."

        Starsky's women usually called him Dave. Why couldn't she? Not sure about why he didn't care for the way she addressed either of them, Hutch decided he'd change the form in his own case at least. "Call me Ken. Didn't mean to barge in, but I thought the office had called to tell Starsky I was coming."

        Languidly, she strolled over to the phone, picked up its cord and dangled it to show it was disconnected.

        "I see. Bad timing. I'll come back later."

        "You're already here, so sit down. David will be out of the shower in a minute. He won't like me scaring his partner away."

        "You're not scaring me away!"

        "So why should you leave?"

        Hutch shrugged and sat down, wondering why he was letting the woman get under his skin.

        "Is that our case file?" She pointed at the folder he was holding.

        "Yeah," he said, grateful to get on the firmer ground of their job. He opened the file on the coffee table.

        She sat next to him, scanning the preliminary reports. Hutch jerked back, as far as he could get to the side of the couch. It wasn't her closeness or nudity. He had become too jaded over the years to react like a teenager to either influence. But she must've just rolled out of bed and hadn't made it to the shower yet. She reeked of sex. And of Starsky.

        He remembered reading somewhere that the sense of smell was one of the strongest legacies left to man from his hunter ancestors, that it could stir the most deeply-buried memories.

        Damn, damn, damn.

        Starsky chose that moment to come out of the shower. "What kept you?" His voice sounded muffled. Hutch turned around and wished he hadn't. Starsky was naked except for a towel over his head, a sight Hutch could do without at the moment. He started to turn away, intercepted Kira's watchful eyes, and wondered what she had seen in his. Suddenly, he suspected that turning away would come too close to admitting discomfort, and kept himself from completing the move.

        "We have company, David," she said.

        "Huh?" Starsky's face surfaced quickly from behind the towel, then relaxed when he saw Hutch. "Didn't hear you come in." He continued drying his hair briskly. "I see you've met Kira."

        "Yeah. Dobey wants us to go straight to the dancehall tonight. I thought I'd bring the file here."

        "Be right with you." Starsky headed for the bedroom.

        "Oh, come back here, David," Kira interfered, a strange twinkle in her eyes directed at Hutch. "He already caught me like this and I'm going to feel embarrassed if you get dressed."

        I don't know if I like this game, Hutch thought, but I'll be damned if I back down from you, lady.

        "I forgot to tell you he's got rotten timing," Starsky said, plainly unaware of the byplay between the woman and his partner.

        "Not always, I hope." The words were only mouthed, but Hutch heard every single one. Starsky wrapped the towel around his waist, then perched on the back of the couch, behind Kira. Hutch leaned over the file, spread out the papers, and started to encapsulate what he'd read.

        At one point, Kira's hand covered his, pulling it off the paper, presumably to see the report underneath, but she didn't pull it away afterwards. Hutch glanced at his partner. Kira's other hand was on Starsky's thigh, stroking it possessively. He was stroking her arm in turn. Suddenly it was too much. Hutch jerked his hand away, stuffed the papers haphazardly back into the file, snapped it shut and rose.

        "What's the matter?" Starsky asked.

        "We'll continue when you can keep your mind on it!"

        "Hey, I was payin' attention."

        "Yeah, well, I have to change. You can do this on your own." He threw the folder back onto the table. "See you tonight."

        Kira smiled and waved at him. There was something like disappointment in her eyes. Wrong, lady. I didn't just throw in the towel, Hutch thought. At the moment, you have an unfair advantage. I'll be back when you can't get the best of me so easily.

        He was in his car when he realized why he'd felt like he knew the woman. She was reminding him of Van.


MAY 9, 1979


        A spring shower was coming. In LA, they tended to be downpours. It was still a drizzle, though, imparting a moist sheen to the streets, blurring the fluorescent signs. From the car radio came Jim Croce's voice, singing "The Hard Way Every Time."

        Should've seen the danger signs as soon as I realized how like Van she was, Hutch thought. Won't I ever learn? He looked at the rear view mirror again. The Torino was still there.

        "And in chasing what I thought were moonbeams/I have run into a couple of walls," Croce sang, and the last exit on the highway before Venice was left behind both cars.

        After they'd left Kira at The Pits, they had separated without a word and gone to their respective cars. Hutch had considered the matter ended for the time being and headed for home. A little later he had noticed that Starsky was following him.

        Oh, go home, Starsky. I don't feel like talking tonight. Half the time even I don't know why I do the things I do lately. How can I explain it to you? Off at the dark horizon lightning stabbed down, followed by others, outlining heavy clouds rolling in. No spring shower, this. A storm is coming.

        It isn't that you're blind, Van had told him once, but you'd rather blind yourself than admit your mistakes.

        I saw right through Kira at first, he thought. What went wrong later? Was it that if I couldn't fashion her into something right, I had to admit I was doing something wrong? Or...? He remembered, four years ago, going back to Starsky's apartment to sleep in the bed they'd shared, where his friend's presence still lingered, finding comfort and satisfaction in that measure of closeness. Is it that Kira was also a way--?

        God, that's sick.

        Please, Starsky, please go home.

        The Torino followed him to Venice Place and parked directly behind the LTD. Starsky stayed on his heels all the way into the apartment. They didn't speak. Once there, Starsky went through the dark room without touching a light switch, as sure-footed there in the dark as in his own place. He stood looking out a window, hands in pockets, an orange neon sign on the street outlining his form in timed flashes.

        Hutch took off his jacket and went to the refrigerator, preferring the dark himself as well. "Want a beer?" There was no answer. He shrugged and got one for himself, then found his way to the couch. The silence became oppressive. "A lot of bad moves lately, huh?" Hutch asked.

        Starsky just nodded, the action barely visible.

        "This last one, it was way out of line?"

        Another nod.

        Silence fell again until Hutch felt strangled by it. Why did he always find it impossible to apologize? "Can you live with it?" he asked, instead.

        He kept capturing and losing Starsky to the vagaries of the flashing light. Then the man turned and he lost even the intermittent outline of the face. "I think so..." Starsky answered, then continued in a decisive tone. "Yeah."


        The conversation was at an end. Hutch drank his beer while Starsky simply stood facing him, making Hutch feel exposed to the unseen gaze of a dark, brooding stranger who seemed to have replaced his sunny, effervescent partner.

        He finished the beer and crushed the can, a shockingly loud sound in contrast to the rain pelting the windows. "I'm going to bed."

        "Okay." Starsky didn't seem to have caught the hint.

        Hutch gave up. Starsky knew the way to the door. He would go or stay as he pleased.

        When Hutch came out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth he saw that the storm had arrived. Blue-white lightning flashed the room in and out of existence, alternating darkness with vivid, brief seconds of strange angles and sharp contrasts. The color spectrum had surrendered to the storm's intensity and Hutch saw Starsky, sitting on the couch with just his jeans on, as interrupted images of light and dark. So, he had decided to stay.

        "You know where the sheets are." No reaction.

        Hutch went into the bedroom, sat down to remove shoes and socks, tugged off his turtleneck and threw it aside. He unclasped his necklace and rose to put it on the dresser. Another flash burst the room into light just as his eyes happened to glance at the mirror. He gave a start and waited the scant second for the next lightning to make sure the man behind him wasn't a trick of the storm's discharges. He had heard not the slightest sound to warn him of Starsky's approach.

        Then Starsky took a step closer and he didn't need light to be assured of the solid reality of the man. The body heat against his back was more than enough, although they weren't in contact. Yet, he realized. He also realized that he had known where it was leading all along, ever since he had joined Starsky in taking that last half-step to throw their arms around each other before walking out of the bar.

        It was only a stand, he thought, but didn't say. Can't we leave it at that? Just because we put on an act, we don't have to follow through. We don't owe the bitch anything, let alone this.

        Please, not this.

        He could neither move nor speak. The lightning was striking in close succession now. It was in almost-unbroken light that he followed, in the mirror, Starsky's hands as they grasped his waist, then moved in and up, not stroking but gripping handfuls of flesh, fingers digging into the muscles, pressure hovering just on the edge of pain.

        Starsky had moved directly behind him, hidden by Hutch's larger frame. The mirror reflected only the progression of his hands, looking incorporeal. They could have belonged to no one or anyone, and their harshness was alien. Hutch wasn't used to this treatment at his partner's hands. He almost cringed away, then remembered those same hands clenched into fists, hitting him. Just yesterday morning.

        All right, anger I can take - as long as I know they're your hands. The fingers had loosened in the meantime. They lay dormant on his chest, then closed in to pinch his nipples, hard.

        Hutch caught his breath at the sharp pain, but it was gone immediately. The palms rubbed roughly over the suddenly sensitized spots, hardening them. Then they pressed firmly, thrusting Hutch back into Starsky's body. Even through double thickness of denim, he felt the hardness push against his buttocks and wondered how long Starsky had been waiting in that state.

        Arms banded tight around him, one across his chest, the other angled down across his abdomen, a hand digging into the hipbone. Starsky's mouth closed over his shoulder. He couldn't feel the lips, only the sharp edge of teeth running back and forth across his flesh, not biting or hurting, but still an ungentle contact. They trailed up his neck, closed over some strands of hair and tugged down hard enough to make his head snap back.

        One hand came up around his outstretched neck and for a brief instant Hutch almost felt fear. But the fingernails only skimmed, and the teeth released his hair so he could put his head down before the position became uncomfortable. Starsky buried his head in Hutch's neck, his breathing shallow and rapid. His teeth bit into flesh after all, not cutting skin but hard enough to mark. They loosened at Hutch's inarticulate protest. Starsky rotated his hips, and one hand cupped over Hutch's groin, rubbed, then squeezed hard, making the blond press back into him. Hutch writhed, not sure if he was trying to get away or get closer. Starsky's fever was contagious, though, arousing him as well.

        I want it - I don't care how.

        His hands, so far unmoving, went back to grip the sides of the corded thighs, pulling them into himself as if there was the slightest possibility of meshing any closer. Starsky didn't seem to appreciate the end of his passivity. Abruptly, he released Hutch, then spun him around. He dug his hands into the waist of Hutch's jeans, gripped denim and belt buckle, and yanked sideways, propelling him toward the bed, then onto it.

        Hutch looked up at the man hovering over him. Who are you? Do I know you?

        Did I change you, too?

        Starsky stood waiting next to the bed, hands at his waist, his legs braced apart, an imposing presence which became more and less substantial as the capricious light flashed. He seemed an intrinsic part of the storm, as intractable as the force of nature.

        There was no mistaking the demanding stance. While a small portion of his mind marveled at his own acceptance of a role not in his makeup, Hutch sat up, unbuckled Starsky's belt, unsnapped the jeans and pulled the zipper down. He attempted to touch the swelling underneath, but Starsky deflected his aim impatiently.

        Hutch held the waistband of the jeans and the briefs, slid them down together. Starsky lifted his legs one at a time, helping the removal. His hands rested on Hutch's shoulders to balance, and once the blond man sat up again, they pulled him forward. Fingers tangled in his hair, holding his head firm against taut abdominal muscles. Starsky's erection rested on his shoulder. He tilted his head and rubbed it with his cheek. Starsky's fingers loosened, and he turned to touch it with his lips.

        It felt so hot. He ran his tongue over it, trying to get used to the texture, taste. Starsky groaned, the first sound he had made. Fingers dug into Hutch's scalp again, and he looked up. Starsky had thrown his head back. The muscles and veins of his throat stood out in stark relief, apt companions to the bow-string tension dominating the whole body.

        Hutch felt the need to relax that body, temper it with pleasure until the anger and hurt were washed away, and then maybe it would fall lax into his waiting arms, maybe it would yield back to him the gentle man he knew and missed.

        Sliding one arm around Starsky's hips, he cradled the swollen organ in his right hand and got his mouth around it. He took a moment to get used to the feel as well as the idea, then pulled it deeper into his mouth, starting a gentle suction, thinking that the act wasn't beyond him after all, not as long as he felt the evidence of Starsky's pleasure. His partner was groaning again, a deep continuous rumble. Sweat was pouring off his back, and his muscles had tightened to such a degree they trembled with the strain.

        It all affected Hutch's body, too. He was still painfully restricted by his position and jeans, but preferred to concentrate on Starsky. His body could solve its own problem or not; it wasn't that important to him right then.

        Suddenly, Starsky pushed. Hutch instantly realized, with some panic, that he'd been able to handle it so far only because of the man's restraint, and what he'd thought were signs of pleasure had mostly been signaling a desperate control, now about to break. Starsky thrust again, deeper. Hutch choked, unable to contain the sound of protest. It stopped Starsky immediately.

        Slowly, as if he didn't dare make another uncontrolled move, his hands pushed Hutch away, disjoining them. Still slowly, deliberately, he moved back, his hands deserting Hutch. He came to sit on the bed, taking deep breaths, obviously trying to calm himself. He leaned his elbows on his knees, and doubled over to rest his head on his arms. Hutch gave him a minute, feeling miserable, then put his arm around the dejected curve of the back, hoping to transmit both apology and a willingness to continue.

        Starsky reached around to tug on the material of his jeans. Hutch got the message and removed them. Suddenly Starsky was pulling him onto the bed, covering him, impatient. His knee pushed Hutch's legs apart before he fit himself between them. His hand slid low under the blond, gripping tight, pulling. Hutch caught his breath and tensed, waiting for the next step he thought inevitable, feeling overpowered.

        He was taller, stronger, and perfectly capable of resisting, but his mind had granted a justification to Starsky while assigning the guilt to himself, so he meekly waited to be taken. Starsky, however, held him in position for a few seconds, then sighed and eased off a little, brought his legs together again, thrust between them.

        Hutch pulled his legs apart, causing Starsky to growl in frustration. "Go on. Do what you want." Starsky's head against his shoulder shook, a definite no. "Go ahead," he insisted. Go ahead and prove what you need to prove.

        Something was mumbled into his neck. He caught the word 'hurt.' "I'll get something. Let me go." He wasn't released. "Starsky, let me up."

        Starsky rolled off of him. Hutch got to his feet and found himself unsteady. He stumbled to the bathroom. The storm was abating and it was almost completely dark. He groped blindly in the medicine cabinet, shying from light, unwilling to see too much. He had to settle for some baby oil, left by whomever. As he turned to go back, it dawned on him that he was standing free, didn't have to return.

        Free? That was a laugh. He went back.

        He handed the bottle to Starsky, climbed into the bed, lay on his back and closed his eyes, waiting quietly in the dark. Shortly, Starsky's weight covered him again, and one oily hand slipped between his legs. The sensation was actually pleasant, reminding him of his own desire which had been peaking and ebbing unpredictably. He bore down on the slippery fingers, but Starsky was hurried, perfunctorily oiling his skin, not intruding any further. The hand left as Starsky pulled himself up and pushed. The lubrication made flesh slide uselessly against flesh. Starsky pushed again, awkwardly, then tried to guide himself. The angle was wrong and he grabbed a pillow to slip under Hutch.

        The soft, thick pillow made the angle more impossible when under Hutch's waist, and pulling it lower only caused his hips to sink into it. Hutch gritted his teeth, hating the fumbling. He knew a big portion of it was his own lack of cooperation, but couldn't bring himself to help. Frustrated, Starsky yanked the pillow away and hurled it across the room. He sat back on his heels instead, pulled Hutch's legs over his, then rose to his knees, balancing and angling the long body on his thighs.

        Hutch missed his weight. However ungentle, it had been a closeness. He felt cold, and uncomfortably exposed, restricted and manipulated as Starsky's hands positioned him. He wasn't used to this. He tried not to squirm away. Relax, he told himself, relax or it's going to--

        He gasped when the hardness pushed against him. Starsky stopped. His hands held the buttocks tighter, parting them more, and he pushed again. Hutch threw an arm across his face and tried to bear the pressure. He was panicking and it was all out of proportion to what he was actually experiencing. Starsky wasn't hurting him that much. It was mostly the anticipation of pain -- and something else. Deep inside him, something very basic was rebelling.

        He braced his heels and returned the pressure. If he couldn't get out of it, he at least wanted it over and done with. The combined effort overcame thc resistance of muscle, but he hadn't been able to relax, and felt the entry as searing pain. He cried out and Starsky hesitated. "Go on," Hutch managed. Get it over with.

        Starsky pushed again, groaning at the pressure of Hutch's muscles which, out of control, still tried to repel the invader. Hutch bit his lip to keep from crying out again, as his partner struggled against unyielding flesh that wouldn't admit him any further.

        "Dammit! How do they do it?"

        Hutch's nerves were stretched to breaking point. "What the hell makes you think I know?" he snapped.

        For a second, Starsky froze, then pulled out abruptly and shoved Hutch's legs out of his way. "Forget it! Just forget it." He threw himself down on the bed, his back turned.

        Briefly, it was a relief. Then Hutch felt more than saw the forbidding, stiff curve of the back, and a cold, hollow sensation enveloped him. Shouldn't be like this.

        He wanted to reach out. Couldn't. Nothing works anymore.

        For what seemed an eternity, they stayed motionless, separated by a few inches of the same bed, further apart than they'd been for years, the only link between them a crackling tension. Then Starsky squirmed uncomfortably, cursed under his breath, and swung his legs off the bed.

        He's leaving, was Hutch's only thought. He bounded out of bed without any other consideration and grabbed Starsky's arm. "Where're you going?"

        "Where does it look like?" Starsky snarled. "To the bathroom."


        "Take one good guess!"

        Hutch looked down Starsky's body, seeing him as a solid darkness against a lighter, spectral dark. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he removed his hand. "I'm sorry," he murmured miserably.

        "What'd you say?" Starsky asked after a beat. His voice had softened unaccountably.

        "I'm sorry," Hutch repeated, louder. He suddenly realized it was the first time ever that Starsky had heard him say that outside of common, everyday courtesy. It hadn't choked him after all. "About...everything."

        Something seemed to be missing from the room. The air of menace and anger emanating from Starsky was gone as if it had never been. "It's all right. No big deal," he whispered, reaching for Hutch's arm. He rubbed up and down a few times, awkwardly, in what the blond assumed to be a consoling gesture, then took another step toward the bathroom.

        Hutch managed to grab the retreating hand in time. Starsky paused. "What?" he asked after a while, when the blond didn't make another move.

        He could ask now. "Hold me a minute?"

        Starsky sighed, but didn't deny him. "Sure."

        Hutch buried his face in Starsky's curls and savored the feeling. Was it really as simple as that all along? Just two words?

        It was a great relief. It was also a bit scary. Whatever the sin, would forgiveness always be granted with so little effort on his part? Could he deflect punishment so easily? Punishment? What punishment?

        He remembered the harshness of Starsky's treatment. He also remembered that every time he had made the slightest protest, it had eased off. However angry or driven Starsky was, when it came right down to it, he couldn't be cruel to his partner.

        Hutch tightened his arms, was answered in kind. Desire had left his body sometime earlier; he didn't know when. It didn't seem inclined to come back, but the embrace was filling a deeper emptiness. However, it hadn't left Starsky s body. Still, except for the hardness pressing against his thigh, neither demand nor resentment was leaking into their closeness.

        How could I have possibly felt threatened by you? How could I think giving to you would make less of me? His hand stroked down Starsky's back, strayed into the triangle of hair at the base of his spine.

        Don't!" Starsky started to pull away.

        Hutch didn't let him. "You still want to?"

        "Yeah," Starsky answered without dissembling.

        His candor decided Hutch. "Come back." He got into bed, tugging the other man after him, but encountered resistance.

        " mind some light?"


        Starsky first groped in the dark, then turned on a lamp. The light was unexpectedly easy on the eyes. Hutch saw he had thrown a shirt over the shade to subdue it. Being able to see his partner made a big difference. Hutch held out his arms. Starsky took a few steps toward him, then froze. Hutch glanced down to see what he was looking at, and saw reddish spots mottling his chest. Except for the tiny half-moon shapes that were darker, they would be gone in a few hours. It was just that his pale skin tended to get irritated easily. "Hey, it's okay."

        Starsky came close and reached out to touch the marks. Hutch captured his hands and brought the palms to his lips. Don't. Guilt is my game. It doesn't suit you. "I mean it. It is okay."

        He pulled his partner onto the bed. Starsky leaned over to kiss him, for the first time that night. He pulled back, making Hutch realize that the moustache was a novelty to him, considered it briefly, then seemed to find it acceptable and returned. Hutch clung to the lips, easily relearning the taste, remembering other times he had been unable to let go of them. He wriggled to get closer, but Starsky's body retreated. Hutch reached out and cupped a hand over the genitals. Starsky broke the kiss and caught his breath.

        "They hurt?" Hutch asked, feeling the glands too firm and tight in his palm.

        "Some, Starsky admitted. "Not bad yet...well, not too bad."

        "Let's do something about it before it gets worse."

        Starsky's hand copied the action on Hutch's body, the flesh under his hand soft and yielding. "Not yet."

        "We'll worry about that later. Come on." Hutch stroked, but gently.

        "Shouldn't, but -- oh, God, I can't wait."

        "Ssh," Hutch soothed. "Come on."

        "It'll hurt again. Just keep doin' that." He pushed into Hutch's hand.

        "I'll help. Last time, you didn't, uh...I was too dry inside."

        "I know that." Starsky sounded a bit irritated. "I'm not a child. Didn't think you'd like it if know."

        It was ridiculous, of course, considering what the main objective was, but the way Starsky's mind worked was totally, endearingly, unique to Starsky. "I don't mind," he assured his friend, locating the bottle and taking Starsky's hand to squeeze some oil into it.

        Starsky's upper body covered him while one hand slipped under. This time, Hutch pulled up his knees, helping. One finger entered. Starsky captured his lips in a deep kiss, as if to distract him from what was happening. He need not have bothered. It wasn't an unfamiliar sensation anyway, and although Starsky couldn't help some impatience, it bordered on pleasure.

        The slippery palm pressed and rubbed against the sensitive muscle between his legs, and a faint desire stirred in Hutch again. "Try two," he said into Starsky's mouth. That wasn't as comfortable, but he bore down, trying to stretch himself quickly, knowing Starsky was in no shape to wait. He tightened around the fingers, wanting to know and get used to how it was going to feel. Starsky groaned, pressing his hips into the mattress.

        Hutch untangled himself enough to reach for the oil. Squirting some into his palm, he attempted to reach for Starsky, but his partner scooted back. "Don't touch me!"

        Hutch realized he was afraid of losing all control. "Ssshhh," he soothed, bringing his palms together to spread the oil on both. Then he started rubbing Starsky's back with one hand while with the other he touched himself, thinking it would help if he could stimulate the stirring already there into a heat to match Starsky's. "Scissor your fingers." His muscles protested. Want it, he told himself. You have to want it.

        "You ready, babe, please?" Starsky's voice strained on the edge of desperation.

        "Yes," he said, although he knew he wasn't. If he couldn't yet manage the wanting himself, wanting to relieve Starsky would have to be enough.

        Starsky lifted up, got between Hutch's legs, and groped for the bottle. He turned it upside down to squeeze the oil on himself, splashing it on the blond's belly, the sheets, and making Hutch realize he couldn't even tolerate his own touch anymore.

        It was going to happen very fast. Hutch felt himself tightening instinctively. He took a deep breath and tried to relax as Starsky once more got him into the position that had shown some promise of working earlier. The cumbersome mechanics were destroying the mood again. He wanted to be wrapped tight in his partner's arms and flow into an ultimate closeness rather than lie there and watch himself being taken.

        Nevertheless, he crossed his legs behind Starsky, braced, and returned the first pressure. The splitting pain flared again. He couldn't help arching off the bed, but managed to stifle the cry by gulping in air. He let it out in pants, relaxed back into the bed, and realized Starsky had stopped. He was trembling with the effort, but he had stopped. Hutch looked at his partner. Their eyes locked. When his reflected discomfort, Starsky stopped; when Starsky's became desperate, Hutch relaxed to admit him further.

        Once past the initial, tightly-bunched muscle ring, it got a little easier. "It's okay now," Hutch said. "Don't wait." Starsky closed his eyes, threw his head back, and started moving, caution still ruling him. The friction added a burning edge to the pain. Hutch concentrated on not making a sound. Shouldn't take too long.

        Suddenly, unexpectedly, a sharp sensation pierced through the even pain, and caught Hutch by surprise, making him cry out. Starsky stopped again. "That's it. I can't." He started to pull away.

        Hutch clutched at his partner's hands gripping the sides of his hips. "No! Do that again."

        "What? This?" Starsky moved slightly and the sensation was back.

        "Yes, yes, again." Another movement. "God, that feels good." His legs tightened as he tried to prolong the feeling. Starsky started a slow, shallow rubbing on the spot, and the sensations multiplied. Hutch tossed his head, dazed at how fast it was affecting him. He'd figured out that Starsky had found the prostate gland, but he had never been touched there before, had never been stimulated from within his body, and wasn't prepared for the incredible sensations. "Oh, god," he moaned.

        "I'll be damned, it does feel good." He heard Starsky distantly, knew that his partner could see his excitement for himself. It seemed to break all restraint. His legs were lifted onto Starsky's shoulders, then the man's weight was bearing him down, doubling him over, and the thrusting became fast and furious.

        He couldn't tell what was pain and what was pleasure anymore. Didn't care. It was all one irresistible power, pounding hard, forcing reaction into him and then ripping it out before he was ready for any of it, over and over, spiraling dizzily to an impossible peak. He felt pinned by it, used. He wanted to touch himself, replace the overpowering feelings with something familiar, something he knew and understood, but at the end of his outflung arms his fingers had gripped the sheets, and he was helpless to unclench them. He had no choice but to bow to the irresistible, and it burned all coherent thought out of him. He didn't know which voice belonged to whom, what was inside him and what was outside, but suddenly it was over.

        He felt taken by storm, tossed, and cast away, drained. Shaken and weak, he wanted to be calmed, consoled, held. Starsky's dead weight over him stirred, lifted. An ache ran the length of his legs, preceding the relief from cramping, as they were eased off his partner's shoulders. Then Starsky's arms gathered him, fingers grasping possessively, in an embrace that managed to be hard and soothing at the same time, and all Hutch needed was there. His partner was babbling something into his chest. He couldn't understand any of it; didn't know if the defect was in his hearing or Starsky's speech, but he knew they were endearments and didn't need to know any more. Starsky was still inside him, but now it was soft enough to be comfortable, solid enough to be felt, as intimate a part of both as the combined pulse of their hearts laboring against each other.

        He wanted to put his arms around Starsky, too, but movement was beyond him at the moment. He stayed spread-eagled on the bed, with his partner curled under, over and around his middle, recovering.


        He never wanted to move. Ever. But nature wasn't that kind, and too soon he was very uncomfortable. He squirmed a little, trying to dislodge Starsky from inside him, hoping that would alleviate it and he wouldn't have to leave his haven. Starsky felt his movement and slid out of him with just a motion of his hips, not giving up any other inch of their contact. Instead of easing, the pressure became immediate. "Starsky, get off me," he had to say.


        "Now!" His partner pulled back as if stung. Hutch rolled out of the bed quickly and went to use the bathroom.

        In a few minutes Starsky was at the door. "Hey, you all right?"

        "Yeah, fine," he answered, although he wasn't too comfortable. He was a little swollen, sore inside, and felt the beginnings of internal cramping.

        "Can I come in?" Starsky asked after a while.


        A little later, his partner spoke up again. "What's wrong?"

        "Starsky, will you please leave me alone! Nothing's wrong." The man shut up, but Hutch still sensed him hovering at the door. As soon as he could, he cleaned himself and came out. Sure enough, Starsky was right there.

        "What's the matter?"

        "Nothing, I told you. Uh, maybe you should wash up, too."

        Starsky looked down at himself. "Oh, yeah."

        While he was in the bathroom, Hutch stripped the bed, then threw clean sheets on it and climbed in. Soon, Starsky was slipping in next to him. Having missed the closeness, Hutch pulled him into his arms. Starsky leaned up on an elbow to look at him, a question in his eyes. When Hutch smiled up at him, he bent and lightly kissed the blond, then lay back down.

        "Hutch?" he said after a pause.


        "Will you let me look at you?"

        Hutch turned his head sideways. "You are looking at me."

        "You know what I mean."


        "Any reason why I shouldn't?"

        "No. No reason why you should, either."

        "Mind if I checked?"

        "Starsky, there's nothing to see. All right; I'm a little swollen and sore. Anything further, you'd have to be a doctor to see."

        "Do you need one?"

        "Oh, for heaven's sake, of course I don't! Will you relax? I'm fine." He pulled his partner's head to his shoulder. He didn't want to talk. Not unless they could talk about the important things, and since Starsky never wanted to, Hutch preferred the silence.

        "Any bleeding?" Starsky persisted.

        "Come on, Starsk, you're being ridiculous. Don't take the virgin bit too far. If there was any, you'd have been the first to know, right?"

        "Guess so," Starsky mumbled, still sounding unsure.

        "I feel good, believe me. Very good." Hutch tilted his partner's head up by the chin, ran his lips over the forehead and the brows until the frown disappeared, then moved to the eyelids. By the time he had found his way to the lips, the steady breathing parting them slightly spoke of sleep.

        And he was alone with himself.

        How many hours do I get this time?

        Oh, God, it's not fair. If it feels so right, how can I be expected to let go? He almost wished it had been concluded within the cold anger that had started it. Then maybe he'd have been only too glad to forget.

        And then again, maybe not.

        He sighed, held Starsky while he still could, and resigned himself to a solitary awakening.


        Warmth. Close and nice. Hands. Softly pulling him from sleep. Replacing lethargy with something even more pleasant. Stirring his heavy limbs into life. Starting a gentle ache inside. He knew he was smiling.

        Lazily, he parted his eyelids, and found himself looking into dark blue eyes. It jolted him. "Starsk, you're--" Still here, he almost said, arrested the words. "Awake," he finished.

        "Great goin', Sherlock. So are you." The pressure of his hand low on Hutch's body, already awake, gave more meaning to the words.

        Starsky pressed against his side, a subtle signal that they were sharing the mood. Hutch closed his eyes again, unwilling to question the unexpected. It was still night and he didn't want to wake up yet. This much awakening was just fine. His hands joined Starsky's, copied actions. They nuzzled each other blindly, lazily, like a couple of sleepy puppies. Then Starsky's hand slid to his buttocks, kneaded a little too hard, making Hutch really feel the soreness, now worse than when he had fallen asleep.

        "Starsk, I don't think I can just yet."

        "'Course not," was whispered into his ear. A hand pulled at his and brought it to rest on Starsky's buttocks. "Your turn, partner."

        Mmmm, nice, was his first reaction. Then it sank in and an unease crept into his contentment. Damn you, do you have to question everything? It was no use; he was awake. He rose on an elbow to look down into Starsky's eyes. "Why?"

        "I wanna."

        The eyes labeled Starsky a liar. They held too brave a look, probably good enough to fool anyone, except the man gazing into them at the moment. That man also knew the look well enough to realize nothing would get Starsky to admit it. So he asked himself the questions. Are we settling accounts here? Balancing debits and credits, rounding off the tally? Is that why I'm not alone yet?

        Damn your archaic sense of fair play, Starsky!

        I don't want it like that.

        Wearily, he let his body drop back to the bed. His partner clung to him. "No, Starsky, I don't want to."

        "Why?" He didn't answer. "Hutch, is it--?  Did it hurt bad? Is that why?"

        Dammit, Starsky, do you even realize that's blackmail? If I hold back, will you ever believe otherwise? That will really weigh down your debit side, won't it?

        A not-so-nice thought brushed against his mind, insinuated itself. In that case, will you keep coming back for more? Is that the way to keep you?

        "Dear God," he moaned, turning his face away, ashamed of his thought; briefly, it had been too tempting.

        "Hutch, babe, what's wrong?" Hands fumbled at his head, turned it back around, worry evident in the sapphire eyes. "Tell me, partner."

        Hutch suddenly realized that Starsky had never called him 'partner' in bed before. Twice now in the same minute, he was bringing that relationship into this one. He wondered if Starsky felt the status quo threatened. "Starsky, you don't really want to."

        "I do, too."

        Somehow Hutch's hand on Starsky's buttocks had been forgotten. He squeezed hard, let his fingers slide down, parting the firm flesh, and pressed against the opening purposefully. Starsky flinched. "You see?" he said softly, easing off.

        "So what? Was it easy for you? I still want it."

        Hutch knew that he did. Maybe not in the ways he'd have the blond believe, but he truly did. For his own reasons. "All right," he said, and felt an instant surge of excitement go through him as if his body had just been waiting for the mind's permission to let loose.

        Control that, he ordered himself. Above all, control that. He pushed Starsky gently onto his back and kissed him, running his hands down the sides of his partner's body. You're not going to give it as an obligation or apology. It's no good that way. I know, I tried it. I'm going to love you until you want it in all the right ways. Until you want me. For yourself.

        However, it was impossible. Starsky clung to him, tugged at him, impatient, insistent. His own body was also altogether too willing to turn traitor under the urgings, and the threat of losing control became immediate. He knew it wasn't so much desire on Starsky's part, but mostly anxiety and apprehension. We will not hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with, he thought, then pulled forcefully out of the embrace and kept his partner at arm's length.

        Dark blue eyes searched his face, confusion and something very much like hurt in their depths. "What?" Starsky panted.

        "Give me a chance. Relax. Let me."

        Starsky stared at him for a few seconds, then took a deep breath -- calming his impulses or his fear, Hutch couldn't decide -- then obediently let his whole body go lax. His head fell back and his eyes closed, although a frown still creased the brow: a picture of uneasy expectation.

        Whatever the overwhelming emotions or urges at any given point, Hutch discovered tenderness had never had the slightest trouble supplanting them. Lightly, he kissed the closest eyelid, felt the restless movement underneath. "Scared?" he asked gently.

        A pause, then, "A little," Starsky admitted.

        "You're free to change your mind, you know."

        There was no hesitation this time. "No!"

        "Ssh. All right." He brushed his mouth against the thick lashes, felt them tickle his lips, knew from the flickerings and the sound Starsky made that his moustache was tickling the eyelid, traced the sharp ridge of the nose to the tip, kissed it softly. "I'll try to make it good, promise. I'll try. Maybe I can." His partner whispered something. "What?" he asked, although he'd heard enough of it already.

        Starsky wouldn't repeat it. "Nothin'."

        He pulled back, letting his fingertips replace his mouth. 'That's what I'm afraid of,' he was pretty sure Starsky had said. Will that be unfair, babe? Your rules threatened? You're going to have to forgive me that much selfishness -- if I can, that is.

        Obviously, all of Starsky's impatience couldn't be contained. "Your show, Hutch, but at this rate we're gonna need a cab to get to next week."

        He couldn't help chuckling at the comment that was so typically Starsky and just as typically ill-timed. "My show," he stressed. "We'll get there when we get there."

        "Okay," he was granted, "but in case you haven't noticed, I'm goin' backwards."

        The fierce arousal had ebbed somewhat in both of them, and that was just the break Hutch had wanted. To satisfy the demand he let his hands stroke his partner, but for himself, he wanted just to see, if only for a minute. He'd never had the time or the opportunity to slow down and experience as fully as he wanted to. He remembered yearning for it ever since the beginning, but time had been the most precious commodity then, except for the body in his desperate grasp that had yielded to him in almost a last wish. Here was the chance to see, touch, explore, discover, and finally know every inch, every response, every secret--

        Suddenly, he was terrified. Every sweet memory would mean one more thing to miss, every knowledge one more thing to forget.

        I can't afford this.

        He closed his eyes tightly, blinding himself on purpose, but the image lingered behind them, indelible. With a sigh, he fitted himself to his partner, began loving him slowly, trying to channel the sensations in one direction only, block their return...impossible. He had too many senses, too finely attuned, heightened, and he felt them all becoming saturated.

        Take you? What a laugh. You're penetrating into every part of me, the deepest part of me. Without even trying. How much more can I hold?

        He tried not to think. And mostly, he shied from giving name to the feelings. No identification. No description. No substance. At a distance. Keep it that way.

        He felt a sadness as he would for a new life, stillborn. A sob caught at his throat, and he buried it in Starsky's flesh. Let it get lost in his partner's moans.

        Despite the heaviness inside him, his touches were light, almost fearful, as if he was handling something fragile, and Starsky felt boneless and pliable under them. Shortly, though, demands started: "Hutch... please, babe...please."

        He pulled up until they were molded together and his lips were again buried in the tangled curls over his partner's ear. "What?" he whispered. "Tell me what you want." You, he wanted to hear. Please, say it, if only in this context. Just once. Let me here it just once. Starsky only kept making incoherent sounds. "Tell me." Suddenly frustrated, he couldn't help nipping sharply at the earlobe, once. "Tell me!"

        Starsky gave a hiss of pain, but didn't seem to mind. Rather, he seemed to consider the change in Hutch's treatment a welcome permission to let go of restraint. His hands grasped all over. Legs wrapping around the blond, he lifted himself insistently into the body covering him, then they were rolling around the bed in abandon, clutched tight, thrusting against each other.

        "Tell me," Hutch pleaded once more, hopelessly, before the primal urges swept him away as well. You keep coming back. Your body responds, wants. You have to feel it. Why can't you say it?

        Why can't I?

        Anger kindled, at himself for his own lack of courage, at Starsky for forbidding him courage, and gave a different impetus to his actions. It wasn't denying because he was denied, rather it was holding back a little longer until he knew Starsky could absorb no more sensation into any part of his flesh, until he'd done all in his power to give his partner something that would be hard to forget, this time. If it was to be only a memory again, then at least it would not be an easily erasable one.

        But he couldn't find it in him to carry it to the point of torture. Next time he heard Starsky's hoarse plea, he gave in to it, knowing that now he could probably force out what he wanted to hear -- but then, it would be an empty victory. "Roll over," he whispered, instead.

        Starsky instantly tensed, but obeyed. All at once, at the implied trust, the sharp edges of Hutch's emotions smoothed out, concern taking priority again. Don't be a bastard. Gently. He found the oil. When he turned back, Starsky was compliantly on his stomach. Hutch's eyes swept down the body, suddenly aware of how very much he wanted this. Sweet-fleshed, beautifully curved... He forced himself to look away. He deposited an affectionate kiss between the shoulder blades and pulled his partner close, fitting one arm under Starsky to hold him across the chest. "On your side more. Yes, fine. Pull up your knees." Starsky did, but he was tense all over.

        "Relax, Starsk, this isn't going to hurt." He hoped he was right. All he had to go by was his own brief experience. He pushed at the leg on top with his hand. Starsky got the message and lifted it. Hutch kissed his neck, oiled between his legs, then reached further, fondling his erection with slick fingers.

        Starsky moaned and moved against him. Hutch kept the heavy sac cupped, fingertips teasing the base of the erection, and stimulated the tight ring of muscle with his thumb. When he felt Starsky bearing down, he entered with a finger. At the same time, he skimmed down the furry chest to the furrier groin, up again, then down again. After a while, Starsky gripped the teasing hand and pressed it over his erection, grinding it into himself. Hutch slipped another finger in and his partner, apparently feeling no discomfort, began to rotate his hips against both pressures in abandon. Fearing he was going to finish too fast, Hutch pulled back, causing the man to growl in frustration and arch searchingly.

        "Soon, babe, soon," he said, again borrowing the endearment Starsky used for him. He maneuvered his partner to his knees and got between them, lubricating himself liberally, noticing that his hands were shaking. He couldn't make the next step painless. "It's going to hurt, Starsk. You still want it?" he asked while he still had control.

        "Oh, God, anything, but now!"

        Anything? Anything I want? How about 'don't leave me again'? He fastened his teeth in his lower lip. It wasn't the time. It was never the time. I won't lose all of you for more of you.

        Besides, everything was fast becoming secondary at the moment to his body's imperatives. However much he had tried to disregard himself, his flesh was eager, hungry. Too eager, he realized, and wrapped his hand firmly around it so he couldn't forget himself and go too far.

       Want me. Want me.

       He pushed and entered. Almost instantly, muscles clamped down hard on him. He heard Starsky's voice, muffled by the pillow, but nevertheless a sound of pain. He made himself freeze, but God, it was hard to resist pushing all the way into that tight heat.

        For him. This is for him. Don't forget it.

        He leaned over the arched back, his hands holding Starsky's hips a careful distance from himself. He ran his tongue over the small of the back, the only part he could reach, and held steady. "Want me to pull out?" he asked when the pressure didn't decrease. Starsky's hands were curled around a pillow, clutching it to his face.

        "No! No."

        He felt Starsky struggle and succeed in loosening up a little. He sheathed himself another inch, was stopped by a gasp. "Relax, babe, you have to relax. Please, I hate hurting you." Entreaties were getting them nowhere. Maybe it would help if he surrendered control. "I'm not going to move. You do it when it feels right for you."

        Starsky immediately started to push back, still too tense. Hutch pulled back the same amount, allowing no further penetration. "When you're ready. Don't think about me; I can wait." I hope, he prayed with one portion of his mind; forever if necessary, he swore with the other.

        In stops and starts, Starsky came to him. Of his own will. That was something. By the time they were fully joined, both were shaking and panting, drenched with perspiration, each from a different labor. Hutch wrapped his arms around Starsky and curled over his back, waiting for him to get used to their joining. He felt like he was enclosed in a clenched fist and remembered well how it had felt when Starsky had first started thrusting.

        "Please ease up, Starsk, you're hurting me." The strain in his voice was due to holding back against every instinct, but Starsky didn't have to know that. It worked. The pressure eased noticeably. Endearingly predictable, was Starsky.

        He slid one hand down, finding Starsky semi-hard at best, and stroked, while, very carefully, he moved - not thrusting, but searching for the same spot that had given him pleasure. He had to change the angle a few times, but finally Starsky caught his breath and Hutch felt a strong pulse in the flesh he held. He repeated the movement, was rewarded by the same reaction.

        Too aware of how overwhelming it could get, Hutch concentrated on keeping a steady pressure on the sensitive area, and laid his palm flat on Starsky's abdomen, encouraging him with gentle pushes to seek his own pleasure at his own rate. The position was uncomfortable, his only support Starsky's back and his own knees which felt far too weak, but he was determined to hold it as long as necessary.

        Starsky moved tentatively against him a few times, then pushed back hard, gasping. "Easy, easy," Hutch whispered.

        "That... that was it? Damn, that's--"

        Hutch rubbed his cheek against the straining back. "Still hurt?"

        " don't know...Hutch, that's -- dear God."

        "Easy. What you want. As much as you want." This is for you. Use it.

        Starsky started moving on him, getting more eager the more he experienced. The organ in Hutch's palm firmed quickly, seemed to beg more from his grasp. He moved his hand in counterpoint, remembering how Starsky liked it. His partner was making incoherent sounds in his throat, increasing his tempo urgently. Hutch had to put one hand on the bed to brace himself against the thrashing, trying not to give in to the sensations himself. He was still holding his own gratification back, giving his whole being to Starsky's use, and the effort was threatening to trip his heart, burn him out.

        Then he felt Starsky's orgasm, heard him cry out his name, no longer in pain but pleasure, felt an incredible wild joy at bringing it about, and his control snapped. The strong pulses deep in Starsky's body pulled at him, beckoned his own, insisted that he yield. His arms crushed his partner to himself, he thrust deep and fast, and in another second he was spasming strongly against Starsky's waning contractions.

        "David! David. David..."

        He knew he had blacked out for a short while, but as soon as he could think or move again, he was rolling them on their sides to get his weight off Starsky, holding his partner as close as possible, stroking him everywhere he could reach, kissing whatever he found close to his mouth, knowing how badly he had needed this kind of hard cuddling himself. Now it was Starsky totally lax and spent, able only to rub his head lazily back against the blond.

        "Oh God, Hutch..."

        Hutch's embrace softened, still tight but shifting down to a more relaxing hold. Suddenly, Starsky's body tensed again. "Hutch...uh..."

        "I know," the blond said, releasing his partner. "Go on." Starsky quickly took himself to the bathroom. Now at least he had to know that Hutch's abrupt departure from the bed earlier hadn't been a rejection or due to any pain.

        Starsky came out of the bathroom, looking a little sheepish. He held out a wet, soapy washcloth. "Want it?"

        "Thanks." Hutch cleaned himself and threw the cloth in the general direction of the bathroom as Starsky got back into bed.

        "That's a pain in the--" Starsky stopped, then chuckled. "I mean, if you have to rush to the bathroom every time. Don't they ever get to relax and enjoy themselves afterwards?"

        Hutch flinched at the distinction Starsky still made between 'us' and 'them.' "I guess you can prepare for it beforehand by--"

        Starsky's lips covered his. The suddenness of the move told Hutch its objective wasn't so much a kiss as it was to shut him up. He wondered what bothered his partner. The stark realities, or the thought of engaging in the act purposefully enough to prepare for it? He closed the subject anyhow, and settled down. Whatever problems, whatever worries, he'd face them in the morning. For just a little while, all he wanted to do was to breathe and hold his other half.

        "It's all right now," Starsky said softly.

        He'd have liked to pretend it was just a sleepy comment and cling to the pleasant mood. But he couldn't help hearing what was behind the half-statement/half-question. Did I pay my dues, too, the words asked, are we intact? It reminded Hutch anew why Starsky was still at his side. Status quo now reestablished, the moment was to be transitory, as usual.

        "Everything's all right," he lied. Somehow he'd have to make it the truth again. He settled the tousled head more securely into the hollow of his neck. "We're just fine. Go to sleep."

        He was thinking Starsky was already asleep from the heavy, even feel of the body in his arms. But his partner spoke again, his voice indistinct and slurred, "Never good...didn't know..."

        Now you do, Hutch thought. We both do. I also know how the story goes: they ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge...

        He fought sleep and was still awake when morning filtered through the blinds and Starsky stirred. He pretended to be asleep, though, as the dark man furtively slipped out of his hold and his bed, quickly dressed and stole out of the house.

        ...and they were cast out of heaven.

Part Three