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Natural light from the open window filtered across the crumpled sheets as wisps of excitement, desire, and apprehension swept gently into his blood stream, waking him. Hutch cast a furtive glance at his bedmate who lay just out of reach . . . the strong shoulders, the well muscled back, and the beautiful, lush ass that lay half exposed in the moonlight. The dark black curls were everywhere against the crisp linen pillowcase . . . a riot of silk, elegantly topping what seemed like yards and yards of satiny soft and velvet-downed skin.

Glancing at the clock, Hutch bit back the urge to one, sigh and two, reach out and touch the living form that was as graceful in sleep as it was in waking. Less than three hours ago, Hutch had made love to and been made love to by his best friend and partner of more years than he could count. Somehow that suddenly seemed more important—and more frightening—than the fact that that best friend and partner was a man.

It had started out so simple . . . so ordinary . . . so mundane. An evening like any number they'd shared over the years. One fast food dinner, one B-movie that they'd seen a hundred times before, three cans of beer and, at the last moment, one game of Monopoly.

Feeling a little high from the remnants of the day's adrenaline, the beer, and just the pleasure of being in Starsky's company, Hutch had decided to be smart and slipped Starsky's marker into his front jeans pocket. Making sure that Starsky hadn't seen, he replaced the sporty coup with the terrier.

When Starsky had demanded "his" marker, Hutch took a long pull off of Starsky's beer and made some crack about the "little dog" being a better match.

"Oh, yeah?" Starsky had asked defensively, all the while sliding the board out from between them and carefully scooting the flaming votives out of harm's way. "What did you do with it?"

Hutch had glanced down at his lap and grinned. "I guess you're just going to have to find it."

Hutch laughed, easily deflecting Starsky's attack that was yielded all but ineffective by the beer and the laughter.

"Yeah," Hutch sputtered helplessly, his back hitting the floor. "The more I think about it . . . the more of a resemblance I see. You have gotten a little dog-in-the-manger-ish in your old age . . . and you always did have that terrier quality!"

Starsky gripped his shoulders, clambering up Hutch's prone body like a lemur up a tree.

"Take it back," Starsky demanded, pushing Hutch even further back onto the cool linoleum.

"Hey, watch it!" Hutch protested, attempting to sit.

Somehow Starsky looped his foot around Hutch's ankle, separating his legs, decreasing his chances of gaining the leverage necessary to switch positions. Starsky's face loomed over Hutch's in the shadowed room, eyes sparkling, cheeks flushed, lips parted. "Give it back, Hutch."

Stubbornness rose to match stubbornness. "No."

Starsky dunked down and kissed him right on the mouth—a move meant to startle more than anything else; he'd done it before. But this time, the effect, on Hutch anyway, was instantaneous.

The need to have Starsky off of him was suddenly immediate. But when Hutch made his move, something in his body must have given him away.

The amusement in Starsky's eyes darkened mysteriously into something else entirely and, suddenly, the air around them was alive.

"Did you say that I was going to have to find it?" Starsky murmured throatily, sliding one hand from Hutch's shoulder to his chest—trailing more than exploring. His fingertips skimmed a nipple that hardened unexpectedly.

"Starsky!" Hutch gasped, embarrassment not even coming close to the mortification he felt at that moment.

In a move that he would never have dreamed allowable—or even possible—Starsky lowered his groin onto Hutch's. Starsky's erection, heavy and hot within the sturdy denim, danced along Hutch's intimately before Starsky leaned forward and captured Hutch's mouth in a very different kind of kiss . . . .

The sheets seemed sticky against his back and thighs and, indeed, they probably were . . . wet from sweat and God-only-knew what else. The wrestling had continued as Starsky, playing a weird mix of Simon Says and Truth-or-Dare, took two steps forward and one step back until they found themselves lying in a tangled heap across Hutch's old brass bed.

Hutch shifted just enough to loosen the material from his skin and to survey the dark bruises that marked Starsky's shoulders and back. To his knowledge, Hutch had never hurt anyone in bed before—not even those few who'd wanted him to. But then, again, he'd never before been in bed with someone who could have possibly hurt him, either. That hadn't been the case this time and Hutch was sure, if he were to get up and look in the mirror, that Starsky had left some bruises of his own.

Starsky turned ever so slightly, revealing the tender area just beneath his jaw to the golden moonlight.

I know what that tastes like, Hutch thought absently, remembering the surprisingly sweet, yet, salty flavor that he'd found there beneath the beginning of his friend's five o' clock shadow. It actually amazed him how much there was about his partner that he hadn't known—how he smelled, how he tasted, how he sounded, and how soft the interior of his mouth was when . . . .

Hutch blushed. He knew Starsky—not in the strict biblical way he supposed—but he really knew him. Despite the fact that he had known women in similar ways over the years, he had never known what they were thinking at that exact moment when they had taken him inside. With Starsky . . . he had known and that knowledge scared him. He could hear the words as if they had been spoken aloud: Me and thee.

Their other mantra had come later.

Starsky drew hard circles down his spine, his thumbs pressing painfully into Hutch's skin, into his kidneys. Somehow Starsky seemed to know that the pressure helped Hutch to relax; he wanted the pain. He needed it.

Teeth nipped at the shallow ribs in his back and familiar hands, now damp and trembling, parted his cheeks.

Behind him . . . above him . . . somewhere out of his range of vision . . . he heard Starsky gasp.

Hot kisses rained down while Starsky explored him . . . learned him. Somehow, when Hutch hadn't been paying attention, Starsky had obviously found the lube. So, attuned to that fact, Hutch could actually hear the tiny lid being removed and the slide of the clear jelly as it was pushed from the airtight container.

"Do you want this?" Starsky asked, his heavy erection slapping angrily against Hutch's ass. "You've got to want it."

When Hutch couldn't find the words to say yes, Starsky's hand slipped beneath him, bringing his hips up . . . working its magic.

"You've got to want it, Hutch." This time Starsky spoke directly into his skin, directly into the sweat that was beginning to bead along his spine. "You're body's tellin' me you want it . . . "

Unable to stop himself, Hutch thrust.

"Oh yeah, baby blue. That's right."

Despite the soreness that resided deep inside his body, Hutch had no regrets about the act itself. He had no deep-seated fear that he was less of a man, or even that Starsky would think less of him. Hell, how could he when Hutch had done the same thing to him not an hour later?

But what if . . . ?

Hutch glanced over once again to where Starsky lay sleeping, his body reflecting a clear conscience if nothing else. They hadn't really talked about this—hell, it wasn't like they'd had a lot of opportunity during the time it took them to get from the kitchen floor to the bedroom. Or, Hutch admitted ruefully, any inclination.

But what if this changed them—not who they were separately, but who they were together?

Hutch shivered. The sweat that clung to his skin now seemed clammy and cold.

How would he feel if Starsky wanted to do this again? How would he feel if he didn't?

How would he feel the next time Starsky went out with some beautiful woman? Jealous by nature—at least where Starsky was concerned—the tightening in his gut told him that he'd feel like shit. So, knowing that, how would he handle it?

The simple evening, followed by what, initially anyway, seemed to be some good-old-fashioned-no-strings-attached sex, suddenly seemed a lot less simple.

Did this mean they were—Hutch shuddered—fuck buddies?

"Hutch?" Starsky murmured sleepily.

Hutch stiffened. "Yeah?" He hated the coldness in his voice, the steel and the fear that were too pronounced to have allowed him to feign otherwise.

Immediately, Starsky rolled over and pushed himself up on one elbow. He looked deep into Hutch's eyes, searching.

Whether he found what he was looking for, Hutch couldn't tell.

Sighing, Starsky threw himself back onto the mattress, his own body now stiff with tension. "What's the matter, Hutch?"

Hutch bit his lip.

"Do you want me to leave?" Starsky's words, short and clipped, revealed nothing.

No! Not . . . not unless you want to.

Not sure what to say, Hutch heard the question that Starsky didn't need to ask and responded, also without words: I trust you.

Taking a steadying breath, Hutch reached over, took Starsky's hand, and brought his fingers gently to his lips.

"No," he admitted softly, more to himself than to Starsky. "I want you to stay."

Starsky rolled back towards him, the lines in his forehead melting away. "You sure, babe?"

"About you stayin'?" Hutch asked, awkwardly. "Or about this?"

Starsky shrugged and guided Hutch's hand to lie on his chest.

The warm flesh felt exactly like he remembered, and the echo of Starsky's heart reverberated through Hutch's arm to his center. It was on old touch between them, but this time the comfort was tinged with arousal . . . anticipation.

"I'm sure about you," Hutch stated honestly, allowing himself the luxury of sliding his fingers through the dark hair as he chartered his friend's chest—gently this time. "And I'm sure about me."

Hutch shifted, letting Starsky's thigh slide knowingly between his own. The downed limb eased up until it rested gently against his scrotum.

"I'm sure about the way I feel when you touch me."

"Then the rest is easy," Starsky whispered, drawing closer and pressing a sleepy kiss onto the base of Hutch's neck.

"Promise?" Hutch asked, his voice shaky, but no longer with fear.

"Cross my heart, Blintz."



Hutch glanced down to where their bodies, this time, lay joined—all space and distance obliterated. "Sorry."

Starsky buried his face in the wall of Hutch's chest and groaned. "Now, what are you worryin' about?"

Hutch grinned. "Nothing . . ." he could feel the answering curve of Starsky's lips brushing against that place where his heart should be. " . . . nothing at all."