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Part 3B

Charlotte Frost

Part 4

Starsky checked on Hutch periodically, and the blond never moved. He got a good night's sleep himself on the sofa. When he checked Hutch in the morning, his partner had shifted positions and was turned away from the door, sleeping soundly on his side.

Starsky got out the yellow pages and started calling private detective agencies. Some weren't willing to talk to him, but others were friendly and answered his questions about what was involved in getting started, how and where they advertised, and how long it had taken before they began showing a profit. He talked to some who had an office staff, and others who worked strictly alone. One of the latter told him that he was so busy that he was turning away smaller jobs.

Starsky spent the rest of the day cleaning house and thinking with the television on low. A couple of times when he checked on Hutch, the blond's eyes had drifted open. But his face still looked very tired, and Starsky would firmly tell him, "Go back to sleep, Hutch." And Hutch would.

Hutch got up at night to use the john. He returned to bed immediately, but since the most intense part of catching up on his sleep was past, Starsky joined him for a peaceful night of slumber.

Starsky was awake first the next morning. He got up while trying to disturb Hutch as little as possible. But the blond was fully alert within an hour.

"Want some breakfast?" Starsky asked when Hutch had returned to bed after using the bathroom.

That sleep-laden face looked suspicious. "What sort of breakfast?"

That sounded like his partner. Starsky shrugged and tried to sound genuinely enticing. "Scrambled eggs. Wheat toast. Milk and orange juice?"

Hutch rubbed at his scruffy face. "Yeah. Sure."

Starsky turned away, but when the bed rocked he looked back to see Hutch sitting up and pushing the covers back. "Where you goin'?" he asked with disapproval.

Hutch shrugged. "Ready for a shower." He stretched mightily as he proceeded back to the bathroom.

Starsky wondered if a shower and a meal meant Hutch wanted to get up for real. He hoped not, for he thought his partner could still use another day or two of utter laziness.

As Starsky worked in the kitchen, he became aware that all of his actions were ones of love. He wanted to cook for Hutch. To take care of him. And the only reason he knew how to scramble up eggs - especially the way Hutch liked them - was because Hutch had shown him how. That education had taken place on one of many evenings they'd spent in years past as bachelors without a date and perfectly content in each other's company.

Technically, he supposed, they would always be considered bachelors. But now there wouldn't be any more dates. Funny, he'd never really considered that before - the fact that he was permanently mated with Hutch. Not that he'd ever thought otherwise, he just hadn't thought of it in those terms before, in terms of never sleeping with anybody else. Ever.

What he did remember thinking was how he and Hutch were now blending together to create a third soul. Actually, the third entity representing the two of them had already existed to a degree - in the guise of their friendship. He wondered if the detective agency they formed together would be the tangible reality of that third entity.

Starsky found a serving tray tucked away in a closet - one that Hutch had purchased to pamper him with during the first of what would prove to be many times of convalescence. How many times, in all their years together, had Hutch sacked out at Starsky's apartment in order to take care of him?

Of course, it worked the other way, too. The first time had been the most intense - Starsky staying glued to Hutch until he was absolutely certain Hutch was completely recovered from what Ben Forrest and his thugs had done to him. Certainly, that had taken their trust to a new level.

Starsky entered the bedroom with the tray. Hutch was sitting up, freshly showered and shaved, wearing a robe. Starsky grinned as he approached. "Aren't you a sight this morning."

Hutch let it go by. Instead, his nose wriggled. "Smells good."

"There's plenty more," Starsky assured him as he placed the tray on the bed. "You oughta be famished."

Hutch shrugged in a manner that said he didn't disagree. "What day is it, anyway?" he asked, placing his napkin in his lap

Starsky lay along beside him, his chin propped up in his hand. "What day do you think it is?"

Hutch had just sliced into his eggs. He paused, thinking, then said, "Thursday or Friday."

"Thursday." Starsky waited until Hutch had chewed and swallowed. "What's the last day you remember?"

Hutch took a sip of juice. Then he said in a low voice, "Tuesday."

Starsky nodded, pleased that Hutch's memory was fully intact. He let Hutch eat a while longer.

"Why aren't you eating with me?" Hutch asked after a few generous bites.

"Been munching constantly the last few days." Starsky patted his stomach. "I gotta start working out on a regular basis. I'm really starting to feel the extra weight I'm lugging around. Don't want it to get away from me." He paused, then teased, "Or you might start looking at pretty young 110-pound curvy things."

Hutch shook his head. "No, I won't," he said seriously. Then, he relented, "Well, I'm not saying I won't look...," He sipped his milk. "And I don't believe for a minute that you won't, either."

Starsky chuckled softly. He found it a pleasant thought that they both could enjoy looking. And a heart-warming thought that Hutch was so firm that he wouldn't be interested in anybody else.

He waited until Hutch was down to a few remaining bites. Then he asked, "What do you remember about Tuesday?"

The other finished off his milk. "What's with all the questions?"

"Wanna be sure that we're both on the same page."

Hutch swallowed the last bite from his plate. He carefully dabbed at his mouth and mustache with his napkin, then laid it on the tray. He looked at Starsky fully. "I fell apart," he said simply, then picked up his glass of juice.

Starsky nodded, pleased with the admission. Gently, he asked, "Why did you fall apart, Hutch?"

Hutch put his empty glass down, staring straight ahead. His jaw worked a moment, then he looked at Starsky and said, "I snapped. The doctor said you were going to be all right." He exhaled a deep, deep breath. "After... after all that worrying, I couldn't take it. I fell apart." He paused, thoughtful. Then a soft snort. "It should have been the happiest moment of my life. But I... fell apart."

Very gently, Starsky reminded, "Like I did after bringing you home from the hospital when you'd had the plague."

Hutch looked at him. Then his face softened, as though grateful that Starsky understood. "Yeah, " he agreed softly.

Starsky pointed out, "And when I fell apart, it was because all the pressure and worrying had built up so much... but only for a few days, Hutch. For you, how long had the pressure been building?"

A puzzled expression was his first answer. Then the reluctant admission: "I guess ever since we came home." Pause. "Actually, I guess when we first realized that something must have happened, that we were missing those four hours."

Starsky stared at him, daring him to search for the greater truth.

Hutch gazed back. For a long time. Then, looking away, "Hell, I don't think I've ever stopped worrying about you since Gunther."

Starsky nodded. Slowly. "That was about fourteen months ago, Hutch. Fourteen months of a whole lot of worry." He swallowed. "It's a good thing you fell apart on Tuesday. Otherwise," he noted seriously, "you'd be in the funny farm."

Hutch shrugged, obviously not eager to admit it.

Starsky waited a moment, hoping his next question wasn't going to interrupt the easy communication between them. Quietly, he asked, "How come I'm all right now?"

Hutch gazed at him again, as though calculating how to answer. Then, easily, "Because you're no longer carrying the Herpes-B virus." He hesitated then said, "It disappeared from your system."

Slowly, Starsky nodded. "Why did it disappear, Hutch?"

Another prolonged gaze. Deep breath, then, "Because the aliens from outer space cured you." Hutch didn't break the eye contact, as though trying to prove to Starsky that he was willing to admit it now.

Okay, pal. Now it's time for the next Most Important Point. "Why did they cure me, Hutch?"

Pale eyelashes blinked. Hutch swallowed. Another deep breath. Then, shakily, "Because something about my love for you - my worry for you - got through to them."

Starsky nodded, pleased that Hutch remembered everything that was said between Williamson's office and his slumber. But, still, Starsky couldn't help but be curious about the aliens' motivation. He shifted a little, then said gently, "Hutch, don't you wonder about the rest of it? I mean, what really happened?"

Hutch looked away, took another deep breath. "I-I don't know. There's really no way we'll ever know, right? So, what's the point in wondering?"

Starsky shrugged. "Well, there is hypnosis."

Hutch quickly shook his head. "No. I won't do that. I can't trust it."

Starsky felt he should be annoyed with his partner's stubbornness; yet, instead he felt a wave of affection. Hutch didn't trust easily. Being the one he did trust was a tremendous honor - and responsibility. And perhaps an asset in this....? He shifted again. "What about if I were there in the hypnotist's office with you? To make sure he or she didn't say anything to mess with your mind?"

Hutch firmly shook his head. "Wouldn't matter. The bottom line is, I wouldn't trust the hypnotist. It's not an exact science anyway, Starsky. I once had a friend in college who studied that kind of stuff. The whole thing is pointless if the person being hypnotized doesn't trust the person doing the hypnosis. I would be a hostile patient, even if I tried not to be." He relaxed back against the pillows and regarded Starsky. Then he said, "If you're that anxious to know what happened, you can be hypnotized." But he clearly wasn't happy about it.

Starsky grinned. He picked up the tray and put it on the floor. Then he snuggled back beside Hutch. "Actually, I'd just as soon put the whole thing behind us."

Hutch looked all soft now. His arm had come around Starsky and he emitted an agreeable "Mmm" as his face lowered.

The kiss was so nice... sweet... hungry.

Starsky was rock hard by the time Hutch pulled back. He licked his lips, where Hutch had devoured them, and noted, "You taste like eggs and toast."

Hutch eyed him breathlessly. Then he moved the covers away.

"Where you goin'?" Starsky asked in disappointment.

Hutch was on his feet. "To brush my teeth. Rinse with mouthwash." He paused deliberately.

Starsky's eyes raked over him. Hutch had a stout erection of his own. Breathlessly, he said, "You'd better be serious before you bother coming back to bed. Because it means we're gonna stay here all day. At least. We've got a lot of catching up to do."

Hutch grinned - the first time in long, long time. And then he walked to the bathroom, whistling.

* * *

Starsky groaned as his seed made its third journey inside of Hutch. It was now dark, and they had been in bed the entire day. Both their instincts had been to be the aggressor, and while Starsky would have been willing to yield for Hutch's sake, he instead challenged himself to be such a magnificent lover that Hutch would want to be on the bottom. He had succeeded. In fact, he'd loved being inside of Hutch so much, that after the first time he hadn't withdrawn, but had let himself get hard again, while showering Hutch with sloppy kisses, and petting and fondling - yet again - all his sensitive regions.

Now Starsky rested his cheek against the smooth-skinned back, thinking that he was definitely a hundred percent if he could have three ejaculations in a day. All that virility - power and masculinity - aimed at loving Hutch. Yes, their upcoming years together were going to be the happiest of his life.

Having regained his breath, Starsky very carefully moved away from Hutch. He knew his partner had to be sore from all the pounding he'd taken, and he withdrew as slowly as he could, watching as his shriveled-up penis, coated with gel, emerged from the sheath that had given it such pleasure. He reached for a towel, felt stickiness, and leaned over the side of the bed, hoping there was still a clean one there somewhere. One was. He picked it up and gingerly applied it to his ultra-sensitive organ, rolling onto his back.

Hutch had also rolled onto his back, and was breathing gently in the darkness.

Still using the towel with one hand, Starsky reached with the other and took Hutch's length in his grip. It was still nice and smooth and clean, because it had only been treated to sucking and manual stimulation throughout the day. Starsky stroked it, pleased when a satisfied groan emerged from his partner. It was already partially erect. Despite having also had numerous orgasms, Hutch obviously still wanted to fuck. Starsky was ready to let him. In fact, he felt around the bed for the tube of gel. Finding it, he squeezed some along his hand, and then gripped Hutch again.

"Mmmm," Hutch responded.

"That's right, blondie," Starsky encouraged. "Your cock's been nice and patient. And now it's in for a one hundred percent selfish fuck." He released a heavy sigh. "Because I'm thoroughly sated, thanks to the pleasures of your gorgeous self."

He saw a small grin as Hutch shifted to allow his legs to spread more, obviously enjoying the feel of Starsky's hand.

Starsky was glad they had the security in their relationship to be selfish with each other. It had become routine between them that the one who did the fucking had the responsibility to please the other person as much as possible. And once that other person was pleasured to a marked degree, then the one on top got to plunge deep and worry about nothing except enjoying himself.

It had helped, too, that the lines of communication had been particularly open today. Starsky's ravishing had started with experimenting with what his tongue could do to Hutch's asshole. He had driven Hutch wild. He'd stopped and asked his groaning mate if he wanted more of the same, or if he wanted Starsky to move on to using his fingers, or even to get fucked. Hutch had gasped, "Doesn't matter. I love all of it." Though Starsky understood the desire to simply let oneself be loved by their lover, he thought there was something more important that needed to be said so early in their mutual sexual discovery.

"We've got fifty more years to love each other," he'd noted gruffly. "So, I think we may as well start out with a thorough understanding of what makes each other feel extra specially good." Hutch had continued to gasp silently for a few moments, then he'd demanded, "Tongue me some more."

Pleased with the honesty, Starsky had eagerly obeyed.

That same honesty had prevailed as day turned to night. They'd both moved around a lot, trying to teach each other what motion of a hand or finger or tongue or lips or prick felt the best on any particular spot. Now, Starsky was incapable of feeling any more physical ecstasy than he already had, so he was content to let Hutch fuck him without regard for his own pleasure.

Blondie's erection was now nice and firm and slick. "How do you want me?" Starsky asked.

Hutch growled deep in his throat as he rolled toward him. Starsky knew Hutch loved being asked that, and he wasn't surprised when hot, succulent lips, tender from so much action, settled on his. Hutch's tongue went to work, tasting inside his mouth, and Starsky automatically met it, wanting to taste Hutch just as badly, even though he also very much wanted to roll over and rest, if not downright sleep.

Hutch released him, then pushed on his hip. Starsky obeyed, turning onto his side.

"That'll do nicely." Hutch's warm breath drifted across Starsky's cheek. Then, with a hint of amusement he said, "You can lie there and not do anything, except," he pushed at Starsky's thigh until he drew it up toward his chest, "make sure I have access."

Starsky felt satisfaction as his partner stretched out behind him, his stiffness poking against his backside. Hutch's hand drifted across the fur of his chest, and Starsky closed his eyes at its gentle exploration.

A cheek settled against his throat, and Hutch asked tenderly, "Sure you want just a straight fuck?"

Starsky wondered what else Hutch had in mind, and then a moment later a tongue darted out along his throat, giving him his answer.

"How about a preview?" Hutch suggested, voice enticingly thick, "of what's coming soon to a bedroom near you?"

Starsky only giggled, not wanting Hutch to have to work very hard at anything, but also not wanting to deny himself any special favors, especially favors Hutch seemed intent on delivering.

The bed shifted, and then kisses moved down his back, an extra long kiss settling at his tailbone. Then the bed shifted more and he felt his ass parted.

Hutch had never done anything like this, but obviously he wanted to return some of the pleasure he'd received today. Moist bluntness moved across his exposed opening, and he couldn't help but feel a tingle of delight... even if he couldn't respond to it.

The strip of moisture stayed there... little short strokes... like a cat.

Starsky relaxed even more. "Mmmmm."

The sensation left. A kiss was planted on his upturned buttock. The bed rocked, then he sensed Hutch fumbling with a tube. Hot breath was back near his face. "Whenever you want that for the main event... just let me know."

Starsky felt a phantom throb at his crotch. Hutch's voice was serious and level, but he couldn't help but wonder if his partner was getting back at him for insisting upon such open communication. Almost as though Hutch were thinking, You made me ask for what I wanted; you're going to have to ask for it, too.

Starsky's thoughts were interrupted a moment later when large hands grabbed his ass cheeks, massaging intently. "God, I love that," he gasped.

"I love it, too," Hutch noted roughly as his hands continued to knead. "Love having my hands full of you."

Starsky relaxed even more, then groaned involuntarily. Those hands made him feel so loved, so protected, so... wanted.

The hands left. A moment later, his thigh was pushed upward again, and a lubricated finger felt around his asshole. After stroking the recess, it pushed in. It didn't feel as invasive as it usually did, and Starsky realized his body truly had no fight left. It was thoroughly sated. He smiled at the thought.

"Mmm," Hutch said against his neck, as his finger continued to work, "easy meat."

Starsky chuckled lazily. Everything they felt for each other, and were capable of doing to each other, made him rich enough in his love for Hutch. But their humor added an extra delicious flavor. A second finger teased the opening, then entered him. He felt the stretching, but his body was too drained to feel any pain. Both fingers worked at pulling his tight ring outward, trying to open it. Hutch's breath became shorter against his neck.

The mattress creaked, and he was stretched some more. Hutch had managed to get three fingers in him. Neither of them had done that before.

"I think you like messing around in there," Starsky accused drowsily. Everything felt pleasurable, now that he was accustomed to it.

Hutch chuckled in the darkness, then planted a kiss against his cheek.

Starsky turned his head and grunted, "Mmm."

Hutch's full, eager lips pressed against his, devouring more than kissing.

Starsky could barely keep up.

"Mmm," Hutch said before pulling back. "Playtime's over." Slowly, the trio of fingers withdrew from Starsky's body and were replaced by flesh slick with moisture.

Hutch grunted with effort, and then that thick, demanding flesh filled him....

Hutch's head pressed against his shoulder and neck, his thickness moving with steady strokes, in and out, in and out.

The sensation was pleasant against Starsky's insides and he murmured, "'At's nice. So nice."

Hutch's cheek buried closer against his neck. The force of his strokes became more demanding. "I love you so much," he declared.

Starsky grinned, eyes still closed. "You're just sayin' that because I'm letting you fuck me."

Hutch's arm wrapped around Starsky's chest possessively, as though the blond was defying Starsky's humor. His arm tightened as their bodies rocked with the force of lean hips.

"Oh, dear God," Hutch swore thickly. Then, deeper, "Oh, God. Oh, dear God."

Hutch grabbed Starsky's chest as he braced his leg against the bed. He pumped faster, desperately. He buried his mouth against Starsky's neck as he exhaled with a rush. Hutch made a deep guttural noise as he reached orgasm, and then the motion of his hips slowed to a stop.

Starsky grinned, his eyes still closed, as he felt, muscle by muscle, his partner relax behind him. It was many minutes before Hutch shifted to withdraw. The bed rocked and he leaned over Starsky.

"That felt good," he purred in a small, satisfied voice.

"Good," Starsky said. "Oughtta put you right back to sleep." He raised his head up as loving lips rewarded him. In fact, they were so persistent that Starsky slowly rolled over onto his back, their lips still connected. Finally, he was released. "You're dynamite," he sighed, reaching up and stroking the golden head.

"I love you," Hutch said.

Starsky's heart swelled and he grinned warmly. "Good. Because you're stuck with me one way or the other. So you may as well enjoy me."

"You nut." The full lips kissed him once again.

Starsky sighed heavily. "I'm goin' to sleep. You better, too. Then maybe we can wake up in the middle of the night and go crazy all over each other again." It pleased him to make the bold declaration, even though he wasn't sure he'd be up to it.

"I love you," Hutch said again, whisper soft this time.

Starsky merely grunted as he drifted into sleep.

* * *

Starsky put the platter of leftover roast beef on the table where Hutch was sitting. Both men were in robes, but it was almost noon, so they'd decided lunch was in order. Hutch finally looked as if he'd had enough sleep. They'd awaked early and nuzzled each other awhile. Then, they'd showered and gone back to bed to pleasure each other some more. Afterwards, they'd dozed for an hour or so. Upon waking this time, Hutch declared he had to get up for good, or risk getting bedsores.

Now, Starsky puttered around the kitchen, finding all the ingredients necessary to make any kind of sandwich either of them might prefer. Ad he did so, he said, "We need to get going on our detective agency. I've already talked to some places, and the state and federal governments are supposed to be sending some forms for us to fill out."

He was pleased when the blond looked up in surprise. "You've already done all that?" He was putting a cheese and roast beef sandwich together.

"Yeah," Starsky said, sitting down and spreading mayonnaise on a bread slice. "I had to do somethin' while you were sleepin'. Thought I may as well find out what's involved in getting a business started. Actually, it sounded a lot simpler than I thought. The big thing is gonna be advertising. We need to put an ad in the yellow pages - both the big book and some of the smaller local books. It's expensive, but a lot of the agencies I talked to said it was the main way they got business."

Hutch appeared to be listening, but when he spoke it was on a completely different subject. "We need to buy a house."

Starsky blinked while he reached for other condiments to put on his sandwich. Buying a house sounded so... big. So extravagant. "Right now?" he asked in disbelief. "I mean, yeah, I know we may as well since we can afford it; but it certainly wouldn't bother me to keep living in an apartment for a while. Besides....," he trailed off, not wanting to bring up his next thought. He looked at his partner helplessly, feeling as though all their money was going to be drained away before they knew it.

"Besides what?" Hutch asked levelly, then took a healthy bite of his lunch.

Starsky felt sheepish, as though he'd done something naughty, that he was having to ask permission for a favor. "Well...," he ducked his head, "I was kinda hopin'... you know, since we had so much money..."

"Yeah?" Hutch prompted, impatiently.

Starsky decided to be bold. He leaned forward on the table. "I've been thinking it would be nice to get a new car. You know... a nice car. An expensive car."

Blue eyes gazed at him for a long moment. Then Hutch's face softened. He shrugged. "Sure, we'll both need new cars. I won't want something as expensive as you, but if we want to cater to a Beverly Hills clientele, we'll need to drive around in something appropriate."

That was too easy. Starsky hadn't expected Hutch to be so agreeable. And getting two cars. "So... we can afford two nice cars and a house and still have money left over to invest in our business?"

"Yes, if we finance some of it. We'll talk to Emerson about the best approach. We need to think in terms of tax deductions from here on out."

Starsky sighed, deciding he didn't want to finish his sandwich. Hutch trusted the financial advisor without question. Starsky supposed he should, too. He just wasn't sure if he would ever get used to having money.

"You're not eating," Hutch noted, a hint of worry in his voice.

"Maybe I oughtta take some sort of personal finance classes. It feels weird havin' lots of money and counting on someone else to handle it all."

Hutch looked pleased. "Sure, buddy, that'd be great. Maybe I'll take them with you."

Feeling much better, Starsky said, "Guess we're gonna be busy the next few days then. In addition to making an appointment with Emerson and looking into classes, we have to talk to Dobey. I called him on Tuesday to cancel our earlier appointment, but we need to see him as soon as possible. And we need to see Huggy, too. He brought over some groceries for us and I didn't want to say much to him then, but we need to catch him up."

Hutch's eyes darted away, and his face took on a distant expression.

Starsky watched for a moment, waiting until he was certain of what Hutch was thinking. Softly, he said, "I don't see how we can tell anybody what happened, Hutch. I mean, nobody's gonna believe us - that it really happened - so... what's the point?"

Hutch looked back at him. "Yeah." His expression softened, then he gently asked, "What about the rest?"

"What do you mean?"

Hutch smiled warmly. "About us. What do we want to tell people about us?"

Starsky shrugged. He hadn't even thought about "us" being something that needed to be dealt with. After all, there had always been an "us", hadn't there? He was thoughtful awhile, appreciating tremendous satisfaction at his inner peace. "I can't see hiding it from anybody who matters. I mean," he felt such freedom, saying it, "it's not like we're gonna have to worry about getting fired from our jobs. Really Hutch, what can people do to us? And If we really do end up dealing with the ritzy crowd, well... they're more open-minded about that kind of thing, anyway... aren't they?"

Hutch shrugged. "That's the impression I get." Then he smiled, too. A huge, glowing smile as he leaned across the table and met his partner's eye. "I'm the happiest man on Earth."

Starsky's throat tightened. Finally, he had a broadly smiling Hutch. An enormously happy Hutch. He quickly shook his head. "Uh-uh. I'm the happiest."

* * *

They knocked on the open door simultaneously.

Dobey looked up from his work and broke into a smile. "Starsky. Hutchinson. Come in."

They did.

"It's good to see you. Especially looking so well." He gestured to the chairs in front of his desk as he eyed Starsky.

They sat. Starsky said, "I'm a hundred percent, Captain, and then some."

"That's good to hear."

"We'll get right to it, Captain," Hutch said in that mild voice that sounded so calming. "Starsky and I are turning in our resignations." He'd brought in a satchel, and he pulled out a couple of papers and handed them to Dobey. "There's your copy. We'll stop by Personnel and give them copies and fill out whatever paperwork is necessary."

The large man sighed heavily as he studied the brief letters. "I can't say this is a complete surprise. " He looked up. "But I admit I'm disappointed."

"We aren't," Starsky said. "It was just... time, Captain. Time to move on. But we're both real proud of what we've accomplished here."

"I'm glad to hear that," Dobey said congenially. Then he folded his hands on top of his desk. "If you don't mind my asking, what you are moving on to?"

"Starting our own private detective agency," Hutch said.

Dobey grunted. "Hmm. Same field of work."

"But not near as dangerous," Starsky noted happily. "And hopefully it won't be as frustrating. There ought to be a lot less red tape. In fact...," he looked at Hutch hopefully.

The blond shifted in his seat. "We were wondering if you might even toss a few crumbs our way. Maybe we can help out on some things that the Department doesn't have the personnel to handle, or that's it's too tied up in red tape to handle properly."

Dobey grunted. "You never know. You boys have business cards yet?"

"No," Starsky said, "but we'll send you a bunch when we get some made."

"That sounds good."

"When we get settled and everything," Starsky continued, "we'll have you and Edith over for dinner."

A large smile broke out on Dobey's chubby features. "Why, thank you. By settled, do you mean that you're moving?"

Hutch shrugged. "We've come into some money. We're going to be buying a house soon."

Now a grunt of amusement. "You moving in together?"

Both men nodded.

"I hope that works out."

Starsky looked at his partner, and they reached across the short space between them, clasping hands. "We don't see any reason to hide this from you, Cap'n. And though it doesn't have anything to do with the reason we're resigning, I guess, for the Department's sake, it's just as well."

Dobey looked from one to the other, then at their joined hands. The smile left. "What are you saying, exactly?"

They glanced at each other again. Then Starsky smiled widely. "We're as good as hitched. Gonna have a long, happy life together."

Dobey sighed again. "I'm not sure how to handle this. I know you two have always been extraordinarily close, but I admit this is going to take some getting used to. And, don't take this the wrong way, but I can't help but be worried about you both."

Starsky shifted. "I know it's not an everyday thing, Cap'n, but Hutch and me, we were as good as hitched quite a while ago. It just took... certain things happening to really point out to us that we don't have room for anyone else in our lives, anyway, since we're so wrapped up in each other, so...," he shrugged, amazed at how simple it all sounded out loud.

Dobey grunted again, but he wasn't quite as grave now. "Whatever works. I wish you two the best. And I hope you won't be strangers."

They stood, Hutch saying, "We're serious about having you and Edith over. The kids, too, if you're comfortable with them being in our house, considering our situation." He held out his hand. "Thanks, Captain. For everything. It's been a pleasure serving under you."

"Thank you, Hutchinson." The black man's voice now sounded choked. He held out his hand to Starsky as Hutch moved on to the door. "Starsky." He pumped Starsky's hand vigorously. "I'm so glad to see you healthy, son."

Starsky returned the shake with both hands. "Take care, Captain. We'll be in touch."

* * *

The cry was ear-splitting. Sad. Desperate. Starsky knew exactly why. And there was nothing he could do to stop it. Stop the cry. Nor the reason behind it.

He cringed, feeling an immense sadness of his own because he could be of no help at all.


Ah, Hutch. It was all Starsky could do to hold back his own sobs.

Here we go again. He swallowed thickly, willing himself awake. Groggily, he rose up in bed and turned over.

Hutch was sleeping soundly.

Huh? That didn't make sense. He stared at his partner a long time. But there was no mistaking it: Hutch was in a deep, peaceful sleep.

Careful not to disturb his partner's slumber, Starsky slowly lowered himself back to the mattress. Then what was I hearin'? He wondered. If it wasn't Hutch crying, then who...?

His heart pounding at the next thought. Maybe I was dreamin' it this time? He thought hard. It had seemed exactly like the dream Hutch had had twice before when they were back east. Except... this time it was my memory instead of Hutch's? His brow furrowed. Or was I simply dreaming about Hutch having the dream?

Still frowning, Starsky slipped out of bed. He tiptoed to the living room of his apartment, then pulled back the curtain of the nearest window and looked up at a star-filled sky.

So many stars. He wanted to feel mad at those stars, for the unwanted mystery they'd brought into his and Hutch's lives. But they're so beautiful, he realized.

Which one of you stars is where those little gray aliens live? Little gray aliens who saved me....

Starsky was surprised at the wave of emotion that washed through him. They had no right to do what they did, he protested to himself. Yet he couldn't deny... Such a beautiful thing you did for me. You did for Hutch. Jesus, I think I'm startin' to feel downright fond of ya.

As he continued to study the night sky, he wondered about them. What they were like. Why they came to Earth. Why they did this to people. What it was about Hutch that had persuaded them to cure him.

Sadness weighed upon him now. I met you guys out there, but I don't even remember it. Just a fragment of a dream....

It would be asking too much of the fates, he decided, to want more than he had. I'm so blessed. Living with the love of my life. Making the most incredible love to the love of my life. Paperwork all filled out so we can get our `third entity' - he grinned at the thought - on its way. Gonna look at some more houses tomorrow. He still couldn't believe how nice the houses were that the real estate agent had shown them so far. Hutch seemed nonchalant about it; just kept saying it was the price range Emerson said they should be looking at. And then we'll buy some nice new cars. He felt a slight pang. He still hadn't figured out what to do with the Torino. He found it hard to think about selling it, because he was so attached to it. But he was also starting to view it as a symbol of the past. A past which was the path to the here and now. He wasn't certain that, as time went by, he'd still feel that same attachment. And then, once we're settled, my love and I will get on with helping others. It gave him extreme satisfaction to know that they would be doing that. Not being selfish with their good fortune, but using their abilities to help others in any way they could.


He turned. Hutch was standing in the bedroom doorway in his briefs, squinting sleepily.

"I'm okay, Hutch."

The blond approached. "What are you doing?"

Starsky turned his attention back to the window. "Looking at the stars."

Hutch's hand settled on his shoulder. He began a gentle massage as he asked softly, "How come?"

"Just thinking about... them." He sighed deeply. "And feeling incredibly grateful for all they've done for us." He paused. "Wonder if they even realize it."

Hutch's arms came around his body and Starsky felt Hutch's cheek pressed against his shoulder, as his partner introduced a slight swaying motion.

"I had the dream, Hutch."

The motion stopped and Hutch's arms stiffened.

"I woke up thinking you were having the dream again, but you were sound asleep. And then I realized I'd had the dream. But just... you know, the part where you were crying for me."

"Oh, buddy," Hutch said sorrowfully. "I'd hoped that was behind us."

Starsky turned. Leaning back on the window sill, he looked up into eyes lit with starlight. "I wanna know what happened, Hutch. I want to see a therapist. A hypnotist."

Hutch swallowed. Loudly.

"I don't have the fears about it that you do," Starsky rushed to explain. "And you can be there in the room with me and the hypnotist so you can be sure nothing hokey goes on. Surely, that Von Glick fellow can recommend someone out here."

Puzzled, Hutch said, "You sound so sure about this."

"Yes, I am sure." He hesitated, wondering how best to explain it. "Hutch, you and I had an incredible experience. Something happened to us that happens to very, very few people. I want to know what really happened. If my subconscious or whatever it is has any recollection of those four hours, I want to know about it." He turned back to look at the sky. More calmly, he said, "I have a right to know."

Hutch's arms came around him once again, and pulled snug.

* * *

"You're in the car talking with Hutch," the female voice reminded him, "and you see an airplane."


"Tell me everything you remember from that point on."

The lights are bright. Like landing lights. Low. It looks odd. I say, "Man, that plane is really low." Hutch says, "Must be an airport nearby." I put my head back out the window, and suddenly the plane is even lower, and it's behind us. Weird, that it moved so fast like that. And then the car dies. Oh, no - we're out in the middle of nowhere. I don't like this. Hutch has thrown up his hands in disbelief. The whole car has died. The lights and dashboard all gone dark. "What the hell's the matter with the car?" I yell at Hutch. Oh, man, I'm scared. Weird, the car dyin' like that. And - I'm scared to look behind us - but I look. And - oh, no - that plane is right over us. Oh, no. It's big. The lights so bright. "What the hell?" Hutch says. He's outta the car. He's scared, too, I can tell.

Oh, no. What is this? What is this? Blue light coming from it. Oh, shit, that's not a plane. Oh, shit. What the hell is it?

We're floating up. Jesus Christ. We're floating. Floating up to it. I can't move. I can't see Hutch but I know he's right behind me, floating, too. Oh, God, I'm scared. I wanna wake up real bad.

"David, you're safe here, in the therapist's office. It's only a memory. Do you understand?"


"Nothing that you remember can harm you now. Do you understand that?"


"Can you continue then?"

He swallowed thickly. Oh, God, it's opening up. Something in the bottom is opening, and we're going up into it. Oh, man, I'm scared. I can't talk, can't move. I wanna be anywhere but here.

I think we're inside. It's dark. We're floating. Down some... corridor. It's dark. Drab. Weird writing on the walls. I'm going inside a room - OH, GOD -

"David, try to stay calm. It can't harm you now. It's only a memory."

Oh, Jesus, what is this? Who are they? Big eyes. Gray. Short. Hardly any mouth. Four of them. Oh, God, what are they gonna do to me. Where's Hutch?

I'm undressing. They're all watching. I don't want to undress, but they're making me somehow. I know it's what they want, even though they don't speak. They don't want me to be afraid. I - I feel myself start to calm down. I know they're making me be calm. I don't like it that they're making me feel that way, but I'm also relieved. I don't want to be afraid.

I'm naked and I'm floating up and then I'm lying on a table in the room and they're all looking down at me. I'm not restrained with anything, but I can't move. Instruments are hovering over me, coming out of the walls. Oh, no, I don't like this....

But they're telling me it won't hurt. I know it won't hurt only because they're tricking my mind into believing it, but I'm relieved that they're going to make it painless. I know they're going to let me go after it's all over. I'm calmer now. They'll do what they have to do and then they'll let us go.

"Where's Hutch?" I ask the one closest to me. I don't think I can move my mouth, but I know he - it -- can "hear" me. He's telling me not to worry. Not to worry about Hutch.

Oh, God, I see things from my body being taken by the machines. My blood. Semen from my prick, even though I didn't feel an orgasm. Oh, God, what - OUCH!!! Jesus Christ!!

They're trying to tell me again that it doesn't hurt.

Fucking bastards!! I yell at them. Some thing got rammed up my ass. There wasn't any pain, but dammit I felt it. I'm glaring at them. They don't seem to understand about personal dignity, violation. But, thank God, that damn thing is gone.

I tell myself to relax and maybe it'll hurry up and be over with. I tell myself to not be afraid. That I should think this is cool... that I'm in a spaceship. That this is actually happening to me.

Oh, God, I hear Hutch. He's crying. Real loud. God, I can't see him, but he sounds so sad. Desperate. And there's nothing I can do to help. To stop him from crying. Or stop what's happening to him. I feel so sad, and then I hear him cry so desperately, PLEASE. PLEASE. HE'S BEEN SICK. HE'S BEEN SICK. PLEASE DON'T HURT HIM. PLEASE.

Ah, Hutch. He's worried about me, begging for me. And there's nothing I can do. I can't yell back, because it's like I'm paralyzed. I look at the one closest to me. I plead with him to assure Hutch that I'm okay.

And then I realize there's no further sound from Hutch. But I know it's because the aliens made him shut up. Paralyzed him so he can't scream anymore. Cry anymore.

I look at the one closest to me again. "Please tell him I'm okay," I say to him -- telepathically, I guess, since my mouth can't move.

I can't tell what he's thinking, what he's feeling. And then other aliens come into the room. They're all "speaking" together. I can't make out what they're saying, but I know they're talking about Hutch. I get the impression that they're frustrated with him. Something about him being "stubborn". He's not behaving like the others. As the aliens discuss him, I feel this intense sadness come over me, and I realize it's coming from the aliens. They aren't used to feeling sadness, and they're feeling it because of Hutch. It's like they don't know how to control the sad feelings, so the sadness is, like, all over the room, bouncing off the walls. Then suddenly they all look at me, and I feel my heart pounding. I get the sense they have a plan, but I don't understand what it is. Some of them leave the room - sorta float out - and the rest come to stand over me. I realize all the machines have been put away and I'm just lying there.

"Can I go home now?" I ask the one nearest me. I think he's the same one I was speaking with before, even though I can't tell them apart. He tells me I will when they're finished with me.

"Is Hutch all right?" I ask him. And then I get a strong feeling of disapproval. He doesn't like Hutch. I don't think any of them do.

"But you'll send him back, too, right?" I ask, because I'm starting to feel real worried.

"Of course," he tells me, and I sort of get the feeling that they're sorry they ever brought him up in the first place. And then he's sending me something like a mental image, and I see Hutch sitting in the car behind the wheel. I'm so relieved, and I realize the car will start when they're finished with us. Thank God, Hutch is out of their hands and okay.

"What about me?" I ask him, because I don't understand why I'm just lyin' here anymore.

"Soon," he says, and I realize that I don't really understand what "soon" means to him.

Two others come into the room. One starts messing with one of the machines, and the other is holding some sort of container. A clear container. It has red stuff in it. Like blood. And then they're bringing the machine closer and loading the container. Oh, God, h, God, they're going to put that stuff - whatever it is - into me. Oh, God, I don't like this. I don't like this. What it is they're going to do to me? Oh, please let me wake up.

"David, it's only a memory. It can't harm you now. The fact that you're here now, in my office, proves that you got out of it just fine. Do you understand that your memories can't hurt you?"


"Then please proceed, if you can."

Deep breath. I'm really, really, really scared. They don't have any needles, but I know they're going to put that red stuff into me. I look at the one I've talked to all along. "What is it?" I ask him, begging. "What's inside that stuff?"

He seems puzzled that I'm afraid. "Your blood is being returned to you. We've fixed it."

I don't understand what he means. But I try to be calmer, since I know there' s nothing I can do about it. I believe him when he says it's my blood, because it looks like blood. "What do you mean, fixed it?" I ask him.

He projects another image into my mind. I see blood cells - the fixed ones - going through my bloodstream and fixing all the other cells. And the solution they used to do the "fixing" up and disappears when its task is through. I get the feeling it's only going to take a few hours to make it through my bloodstream. I'm looking at the one standing closest to me in a new way. "Why?" I ask him. I'm not sure I really even understand the "fixing" part. What the end result is going to be.

But he projects another image. Shows me a memory of Hutch lying naked on one of their tables, screaming and begging for my safety. Radiating sadness. And I guess he means that they had to get rid of Hutch's sadness. They couldn't handle it. They couldn't even telepathically take away his sadness, because it was so strong. And I start feeling real proud of Hutch. That he's so special that these aliens don't even know what to do with him.

They move the machine away, and I realize they're done putting the "fixed" blood back into me. I'm floating up and then I'm standing next to the table. They tell me to dress and I do. And while I'm dressing, I'm real curious and I ask how come it was necessary to "fix" me if they already put Hutch back in the car. I mean, they'd gotten rid of their problem, so why did they still feel it necessary to "fix" me?

He glides a little closer to me. And he looks up at me in... sort of a different way. Almost... compassionate, I guess. And his thought comes through loud and clear: So Hutch won't be sad anymore.

I find myself thinking that I won't forget this. I realize how silly it seems - me thinking I'm gonna repay these aliens a favor some day, because of what they've done for Hutch. The next thing I know I'm floating down the corridor again, and then I'm out of the space ship and floating down to the car. I would have liked a more formal goodbye, but I'm relieved this is almost over. When I'm on the ground, the light disappears, and I get into the car beside Hutch. He looks really tired, and I feel really tired. He turns the key and the ignition starts right up.

And we start driving. And all I can think about is when are we going to hurry up and get to Charlottesville. Man, am I tired.

"We know the rest," Hutch's voice said. It was very close.

"David, I'm going to slowly count to five. When I get to five, you'll wake up and have full recollection of everything you've told me. Do you understand?"


"One... two... three... four... five."

Starsky opened his eyes, feeling he was coming out of a light sleep, having dreamed the most incredible dream.

Hutch was kneeling beside the sofa, looking at him with a big, sympathetic smile and bleary eyes.

"It really happened," Starsky whispered in awe, realizing that the "dream" was a genuine memory.

Hutch nodded, eyes getting blearier. "Yes." He leaned forward and threw his arms around Starsky.

Starsky hugged him back, squeezing tight.

"You were so brave through it all," Hutch said.

Starsky released his hold, and had to wait until Hutch did, as well. When they were able to look at each other, Starsky said firmly, "Don't talk to me about bravery. You were scared shitless, too, and all you could think about was me. That's courage, Hutch."

Hutch's eyes simply softened, as though he had no wish to argue.

A pantsuit crossed Starsky's line of vision behind Hutch, and he realized they weren't alone. He settled back. The therapist was taking a cassette out of the cassette player. She said, "You may want to keep this, in case you forget anything that was said."

Since Hutch was closer, he turned and accepted the tape from her. "Thank you." He reached into his wallet. "How much do we owe you?"

"A hundred and twenty dollars."

Starsky sat up while Hutch counted out twenty dollar bills, then handed them over. He felt more at peace with what had happened. And that, now, it could truly be put behind them for good.

* * *

The therapist that Von Glick had referred them to had been two hours up the coast, near Santa Barbara On their way back, Starsky asked Hutch to pull over at a sparsely populated beach. They started down the grassy embankment, then paused to pull off their shoes and socks. Starsky wished they were wearing cutoffs, but since they weren't, he marched off toward the water in his Levi's, aware of his partner following behind.

He got just close enough for the last of the waves' cycle to lap at his feet. He watched them crash down, one after the other, the power and beauty of nature particularly awe-aspiring at that moment.

Hutch's arm slipped around his waist and hugged him close. "You okay?"

Starsky took a deep breath, wondering if Hutch would understand. "You remember when we were at that park in Indianapolis?"

Hutch's strong arm squeezed him tighter, and the blond muttered, "Uh-huh."

"I remember looking at the park and at the sky, and thinking how beautiful they were, but that I'd never see them in the same way again. Because I felt so... insecure, I guess. Scared. That the world would never be the same to me, knowing that flying saucers can come down from the sky and do things to us against our will."

Hutch's hold eased as he looked at him, concerned. Starsky watched a particularly large wave crash down. "But now I'm lookin' out at this ocean." His gaze strayed upward for a moment. "And up at the sky. And I'm thinking this planet Earth of ours is incredibly beautiful. And I like bein' here."

That earned him a squeeze, and he turned to Hutch, looking up into those crystal blue eyes. "I want to live a long time, Hutch. Always before, it seemed such a given that we were gonna get blown away on the streets some day by some two-bit punks. But we've survived all that, and I want to be around a long, long time to enjoy everything that we have right now. And everything that we can do for others."

Those blue eyes softened, as did Hutch's entire face. Big gentle hands came up and clasped Starsky's cheeks. "I love you so much," his life partner whispered. "And I'm going to be with you that whole long, long time."

Starsky closed his eyes, feeling his emotions well up, and leaned forward for a kiss. Their contact was light, affectionate, but went on for quite a long time. They clasped hands as they started back toward their car.

As they sat and put their footwear back on, they suddenly heard a chorus of shouts. "Faggots! Fucking fairies!! Corn holers!"

Starsky looked to the right and saw some young teens hiding behind a bush. He simply grinned and continued to tie his shoelaces. Beside him, Hutch bristled, but the blond didn't seem to feel a confrontation necessary, either. The verbal assault continued, but with less confidence, since the two "victims" weren't showing any kind of reaction. It had all but faded away as they stood and began to climb the rest of the way up to the car.

Starsky wondered why his pride could so easily let such a personal attack go. Then he realized that it wasn't simply because the instigators were kids. Having been through what he and Hutch had been through on a lonely Virginia road tended to go a long way toward putting life into perspective - emphasizing what was truly important.

And what wasn't.