PART 3

ODDS AGAINST, PART 4
by
tasha

CHAPTER NINE

A metallic clanging was the first thing David Starsky became aware of as he painfully regained consciousness Then he noticed the acrid odor of smoke hanging heavily in the atmosphere. His attention was seized by a throbbing in his chest that increased and ebbed with each breath he drew--next of a heavy weight on his legs. His legs were numb, and for a moment he was panic stricken. Then he realized it was something--no, somebody--was resting on his lower body.

The clanging continued--it was beginning to get on his nerves. With extreme care, he raised himself to his elbow, and saw that the weight pinning him down was another person. Then he saw the halo of blond hair and knew without doubt that somehow Hutch was lying across his lap and legs. He could feel the heavy breathing of the pilot, giving him another reason to be relieved. Even though the weight on his lower torso felt like a dead weight, it wasn't. The clanking drew his attention again.

"Hutch!" There was no answer, but the breathing continued, punctuated by an occasional groan. He reached down and stroked the mud-smeared face.

Looking around he saw that he and his companions were lying in a rather damp ditch. The clanging grew louder and a large brown cow moved into his field of vision, placidly grazing on the coarse grass of the ditch. As he moved, the cow raised her head and looked at him with inquiry in liquid brown eyes. Obviously deciding he was not dangerous, she lowered her head with another clang and continued grazing. She was moving steadily toward the British agents who were sprawled together farther down in the ditch.

The pain in his head and chest forced Starsky to relax his arms and recline back to the ground. Every time the damned cow moved her head, the bell around her neck shattered his peace. He decided that no matter how friendly Bossy was, he simply had to get her to move on somewhere else. He tried to slide out from under the weight that was Kenneth Hutchinson. Resting on his hands and knees, he waited for the wave of dizziness to pass. Taking very shallow breaths, he looked his lover over carefully.

"Get it off me!" Bodie shouted, waving his hands at the cow with grimy bandages dangling from his wrist and fingers.

Startled, Starsky stopped his examination of Hutch and saw that the cow had made her way to Bodie and was rubbing the hornless poll of her head against his shoulder. Bodie was struggling to get away from the overly friendly bovine, futilely trying to shove her away from him. She calmly took it all in stride and licked his forehead and face, her bell clanging with every swipe of her tongue.

"Get away from me, you bloody bugger," Bodie yelled, trying to get to his feet only to find his injured ankle wouldn't support him. He crawled away, with Bossy following, her splayed hooves landing dangerously near his body.

At that moment Doyle came awake, with an instinctive reaction to his partner's panicked voice. He rolled over and came up to crouch, his throwing knife ready. When he saw what was troubling his partner, he began to laugh hysterically.

"Cut out yer cackling and help me, you idiot!" Bodie snarled at his partner. To give Doyle credit, he did try to stop laughing and get up, but his injuries soon had him panting and leaning on three good limbs on the ground.

While watching these antics, Starsky had painfully risen to his feet and was staggering toward the cow that had finally lost interest in licking the agent's face. She simply stood over him, occasionally grazing and stomping flies. When the scientism finally got to her, he gingerly grabbed the wide leather collar that held her bell and began tugging on her neck. While she turned her head to him, she didn't budge. Starsky tried again to lead her away from the agent on the ground, but she simply lowered her head and continued to graze until Starsky finally found a fallen tree limb on the ground which was actually not much more than a twig. He waved it at her and lightly slapped her on the shoulder. She blinked in mild offense, then quietly took herself up the hill, bell ringing with each step as Starsky limped along behind. She moved down an ambling path toward a distant farmhouse.

Watching the languidly flicking tail of the brown cow with great relief, Starsky slowly sank to the ground, rubbing his aching chest. In the excitement over the cow, he had temporarily forgotten his aches and pains. He rubbed his hand over the ache that seemed to compress his head and found his closely cropped hair a sticky, matted mass.

At the sound of a groan, he looked down the gentle slope of the drainage ditch and saw that Hutch had changed position. Not bothering to get up, he slid down the slope on his backside, avoiding suspicious looking piles in the grass.

"Hutch? Are you okay, babe?" he questioned as he reached the prone figure then ran his hands through the fine gold hair. As his fingers found a lump on the side of Hutch's head just above his ear, the blond groaned again. He slid even closer to the pilot, rolled him onto his back, and lifted the fair head onto his thigh. He was panting shallowly by the time he completed the operation, once more wrapping his arms around his chest.

Dragging his aching ankle, Bodie slid over to the two Americans. "He all right?"

"Think so. He's got a goose egg on his head," Starsky replied. "May have a concussion."

Getting up on his knees, Bodie ran his hand down the pilot's arms and legs. Grunting from the effort, he said, "Think `e's got a broken arm, but his legs seem to be all right."

Doyle was checking out his own legs and found that his right knee felt puffy and swollen. He hoped it was only wrenched and not broken. Taking a deep breath, he struggled to his feet and limped toward the other three. Damn, it was the same leg that had the bullet hole in it. Just his bloody luck, he thought.

As all three of the conscious men were continuing to take stock of their aches and pains, a loud clattering motor noise made all of them look toward Bossy's field apprehensively. Slowly the noise came closer to the drainage ditch which sheltered the fugitives, and eventually an open vehicle came into view. The three were relieved to see that the rough terrain car did not sport a twisted cross. It was immediately apparent as four men emerged from the car that they wore the uniform of the French Military. The men were speaking liquid French syllables and gesturing toward the smoking ruin of the JU52.

"Over here," Bodie shouted to the four French officials.

The uniformed figures turned their attention to the men in the ditch. One reached for a sidearm as he began moving down the incline.

Bodie raised his hands and said, "Je suis anglais."

"Anglais!" The man reaching for his pistol relaxed slightly as he and the others walked swiftly toward the kneeling fugitives.

"Parlez-vous anglais?" Bodie questioned. Turning to his companions he said, "I've just about used up all the French I know."

"Oui, I speak English," the one wearing the shoulder boards of an officer said. "You were the passengers of that plane?"

"Yes," Bodie answered. The other two were happy to let Bodie be the spokesman for all. Starsky pulled the unconscious Hutch farther up onto his lap. "My partner and I work for MI6, British Intelligence."

"MI6. What are you doing with a Deutsch plane?"

"It's a long story and we are in need of medical attention, especially our pilot who's still unconscious."

"Oui, je comprend...I understand." The officer turned to one of his companions and began speaking rapid French none of the men on the ground could follow. One of the uniformed men dashed up the incline and back to the car. He got in and sped off in a hail of dust with a distinct lack of respect for the suspension.

"I have sent for an ambulance," the officer said, moving farther down into the ditch at same time moment Hutch began thrashing and moaning. Starsky attempted to soothe him, while Bodie leaned forward to help hold the man in a supine position on Starsky's lap. Finally he quieted, but one flailing arm had struck Starsky across the face. The Professor had only an impression of a reddish-black haze forming on his field of vision before collapsing back on the damp grass.

After that Starsky was vaguely aware of the medical personnel arriving and getting them all into the ambulance. He heard Bodie explaining something about calling his boss--then he was in a white room strapped to a bed with tubes attached to his body. He was floating gently in a haze of drugs, which finally allowed him to sleep. He had tried to find out something about Hutch, but couldn't make himself understood by the nurses who were wearing some sort of huge elaborate headdresses.

* * *

Four days slipped away from Starsky in a confused array of medical indignities involving drugs, bedpans and bed baths before he was pronounced out of danger and was ensconced in a bare white hospital room with his three companions. He had a large bandage over his stitched head and heavy strapping on his cracked ribs. He spent his days drifting in and out of the light sedative that was deemed needed for his wounds.

Bodie's leg had a large white cast on it. He was dependent on a wheeled chair since his sore hands made the use of crutches difficult. He was still occasionally feverish from the infection which had developed in the dog bites on his hands and arms.

Doyle's knee, as it turned out, was badly wrenched and the calf had only a mild infection from the bullet wound. The doctors, in their infinite wisdom, chose to immobilize it, though not as elaborately as Bodie's ankle. Doyle was rapidly making forays out into the hall and to the bathroom on crutches. The nursing sisters were always returning him in disguised disgust. His outrageous flirtations made no dents in these serious ladies' facades.

Hutch had been the worrisome case, as he had a concussion and a broken wrist. But he had regained consciousness the second day after they had arrived at the hospital in Nancy, France. Now with his arm in a cast and sling, he spent most of his days dozing.

Thus it was that the scientist was startled out of his usual afternoon nap by a quiet, "Dr. Starsky?" spoken by a slight, sandy-blond man in civilian clothes.

"Yes?"

"I'm Major Cowley of MI6. Are you feeling better after your accident?"

"Yeah. You're Doyle's and Bodie's boss, right?"

"Yes. I'm here to make arrangements for all of you to be transported to London as soon as possible."

"I'd like to go to Paris instead," Starsky answered, stiffly raising himself off the pillows to a sitting position. He didn't want to be at a disadvantage when confronting this soft-spoken man.

"I understand. But your sister is no longer in danger. As soon as Doyle reported four days ago, we sent agents to Paris. Your sister is safe at this moment in the American Embassy. We also notified your FBI regarding your mother, and I think Mr. Hoover will take good care of her. Our main concern is that you are well and safe. We will return to London and meet with a Colonel Jorgenson from American Army Intelligence who will be arriving later in the week." Starsky was unaware that part of the bargain for assisting in his release was the sharing of his research with scientists in England.

"Thank you," Starsky whispered, lying back in the downy pillows, feeling much relieved. Perhaps at last his personal nightmare was coming to an end.

"I will let you rest now, Doctor," the sandy haired man said, moving on to Bodie's bed where he stood looking down at the unconscious agent for a moment. Then he stopped at Doyle's bed, forcing Doyle to look up from the book he was reading. The two chatted quietly for a time, then Cowley limped from the room.

* * *

August 1939

Once more Starsky was on a plane humming through the night sky. This time it was slightly more comfortable...at least there wasn't a German fighter shooting at them. It was, however, another bomber minimally modified for passengers, this time an English one with uncomfortable bench seats mounted along the fuselage. The twin engines were nearly as noisy as three had been. The vibration from the engines had his ribs aching again.

The four recent fugitives from the Third Reich slumped uneasily, enshrouded in their own thoughts. Engine noise, vibration, and lack of privacy made conversation difficult, if not impossible. The plane was not just chilly as they had been warned, but was simply freezing. All of them shivered in the leather flying jackets provided by the RAF crew.

Starsky's ears popped with the first warning of the plane's losing altitude. The Wellington was slowly descending toward a small RAF base outside the metropolitan area. Starsky tensed as his ears popped again, and there was a definite noseward list to the plane. Involuntarily he snatched up Hutch's hand in a death grip. Hutch leaned toward him and looked him in the eye.

"It's just like riding a horse, babe," the blond whispered into the scientist's ear. "Once you fall off, you've gotta get right back on." He was, of course, referring to getting back in a plane after a crash. Starsky gulped almost audibly and nodded.

"It's just like riding a horse. Once you fall off, you've gotta get right back on," repeated itself in his head as the plane swayed and rose briefly on a thermal. "Just like riding a horse." What did he remember about that? All he knew was that the terror he was feeling in the plane was similar to the feeling he'd had when Hutch had tried to make love to him in the hotel room in Stuttgart. "Once you fall off, you've gotta get right back on."

Suddenly it hit him. His Aunt Syl had been a horse trainer and stunt woman for the movie industry when he had moved in with his aunt and uncle at fifteen. He remembered her telling him of an incident in her youth when she had been in her late teens and was breaking a young horse. Tina, she had called it, a fiery sorrel mare with a personality to match her coat. She thought she had the mare fairly docile and was taking one of the first rides out of the breaking arena when the mare came uncorked. His aunt had managed for a few bucks to remain mounted, though actually only long enough to be thrown on the hard, unforgiving gravel driveway. She had been knocked unconscious and spent about a week in bed. When she recuperated, she had discovered that her father had been enraged at the red mare and had sold it immediately. She never had a chance to get back on the mare, and she said it had taken her years to get over the fear of breaking another horse. She was positive that not getting back on the horse had been the problem.

Perhaps, Starsky mused, as the plane banked into its landing pattern, that was the problem with him and Hutch. He was afraid to get "back on." He consciously tried to relax and found it was not an impossible task as the plane seemed to slam down on the runway. He took a deep breath and leaned back against the thin wall of the plane's outer skin. Hutch patted him on the knee and leaned back as well while the engines reversed and brakes were applied by the RAF pilot. The plane turned and began taxiing back down another runway toward some brightly lit buildings.

As a scientist, Starsky was anxious to experiment. He wanted to try out his theory of getting back on the horse as soon as possible, and wondered just when he and Hutch would have some time to themselves. There had been conversations about his "debriefing," but the only debriefing he wanted at the moment was with Hutch in a nice, private place. Perhaps that was possible.

Opposite the squat building at the edge of the runway, the bomber halted. The twin engines cycled down to a low growl as the pilot waited for his VIPs to depart the aircraft. The RAF sergeant, who had been in charge of the passengers, moved to the front of the plane where he began opening the belly door. Two more uniformed figures climbed the ladder and entered the plane to help the semi-invalid passengers down the ladder. They began with Bodie and helped him to his one good leg and then up the sloping floor of the fuselage. With Bodie cursing lividly as he was helped out of the small hatch, the other passengers who were more mobile stiffly rose to their feet. Starsky helped Doyle with his crutches then took Hutch's good arm. They patiently waited their turns to deplane. The hatch was a cramped exit and speed was not for the four injured men.

Once the four were out on the tarmac of the British air base, Starsky noticed in the glittering lights that a large black automobile was idling nearby. Major Cowley stepped out from a rear door and motioned them toward the vehicle. While the two agents were being helped into the car, the Major turned his attention to Starsky. "We have just gotten word that your sister is on her way to New York," the taciturn MI6 supervisor commented. "There is a safe house where you and your companion will be taken for your debriefing during the next few weeks."

"Okay," Starsky muttered, taking a deep breath and mentally preparing himself for the grilling. He was reasonably sure that His Majesty's agents would be more civilized than the ones on the other side of the Channel, but it would still be rigorous. Hutch touched his elbow as if he understood. Perhaps he did.

The two Americans settled themselves in the waiting Rolls. Leaning back into the soft, leather seats was a luxury that was exceedingly welcome. The car purred into the night with its passengers still not making much conversation.

Starsky noted that the windows of the limousine were darkened like a bootlegger's car. He remembered seeing the long black cars roaring through the streets of New York, sometimes spitting machine-gun fire. In fact it had been one of those drive-by shootings that had killed his policeman father. Until that incident he had planned to join his father serving the city of New York in a blue uniform.

With a sigh he straightened his aching torso, then reached a hand over to the blond at his side. Having the pilot back beside him where he belonged was very reassuring. The drive continued down country lanes as Starsky intermittently dozed and made silent plans for his latest scientific experiment. It would probably shock the eminent scientists lined up to interview him if they knew the object of his next research project. Hmm....

* * *

Dawn was breaking as the limousine motored down a winding, gravel, tree-lined driveway. The tires made a delicate whispering noise as the car swept around the last bend and gently halted in front of an impressive set of double doors which were opened immediately by a tall, formally dressed man. By this time the driver had exited his door and was opening the rear door for his passengers. He doffed his cap to Major Cowley, who nodded in return.

"Major, I have the rooms prepared as you requested," the tall butler announced. "I have the Americans in the Victoria suite and your agents just across the hall in the Albert suite. I hope that is suitable." His mellow voice was the epitome of perfect tone with just the right amount of deference to his superior.

"Of course, Kyle," the Major answered. He turned and watched the battered figures emerge from the car. "These two gentlemen are the Americans I spoke to you about. This is Dr. David Starsky from Los Angeles, California," he indicated the scientist, "and this is Lieutenant Kenneth Hutchinson of the American Army." Both Americans nodded wearily to the formally dressed figure. "And of course, you know my men, Bodie and Doyle."

Kyle bowed to the tired men then turned to the MI6 controller. "I understand that the Americans have no luggage. I hope it is acceptable, but I have inquired with some of the servants for serviceable garments until suitable ones can be acquired."

"Excellent, Kyle. I imagine that these gentlemen would like a hot bath and some tea. Then I think we can leave them to rest."

"That has all been seen to, sir."

"I'll leave them in your capable hands, then," Cowley replied, turning back to his car. "Bodie, Doyle, I will expect a written report by three o'clock on Friday." He stepped into the car through the door the driver was still holding open. The driver firmly closed it and went to his seat on the right hand side, then put the idling engine in gear. The big sedan moved down the driveway at a sedate pace, with Bodie and Doyle watching until it was out of sight.

"Kind of him. Friday! Doesn't he know that this is Thursday morning?" Bodie growled, turning to follow his partner up the wide steps to the beckoning, cheery doorway.

"Coulda said three o'clock Thursday," Doyle defended, limping into the bright hallway. The two Americans were already slowly mounting the wide winding stairway following a solemn, heavy-set housekeeper. Kyle was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs. They labored up the long flight of stairs together, both leaning heavily on the bannister and their walking aids -Bodie's crutches, Doyle's cane.

"Could get used to this real easy," Bodie commented, looking at the heavy carpeting on the floors and dour paintings hanging on the walls.

"Wouldn't advise it. The Cow is only letting us recuperate here to keep an eye on our guests. Otherwise it would be a cottage hospital in Yorkshire -if we were lucky."

"Yeah, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it that I can."

"Good idea, that."

Kyle had stopped and was indicating a lighted doorway to the right of the hallway. "The Americans are just across the hall, sirs. There should be plenty of hot water for bathing in the ensuite bath." The look on his face indicated he thought they needed it badly. "Your luggage arrived from London this afternoon and everything has been put away. There are refreshments here," he added, indicating a table loaded with food by a wide window. "Please ring if there is anything else you need." The butler then left the room with quiet efficiency. The two agents limped to the table and began availing themselves of the food.

Across the hall the two Americans were doing the same thing. The snack prepared was tasty and refreshing after so long a time spent eating the questionable nourishment hospitals the world over considered appropriate for convalescing patients.

"These biscuits are great," Starsky muttered around a mouthful of crumbs. He noticed that his ears were still ringing from the whine of the engines of the transport plane, and he still felt like he was flying. Obviously he didn't have his land legs yet.

"They're scones, Starsky," Hutch replied, reaching for the last one on the plate as they leaned back and looked at each other. It was great to be alone and under no pressure at last. The idea of the debriefing brought a certain amount of pressure, but nothing like that put upon them in the Stuttgart hotel room.

The two men finished up at the table, then made a quick trip through the bathroom then to the master bedroom. There were two bedrooms, but they decided they would share one, neither caring what the servants thought of their sleeping arrangements. They made little conversation as they found sleeping apparel laid out on the beds, and promptly fell asleep in each other's arms.

* * *

It was early afternoon before the two Americans stirred from their bed. Hutch managed to wake Starsky by accidentally slamming his arm into the nearly healed ribs. Groaning, the scientist rolled over carefully and gingerly levered himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. It took him a moment to stiffly rise and walk to the bathroom. He finished his business and met Hutch headed in the same direction. He had found tooth powder and brushes which he had gratefully used. In a few minutes Hutch had availed himself of the same conveniences.

With care, Starsky lowered himself to the bed. He watched the golden haired man come from the bathroom wearing only the pajama bottoms provided by the efficient English household staff. Patting the bed, he indicated to Hutch he wanted him to join him there. He began explaining about his revelation on the plane the previous night. Though he wanted to start his experimentation immediately, Hutch was hesitant. He remembered the incident in Germany all too vividly.

"If I don't get back on that horse soon, lover, I may never have the nerve to try again. Please?" the dark-haired figure pleaded.

Hutch had no resistance when Starsky pleaded with both his mouth and sky-blue eyes, so with some misgivings he relaxed beside his lover. Starsky found it difficult to lie on the bed any way but on his back, so it was up to Hutch to make the accommodations. His arm was an encumbrance to finding a position that he could manage.

"Hold me," Starsky whispered as Hutch lay on his side with the cast awkwardly under him. Finally Hutch sat up and began exploring the body still encased in the cotton pajamas, rubbing the torso then moving down toward the abdomen. There was some tightening of stomach muscles, but there was no protest from the man lying on the bed.

"Okay, babe?" the blond questioned. "Want me to stop?"

"Don't stop...never stop. Aah, that feels good." Starsky reached out and stroked the concerned face briefly, but reaching up with his hands caused a twinge in his chest, forcing him to pull back.

Hutch lay down on his side close to the other man's hip so he could reach over to lick and kiss the flat stomach. The muscles flexed under his assault as he made his way through the curls to the quiescent penis. The tension grew in the muscles, but there was no protest from the scientist. Finally Hutch raised his head and relaxed back on the bed, the strain on his arm wearing him down.

At last Hutch turned on his side and began gently humping against the firm thigh. He wanted to reach out and slam himself into the man he so fervently desired, but he was still only semi-hard. It was a gentle friction that was pleasant but not urgent.

"C'mere, lover," Starsky whispered. "Let me help a bit." It was awkward, but Hutch managed to scoot up on the bed where Starsky could reach him. Starsky continued the gentle rubbing, but a complete hard-on wasn't forthcoming; the drugs he had been taking were probably the problem. He had been warned by the French doctors that there might be a slight problem so Hutch wasn't overly concerned. Getting Starsky back on his "horse" was the primary concern right now.

There came a discreet knock at the door to the sitting room, forcing Hutch to call out, "Just a moment." Although the interruption was not unexpected, both men felt a keen disappointment and with reluctance, drew apart. Leaning down to kiss Starsky's forehead, Hutch murmured, "Be right back, babe."

Hutch looked around and found a black robe, grabbed it up and went through the sitting room to the door. He opened it to find Kyle standing outside.

"Major Cowley would like to see you and your companion at your earliest convenience, sir," Kyle said. "There is a selection of clothes in the wardrobes. Perhaps you and your friend can find something to your taste until more suitable garments can be acquired."

"Tell the Major that we will be down in about a half an hour," Hutch replied without enthusiasm.

"Please come to the morning room. There will be refreshments there. I wasn't sure if you would prefer breakfast or lunch, so both will be available."

"Thank you. Anything will be fine." The butler bowed himself out of the doorway and Hutch closed it. He went back into the bedroom, to help Starsky, who was struggling to get out of the huge four poster. He pulled the dark-haired man gently to him and put his good arm around him. Starsky raised his head for a final kiss. Eagerly the blond bent down and slid his tongue in the willing mouth.

The two men quickly washed, shaved and dressed, yet stealing a moment here and there to stop and caress each other. They found a variety of sizes and styles of clothing in the two closets. Hutch selected some light gabardine slacks with a polo-necked shirt while Starsky found a pair of brown corduroys that pleased him, along with a tan sport shirt. They were stuck wearing the shoes they had been given in France; however, there were plenty of clean socks. Taking a final swipe at his fine, flyaway hair which had grown out more than he was used to, Hutch walked into the sitting room to help Starsky tie his shoes. His strapped upper torso made doing the simplest things difficult.

"Guess I need a valet," Starsky grinned. "Wonder if Kyle could provide?"

"Probably without turning a hair," the blond returned, extending his hand to help the scientist to his feet. Getting up was an experience that Starsky could do without, but he simply gritted his teeth and stood. He lived in fear of sneezing or laughing, now.

They sauntered downstairs, taking a few extra minutes to look in awe at the house they were guests in. They had completely overlooked their elegant surroundings in their exhaustion the previous night. Once they reached the main floor they had to inquire of a pretty young woman, probably a maid, for directions to the morning room. They entered nearly on time, almost exactly half an hour after talking to Kyle. The two agents and Cowley were eating and chatting quietly, but on noticing their arrival, Cowley rose and came toward them holding out his hand. "Good to see you, gentlemen. You're looking much better this afternoon."

"Amazing what a good night's sleep will do for you," Starsky agreed, looking around the room. Spotting the buffet laid out on the sideboard, he gazed at it longingly.

"Please get yourself something to eat," Cowley invited, noticing the direction of the American's glance. "Then we will discuss your debriefing schedule."

Both Americans walked to the sideboard and loaded their plates, then sat at the linen-covered table with the English agents. The controller of European Operations allowed them to take the edge off their hunger before he began giving them an idea of their schedule. "Tomorrow morning, Dr. Starsky, there will be some scientists from our weapons development department. We would like to you to brief them on what you accomplished in the United States and what you managed in Germany."

"While I was working on this for the United States Government, I decided I really didn't want anyone to have the formula. I think it's too dangerous, especially in the wrong hands. I don't want to work on it for the British government, American government, or the German government."

"But you must understand, Doctor, if you have given an inkling of this to the Nazis, the Allies must have the same information. Your own government has given us permission to debrief you, and we will share the information between us." Cowley paused and ran his hand through his thinning blondish-red hair. "After dealing with the Germans, do you really want them to have this tactical advantage over us?" Standing up and leaning over the table to emphasize his point, he continued, "Make no mistake about this--England and her allies will be at war with them before the end of the year, if not sooner. If you aren't our friend and ally, you will be considered our enemy."

"Now, wait a minute," Hutch said, rising from his chair. "That sounds to me like a threat."

"No, Lieutenant, I am not threatening anyone, but that is how some members of the government establishment will want to view it. There will be pressure to make your friend cooperate at all costs." He paused and sat down before continuing, "However, this is not Nazi Germany; you are both free to leave whenever you like."

"Major Cowley, I was simply explaining my reasons for destroying my notes in the first place," Starsky said. "I think I have seen the error of my ways. If any government is going to have this, I think the American and English governments would be best. I have felt the coercion of the Third Reich--rather personally, I might say."

"But I don't like anyone threatening you, even with the best of intentions," Hutch said, turning to his lover.

"I just wanted to see how far they would go. Obviously not as far as their enemies." Starsky then turned around to the glowering MI6 agents. "I'll meet with your scientists and help them all I can. I did destroy my previous work so it will be an uphill battle for a while."

"You were testing me," Major Cowley muttered incredulously. He sat down then and looked at the young scientist with a certain amount of respect.

After that confrontation, the negotiations went smoothly. For security reasons it was arranged that the scientists would meet on a daily basis at the estate. Starsky requested and easily received permission to have the afternoons free, simply saying he wanted time to relax and regain his strength. What he didn't know was that Cowley had cut his agents' rest short that morning and obtained an oral report on the German adventure. Then, in a quick trip back to the city, the Major had consulted with Dr. Ross, MI6's resident psychologist, who had recommended against pressuring the scientist. She felt he needed time to come to terms with his kidnaping, abuse, and threats to his family.

Starsky didn't care how he had acquired the free time. He had his own plans for the afternoons and evenings. He did have some scientific theories to test out....

CHAPTER TEN

September 1939

Starsky grunted as once again the hard plaster connected with his lightly strapped ribs. His experiments were not going as well as he had thought a few weeks ago. The logistics of making love with one person in a large arm cast and the other with cracked ribs had slowed the process considerably.

At the beginning, having both participants on pain-killing drugs had been another deterring factor, but they had been diligent. At every opportunity they had worked on the touching and holding even if coming to climax wasn't for either of them. Drugs may have slowed Hutch down, but his worry and concern for his uneasy partner had toned down his libido even more. Perhaps knowing that the pressure was off him had relaxed Starsky so the leisurely petting sessions were not really any hardship for either man.

There was discreet privacy to enjoy being together and getting to know one another again at the safe house provided by His Majesty's Government... "safe house" more like "a safe mansion," it seemed. Starsky had been enthralled with the huge stately home, where many afternoons had been spent in exploration. Coming from an American middle class background, he was intrigued with any society that had breakfast rooms, morning rooms, libraries, and other rooms he could see no use for.

"Cuddle up a bit closer." The whisper came from the fair head above him. Starsky snuggled down burrowing his head deeper into the shoulder and chest that welcomed him. He began running his hands down the smooth torso which was somewhat thinner than before. He entwined his fingers in the blond curls below the flat stomach.

"Aah, babe," the blond moaned, as the questing fingers found their target and massaged the base of the burgeoning erection. He was finally getting some reaction, Starsky noted with satisfaction, aware Hutch had been off the painkillers for a few days. He fiddled with the furry sac beneath the erect staff and started to move toward the object of his ministrations with his head when the arm bearing the cast struck a glancing blow to his head.

"Damn!" the scientist muttered, removing himself from the unconsciously flailing weapon. Taking his free hand, he held down his lover's errant broken arm, then began to work in earnest on the now weeping cock. He licked and sucked it, then the balls beneath. He slid a questing tongue behind the balls to accompaniment of a groan which originated at the head of the bed. Then he worked his way back up to the throbbing penis. Working solely on the cock he held in one hand, Starsky attacked the crown with his mouth...it didn't take much more to send Hutch over the top. As the spasms quieted, he scooted back up toward the head of the bed, licking his lips clean of the final drops of cum.

Watching and touching the luscious body beneath him had stirred a bit of interest for the first time in Starsky's own nether regions. He simply lay back and enjoyed the sensations. Hutch was leaning over him on his good arm.

"Touch me...there?" he requested. "Please?"

"Ya sure, babe?"

"Yeah, gotta get back on the horse," he muttered, starting to reach for himself. Hutch brushed Starsky's hand away and replaced it with his own.

Then Hutch dropped his flaxen head and began tentatively licking from the navel down, through the nest of dark curls toward the semi-tumescent penis. It was difficult with one arm incapacitated, but he persevered. He licked the flaring head of the circumcised cock which twitched but did not come fully erect. There was some tensing of the sturdy frame beneath him, but not outright rejection. He moved down to the relaxed balls and found some tightening there. He moved back to the cock and lapped it like an ice cream cone There was more reaction--not quite enough--but the best so far. The "horse theory" seemed to be working. In fact, he was more encouraged that evening than he had been previously. He would still have the cast for quite a while, but neither of them were taking any more drugs--that had to help.

Hutch stopped his explorations of the body beneath him at a tap on the shoulder which meant Starsky had taken all he could. He moved back toward the head of the bed and leaned down to kiss the scar on his lover's forehead. The ugly black stitches were gone, replaced by a pink, slightly puckered scar that gave Starsky's dark eyebrows a somewhat rakish appearance.

The cessation seemed opportune, as they heard a tapping on the hall door of their suite just moments later. Stiffly, both reached for their robes, with Starsky yelling, "Just a minute."

Pulling his robe around him, Hutch, went into the sitting room and opened the door to find the two crippled British agents standing--well, leaning--on cane and crutches in the hall. Bodie gave the Americans a smirk at their mode of undress as he entered their sitting room with Doyle hobbling along behind. Bodie carefully laid his crutches beside the couch where he had chosen to sit and hopped around to sit down. Doyle chose a wing-backed arm chair to do the same.

"The balloon went up this morning," Bodie remarked, sitting forward on the overstuffed couch.

"What do you mean?" Hutch asked, frowning, his posture stiff in the straight-backed chair he occupied beside the ornate writing table by the window.

"The bloody Hun invaded Poland this morning," Doyle explained. "We just got word on the BBC. Guess we got out of that effing country just about right."

"Yeah, it's war...And British Nationals wouldn't have been too welcome...especially MI6." Bodie was now resting back in the softness of the couch.

"Are you sure there can't be any more negotiations?" Starsky asked, seating himself at the other end of the writing table on another fragile looking chair.

"Nah, got a treaty, haven't we?" Bodie answered. "A few months ago the PM said any attack on Poland would be the same as an attack on the Empire. So there's not much chance for reconciliation. The army is mobilizing right now."

"An expeditionary force is heading for the Continent as soon as they can get it worked out," Doyle supplied.

The two Americans looked at one another. It was not their war, but they felt somehow very much involved.

"Got a drink hidden around here?" Bodie inquired, looking at the Americans expectantly.

"Yeah. Some of your boss's pure malt okay?" Hutch asked, rising and going toward the a small cabinet behind the couch. He pulled out a crystal decanter and some glasses and poured neat shots all around. It certainly was a relief to be able to have an occasional drink again. Alcohol had been strictly forbidden with his medication.

Starsky came over to lend his help to the temporarily one-armed pilot. He grabbed up three of the glasses and passed over two of them to the agents, keeping one for himself. He seated himself on the arm of the sofa.

"So how's the debriefing going, now?" Doyle enquired.

"Not too bad, now that I've convinced everybody the Nazis don't have the complete formula either. Still trying to rework it. Stannick sent over the notes he found in my old office and they help a bit." Starsky still sat rigidly upright, but the taping was mostly gone from his chest and he no longer lived in fear of an unexpected sneeze. And he could rise from chairs without the intense agony of the previous weeks.

"Just as well if you don't perfect it, mate," Bodie said quietly. "Wouldn't want to be on the front line if they loosed something like you described."

"That's the problem with the whole thing. It'll kill friend and foe alike." Starsky took a gulp from his glass. The fiery liquid burned what he hoped wasn't a new path into his stomach.

"When are they letting you Yanks head back to the States?" Bodie questioned, sipping his Scotch gently with the respect that it deserved.

"I'm thinking of sticking around for a while," Hutch remarked, staring at the Persian carpet, aware of Starsky's questioning glance. "I imagine the RAF needs pilots, and soon as I get this rock off my arm, I think I can get a place. I have reasons to want to get into this fight." He looked at his lover meaningfully.

"Hutch! You never said a word about this." Starsky abruptly rose to his feet then clutched his chest as the sudden movement caused a sharp pain in his ribs. "Damn it, you should have consulted me!"

"Yeah, babe, I know," Hutch murmured. "But I think it's something I have to do." He rose and held out his hand to the scientist.

But Starsky turned and hurried from the sitting room. Hutch started to follow him then sat back down on the spindly chair which rocked under his suddenly lax weight.

"Guess we'd better be leaving," Doyle observed. "Looks like you've some things to settle with the Professor." Doyle reached for his cane and climbed to his feet. Bodie, too, was preparing to leave.

"Good luck, mate," Bodie said, holding out his hand toward the pilot, who was still staring at the expensive carpet and never saw the offered comfort. He merely nodded his downcast head, leaving the agents to look at one another; Bodie raised an eyebrow and Doyle nodded. Quietly they let themselves out of the unnaturally still room.

Kenneth Hutchinson sat at the table and studied the intricate pattern woven into the lush carpet under his feet. He vaguely heard the door click as the two agents left, He knew they were right║ he had to talk to Starsky. He wasn't sure what to say, but he knew in his heart fighting Germany was the right thing to do. He hadn't mentioned to anyone some of the things he had seen but had to ignore as he crossed Germany. He had seen an old man wearing the yellow Star of David being kicked and beaten by storm troopers. That incident, even as isolated as it was, confirmed his suspicions of there being something fundamentally wrong with the Nazi state.

Oddly enough, even though his civilized sensibilities were offended by the events he had witnessed, there was something else behind his decision. It was a strong feeling that he must fight in this war and do it from the battleground in the air. It was as if his whole purpose in being was to do this one thing. He couldn't consciously put it into words, yet he would have to make Starsky understand. It was within the realm of possibility that his lover would reject the whole concept. He wondered if he could reject his destiny, if his lover couldn't understand his position. He had a strong hunch that he could not.

With resolve he rose and went into the bedroom where he found his lover and friend lying on the large bed, his arms clutching his aching chest. "Babe?" The word emerged from Hutch as a mere whisper.

"Damn it, Hutchinson," Starsky burst out. "There's a real shooting war starting over there." He eased himself into an upright position. "It's none of our business now."

"I've been thinking about this ever since we got to England." Hutch paused and stepped closer to the figure reclining on the bed, hoping proximity might be the answer. "I resigned my commission last week."

"Don't do it, Hutch!"

"Don't do what?"

"Not for revenge."

"Is that what you think?"

"What else?"

"I'm not doing it for revenge. No...that's not true. There's a certain amount of revenge involved...Certainly I was upset--but that's too mild a word. Rage, yes. Rage! I feel rage at what was done to you...that anybody could think they could do such a thing...." Hutch's voice broke with emotion he hadn't released before.

Starsky grabbed the shaking shoulders and pulled the blond to him, unmindful of the twinge in his upper torso. "Somehow, I know this is something I must do." Hutch murmured. "It's as if I was born to do this. I don't think I have any choice....Sounds weird, but that's how it is." Hutch pulled away from the light restraints of the loving arms.

"I think I'm beginning to understand," Starsky nodded. "You have to fly those planes at this momentous time in history." Starsky spoke with a certain amount of sarcasm but knew there was a great deal of truth in his statement as well. Hutch felt he had to fly in this war.

Hutch nodded. "It's as if I was born for this job....Shit!" He rose and began pacing the bedroom like the proverbial caged lion. "I just don't know how to explain it."

"Yeah," Starsky answered slowly. "I think I understand where you're coming from, but it's still a shock. I'm not sure if I can take losing you."

"Just because I join their air force doesn't mean you'll lose me. I'm not even sure that the RAF will want a flier with a broken wing." Hutch gestured to his casted arm. "Maybe I'm being a bit melodramatic. Maybe they'll pat me on the head and send me home to Uncle Sam."

"C'mere," the scientist hoarsely whispered. "I wanna hold you. I know they'll want a pilot as good as you are."

Hutch sat down on the bed and braced himself on his good arm so that he put no weight on his partner's vulnerable ribs.

"Love you," Hutch whispered, nuzzling the other man's neck. "I promise not to get killed."

"Don't make promises you can't keep. Just make this one--that if you ever stop loving me, you'll tell me immediately."

"But I'll always love you!" the blond protested...then set about proving the statement with actions in lieu of words.

Hutch began opening the red velvet robe and licking what he could find of the chest that was exposed around the bandages. It was awkward with his broken arm, but he wanted the physical contact. Starsky sat up, moved over, and pulled him down on the still-rumpled sheets. With care for the arm that was cast, he lay on top of the blond, aware of a distinct hardening in his groin. He began rubbing against the other's hardening erection as his actions pulled apart the dark robe that Hutch wore. Hutch reached with his one good hand for the now nearly complete erection. Starsky felt as if he would come any moment...but then Hutch stopped and looked up into the intense blue eyes, delicately rubbing his hand over the now weeping cock.

Starsky sighed and found he couldn't hold the position over Hutch and limply collapsed back on to the bed. Immediately the pilot raised up on his good arm and began licking and sucking the cock that was finally hard following such prolonged disinterest. He sucked on the tightly nested balls and hungered to do more, but didn't for fear of the one reaction he didn't want to ever see again--that of his lover pulling away from him.

Hutch pulled back to watch the face of the man lying on the bed. The blue eyes opened and questioned him. Hutch sat back on his heels and reached over Starsky to the night stand, coming back with a jar of lotion. He delicately swathed the throbbing erection in smooth white cream, then quickly oiled himself. Starsky had closed his eyes during the process, aware the weeks of more and more touching were paying off. Hutch positioned himself over the supine figure and tried to take the cock into his body...with only one hand it proved to be more than he could accomplish.

His soft plea of "Help me, babe," forced Starsky to open his eyes and recognize the problem.

"How about doing it the easy way? On your belly." Suddenly Starsky felt the need to fuck his companion, no longer wanting to play the passive role in their love-making. He watched the expression on Hutch's face as Hutch in turn took in the change in Starsky's attitude, registering that his tentative demeanor was gone. Starsky grinned and nodded to the blond.

In total excitement Hutch complied with the order from the brunet. Yeah, this was the easy way, he thought, able to balance on both the cast and his good arm. Starsky knelt behind the narrow hips and rubbed the puckered opening, then leaned forward as far as his strapping would permit. He began inserting his aching penis into the longed-for tunnel. He moaned and so did Hutch, both ecstatic that it was finally coming to this. Starsky momentarily mourned the reason for his sudden need to assert his dominance. He might be losing his lover at any moment and he wanted more moments like this before that could happen.

He stroked his lover's tender insides with his cock and reveled in the feeling, trying to make it last as long as he could, savoring the feeling of unity. He tried to get as deep as possible. Then he felt he could no longer hold off the spasms, growling as he drove harder onto his lover's lean frame. He ignored the twinges of warning his tender ribs gave out. Then suddenly he froze, the moment of orgasm so intense that he understood the French "little death." He relaxed over the hunched figure and stayed that way until there came a muffled protest.

Then he slid down onto the downy mattress, still panting from his efforts. His limbs were so watery that he couldn't have moved if there had been a bomb in the next room. Hutch was draped over him on his good arm and trying to stroke his face with the stiff fingers that peeked out from the plaster.

"That was wonderful." Starsky could only manage a whisper, unable to trust his voice.

"It was worth working for, wasn't it?" the pilot answered. "Love you, babe." Then Hutch's elbow simply wouldn't hold him anymore and he collapsed back into the feather pillows.

Starsky slid over to him and put his head on the smooth, white chest, snuggling down and making whuffling noises like the cow had when she had rubbed against Bodie. Hutch had been unconscious at the time, but since had been regaled with the tale complete with sound effects, by both Starsky and Doyle. Bodie had pouted for days after the telling. Hutch smiled and drifted off to sleep. The butler would ring them in plenty of time for the late dinner which was customary for this "safe house."

Just before dozing off, Starsky murmured something in Hutch's ear.

"Mmmf," Hutch muttered. "What the hell did you say?"

"Said, don't `go off me' like the Brits say, before we have a chance to make love without rib strapping and casts. I've sorta forgot how it's done."

Hutch snickered in his lover's ear and heard an answering rumble. He wasn't sure if it was a purr or laugh...he didn't care--he loved it either way.

* * *

"May I speak to you a moment, Major Cowley?" The tall, lean American was standing in the doorway of the high-ceilinged library. The Controller of Continental Operations for MI6 had been busily studying a report from one of his operatives on the war-torn continent of Europe. He raised his head and nodded to the young American.

"What can I do for you?" Cowley asked as the flier seated himself in a leather, wing-backed chair. The flier cleared his throat and looked around at the bookshelves lining the walls.

Finally he spoke, just before the Major lost his patience. "I have decided I would like to join the Royal Air Force. I am wondering if you could direct me where to go and what to do."

Cowley rose from his chair and walked back to one of the bookshelves. He pulled out a book which activated the sliding door to a liquor cabinet. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" he questioned gruffly.

"I think so," Hutch answered. "I want to get into this war. I think it is worthwhile to fight the fascists."

"Are you aware of all the ramifications of the step you are proposing to take, Lieutenant?"

"No. That's why I'm asking you for help."

"First of all, Lieutenant, have you resigned your commission from the American Army?"

"Yes, sir. My term of service was up while I was in Germany. I sent off my official resignation a few days ago."

"All right." Cowley poured two drinks and offered one to Hutch.

"Thanks." Hutch gingerly sipped the fiery Scotch, having learned the hard way about Cowley's private reserve. It was so smooth you could slip into drunkenness before you knew what had hit you.

"Now," Cowley said, reseating himself behind his desk. "Are you aware that if you join the RAF you will have to forfeit your American citizenship? Your government seems to take a dim view of its citizens hiring themselves out as mercenaries and joining foreign armies."

Looking up in shock, Hutch wasn't sure he had heard the Major correctly. "Give up my citizenship?"

"Aye, lad. It's not something to take lightly, is it? Not something to do for a lark. Give this some serious thought. If you decide you still want to join, I'll put in a word with Air Marshall Denning." Cowley returned to the papers he had been studying when the young American had entered the room.

Knowing he had been dismissed, Hutch answered, "Yes, sir," and exited the library. He had to restrain himself from saluting.

Cowley looked up and watched the tall young man leave. The Royal Air Force could do worse than sign this young man up. Both young Americans had been worth the risk of the raid into Germany. The scientists doing the debriefing of the young chemist were excited about his line of research, which differed greatly from their own experiments with biological weapons such as anthrax. He sipped his drink and turned his attention back to the plight of the young woman in Germany.

* * *

In a light mist, the driver opened the door of the sedan for the two men on crutches and canes. Doyle swore as he banged his already aching knee on the protruding window crank. The knee had been twisted and turned for each x-ray by seemingly sadistic technicians. It was a subdued Bodie that waited with uncharacteristic patience while Doyle cursed the unhearing door.

As Doyle finally slid over to the far side of the back seat, Bodie handed his crutches to the driver and gingerly lowered himself to the seat. After closing the door, the driver entered the front seat. The dark sedan left the busy hospital behind. The driver skillfully maneuvered the car through the throngs of late day traffic, heading for the countryside and the stately mansion that housed the agents and their American charges.

Doyle observed his companion with trepidation, then finally asked, "What did the doctors say this time?"

Bodie turned his gaze from the busy streets, "Not healing, is it." His voice was thick with suppressed emotion.

Doyle wasn't sure if it was anger, fear or what. He couldn't tell if it was directed at him or the world in general. The normal ESP of the two partners was cut through at the quick.

"Did they say why it wasn't healing?" Doyle questioned, carefully containing any emotion on his part.

"They don't know, do they. With all their fancy degrees and machines, they can only tell me what it isn't doing, and that's not getting better." Bodie turned to look at the thinning traffic as the car left the busy city. "Might have been caused by all that business after the crash...or it could be that ankles are simply tricky buggers to heal."

The light mist of the city deepened into a heavier rain as the sedan moved down the narrow country lanes. The silence in the car was broken only by the rhythmic strop-strop of the windscreen wipers as each agent retreated into his own world.

Doyle couldn't help Bodie out of this situation. He would have to dig his own way out of the mire...and it could take a very long time.

* * *

Early 1940

 

"Wanna fuck?" Hutch whispered in the ear that was now nearly covered in dark curls. "Wanna fuck a newly made Flight Lieutenant?"

Starsky turned from the tall, heavily draped window where he had been standing in the dark, peering through the blackout curtains, watching a mist-laden London street. He lifted his arms up to cross them behind the neck of his taller lover. "Yeah, but lemme look at you first."

Hutch stepped back, clicked his heels together, and gave Starsky a salute, palm outward in the British fashion. He turned and showed off the neatly fitted khaki blouse which tapered to his slender waist. Starsky whistled in admiration.

"Promotion, ya know," Hutch said. "Flight Lieutenant is the same as captain in our army." Starsky looked at the pips on his shoulder, knowing he would have to take his lover's word on that. He couldn't read the pips on the British uniforms, but he supposed before it was all over he would be an expert in English military insignia.

"You said something about fucking, Lieutenant?" he murmured as he moved toward the impressively uniformed figure in front of him. Hutch's eyes lit up at the proposition. "Let's get you out of that fancy suit," Starsky continued, reaching for Hutch to lead him to the spare bedroom of the flat. They shared Bodie's and Doyle's flat when they were in London as housing during the fighting in Europe was hard to get. Besides, there was really no necessity to have their own flat, since they were so seldom in London. Hutch would soon be assigned to an outlying fighter base, and Starsky was working with the scientists in a secret laboratory away from the city.

Once in the bedroom, Starsky reveled in removing the uniform from the blond, then relaxed as Hutch returned the favor. Tonight was the night, he had decided. No one had fucked him since that last night Hermann had abused him in Stuttgart. Hutch had been patient with him as he recovered his equilibrium, but both were fit and healthy now. Hutch's cast had come off before he went off to train on Spitfires, or "Spits" as he called them.

Hutch finished removing Starsky's shorts and kissed his way up the scientist's torso. He stopped to nibble gently on the brown nubs surrounded by curling dark fur as his hand massaged the rising penis. There was no difficulty now in getting that organ's interest. He nuzzled the exposed neck offered to him.

Starsky began returning the caresses, first licking at a sensitive ear then moving down the curve of the neck to the collar bone. His hands were busy in the short coarse hair of his lover's groin before he tweaked the rising cock gently and rubbed the tender glans near the head.

Both men shifted until they could reach each other's cocks with their mouths. There were muttered curses from both of them as the sixty-nining became frantic. Starsky pulled back from Hutch, who moaned and blindly reached for the scientist. Starsky reached for the bedside table and grabbed the tube resting there, carefully screwing off the lid and taking a glob on his fingers. As Hutch obligingly started to turn over, Starsky stopped him with his free hand.

"Not this time," Starsky said softly. "I want you, Blondie. I want you up my ass where you belong."

"Are you sure? I don't mind if you can't handle it yet."

"It's not fair for you to always play my bottom. Besides, I miss having you right where I want you; where you belong."

"Okay, but only if you're sure?" Hutch was worried. He had attempted this a few weeks ago and Starsky had pulled away screaming so loudly that Doyle and Bodie had come rushing in with their guns drawn. After that, Hutch hadn't wanted to hurry anything.

"Don't talk it to death, Hutch. I think I know when I'm ready."

"All right. But if you can't stand it, don't wait until you're screaming. I can stop."

"I know you can, lover." Starsky had often been amazed the past few weeks at the control that Hutch had shown. He had always stopped and waited until Starsky was able to go on which was why Starsky was sure he could make it this time...just knowing if he said stop, Hutch would do so. He reached for the wilting cock nested in the short blond curls, scooting back so he could reach the half-shrunken organ with his mouth. He tongued and licked it back to its previous size and strength, realizing how much he loved the man. He then lubed the erect cock and rubbed it gently, not wanting to try the iron control of Hutch too soon. As he reached to do himself, Hutch took the tube from him.

"Let me," Hutch whispered...and Starsky turned over on his stomach. Hutch worshiped the body presented to him. He ran his hands over the lovely white ass, and slid his fingers into the pink anus, finding the opening tight, almost virginally tight. He took great pains to open and relax the muscles guarding Starsky's body from invasion. Long minutes passed as he used first one finger, then two, and finally three. He waited for the word to stop which never came. Always before, when he had reached this point, Starsky had stopped him, screaming and crying like a baby the first time. Then, he had been so embarrassed at finding the English agents in his room, he had nearly become hysterical. It had taken days to recover from that incident, the newly made flight lieutenant recalled.

Hutch wanted nothing to mar this night, so he was especially slow and careful to make no sudden moves and to always telegraph his intentions in some manner, sometimes vocally and sometimes with body language.

When he was finally ready to breach his lover's defenses with his cock, he had to stop and pump his wilting erection. It took only moments to restore his flagging interest. He carefully inserted the broad head of his penis into the well-greased opening and waited to see if it would be accepted. When no objection was forthcoming, he proceeded to make short, gentle thrusts. He froze momentarily but saw there was still no objection from the figure under him; no encouragement either, he noted uneasily. But he continued with slow deliberation, until he was completely sheathed, panting with the effort of maintaining control. He yearned to pound into the body offered him, but the trust being given was so absolute that he couldn't even think of betraying it.

"What're waitin' for, ya blond lunk?" The voice from below was muffled by bed coverings and Hutch's own body. "Move, you bastard, before I die of frustration."

Relieved by the admonition, Hutch began moving hard in and out within the tunnel that gripped him. He pounded harder, but never quite without control until he finally froze in orgasm. Then he remembered that he hadn't done Starsky the courtesy of reaching around. He felt around with his hand and encountered only a wet, sticky, withering penis. It was with relief when he slowly slipped from Starsky's body, knowing Starsky wouldn't hate him for not stopping. Starsk had actually come while he was being fucked!

"You okay?" Hutch asked still holding the quiet man from behind. They had fallen to the bed without changing relative positions.

"Okay?!" Starsky whooped. "That's the understatement of the year. I'm wonderful. I'm great. You're great. I feel like I've never been made love to before." He stopped his testimony, turned over and grabbed Hutch around the shoulders. "They're gone! They're buried. And you did it! All the ghosts are gone!"

Starsky pulled Hutch to him and kissed him soundly on the lips. He began to pull him from the bed. "I think this calls for a celebration. There's this terrific pub--the Red Lion--it has great beer and snacks. Getting to where I can really go for fish and chips."

Hutch suddenly was back in L.A. when he was taking Starsky to get hot dogs, and he knew he had his lover back complete. The irrepressible little boy was reasserting itself after months of being lost in the shadows somewhere.

Already out of bed, Starsky was grabbing on his slacks, and humming as he headed for the bathroom. Hutch relaxed back against the headboard and listened to the transformation he had never expected to see. He hadn't realized the ghosts of his recent past had been depressing Starsky to such a degree. He joined the scientist in the bathroom to clean himself up only to have Starsky flip water into his face which called for instant retaliation. The bathroom was slippery and damp by the time the water fight was won by Hutch's overbearing reach and by a final threat to dunk his lover's head in the toilet bowl. Starsky retreated to the bedroom crying "foul."

"Gotta clean up this mess," Starsky muttered, peering back into the bathroom. "Bodie'll kill us. You know what a neatnik he is."

It took a few minutes and quite a few dry towels to get the bathroom back in an order that might suit Bodie. Then the two Americans finished dressing.

"C'mon, Hutch," Starsky cajoled, slipping into dry slacks and shirt. "After all that exercise, I'm starving. I can just taste those nice, greasy fish `n chips."

Hutch groaned and reached for his uniform. Maybe he wasn't so glad to have the "nut" back on track. He would have to start sitting through dumb movies and eating things that should never pass through human throats. Then he laughed at himself as he straightened his tie. "Be careful what you wish for," he said to himself; he had wished for this and he wasn't going to knock it now.

Bounding down the steep stairs, Starsky shrugged into a heavy knitted cap and wool jacket. English winters seemed very cold to the Californians. Hutch followed more discreetly, carrying his RAF issue overcoat. Once on the street, Starsky led him with unerring instinct, despite the gathering fog, down three blocks and over one. There were no lights visible in any windows, and no street lights, of course. Blackout was in effect and had been for months without much reason.

Hutch noticed an ancient wooden sign proclaiming this The Red Lion. Must be the place of the wonderful fish `n chips. Hutch sighed. It looked as though life was returning to normal with David Starsky--or as at least normal as life with Starsky could ever be.

EPILOGUE

August 1940

The limping, khaki-uniformed man shouldered his way into the noisy pub where cigarette smoke hung heavily in the overheated atmosphere. The crowd moved to give him access to the bar, probably mistakenly assuming his limp was the result of military heroics.

"Jack!" he shouted over the din of conversation and the drunken darts match taking place at the other end of the long oaken bar. The heavy-set, balding man behind the bar came lumbering over, his eyes brightening as he recognized the figure waving at him.

"Bodie! Glad to see ya. Wanna pint?"

"No. Where is he, Jack?"

"Table in the back." Bodie started to turn away when the bartender reached out and momentarily stopped him. "Any word on `is mate?"

"Might be. Can't be sure."

The bartender nodded and turned away.

Bodie shuffled through the tables surrounded by uniformed figures and giggling young women. He recognized a scattering of RAF squadron insignias, Royal Navy uniforms, and Royal Marines, all trying to have a good time before the worst could happen. Bodie tried to shake off the gathering depression knowing that at least tonight he was bringing someone good news.

Bodie limped across to a sheltered table with a lone occupant where the loneliness was almost palpable. A nearly empty bottle of scotch and a pack of Players decorated the scarred table, along with an overflowing ashtray. Leaning heavily on his cane, he touched the hunched shoulder of the dark-haired American. The wavy, ebony head lifted and there was dull recognition in the midnight eyes.

"Bodie. Siddown." Starsky waved his smoldering cigarette at the empty chair. "Babysitting again?"

"Had enough to drink, haven't you, Professor?"

"Nah, never enough!" Starsky put his head down on the small table and shuddered visibly.

"Just thought you'd like to know there is a possibility that a certain Flight Lieutenant was brought across the Channel in a French fishing smack tonight."

The quiet comment had an immediately sobering effect on the American scientist. He straightened and bent toward the British officer, "You're sure?"

"I don't think there is much question about it. He landed at Southampton a few hours ago."

"Oh my God. I thought I had lost him," the American whispered, sure that if he spoke in a normal tone of voice it would break like a pubescent child's.

"Got a car and driver outside, if you're interested," Bodie offered.

"Interested! Of course I'm interested. Just how did you find this out?"

"George Cowley has his ways. Want to go?"

"Yeah!" The American shoved some pound notes onto the table and gathered his uniform cap. Even scientists in this war were considered part of the military.

The two men left the pub and went out into the unnaturally dark city. The city was eerie and unreal in its current blacked-out condition. Not a thread of artificial light impinged on the full moon's realm. Air raid sirens hadn't sounded this night, but they soon would. It was a clear night with a nearly full moon...bomber's moon. Bodie's driver quickly got out and opened the door for the two men. At a word from Bodie the sedan sedately moved through the seemingly abandoned streets of London.

"Doyle?" Starsky asked gently. He remembered a rambling conversation with Bodie a few nights ago before Hutch had gone missing. That night he had taken a drunken Bodie home.

"Still in France. Haven't heard from him in two weeks," replied Bodie, his tone of voice demanding that the American restrain his questions.

Starsky and Bodie were both virtual non-combatants in this war as far as anyone living in a country that was bombed nightly could be. Bodie--because his ankle had never properly healed. He shuffled paper for intelligence, he said, though Starsky speculated he was still working for George Cowley.

Doyle had been dropped behind enemy lines to help work with the French Resistance fighters some weeks ago, still seeming to draw the difficult assignments. From the drunken comments of a few nights ago, Starsky knew Bodie was frustrated he wasn't there to back up his mate. At the moment he did his duty to Cowley and Country, however painful that duty was.

Starsky was working on weapons development at a secret site outside London, but Bodie seemed to always know where to find him. Hutch had been shot down three nights ago, escorting bombers over the Channel. Since then Bodie had shown up at the Red Lion each night at closing to see him back to his flat. Yeah, George Cowley had his ways.

"Is he hurt? Are you absolutely sure it's him?"

"Don't know, mate. Just reasonably sure that a blond Flight Lieutenant with an American accent is Hutchinson."

Starsky nodded and rested back against the padded seat with some relief. Perhaps Hutch could get some leave since he hadn't missed a mission since before Dunkirk. But Hutch loved flying his Spit; there was no chance that this dip in the Channel or bail-out over enemy territory would deter him from taking the next mission.

Starsky sighed--at one time he had been the reckless one of the combination; now he was the conservative one, just hoping that they would survive the war. His personal nightmare hadn't ended; it had just taken another form.

The End

After Word

In this story the author has taken liberties with the stream of history. Most obvious of these changes involves an actual historical figure. It was crucial to the plot of this story that Adolph Hitler have an entirely different attitude toward the use of chemical weapons, i.e., gas. Specifically, nerve gas. Hitler never sanctioned the use of gas during WWII. It was a gentleman's agreement between adversaries not to use it. Strangely enough, Hitler honored this unwritten law of warfare. It is interesting to note that at the end of the war, the Allies found over 270,000 bombs loaded with nerve gas. These bombs were never used. The author does not say in her universe that Hitler would use the gas, but he has a slightly different attitude than in our universe.

The other major warping of history was the time of the development of nerve gas. Scientists in Germany actually developed a form of nerve gas in 1936. This is well before the author's character does. I guess this may be called literary license.

These are the major, most noticeable tinkering with historical references. There are others--and probably out-and-out mistakes. For these the author humbly apologizes.

The aircraft used were based on real planes of the time, occasionally modified to fit the situation. Any aircraft errors are the responsibility of the author--not her husband's nor Ellis Ward's husband. Both men were extremely valuable research references. If they didn't know the answer, they had a book that did. Many thanks, guys.

Many thanks also go to Linda, Judy, Jan, Mary, Kathy, and Carol for their support and assistance. Special thanks to Judy for her hours in the library. Special thanks to Mary for her expertise in nagging (I needed it!). Special thanks to Linda who encouraged. Both exercises were above and beyond the call of duty.

Also, my humble apologies to George Cowley, Bodie, and Doyle for assigning them to MI6. Sorry, fellows.

tasha