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Part 2



"Hi ya," Starsky greeted as he moved into the living room. He took off his jacket and began unsnapping his shoulder harness.

Then he froze when he saw that Hutch was staring at him. "What's wrong?"

Hutch held out the calendar and hissed, "What is this?"

"Huh?" Starsky moved to the kitchen, eyes shifting between his partner and the item in his hands. "What do you mean, 'What's this'?" A quality of nervousness betrayed his otherwise casual tone.

Large hands rapidly flipped through the pages. "What is this, buddy? Huh? Just counting off days until your mother's birthday? Or is there something else going on?" He tossed the calendar onto the counter with such force that it tumbled to the floor.

Slowly, with his eyes averted, Starsky squatted down and picked it up. Brusquely, he whispered, "What do you mean?"

But Hutch saw the look in his eye, the one that told of having been found out. Still, the blond's anger was just as raw. "I may have gotten roughed up, partner, but my brain is still intact. You think I don't know what that is?" he demanded as he pointed to the date when it all began. Then, sarcastically, "Or is it just the most incredible coincidence that you started crossing off days at the same time I said that we should consummate our feelings for each other?"

Starsky stood. Gaze still averted, he said something too softly to be heard.

"What?" Hutch demanded, feeling hot air release through his nostrils.

Starsky swallowed. "It's not coincidence," he admitted meekly.

Hutch was pleading now, for his partner still wouldn't look at him. "Starsk, what do all the days since then mean? What do they stand for?"

The other took a deep breath and placed the calendar on the counter. "I don't know," he said, moving toward the living room.

"You don't know?" Hutch asked in disbelief, following him. "You've been marking off days for the past three months for reasons you don't know?"

Starsky sat heavily in a chair, shoulders slumped. He covered his face with his hands, moving his head back and forth.

Concern softened the blond's voice as he took a step toward his partner. "Starsk?"

The other drew his hands away in a deliberate gesture. Then he straightened. "I guess....." He let out a breath and finally met Hutch's eye. "I guess you could say...," now a wry smile, "... they're all the days I've been saving myself for you."

The blond 's heart thundered with disbelief -- and hope. "What?"

"Ah, Hutch." Starsky closed his eyes briefly, then opened them. "I guess maybe it's time I faced a few things."

The anger was gone, his partner's hesitancy pulling at his compassion. Yet... "Starsky," Hutch noted earnestly, "you're the last person in the world to hide things from yourself. You've always known what you want." He took a careful breath before continuing. "When you said 'no' it meant 'no', right?"

"Of course, it did." Another wry smile. "Hutch, I meant all those things I said then. About how you were wanting to do it for the wrong reasons." His brows furrowed thoughtfully. "It's just...."

"Just what?"

Starsky examined his fingertips. "It's just that... well... I guess I've sort of been enjoyin' it." He ducked his head. "You know, like havin' your cake and eating it, too."

Hutch shook his head. "No, I don't know."

"Well...," a lame shrug, "I guess, in a way, it was like I really liked that you loved me that much... to want to go against -- however you want to say it -- your normal heterosexual tendencies, or whatever. But at the same time, I didn't have to risk anything. So, I guess it was sort of like the best of both worlds."

Hutch closed his eyes and shook his head. He hadn't expected this. Hadn't expected it at all. He had so completely believed Starsky when the other rejected the idea outright that he hadn't allowed himself to pursue it any longer, even in his most private thoughts.

"Honest, Hutch, I didn't realize it at the time. I never would have misled you like that. But," Starsky's voice softened with the wonder of discovery, "I guess I was misleading myself. 'Cause I was havin' a hard time dealing with the whole idea." Hesitantly, he asked, "You been with anyone since then?"

Hutch shook his head, his tone distant for he was puzzled by the question. "No. I haven't been interested."

"I haven't, either," Starsky admitted. "Guess that says something, huh?"

Hutch started to speak, then stopped himself. It seemed as though Starsky was changing his answer, and yet the other hadn't actually come out and said it. An edge of frustration showed in his voice as he replied, "I don't know. Does it?"

Starsky looked uncomfortable. "The whole idea is just so far out in left field."

Gentleness washed through Hutch, pushing everything else aside. "What is it that scares you so much?"

The other looked up then, eyes wide with exasperation. "Everything, Hutch! I mean, what if we start playin' around or whatever and then you decide you want to go back to women? What if I'm not very good at it and mess it all up? If we have a problem with each other, then who the hell are we supposed to turn to?"

Those fears were sincere, genuine. Yet, Hutch found a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "What do you mean, mess it all up? We've had a pretty good partnership for seven or eight years now, buddy. I'm not sure that sleeping together would change it all that drastically." He couldn't believe they were speaking like this... that this might actually be the turning point.

Starsky rested his elbows on his knees. "Hutch, we start makin' it together...." He trailed off, then tried again. "I don't think, you know, that I could handle, like, an open relationship." He took a deep breath, as though struggling for courage. "If we go that far, it's gotta be for real. I mean, it'd be a big risk. We... It can't just be like... like an experiment."

Ah, Starsk. "Buddy, if you'd let me finish that one night, however many months ago, you would know I had a lot more in mind than just 'experimenting'. I wouldn't want to toy with the friendship we've built any more than you. It's too important."

"But," Starsky hesitated, "what if... like... I'm not very good at it. You know, if...."

A thought occurred to Hutch just then, and his voice softened even more. "Buddy, is it the physical part that scares you?"

The other drew a deep, defensive breath. "Well, it's not exactly the most natural thing, you know. Everything would feel different than what we're used to."

Hutch felt a warm spot develop in his chest. His partner wasn't articulating very well, but the blond had a lot of experience in reading between this particular man's lines. He moved to the chair in two long strides, kneeling before the other. "Starsky, all you had to do was say something. I'm not going to push you to do anything you don't want to do. As far as I'm concerned," he touched his own chest, "anything goes. But whatever limits you want to set for your own comfort level, I'll respect. We'll take it as slow and as careful as you like... as either of us needs." He realized, just then, how ridiculous this conversation was. How pointless. He stood and turned away.

"What's wrong?" came the worried voice behind him.

Hutch didn't turn as he snorted at the irony. Then, jaw firm, "You don't need to be afraid of anything I might want to do." His head hung. "I'm harmless."

There was a moment of silence, then he heard the other delicately ask, "You mean...?"

He turned then. Starsky was looking up at him with that open, concerned expression that always made Hutch feel as if he was the only person in the world who mattered. Wryly, he declared, "I couldn't get it up if our relationship depended on it."

"Our relationship doesn't depend on it," Starsky said quickly.

Hutch leaned back against the kitchen counter. "I know."

"Hutch, surely it's just a temporary thing. I mean, you've been through a lot the past coupla weeks."

The blond could only shrug, for he didn't know if the offered explanation was valid or not.

Starsky rose to his feet. "All right, look. I - I think I've changed my mind. I mean, I know I've changed my mind. I wanna try it with you." He seemed to think he needed to clarify it in a stronger manner. "Ah, damn it, Hutch, you're everything to me. I guess I realized that more than ever when I was on that trip. You're... home. Where I belong. And like you tried to point out that one day, I guess it just makes sense that if we're going to be everything else to each other, we may as well sleep with each other, too. Probably keep us both a lot happier."

It certainly wasn't the most romantic declaration. But it was all Starsky. Hutch closed his eyes, wanting to imprint the moment on his brain.

Soft footsteps approached. Then hands were on his arms, gently squeezing. "Forgive me?"

Hutch opened his eyes, puzzlement dominating his tone. "For what?" The other's orbs were regarding him intently, and he wanted to answer their every plea.

Starsky swallowed but didn't look away. "For not bein' able to... accept that I wanted it, too."

Hutch blinked, feeling tenderness spread through him. "Like you said, pal, it'll be quite a bit different from what we're used to." He reached up and brushed a thumb along a furrowed brow. "Hopefully better."

The deep blue eyes sparkled back at him. "Yeah."

He had it all now. Everything he wanted. Yet, for all his heart's expansion, Hutch couldn't feel anything develop farther down. He looked away. "What happens now?"

Through the corner of his eye, he saw the other shrug. "Let's just wait and... see how it goes. Wait until you're feelin' better. I mean, maybe it's just as well that you're out of commission right now. It'll give us a chance to get used to the idea."

Hutch look at his partner and, putting his hands on Starsky's shoulders, smiled down at those eyes that were regarding him so expectantly. There was still a little fear there, he could see, and it made him all the more resolved to be careful and patient each step along the way.

And Step One?

Hutch slowly bent his head. Just before he closed his eyes, he saw Starsky point his mouth up. He touched his lips to the other's, barely pressed, then pulled back. The thought of continuing was appetizing... but would it be insensitive on his part, for he knew there was nothing wrong with his partner's virility.

Starsky took a deep breath and clasped Hutch's hand, leading him away from the counter. "Don't know how I'm going to explain this to Mom," he said in a tone of mock dread.

Hutch chuckled as he followed, glad to lighten the mood. He was encouraged to sit in the chair Starsky had occupied, the latter now kneeling on the floor in front of it. "She'll get over it in a hurry." Voice softening, he noted, "She loves you, Starsky."

"I know," Starsky admitted sheepishly, showing the discomfort of an adolescent who had grown too old for his mother's kisses.

Hutch put his hand in his partner's hair, stroked back through the curls. Starsky grinned and Hutch couldn't help but lean down, lips ready.

It lasted a little longer this time, seemed a little more natural. After they pulled apart, Starsky leaned forward to slide his arms around Hutch, then froze.

"It's okay," the blond said, glad that -- finally -- it was.

"The stitches are out?" Starsky asked.

"Yeah. Took a long time, but they got them all out."

"Can I see?"

"Sure." Hutch pulled at his shirttail until it was free of his jeans, then helped his partner lift the material. It didn't bother him to have Starsky see the scars. After all, Starsky was more familiar with those wounds than anyone else. Even Hutch himself had only seen the sutures by looking over his shoulder into a mirror, and therefore he hadn't been able to see the fine details up close.

When the shirt was high enough, Starsky got up and leaned over the arm of the chair. Hutch bent forward and a moment later he felt gentle fingers trace up and down the texture there.

"How does it feel?"

"Itches now and then." In fact, Hutch reached back now and rubbed at a couple of the streaks.

"That'll get better with time," Starsky assured.

Hutch straightened and his partner moved as if to sit on the arm of the chair. But Hutch pulled Starsky toward him, and the other fell into his lap.

Starsky grinned and put his arms around the blond's neck, his head resting against Hutch's. "Ah, man, this is gonna be somethin'. Just the two of us."

Hutch chuckled softly, loving the warmth, one arm around Starsky's waist, the other resting on his knee.

"Hutch, I'm really sorry for dragging it out like I did. It's not what -- "

"You had your reasons," Hutch interrupted gently. "You just had to work them out in your own way."

"Well," Starsky admitted hesitantly, "I'm not sure I would have come around on my own. But comin' home and seeing you holding that calendar and so upset...."

"I wasn't sure what it meant," Hutch explained in a quieter tone. "I wasn't sure if... you know... you may have been marking days since the day that -- in your mind -- I betrayed you. Or showed myself to be someone other than who you thought."

"I wasn't sure what it meant, either. I just know I had an urge to keep track. And, you know what, Hutch?" Starsky raised his head.


"It's not like, that day, I thought you had turned into somebody else. It's just that I thought -- "

"I was confused about what I wanted," Hutch finished. "Yeah, I know, I've heard that speech plenty."


Hutch held him closer. "Don't be. It's okay now. Or it will be." He hoped he sounded convinced. In truth, he had no idea what the origin of his problem was. He hoped, as Starsky suggested, it was just because of everything he had been through.

"Wanna start sleepin' together again?"

Hutch felt his heart beat a little faster. "I've missed you the last few nights. Got used to you being there."

"That means 'yes' then?" Starsky teased.

"Yes," Hutch chuckled softly, "it means yes." Then he sobered, thinking of what Starsky might want. "As long as... you don't think you'll get too frustrated, being close but not being able to do anything."

"No different than those other nights," Starsky reasoned. "I didn't get frustrated then. I just liked... bein' close."

"I know. But that was before --"

Starsky kissed his forehead. "I don't think things are really gonna be all that different."

Hutch nodded gratefully. Softly, he said, "I want to please you, pal. I want to be able to make you feel good and glad to be alive. Glad that you are who you are."

"That's a proposition I'll accept," Starsky said with a grin. Just then, his stomach rumbled.

Hutch said, "Guess I have to get you fed before I can take you to bed."

"Wanna go out? Have a romantic dinner? To, like, celebrate a beginning?"

Hutch really liked where they were right now. He wished they could sit in this chair forever. Instead, he straightened and when Starsky did too, he ducked his head and captured the other's lips. And he didn't want to let go, for it made his heart feel so nice within his chest.

When they pulled back Starsky let out a deep breath. "You're damn good at that, blondie. Now I know why I've kept you around all these years."

* * *

"Starsky, Hutchinson."

Both men looked up from their table in the squad room.

The captain jerked his head toward his office. "In here."

They looked at each other, for the captain's expression was grim, then moved to obey.

Once they were seated, Dobey began, "I just got a call from the morgue up in Sequoia County. A woman there, a...," he consulted a note on his desk, "Miss Thompson... has identified the two perpetrators." He eyed Hutch so there would be no doubt as to which 'perpetrators' he meant. "They were her brothers."

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, both mouths open in surprise. Finally, the shorter man whispered, "Does she know why they did it?"

"The coroner didn't say. But she's going to stop by Bakersfield to talk to the police there, and then she's going to come here and tell us whatever she knows." Dobey looked at the blond detective again. "She was particularly interested in meeting Hutch."

Starsky straightened. "Why?" he demanded defensively.

Hutch rose from his chair and strolled over to the window, crossing his arms.

Dobey shrugged. Gently, he said, "I don't know. Perhaps she wants to apologize for the deeds of her siblings." He turned in his chair to look at the other man. "It's up to you, Hutchinson."

The other forced a smile and also shrugged. "Sure. Why not?" He glanced at his partner. "Besides, I want a few answers of my own."

* * *

Sarah Thompson's fingers trembled as she held the cigarette -- her third -- that Hutch had lit for her. She was fortyish, with graying hair and lines on her face which she tried to hide with makeup. Her manner was pleasant, her speech careful, but her eyes told of hard times.

"So, you see," she exhaled the first puff, "my brothers really had little choice in how they lived. They had known nothing except physical and sexual abuse all their lives. They knew nothing of love or warm feelings, except what they may have perhaps felt for each other. Though they were fraternal twins, they were bonded by far more than genes. The only people who knew what they had been through were each other."

They were in a questioning room -- for reasons of privacy rather than security -- and Starsky sat backwards on a chair at the head of the table, his chin resting on top of it. Hutch sat with a hip on the table, across from their visitor.

"Please understand," she added, "I'm not trying to make excuses for what they've done. I'm only trying to help you understand that, to them, there were reasons. They had no idea how else to behave. They had no other role models than their foster parents. I can only be thankful that I was fostered out to a much nicer family and my upbringing was more normal."

Starsky clarified, "And you thought they may have committed the murders when you heard about the ring?"

"Yes. Four years ago, when I was living in Memphis, I was doing paste-up for a newspaper. That's how I came to hear about a gay man that had been brutally murdered. We ended up not running the story -- there wasn't enough room and very little interest in the murders of homosexuals -- but when I heard about the killer leaving some sort of brand on his victim, that's when I made the connection to the ring that Teddy had." She looked from one detective to the other. "It was the only token that any of us had from our real parents, who were killed in an automobile accident when we were very small." After they nodded that they were still listening, she went on. "I thought then that one or both of my brothers had committed the crime. But I knew nothing of their whereabouts -- I had not even seen them since our parents died."

"Then how did you know about their brutal upbringing?" Hutch asked.

"I had decided, a few years back, to try to get in touch with them. After all, they were the only blood relatives that I had. I traced them down to the town they grew up in. They had long since gone -- run away -- and no one knew where the foster parents were, but after some digging I found out about the abuse. There were police reports of it and physician's reports. There were also reports of various crimes that my brothers were suspected of committing. Apparently, nothing was solid enough to cause arrest or convictions." She looked from one to the other. "Small towns tend to have a different mentality about things like that."

"Go on," Hutch prompted.

"So, I told the police in Memphis that I thought my brothers may have been responsible, but that didn't help them much, because no one knew where they'd gone or where they lived." She lowered her eyes. "The police also didn't seem very motivated to find them because they thought the victim was, I'm afraid, 'a faggot getting what he deserved'." She paused, not looking up. "They eventually admitted that they could find no evidence that the victim was homosexual, but that didn't stop them from believing that the victim was one." She took a long drag on the cigarette. "It was like that anywhere I went. Because of my job, I would occasionally hear about an atrocious crime committed on a homosexual. I know of five killings total, in addition to the ones here in California." She looked away. "I don't know how many murders they may have committed."

Starsky said, "Since they were happening all over the country, did you try to get any of the police departments to involve the FBI?"

She nodded. "There was an FBI detective assigned to the case. In fact, he's the one who told me about the bodies in Independence. But he was only one man, and I was of little help. My brothers were always weeks ahead. They moved constantly."

She became silent, and Hutch asked, "How were you able to identify the bodies if you hadn't seen them since infancy?"

"I got a copy of their dental records when I visited the town they were raised in." A sadness came over her expression. "I felt that I would need them one day." She grew thoughtful, then said, "It is unusual that they killed two people here in Los Angeles. I've always known them to commit one murder and move on."

"Maybe they were getting careless," Hutch said. "Or maybe they thought Los Angeles was so large that they wouldn't have much to worry about."

Starsky sighed heavily. "So they've traveled clear across the country, doing to people what was done to them. But... why would they finish their victims off? Why not beat them and rape them and then flee? Why did they have to resort to murder?"

"I don't know," Sarah replied simply. "I only have a theory."

"Which is?" Hutch asked.

"That they thought their foster parents were trying to kill them, so they were finishing the job vicariously." She lowered her gaze. "But I suppose no one will ever know."

"That's for sure," Starsky agreed with a sigh.

They were all silent while she put out her cigarette. Then she looked up at Hutch. "I'm sorry for what they did to you, Detective. But I'm so glad you survived." Sadly, she added, "You're the only one who did."

"I only survived," Hutch said sardonically, "because my partner here rescued me." He shook his head. "There was no way I would have lived otherwise." Now his voice softened. "They were very careful when it came to using restraint."

Her eyes surveyed him in a friendly manner. Then she smiled. "You don't look too worse for the wear." A sorrowful frown. "But I know the types of brutality they committed leave more internal scars than external."

"Oh, I've got plenty of external scars." Hutch automatically reached behind him to scratch. "They did quite a job on my back." He glanced at Starsky. "But my partner came to the rescue before they got any further."

She took a deep breath. "I'm glad to hear that. I hope, since you're back at work, that it means you're all right."

Hutch managed a partial smile. "I'll be fine."

She put her cigarette case back in her purse. "That's my story, gentlemen. And what I know of theirs. I'm only sorry that I didn't catch up with them soon enough to stop any of it."

Starsky tilted his head matter-of-factly. "It helps having a better understanding of their motive." They all stood and he said, "I'm glad that, for you, things worked out much better."

She smiled. "Thank you." She shook hands with each of them. "It's been very nice meeting you both. I'm glad I came down."

"Thank you," they told her.

Starsky escorted her out. Then he returned to his partner, who now sat in a chair, drawing imaginary designs on the table top with a thumbnail. "How do you feel?" he asked.

Hutch shrugged without looking up. "I'm glad she came down. It's a way of putting it all to rest."

Starsky let out a heavy sigh. "Yeah. It makes me wish that parents could be tried for the crimes of their children. Then maybe they'd do a much better job of raising them." He concluded, "They couldn't help it, Hutch. What they did to you didn't have a damn thing to do with you."

Hutch was still staring at the tabletop. "I know that," he said huskily. "That's really the worst part of the whole thing."

Starsky tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

Bleakly, the taller man said, "I was nobody to them. They didn't acknowledge me as... as any kind of living thing, let alone a human being. They didn't give a damn about who I was. I was nothing." His voice softened. "I think I started to believe it."

"Ah, Hutch." Starsky moved beside his partner and laid his hands on his shoulders, massaging. Carefully, he asked, "But you don't believe that anymore, do you?"

Hutch shook his head with a small laugh. "No, of course not." But he wouldn't meet his partner's eye.

* * *

He was no longer marking days, for there was no need. In fact, Starsky had tossed the calendar and gotten a new one.

Hutch was in the shower and the curly-haired man stood staring at the clean, glossy pages. He was still feeling a little ashamed that he had so easily fooled himself. What human being on this earth wouldn't want Hutch as their... their everything?

They had been sleeping together at one or the other's apartment every night for three weeks now. There still was no sign of any awakening desires in his better half. In some ways, Starsky didn't care if they never had sex, for he felt very fulfilled with the current arrangement. Hutch was so warm and loving, after all.

But another part of him knew he wouldn't feel that way forever. And he started to experience some trepidation that Hutch's condition went far deeper than being physically roughed up, or waiting for his system to renew its full quota of red blood cells. The time for the latter had passed. What concerned Starsky now was that the kick Hutch had gotten may have done serious damage, though the blond had insisted, "I've been kicked there before," like it was no big deal. If that wasn't the cause, then the only thing left would be something psychological in nature. And that, Starsky knew, could take a long, long time to heal.

Starsky heard the shower go off and felt himself smile. There would be dinner in front of the TV, snuggling up together while they watched a program or two, and then bed. And through it all Hutch would spoil him with a continuous, asexual outpouring of love.

And Starsky wondered again if he would ever want anything else.

* * *

While standing in front of the file cabinet, perusing the reports of a string of robberies, Hutch let his eyes creep up to the clock. Ten more minutes and then he would be able to leave. His partner had left early to keep an appointment with his hairdresser, and the last, lonely hour of the shift had crawled by.

You lovesick bastard, he scolded himself with an inner smile.


Hutch turned toward the voice. "Yes, Captain?"

The large man gestured to the door. "I'd like to see you a moment."

"Sure, Captain." Hutch rifled through the file drawer so he could put the manila folder back in its proper spot.

Upon entering his superior's office, he found Dobey sitting on the edge of his desk, holding a white, business-sized envelope.

"Uh... Hutchinson," Dobey cleared his throat while the blond man remained standing, "I'm not sure what the best way is to explain this." He indicated the envelope.

Helpfully, Hutch said, "It's usually best to come right out and say it, Captain."

The older man rubbed at his chin. "Well, my and Edith's old bank decided to shut down. We'd been going there a dozen years or so. Anyway, we had to move all our accounts from there to another bank."

Hutch nodded, wondering how long of a lead-in there was going to be. "Uh-huh?"

"I was down there this morning, taking care of withdrawing our funds an' all so we could move them elsewhere. And...," Dobey drew a deep breath, then exhaled it, "I also took everything from the safety deposit box we had there."

Hutch waited.

"While doing so," the Captain drawled on, "I came across this envelope." He waved it, then continued. "I had forgotten it was there. And after coming across it... well, it just didn't seem like the best thing to just move it to another bank."

"What's in the envelope?" Hutch asked, hoping to speed things along. Dobey was usually precise and used an economy of words, but when it came to personal things he could be the complete opposite.

Instead of answering directly, the black man went off on another tangent. "One night, quite a few months back, your partner came to my house."

Hutch blinked, all ears now.

"He'd had a few drinks too many. I don't know what went on that made him go out and do that, but that's not important." Dobey shifted his weight, eyes on the desktop. "He... he wanted to give me something. To keep in case something happened to him."

Hutch blinked again. Starsky drinking. Months ago. A few hours unaccounted for on that fateful night. Starsky had never told him where he'd been.

His heart started pounding.

Dobey went on. "So, I put it away for him. But when I came across it today, I got to thinking about a sermon that my minister gave a few weeks ago." He looked up thoughtfully. "It was a good sermon. The minister was talking about how people always give so much -- flowers, sympathy, well wishes, even money -- at funerals. We wait until people die and then we bestow a flood of love and warmth in the name of their memory." He shifted again. "The minister pointed out that our lives would be so much richer and fuller if we didn't wait until someone dies to express how important they are to us. We should tell them that while they're alive."

The captain held out the envelope. "So, in deference to that sermon, I'm giving this to you now." Suddenly, his calm manner became more brusque. "Go on, take it. I'm not going to say another word about it. Except... I hope I'm right to give it to you."

Puzzled, Hutch stepped forward and took the envelope.

"Go on," Dobey waved flamboyantly with an arm, "get out of my office."

Hutch obeyed, walking slowly as he stared at the envelope. It was plain, with no writing on it at all. And sealed.

Could it be Starsky's last words to him?

But he and Starsky had always been open about their feelings for each other. That's what made their friendship so unique from any other Hutch had ever known. So there would be no reason for Starsky to express his feelings from beyond the grave.

Except... since Starsky gave... whatever... to Dobey that particular night, could it mean that Starsky's thoughts weren't necessarily so flattering?

Except Dobey wouldn't be giving it to him now if that were the case.

The envelope contained something important... something that Dobey felt he should know. Now. While Starsky was alive.

Hutch picked up his jacket and left the squad room, desperate for privacy. He thought of the men's room on the third floor, which wasn't as busy as the others, but he didn't want to risk someone coming in. Besides, he needed air.

Walking briskly, he exited the building. He moved around the parameter, and when he came to where the garbage bins were he saw that no one else was around.

He sat on the ground and tore the envelope open.

At first, he was disappointed. For all that it contained was one thin piece of notebook paper, one edge shredded from having been torn from a spiral binder. With reverence, Hutch pulled the sheet of paper from its sheath. And then he unfolded it.

It looked like nothing more than a child's half-hearted attempt at pretending to write like a grown-up. Hutch held the paper closer, eyes finally settling on the top line.

Instructions For Being Hutch's Partner

Only the top line wasn't just a line. The sentence -- or title, he realized now -- curved up over the top of itself, since it all couldn't fit on one line.

Dobey had said Starsky had had too much to drink, Hutch reminded himself.

It was apparent to Hutch, from the title, that this paper wasn't meant for him. It was for his new partner if anything ever happened to Starsky. But Dobey obviously thought he should see it.

And then there was a series of points. Seven total. All written in the same wayward scrawl, but if he concentrated he could read it.

1. Hutch likes to be the boss and pretend he's the one in control.

What? Hutch felt a flare of annoyance. He and Starsky had always had an equal partnership. Neither of them ever bossed the other. Except... well, when Starsky was doing something that Hutch didn't approve of. Or doing something not for his own good. Or doing something that Hutch downright didn't like.

2. Watch out for when he's acting like a parent and you're his kid. 'Cause while he's watching out for you, it might really be him that needs watching out for.

Ah, Starsky did like acting like a kid at times... or maybe it was just plain frivolity. When he behaved like that, he invited parenting. And the second sentence... well, they always had watched out for each other.

3. He likes the things he likes.

What the hell did that mean?

4. You have to make him laugh, but don't be obvious that you're trying to make him laugh or he won't laugh.

Did Starsky really think he was that much of a control freak?

5. You can't have a macho complex. You have to let him show you that he loves you.

Ah, Starsk.

6. You have to hold him when he cries. Hold him tight.

Hutch covered his face with his hand. Lord knows, Starsky had always done that. Always. Starsky was the one person he had never felt obligated to hide his vulnerability from. With his family -- even with Vanessa -- he had felt inclined to put on the masculine front. But never with Starsky. And his trust had been so wonderfully rewarded.

Hutch drew a breath and looked at the final item, which had a big star next to it.

7. You have to love him. Can't never run out.

The paper blurred before him.

Hutch covered his eyes again, trying to get his breath.

He'd known, all along, that he required a lot of it. He took and took and took and took. Took far more than his share... far more than he deserved. And Starsky kept giving and giving and giving and giving. Sometimes, Hutch wondered when that well was going to run dry. And here Starsky was, saying that it mustn't. It couldn't.

As long as Starsky was alive, it wouldn't.

Hutch took his hand away and felt moisture at the corner of his eyes. It was tempting to give in to it, to purge his heart of all that it was feeling. But he shouldn't cry if Starsky wasn't there to hold him. No reason to cry alone as long as he had the option of Starsky loving him while it was happening.

Hutch wiped at his eyes and re-folded the paper. He wondered if he should tell Starsky he'd seen it. Dobey hadn't told him not to, but whatever happened their Captain wanted, understandably, to be left out of it.

He stuffed the paper back into the torn envelope and then placed it in the pocket of his jacket.

Who else is this world would leave "instructions" like that for their replacement?

And what other person in this world was gifted with someone who loved them so much?

Hutch scrambled to his feet, the desire to be with Starsky powerful and strong. He needed him. Now.

* * *

Starsky was staring at the interior of the refrigerator when he heard the rattling of the door handle. After listening to the door shut, he called over his shoulder, "What do you feel like for dinner?" As he continued to study the contents of the fridge, he realized that he probably shouldn't have asked. It would be simpler to just go out.

He decided that Hutch must not have heard his question, so Starsky closed the refrigerator door and turned around. His partner was standing at the threshold, regarding him with an expression that the shorter man wasn't sure he could interpret. He moved toward the blond. "Hey, did you hear me? I think we need to go out for dinner." He stood before the other.

Hutch seemed to be breathing just a little heavier than normal. His eyes were just a little brighter than normal. When he placed his hands on Starsky's shoulders, the grip was a little firmer than normal. "We're staying right here."

Still trying to decipher the unusual aura radiating from his partner, Starsky hesitantly agreed, "O-kay...."

The fingers gripped his flesh a little harder. And then Starsky saw that so-loved face bend toward him.

Automatically, he tilted his chin up to meet it. They kissed each other hello and goodbye and goodnight on a fairly regular basis these days.

Except this kiss wasn't saying any of those things. It was harder than usual -- more desperate -- and when Starsky put his hands on the other man's waist to steady himself so he could keep their lips together, as Hutch seemed to want, he realized that he could feel a tremor in his partner's body.

Slowly, they parted. But before Starsky could say anything, Hutch ducked his head and captured his partner's lips once again. This kiss wasn't as firm, but it was somehow more insistent... and large hands moved from Starsky's shoulders to his back, one reaching up into his hair, massaging.

And then Starsky knew. And he couldn't decide whether to be jubilant or terrified, for now the time was here. Now there would be risk.

When he was able to move his mouth to one side, he questioned, "Hutch...?"

The blond pulled back, but only long enough to put both hands on the sides of Starsky's face. He applied quick kisses, this time moving around the parameter of his partner's mouth, targeting cheeks and chin.

Starsky found himself giggling from the wet sensation and managed to tease, "What is it you've brought home from work today?" He wondered, then, if the change in Hutch's condition could possibly have anything to do with work. He couldn't see how.

The clearest, bluest eyes gazed back at Starsky. They were warm... and needful... and so vulnerable....

In answer, Hutch slowly bent his head once again. His lips touched Starsky's very gently, then pressed with gradually increasing tension. Hutch moved their mouths back and forth in a slow rhythm, pressing all the harder.

None of their kisses had been like this before. Starsky felt a flush rise through his body, gently increasing his heart rate, turning some parts of his body to liquid... other parts becoming more firm. He tightened his arms around Hutch, trying to draw him closer.

But, instead, the blond stepped back, breaking their contact. He put one arm around Starsky's back, the other beneath his legs and, with one mighty heave, lifted him from the floor.

Starsky locked his hands around Hutch's neck, laughing as they moved toward the bedroom. He'd never been carried to bed before, except when he was drunk. And the realization that this was how it could be filled him with an elation that helped offset his trepidation that he may not truly be ready for what was to come. All along he'd had his cake and eaten it, too. Now it was going to be devoured. And he could never have it back.

He was gently placed on the bed, on top of the rumpled covers. Hutch sat down beside him in the early evening light that shone from the window. In a voice as soft as his expression, the blond said, "Please don't do anything. Just... let me. Let me do everything."

Starsky was relieved that Hutch was taking the upper hand, but he was also puzzled and a little concerned about the need to take charge that the other seemed to have.

He nodded.

Hutch reached for his shirt with both hands. Starsky had already discarded his jacket and holster upon arriving home. He felt his own breath quicken as the first button was parted, one of his partner's hands creeping up to feel the small bit of flesh revealed. The hand was warm and smooth.

Hutch bent slightly, then rested his forehead against Starsky's. There, too, the curly-haired man felt the heat of the other. He drew a deep breath.

Gently, the other whispered, "Scared?" His breath was moist and warm against Starsky's cheek.

It would be foolish to lie. "Li'l bit." But not of Hutch. Never of Hutch. It was the strangest of dichotomies, feeling so safe with Hutch so close and warm, yet fearing the result of what they were going to do.

The hand stopped on Starsky's chest, fingers carefully entwined in curled strands. "If I start to do anything you don't want," the tender voice directed, "stop me with a word." A breathless pause. "Otherwise... pl - please don't say anything. Don't do anything."

The request was so anxious, so precise, that Starsky felt a dryness at the back of his throat and a desire to understand. With time, he hoped, he would feel -- and know -- what Hutch felt.

Apparently, his silence was answer enough. Hutch pulled back, then reached to the window and drew the curtains closed. The room was befallen by near-darkness. For a moment, Starsky wasn't sure what was happening, for there was no sound, movement, or touch. Then there was the gentle creaking of the mattress, and one large hand supported the back of his ankle while another worked with his shoe laces.

The shoe was coaxed off. Then the hands moved to the other foot, and the same procedure was applied. Then the sock was rolled down his ankle, past his heel, and pushed off. That process, too, was repeated with the first foot.

When both were bare, Hutch put a hand on the top of each and rubbed gently. His hands felt moist and warm, causing a peculiar comfort in the pit of Starsky's stomach.

Hutch could be the most gentle, the most tender of human beings. Starsky realized he shouldn't be surprised that those same traits extended to the bedroom.

The hands left his feet and a moment later Starsky felt the brief hairs of the wayward mustache as lips were applied to his cheek, kissing gently. Then the hands were on his chest again, slowly parting the buttons.

He wanted to take Hutch. Gather him up, hold him close, put his arms around him, rub his back, kiss him here, there... everywhere. Let the sensations build to their natural end....

But he wasn't supposed to do anything. Just sit there and let Hutch do it. Let Hutch love him. And he couldn't say no.

The last button was parted. Hutch ran his hand up the furred flesh revealed, passed a thumb over a tiny nipple. Starsky wondered if he were exploring... trying to get used to the feel of a man's body. Of course, the past few weeks they'd each been taking plenty of feels... but it had stayed on a platonic level -- nothing coy or provocative, nothing that was allowed to build, except to cause the gentlest quickening of heartbeats.

But, now, Starsky's heartbeat lunged as though jump-started. In the darkness, he didn't know what Hutch was going to do next. And a cool, wet tongue tasting the little protrusion that the thumb had just left was about the last thing the curly-haired man had expected. And Hutch was going about it in such a delicate fashion, as though wanting to absorb every possible response that his touch created.

Starsky had never been sensitive there. Never at all. He'd always felt a little foolish when his bed partners had tried to play with the tiny nipples. Even though they hardened, what few nerves they may have possessed didn't seem particularly interested in the events. Now that was changing. For it seemed a bundle of nerves was planted right there, waiting to be stimulated by the right person, and sending their message of delight down to his groin.

Teeth joined the protruding tongue. Starsky could sense their effort to be very gentle; yet, when a tiny pinch resulted he couldn't withhold a protesting gasp.

The nipple was kissed... once, twice. "Sorry," Hutch whispered.

A tongue swirled in the middle of Starsky's chest, mixing with the hair there, creating a peculiar sensation. And then it started down... pausing every few seconds to re-wet itself, then continuing to lap at exposed flesh. Eventually, it hit the navel. There, it swirled around.

Starsky shifted, breathing heavily, wishing Hutch would do something about his jeans, which were now so tight at their center that they downright hurt.

To his disappointment, Hutch straightened. The blond then slipped his hands around Starsky's back, inside his open shirt, and pressed their chests close together.

"Mm," Hutch purred, his hands rubbing up and down Starsky's back.

Starsky's heart pounded with love, but his strangled erection throbbed with frustration. He was trembling all over. Surely, Hutch could feel it....

The hands on his back moved down... down in a deliberate motion, ignoring the waistband of his jeans, sliding into the denim and underwear. It was such a tight fit, but they managed; and once traveling as far as they could go, both hands squeezed firmly.

Starsky groaned. It was a deep-chested noise, long and vibrating. He rested his head on the other man's shoulder, wanting to beg, but wanting even more to do things the way his partner wanted.

The hands withdrew part way. Then Hutch straightened and his hands traveled inside the waistband to the front. He undid the snap.

A strangled whimper emerged from Starsky as the zipper was tugged down. It was a battle, for there was so little room to manipulate the strip of metal. And, of course, the large hands were brushing against the thickness that was demanding freedom.

Finally, the soft-skinned column popped up into the air as both hands grabbed a full load of denim and cotton and tugged downward.

Starsky had to help with this part. He raised his hips until the clothing slipped past, grabbing handfuls of the bedding to keep from touching himself. He heard Hutch panting, too, as the blond worked to get the jeans down his legs.

Finally, they were tossed aside.

Starsky let his legs fall apart so there was enough room... for his erection and for Hutch. The blond paused and Starsky heard the sound of boots hitting the floor. There was the soft noise of Hutch's jacket being removed. Then the unsnapping of the shoulder harness.

With the remainder of his clothes still on, Hutch knelt on the bed between Starsky's legs.

Starsky waited, wondering with a mixture of hope and disbelief if Hutch was really going to do it... really put his mouth on it. It made him wish he had taken the time to clean up after arriving home. But how was he to know....

He did feel wetness, but it was against his upper thigh, a gentle kiss. Another kiss was placed against the other thigh. There was a slight moment of hesitation, and then the blond cap ducked and Starsky felt the soft lips against his sac.

Oh, God, he's going to do it. He squeezed his eyes shut, letting it happen.

He felt the gentle wetness against the base of his penis. And then the long tongue lapped upwards... stroke after stroke, circling around the circumference.

He allowed a soft cry to emerge, trying to communicate his need.

Hands settled on the tops of his thighs. The tongue darted around the crown, teased toward the slit. Starsky made another noise... and then he was taken.

He cried out. Not a sound of climax... but a long wail of disbelief mixed with the promise of relief.

Hutch's mouth was wet and lubricated with saliva. He had only taken in half the shaft, but he was working it well... sucking against the roof of his mouth, dancing his tongue along the underside, lips curled around his teeth. When he seemed to have all ingredients well coordinated, he started to bob his head forward and back.

Starsky could remain still no longer. He reached out and furrowed his spread fingers through the delicate hair, massaging with the very tips. Hutch paused a moment to swallow, and the sensations on Starsky's over-heated organ felt new and different. "Oh, God," he whimpered.

Hutch remained focused and within moments had regained the previous rhythm. There was nothing rushed about his action. He was taking his time, taking great care... and when Starsky cried out again he wasn't sure if it was for the building climax or the love that he felt.

"Gettin' there...," he whispered. "Don't stop... don't stop... gettin' close... so, so close...." The rhythm stayed obedient, continuing to milk him. His hands went from the blond hair down to Hutch's shoulders. "Almost... almost... real close now. Real, real....." There was the coalesced sensation of all the male organs in his body rushing toward explosion. He pushed Hutch away -- gasped from the accidental brush of teeth -- and then he screamed to the ceiling as the mixture of fluids burst from him.

He paused, panting, as the stream paused, and then there was more bursting, and once again his voice expressed his pleasure.

He collapsed to one side, wonderfully drained, aware of the larger-than-normal emission cooling on his chest and stomach. "Oh, God, Hutch," he panted. "Oh, God." He thought he should say something more than that, but he didn't know what.

A hand was placed on his leg. "You liked that, huh?" the blond whispered gently.

"Ah, man," Starsky let out a long breath, "it was fantastic." He spent another moment recovering his breath, then asked, "Where the hell did you learn that?"

He could see the blond head shake in the darkness and heard the touch of amusement in the other's voice. "I didn't 'learn' it. I just know what I like."

"Oh." Something within Starsky wanted to insist that it shouldn't be that simple.

The hand on his leg stroked up and down. "You didn't have to push me away. I was planning on swallowing it."

"I thought... I just...," Starsky trailed off, not knowing what he thought or wanted to say.

A soft chuckle. "It's all right." Then the gentlest of voices. "I love you."

He wasn't sure what to say to that, either. "Oh, Hutch," he growled, rolling onto his back. Sensation was starting to return to his limbs. He was aware of Hutch having left the bed, and a moment later he saw the outline of the pale form removing the rest of his clothes.

Starsky wasn't sure if he could deliver a blow job like that. He did know that he wanted to please Hutch, make him happy. Especially now. The other had his first erection in who-knew-how-long and Starsky didn't want to discourage it with hesitation.

In fact, it occurred to him now, it was amazing that, considering Hutch's period of abstinence, the other was able to be so patient tonight.

Hutch was naked now, getting back on the bed, his jutting phallus unmistakable, even in near darkness.

Starsky held him by the waist. "What do you want me to do for you?" he whispered, determined to go through with whatever Hutch wanted. The other's skin felt flushed, a quiver running beneath its surface.

The blond's voice was breathless. "Just let me do it," came the tender direction. "I want to rub against you. Maybe rub against your thigh."

There was a moment of relief, but it was brief. Surely, Hutch deserved more than dry-humping. Just because that was all the other was going to ask for didn't mean it was all he was going to get.

"Just a sec," Starsky said, making up his mind. Keeping one hand on Hutch, he reached to the nightstand with the other. He fumbled with the drawer handles, but it wasn't until he pulled open the bottom one that he found what he wanted. For a moment, it occurred to him that bringing out the tube may give all the wrong messages, but then he told himself that Hutch wouldn't misread him that badly. Especially if he made it clear what he had in mind.

"Here, let's do it this way," he said, squeezing the substance from the tube into his other hand. "Should make it a lot nicer." He noticed that Hutch didn't seem to mind that he was making decisions on his own. Perhaps the other was even relieved, for it was possible all the blond's prior willingness to take responsibility had been solely to relieve a nervous Starsky of the same.

It was awkward, and he sensed his partner's curiosity, but Starsky eventually had the jelly on both hands. He rubbed his hands together, spreading it further. Then, refusing to hesitate, he reached out and found the heated column, clamping one hand around it.

Hutch groaned achingly.

It felt so powerful... and needy. Starsky knew that, if his own hands hadn't been coated with the K-Y, he would have been able to feel the baby-soft skin. But that would have to wait for another night. Now, he placed his other hand behind the first and squeezed gently.

Hutch whimpered.

"Gonna keep my hands together, like a tunnel," Starsky explained. "Then you can move back and forth within there."

The blond, breathing harshly, stretched his legs out, while also placing his hands on the bed on either side of Starsky, letting them take his weight.

Starsky understood the intent. He carefully lowered his hands, along with their prize, to his stomach, just above his pubic region. That way they were approximately the same position that would be natural for Hutch to thrust into.

Hutch thrust now. When he drew back, he did so too easily and Starsky clenched his fingers closer together. When Hutch moved forward through his hands, the grip was tighter, and there was a groan of satisfaction from his partner.

It went like that -- Hutch shoving in, pausing a moment, then pulling back out. As he developed a rhythm, the pauses got shorter and shorter, his groans louder and more pronounced. Starsky took great satisfaction in knowing that he could do this for Hutch. His only frustration was that with his hands so busy he couldn't put his arms around his partner.

There was also a special surprise in doing this, a treat Starsky hadn't anticipated. As Hutch worked in and out of the Starsky-made tunnel, his scrotum slapped against Starsky's groin area, hitting his own scrotum... his penis.... Though the contact itself was light and soft, the sensation renewed his excitement.

Hutch's groans were getting deeper, louder, more drawn out. Starsky concentrated, tightening his hands further just as Hutch withdrew, trying to mimic the muscle contractions that his own organ had delighted in many times.

And, finally, it was as though a barrier had been crossed, for Hutch began to pump frantically, the power of each thrust making Starsky work harder to keep his hands steady. The slap of the soft skin against his own delicate tissues escalated his arousal.

Hutch was a screamer, too. He let out a yell, loud and long, and warm fluid burst from him, coating Starsky's hands, landing on his stomach.

"God, God," the blond gasped earnestly, almost as though sobbing. "Oh, dear God." He carefully withdrew from the tunnel, collapsing at Starsky's side. The latter let his hands fall away. Then he turned to the nightstand, fished out a cloth and, hoping it was reasonably clean, wiped his hands against it.

Hutch was face-down on the bed. His groans were so deep that the accompanying words were indecipherable.

Starsky patted the nearest buttock as he settled back against his pillow. "A long time in coming, huh?"

The blond snorted. "Humph. So to speak."

Starsky hadn't meant to make a pun. "Okay if I turn on the light?"


The darker man reached for the lamp. When he turned to lie back down, he found snow-white buttocks at his side. And the scar-covered back.

He rubbed along the scars. "Did it feel okay to you, babe?"

Hutch rolled onto his side, facing him. The blond's smile was bright and tender. "Felt more than okay. Wonderful." His eyes closed as his expression sobered. "Want to love you so much more."

Ah, Hutch. "We've got a whole lifetime, pal."

Hutch got up on an elbow and leaned toward his partner. "Then let's start the rest of our lives right now."

The kiss was whole, soft, pressing. The previous activity had left Starsky vulnerable to this new attack and his reawakened flesh responded willingly. He kissed back, licking along the other's full lips, delighting in the groan that ensued. The heat between them had a different texture now... soft and heavy and full and warm. He placed a hand on the back of Hutch's neck, drawing the other closer, loving the way this contact made him feel.

He and Hutch. Forever now. A promise long felt... now sealed with their bodies' fluids, the pleasure they could create.

Hutch pressed further and Starsky rolled onto his back, pulling the blond on top of him. This was so much nicer than the previous contact, for they were pressed together, all parts of the front of their bodies in contact with each other. A warm phallus reached out to meet Starsky's own, and the curly-haired man felt relief that any doubt about Hutch's virility could be banished for good.

Their mouths seemed sealed together, Starsky unsure of where one ended and the other began. In fact, it was like that from head to toe. So much a part of each other they had always been....

Hutch struggled to get on his elbows, and it was a moment before Starsky relaxed his own lips enough to let the other pull back. But the blond did so only enough to move his mouth near an ear.

His breath was hot and full. "Partner. I'm ready for you. You've got the lube right here. I'll put some in. Then you can...." Hutch kissed his cheek, letting the thought linger.

Something in Starsky's chest sunk, threatening to destroy all the wonderful things he was feeling. "Hutch," he whispered desperately, "I can't. Hear me, babe? I can't do that to you. I just can't."

Hutch pulled back a little more, meeting Starsky's eye, his own full of puzzlement. Then, with gentle firmness, he reminded, "Starsky, I wasn't raped."

The darker man brought a hand up to trace the full lips. "I know. But...." It was hopeless. He would never be able to explain something he didn't quite understand himself. "I just can't, Hutch." He fell silent, knowing there was nothing else he could say.

The sea-blue eyes of the other reflected more puzzlement, then disappointment. The pale throat bobbed with a swallow, then a light kiss was planted on Starsky's chin before the other looked away, as though he were trying to decide what to do next.

Starsky knew that, as promised in the beginning, Hutch would never push. And he couldn't bear to be the cause of that disappointment. Maybe there could be a compromise of sorts. "Hutch?"

The other looked back, the hope unmistakable.

"Look, there's no way I can... put it into ya. But... but we can try it if, like, you can maybe lower yourself on it."

The blond's expression was so anxious, studying him intently, as though looking for any sign of doubt. "Are you sure it would be okay?"

Starsky managed a smile. Wasn't that a question he should be asking Hutch? "If it's okay with you, it's okay with me." Even now, his desire was simmering from the conversation, his phallus rising with interest. He and Hutch... bodily connected. Sharing each other in the most literal fashion.

Hutch kissed him quickly. Then he stood, looking around for the tube.

"It's there," Starsky pointed to the floor next to the bed.

Hutch picked up the uncapped tube, reading the label as though he didn't already know what it was. Then he straightened and squeezed the ointment onto his fingers.

He reached behind, inserting it. Starsky watched him, feeling the same lack of self-consciousness that Hutch did. They had, after all, touched each other on every part of their bodies at some point over the years. Literally cleaned up after each other when one of them was totally incapacitated. Helped each other with bed pans when one was too weak to get up. And there was the one time when Starsky had thought it would be exciting to go without underwear and had gotten caught in the zipper of his jeans. Hutch had dutifully knelt before him and helped get him out of it. It was only after he was free that the blond teased him mercilessly.

Starsky rubbed his penis now, knowing it needed to be as hard as possible in order to achieve the penetration necessary. He squeezed and milked it, working it in the way that it responded to best. It hardened further when Hutch straddled him, balancing on his knees. He scooted up closer to Starsky's chest, his own partially erect penis almost at the darker man's throat.

But Starsky wasn't watching it. His eyes were on Hutch's, badly needing that kind of communication to get through this. "Sure you put enough in?"

"We can use more if we have to," Hutch stated reasonably.

Starsky took a deep breath. "'Kay." He gave his phallus one more pull. Then he looked around the bed for the tube, appalled that they had almost forgotten. "Need to put some on me, too."

"Want me to do it?"

Starsky found it, picked it up. He presented a wry smile as he squeezed it out. "I'd better, since I know how to handle it best. You do it, I'd probably come." He wasn't sure if it were true, but he found the need for conversation, to keep communication open, so neither of them made an irreversible error.

He applied the lube from feel alone, for Hutch's daunting body blocked all view below his chest. And Hutch was, he realized now, such a large person. Perhaps not as muscular as he once was, perhaps even carrying a little softness around his middle, but certainly more filled out.

He laid the tube aside and stroked the slippery shaft once more. "Okay."

Hutch straightened, then scooted back a little. "You going to hold it in place?"

Starsky took a firm grip. "Yeah."

The taller man scooted back more until the stiffness brushed against his buttocks. He moved around, attempting to center it, and Starsky grabbed a lower buttock with his free hand, trying to guide him. In all the manipulation, Starsky's hand brushed against the recess between the fleshy cheeks. "Hutch, wait. Wait a minute." There was a panic building within, and he was relieved when his partner obeyed. "You've got to stretch it out more," he scolded. He took the task upon himself, inserting a finger into the recess, grateful that they had the comfort level with each other that allowed him to do this without feeling awkward.

Hutch didn't respond, but held himself still, breathing heavily while Starsky worked.

Starsky circled the finger round and round. The opening was ridiculously small. He pulled at the edges, trying to stretch it outward. He withdrew the finger, thought what the hell and found the tube of ointment. He placed the nozzle approximately where it should go, then squeezed the tube. With trepidation, he looked up at his partner.

But Hutch was accepting it, as though understanding that Starsky needed to do this. He waited without laughter or impatience. In fact, he reached to place a hand on Starsky's hair, stroking gently.

Starsky tossed the tube aside and worked with two fingers. The area was so greasy that he couldn't get much of a grip on anything, but it made him feel better to know that two digits could fit fairly easily. Finally, he decided enough was enough. He grabbed his shaft again, giving it one more stroke. "Okay."

Hutch closed his eyes, lowered himself a fraction of an inch. Starsky guided the straining head between the buttocks, waited until Hutch lowered himself a little more before the crown bumped the wrinkled skin. He gripped the base more firmly, determined to let it happen.

Hutch pushed back, closed his eyes, as though concentrating. He took a deep, deliberate breath, then let gravity take over.

The tightness of the firm opening pulled at the delicate skin. But the K-Y was helping, and it wasn't long until the tight ring of muscle slipped passed the crown.

Hutch let out a little gasp... paused. Then, so slowly, he let himself sink back.

God, it was tight. And moist. And it was Hutch.

Starsky resisted with all his might the urge to push upward. He found a distraction, reaching to the phallus which rested on his chest. It had softened, and he stroked it firmly.

As his buttocks lowered, Hutch's body moved backwards. There were a couple more moments of pauses and sharp breaths. And then an expression of satisfaction overtook the blond's features as his buttocks brushed against Starsky's thighs.

The curly-haired man thought it should be a pinnacle. But all he felt was worry. "Feel okay?" he asked anxiously. Hutch was definitely going to have to do all the work from here. It was impossible for Starsky to thrust while bearing the other's weight.

Eyebrows furrowed, Hutch's expression now one of concentration. "It's a little uncomfortable," he admitted thickly.

Starsky didn't doubt it. Hutch looked like he was sitting up too straight for the angle to be natural.

The blond leaned forward a little, then pulled himself partly off the thick flesh. But just as he was about to thrust backward, the firm cylinder slipped free.

Both men groaned with frustration. Starsky grabbed the errant erection, trying to hold it still, thinking that maybe he'd gotten too carried away with the lubricant.

"Starsk," Hutch panted, "let's roll over and put you on top. It'll be easier."

Automatically, Starsky obeyed, tipping them onto their sides. He was willing to do anything to keep this from being a disaster.

Hutch slid onto the mattress, face-down. He got on his knees.

Starsky was also kneeling, and he moved to get behind the raised buttocks. He no longer felt concern about the penetration, for he knew now that Hutch could take it without unreasonable pain. And they both needed to complete this, for psychological reasons as much as the pleasure they sought.

He grabbed Hutch by the sides, encouraged him to stretch out further, so the pale buttocks were lowered to a more accessible level. Then he took his slippery flesh in hand, aimed it at the equally-moist opening, and pressed gently.

Hutch's breathing grew louder, and his legs stretched a little wider, but he offered no resistance. Relieved, Starsky let himself slowly sink in the rest of the way.

And they were joined. Him inside of Hutch.

He laid across the other's scarred back, his cheek resting against Hutch's shoulder blades. With both hands, he reached for the blond mass of hair, entwining his fingers, certain that Hutch wouldn't mind that they were greasy. He just needed some way of letting the other know how much he appreciated it that Hutch had let this happen.

He removed one hand to brace against Hutch's shoulder. And then carefully -- ever aware of the excessive lubricant -- he briefly pulled back, then pushed in. Despite the grease, there was a tightness there, especially near the opening. He repeated the short strokes, moving in and out with increasing speed.

"Feel okay?" he asked breathlessly.

"It's fine, partner," the other purred softly. Then Hutch balanced on one hand and reached to grab the organ between his own legs. He began stroking it, working with practiced fingers.

That enthusiasm propelled Starsky onward. He closed his eyes, focusing on his own pleasure, letting it build. It would take longer since this was the second time tonight, and he knew Hutch wouldn't mind if he enjoyed himself.

Damn, this may be fine, after all.

"Starsky," Hutch said breathlessly, "grab my nuts and play with them."

Starsky's eyes snapped open as his cock surged. He straightened, then reached around Hutch's left leg and felt for the scrotal pouch. His hand brushed against the one that was stroking earnestly, and felt lower. The tender skin was firm and smooth with fine hair. Starsky squeezed, confident from his own experience that he would know the proper amount of pressure. His shifted his hand and rolled the two lumps within his fingers.

"God, yes," Hutch gasped. "Yes."

Concentrating heavily, Starsky pulled back while still maintaining his hold. It was a little awkward for his legs, but all his concerns were on the jewels he held in his hand, the pleasure in Hutch's voice, and the sensations charging through his own pumping phallus.

"Oh, God, Hutch," he joined his breathless chant to the other man's. "Real nice, babe. Real nice."

Hutch's arm was moving furiously. "Oh, God," he panted, "Oh, God. Don't stop. Don't stop. God. God. Gooooooooo........." The cry was loud, deep-chested, and long. His muscles spasmed as his voice reached a peak, and Starsky let his hand drop away.

The curly-haired man grabbed both hips, then pumped furiously, still riding the physical and emotional wave of Hutch's orgasm. At one point his organ slipped out; but it pushed back in easily, and he began to pump with more force, trying to keep it inside the moist channel.

The sensations were building. Hutch's upper body had collapsed against the bed, his head turned to one side, eyes closed.

Damn, he was gorgeous to let Starsky do this.

The sweat burst out onto Starsky's forehead as the final crest was reached. He was too exhausted to yell, and merely moaned as the fluid erupted from him.

He let it slip out this time, the sensations still potent, and rested his weight on Hutch's back. Then, fearing that if he didn't move now he never would again, he slipped to one side and collapsed onto the mattress.

* * *

Some minutes later, Starsky managed to sit up against the headboard. While Hutch was in the bathroom, he took the time to arrange the pillows comfortably behind him. His movements were sluggish, for his body felt totally drained. It had been a few months since he'd had sex, longer still since he'd had two orgasms in one night. He could imagine what Hutch must feel like.

The blond emerged wearing his robe -- and a tender smile that made Starsky's heart turn over. The curly-haired man felt his protective instincts kick in, for Hutch seemed more precious, and vulnerable, than he ever had before.

Hutch kicked some clothes into a corner, then moved to the bed. "Thanks for hogging all the pillows."

Starsky patted his own chest. "Guess that blond head of yours is going to have to lie right here."

There was no snappy comeback. Hutch got beneath the covers and crawled into Starsky's arms. Even after the fast shower, his body felt lazy.

Starsky had tried to clean up with towels, dirty clothes on the floor, and the edges of the sheets. He scratched along his partner's hairline. "You feel okay?"

Hutch kissed the furred flesh beneath his lips. "I feel a hundred times better than just okay."

The other was glad to hear it, but... "Sore?"

"What do you think?" And Hutch looked up at him with a grin.

Starsky grinned back, kissing his nose. They lay together for a few moments, then Starsky knew he couldn't let the night end without asking, "What happened today, Hutch? That, you know, caused you to change?"

Hutch straightened so that he was more to Starsky's side and they could see each other. Varying expressions crossed his features, and Starsky knew he was carefully choosing his answer. And then there was the warmest of smiles as their eyes met. "I realized how much you love me."

Starsky felt his brows furrow, unable to feel the obvious glee that his partner did. "Hutch," he protested worriedly, "I've loved you for a long, long time."

"I know," Hutch nodded. Then his expression softened. "I meant... how much you love me."

Starsky blinked, knowing there had to be an explanation behind the statement. But Hutch was choosing not to tell him, at least for now, and he had to respect that.

In fact, when it came to revelations he himself didn't have a monopoly on honesty. And he knew it would bother him until it was dealt with... sooner or later.


The other raised his head from where it had been resting against Starsky's shoulder bone. "Hm?"

Starsky took a deep breath. "There's something I think I'd better tell ya."

Hutch stared at him. Then, with a hint of trepidation, he asked, "What is it?"

Starsky swallowed thickly. He was afraid it might sound stupid saying it out loud. "Well, remember when I used to date Donna Tyler a coupla years back?" There wasn't an immediate response, so he described, "Sorta amber hair. Dark eyes. Petite. Used to be a cheerleader at the University?"

"Oh, yeah," Hutch nodded, "I think I remember her."

"Yeah, well, one night we were doin' it at her place. And then at one point in the... proceedings... she pulled out one of those dildo things." Starsky hesitated, remembering. "She wanted to put it into me. I wasn't interested but she started actin' like, you know, there was something wrong with me if I didn't want to do it. She acted like all guys like things stuck up their assholes. And she was sayin', like, that if I thought it was gonna make me feel like a fag then I must not be very secure in my masculinity." He glanced at Hutch, pleased that the other was listening intently, though the blond was obviously puzzled as to where this was leading.

Starsky let out a breath. "So, against my better judgment, I said yes. And she did it." He closed his eyes, feeling the anger build. "She shoved that damn thing into me all at once. Just rammed it in." His voice hissed with intensity. "Hurt like a sonofabitch. Never felt anything like it."

Hutch straightened, his hands reaching to take Starsky's shoulders. "Starsk," he whispered, voice filled with compassion and concern.

The smaller man shook his head. "Never saw her after that. Never wanted anyone goin' near my asshole after that." He sensed his partner's smoldering anger and quickly said, "I don't think she meant to do it like that. I mean, I found out later that she was mad that I was seein' other girls -- not that I'd ever told her otherwise. So, I'm thinkin' it was one of those whatever-you-call-it Freudian things. You know, she didn't mean to hurt me, but subconsciously she really wanted to."

Hutch let out a tight breath. "God, pal, that's practically rape."

Starsky bristled, wishing Hutch hadn't used that word. "She had my permission," he defended quickly. "I just didn't know she was going to do it like that... shove it all in at once." He turned to look at his partner, desperate to make his point. "Hutch, I know it would be different with you. I know it would. And I want to share that with you." He shrugged sheepishly, admitting, "But at the same time -- "

"You're scared?" Hutch offered simply.

"Yeah. I mean, I know that I'm gonna be real uptight about it, even if I try real hard not to be." His voice deflated helplessly. "I'm afraid I'll mess it up for you."

Hutch's lips pressed against the side of the darker man's forehead, and then his head rested against Starsky's. "Ah, Starsk, we'll work it out. We'll work up to it, real slow and careful, only do as much as you're willing to each night. Not go to the next step until you say so." Long fingers brushed along Starsky's temple and cheek. "Okay?"

Starsky grinned at him. "Okay." Relief made its way through his body in one huge wave, purging as it went.

Hutch took him by the shoulders, turned him to lie back on the mattress. The blond straddled him, pale brow furrowed thoughtfully. "Starsk?"

"What?" Starsky's hands were holding Hutch's arms.

Hutch whispered, "Is this the real reason behind your hesitation, all this time? You were afraid you couldn't let me do it to you?"

"No, of course not," Starsky replied automatically. He felt naked and exposed as Hutch continued to study him. He shifted restlessly, then admitted, "I don't think so." The gaze didn't waver and he had to look away. "I don't know," he said quietly. "Maybe."

A hand petted back through his hair. "It doesn't matter now," the blond decided.

Starsky closed his eyes, gratitude replacing his earlier feeling of relief. When he opened them, he reached up to Hutch with both arms.

Hutch leaned down and they wrapped their arms around each other, pulling snug. Starsky pressed his face against the clean-smelling neck. He wasn't quite sure what words to use to express what he felt. His arms rubbed up and down the other's back, feeling the lumps of scar tissue. His voice caught as he managed, "I'm so glad you're all right."

Hutch's arms tightened. "So am I. So am I."