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Charlotte Frost

Hutch could hear himself breathing as he raised the Magnum in the darkness, pointing it toward the starless sky. His finger tightened on the trigger, his wrist tensing in preparation to lower the weapon and fire as he took a half step forward and peeked around the corner.

His eyes strained, trying to see anything in the long alley that stretched from his position out to the docks. The alley separated two old buildings. And two suspects, as well as his partner, were out there somewhere in the darkness, apparently moving as stealthily as he. The only light available was from a dim lamp at the far end of the building Hutch was braced against.

The bad guys could be anywhere.

And so could his partner. They had separated once chasing the suspects to this area. These buildings were so large, containing numerous nooks and crannies in which to hide behind, that even Hutch's sixth sense about his partner's whereabouts seemed inoperative.

He couldn't risk a mistake by firing at anything that moved.

Though he was taunting danger by giving away his own location, Hutch took a careful breath and called, "Starsky?"

He strained his ears, but there was no indication of a reply. That meant that Starsky was in too vulnerable a position to give away his own location, or simply hadn't heard Hutch... or that he was injured and couldn't speak. When they had originally begun the chase firepower had been exchanged, though Hutch had been fairly certain that none of the bullets had hit their targets.

About thirty feet along the perimeter of the building, Hutch could make out a doorway. It had a small overhang and would provide a degree of protection. He braced himself in preparation to run for it.

Then he heard a "click" from above. "Freeze, cop."

His heart accelerated, and in a split second Hutch deduced that the voice was coming from an open window on the second floor. Somehow, the suspect had gotten inside the building and now had Hutch at his mercy.

"Drop the gun," the voice directed. Then, more firmly, "Drop it."

Hutch couldn't see how he had any choice but to obey. As he let the metal slip to the ground, making a noise as it hit the pavement, he wondered where Starsky was.

"Hands on your head."

Cautiously, Hutch placed his hands behind his head.

"Now turn around, real careful."

Hutch turned. Slowly, his eyes rose upward. He found himself looking into the richer darkness of a double-barreled shotgun, which protruded from a window above him.

White teeth gleamed behind it as Billy Lee Turner, suspected of two murders and numerous robberies, smiled a demonic smile.

Turner's voice was soft this time, almost gentle. "Say goodbye, cop."

Hutch wondered if Turner would shoot regardless of whether he said it or not. He felt a sinking sensation in his chest; yet he also thought it peculiar that he didn't have much desire to dive for the Magnum, as the shotgun was of such close proximity that it would tear his body to pieces even if it didn't hit him in a fatal spot. He just hoped Starsky was all right.

The sound of the gun blast was enormous in the darkness, and Hutch fell back to the pavement, feeling the breath knocked out of him as he hit. He thought it odd that he still seemed to have full awareness of his senses, and yet something was blocking the pain. He reached for the Magnum, feeling an angry determination that Turner wasn't going to get away with having killed him.

His finger was on the trigger as he lifted the gun, arm stretched out in front of him. He would have fired, except there was nothing to shoot at. The shotgun rested at on odd angle on the window sill, and only after staring at the area for a long time did Hutch realize that there was a slumped form behind it.

Footsteps approached, rushed and soft.

"Hutch, you hit?" came the frantic question as Starsky jumped up with a supreme effort to grab the rifle from the window.

Hutch looked down at himself. He raised a hand to his chest and rubbed across it. No blood. No pain. Distantly, he said, "No, I'm fine." Starsky squatted beside him, breathing heavily, and Hutch admitted, "Thought I was a goner." Since he hadn't been hit -- or even fired at -- he wondered what it was that had made him collapse to the pavement. "Where did you come from?"

Starsky swallowed thickly as he gestured. "I was comin' from over there," he indicated a pile of old furniture. "It wasn't until your hands went up that I realized he was in the window." Breathlessly, he held up a second shotgun. "Barely had time to aim this thing and fire." Starsky's head shook and there was a quaver in his voice. "Wasn't sure my aim was that good, especially with it bein' so dark."

Hutch closed his eyes, felt himself smile, but realized too late that the moment of distraction prompted his emotions to rise near the surface. His own voice was unsteady as he said, "Your aim was just fine." He quickly got back to business as he staggered to one knee. "Where's Marquez?" That was obviously where Starsky had gotten the shotgun.

The other man's breath was recovering. "I've got him cuffed to a dumpster behind the next building over." He met the blond's eye. "I heard you call my name, but I thought Turner was near, so I didn't yell back."

Hutch nodded, having presumed as much.

They helped each other to their feet. "Why don't you call it in," Starsky said, "and I'll go up and make sure Turner's dead."

Hutch headed toward the street a couple of blocks away where they had left the Torino. He felt distant from everything around him, a sense of unreality creating a dream-like mist within his mind. He would be glad when they got back to the city where there was better light.

As he reached for the microphone inside the car, his free hand ran down his chest again. Then it dipped lower to his stomach. He reached Control One and asked for a black and white and a coroner's wagon. In the meantime, he continued to investigate his body, wondering if it was possible that Turner might have gotten a shot off and it had hit him and he didn't even know it. He could remember that, when Reagan had been shot, the reports said that he hadn't even realized he was wounded until after making his getaway in the Presidential limousine.

Upon completing the call, Hutch got into the car and drove back to where Turner's body was. He was starting to feel better... and a little foolish. It wasn't the first time he had looked death in the eye, and certainly wouldn't be the last. If Starsky hadn't been there....

"He's dead," Starsky called from the window that Turner was slumped against. "Did you call for a meat wagon?"

"Yeah." Hutch got out of the car. "And a black and white is on the way."

Starsky squatted on the window ledge. "Comin' down."

Hutch didn't bother telling him to be careful, or that he should use the stairs instead. He just rushed over in a long stride so that when Starsky was hanging from the ledge by his hands, he was there to catch him about the waist as he jumped to the pavement.

When Starsky landed they were clinging to each other. But the contact was broken almost immediately as the curly-haired man bent to tie his shoes.

Hutch stood back and watched with puzzlement. He had left the driver's side door open, and the interior lamp in the Torino cast a light upon Starsky's face. The expression there was odd. Starsky looked as distant as Hutch himself felt.

Starsky stood. "Guess maybe you better wait for the patrol car. I'll go back and get Marquez."

Hutch nodded. Mutely he watched as Starsky got into the Torino and drove off toward the building across from the alley. The car disappeared behind it.

Hutch looked up at the dark sky, feeling the blackness close in. Then he glanced toward the window ledge, barely able to detect the outline of the body there.

This was their work. This was their life. This was their existence.

He heard a motor and turned to see headlights approaching. He waved. The black and white halted next to him.

"Biggs, Dennison," he greeted as they got out, then pointed. "We've got a body at the window there, and Starsky is bringing another suspect." While he was telling them more about what happened, the coroner's wagon drove up. A moment later the Torino appeared. Starsky transferred Marquez to the black and white. Turner was placed in a body bag and taken to the station wagon. The night's silence was deafening as the two cars drove off

Hutch watched the vehicles, hands stuffed in his back pockets, until they disappeared. Then he turned to get in the Torino, but stopped. Starsky wasn't there.

He looked about, a sense of foreboding closing in. "Starsk?" he called hesitantly.

A heavy sigh emerged from the darkness. "Right here."

Hutch squinted toward the building where he had almost bought it, for that was the source of the voice. He moved toward it, and as he approached he saw that Starsky was slumped down on the pavement, his back against the building, his head bowed so that his open hands rested against his forehead.

"Hey, partner," Hutch said gently, kneeling beside him, "what's going on?"

Starsky straightened, placing his forearms across bent knees. Staring ahead, he said, "I want out, Hutch."

Hutch blinked, not believing it, wondering what could make Starsky suddenly think such.

"I mean it," Starsky added, as though knowing what Hutch was thinking. His head turned to look at him. "When you fell back, I thought he'd shot you. I thought there was no way you were gonna live gettin' hit at close range like that."

Hutch snorted. "I thought he did, too. I knew he was going to pull the trigger. And when I heard your gun, I thought it was his gun, and I guess I reacted on instinct. I was expecting to get shot, so I fell back like I had been."

Starsky was staring into space. "Hutch, we deserve a life," he whispered intensely. "One day, I'm not gonna be there for you at the last moment; or you ain't gonna be there for me. It's not gonna be anybody's fault," he shrugged lamely, "it's just gonna be the way it happens. And one of us is gonna get left behind." He turned to his partner. "I don't want you to be left behind without me. And I damn well know I can't hack being left behind without you." He took a breath. "I want to get out while we're both still in one piece."

Hutch found himself without words. He wanted to reassure Starsky that everything was going to be okay, that everything would be fine once the adrenaline wore off. But if he uttered those words, it would sound as if he was against getting out. Which he wasn't, though he wasn't sure it was what he wanted, either. And if he was agreeable right now, he was afraid it would all be for naught; for, after a good night's sleep, and the clarity of daylight, Starsky would take back everything he said tonight and claim he hadn't really meant it.

Though his voice was mute, his hands were not. Hutch placed them on the other's shoulders, massaging with his fingertips, and then pulled until Starsky's weight rested against him. It felt warm and comforting, Starsky's cheek resting against his arm. The other closed his eyes for a long moment. Then, when he opened them, he took his pistol out of his holster and placed it against the pavement.

"No more, Hutch," he stated firmly. "No more danger. No more shooting and getting shot at. I want us to live like two little ol' ladies. Safe. Simple."

It was on the tip of his tongue to point out that Starsky could never live that kind of life, but Hutch felt strangely reluctant to voice the reality that he knew to be true.

Starsky's voice was softer as his weight grew heavier against Hutch's arm. "We can settle down and live like normal folks."

There was too much to be said for it to remain unspoken. Reluctantly, Hutch countered, "We'll never be able to be 'normal'." He swallowed down the bitterness of that particular truth.

"But we can choose to stay alive." A pause. "Instead of taunting death at every turn."

Hutch laid his cheek against Starsky's hair. He supposed one of them had to be the practical one. "Let's get back to the station, fill out our report. Then we can go home and talk."

Starsky didn't reply. And he didn't move until Hutch did.

* * *

Hutch placed a filter in the coffee maker and pushed the button that started another pot to brewing. He glanced at his partner and found the other hunched over a report form, pen in hand, obviously trying to focus while his mind insisted on straying elsewhere. The distant expression was still there.

Hutch turned to remove the pot from the burner and replace it with his own cup so it could be filled with the fresh coffee that began to pour from the peculator. He wondered how long Starsky had been thinking along these lines. He was certain that it wasn't just tonight's brush with death. They'd had those too many times before for it to shock his partner into a change in lifestyle.

Grabbing his full cup and simultaneously placing the pot back on the burner, Hutch leaned against the counter and studied the man who seemed uncharacteristically blind to the fact that he was being watched.

Starsky was no longer a partner to Hutch. No longer a friend. No longer a best friend. No longer a brother. None of those words applied anymore. But Hutch wasn't sure what ones did.

All those words, any of those words -- any words -- seemed a poor description of what they had become. Or had been becoming for a long time. Hutch himself wasn't sure if their relationship was still in a transitional phase; or if it had, indeed, reached a new state of being.

He sipped his coffee, then blew on it, the air tickling his mustache. He wondered how anyone could look at Starsky and not see what he saw. And what Hutch saw, what he felt... that, too, defied description. It was so encompassing. Everything. All that was. All those feelings directed at one 170 pound, 5' 11" entity made of bone, muscle, and blood. A living entity brought to life by the most powerful of personalities. The most willful determination. The gentlest of hearts. The most tender of feelings.

All of it his.

Hutch closed his eyes, holding his coffee cup near his mouth.

The things they did together... that, too, defied description. And definition. Perhaps even understanding. They did not speak of it. Instead, they would both turn away from each other, panting gently in the darkness, as though each desperately needed space in which to reclaim his own individuality. For, when joined, their bodies created a temple where their souls would meet. And intertwine. There had been many occasions when Hutch felt separate from his physical self -- despite being aware of tremendous carnal pleasure -- and he was unsure where one of them ended and the other began. The intensity of it was frightening at times. And draining. They both slept deeper than either ever had before. And woke rested. And shy.


The word was soft, and Hutch opened his eyes to find Starsky looking up at him from the table.

Hutch managed a brief smile, sipped his coffee.

Starsky held up the report. "Wanna sign this?" he asked quietly. As Hutch moved to the table, pen in hand, Starsky's voice softened further. "And then we can split."

* * *

When they were home, Starsky removed his jacket, tossing it to the darkness. His shoulder harness followed.

Hutch flipped on the overhead light and came to stand behind his partner. They had been silent on the drive over. Now he put his arms around Starsky, crisscrossing over the firm middle and burying his face in the other's neck.

The scents assaulted him, comforting him; and Hutch felt some of the tension ease from the man within his arms. Slowly, he rocked Starsky back and forth and wondered how he could have ever given anything of himself to anyone else. If this man wanted him, the desires of all others who had thought they wanted him paled in comparison. Child's play. This was real.

After a time, Hutch noted, "Whatever is decided, we're in it together."

Starsky raised a shoulder to hug Hutch's face against his own. "Yeah," he agreed simply, and then moved away, breaking their contact.

The blond watched him. Letting his puzzlement show, he said, "You seem serious about this."

With his back turned, Starsky raised a hand. Uncharacteristically halting, he said, "Hutch, if I knew... beyond any doubt," he took a breath, "that we were gonna go out together, I could keep doing it. Stay on the streets. But I don't know that. And I... I just can't anymore." A pause, then very soft, "I don't want to risk it. What we have." Softer still, "What we've become."

Hutch blinked. Was it possible that they were really going to talk about it? A part of him was enthralled, another part... unsure, perhaps terrified. In response, he could only swallow thickly.

Starsky shrugged. "I don't want to be a hero anymore. The price isn't worth it."

Hutch found his voice. "What do you want to do instead?"

The darker figure turned, presented a wry smile, then a shrug. "I don't know. Maybe I could try photography."

Hutch snorted softly, feeling himself fall back on practicality. "It would take a long time to build up a client base."

Starsky waved a hand. "We could maybe be security guards. They don't see much action."

"And the pay is far worse than what we get now," Hutch pointed out, not even bothering to mention that they both would be unable to tolerate such a mundane occupation. Then he sighed. "Buddy, the hard facts are that in just about anything else we try, we're going to have to start at the bottom of the pay scale." A new thought struck. "We might insure our financial futures by furthering our education first... but things would be tight while we were going to school."

Starsky had been gazing at the floor, and now he looked up, expression open. "Do you want to get out?"

Hutch shrugged. "It's not something I've thought about, at least not in a long time ." He smiled gently. "But it sounds like you're serious." He wanted to add something more positive. "And I'm starting to get used to the idea."

Starsky turned his back again, head bowing. Softly, hesitantly, he said, "You know, I keep tellin' myself, keep sayin' to myself, 'Well, it's new. Some day, it'll get old. Won't be like this no more.' And I try to imagine what it'll be like when... when it doesn't seem like magic anymore." His voice thickened. "Doesn't seem to matter, Hutch. It's like... it's like I'm scared, all the time, of losing all the ground we've made, all the places we've been. I think, 'Well, okay, it's the... it's what we... do... that's makin' me feel this way.'" He turned around, his entire body softening even as his throat tightened. "I - I think, if it ever does get old, it'll just be another natural progression. I wanna follow that progression through to the end, Hutch."

Hutch closed his eyes, letting the words wash over him. The intensity of what they never talked about scared Starsky, too. But Starsky had had the courage to look beyond... and to see that what lay ahead was no more frightening than the present. Perhaps even less so.

They deserved that chance.

His eyes opened. Guiltily, he noticed how anxiously Starsky was looking at him. Hutch smiled. "Okay," he said, closing his eyes again, but only briefly. "We get out." How liberating that statement sounded, even in light of what had to follow. "The question is: Do we do it now -- resign first thing in the morning -- or do we wait and keep earning a decent income until we've figured out exactly what we're going to do?"

There was a ghost of a smile, a gratitude in Starsky's eyes that words could not express, so the shorter man did not try. Instead, his head bowed as he admitted, "I don't really think my heart's in it anymore. And if either of us isn't giving a hundred percent, we shouldn't be out there at all."

Hutch took a deep breath. He well remembered what an awful feeling it was when he knew he wasn't giving his all. Interestingly, it had been a situation similar to this. Some part of him decided he wanted to live, and he had cowered in that alley, thereby risking Starsky's life. All for the want of preserving a love that he thought had known no bounds.

How foolish he had been then. How blind. In so many ways. Gillian. A woman with whom he had made passionate love, an experience far beyond mere sex. And only to find that she'd been selling the mere sex on the side, as though making a mockery of all he had felt. It was the lingering sting from that hurt that had allowed him to not give Abbey the attention she had needed, that had allowed him to use people like Marianne, that had allowed him to disregard all morals and make it with Kira.

And then he and Starsky had crossed the line.

All Hutch had known of love and love-making was unneeded on this new plane. The old rules were disregarded. The new rules were undefined. There was only everything they felt, expressed through every corridor accessible by the physical. And it culminated in an awakening of the spiritual, where their souls shared the same space.

Hutch was no longer even certain of how it had come about. He knew it had not been with words. Words never were a factor when their bodies joined. It was a move one had made, and the other chose not to stop. That, he believed, had been some three or four months ago. It was an unusually long time for silence.

Cautiously, the blond ventured, "It scares you as much as it does me, doesn't it?"

The other looked at him, the expression trying to ask and answer at the same time.

"What we do," Hutch volunteered, feeling his heart pound at this unfamiliar territory. "What we experience together." His courage took another step forward. "What we never talk about."

Starsky let out a deeply held breath. "Never seemed to be much need for words." He made a tiny shrug. "Our actions said everything."

Hutch nodded. "But... the intensity. I wasn't prepared for that."

The other's gaze was on the floor as he admitted, "I wasn't, either. But... it's something special. Precious." His eyes darted to Hutch. "I want to preserve it, preserve us, any way we can. Because...." His voice caught, and Starsky blinked as though trying to find the words. Then he managed, "Because I don't think I could go back to living any other way. Not when I've tasted how it can be."

And that's what caused the fear, Hutch knew. Having no past reference points. Knowing that life would never mean as much if they were to lose what they had. And then where would they be?

But they couldn't let fear of the future prevent them from living the present. Hutch moved to the sofa, sat down. The coffee table had some magazines, mail, and a newspaper on it. He took the back of an empty envelope and fished out a pen from his coat pocket. "Okay," he announced decisively, looking up at his partner. "If we're going to turn our resignations in tomorrow, we've got to do some big-time planning and figure out where we're at." He put pen to paper and started making a list. "I just paid all my bills yesterday, and I've got about two hundred dollars in my checking account. I've got about eighteen hundred in savings. There's another two thousand in stocks. If we have to, I can cash in my life insurance policy." Hutch glanced up again at his partner, who now came to sit on the floor at the opposite side of the table. "I've still got about three hundred to pay off on the stereo. And I'm still into Merle for another hundred or so, but that's all the debt I have." He looked at the man across from him while heading a new column. "What about you?"

Starsky met his eye. "Hutch," he said softly, gaze unwavering. He reached out and clamped a hand on his partner's wrist, stilling the pen. "Let's try it once. With our eyes open."

Hutch gazed back into those deep eyes, knowing what Starsky was suggesting, but not understanding what it meant. He wanted to look away, but found that he couldn't.

The grip on his hand tightened. "What do you say?" the other whispered. "Try it once, like normal folks? See what happens?"

Like normal folks. They would never be normal. Hutch wondered if Starsky meant it as a test, to see if it would still be just as powerful if they went about it deliberately and consciously, as opposed to just closing their eyes and letting their passions take them by storm... gripping and clinging and clawing and pressing and devouring and grabbing and pounding, without daring to give their actions a thought... moving away from each other when it was over and not daring to speak of it.

The blond knew that his lack of answer was an answer in itself. He still could not look away.

His fingers opened, dropping the pen.

He knew that, if they started something, it might leave no room for anything else this night. And he and Starsky needed to work this out, needed to plan, needed to write up their letters of resignation. But then, Hutch mentally shrugged, he supposed there was no harm in being late for work when their presence was going to be for the sole purpose of quitting.

Starsky's moist fingers lifted his partner's, and Hutch followed the hint, rising to his feet as Starsky did.

Their gazes were still locked, and both stepped sideways until the coffee table was no longer between them. Starsky pulled on Hutch's hand, and the blond moved closer.

Hutch took a deep breath, lifted his other hand, then laid a pair of fingers below Starsky's lips. He could feel the coarseness of whiskers. Moving the fingers up, outlining the mouth, he could feel dry, cracked skin along the outer edges of moistness.

The lips pulled together, kissing his fingers.

Hutch closed his eyes, but then reminded himself that he was supposed to keep them open. This time he used all his fingers, gently grasping Starsky's chin. And he did allow his eyes to close when he lowered his head. He kissed briefly, then pulled back, determined to not let history repeat itself. For how tempting it was to lose himself in darkness, let the sensations take over and master them both.

There was nothing unpleasant about the sensations when his eyes were open. In fact, he fought his puzzlement that there was such pleasure in the lack of smooth skin, lack of painted lips, lack of perfumed aura.

His eyes came back up to lock with those that continued to study him so intently. There was nothing new there. This was the man who had loved him as long as they had been partners, the one person who loved him more than anyone else ever had.

That thought was sobering, and Hutch felt something swell in his chest. He yielded to it, and bent to wrap his arms around Starsky, pulling tight, burying his face in the other's neck.

How familiar this was. Both hands pressed flat against Starsky's back, then moved in small circles along the cotton, gently petting and rubbing and stroking. This body -- the wrong shape and with all the wrong parts -- but so important to him, housing that one spirit, that one soul, that made his life so much more than the instinctive need to get up every morning, to keep living merely because he was alive.

Starsky made a noise. It was incoherent but agreeable, and both his hands were in Hutch's hair, massaging along his scalp, his own face pressed against Hutch's skin.

Hutch loosened his hold slightly, then rocked them back and forth. The was such safety and security in holding Starsky -- in being held by him -- that he wondered how he had managed before ever knowing him. And it was paramount that he never, ever let him go.

Starsky was right. They had to preserve what they had. It was time to turn the heroics over to another generation.

Hutch stopped rocking and pulled back. Starsky did likewise and their eyes met once again.

The blond took both cheeks in hand, then held them still while he pressed his lips to Starsky's once again. He wondered how many millions of years ago it had been that he thought the idea of kissing another man thoroughly unpalatable. For, as Starsky pressed back, Hutch realized that he was aroused. But it was a secondary feeling compared to the things that were going on within his chest. Such a contrast to when their eyes were closed and the lights were out. Then, he had felt wonderful things throughout his body; but the best, most intense sensations had been the ones centered on his groin.

Starsky pulled back, breaking the kiss. As he spoke, the air billowed from his mouth against Hutch's face. "Things might get a little easier if we move to the bedroom."

Hutch nodded, but he seemed rooted where he was, and he couldn't move until Starsky took his hand and started in that direction.

But Hutch stopped, wanting -- needing -- to understand something. "Starsk?" he whispered.

The other turned to him, mouth open in question.

"Wh-when did it change?"

Starsky stared at him. Then his expression relaxed into a gentle smile. "It didn't change. It progressed."

A natural progression, Starsky had spoken of earlier. Hutch envied the other for his clarity of vision.

They continued moving, taking small steps. When they were at the entrance to the bedroom, Starsky dropped Hutch's hand, and the blond stepped past Starsky, into the room. He thought the other was hanging back to turn on the light. But darkness remained, for which Hutch was grateful. There was still enough light from the rest of the apartment for them to see each other without difficulty.

Hutch paused near the foot of the bed and he felt arms wrap around him from behind, Starsky pressing his body against his back. He soaked up the warmth, not daring to move, loving being surrounded like that. Then the hands went into motion, and Hutch felt them reach for the buttons of his shirt. He stood still while they moved from one plastic circle to the next, parting each one. When they were done, Starsky stepped back and pulled his shirt away.

It dropped soundlessly to the floor. A hand rubbed across Hutch's stomach, making him shiver, then was joined by the other hand as it parted the snap to his jeans. The fly was pulled down and he resisted the instinct to move in some way. Then he felt a disappointment, and a slight urgency, when the hands went to each side of his hips and forced the jeans and underwear down.

The cotton of his shorts was difficult getting past his center, for his phallus jutted from his body like an inflexible sword. But once past, the clothing moved down quickly, and Starsky assisted him with his boots and socks. At last, all was pushed aside.

Hutch stood there, naked, silence filling the room. He didn't turn around, but he had the sensation of being stared at. He eventually heard the noise of a snap and a zipper from a few feet behind him, and he then knew that Starsky was undressing too... while watching him.

Hutch drew a deep breath, wondering how the other felt about what he saw. He knew, of course, that he, too, had all the wrong parts and the wrong shape. In the past few months that had not mattered, for their lusting bodies only seemed to care about the contact that could be created between them. Now Starsky was taking the opportunity for a good, long look.

Just when the lack of communication seemed unbearable, Hutch felt a touch at his back. And then Starsky moved to his side and knelt on the floor. Hutch knew then what the other was going to do, and he looked down into those eyes that were looking up at him, filled with a vulnerability that made Hutch want to reassure him.

But Starsky spoke first, voice tender. "Sit down." He patted the bed.

Hutch sat on the edge of the mattress, feeling his center harden as Starsky moved between his legs. But the other was still looking up at him, trying to maintain eye contact.

Then Starsky closed his eyes briefly and, with a hint of amusement, admitted, "I don't know if I'll be very good at it."

What a ludicrous statement it seemed. But Hutch knew that all the prior oral activity -- as well as everything else they'd done with each other -- had been conducted in the midst of an insanity and there had been little room for worrying about the degree of skill. He placed a hand on top of his partner's head, rubbed gently with a pair of fingers. "I'll let you know." He brushed a thumb along Starsky's cheek.

Finally, Starsky's gaze lowered. For a moment, he stared at Hutch's torso, and then he quickly leaned forward and planted a kissed just above his navel.

Hutch groaned, needing the touch farther down. Starsky sat back on his haunches, then ducked his head while taking the pale-skinned penis in a firm grip. Then he put his mouth on it.

A gasp escaped from Hutch, and he closed his eyes, loving the wet cavern that enclosed him. Starsky had only taken a couple of inches, and when he pushed his mouth farther on it, the suction left the head, sporadically shifting to different places along the shaft.

Hutch shivered, then opened his eyes and placed a hand against the other's forehead. "Starsk," he said with breathless tenderness, "don't take too much of it." He placed his hand over Starsky's, firming the grip on the shaft.

Starsky moved back, freeing some of the flesh so his hand could take it instead.

"That's it," Hutch encouraged, groaning when the force of the suction had returned to just beneath the head. "Just like that." He placed his hands on the other's shoulders, massaging, fingers gripping harder to show his approval at what the tongue and hands continued to do. "That's nice, partner."

Careful not to move his lower torso, he bent his upper body and planted a kiss on top of the dark curls, some part of him disbelieving that they had come to this... that this was the path all their years had taken. Starsky now doing this to him... in full consciousness... without the comfort of total darkness.

And Hutch loved him all the more. He rested his cheek against the hair, feeling the strain on his lower back from having his body in such an awkward position. But wanting Starsky to know that he loved him, that he would be willing to do this and anything else in return.

"I love you," he heard himself whisper.

In answer, the tongue teased along the slit of his penis, and Hutch straightened sharply, crying out. He felt his lower body quiver, but also felt the fatigue in the jaw muscles that were working on him so determinedly.

He spread his legs wider, then took one of the hands wrapped around his organ and pressed it down to his scrotum.

Starsky understood and gently squeezed.

Hutch threw his head back. "Oh, yes," he encouraged. "Oh, yes. That's fantastic. Fantastic." He placed both hands in Starsky's hair, moving them in contrasting circles, letting the sensations build. "Oh, god," he called out deeply. "Oh, dear god. Dear god...."

Starsky didn't attempt to move, and Hutch let the release happen, giving Starsky all of it. And then he quickly pulled back when he felt the other attempt to swallow, not wanting to stimulate his ultra-sensitive organ further....

When the flush began to evaporate from his body, Hutch lay back heavily on the mattress. He groaned loudly with contentment.

Starsky curled up next to him, as though determined that this time they were going to seek each other out in the aftermath rather than pull apart. Hutch acquiesced and turned on his side to face the other. He gazed at the softness that covered the rugged features, wondering how for so long they had been so many things to each other, and yet there was still this.

Hutch reached out and laid his hand on Starsky's cheek. "You did fine." Something felt very happy inside, and it had nothing to do with his sated groin.

"See," Starsky returned in the same soft tone, "we can do nice things for each other and still talk to each other."

They had both wanted to talk about it, Hutch realized now. And they both had been afraid to. How strange it seemed that there could have ever been anything they couldn't discuss between them. He stroked back through thick curls. "I want to do something nice for you, too."

A twinkle could be seen in the other's eye. "You will." A hand rubbed up and down Hutch's flank. "But first," Starsky nodded toward the headboard, "we gotta move up."

"Okay," Hutch whispered. But he didn't move. Instead, he reached out to lay a hand on the fur of Starsky's chest. Slowly, he rubbed it in a small circle. He liked the masculinity it represented, wondered if he would ever wish for it to be replaced by gentle curves and soft, smooth skin.

Starsky seemed to know what he was thinking. "A different kind of feelin', huh?"

"Yeah." Hutch had no choice but to answer honestly. His fingers trailed up through the curled hairs, skimmed along Starsky's throat, then brushed across the whiskers. "But it's all a part of you," he noted, placing it in perspective for himself. "And you're the person I want to spend the rest of my life with."

The words sounded significant to his own ears, though Hutch didn't feel they were new, even if they'd never been spoken in that particular way. After all, there had never been a time when he and Starsky hadn't intended to spend the rest of their lives together. The difference now, he supposed, was that always before they had never assumed a future. Life could be snuffed out without a moment's warning.

Now a future was something they were demanding.

The eyes across from Hutch grew brighter and the well-chiseled face moved closer to his own. A hand was placed on Hutch's cheek and then he was pulled toward the other. Their lips touched, and Hutch was aware of the heavily musky smell of the other's body. Then Starsky encouraged his lips apart and a tongue darted inside, and Hutch recognized the trace of semen. He sucked on Starsky's tongue, trying to communicate that he loved what the other had done for him, that there was nothing he was unwilling to share with Starsky... even while possessing full reason.

But the darkness beckoned, and as their lips remained locked together Hutch felt his heart pound and his groin swell. He knew he was on the verge of falling into the well... of yielding to all sensation and shutting off his brain so their bodies could ravage one another and they could each mentally deny responsibility due to temporary insanity.

Starsky must have also sensed the danger, for now he pulled back, breaking the spell. "Let's move up," he whispered, pulling at Hutch's arm.

On his own, Hutch slid toward the headboard. He was on his back and wondered if Starsky wanted him to turn over.

Starsky grabbed a pillow. "Let's put this under you." He pulled at Hutch's waist.

Hutch arched his hips, and Starsky placed the pillow beneath his buttocks and lower back. He knew then that Starsky was going to take him from the front. His eyes darted to his partner's lower body, where he saw the thick phallus jutting from between strong thighs. I've taken it before, he had to remind himself. Granted, it had been at times when their frenzy had made the resulting pain just another of many sensations. This would be different.

A pair of fingers was rubbing back and forth across Hutch's chest. With his other hand, Starsky was fishing through the drawer of the nightstand. He pulled out a tube that had impressions from being squeezed numerous times. Then he scooted back and got between Hutch's legs.

Hutch bent his knees. He knew his legs would feel cramped soon, so he lifted them and placed them over Starsky's shoulders. Though he'd never possessed enough reason before to be aware of the mechanics, the motion felt familiar, as did the result. It was a very vulnerable feeling, being open like this, but he knew that Starsky would not abuse his trust.

In fact, he realized now, it was that very trust that had allowed all their previous insanity.

While Starsky was fussing with the tube, his penis nudged against the crevice between Hutch's buttocks. Hutch sought refuge by gazing at the ceiling, for the hot flesh felt impossibly large to him. He concentrated on reminding himself once again that it was not foreign to him, and knew that if he allowed himself to get uptight it would only make the proceedings more difficult.

He took a deep, deliberate breath.

The phallus moved away, and a moment later a lubricated finger wormed its way into his anus. Once inside it moved about in a gentle manner... testing, stroking, stretching. Hutch's recollection of earlier fingers was that they tended to stab at him, anxious to clear the way for something larger. When their positions had been reversed, he'd had a vague memory of his own fingers shoving their way in and forcing the opening to widen. Of course, Starsky had tolerated it -- as they both had tolerated everything they had done in their hysteria to be joined as intimately as possible -- but from now on, he vowed, they would take more care.

The gentleness allowed him to relax, and Hutch moved his eyes to his partner. Starsky was watching him with tender intensity and Hutch found a smile. "You're good at that," he whispered.

The dark eyes twinkled as a second finger nudged its way in. "I like doin' this, playin' with you first."

Hutch nodded agreement, but found words stuck in his throat. What if Starsky hadn't requested this? Hadn't wanted them to slow down first and face each other while they did it? Would they have continued on as before, copulating in a wild frenzy, too scared that speaking of what they did would cause them to somehow lose it?

This way, despite the lack of abandon, seemed so much better.

The fingers were removed. "Preliminaries are over," Starsky whispered. He busied himself with the transfer of ointment from the tube to his straining phallus.

Hutch waited until the other looked back up. "Starsky, I love you."

A softness spread over the rugged features. Then Starsky collapsed forward, hugging himself against Hutch's body. He kissed the smooth chest. "Love you, too," he said, voice thick. He moved his head so their eyes could meet. "Love you so much."

To think they had missed this in all their prior activities.

Hutch felt his legs cramping. He tugged on the bridge of Starsky's nose, causing a brief chuckle. Then the other straightened, relieving the pressure on strained muscles.

His hips were taken in hand, then lifted upon the powerful thighs. Again, Hutch felt the thick cylinder nudging its heat against him.

Then it was steadied. The heat found the place where the fingers had been. And then it pushed.

Hutch closed his eyes, feeling them water as the thickness forced its way past his most determined barrier. Some part of him wanted to push Starsky away, to relieve the pressure, but he fought the instinct. And remembered the point of this.

He opened his eyes.

Starsky was regarding him with open-mouthed concern, breathing heavily, holding himself in place, the head just past the outer sphincter.

Hutch let relief filter through him, almost ashamed that he had thought Starsky would force it despite his obvious discomfort. He allowed himself to take in air, felt the calm filter through him, his body relaxing around the intruder.

Slowly, the head pushed farther. Hutch didn't close his eyes but let the pain show on his face. Again Starsky paused. The interval was shorter this time, and Hutch tried to allow himself to take it when more of the flesh moved within.

Starsky kept pausing, waiting, then pushing on. There came a point when, instead of moving forward, he pulled back. Hutch relaxed further, realizing that Starsky was in as far as he was going to go. The glint in the other's eye reflected passion and determination. The undulation found a rhythm. Starsky's eyes closed, small noises of passion escaping his lips.

The pain was gone. There was now indifference bordering on pleasure. The motion was stimulating him, but Hutch knew it wasn't as intense as it could be.

"Starsky," he managed, finding his own voice breathless, his bangs plastered against his forehead, "arch your back. Press up."

It may not have been the best direction, but Hutch knew Starsky would understand what he meant. The other's eyes snapped open, and he shifted his weight slightly, then manipulated his hips when he pulled back, causing the thick flesh to massage the little gland between Hutch's testicles and rectum.

"Ah, yes," Hutch gasped.

The pumping took on a more determined effort, and the little gland was hit again and again. The sensations rippled through Hutch's body, causing his groin to harden with interest.

Starsky was panting heavily, pounding faster, gasping intensely.

Hutch loved feeling the power. When the intensity lessened, he realized that Starsky was trying to drag it out, waiting for him. He knew that wasn't going to happen, because he was too drained from his prior orgasm. To encourage Starsky on, he panted, "Fuck me, partner. Fuck me. Real hard. Real hard."

Starsky responded, unleashing a flurry of thrusts, and then he was screaming toward the headboard, fingers digging into Hutch's arms while he shoved himself in as deep as possible.

Even as he gritted his teeth against the new degree of penetration, Hutch felt himself smile, loving the feel of Starsky's body growing lax in his arms. It eventually collapsed on top of him, Starsky still making noises of utter bliss.

Hutch chuckled softly and entwined his fingers in the damp hair.

After a full minute, Starsky pulled back and Hutch gratefully allowed his legs to fall to the bed.

The other curled against Hutch, pressing his face against the pale neck.

After a moment, Hutch whispered, "Good idea."

"Huh?" Starsky grunted.

"Doing it with our eyes open."

Starsky shifted so that his cheek was resting against a pillow. He gazed at his partner, who was facing him, and ran his finger along the pale mustache. "We've got it, Hutch. Everything that everyone always dreams of. Someone who'll love you forever and who meets all your needs. We've got it right here with each other." His voice hardened. "And I ain't never givin' it up."

Hutch drew a deep breath, appreciating the sentiment but knowing nothing could ever be that easy. He rolled onto his back. "'Dear Mom. Or Dad. Or Dobey. Or Huggy. Or anyone. I've quit the police force because Starsky shoves his dick up my ass and now I realize that I want to live a long, long time. Love, Hutch.'" He sighed, not surprised at the silence beside him. "No one's ever going to understand, pal."

After a moment, Starsky said, "It doesn't matter, does it? We understand. We both feel the same. We agree. We want each other."

Hutch rolled onto his side again. Gently, he said, "I know. But I just think it's important to realize that we're always going to be outcasts in some form. No matter how 'normal' we try to live, and if we never tell anyone, there's always going to be pressures to explain why we never go on dates or talk about girlfriends, and we aren't going to be able to show off our feelings in public. Lots of things."

There was more silence. Then Starsky said, "I have maybe three hundred dollars in my checking account. I've got five hundred in savings. I've got a few thousand tied up in treasury bonds. I owe a grand or so on credit cards."

Hutch rolled closer, touching his forehead against his partner's. He swallowed thickly. And smiled.

* * *

Hutch furrowed his brow as he led the way out of Parker Center, carrying a box full of personal belongings, very similar to the one Starsky was carrying.

It seemed he should feel... something. Sadness, regret, guilt, fear, relief, freedom, excitement about the future. Or some combination. But all he could find within himself was indifference.

Perhaps part of his numbness came from the fact that Dobey had taken it so well. Though he suspected that their captain was going to wait at least a few days before turning their resignations in -- should they change their minds -- Hutch thought it had also seemed that their captain accepted their decision. They had calmly and economically explained their reasons for leaving, assuring Dobey that it wasn't off-the-cuff or the result of any particular incident. They were just tired of being targets and wanted to know what a healthier life might hold for them.

In a way, Hutch had felt a little disappointed that Dobey didn't ask more questions, didn't show more interest in their plans for the future. But that was probably best. In fact, it just now occurred to Hutch, perhaps their superior had suspected the truth, and his lack of questions was intended to prevent them from compromising themselves.

Starsky set his box on the ground and opened the trunk of the Torino. Hutch placed his box inside, then helped Starsky lift the other box from the ground.

After the trunk was again secure, both men sat on the bumper.

"Seems kinda weird, doesn't it?" Starsky said, brushing his hands against his jeans. "It's like this isn't really happening. It's almost like a movie. Like I'm watching myself."

Hutch shrugged. "It's going to be a big adjustment. Nothing's probably going to feel right until we decide exactly what we want to do."

The other grunted agreement.

Hutch looked at the ground. His statement hadn't quite been true. In those moments when it was only them, exclusive of the world outside... that was what was real. That was what felt right. That was what would guide them, a religion all its own. He raised his head, meaning to say something to that effect.

He found those deep blue eyes looking at him, a slight twinkle behind their intensity. And he knew then that Starsky had been thinking the same.

And he recognized that the indifference had really been something else. Calm. Confidence. Weights no longer borne.

Starsky's whisper could scarcely be heard. "All I know is that I want to make love to you right now."

Hutch jumped to his feet. "Let's go home, partner."

They left Parker Center a final time. And embraced the future that awaited.


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