This story was originally published in Who You Know, What You Know, & How You Know It in August 1983. This zine is still in print and can be obtain from Agent with Style: Thanks go to Lyndsay for typing and proof-reading.



Pamela Rose

Starsky rolled over and looked at the clock on the bedside table. It took a moment before his fuzzy vision focused on the numbers, but when it did he sat up and grabbed for his jeans.

"Hey, Hutch, it's after eight!"

There was a mumble from the other side of the bed as the blond burrowed deeper into the pillow.

"Come on, blue eyes, wake up. We're late already, and Dobey's gonna have our asses in a sling—which won't do much for our sex life . . . if ya know what I mean?" He wriggled his eyebrows suggestively, chuckled, and smacked the sheet over the rounded rear end.

Hutch moaned and turned over on his back, throwing his arm over his eyes to block out the offensive sunlight. "If you hadn't kept me up until three a.m . . . " The complaint drifted off in a wide yawn.

Starsky grinned and zipped his fly with a flourish. "Yeah, but wasn't it worth it? Admit it, Hutch. You loved it."

"I did not love it. I didn't even like it. It was terrible. I can't believe I was stupid enough to let you talk me into it." He opened one eye and regarded his partner balefully. "I really think I could have lived without seeing The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, Starsk."

Starsky shrugged and sat back down on the bed to slip on his socks. "Better than John Denver meets Grizzly Adams, or whatever it is that you like to watch. Anyhow, we better get a move on. I've still gotta stop by my place to shower and change."

Hutch was beginning to waken, and noticed that other parts of his body were completely so. He scooted over and hooked an arm around Starsky's waist. "Why don't you just shower here with me? Good clean fun. It'll conserve water, save time -"

"No, it won't," Starsky said firmly. "We'd turn into prunes before we managed to get out. Besides, I don't have any clean clothes here." In spite of his protests, however, he let himself be pulled back onto the bed. Hutch's eager mouth found his, and he melted under the steamy kiss.

Hutch nuzzled his partner's neck and stroked down the furry chest enticingly, pleased by the helpless response he received. "Since we're late already, what's the hurry now?" he whispered playfully, enjoying the rapid thud of Starsky's heart beneath his hand. He slid his palm down to the top of the jeans and pressed against the flat stomach to slip under the waistband.

"Hutch, uh . . . we really should . . . mmmmm." Starsky surrendered to the delicious warmth of the exploring hand. "Oh, what the hell. After all, it is my birthday."

Hutch abruptly removed his hand from Starsky's pants and sat up. "Today? Are you sure? I thought it was next Friday. You sure you don't have the dates mixed up?"

"Of course I don't! I should know when—" He broke off and looked at his partner with a hurt expression. "Are you kidding me, Hutch? You really forgot my birthday?" There was a plaintive note in his voice that made Hutch smile.

"I didn't forget, Starsk. I just screwed up the days, that's all." He kissed the pouting mouth lightly. "Anyway, I've told you that you always make too much out of holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays . . . You even get excited about Halloween, for christsake. The Hallmark people must love you. It's just another day, Starsk. A way of marking time—"

"Easy for you to say since it ain't your birthday," Starsky grumbled.

Hutch chuckled and tugged the piqued body back into his embrace. "You're adorable when you're acting childish."

Starsky glared at him. "Thanks loads." But he allowed himself to be seduced out of his sulkiness by the persuasive, consoling caresses. Hutch gave him a kiss that made his toes curl, then followed it up with that blinding, angelic smile. It was one of those times when Starsky found his breath catching at the sweetness of his partner's face. The innocent, clean features, the bright yellow hair, the crystalline blue eyes: the man had perfect coloring. He looked good enough to eat, and Starsky had the urge to lick him up like a lemon sherbet ice cream. He grinned lecherously at the thought.

"What's that crooked smile for?" Hutch asked.

"Just wonderin' how come you always look so fuckin' gorgeous in the morning."

Hutch blushed a little, but had a comeback ready. "Wheat germ, Starsk. Righteous living and wheat germ. 'Course my strong Nordic gene's help—"

"I thought your jeans were Levi's," Starsky broke in, deadpan.

Hutch snickered in spite of himself, eternally a sucker for his partner's corny jokes. He gave him another quick kiss and hopped out of the bed.

"Hey, where you going?"

"To put on some coffee. If we're too late, Dobey might make us work over. We have dates tonight, remember?"

"Tonight?" Starsky asked in dismay.

Hutch frowned at him. "Yes, tonight. You asked them. It was your idea, remember?"

Starsky looked uncomfortable. "Yeah, but . . . I didn't think about it when I set it up. They said they were free for Friday and I—"

"So you forgot it was your birthday?" Hutch asked skeptically.

"So I screwed up. Tonight . . . well, I wanted it to be special. Just us, you know?"

Hutch's sunny mood vanished abruptly, replaced by grimness. "You know how I feel about the whole thing. It's all your decision, Starsk." He walked into the bathroom and shut the door very soundly.

Starsky sighed. He hadn't meant to poke any sore spots, but Hutch was so damn touchy lately. If only Hutch would understand that just because he wanted to maintain their old lifestyle as much as possible, it didn't mean he didn't love Hutch like crazy. It was simply smarter this way. Easier. And, dammit, he still liked girls! So did Hutch, if he wasn't too stubborn to admit it. Commitment was fine . . . but what was wrong with a little something different on the side? Didn't mean anything. And it did help keep down the rumors about him and Hutch—God knew there were enough of those already, and had been for years.

They had finally reached a compromise on this subject—or at least Starsky thought they had. He certainly hoped so, because he wasn't willing to go through many more of the nasty fights they had experienced recently. Fighting with Hutch (real fighting, that is, not the good-natured squabbles) was really horrible. The blond would simmer for hours, coldly polite, a glacier with cutting words, then he would blow up like an Icelandic volcano.

But Starsky had been able to talk him into this double-date without too much trouble, so Starsky had assumed Hutch had finally accepted the situation. Now the reason for Hutch's agreement was becoming obvious. He must have thought Starsky preferred to spend his birthday with a girl. Damn!

He stood up and went to the bathroom door, tapping on the panel sheepishly. "Hey, Hutch . . . "

"Yeah, what?" The words were muffled, the tone testy.

"Maybe we could cancel the dates, huh?"

The door opened suddenly and Hutch emerged, still damp from his shower, towel wrapped around his waist. "That wouldn't be very polite, now would it?" he said icily.

"Ah, come on, you know I want to spend tonight with you . . . just you. I forgot all about the girls, honest."

Hutch went to the wardrobe and selected a plaid shirt and beige pants. "Listen, it's no big deal. It's your birthday. You made the dates. Just drop it, okay?" He jerked on his pants angrily.

"But I didn't realize—"

"Forget it. Want some coffee?"

"Hutch—" Starsky began but broke off at the look his partner shot at him. That stubborn expression was all too familiar. Hutch had made up his mind and wouldn't be budged.

Fifteen minutes later, they were on the sidewalk outside, still arguing.

"Why can't you ride with me?" Starsky demanded.

"Because you're going home first." Hutch replied with carefully emphasized patience.

"So what? If you go in before I do, I'll get all the heat from Dobey for being late. If we go in together—"

"We'll both get bitched at," Hutch cut it. "I don't see the advantage of that."

"I do! And if you weren't going to ride with me, why didn't you say so upstairs, so I didn't wait for you?"

"I figure you have enough sense to know I wasn't going to ride all the way out to your place."

"Well, you're going to whether you like it or not. Get in the car!" Starsky held open the door, an obstinate expression on his face.

Hutch sat down, still protesting. "Dammit, Starsky, why can't you—"

Starsky slammed the door decisively and Hutch's voice cut off in a scream of pain.

For an eternal second Starsky stood frozen, the sound of his partner's agony slicing like a blade up his spine. There was a primal need to run from it, to hide, but he jerked open the door and stared at Hutch helplessly.

The blond was clutching his crushed hand, rocking with the agony of it, gasping from the shock. The tanned skin had blanched to white, and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. "Oh god, Starsky . . . Starsk . . . "

Finally able to move, Starsky knelt on the sidewalk and tried to look at the injured hand while Hutch still clutched at it and winced from any inspection.

"Hutch, I'm sorry . . . I didn't see . . . didn't mean . . . I'm so sorry. Let me see . . . is it bad? Oh, baby, I'm sorry."

Hutch jerked away and gritted his teeth against the wash of nausea that followed the first shock. "Please . . . just get me to a hospital. I think it's broken. God, it hurts! Oh geez . . . " He trailed off, rocking again, not bothering to fight the reflexive tears that trickled down his cheek.

"Sure . . . sure . . . " Starsky shut the door, very carefully, then rushed to the driver's side, feeling as sick as his partner. He started the car and tore away from the curb. "Hutch, you all right? I'm sorry, really." He glanced over at his ominously silent companion. Hutch's eyes were closed very tightly and his face strained. Starsky reached over and touched his shoulder, but remained silent the rest of the way to the hospital.

In the emergency room, Starsky met with one of those rule-bound nurses who refused to let him go further than the waiting room. He fidgeted restlessly for over an hour and a half before another nurse came to give him the news.

"David Starsky?"

"Yes, ma'am." He jumped up. "How's Hutch?"

"It wasn't too bad. Three broken fingers, a couple of stitches. He'll be fine. You can take him home shortly. Elevate the hand, keep ice on it, and he shouldn't have any trouble."

A few minutes later, Hutch appeared, still looking pale, his hand encased in white. He smiled wanly at his partner. "Did you call Dobey?"

"Huh? Oh, shit, I forgot. I'll call when I get you home." He shuffled around guiltily. "Uh . . . does it hurt much?"

"Of course it hurts!" Hutch snapped. "My whole arm is throbbing like . . . " He glanced around and lowered his voice. "Let's get out of here. I hate this place."

"Didn't they give you a shot or something for the pain?" Starsky followed him out the door, feeling more terrible by the minute.

"Yeah, but it's already wearing off. They gave me some pills to take when I get home."

"Hutch, I'm really sorry—"

The blond stopped dead on the sidewalk and glared at Starsky. "Will you, for God's sake, stop apologizing! It's getting on my nerves."


"Shut up, will you? It was an accident! Just drop the whole subject, okay?"

"No, it's not okay," Starsky persisted stubbornly. "I broke your hand. It was my fault. If we hadn't been arguing . . . if I'd been paying attention—"

"Dammit, Starsky!" Hutch gritted his teeth against the pain and his growing irritation with his partner. "I'm going to call a taxi if you don't shut up, I swear it."

"All right, all right," Starsky soothed, realizing that he was pushing it too far. "I was just trying to . . . okay, never mind that now. Come on, I'll take you home."

Starsky was very careful to drive back to Hutch's apartment at a reasonable speed. He didn't want to give his partner something else to snarl about. Hutch didn't deal well with pain, and he was hanging onto his temper by a thin thread. Not that Starsky blamed him, but he just wished Hutch would curse him out for slamming the door on his hand and get it over with. Hutch the martyr was even worse than Hutch the enraged.

Starsky took the key off the ledge and opened the door for Hutch, shutting it gently behind them, for some reason being careful to make as little noise as possible. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop. His partner's body language signaled disaster impending, but Hutch was cruel enough to keep him dangling in wait for the explosion.

"Can I get you something?" Starsky offered eagerly. "Coffee maybe? Want the TV on? The stereo?"

"No." Hutch plopped down on the couch, enjoying his partner's deserved discomfort.

"What about those pain pills? Want some water to take them—"

"I can manage, thank you. Go on to work. I don't need you hovering over me all day."


"Will you get out of here!" Hutch roared. "I just want some peace and quiet."

"Okay, sure." Starsky turned toward the door, then stopped and looked back. "Hutch, I'm really sorry. Either tell me you forgive me, or bitch at me. I can't stand the suspense."

"That's it! That's the final straw!" Hutch jumped to his feet furiously. "You really want me to tell you what I think? Okay, you got it, buddy. My hand hurts like hell, and it's your fuckin' fault for starting a fuckin' fight because you felt guilty about wanting to screw around with some broad! And that's the bottom line; that's what the fight was all about. That's what all of our fights are about, whether we're talking about it outright or not. You feel so damn guilty you want me to tell you it's just fine with me if you fuck half the female population of L.A. Well, it's not, and I'm not going to pretend I like it when I don't. If you have to fuck around, do it, Goddammit! But don't expect me to pat you on the back for it, and don't break my hand because I won't screw around too. Yes, I am mad at you. It was a stupid, careless thing to do. If you want absolution, go someplace else, because I'm fresh out of patience!"

Starsky's eyes were wide and hurt. "Hutch—"

"Get out!"

Starsky opened his mouth, then shut it again, and left without another word.

Hutch stared at the closed door for several minutes, then said "Shit," very quietly. He felt like the bastard he knew he was ninety percent of the time. He couldn't figure out why Starsky put up with him. Starsky, the eternal teddy bear. If he loved you, you could rip his cotton stuffing all to shreds and he'd still love you. It didn't make a bit of sense, but it was sadly true. And even sadder, Hutch knew he took advantage of that. Starsky was always a safe target for his frustration and rage. Starsky would go on loving him, no matter what. No wonder Terry slept with Ollie; the sweetest comfort there was. And she had entrusted them both to him. Hutch only wished he could treat them better.

He let the pain take him again, almost enjoying the throbbing ache as a dash of punishment for the emotional wounds he'd inflicted on his friend. Poor Starsk, of course it had been an accident, and of course it had had nothing to do with the thoughtless date Starsky had made for that evening. But what a neat, sharp weapon to use for the moment when the pain sang an insistence all its own. Hutch was sorry now, but it would be harder for him to say it than it would be for Starsky. Many things came easier for Starsky—right, wrong, hurt, love. Why was everything so much harder for a quasi-rich kid from Minnesota?" The harsh words wouldn't cut Starsky beyond healing. By tonight he would be fine, as if nothing had been said.

Hutch sat down on the couch, clutching his elbow as if to prevent the pain from shooting farther up his arm.

Why did Starsky make it so easy to keep repeating the abuse? Sometimes he even seemed to ask for it—like today. He wanted me to yell at him, Hutch realized with a sense of shock. He wanted me to lose my temper, and pushed until I did. Why?

The answer was lost in the next wave of pain. He reached automatically for the pills in his pocket. Doubting one would help, he took two. A few moments later, he added a third.


Starsky swigged down the last dregs of his beer and ordered another. He was angry, truly angry at Hutch. He savored the feeling, unwilling to part with it too soon. It didn't happen very often—oh, he got pissed at him a lot, but the white-hot rage he felt now was rare. Usually he found a way to swallow his irritation and coax Hutch into a better mood, which automatically made Starsky happy again. But not this time. That was exactly what Hutch expected him to do, and for once Hutch was going to learn that a limit could be reached.

Sure Starsky felt guilty as hell for breaking Hutch's hand, and he had wanted the blond to blow up and have it over with (why waste time worrying about the inevitable?). Sooner or later Hutch would have brought it up, and probably when Starsky was least prepared for it. But Hutch hadn't played fair. He'd dragged in an entirely different argument that Starsky was unable or unwilling to deal with at the moment. When it came right down to it, he knew he'd rather be with Hutch than with any girl. And that scared him. He found himself further down this road they'd taken than he'd ever anticipated. It was fine to screw around with your partner occasionally, because they were so damn close anyway. Fine? When did that happen? Just a few weeks ago it had been strange . . . even shocking. When did it become so natural?, but to find it more desirable to spend all his time with a klutzy blond blintz instead of a lovely lady—that was getting in deeper than Starsky had ever intended.

Starsky realized with a start that he'd finished his third beer. He ordered another.

How did it all start, he wondered. It was just a few weeks ago. Why does it seem like years . . . maybe because it was years. In all the ways that counted at least. All the caring, the holding, the sweet warm body to cling to when things got rough. Not sexual at first . . . or maybe always sexual. It felt good, from the very first it felt wonderful. Right, safe, honest, open. All those terrible times made so much easier. And it came so easy to me, I'm the toucher. It was Hutch who drew back, cool WASP that he is all the way to the bone. So I broke that ice. Didn't even think about it at the time. It wasn't until much later that Hutch confessed how . . . how'd he put it? . . . 'space-conscious' he was. How he hated being touched, touching. I never noticed—but then it's always Hutch that notices things. He got over it pretty quick, though. At least I noticed that. Once it occurred to him that it wasn't so wrong, he was able to reach out a lot more; and not only to me. He was always the one able to touch strangers, victims, or casual acquaintances easier than friends. That was odd; I'm just the opposite. I wonder why?

But when did it really start? That long night when we both got drunk over the hundredth game of Monopoly. I was winning for once, and he reached over and kissed me on the mouth. Just like that. I accused him later of cheating by distracting me at a critical moment. Wouldn't put it past him—he hates to lose. But why ever he did it, it felt too good to stop. In three minutes, we were laying on the game, pieces scattered everywhere. He had to make me get up for a minute because one of the hotels was digging into his back. God, it was fun. And we didn't even think twice about it at the time. I don't even remember getting out of my clothes. There were no second thoughts, no insecurities or doubts. Just a lot of giggling and rolling around on that damn kitchen floor . . . why don't we ever set up on the carpet? Had to lean on each other to get to the bedroom. That was the best-feeling lovin' I'd ever had.

There were a few awkward moments the next morning, when Hutch spent the first ten minutes trying to pretend that nothing happened—or that he didn't remember it—but once he scrunched over to his side and ended up falling out of bed, the pretence was all over. We were laughing too hard for any lies. How can such an ordinarily graceful man be so amazingly clumsy when he's nervous?

So we talked about it, and agreed—or at least I thought he'd agreed—that this was something special with us. Something extra. Nice, but not necessarily forever. We'd both lost a lot over the last year and we needed the loving. Nothing wrong with that. But not something to change your whole life over either. Or is it?

When Starsky finally paid his bar tab, he was shocked at the size of it. He didn't recall even ordering all those beers, let along drinking them. But it didn't really matter. He planned to have a lot more before the night was over. It was his birthday, after all.


Hutch woke up groggily, drawn to consciousness by the renewed ache in his hand. He was still on the couch, his neck stiff from resting awkwardly against the padded arm of the sofa.

"Damn," he swore softly, pushing himself up with his good arm. He looked at the clock blurrily. 8:45. He'd dozed fitfully most of the day, half alert for Starsky's return.

His hand was throbbing, hurting worse than it had earlier. He reached impatiently for the pills on the table. It had been several hours since he'd taken the last one—or was it just one? Obviously it had worn off. He struggled to get the cap off with his one good hand. It wasn't easy. Eventually he gave up and pried the cap off with his teeth, almost hearing his mother's voice in the background, chiding him, "Kenny, don't use your teeth like that, you'll ruin them. You should be proud of such nice teeth . . . "

"Yeah, Ma, sure," he mumbled, and grinned as the cap flipped off onto the table.

The phone began to ring. He cursed again, but then considered it might be Starsky calling to check on him. He jumped to his feet and lunged for the phone, but he wasn't up to such quick moves. A combination of dizziness, clumsiness and a rough place in the rug sent him sprawling to his knees. He held on to the pill bottle by instinct, but the pills went dancing across the floor, most of them ending up rolling under the couch.

"Fuck!" He sat the bottle back on the coffee table and grabbed for the phone. "Hello? Starsk?"

"No, and it ain't Diana Ross neither," came the voice through the receiver.

"Oh, Hug. You seen Starsky?"

"No, and I ain't seen you, neither. What am I supposed to do about this surprise party you cooked up?"

"Oh, damn," Hutch moaned. "I forgot about it, Hug."

"No joke. I been calling you for the last two hours."

"Sorry. I was really out of it."

"Yeah, I talked to Dobey a little while ago. I hope you both have a real good excuse, 'cause he's breathing fire."

"What? Why? Doesn't he know what happened?"

"He does now, but only because someone from that hospital called to verify your insurance. Not only that, I got a couple of foxy ladies sitting here cooling their fannies waiting for two no-shows, and a big spaghetti dinner turning to mush in the kitchen. And I ordered that triple-layer chocolate cake just like you said. What gives?"

"Uh," Hutch tried to clear his foggy brain. "You mean Starsk never called Dobey? He didn't show up at your place either?"

"That's what I've been trying to tell you for the last five minutes!"

"Did you call his place?"

"No, I sent over a passenger pigeon," Huggy replied sarcastically. "But it didn't have no more luck than Ma Bell. You wanta tell me what's going on with you two?"

"Uh . . . I . . . I'll talk to you later, Hug." He hung up the phone absently, and sat there a moment trying to think. Starsky didn't call in. Starsky didn't show up at Huggy's for the date. Starsky wasn't at home.

Hutch closed his eyes. He knew he would be able to figure this out if the ache would just stop. And if he wasn't so damn woozy. A shower would help.

It took some time to figure out the logistics of taking a shower without wetting his cast, but he stepped out, feeling cleaner, though not much clearer. He shrugged into his robe and went back to the telephone. Tried Starsky's. No answer. Tried again. Still no answer.

Now he was beginning to seriously worry. This just wasn't like his partner. Not calling Dobey wasn't so bad. Not showing up for the date was no surprise. But not coming back to check on him was unheard of.

Maybe he called when I was asleep, Hutch thought with a shock. Did I push him too far this time? Ah, Starsk, you know I didn't mean it . . .

His first impulse was to get dressed and go searching for the man. But common sense told him he'd never be able to drive right now, he was still too dopey. But he was too worried now to sit still. The pain in his hand was as bad as ever, but he ignored it. Something more important occupied his mind.


It was after ten when Starsky finally appeared at Huggy Bear's. The owner plopped the requested beer in front of him on the bar along with a disgusted look.

"So, you decided to show up, huh? The girls left a half hour ago."

Starsky shrugged, not caring. "What girls?"

"You had dates, didn't you? You and that blond Romeo of yours. He didn't show either. Them girls were pissed . . . wooie! Don't blame 'em."

"Who cares," Starsky said gruffly.

"Seems a shame," Huggy said, watching him carefully. "Pretty girls, fancy dinner, expensive wine, great cake, all gone to waste. Hutch is payin' anyway, why should you care, right?"

Starsky raised his head. "What?"

"He planned this fancy dinner for you tonight. I thought you knew. Had it planned for weeks." He paused purposefully. "The girls were just added later."

Starsky took all this in without comment.

"I finally got hold of Hutch about an hour ago," Huggy added. "That is, in case you're interested. Seemed real down. Kind of out of it, if you know what I mean."

"He did?"

"Yeah. You guys have a fight or something?"

"Or something," Starsky mumbled. "Thanks, Hug." He left before the black man had time to say any more.

Starsky drove very carefully to Hutch's, extremely conscious of his inebriated state.

He ran up the steps, with one hand against the wall to steady himself, and grabbed the key off the doorsill.

He opened it eagerly and bounded in. "Hutch! Hey, Huggy told me—" The room was empty. He rushed into the bedroom. "Hutch, I'm sorry I thought—" Again, an empty room. Puzzled, he checked the bathroom, the greenhouse. Still nothing.

His eyes came to rest on the bottle of pills on the table. He picked it up. Empty.

"Hutch!" he called again, illogically hoping for an answer. He looked at the bottle again. Empty. Oh my God, Hutch. He stood frozen, terrified. Hutch had been so moody lately. Where was he?

As he started to grab for the phone to call Dobey, anybody, he noticed the piece of note paper. He picked it up and tried to read it through blurred eyes.


Didn't know where to look for you. Took a taxi to your place. Please forgive me for being such a bastard. I love you a lot. A whole lot. I'll be waiting, unless you want to kick me out.



The paper fluttered to the floor as Starsky took off.

* * *

The house was dark, but when he opened the door, he could see the kitchen was lit with candles, and there was a glimmer of light from the bedroom. He paused for a moment before crossing to the kitchen.

Hutch was sitting cross-legged in front of a set-up game of monopoly. He looked up shyly at Starsky. "Hey, it's your move."

He knelt down on the floor and grabbed Hutch up in his arms. "You scared the shit out of me," he whispered into the blond hair.

"Me? Why? I was worried about you. Why didn't you show up at Huggy's?"

"I was busy getting drunk and being mad at you."

Hutch pulled back a little. "Oh. Well, I can't blame you."

"It was stupid. You had the reason to be mad. I broke your hand, didn't I?"

To his surprise, tears washed the light blue eyes. "Starsk, I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault. I didn't mean to lay it on you. The things I said—I didn't mean them, really."

Starsky touched his face gently. "Yes you did, Hutch. You wouldn't have said them, maybe, if it hadn't happened, but you did mean them. It upset you that I wanted to go out, that you weren't enough for me."

"No," Hutch protested.

Starsky ignored him. "I've thought about it all day, and you know what? I really don't want anyone else. I guess I've been trying to fight that, but it's true. I love you more than anything."

Hutch couldn't answer, his throat was too tight. He leaned forward and kissed Starsky. "Why were you scared?" he asked finally.

"I saw the bottle of pills. It was empty. For a minute . . . Well, it kinda scared me, you know?"

Hutch smiled. "Sorry. I dropped them. Tripped over the rug. I didn't think how it would look." He ran his good hand through Starsky's curls. "Hey, happy birthday, babe."

Starsky's eyes twinkled. "You didn't forget at all, did you? I'm sorry it didn't work out like you planned."

"Close enough," Hutch said lightly. "We're together, anyway."

"Ummmm," Starsky leaned forward to kiss him, making it long and sensuous this time. He hesitated. "How's your hand? Still hurt?" He picked it up and kissed the end of the fingers that protruded from the cast.

"Nope. I . . . uh, I took a few swigs of your whiskey. Works as good as the pills do." He leaned into his partner's embrace.

"So we're both a bit tipsy, huh?" Starsky looked at the game spread out on the floor. "Isn't this where we started? Are we finished playing?"

"Yeah, I think so," Hutch said softly.

"Good." Starsky took him back in his arms, his mouth hungry and demanding. Their tongues touched lovingly, tasting each other joyfully. Starsky's hand slipped beneath the blond's shirt, teasing a nipple, loving the feel of the smooth, warm skin.

Hutch moaned and moved his own good hand down to squeeze the bulge in his partner's jeans. They were both getting terribly excited, aroused by their lust and the after effects of the ridiculous fight. As always, it brought them closer than ever, in a crazy way.

After a long, engrossing time, Hutch pulled back and smiled. "Hey, I bought you a present."

"You did?" Starsky forced a degree of enthusiasm. Hutch's presents were notoriously unmemorable. Either they were depressingly practical, like a gift certificate for a new set of brake lines, or else totally abstract, like that tree growing in his name somewhere. It was hard to get very excited.

"Aren't you excited?"

"Sure. Where is it?"

"I called your landlord and had him let them in this morning to deliver it. I hope you don't mind."

A little alarmed, Starsky straightened. "What is it?"

"It's in the bedroom."

They both stood, steadying each other. They approached the bedroom, Starsky apprehensive.

The room was lit with candles, soft and glowing. Starsky's breath caught in his throat. It was beautiful . . . absolutely beautiful.

The brass bed was huge. Ornate, but dignified in a way. Solid and strong.

"Do you like it?" Hutch said softly. "I remember you said you'd always wanted one. This one's antique. I found it—"

He was cut off by a crushing hug. "It's wonderful! Hutch, I love it. I love you! Do you know how much this means, that you bought me something like this?"

Hutch blushed. "Well, it's practical."

Starsky laughed, and tumbled him down onto the quilt. "God, I love you. This bed is gorgeous and so are you. It's made for you . . . for us! That's what you had in mind, isn't it?"

"Well, maybe," he admitted.

They kissed again, and this time there was no thought of pausing for conversation. Their clothes came off somehow, and they rolled on the new bed in delight, making allowances for Hutch's hand, but not allowing it to dampen their enthusiasm.

Hutch took the lead, kissing down the muscular body of his partner. Stroking enticingly, making Starsky writhe and moan at his teasing touch. He sucked at the dark nipples, teasing them erect, while his hand moved down the hard stomach. He traced light fingers up the insides of Starsky's thighs, making them open in instinctive hunger. He fondled the balls until Starsky's head was tossing helplessly on the pillow, begging for more. Instead of his hand, his mouth took the desired hold. He sucked in the head, licking with the tip of his tongue. Then he took it into his throat slowly, drawing back to suck on the length of it, then going down again.

Starsky groaned and jerked his hips up, tangling his fingers in the silky blondness. He tried to push him away as the pleasure became too intense, but Hutch was merciless. He worked on the shaft hungrily until Starsky cried out and released in Hutch's mouth.

Hutch would have stopped then, but Starsky reached for the cream on the nightstand. He handed it to Hutch as he pulled him down into a deep kiss.

"Go on. I want you. It's my birthday. That's what I really want."

Hutch knelt between his legs, caressing the body lovingly. He felt awkward with the cast, but he was too aroused to protest. He squeezed out some of the gel and applied it to his pulsing cock and Starsky. Starsky pulled his legs up and Hutch leaned forward, directing himself into the waiting opening with his good hand. He pressed in, gasping at the lovely, hot feel of it.

Starsky watched him carefully, enjoying the tortured ecstasy on his lover's face. He moved his ass to help with the penetration, hardly noticing the discomfort. Hutch surged forward, and Starsky forgot everything in the overwhelming feel of Hutch inside him, taking him, owning him.

"Hutch, I love you . . . "

"I love you . . . oh, I love you . . . " Hutch was breathless as his movements quickened. He began stroking Starsky's rapidly engorging cock and he drove in deeper. Starsky melted with the dual sensations, and both of them rapidly approached their limits. They came, and Hutch collapsed over his lover's chest, nuzzling at his neck.

"Hey, you're shaking," Starsky said, worried as he felt the trembling against his chest.

"I . . . it just felt so . . . so damn good. And I love you so much . . . so much . . . " Hutch held him tighter, unable to explain.

"Okay . . . it's okay, babe." Starsky soothed.

At last, Hutch was able to speak. He kissed Starsky's chin and smiled. "Do you think we settled anything this time?"

"Maybe." Starsky replied, grinning. "I doubt it, though. But it sure is fun trying."