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~Dedicated to Flamingo~

"I can't believe the IRS is auditing me," Hutch groused, rummaging through Starsky's closet like a madman.

"It's just random, Hutch," Starsky attempted to sooth. "Don't take it so personal." The loud "ha-rumph" from the closet testified to the ineffectiveness of his efforts. He sighed as Hutch pelted wadded-up clothing over his shoulders, out into his bedroom.

"I can't believe I stayed over here last night, knowing I had the tax-man hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles." Clothing continued to rain down.

"I seem to remember that you appreciated my special 'stress-relieving' backrub at the time." And everything else I rubbed, too.

Hutch's back stiffened, as though realizing what he'd said had the ability to sting. The wheat-blond head pulled out of the forest of shirts and jackets, an abashed expression painting the pale features. "That's not what I meant, Starsk," he said with a shake of his head. "I'm really racked about testifying before the IRS."

It was Starsky's turn to shake his head. "Babe, you're the most law-abiding guy I know. You're taxes are fine. This is just routine stuff. The IRS is rattling your cage. Annoying, yeah, even a little scary, but no worse then us rousting a bar for information. It's just part of the territory. You know you haven't done nothing wrong; I know you haven't done nothing wrong. And the tax guys downtown are gonna ask a few questions, rattle their pens, and close the books after saying, 'Nothing's wrong.' End of the story."

"I just want to make the right impression . . ." Hutch opined, some of the stress visibly draining from his face. "I asked my accountant for advice."

"Yeah? What'd he say?"

"He said wear my shabbiest clothing. Let them think I'm a pauper." Starsky heard shades of Jack Mitchell in his partner's rich voice. Uh-huh, this is not the time for a trip down memory lane.

"The reason the accountant gave you any advice at all was because he thought you were gonna shoot him," Starsky said, giving Hutch a wicked grin. "I was there. You grilled him like some lowlife perp too wet to step on and too low to kick. He had to tell you something just to get you out of his office. He said your tax returns are fine."

"Well, what about what the lawyer said when I asked him the same question?" Hutch demanded. "I got conflicting advice, buddy. He said not to let them intimidate me—said I should wear my most elegant suit and tie."

Hutch has got the bit in his teeth. "That guy acted like you were gonna shoot him, too. Hutch, the lawyer told you this was just a routine audit and that everything was gonna be okay. He said that stuff about the suit to calm you down, since it was obvious you didn't like the advice your accountant gave you."

"Oh that's a load of crap, Starsk! I didn't pay these people a hundred bucks an hour to give me bad advice."

Yep, this golden palomino has definitely got the bit between his teeth. I'm gonna have to pull the reins back hard, just to get his attention, Starsky thought, sorry that his partner was so racked, but ultimately amused because it was so uncalled for.

"Well, I consulted an expert, Hutch. Got to back up my partner here," Starsky answered soothingly, deliberately ignoring the heat in Hutch voice. "I called Rabbi Levi, and told him about what your lawyer and accountant said. Figuring he's got a lot of experience with human nature, I thought he could offer a tie-breaker on the suit issue."

Hutch scowled at him, the blue eyes balanced somewhere between amusement and anger. "What did the rabbi say?"

"He told me a story," Starsky replied, "of a woman, about to be married. She asked her mother what to wear on her wedding night."

Hutch, perhaps sensing a shaggy dog, scowled. His pale brows drew together, kinking his face unattractively. "So . . . what did she say?"

"'Wear a heavy, long, flannel nightgown that goes right up to your neck.' But when she asked her best friend, she said 'Wear your most sexy negligee, with a v-neck right down to your navel.'"

"What the hell does this have to do with my problem with the IRS?" Hutch protested, obviously fed up.

"No matter what you wear," Starsky said, totally deadpan, "you're gonna get screwed."

For a moment, Starsky thought he'd reined too hard, and his palomino was going to turn into a bucking bronco. But Hutch's mouth opened to release a gale of near-hysterical laughter a half second after his eyes gave completely over to warm amusement. Starsky slid out of bed and pressed his naked form against Hutch's boxer-clad one. His laughter twined with Hutch's even as his hands soothingly rubbed the long, lean back.

Laughter subsiding to a few tired chortles a minute later, Starsky felt the tension drain away beneath his probing fingers. Starsky stepped back from his newly-calm partner, though he was careful to maintain contact—his left hand grasped Hutch's right. "Are you ready to tell me what's really buggin' you?"

The big blond's eyes darted to the floor. His stubbled chin rested on his sternum, his hair falling forward to hide a good portion of his face. The nervous gesture made his partner look about fifteen-years old. "Hutch . . . ?" Starsky asked softly.

"My dad was audited my sophomore year in high school. It was a really bad time for me," Hutch admitted softly.


"Yeah. He was like a bull with its throat ripped out." The sky-blue eyes lifted and pinned his own.

Starsky was reminded of the time he and some army buddies had taken leave and gone down to Tijuana to see a bullfight for themselves. The arena had been small and shabby and stank of urine. The only noble thing he'd seen that day was the beautiful animal butchered for sport: Starsky was ashamed that his money had helped support such cruelty. His memory of that sobering day made it all too easy to imagine Hutch's unforgiving father acting like a pain-maddened beast when it came to something threatening his money. "How bad did it get?" he asked softly.

The keen eyes grew sharper as he discerned Starsky's intent. "It wasn't like he beat me, Starsk. He just drank and swore and screamed at me and my mom for anything and nothing—except when he wasn't freezing us out. It was rough for a sixteen-year-old kid to see his dad lose it . . . but it wasn't the end of the world," Hutch finished with a soft sigh.

"And that's why you're such a straight-arrow when it comes to your taxes." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah . . . I guess so."

Starsky pressed his lips to Hutch's, just a gentle pressure, not sexual so much as comforting, a tender assertion of love and kinship.

"This audit today isn't the end of the world, either," Starsky answered quietly, his hand untwining from Hutch's, trailing down the long fingers to land on the hard thigh. He let his fingers feather trace a trail to Hutch's satiny buttocks. He gave each one a hard squeeze, and ended with a playful slap. "Take a quick shower, Blintz. If you let me drive, we'll have just enough time to get to your place so's you can change into the perfect suit for today's meeting with the tax guys."

Hutch's own hands came to rest on Starsky's ass; the strong fingers began to firmly knead the muscles there. "Shower with me and we'll save even more time," his lover murmured into Starsky's ear. "And what, exactly, is the 'perfect suit'?" Hutch asked mock-suspiciously.

"Think you can still get into your dress uniform?" Starsky watched an evil grin and a happy flush creep across Hutch's handsome features.

"Oh yeah. That's perfect, Starsk." The kiss his partner delivered was happy, enthusiastic, and rearing for action—of every sort.

Hand-to-buttock and hand-to-buttock, the two detectives turned to the bathroom and the sensual shower awaiting them.

The End