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Now, I'm not precognitive or anything like that. I mean, I know that sometimes things got pretty weird between us and we seemed to know just what the other was thinking or wanting. I know it spooked the hell out of a lot of people. I also know it saved our lives more times than I care to remember. Like when I had to arrest you on a Murder One warrant when IA was trying to pin your ex-wife's murder on you and for two minutes you really thought I was gonna do it, but then I gave you a look and you gave me a look back and the next thing we knew the IA guy Dryden was handcuffed to a table and we were on the run. But—like I said —I've never known that something was going to happen. Not until last Tuesday, that is.

We'd woken up early, woken up both wanting and needing each other. Our lovemaking that morning was spectacular—special, intense, loving and yet scary. Over the 10 years we'd been lovers we'd tried just about anything and everything. Okay, some things didn't work and we didn't bother again. Some things we did try again—often ending up in a heap trying some of those damned positions. There were things we loved and did often. Things that were, well, slightly kinky, and we only did on special occasions. Things one of us liked more than the other, even things one of us liked and the other hated. That was one of the only two rules between us, babe. If one of us really didn't like something, then we didn't do it again. And no matter how bad things had gotten between us in other ways—no matter how much we shouted at each other, screwed each other's minds up and confused the hell out of each other—sex was always good. Because it was based on pure and total love. It added to the love, it didn't replace it. But that morning it was more than good. It was like the first time, but with all the experience of the years between us—if you can figure that one! You probably could, babe, you were always good at that sort of thing. All I know is, that I knew. Knew that something bad was gonna happen that day. Knew that all I wanted to do was to wrap you up in my arms, hold you tight and never let you go—but I knew I couldn't.

It wasn't just the tenderness with which we held each other, or the depth of our kisses, or the passion between us. It was all that and more: the gentleness of our caresses, and the total fulfillment when you finally penetrated me. I thought I'd die there and then in your arms, and would have done so willingly. I thought I'd drown in your eyes. And as for your mouth—well I couldn't get enough of your lips—your gentle, yet totally masculine mouth. Your hair was like silk and your body like corn, you were so beautiful. You always were a beauty though, babe. I don't know if I ever told you that was my first impression of you? A beauty, a ripe beauty just ready for picking, and in the end I did pick you, and you were all that you threatened, and more.

I held on to you that morning, as though I'd never let you go. I clung to you, begged you with everything—but words—not to get up, not to get out of bed and walk out the door. I know you read it in my eyes, in my frantic holding, in my caresses, in my total supplication, but you didn't stay—couldn't. We couldn't. I didn't let you out of my sight from that moment. I followed you into the bathroom, watched you pee, shave, brush your teeth, shower, dry yourself. I kept you there talking to me, made you stay until I'd done too. Then I watched you dress, brush your hair, watched you pick up that big gun of yours. Hands caressing it, almost like they'd caressed me less than an hour before. Finally, you added the leather jacket I'd bought you—the one you loved. Then before you could open the door for us to leave, I was across the room and you were in my arms and we were kissing again, kissing and stroking each other as though we'd never stop.

You held on to me, I guess you had picked up some of my tension and fear—you've always been good at that. You just held me and murmured all sorts of silly things into my hair—your voice making love to me all over again. That voice that was so gentle with me, yet could be so cold and cutting, so full of hate and sarcasm on the street, so violent at times. But not with me. With me it was loving, full of passion. For me your voice changed and became for my ears only.

I tried to get you back into the bedroom. I tried everything I knew, touched you just enough to excite you without bringing you off, but you wouldn't. In the end I begged you with words said, "Let's call in sick, babe. We ain't pulled a sickie for ages."

But you just looked at me, your eyes burning into my very soul, and said in that gentle, loving tone of yours, "Wish we could, Starsk, I really wish we could—but Dobey'd never believe us. It's the 'big day' today. We have to go in. But don't worry, sweetheart." You didn't call me that very often, only when you knew I needed something more than, Starsk or babe or lover. "Don't worry, I promise I'll make it up to you later—I promise."

You finally pulled away then, and gave me one last kiss and made me go out the door. Out of the door, down the front steps and to the car. Your left eyebrow went up a mile when I threw the keys to you and moved to the passenger side. Your eyes searched my face and you sort of frowned. Don't know why I wanted you to drive. I just knew that I had to watch you, and I couldn't do that while driving—it made you too nervous. I sat closer to you that morning than normal. Usually on the way to work we kept pretty much to out own side of the car—but not that morning. If I could have sat on your lap, I think I would have. But I did put my hand on your knee—I'd always done that a lot—and you covered it with your hand. Oh, you didn't keep your hand there the whole time, you never really liked driving with one hand—certainly not in the heavy rush hour traffic.

We got caught up in that traffic that day and a few truck drivers glanced down and saw me so close, with my hand on you. Glanced once and then again—I didn't care, didn't move it. Again you looked at me, questioningly, but you didn't say anything. You didn't make me move my hand. Instead you covered it, and even once picked it up and brushed your lips against it, just teasing it with your moustache. That damned moustache—never knew if I loved it or hated it—you could make it do things that no self-respecting moustache should ever do.

We slapped the mars light on the roof and hit the siren in the end, because we were wary of being too late, and not having Dobey believe us about the traffic—he didn't always. Well, we pulled the stunt a bit too often for him to believe us anymore. Not that we were really bothered about Dobey; he bitched because he had to, but he didn't really mind. He knew us well enough to know that when it mattered, we were there. Nah, it was that bastard Simonetti that made us both know we had to get into work in fair time. The thought of Simonetti just waiting for us to over-step the mark, just waiting to catch us in a clinch, catch us out. We knew that it was him that had insisted that we were in raid. Guess I wasn't surprised, after all the bad guys were meant to be a gang of gay dope pushers! Figures! He knew he'd never prove we were lovers—and anyway it didn't matter now, gays were allowed on the force—but he'd try anything and everything to do it. Which is why we were the chosen ones for the stakeout! Can't remember just how Simonetti had got involved in this one—not the usual IA thing—oh yeah, he was on a temporarily detail and was running this thing, part of his training for his new post as Captain, I seem to recall! Guess even IA got fed up with the bastard.

The traffic did its best to move out of our way—Angelinos aren't that bad when it comes to a cop car—not that it was that easy. But we managed to move in and out of lanes—I almost wished I'd been driving, but I kept watching you instead. We canned the light and siren in good time before getting to the station and you slowed down to a sedate speed—always within the limit for you, not me—I took it to the limit all the time. There was a car parked in our 'usual' space and I know you were waiting for me to gripe about it—but I didn't. Just glad in a way because it gave me a few more minutes alone with you in the car. You drove down into the parking lot and finally found a space. The silence after you turned of the engine was deafening, but still I didn't move. Finally you said, "We'd better go in."

"Yeah, I guess so." I still didn't move.

"Come on, Starsk, give me my knee back." You gave my hand one final quick squeeze and got out of the car. I followed you into the station, walking just that bit closer to you than usual, watching your every move. I wanted to hold on to this moment, hold on to this day, hold on to my memories.

Dobey, as predicted, bitched when we got to his office. Something about alarm clocks and late nights, but it wasn't with his usual asperity. Learned a lot of long words from you over the years, babe. He accepted the story about the traffic—well it was true—and just told us to get our butts back into the squad room. Apparently Simonetti was going to be late too! I thought about asking whose bed he'd been in, but the words didn't come. Instead I followed you out of Dobey's office and then out of the squad room, into the hall to the coffee machine. Didn't usually do that, usually one of us fetched coffee for us both. If you noticed anything odd you didn't say so, just gave me a faint smile as though you were glad that I was with you. I even followed you an hour later when you went to the men's room.

You did look a bit exasperated at this and hissed, "Starsky, where are you going?"

"I need to pee." I said.

"Really." There was just a hint of sarcasm in your voice as you opened the door to the first floor washroom. Not many people used that one, preferring not to walk up the stairs. "Well I need to go, and you aren't following me in there."

"I ain't following you anywhere," I said indignantly.

"Really." That word again. Did I ever tell you just how many different ways you used that word? How I used to love to count the different nue . . . What was that word? Different emphasis you used. How anyone could make one word sound so different is beyond me, but you did. We stood there staring at each other for a long moment—what anyone would have thought if they'd walked in, I don't want to think. Then you said, "For someone who claims he needs to pee, you aren't doing much about it—urinal's over there in case you've forgotten." I still didn't move—but then neither did you. Finally you said, "What are you waiting for Starsk? Need a hand?"

It was on the tip of my tongue to say yes, to call your bluff, to see if you'd do it. You had before—plenty of times—in the hospital, when I was sick or too drunk to aim straight, and then sometimes in our fun moments as a pre-lovemaking game. Never was too sure how that one started. We'd tried most of the stuff in gay sex books, so guess this one was a natural thing to try. Seem to remember it happened one night when we were playing our, 'what's your favorite new fantasy' game. You'd already had your turn and confessed that you really wanted to watch me jerk myself off. Don't know why you'd never mentioned it before—it wasn't odd.

Then it was my turn—so I told you what I wanted. You went sort of quiet for a moment, and your eyes took on that look they got when you were thinking hard. I launched into stammering apology, saying that I'd disgusted you and all that sort of thing. I even tried to blame the beer, and I knew that I was turning bright red. But as always, you just took me in your arms and made it all okay. You said that of course you weren't disgusted—you never would be disgusted with anything I suggested. You said that was what being lovers was all about—suggesting, sharing and trying out each other's fantasies. You even told me that you weren't too sure that I'd want to go along with your fantasy—but then you'd always had this weird, sheltered upbringing. I'd seen several guys jerk off, nothing sexual between us, but it was the sort of thing me and my pals did when growing up—see who could get there first. Odd, that when you first start doing that sort of thing you want to be so quick—sort of 'look at what I can do'. But once you start doing it with someone else, you just want to hold it out for as long as you can. Humans are so weird!

You went on to say that you were just a bit surprised. That although you'd held me before—and I'd held you—you'd never thought of it in any sort of sexual way, it was just a natural function. You asked me where I'd come across it, and I showed you the bit in one of the books. Then had to sit and watch you read the whole damn thing through, after which you asked just how far I wanted to go. That threw me for a bit. I didn't know, hadn't thought that far. I knew that I wanted to watch you pee—watch as opposed to see. There is a difference, I explained to you—I saw you pee on an almost daily basis, and you saw me. I'm still not sure that you ever really understood the difference, still not sure if you just didn't humor me over it. Actually, it has just come to me why you couldn't understand—you see, you always watched me. Not just like this, but in everything I did. You watched me shower, eat, drink, read, and so of course you watched me pee. This is probably why it didn't do anything for you sexually either—well, not much—it was all because of you taking care of me. It was your protective instinct you had, the thing that made me feel safe and loved.

I knew I wanted to hold you while you peed and have you hold me, but that was as far as I'd gone—hadn't thought about anything else. Well to cut a long story short, we naturally tried it. Second 'Starsky and Hutch rule': Never dismiss anything until you've tried it—at least once. It worked for me, never too sure what you thought about it. You said that you didn't hate it—so we kept it in our repertoire. Didn't do it that often, and never more than just watching and holding. But the really odd thing was, that you always seemed to know exactly when it was the one thing I needed. You'd get that dreamy look in your eyes, lead me to the bathroom, unzip me, slip your hand in and . . . .

As I said, I almost called your bluff. Wonder what you'd have done? Probably just looked annoyed at me, and said in 'that' voice of yours, "STARSKY!" The voice that said, "you've gone over the line," or "grow up". Thinking back, I'm not so sure you would've, I don't think you'd have been annoyed. You knew I wasn't being myself. Hell, I'd given up following you around years ago—well almost—unless you'd been sick. Then I didn't let you out of my sight for a few days each time, as though I had to reassure myself that you weren't being taken away from me. Don't know how you put up with me really, but you did. You never said a word, just looked at me and smiled—the smile that you reserved for only me. You even occasionally used to play along.

I remember you once saying, "I'm off to the john, are you coming, Starsk?" The squad room had gotten mighty quiet on that occasion and I'd gotten mighty embarrassed. You hadn't, you'd just walked out of the door, knowing that your faithful hound would follow you. Dobey really laid into us over that one—told us to keep it for home. That was just about the closest he ever came to openly acknowledging that we were lovers. I think he was more concerned for us than anything else, worried that it would get the ears of those bastards that'd take our badges from us. Gay cops weren't allowed on the force at that time. He told us to get the hell out of there and not come back for forty-eight hours, by which time we may have remembered that we were two people—not one. Thinking about it though, you did pretty much the same when I'd been hurt or sick. Never realized it at the time; you always were subtler than me.

Anyway, I didn't say "yes". I just muttered something real clever like, "up yours, partner." Then I crossed to the urinal you'd pointed out, unzipped myself and tried to go. I didn't need to pee, and you knew it. Just like you knew that if I did try to pee when I didn't need to, I had one hell of a job. You stood there for a few seconds watching me. Then you raised that left eyebrow again, and your faint, knowing, superior smile played on your lips and went into your eyes. You turned and walked into a cubicle—not bothering to lock it! Well, I couldn't walk out then, could I? Anyone could have come in—that was my excuse and I was sticking to it. Got a bit hairy at one point when Johnson came in. Fortunately I heard the door and managed to whip my dick out again and pretend to be peeing. I noticed Johnson looking at me—pervert!

"You want something Johnson?" I asked, still keeping up the pretence of peeing. Weren't you ever coming out?

"Just wondering where the blond one was," he said, peeing like a carthorse. He was standing right next to me and glancing at my—er—lack of flow.

"We don't go everywhere together." I knew that my face had started to turn the color of my car.

"Really." That fucking word again—I'd had enough of it. Just as I was about to say something real clever in response, you strode out of the cubicle—like a dammed blond god—and moved to wash your hands. Drying them, you came over to where Johnson and I stood side-by-side—he'd just finished. I was still pretending.

"You wanted me, Johnson?" Your voice, filled with contempt, broke into the silence. Slight pause, then in your gentle voice, "Are you done, Starsk?"

I was just about to say yeah, and zip up, when I stared to pee for real! What fucking timing! You gave me a mildly amused look and leaned against the wall, deliberately watching me. After a few seconds you turned to Johnson again and said, "Well?"

I risked a quick glance at Johnson's face—I never did get the hang of peeing while not watching. The only couple of times I'd tried it, I ended up having to change my pants or mop the floor. Not like you, who could hold a whole damned conversation while staring at me or out of the window—without looking once at what you were doing. Johnson's face was a picture and he was speechless.

You spoke again, knowingly, urgently. "Starsk, watch it." I swung my eyes back to the business in hand. As I did, Johnson strode to the door, not bothering to stop at the sinks—dirty bastard—muttering, "goddamn faggots" as he went. It should've annoyed us, but we both just broke into peels of laughter, which is another thing I can't do and pee—but of course you could!

"Careful, babe," you said, and for a brief, wonderful, second you covered my hand with your own, steadying it. Then you moved it away and just stared at my face—I know it was my face because I risked a glance at you—still leaning against the wall. You stood there and waited for me to finish, then waited while I washed and dried my hands. Then our eyes met across the room, and you moved towards me and—for the first time in years, in such a place—pulled me into a fierce, all too brief, embrace. I think your lips even brushed my hair, but I can't be sure—then you'd gone from my arms.

By lunchtime you'd finished all the reports, and I'd done nothing. Well, nothing except watch you the whole time and keep finding any excuse to touch you. I borrowed a pen, pencil, pencil sharpener—nice touch—eraser, paper. Went round your side of the desk to check on something, anything. Borrowed money for a candy bar and then didn't get it until you stood up and said, "Come on, Starsk, you can buy me a coffee."

We left the squad room and I knew they were talking about us when we closed the door. You strode to the coffee machine, me following behind you—again! But you didn't stop; instead you veered off to the left and opened a door leading to the basement. Once behind the door you leaned against it and said, "Well?"

"Huh?" Really clever, but I couldn't think of anything else. I never could when you used that tone on me.

"Why do you keep staring at me, following me and touching me, Starsk? You haven't been that physical with me around people for years now, not since we first made out together." Your tone was a mixture of exasperation, confusion, concern and gentleness. A hell of a mixture, but one that was yours and yours alone.

"I don't." Another great retort.

"Starsky, I'm not going to stand here and argue with you. What's the matter?" Only concern and gentleness now, everything else had gone.

Suddenly I had an idea—I get them occasionally. "I could be sick, maybe you should take me home."

"Starsky, you are not sick—well, no more than usual."

Yes I was—sick with fear. Sick with love for you. Sick of worrying about you. "I'm hot. Maybe I've got a temperature?" As I knew you would, you reached out your hand and laid it on my forehead. Even at home you always trusted your hand more than any thermometer.

"No temperature."

"My pulse is fast?" You took my wrist, your eyes glancing at your watch.


"I feel kind of hollow."

"You always feel hollow—and we skipped breakfast!"

"I feel pale." I was getting desperate here.

"Starsky, you can't feel pale." You and your damned college education. Pause. Then, "You do look a little peaked though. Maybe you are getting sick or something."

Yes! "You'd better take me home. It could be contagious."

"Starsky, I can't take you home. What do you expect me to say to Dobey? You've got no temperature; your pulse is normal. Okay you look a little wan, but that could have something to do with a very late night, a very early morning and no breakfast. Maybe your age is catching up with you!"

"You could make my pulse race." Stupid.

"Starsky! Cut it out." That voice—the over-the-line one.

"Sorry. Look, Hutch, babe, I really don't feel too good—honest. Please take me home. Please." There it was out, I was finally begging, wheedling, using the voice I knew always got to you. My 'special voice' you called it, the one you could never resist.

Blue eyes bored into mine, searching my soul, probing, asking, rationalizing. "Okay, you win. Wait here, I'll go and tell Dobey. God knows what he'll say. Doubt if he'll even believe me." You muttered, almost beaten now but still not giving in without a fight.

"I'm coming with you." Panic. Can't let you out of my sight. My chest tightened and I gave a sort of gasp. Your arms were around me in seconds, eyes anxious as you looked at me.

"You really are sick, aren't you, partner? You've gone ashen." Gentle fingers went to my wrist again. This time your eyes opened wide, "Shit, Starsk—you're heart's beating like a runaway train. Come on, babe, sit down."

Hands guided me down to a step. I really did feel lousy now, head pounding, heart racing, eyes blurred, a terrible sick feeling in my gut. I swallowed hard twice, the sure indication that I was about to throw up. You were crouching down next to me, my head on your shoulder, and you felt or heard the swallows. You forced my head off your shoulder and pushed it between my knees, at the same time rubbing my back. "Come on, babe, take a deep breath, now another and another." You'd moved to in front on me, which meant that if I did throw up, you were going to know about it first hand—and not for the first time!

I did as you said. I tried, I really tried, took a couple of deep breaths then almost gagged. I couldn't help it, couldn't stop. I retched several times—but it was dry and all it did was to weaken me and make the sweat stream from every pore in my body. Still you didn't move. Well, you couldn't, I was swaying dangerously and you had your work cut out just holding me upright. Suddenly I knew my stomach was going to win. With a sudden force of strength, I moved my head to one side and puked over and over again, miraculously missing you and me—first time for everything. You moved again, kneeling behind me on the same step this time, one arm around my stomach, the other hand on my forehead. For what seemed like hours—but in reality were only a couple of minutes—we sat there. You holding me, murmuring to me. Me throwing up. Finally I stopped and just continued to retch for a few more minutes. Then I leaned back against you, my whole weight suddenly throwing you off balance for a second and I started to shake.

By now you were totally convinced that I was ill—anyone would have been. There we sat in a stairwell, me shivering, you holding me in an embrace, the sweet, sickly smell of my vomit filling the small area. You rocked me gently in your arms, alternatively feeling my head and my pulse. My head was clammy—even I could tell that—and my pulse was still racing, although it had started to slow down. Again I took some deep breaths and you matched your breathing to mine. Always did, guess you thought it helped—you'd have been great in childbirth. Finally I stopped shaking and came to enough to realize that if anyone found us here, me wrapped in your arms—things would be a more than a bit embarrassing. So I moved slightly so that only one of your arms was around me and my head was on your shoulder.

Another ten minutes had passed, during which my head had started to stop pounding. My eyes had started to focus, my pulse was definitely back to normal—well, as normal as it ever was when you had your arms around me—and my breathing was okay. I raised my head and looked at you, straight into those wonderful blue eyes, and I was lost for a moment in them. "Dobey'll be wondering where we are," I finally said.

"Let him wonder, I'm getting you home." My white knight, my protector. That's what I always saw you as, you know. You never let anyone say anything about me—never let anyone push me around, literally or figuratively. They could say what they liked about you—as long as it wasn't in my hearing—but if anyone so much as made a comment out of place about me then you were there. My own avenging angel. I remember the day you had that uniformed cop up against the wall, for his comment about me letting our fellow cops die, after that bastard Prudholm was killing them because of me. I remember the times you used your cutting remarks to embarrass people.

When we first met, my vocabulary weren't, wasn't, up to much—still ain't that good. I was so struck with the words you used, the things you knew—always the right word in the right place—that I started to practice and try and copy you. It wasn't just you either. Most of our fellow cops spoke better than I did, knew more words, and I didn't like being the butt of the jokes. So I tried to join in the wordplay—stupid thing to do. I needn't have worried, though, because you were there for me. If I said the wrong word and someone laughed, you just turned it right round on them—made them the butt of the joke, made them look stupid. People soon stopped trying to put me down, babe, because no one could match the Hutchinson sarcasm or cutting remarks—no one.

The one I particularly remember is the one about rhetorical questions. I've always associated them—well once I knew what they were—with you. It was in the very early days of our partnership, but we were already real close and the rumors about us being more than just working partners were pretty heavy. Anyway, we sat in a bar one evening, with a few of our fellow cops—we didn't usually bother, never needed anyone other than each other—celebrating someone's new son or something. Johnson asked something, can't remember what, and I leaped in with an answer, tried to impress you or something stupid. Johnson just looked at me and said, "Starsky, that was a rhetorical question."

"Huh?" Great, so impressive.

Sniggers from the other cops. Then from Johnson, "Well, Hutch, I can imagine you explaining this one to him when you tuck him into bed tonight." Open laughter. I tensed, ready to hit out—literally.

No need. "Johnson, if imagining Starsky and I in bed together turns you on, then don't let me deny you the image." Sarcasm dripped from your voice. The laughter was now aimed at Johnson.

"Fuck you, Hutchinson." Even I knew that was a stupid thing to say.

"No thanks—I'm fussy." Howls of laughter, Johnson puce with anger. You cool, calm and collected as ever. "Come on, Starsk, let's go—suddenly this beer tastes bad." You stood up, rapidly, knocking the table as you did so. "Oh sorry, Johnson, I must have caught the table, let me help you."

"You keep your fucking hands to yourself." Johnson was on his feet trying to wipe the beer from his lap and his shirt.

"Dear, dear, you really can't make up your mind about me, can you? First Starsky, then you offer me yourself and now self-gratification—tell you what, Johnson, if you ever decide, let me know. Come on, Starsk." You turned and walked out of the bar—the other cops were trying hard to stifle their laughter—me following like your faithful hound once again.

"You didn't have t'do that, you know," I said when we were outside. "You shouldn't've done it."

You turned and your blue eyes appraised me. "No one. No one," you repeated, "insults my partner. Right?" Your were being forceful and protective.

"Yeah, but . . . " Even in those days I didn't let go that easily.

"But what?" Your tone was curious. You were obvious totally unaware of what impression you had given our fellow cops.

"You gave 'em even more grounds." You ask. I answer.

"Grounds for what?" The innocence and curiosity was still clear in your voice.

"What they're sayin'—you know—'bout us," I mumbled.

"Oh that." Dismissed as easily as you throw away a candy wrapper. "Does it bother you?"

"I don't care what they say 'bout me, but, well, you're . . . " Now I was getting red.

"I'm what?" You were really interested in what I had to say.

"Well, you're better than that. You've had an education and all. You're, you're . . . " I couldn't think of the right words to say, so I ended up with a lame, "so good."

"Starsky, I'll tell you what I am. I'm your partner—now you do know what that means, don't you?"

"'Course I do. I ain't that stupid." That's another thing about me, when I get on the defensive or embarrassed, I get angry.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded." You'd taken my arms now and were gripping them tightly—in the middle of the street—as though you could make me understand by physical strength alone. "Starsk, you must stop putting yourself down, then others won't do it. Until then, I won't let them. We're a team. We're a damned good team—we're going to be the best. I've never had a real friend before, but I've got one now—you. A friend and a partner. And partners stand by each other—okay?" Intensity poured from you. Your grip was getting tighter and I knew I'd have bruises the next day—and I did—but I didn't want you to let go. I wanted to stay there forever, just lost in your eyes.

I think that is the moment I really fell in love with you. Took me a few years to admit it to you—or to me—but that is the moment. No one had ever put me first before. I'd had pals, buddies, maybe even friends, but they all wanted something from me first and foremost—you didn't. You gave first, before taking. While I was still trying to fathom out quite what you were saying, you pulled me tight into an embrace. You who'd never initiated an embrace before—oh you'd come into them happily, more than happily, when I pulled you close—was standing here in the middle of the street hugging me. "Okay?" you repeated.

It was one of 'those' questions, but I still answered it. "'Kay. So what does it mean then?" Laughing, you pulled away, and instead dropped your arm around my shoulders and for a few seconds we walked like that, while you explained what a rhetorical question was.

I'm not saying that you didn't correct me, laugh at me even—you did, and you enjoyed it. Made me mad sometimes, but I forgave you—hell, nothing really to forgive. You never did it in public though, well not in real public—don't count Dobey and his family, Huggy, my mom as 'public'. Couple of times, in that year before Gunther, I thought you were going to really put me down in public. You'd been acting odd and we were drawing apart. But somehow you bit back at the last moment. Also I knew a bit more by then, knew how to hold my own a bit better. No, babe, you always were my white knight. That's why I always called the knight in chess a pony, not just to amuse and annoy you, but because it isn't a knight—not to me.

I wanted to stay there forever, wrapped in the arms of my very own white knight, remembering. I knew though that we had to go and see Dobey, that he'd be furious if we didn't explain. Still lost in your eyes, I said, "We can't just walk out of here. We'll have to go and tell Dobey."

"You go to the car, I'll tell him."

"I don't feel I can get to the car alone." It was only a slight lie.

"I'll take you down and come back up." Damn you and your Hutchinson logic.

"No, Hutch, really. Let's go tell Dobey and then we'll go together—save your legs, you've had a busy day, and you're not as young as you were." I was desperately trying for levity.

"I'm younger than you, lover! Come on then." A flash of a smile and you started to pull me to my feet. Then, "Hang on a moment. Be right back." Before I could move, you'd jogged down one of the flights of stairs and came back with a bucket of sand. In those brief seconds my heart had started to race again and I knew my face had paled. Fighting for control I dropped my head, forcing myself to breathe steadily in and out. You dumped the sand over my vomit and said, "I'll get one of the janitors to clear it up." Guess even you knew it'd be odd for you to clear up after me here—you'd done it enough other places. Hospitals, my apartment, your apartment, our home, cars. Odd, I could eat and drink anything and everything—even while watching a really gory movie—and not be ill. But give me a few pills, make me watch an autopsy or make me scared for your safety and up it all came. To be totally honest, I only had to be slightly under par and I threw up.

Most people get flu or something similar and ache, have a high temperature, shivers. I got those but I got sick too. It didn't matter where we were, or when it was—and it was often with no warning! I've thrown up pretty spectacularly and in some very public places over the years, babe, and you were usually the poor person with me. And more times than one got the 'benefit' of it first hand—my stomach was never any respecter of person—main reason I had to replace your leather jacket!

Anyway, once you'd pulled me to my feet and assured yourself that I wasn't going to fall over if you removed your arm. That was a hell of an effort on my part; I just wanted you to keep your arm around me. We made our way out of the stairwell and went to Dobey's office. You knocked in your usual way and we went in. Dobey was on his feet in seconds yelling at us. Yeah, we were late—again. When he stopped yelling, you just looked at him and said in that calm voice of yours, the one few people—especially me—argued with. "Starsky isn't well, Captain, I'd like to take him home."

"I bet you would, Hutchinson," came a voice from behind us—dripping scorn.

Fuck! We'd been so taken up with listening to Dobey that we didn't hear Simonetti enter. I'm not sure who was the most embarrassed—Dobey, you or me. Come to think of it, embarrassment isn't the word. You spun round, white with anger—you are so beautiful when you get angry—ready to reply to Simonetti's taunt. I was shocked, I think, and still slightly woozy anyway, so I just stood there and gaped. I moved a bit nearer to you—automatically—because I thought you just might take a swing at Simonetti.

Dobey ignored Simonetti—not an easy thing to do—and spoke to me, "What's the matter with you, Starsky?"

"Don't know, Cap, I just don't feel that well," I replied lamely.

"Temperature, shivers, headache, aching—what?" Dobey was getting annoyed now.

"Er, not really." See I couldn't lie to Dobey—well not unless it was on your behalf.

"Well, what then?" Oh boy, Dobey was really pissed now.

"He has been vomiting, Captain."

"Well that's nothing new, is it, Hutchinson? The whole station knows about Detective Starsky's weak stomach. It seems to me that you are just looking for an excuse to go home and tuck him into bed."

"Simonetti!" Dobey's roar cut across whatever you were going to say. "This is my office, these are my men, we'll keep personalities out of it. Starsky, if you are really sick—go home. But Hutchinson is staying here."

That did it. Don't know why, but it all started to come back to me, the fear I'd felt earlier. My head started to pound, my pulse rate doubled, the sweat started to pour down my face, and I couldn't see straight—not to mention my stomach was threatening to rebel again. I started to sway and in less than a second felt your arms go round me, forcing me into a chair, pulling my head down to your shoulder as you knelt in front of me—soothing me, murmuring nonsense—protecting me from Simonetti's stare.

Apart from this feeling of dread and the knowledge that I was going to throw up again sooner or later, I was aware that we were really giving Simonetti a show, the show he'd been waiting years to witness. Your arms, your face, your caresses weren't the usual stuff someone showed their partner—not unless that partnership was more than a working one. I didn't need to see Simonetti's face to know that it was triumphant, and at the same time contemptuous. I also knew that you had about five seconds to move, because I couldn't.

I managed a weak, "Hutch, gonna . . . " and then I was throwing up, into Dobey's trashcan. Guess he'd seen me in action before and had automatically reacted. Great, not only had I almost passed out in front of that bastard, Simonetti, I was now puking in front of him. And still you held me, caressed me, whispered to me. Hand on my head, so cool—you'd have made a great nurse, babe.

"I was obviously wrong, Starsky really does appear to be sick," Simonetti's words cut through the air like a knife.

"Can't we have some damned privacy here, Simonetti, or do you get off watching someone who's ill?" Oh, babe, that cold tone, that sarcasm—we'll pay for that.

"You'd know all about that I suspect, Hutchinson." Anger—but so calculated. Waiting to see how far he can push you.

"You fucking bastard, just . . . ." My hand caught yours before you could rise.

"Leave it, babe." I muttered, "I need you—don't let the big jerk upset you."

"Hutchinson!" Dobey's voice drowned out my words, as he spoke at the same time as me. His tone was the one we knew never to argue with, the one that told us 'to cut it out then and there'. "He's right, Simonetti, let's get out of here for a few minutes. Fetch us when you're ready, Hutchinson."

"Thank you, sir." You were calmer, albeit barely.

"Captain Dobey, we do not have time to pamper your men," Simonetti was arguing.

"I don't want to stay around and watch Starsky throw up again, Simonetti—even if you do." Dobey moved to the door and left, followed by Simonetti, who bit back a response.

"You okay, Starsk?"

"Ah shit, Hutch, I'm sorry. Seem to do this to you too much."

"Don't apologize, it's not your fault. Just tell me what's wrong—the truth, babe. Come on, you've been acting strange ever since we woke up." Totally serious now, you didn't even make any addition, such as 'stranger than usual'. Shit, you were going to get it out me if I wasn't careful. "Starsk, you've been following me around or staring at me all morning like a lost dog. I swear to God that if I'd have let you, you would've come into the cubicle with me when I went to the john earlier." You were still on the floor in front on me, so you saw the telltale flush give me away. "Oh, sweetheart." You just pulled me to you and held me tightly, my head on your shoulder again. I always loved having my head on your shoulder, I felt so safe. I never did tell you I actually liked being a bit shorter than you, for that reason. Then you pushed my head up and looked directly at me, and before I could stop you, you brushed your lips against mine.

"Hutch." I pulled back, bringing my hand up to my lips to stop you. It wasn't the first time you'd done that right after I'd puked, but I didn't like it. You shook your head and looked as if you were about to say something. But instead you stood up, crossed to the water filter and poured me a cup.

Bringing it back to me, you sat on the arm of the chair and held it to my lips. "Swill your mouth," you said simply. I did and spat it out into the trashcan. When I'd done that 3 or 4 times, you fetched me another cup of water and held it while I drank. "Not too fast," you murmured. From experience you knew that too much water, too quickly, always comes straight back up again. So I slowed down and sipped it. Then when you considered I'd had enough—you don't let me make any decisions for myself, babe, at times like this—you knelt in front of me again and kissed me. Long, hard, passionate, and at the same time reassuring, gentle and full of concern and questions. I returned the kiss with everything you were giving me—and more.

I was aware that I was started to get aroused. Yep, my cock was another thing I seemed to have no control over—at least where you were concerned. I got hard-ons at some really 'awkward' moments—and believe me I mean really. It wouldn't have been so bad if I only got them when you touched me, but nope, I could get that way just by looking at you, or seeing you looking at me, or thinking about you and your wonderful hands. I didn't even have to be thinking consciously about you! Sometimes I'd be thinking of something totally different, and not even looking at you, and I'd suddenly be aware—or you'd make me aware—that something had come up! Can be very inconvenient. It can be quite good too, and we've had some great times because of my little predilection in the past. Amazing just what you can do in a front seat of a car without getting caught!

Anyway, I knew that I had to pull away from you. Knew that Dobey wouldn't stay out of his office forever. And even if I didn't mind him seeing me in this state—well he'd seen it before, never said anything, just looked at me. And boy did I go red—I did mind that bastard Simonetti seeing me. So I pulled back, with regret, and looked at you. You were breathing hard, and your eyes had that bedroom look in them. I'd noticed over the years, that sometimes when you played nurse or mommy, you got really turned on and—well let's just say that it was a good thing that most of those times were when I was already in bed! Other times I was totally naked and you'd just react all 'professional', as though I wasn't the man who could get you rock hard in seconds. Don't know, babe, sometimes you really were two different people. But back to then. You were so aroused I knew that you just wanted to get me into bed and make love to me for hours—which was all that I wanted too. But I knew that somehow we had to fight it.

So I leaned back in the chair and licked my lips—bad move—you groaned and moved your hand towards me. "Hutch." I hissed. I've got a 'tone' too—one that brings you back on track—one that usually works. It did. You stared at me for another long moment and then, with regret, you pushed yourself to your feet and moved to open the window in Dobey's office. By the time you turned back to me, your breathing was under control and the look in your eyes was fading. Lover had gone and nurse was back! Damn, I sure hated fighting you when you got like that, but fight you I knew I was going to have to do. I could almost have predicted your next words.

"You're going home!" you said, your tone was very determined.

"Not without you, I'm not," I replied, definitely.

"Dobey'll never allow it." I could tell that you were really harassed, because you were running your hand through your hair.

"Then I'm staying," I replied firmly. I could be determined too.

"Starsky, you're ill!" You were getting very exasperated now.

"So?" I shrugged.

"So, I don't want you to get any sicker," you replied and you were now you were now sounding both concerned and exasperated.

"Doubt if there's anything left," I muttered in a petulant tone.

"STARSKY!" you replied, using 'that' tone.

"Sorry. Look, babe, I feel loads better now." What's the odd white lie between friends? "Whatever it was, seems to have gone." I was wheedling now and we both knew it.

"I don't believe you." Think that threw us both then. Straight-to-the-pointedness is my game, and you weren't exactly used to calling me a liar straight out. "Sorry, Starsk, I didn't mean that the way it sounded." But you did, and you were right.

"It's okay, I know you are just doing your worried 'mommy' act." Bad thing to say. I hurried on. "Look babe, I'm okay, really I am. Don't try and make me go home," I said, my tone was now forcefully.

Staring match. Hell you can always outstare me. Silence. Any longer and Dobey'll give up waiting for you go to and tell him we've done, and come in anyway.

"Okay. On one condition." Shit, and I know what it'll be.

"What?" I made my tone non-committal; I was not prepared to promise anything at that point without knowing what it was.

"Tell me what's been wrong with you ever since we woke up." Blunt. Got it in one!.

"Nothing." I was playing for time.

"David Michael Starsky, will you stop fucking me around and tell me what the fuck is wrong with you! This isn't some bimbo you screwed once, this is me—your partner, your best friend, your lover. The guy who knows you, who knows every inch of your body—inside and out—every avoidance game you play. The person who is more than a bit pissed off at being lied to today. Shit, Starsky, if you want to follow me around like a lost dog on heat at least have the decency to admit it! Don't prevaricate and treat me like a fool." Your voice was getting louder, and part of my brain was aware that it must be carrying out into the squad room. Part of me was falling even more in love with you and part of me was getting turned on. Told you it picked some bad times. Then there was the bit of me that was desperately trying to decide how to answer your tirade.

"Hutch, cool it, people'll hear." Not the most brilliant thing to say—but I honestly couldn't think of anything else. I was too caught up in the beauty of your rage.

"I don't give a fuck who hears. Most of them know we're lovers anyway." Well if they didn't, they do now.

"Yeah, but . . . "

"Don't 'yeah but' me. You are still avoiding answering. I want to know why you won't let me out of your sight today."

"You're imagining it." I asked myself what had gotten into my tongue—or my brain—but I couldn't seem to stop. But how the hell could I think when you were doing your rage act so well. That was it—pure unadulterated rage now. Rage, I'd never seen turned on me before. Oh yeah, I'd seen it plenty of times on the street—but this cold fury was never used on me. I thought about standing up. You towering over me, hands on hips, and staring down at me didn't do a lot for my confidence—especially as I knew that look often led to your Magnum being pulled.

"I am not imagining it—quit lying. One: I'm amazed you could even walk, you made me take you so deeply this morning—not a usual thing for a workday. Two: You didn't leave the bathroom all the time I was getting ready, and made me stay with you. Three: You all but sat on my lap in the car on the way here. Four: You followed me to the coffee machine. Five: You came to the john with me. Six: You did nothing for the rest of the morning except watch me and make stupid excuses to borrow things from me. Seven: You've hardly kept you hands off me all morning. Eight: You throw up—twice—when I suggest you go home alone. Nine: . . . " You stopped, unable to think of another example. I thought about saying something—I really did—but your tirade continued.

"Nine: Well, you've just been odd, all fucking morning. Now I only know of two things that make you this—devoted. One:—"

Here we go again, those numbers again. I sure hope you're enjoying the show out there, folks. Wonder why Dobey and Simonetti haven't come in?

"I'm talking to you." No, you're shouting at me, but don't let's split hairs. "One: We haven't done it in a while. Or Two: I've been sick and you are worried about me. Now since we did it this morning, and every fucking morning and evening for the past week or more, it can't be one. I know I haven't been sick—I'd have remembered—so that rules out two. So, lover, either you've totally gone over the edge or there's something awful you aren't telling me."

Shit, you've hit on it—what do I say? How can I tell you that I know you're going to die today if we go on that stakeout? If I let you out of my sight for a minute? How can I tell you that the only way you'll live through this day, is for me to take you home, put you to bed and hold you until tomorrow—never letting you out of my sight for a minute? You tell me how I could say that to you?

"Well, are you going to answer me?"

"Hutch." Finally I got through to you—or maybe the silence from the squad room did—because you closed your eyes and sank back into a chair, barely making it. You ran your hand through your hair over and over again. Then you finally looked up at me, your eyes searching, your face weary.

"Okay, Starsk. Okay. Whatever it is, I know you aren't going to tell me. You probably can't tell me. So let's try and act normally. Let's go and find Dobey and Simonetti and get this fucking stakeout over and then we'll go home. Then you'll tell me what the matter is." No question. No raised voice. Just calm, quiet and determined.

"Okay." What did it matter what I said? If we got through today then it didn't matter. I'd think of something to tell you—maybe even the truth—if not . . . I broke off my thoughts. I couldn't think of that, or I'd be puking again. I forced myself to swallow hard and looked into your eyes. Promise given and taken—as always.

You stood up and offered your hand down to me. You pulled me to my feet, and then just as you turned to go, I touched your arm lightly and you turned back to me. "Hutch. Babe. Just believe that I love you." Intense, I had to say it.

"I know sweetheart, I know. I love you too. Forever eh?" Very briefly you hugged me and, for the final time, we shared a quick kiss. Nothing more than a brushing of lips—but that kiss will stay with me for as long as I live.

"Forever." I repeated a solemn, sober vow.

I swear it was on the tip of my tongue to tell you. To explain what was wrong. To beg you, to plead with you, even to faint on you. Oh, I'm sure I could fake that one, and you'd never let me go to the hospital alone. I even, fleetingly, thought of pulling my gun on you—that's how desperate I was. To hold you to ransom and make you come home with me. That's how crazy I was that day. The only reason I didn't in the end was that I know you're stronger than me, and I didn't want to fight you, or your Magnum against my automatic! Anyway, what the fuck could I have said? So I didn't—and I've regretted it ever since that moment. I didn't say anything. I simply gazed at you, then closed my eyes and finally forced myself to open them, saying in a gruff voice, "Let's find Dobey." You nodded and we left the sanctuary of his office.

The one thing that relaxed me—if only for a brief second—was the look on the faces of our fellow cops in the squad room. When we opened the door, the room went completely silent. All eyes turned to us and people stopped what they were doing—frozen to the spot. You looked at the room and then it dawned on you what had happened. You looked at me, offering a silent apology. I merely shrugged. I didn't care—about your outburst, about telling the whole precinct that we were lovers.

For a second I thought—really thought—that you wouldn't, couldn't, walk through the room. But as always, my own Kenneth Hutchinson won through and we left Dobey's office. There were a few sniggers—I admit—but not many. Most people did know—or at least strongly suspected—that we were lovers and most didn't give a damn. Before, and after, we became lovers we hadn't looked at or touched another man—we offered no threat—we simply weren't interested in anyone, other than each other. A lot of people said we were queer, and I guess we were queer for each other. But I still don't think we were queer or gay, babe; guess the truth was we were bi, because before we committed to each other, we loved ladies. No, what we were is beyond a label. The worst thing anyone could have got from us was to find us in a clinch. And that only happened in the very early days. The days when we discovered this way to love, and could barely keep our hands off each other. We mostly grew out of that—in public at least.

As we passed through the silent room, a voice, Jenner I seem to remember, a cop about our age, who'd been with us really from the beginning, said, "Er, Dobey and Simonetti went to Simonetti's office." He paused and then added, "They didn't hear anything." He blushed a furious red then—redder than my car—and it seemed to relax the room. Good cops, most of them friends—or at least acquaintances—on our side.

Once outside the squad room, you courage momentarily deserted you and you paused and leaned against the wall, reaching out for my arm, "Starsk, I'm . . . "

"Don't say it, Blondie—never have to remember? It's what love means. Anyway, who cares? I don't. You know that, babe. You know I don't care who knows about us—there isn't anything they can do about it."

"What did I ever do to deserve you?" Wonder in your voice.

"Ah, Hutch, you say the nicest things." Had to try and keep it light or I knew I'd flip. "Goes for me too, babe, you know that." Shit, it was getting soapy again, I don't do soapy well—not unless we're alone. You seemed to know—so what's new—and just winked at me and, with a flourish of your hand, allowed me to lead the way to Simonetti's office.

The rest of the day went like a blur. One minute we were in Simonetti's office convincing him and Dobey that I was okay, that I was up to the stake-out. The next we were in my car and on our way to the warehouse. You driving again. You didn't ask. Didn't even tell. You simply opened the driver's door and left me to climb in the passenger's side. Nor did you wait for me to move closer to you, or put my hand on your leg. Instead you broke your own 'rule'. You reached across the seat and pulled me closer to you. Then you picked up my hand and put in on your knee and covered it, keeping your hand over mine for the whole journey. No words were spoken between us—they didn't need to be. But then, we'd never needed words at the important times.

Then we were at the warehouse. We met Huggy outside. He'd given us the tip-off and had turned up to make sure we'd got the right building. I sometimes thought Huggy'd have made a great cop! Dobey and Simonetti—a real big bust this one—were close behind us. And this is where things get real hazy. All I know is that Simonetti called the shots, decided who was going where. You were going to the first floor. Me the ground. You opened your mouth to object, to tell him that we worked together. A team; a unit; a partnership. But as you did, you glanced at my face.

I'm still not sure what you read there, babe, but it was enough to still your words. You just looked into my eyes. Your gaze was so intense—I think you knew then. I really do. I think you read in my eyes that I knew you weren't coming out alive. Why do I think that? I don't know really. Except you briefly closed your eyes, and when you opened them again, I read the simple, 'I love you,' in them. Then I read the silent apology that you offered. Read it, accepted it and forgave.

I locked my gaze with yours, and returned the love and the apology—my apology for not keeping you safe. Then you turned away, and with a quiet, "See you around, partner," you strode off into the darkness. The last I saw of you alive was your blond hair shimmering as you walked away from me. Every bit of me screamed to chase after you, to pull you back. To throw badges and guns at Simonetti, and to walk out of the damned warehouse with you. To walk out into safety. I didn't.

I still don't know why we chose that day of all days to obey orders and follow instructions; but we did. Maybe it was just that we had finally grown-up, finally realized that we couldn't go on being the rule breakers, the rule pushers.

Maybe we finally realized that every time we did challenge, that it was Dobey who paid; Dobey the man we respected above all others (except each other).

Maybe it was just the whole inevitability of the thing. There are many people who believe that we have a set time on this earth and there's nothing we can do to change that. I've never really thought about it myself. Yeah, I told myself that if I took you home you'd be okay, but maybe I was wrong about that. I think that's the biggest tragedy of all; we hadn't got a choice. It was as though there was an outside influence at work. I knew you were gonna die, and I couldn't do a thing to stop it. Couldn't, because you wouldn't let me.

Minutes later it was over. I could tell you to the second when the bullet hit you. When you hit the ground. When the last breath forced its way out of your body. How do I know? Because that's the moment I died too, babe.

I was the first at the scene. You see I'd abandoned my post. I know what I've just said about inevitability, and I knew that even if I went to you, I wouldn't save you but . . . I had to do something. So I went to you; too late, just as I knew I would be.

For some reason the first thing I did was to pick up your gun. I had to. Dobey eventually let me keep it (shouldn't have done, but he did). God, babe, he'd had to have fought me to get it away from me. Silly really, but it was the last thing that you held—big, long and powerful—and I wasn't going to give it up. I think, he really thought I'd gone over the edge when he arrived at the scene, because I sat there, your head in my lap, holding one of your hands, your gun in my left hand. Not letting anyone come near you. You didn't get a chance to fire it, so it was fully loaded and I held on to it as though it was a lifeline. No one was coming near us. They all kept their distance, guns at the ready! Babcock was there. He tried talking to me. Tried to persuade me to give him the gun—I just stared at him.

When Dobey arrived, he made everyone else get out of the room, much to the amazement of all concerned. I guess that somehow he knew I'd never use it on him. Hell, babe, I'd never have used it on any of them. Me maybe, but not them, but they couldn't take the risk. Then he came closer to us, crouched down and turned on his gruff, 'I'm fighting emotion here,' Captain Dobey voice. He didn't say any of the usual stuff. Nothing about how great a cop you were, how much he knew I was hurting. Nothing about sympathy and all that crap. But then he didn't have to, because he knew that I knew how he felt. And he felt it too, Hutch, felt he'd failed, lost one of his sons.

All he said was, "Come on, son, empty out the gun. Let me have the bullets." He held out his hand and just looked into my eyes, saying everything with his eyes that he couldn't voice. I did as he told me—always did in the end. You and him could always get me to co-operate in the end. Guess even I had my own buttons that you could push. Like an obedient child, I emptied the chamber into his waiting hand and then I let him touch you. First to empty your pocket of the spare supply of bullets, and then to let him close your eyes. I hadn't done that. I wanted to keep looking at you, wanted you to look at me. But I couldn't hold on any longer, babe, all that you were had gone, and all that I was had gone with you. Then he spoke again, "We have to take him to the hospital, Dave. You know that, don't you? You can't stay here." I must have nodded because he struggled to his feet and went to the door.

They brought the gurney in and hesitated. Well I guess I did look faintly threatening. Your Magnum always did appear more threatening than my automatic. I didn't even notice how heavy it was, not then. Dobey must have nodded reassuringly at them, because they crossed the room to where I sat—still watching me, though. Dobey spoke again, "Dave, they are going to lift Hutch onto the gurney—you can help them."

Before I could move, either to agree or not, Huggy forced his way into the room, he was having an amazing argument with Simonetti, but Dobey just overrode the bastard and the next thing I knew Huggy was at my side. He cried, babe, cried the tears that neither Dobey nor I shed—that we couldn't shed. He didn't say anything. Just put a hand on my shoulder and crouched down next to me. Then he put a hand on your shoulder too, and we sat there, the three of us linked for what seemed like ages. I remember Dobey clearing his throat once, and when I looked at him, his eyes were full of pain. I couldn't do it to him any longer. So I moved slightly, lowered your head to the floor and finally let go of your hand. I rode to the hospital with Dobey and Huggy—guess they were surprised that I didn't want to be with you. But why would I want to be with a dead body? Because that's all it was then, a shell, nothing left. Nothing at all. I knew that body intimately. Knew it as well as my own. Knew how to please it, love it, surprise it, but it was all just physical. What made you you had fled and I had to go after it.

Dobey handled most of the talking at the hospital. I remember that as next of kin I seemed to have to sign endless bits of paper. We'd made that formal at the time of the wills—just as we'd made an arrangement that said we wanted to be buried in LA. We talked to my Mom about that and although I know she wasn't that happy about it, she agreed. Guess she thought that I'd outlive her, so what did it matter?

Mom, at least thanks to you she'll always be comfortable. Those crazy wills we made, drove the lawyer mad until he got it right, didn't we? We made every provision possible. You were always so concerned that if we went together, your stuff wouldn't go to me—me not being your 'official' next of kin and all—and thus not to my Mom. You always wanted to take care of her, didn't you? But you knew her pride—Starsky pride—wouldn't let her accept anything from you while you lived. So we left everything to each other, and then we made the separate bits. You left a nice lump sum in trust for Rosie and Cal—get them through college. I didn't have that kind of money, so I left Cal my car and Rosie all my records. They'll get both bequests now, hope they help. Then, naturally, I left everything to Mom, if you didn't survive me, that is. And you added a bit to your will saying that, if I didn't survive you by 28 days, then everything you had—after the few bequests—went to my Mom. Then we took that round-trip to tell the parents.

We sat in your parents'—huge—house. I felt so uncomfortable in jeans and leather jacket, but you wouldn't let me be anything other than myself. And you calmly explained to your folks what you intended doing with your money, when you died, and that you didn't want them to contest the will. The contempt in your dad's eyes as he looked at me made me feel so small, so worthless—and in his terms I was.

I remember he turned to you then and said, "Kenneth, I will not say that I approve of your relationship," and the way he said relationship made me feel so dirty, "with David. And as you know, until you put an end to it, you will get nothing from your mother or me. As far as we are concerned you are cut out of the will for good."

You just shrugged and he went on. "However, Kenneth, the money you are now talking about was left to you by your grandfather—totally and unreservedly. I would not lower myself to contest what you decide to do with it. You may rest assured that whatever your will says when you die, I will honor it—as far as the money you have now is concerned. It is yours—do with it as you will. Just as you've done what you want with your life. Now if you have nothing else to say, I'd like you both out of my house. Goodbye, Kenneth." Pause. "David."

"Thank you, sir." Your eyes unreadable. Thanking your fucking father for disowning you. Thanking him for agreeing that you were an adult, able to make your own decisions. In that moment I hated him, babe, hated him more than I'd ever hated anyone in my life. Even the scum that killed my dad.

"Mr. Hutchinson, I . . . " I didn't know what I was going to say, babe, but I felt that it was all my fault and I felt I had to say something.

Blue eyes—just like yours—turned on me. Blank eyes—as if I wasn't even worth disgust or anger. My resolve faded. You simply put out your hand and turned me round.

Then I rounded, still with your hand on mine, and said, "Mr. Hutchinson, you may not like what Hutch and me have. But I love him and I'll always keep him safe—he's my partner." Didn't keep you safe in the end.

Silence, just that blank stare again. Then the door opened and the damned butler came in—didn't even see your dad ring for him.

"Meadows, Mr. Kenneth and—his friend," scorn dripped, "are leaving. Please show them out." He turned his back then, and never looked at you again in this life.

And that is why it didn't matter what your folks thought about where you were buried, since they'd formally disowned you, so they had no rights.

The hospital finally they gave me your personal effects and asked if I wanted to see you again. They said you were peaceful and looked like you were asleep. I didn't want to go. I know what you look like asleep—they don't. But I knew that Dobey and Huggy needed to say their good-byes. Knew that they needed to see you peaceful, so I went with them. You didn't look asleep, babe, you looked like you were—dead. I don't know if Huggy and Dobey got what they needed from seeing you. I never asked them and they never said. But we stood there in silence for a few minutes, and then I turned and walked out of the door.

I don't remember much about the days between that evening and today—it all went by in a blur of arrangements, phone calls and people. Edith was great, she really was. Rosie cried constantly and Cal was quiet—too old and too young to cry. Dobey fought regulations and somehow managed to let me keep your gun—don't know how, don't care. He took me home with him that night and Huggy turned up early the next morning with a load of my kit stuff—including my one suit, just for weddings, funerals and other such formal occasions. I was never alone. One or other of the Dobey gang stayed with me, and Huggy was always there. Who ran The Pits during those days I'll never know.

Then today came, and I stood by Dobey. He'd arranged for his minister to deliver the eulogy. I didn't argue because I knew that it was important for Dobey to have this formality; like saying goodbye to your body in the hospital. After all, babe, he'd lost you too. I heard the words that the minister spoke. All the things he said. But they weren't really about you, babe, he didn't know you. He did a good job, he tried, he really tried—he had a high respect for the Dobeys. He used the right tone, the right phrases, just the right amount of sorrow—but they were only words. I didn't let the Captain know what I was thinking, he's been so good, always was; I couldn't hurt him. But I wished I could have stood up there and told the whole damn congregation about you. The truth about you—told them what you were really like, what the man they were gathered here to mourn was all about. But I couldn't. Anyway it didn't really matter, because those that loved you—me, Huggy and the Dobeys—knew all that already.

So here I am, babe, sitting by your grave in this godforsaken graveyard (because that's what the world is without you—forsaken) talking to you. Telling you things you probably remember. Things I never could tell you when you lived. Even some things I didn't even realize when you lived. So why now? I don't know. Come on, college boy; explain it to me, just like you used to explain everything else. Only you never will explain anything to me again. I'll never hear your voice, see your face break into a smile simply because of me. Never see those bedroom eyes again. Never.

Or will I? Don't know, babe. It's one thing we never discussed—life after death. I guess I was a bit more believing of 'something' than you. I know neither of us went to Church, or the Synagogue in my case. But somehow I always believed that we'd be together, afterwards. Maybe I just can't bear the thought of being alone in eternity. Never really knew if there was an eternity or a heaven or a hell. But I do know now that there sure is a hell. And an eternity. And that eternal hell is being here alone, without you. I don't know if we'll be together once I've done it. But I know I can't live without you. Simple fact, babe. I can't. I won't.

I know people will grieve, and I know there's a bit of me that says I should have done it before today. Then they'd only have to go through the shit once. But if I'm honest those that'll grieve have already cried over me. They know what I'm going to do. Dobey does, I'm sure. The look he gave me when I left his house—been staying with them 'cause Edith insisted—said everything he could never say in words. Huggy knows. He hugged me real tight and just said, "See you around, buddy." So that's that. Mom, now she'll grieve. She really wanted to come out for your funeral you know, but I wouldn't let her.

Your dad spoke to me once today—once only. We'd gone back to the Dobeys' after the funeral—Edith's decision, seems that no one thought I was able to make my own decisions—for the usual 'wake'.

He walked over to me, with your Mom beside him, and said, "I remember a time you told me that you would keep my son safe. It seems that you failed." Your son. Your son. The person you'd disowned because he dared to love someone you didn't approve of. Dared to love another man. Dared to love me. Honestly, if anything came close to bringing me to tears today, babe, it was his words. Why? Because they were true. I thought I was going to pass out, cry or do something equally bad to embarrass myself. But I felt the Captain's hand on my arm, gripping me tightly, and he spoke to your father. Hutch, if you could have heard him. I thought you did contempt and cold fury real well—let me tell you, Dobey's a master. But then he has got a few more years on you.

"Mr. Hutchinson, before I say anything else let me express my condolences to you and your wife on the loss of your son." Formal words spoken, as always, in his formal tone. Words he'd spoken too many times over the years. Words I knew he never wanted to speak about you. That was it, or so I thought, but no, he went on. "However, Mr. Hutchinson, you lost your son years ago, when you refused to acknowledge, first his friendship, and then his relationship with David." We weren't pretending anymore, babe, Dobey'd always known.

Your dad's face had changed from red to white to red again. Your mom was staring wide-eyed at Dobey, as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing—I certainly couldn't. I almost had to pinch myself to convince myself that it was Dobey. On that final note he simply said, "Come on son, let's go and talk to Huggy." And because he was holding my arm I went with him. Never saw your folks again.

Turns out they left immediately after that. I think even Edith made it clear that they weren't welcome. At least that's what Rosie told me as I hugged her for the last time. Good job too, because everyone was treating me as the chief mourner. All pretence gone now—they openly acknowledged our relationship. Cops we'd known for years came over to me where I stood with Huggy and Dobey, one either side of me, offering me the support you usually provided. Cops we'd only know for a few weeks, young, old, married—their wives with them—single, some with their girl friends. All of them came to pay their respect, to tell me how sorry they were, what a great guy you'd been—as if they needed to tell me!

Then last of all—told you funerals bring out the odd side in people—Simonetti came over. I hadn't seen him at the funeral, didn't think he would be—but he'd been. I felt Huggy tense at my side and move a bit closer to me, sub-consciously taking your place. Saw Dobey's face change slightly as he watched Simonetti. I know Simonetti noticed because he swallowed hard. Then he held out his hand to me. Yeah, I took it, course I did, you brought me up proper in the end, babe, and said, "Detective Starsky, I would just like to say . . . " He broke off and started again, slightly less formally, "I'm really sorry about Hutchinson, Starsky, he was a good cop—he didn't deserve this. I know you and I, well we had our differences, I know that, but I didn't . . . " he broke off again.

In that moment, for a brief second we understood each other. I knew he would never be able to say the words I think he wanted to, so I made it easy for him. "Thanks, Simonetti." I said. "Hutch would've appreciated it." Truth given and taken. He nodded at me. Nodded at Dobey and left—saw him go out of the house too—guess he thought that he didn't have any right to be there. With his departure, Dobey relaxed slightly and so did Huggy, guess they'd decided that there was no one left to have to protect me from. Rosie came over then and silently took her father's place—oh, babe—she's a real little lady, held my hand and said, "It's my turn to look after you now Uncle Dave. I'll look after you until Uncle Ken can again." Out of the mouths of babes, you'd have been proud of her—her and Cal. I was. Wish I could have told her.

So here we are. Full circle. It's getting dark now and I don't want to be alone in this place once it is dark. I had thought about using a gun—yours or mine, don't matter which—but Dobey didn't want to make it that easy for me. He took mine from me this morning. And he thinks he took all the ammo from yours. But he never knew about that one bullet—nor did you—when he let me keep the gun.

So, as I said, I was thinking about using a gun—but I want to hold your Magnum for as long as I can, because it was the last thing that you touched. I don't want it to be the final instrument of death. I also don't want any poor person to find me with my brains blown out tomorrow—it isn't fair. So, babe, I'm going to use a hypo. Saw it in a film once, inject an empty hypo into you and it kills you. I don't know the full reasons why, but I know it's true. Easy to swipe hypos in hospitals. So here we are one nice empty syringe. I'm going to lie down here, babe, on top of you, and inject air into me and then I'll join you.

I know you're there, babe. I know you can hear me. I know you are waiting for me. You can't speak, because you have to let me make my own choice. But I know that you are there. How do I know? Simple. You made a promise to me, that you'd make it up to me, and you've never broken a promise in your life, and I'm not going to let you start now. So just wait a few more seconds babe, because the needle is on my vein now and I'm pressing the plunger. Pressing the air into me and in seconds the air will leave my body and we'll be together again. Me and thee, babe. As we always said—together, forever . . .

The next day the body was identified by Captain Harold Dobey who stood looking down at the dark, curly haired man lying on top of the newly filled in grave. A large Magnum still clutched in his right hand and an empty syringe in his left. The Captain closed his eyes in a silent prayer, and begged God for forgiveness. He knew what Starsky was going to do, but knew that he couldn't stop him.

"I tried to take care of him for you, Hutch, we all did, but he was dead when that bullet hit your body. He died the moment the breath left you. I loved you both just enough to let him go—knew that I couldn't live with making him stay alive. Neither of you could exist without the other. It always was the case, long before you became lovers even. Oh, son, I wish I could have kept you both safe—but I couldn't. All I could do was to deliver him to you. All I can do now is to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. And I will, Ken. I'll be the executor you both asked me to be. I'll fight your damned parents if I have to. I'll comfort Starsky's mother. And somehow I'll tell Edith and the kids. And Huggy—not that Huggy needs telling. I'll make it right for you. I'll fight the whole damned department if I have to."

Then finally, in the silence of the graveyard, Captain Dobey allowed the tears to briefly fall down his cheeks. Then he straightened his shoulders and walked from the graveyard to make the telephone call. Knowing that he did not believe that death was the end.