Comments on this story can be sent to: Dana Austin Marsh

One Bite Of The Apple


Dana Austin Marsh

Hutch hated being called in at the last minute to act as back up for someone else's case. Inadequate briefing, unknown facts and unfamiliar territory all added up to more risk than he considered acceptable. The present situation was no exception. Inching his way along a corridor on the upper story of an abandoned warehouse, his back to the peeling wall, gun heavy in his sweaty palm, Hutch stayed as close as practicable to his partner.

Starsky was a dark mirror image of Hutch at the moment, also scraping his back along the wall, gun up and ready, clasped between two smaller hands that Hutch was sure were just as sweaty as his own. Somewhere in this decrepit excuse for a building were possible suspects and the officers in charge were not entirely sure where.

They came to a door and Starsky slipped over to the other side of it, his right hand reaching out to cautiously test the knob. Locked. Their eyes met for the briefest of communications before they fell into the routine that had been working like a charm for them for the four years of their partnership.

Bracing himself, Hutch lashed out at the door with all the strength of his right leg, catching it just where he intended to the right of the handle and the faded wood banged back against the wall. Adrenaline pumping, he stood at his full height in the doorway, weapon tracking from left to right, while Starsky rolled into the room, coming up on one knee with his smaller gun tracking the empty space from right to left. Nothing.

Once again the silent communication passed between Hutch and his partner, as they both took deep, calming breaths before retreating out of the room and continuing their search down the corridor. They moved more quickly now, having lost the element of surprise with the noise they had made breaking into the first room. Three empty rooms lay behind them, and Hutch's foot was a bare inch from the door of the fourth when he heard a noise behind them. Momentum unstoppable, he followed through on the kick then spun to confront the danger behind him. He heard Starsky make the roll into the room as he tracked the corridor for the threat.

Hutch felt the sudden breeze and heard the whine of a passing bullet before his ears had processed the sound of the shot, and he pressed himself closer to the wall, triggering his own weapon twice at the barely perceptible shadow at the end of the hall before backing into the open doorway. Risking a glance into the room, he saw a blur of motion as his partner grappled with someone on the floor before his attention was once again drawn away by the thud of a stainless steel projectile into the cracked plaster beside his head. He could tell from the grunts behind him that Starsky was not faring so well against his much larger opponent, but Hutch could do nothing to aid him until the more immediate threat of an armed opponent had been dealt with. Leaning out of the doorway, Hutch snapped off a second double tap toward the end of the hall. He had little expectation that his shots would connect, intending only to keep the man at bay until Starsky had subdued the suspect he fought with.

The priorities changed, however, when Hutch heard his partner give a yelp of surprised pain followed by his name. Slamming the flimsy barrier of the door between them and the threat in the hall, Hutch turned his attention to the fight still raging behind him. The large suspect had Starsky pinned to the floor with his heavier weight, but Starsky was still managing to keep the man busy enough that the suspect could not check to see where Hutch was. Taking advantage of the situation, Hutch crossed the few steps between them and brought the butt of his gun down on the shaggy head that hovered over Starsky, then grabbed the collar of the grimy shirt to yank the sagging weight off his partner.

When Starsky did not immediately spring to his feet, Hutch tossed his burden aside and reached down a hand to help his winded partner. That was when he saw the hypodermic needle protruding from the side of Starsky's neck. As he watched, Starsky brought one shaking hand up to brush ineffectually at the solidly lodged needle. Hutch dropped to his knees beside his partner, urging him to lie back.

"Hutch?" Starsky muttered, "What the hell...?"

Hutch winced along with his partner as he gently removed the needle from Starsky's neck. "Don't know, buddy. Just lie still."

"God, Hutch, I don't feel so good," Starsky moaned as he tried to heave himself over onto his side.

Hutch slipped his right arm around the muscular back and rubbed gently with his wrist as he fumbled the radio free from his pocket with the other hand and called for help, giving their location and situation. With half his attention on the door and the possible threat that might be coming through it and the other half on Starsky's immediate needs, there was no room for the hundred horrific possibilities that were clamoring for his attention.

"How you doin'?" he asked inanely of the figure huddled beside him. He shuffled closer and eased Starsky's head onto his lap with his free hand, doing his best to keep his gun and at least part of his attention on the door in case the man in the corridor worked up the courage to come looking for them.

"Okay. Okay," Starsky mumbled. "Not so bad now. Just feel kinda..."

"Kinda what, buddy?" Hutch asked, silently cursing the passing minutes, the tardy paramedics, and everything else he could think of that stood between Starsky and help.

Starsky opened his eyes and Hutch could see that the pupils were widely dilated, only a thin ring of deep blue remaining of the irises. He rested his hand on Starsky's neck where he could feel the pulse racing beneath his fingers.

"Like I needta...needta run or somethin'," Starsky muttered. "Like maybe I could fly." He moved restlessly in Hutch's embrace, uncoordinated hands pushing at the encircling warmth.

"Where the hell is that ambulance!"


Hutch sprang to his feet as soon as the white-coated figure appeared in the doorway of the hospital waiting room.

"Officer Hutchinson," Dr. Franklin, who had treated both Starsky and Hutch on previous occasions, greeted the anxious detective.

"How's Starsky?"

"As high as a kite, but other than that, he seems to be fine," the doctor reported. "He has a small wound in his neck where the hypo was driven in, but it's been cleaned and bandaged."

"What about the drug? What was in the needle?" Hutch asked anxiously. Both he and Starsky had been on the receiving end of too many injections for him to take this as lightly as the doctor seemed to.

"Cocaine, Officer Hutchinson. That was all that was in the hypo and all that we found in your partner's blood on preliminary scan," Dr. Franklin reassured him.

"Coke?" Hutch echoed, slumping with relief. Not some diabolical combination meant to torture Starsky before it killed him. Not even heroin. "Is he all right?"

"He will be. The odds of him becoming addicted from one hit are very small. I understand it was injected into him by an assailant during a fight."

"Yeah, that's right," Hutch agreed, running a hand back through his hair and looking out the door of the waiting room. He trusted Dr. Franklin; however, he would not really believe that Starsky was all right until he saw for himself.

"I thought so. I would say his assailant was probably intending the shot for himself. It was certainly a fairly heavy dose, but no where near what it would take to cause an overdose in someone as healthy as Officer Starsky."

"Can I see him now?" Hutch asked anxiously.

"I wish you would," Dr. Franklin admitted with a rueful smile. "I've been trying to convince him to stay here until the drug has worked its way out of his system, but..."

"Should he?" Hutch interrupted. "I mean, is there any danger?"

The doctor rubbed his chin, considering the options. "Well, I certainly think he's better off here than at home alone."

"What if I stayed with him?" Hutch suggested. "You know what Starsky thinks of hospitals, Dr. Franklin."

"He could be a little hard to handle, you know. Excessively energetic. Perhaps argumentative. Certainly his inhibitions will be suppressed," the doctor warned him.

"I think I'm big enough to handle him if he gets out of line. He's bound to be a whole lot more co-operative for me than he will be for your nurses," Hutch pleaded his case. He knew how much Starsky hated hospitals, and, more to the point, after being scared out of his wits, Hutch himself felt the need to care for and be with his partner.

"Let's give it another half hour to make sure all the acute reactions have passed and let me have a look at the full results of his blood work-up. If he seems okay and the results don't show anything unexpected, I'll let you take him home."

"Thanks, Doc. Can I see him now?"

"Examining room three," Dr. Franklin said and stepped out of Hutch's way in a hurry.


"You decent?" Hutch asked as he stuck his head around the door to examining room three.

Starsky replied with a big grin and a leer. "Am I ever?" he asked with much twitching of his heavy eyebrows and widening of his eyes.

It seemed really strange to Hutch to look into Starsky's eyes and see almost nothing but velvet black pupil. "Well, now that you ask..."

"Never mind," Starsky interrupted, throwing aside the sheet and swinging his legs over the side of the raised bed. "You're here to spring me, right? Now where'd they put my clothes? At least this time I don't hafta worry that I ain't got no pants to go home in. I still can't believe ya never brought me no pants that time. What a helluva thing to do to your best friend. Expect him to strut oughta the hospital in one of these air conditioned dresses."

In growing alarm, Hutch realized that Starsky's behavior was far from normal. Although he could be accused of being a motor mouth upon occasion, now Starsky seemed unable to shut up, babbling on as he paced from wall to wall, fingers lightly brushing every surface and fiddling with any loose object he encountered.

"So, get me my clothes and let's get outta here. I'm starved. Feels like a month of Sundays since I had anything in my belly. Come on, Hutch. What ya waitin' for? Quit standin' there with your mouth hanging open. Let's find my clothes and get me outta here."

Hutch caught his restless partner by both arms and succeeded in holding him still. He could not, however, get a word in edgewise until he clamped a hand over his Starsky's mouth.

"Whoa there, pardner," he drawled, automatically slowing down his own actions to counter Starsky's hyperactivity, just as he always stayed cool when Starsky got hot and vice versa. "Dr. Franklin hasn't sprung you quite yet. Wants to give it another half hour or so..." Hutch stuttered to a halt as he felt his palm being sensuously licked. He yanked his hand away.

Starsky grinned, mouth immediately shifting back into top gear. "Don't need no half hour. Don't need to be here. I feel fine, Hutch. Just spring me, okay? Never mind. You find my clothes and I'll spring myself. Can't make me stay if I don't want to..."

"For pity sake, Starsk, will you shut up!"

Starsky shut his mouth with a snap, and as Hutch watched in fascinated horror, the long face seemed to crumple as the dark eyes filled with tears. "Ya didn't hafta yell at me, Hutch."

Hutch pulled his friend into his arms, smiling indulgently as Starsky snuggled his face into his neck. "I know. I'm sorry. It's not your fault you're acting even weirder than usual. But you need to try to listen to me here for a minute, okay."

Starsky snuggled in closer and nodded his head.

Hutch rolled his eyes, hoping none of the nurses picked that exact moment to walk in. Not that he would mind himself, but Starsky would. Well, at least when he came down off his euphoric high and was himself again, Starsky would mind.

"Okay. Dr. Franklin said I could take you home in about half an hour. He wants just a little more time to make sure you're not going to have any bad reactions to the cocaine. He said after that you could go home if I stay with you."

Starsky tilted his head back and Hutch had to smile at the childlike expression of expectation that had replaced the earlier distress. "Are ya gonna stay with me so I can go home?"

"Sure, Starsk. 'Course I am. Now, come on, back into bed until the doc says you can go," Hutch urged, trying to coax Starsky back to the high bed.

Starsky hung back. "Uh-uh, Hutch. Can't sit still, okay. I'll shut up like you said, but I gotta keep movin'."

Knowing that hyperactivity was one of the symptoms of cocaine use and aware that even held within his embrace, Starsky had never really stopped moving, Hutch released his partner and stepped back. "Okay, buddy. You do your pacing number and I'll go see if I can find your clothes. Deal?"

"Deal," Starsky agreed, already beginning to circle the small room. "Oh, Hutch. I think it was this really cute little blonde nurse that took my clothes. Don't you go getting distracted and forget about me, okay?"

"I won't. But that doesn't mean I won't get her number."


"How'd my car get here? It was at the warehouse. You came with me in the ambulance. Did I tell you how much I appreciate that, Hutch? I hate ambulances. I hate hospitals. I'm real glad you were there. Did I tell you that, Hutch?"

Hutch sighed silently. There had been more than a few times during the course of their partnership when he would have gladly taped Starsky's mouth closed, but never more so than now. It would not be so bad if his friend would stay on one subject, but he seemed unable follow one thought through to a logical conclusion, becoming easily sidetracked by whatever random topic came into his curly head.

"Bill Masters brought the Torino here and gave me the keys. He knew I'd need some form of transportation even if you had to stay," Hutch put in quickly when Starsky paused for breath.

"Oh. Okay. But I don't hafta stay. That's good though that the car is here. Where's the keys? I wanna drive."

"Not on your life. Or mine," Hutch cut in quickly, raising his voice slightly to carry over the continuing babble pouring out of Starsky.

"Oh. Okay. You can drive. I don't mind this once. Are you sure you're all right with this? I know you don't like drivin' my car. But maybe you're right. Don't want to be arrested for driving under the influence."

Thanking providence that they had finally reached the car, Hutch unlocked the passenger side and made sure that Starsky was safely inside before closing the door. He slowly made his way around the long hood then stood beside his own locked door for a minute, grateful for the few moments of respite from Starsky's chatter. Dr. Franklin had assured him that the verbal diarrhea was a normal effect of the hyperactivity. That did not make the constant inane chatter any less annoying. However, when Starsky reached over and popped the lock, Hutch accepted that the reprieve was over and opened the door.

Once behind the wheel and with the engine running, he switched on the radio. Music in the car was a luxury they could seldom indulge in, since they had to be able to hear the police radio, and Hutch was hoping the novelty would distract Starsky enough to make him shut up. No such luck.

"I'm starved, Hutch. Feel like I could eat a horse. Have you ever been on a horse? Course you have, farm boy like you. I ain't never been to a farm. Did you check out the new Mexican place I told you about? Great chicken fajitas."

"How about pizza?" Hutch cut in during the split second it took Starsky to draw breath.

"Pizza? Yeah. Everything, okay, Hutch? Not one of those health food things. I read the other day about how they grow those bean sprouts..."

Nearly at the end of his rope, Hutch glanced toward his passenger intending to suggest once again that Starsky shut up, but found himself grinning indulgently instead when he caught sight of the patch of white bandage against the dark tanned skin of Starsky's neck. An hour ago he had been terrified for the life of his partner. He decided he could put up with a little aggravation as payment for the sheer joy of knowing Starsky was going to be fine.

"Fully loaded it is, buddy," he murmured and headed for Starsky's favorite pizza place.


"Come on and sit down now, Starsk," Hutch encouraged his partner. He had set out the pizza on the kitchen table and rummaged around in Starsky's refrigerator until he found a couple of root beers. He hated the overly sweet soda himself, but was willing to forego the beer he really wanted since Starsky could not have any.

Starsky, who had been pacing the apartment like a caged lion from the moment they had stepped through the door, paused in mid-stride, did an about face and moved over to the table. He stood beside his chair, looking down at the pizza, then grabbed up the root beer and walked away. "Guess I'm not as hungry as I thought."

Abruptly, Hutch's own appetite left him. "You feeling all right, buddy? Feel sick or something?" he asked anxiously.

Starsky tipped back his head and poured a long stream of root beer down his throat. "Nah. Feel okay. Really. Well, a little antsy, but okay. Just not hungry."

"A few minutes ago you were starving," Hutch reminded cautiously.

"I'm not hungry, okay!" Starsky shouted. He put down the soda as he passed the coffee table and ran both hands back through his hair. "Sorry. Didn't mean to yell at ya."

"Doesn't matter," Hutch said, getting to his feet. He gathered up the pizza and went to the kitchen to stash the box away in the refrigerator. Maybe Starsky would feel like eating later or, more likely, he would be scarfing it back cold for breakfast. Hutch smiled at the thought and returned to the living room to see what his restless partner was up to now.

From the look of it, about lap one hundred of the crowded space. Leaning back against the wall, Hutch watched as Starsky circled the available space, weaving around his furniture, busy fingers picking an item up off one surface, playing with it a moment, and then laying it aside as he passed some other piece of furniture.

"How about some TV?" he suggested as Starsky leaned over and turned off the table lamp. He made no comment, assuming the bright light was too much for Starsky's eyes in their present condition. "I think channel 13 has a Creature Feature running tonight."

"Oh yeah?" Starsky asked without much enthusiasm. "Yeah sure. Why not? Hope it's Vincent Price or Bela Lagoosi."

"Lagosi," Hutch corrected automatically while turning on the TV and tuning in the channel. The movie was just starting. "Look at this, Starsk. It's I was a Teenage Werewolf."

"Uh-huh. That's great," Starsky said but passed by the couch on his way to make yet another circuit of the room. This time he passed into the kitchen, paced out its confines, reappeared in the living room on his way to the bedroom where he also made a walking inspection before checking out his own bathroom.

Reminding himself that the restlessness was exactly what Dr. Franklin had predicted, Hutch did his best not to let it worry him. Unfortunately, the possibility of the movie on the small screen absorbing his attention was totally nil, leaving him with little to do but listen to and watch Starsky's compulsive movement and let his tendency to overprotect his smaller partner worry at him. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Starsky came up silently behind him where he sat on the sofa and laid one warm hand on his shoulder.

"I'm nearly drivin' you nuts, aren't I, babe?" Starsky asked.

Hutch laid his hand over Starsky's and leaned his head back so that he could look up into his partner's strangely dark eyes. "You know damned well I'd let you away with anything right now."

"Yeah?" Starsky asked, a speculative expression creeping over his face that made Hutch feel decidedly uneasy all of a sudden.

"Within reason. No sky diving," Hutch qualified. "Wanna try and beat me at Monopoly?" he offered although he doubted the feasibility of it.

"Don't think I could sit still," Starsky admitted ruefully. "I sorta feel like my skin's on too tight and I need to stretch it out."

"How about a shower?" Hutch suggested.

Starsky's hand went to the bandage taped to the side of his neck.

"I can re-bandage that when you get out," Hutch offered. "It might help you relax."

"Yeah. Yeah. Maybe you're right," Starsky agreed vaguely. He tugged at the hand Hutch held.

Hutch released his friend, watching as Starsky wandered first around the living room and kitchen before making his meandering way to his bedroom. When he heard the sudden thunder of water gushing in the shower before the sound was muted by the closing door, Hutch relaxed a little. He got up to change the channel and retrieve another can of soda from the refrigerator before sitting back down on the sofa and settling in to wait for Starsky to re-emerge. His partner loved a long, hot shower under normal circumstances, so Hutch made a mental bet with himself that this time Starsky would drain the tank dry.

Forty-five minutes later, however, Hutch was worrying again. It was only as he entered the bedroom that Hutch recognized the anomaly that had been trying to pierce his tired brain. It was too quiet. No somewhat off-key serenade accompanied the muffled thunder of the shower.

Adrenaline once again pumping through his tired system, Hutch rapped sharply on the bathroom door.

"Starsk? You okay, buddy?" he asked anxiously through the mute panel.

No answer.

Hutch nearly tore the door off its hinges getting it open, feeling as if his heart had leapt into his throat. He rushed into the room, a quick glance around making it clear that Starsky must still be behind the shower door. Straining a second set of hinges to their limits, Hutch yanked this barrier away as well, standing stunned for a moment as he took in the sight of his naked partner sprawled on the floor of the shower with his legs splayed and back propped against the tiled wall. The dark head was tilted back, eyes closed and mouth open, and Starsky seemed oblivious to the cold spray striking him directly in the face.

Hutch dropped to his knees, reaching to grasp both of Starsky's chilled shoulders and leaning in to block the spray with his own broad back.

"Starsky!" he shouted, giving the freezing flesh between his hands a hard shake.

Starsky's eyes popped open and a delighted grin chased away the terrible non-expression that had so terrified Hutch.

"Hey, babe. What's up?" Starsky asked innocently. A perplexed expression slipped over his features for a moment, then gave way to chagrin. "Oops. Used up all the hot water, didn't I? Bet ya wanted a shower, too. I'm sorry, Hutch."

Hutch twisted to shut off the taps before turning back to Starsky. He wiped tenderly at the blinking eyes, unable to tell if the moisture was tears from another dramatic emotional shift or simply water. He tousled the soaked curls.

"Doesn't matter," he reassured softly, just in case Starsky was upset. "What are you doin' down here, buddy? Get dizzy or something?"

Starsky's brow creased as he considered. "Don't think so."

"Just decided to sit this one out, did you?" Hutch laughed, coming down off of an adrenaline rush for the third time in as many hours.

"Guess so," Starsky agreed amiably.

"Does your skin fit any better?"

Starsky ran both hands down his thighs to his knees then back up and continued on to stroke his own belly and chest. A look of surprise crossed his face as his hands came in contact with the big hands that still gripped his shoulders painfully and Hutch released him.

"Nah. Think it shrunk some more."

Hutch climbed to his feet, reaching down with one hand to pull his partner to his feet while grabbing a towel with the other. He wrapped the naked body, which was now beginning to shiver, in the towel before ridding himself of his own soaking shirt.

"You scared the hell out of me," he accused gently as he returned his attention to his friend and began briskly toweling the cold, wet body.

"S-s-sorry," Starsky stammered between chattering teeth. "Ain't m-m-mad at me, H-h-hutch?"

Hutch wrapped his arms around the trembling body, one hand entwined in sodden curls to guide the dark head to rest on his shoulder. "No, babe. I'm not mad at you. But you've sure given my old heart a work out today."

"You give mine one every day," Starsky mumbled, his face pressed so closely into Hutch's throat that the big blond was uncertain if he had heard right.

Hutch was given no chance to ponder the puzzling confession as Starsky snuggled in closer.

"'M freezin'."

"I'll bet you are. Come on, let's get you into your jammies."


By the time Hutch got Starsky into pajama bottoms and robe and released him to recommence pacing the apartment, it was apparent to Hutch that Starsky was shifting mood once again. Emerging from the bedroom after finding himself some dry clothes to wear, Hutch discovered a Starsky that he seldom saw anywhere except on the streets. A mean, moody and dangerous-to-know Starsky was someone that Hutch had been thankful he seldom had to deal with. But his options in that direction were, at the moment, nil. He supposed he could return his quarrelsome friend to the hospital and let the nurses deal with him, but he knew that idea would never even merit consideration.

"That's my shirt," Starsky accused when Hutch had barely cleared the bedroom door.

"I know. Mine's wet," Hutch replied reasonably. One thing he had learned from the few times he had to deal with Starsky like this was to talk softly, remain reasonable and agree a lot and Starsky's normal sunny disposition would return. Usually. There were exceptions, of course. Tonight seemed to be one of them.

"You shoulda took the black one. Red ain't your color."

"Next time," Hutch agreed. He moved into the kitchen and picked up the kettle. "How about something hot to drink to warm you up?" he suggested, carefully aligning the tap and spout before turning on the water. "I'll make some tea," he added quickly before Starsky could voice a preference. He knew Starsky would want coffee, but thought his friend's already stressed system could do without the caffeine jolt.

"Tea! Who the fuck drinks tea?" Starsky snapped.

"Hot chocolate then," Hutch offered an alternative.

Starsky opened his mouth, obviously intending to argue some more, then snapped his jaws closed so hard Hutch heard his teeth clash. "Sorry," he mumbled.

Hutch turned on the burner and returned to Starsky's side, laying a restraining hand on the muscular shoulder when Starsky made as if to move away. "It's okay. I understand."

Starsky looked away, shame chasing the mean and moodies off his face. "You shouldn't hafta put up with this shit."

"You put up with a lot worse after Ben Forest got finished with me," Hutch reminded him. "At least you haven't puked on me."

When Starsky brought his head up, he had mischief written all over him. "Ya want me to?"

Hutch gave him a little shove. "No, that's all right. You pace. I'll make hot chocolate," he said and retreated back to the kitchen.

When the beverage was ready, Hutch brought the mug to Starsky and watched him gulp it down despite the heat that must be burning his tongue. He sipped his tea more slowly, wishing he could get his body to relax. He knew his tension was communicating itself to Starsky, increasing the other man's restlessness, but he could not seem to make himself relax. He felt like a cat, sitting at a mouse hole, waiting and wondering what his curly-headed rodent might come up with next. Finally putting aside his own empty cup, he noticed that Starsky was rolling and flexing his shoulders, trying to ease tight muscles.

"Would you like me to rub your back for a while?" he offered.

Starsky stopped in his tracks, gaze moving from Hutch to the big bed and then back again. Hutch assumed he was trying to decide if he could stand to lay still.

"If it doesn't help, you can always get up again. But it might help you sleep. Wouldn't it be nice to wake up in the morning and have this all over with?" Hutch coaxed.

"Do you think I'll remember any of this in the morning?" Starsky asked, an expression Hutch could not quite define resting uneasily on the long face.

"Dr. Franklin didn't say, but I didn't remember all that much after Forest got through with me."

"Okay. All right," Starsky muttered, heading for the bedroom. "It'd be good if I could just sleep for a little while, right?"

Hutch followed along behind, hoping Starsky would not fall into another spate of inane chatter. That, however, would be preferable to watching him pacing relentlessly with the pressure mounting under his cork.

Starsky shrugged out of his robe, tossed it on the floor and threw himself face down on the bed. Hutch smiled to himself, watching the compact body bounce in reaction to the force of the maneuver. He smacked the prominent butt once as he sat down and then laid both hands over the taut muscles of Starsky's shoulders.

"Your muscles are as tight as a wino on a Saturday night," Hutch observed softly, feeling the bunch and stretch of the muscles under his hands as Starsky brought his arms up to cradle his head.

"Feel like I'd twang if somebody plucked me," Starsky admitted.

"Let's see what I can do about that," Hutch said, setting to with a will.

Hutch very quickly fell into the warmth and rhythm of the massage himself and felt his own overwrought nerves beginning to ease. Fingers digging into rigid flesh that soon softened beneath them, Hutch let the glide and press and stretch of his working muscles soothe him until he became almost hypnotized by the tactile comfort he was both giving and receiving. The body beneath his hands rocked in a pleasing counterpoint to his stroking, making the mattress sway in time.

He was hardly aware when Starsky had turned over until he found his fingers gliding through the soft hair that grew so abundantly on Starsky's chest and realized that the hard little nubs pressing into his palms were his friend's aroused nipples.

Hutch snatched his hands away, fumbling to find a place to put the suddenly too-large and awkward appendages. He settled for gripping his own knees, but while his hands had followed his mind's dictates, if reluctantly, his eyes refused to follow. His gaze remained fascinated by the sensual creature looking up at him out of his friend's suddenly unfamiliar face.

Starsky's hands replaced Hutch's, but where Hutch's had touched in innocence, Starsky's long fingers were knowing, deliberate, as they captured taut peaks and pinched them between thumbs and forefingers.

"Mmmmm," Starsky hummed softly, his tongue tip peeking out to circle his lips.

"Starsk?" Hutch whispered uncertainly.

"Feels good, babe. Just what I need," Starsky husked.

Hutch knew that his partner was probably right; masturbating was just what he needed. It would relax him and perhaps let him go right off to sleep. Hutch also knew what he should do. He should get up and get out of here and leave Starsky to do this very intimate thing in private. Hutch didn't move.

"Naughty, naughty, Hutch. Wanna watch?" Starsky asked teasingly, his eyes, which Hutch noticed were not quite as dilated as they had been, issued their own invitation. "You want to, don't you?" Starsky repeated, but now there was a bit of steel beneath the husky purr.

The tone reminded Hutch that circumstances were far from normal here and that it was up to him to keep the situation under control. The trouble was that, gazing into the hot eyes, Hutch felt he had little control of himself, let alone the situation.

"Sure you do," Starsky coaxed with a soft little smile.

Behind his back, where he would have to deliberately look to see, Hutch heard the soft rustle of fabric, felt the mattress rock and then still, and knew that Starsky had dealt with the pajama bottoms. He inhaled the musky scent of aroused male and shivered. Hutch knew the exact moment that Starsky took his hardened sex into that capable left hand just by the expression of wanton pleasure that settled over the handsome face.

Hutch felt Starsky's arm press against his thigh as the other man stroked himself and forced his body to ease away, balancing on the edge of the mattress.

Starsky's eyes, which had become heavy-lidded with pleasure, flew open at the withdrawal. The thin lips stretched into a knowing smile. "You're not watching, babe," he scolded softly.

"Watching your face," Hutch replied, surprised when his tight throat actually let the words escape.

"That ain't where the action is," Starsky taunted.

Although he suspected that his eyes were already the size of saucers, Hutch felt them widen further as he watched Starsky bring his hand to his mouth. Once again the teasing tongue tip appeared, lapping at the pad of one long finger, licking at the tip until the digit glistened wetly. Unable to resist temptation, Hutch's gaze followed as the hand moved downward, coming to rest finally with that moist finger pressed firmly to a hard nipple.

Hutch opened his mouth, thinking himself about to protest, but realized that all he could do was pant. He had never seen anything more erotic than the sight of that finger circling the small erection over and over before the little nub was once again caught and pinched. Pinched hard, it seemed to Hutch as he shifted and his borrowed shirt brushed lightly against his own tingling nipples.

"Oh yeah," Starsky whispered. "I like it when they get all hot and hard and kinda sore."

Having finally given up the struggle with his conscience, Hutch made no effort to pretend disinterest and shifted his body to watch when Starsky's fingers released their tiny prize and began questing downward once again, seeking bigger game. Two moans, so similar they could have come from the same throat, were loosed as Hutch's avid gaze followed where Starsky's hands led to the hard, blood-engorged flesh waiting impatiently for the return of the seeking fingers.

Hutch gasped at the first touch, gasped again as those slim fingers wrapped around the thick, demanding cock, just as if they circled his own cock where it throbbed within the confines of his tight jeans.

Starsky pumped gently, slowly, up and down the solid shaft, his fingers straying again and again to the unshielded crown that seemed to be begging Hutch for just one touch. The heady aroma of musk filled his senses as he unconsciously leaned closer.

"Do you do it like this, babe?" Starsky asked while his hand demonstrated, squeezing and pumping his cock until his hips took up the rhythm.

Hutch didn't answer. Couldn't. Whatever intelligent words he knew were trapped in his throat, or maybe his balls.

Both of Starsky's hands were between his legs now, working in tandem to form a gripping tunnel for the slick slide of his cock or co-operatively on both cock and balls, driving both Starsky and the fascinated man who watched him closer to climax.

"Touch it, Hutch. Just once," Starsky begged.

Hutch reached out without thought, his hand freezing barely a breath away from the glistening organ when some minute corner of his brain reminded that this was forbidden territory. If it had meant his life, he could not have said at that moment just why he had to deny both himself and his friend, only that he must. Then the opportunity was lost as Starsky voiced a deep-throated cry and arched off the bed, hot cream pulsing from the flesh he pleasured to spatter his belly and thighs and the hand that had poised above him and yet denied him.

Hutch jerked as if Starsky's heated semen were a branding iron, breaking the spell that had held him and delivering him back to awareness of the right and the wrong of what he had just allowed to happen and his own aching need.

"Mmmm. Better than warm milk any day," Starsky murmured while his hand rubbed the evidence of his pleasure into his skin.

Hutch bolted. Unable to look his friend in the face, he fled to the bathroom, slamming the door and leaning back against it while his hand fumbled for the lock. He held his own haunted gaze in the mirror as the echoes of Starsky's sensual displayed rippled through him. He closed his eyes, feeling the warm streak of Starsky's semen on the back of his hand slowly cooling, then beginning to dry, but opened them again when the image of his friend, sprawled in sensual abandon, painted itself upon the blackness.

He had to do it. He was too close. Even the rasp of the descending zipper was a kind of exquisite torture on the organ that promised to deliver him so much pleasure. He pressed his palm to it, trying to pacify the animal need Starsky's display had aroused and was rewarded by a jolt of such raw sensation he had to stuff his other fist into his mouth to stifle his groans. Trap them in his throat where they rumbled, fighting to get out, begging for expression just as his cock begged.

Hutch surrendered then, leaning back against the door and clawing aside the flimsy barrier of cloth that stood between him and his own flesh. He gripped the shaft, his unseeing eyes on his own wanton, mirrored reflection as the image of Starsky's abandonment to lust returned to tip him over into his own aching, straining climax.

Back pressed hard against the door to brace suddenly weak knees, Hutch panted, waiting for the aftershocks to fade. While they still shuddered through him, he roughly pushed his cock back inside his clothes, ignoring the protests the sensitized organ sent him. The same hand that bore the brand of Starsky's pleasure curled around the results of his own until he felt he had sufficient control to take the few steps to the sink and wash it away.


Hutch saw the new day come on through the small square opening in Starsky's front door. After tucking his friend under the covers and quietly sitting beside him long enough to be sure he was out for the count, Hutch had collected a blanket and pillow and made his long frame as comfortable as possible on Starsky's sofa. Although the silence of the apartment had not been broken by so much as a snore all night, Hutch had found sleep elusive.

Not that that fact surprised him. Despite the exhaustion of worry and adrenaline comedowns, and the relaxation from one of the most intense climaxes of his life, Hutch had never been more wide-awake. In the space of a few hours, he felt as if his entire life had turned upside down. The most certain and secure relationship he had ever been a part of had, during a sexual encounter without a single sexual touch actually being exchanged, metamorphosised into a whole new deal.

Hutch had never been happier in his life. It had taken him seven sleepless hours to recognize it, but that was what all the confused emotions he had felt during and immediately after their encounter had been. Joy. Pure, unadulterated joy that he and Starsky, who had shared every other facet of their lives, could now come together in this new and wondrous way. When Starsky awoke from his deep drug-and-sex induced sleep, they could begin their new life together.

Unable to lie quietly any longer while anticipation skated and skittered along his nerves, Hutch climbed off the couch and went to the kitchen to put on the coffee. Opening the refrigerator in search of something to prepare for his new lover's breakfast, he saw the pizza box and remembered that neither he nor Starsky had eaten at all the night before.

Smiling indulgently, Hutch pulled the box from the refrigerator and slid the pizza onto a pan and into the oven to warm. He knew that the combined aromas of freshly brewed coffee and re-warming pizza would bring Starsky out of the land of dreams faster than any alarm clock could. And more gently, more pleasantly. At the moment, Hutch felt very indulgent toward his partner. He wanted to spoil him, pamper him, dote upon him. Not that it would last, of course. These new emotions would soon find their proper balance amid their established relationship and become a part of the whole. He was sure of it.

"I will be in your debt forever if you tell me you really are making me coffee and pizza for breakfast."

Hutch started and spun at the sound of Starsky's voice coming from behind him, a smile of anticipation lighting his face. The smile stretched into a grin as he beheld the sight of his partner leaning against the counter, looking dopey and rumpled and, in Hutch's opinion, utterly loveable.

"Forever?" he echoed, knowing his feelings were glowing all over his face like a Vegas neon sign.

"Well, 'til next Tuesday, anyway," Starsky qualified as he shuffled into the kitchen. He carefully poured himself a cup of coffee, and then moved back around to perch precariously on the edge of the breakfast barstool.

Leaning back against the stove, feeling the warmth of the oven against his butt, Hutch continued to smile indulgently upon his sleepy lover.

With half the coffee gone, Starsky propped his chin on both hands, fingers tangled in his curls, and stared into the cup.

"I sure hope you got the number of the truck that hit me," he mumbled. "That must have been some party for me to feel so wiped out this morning."

"Party?" Hutch echoed again, some of the brightness leaching out of his day and a queasy sensation setting up housekeeping in his belly. "Don't you remember last night, Starsk? Backing up Cameron and Juarez?"

One of Starsky's hands went to the bandage on his neck.

"You remember?" Hutch coaxed, determinedly holding down the panic trying to worm its way into his throat.

"Yeah, right," Starsky agreed, nodding slowly but still not looking at Hutch. "The warehouse, right? I was rolling around on the floor with a guy about the size of the Empire State Building on my chest, and you were..."

"Dodging bullets in the doorway," Hutch supplied, feeling more hopeful with each accurate word Starsky spoke.

"He jabbed me in the neck with a needle," Starsky continued.

"That was full of cocaine."

Starsky's head came up with a snap. "Cocaine!" he exclaimed as if he had just found cockroaches in his taco.

"You don't remember?" Hutch whispered.

"Remember what? Did I do somethin' really stupid, Hutch?"

Hutch took two hesitant steps forward until only the width of the counter separated them. "You don't remember anything?" he asked in growing despair.

Starsky just shook his head.

Hutch looked into those indigo eyes and saw the same guilty knowledge that Adam must have seen in Eve's. He closed his own eyes as he tried to master the grief that threatened to overwhelm him. Starsky remembered. Hutch knew he did. He opened his eyes and studied the patently false innocent expression and guilt-ridden eyes. But his partner wasn't about to admit it, Hutch realized, and those deep blue eyes were begging him to develop his own case of amnesia.

"Did I do something really stupid?" Starsky repeated insistently, eyes still pleading that Hutch go along with him.

From somewhere, Hutch dredged up what he knew had to be the sickest excuse for a smile and forced his lips to accept its presence.

"Nah, buddy," he finally replied with what lightness he could muster. "You know I looked after you. What's a partner for, anyway?"

Starsky mirrored the sickly smile before putting his head back down in his hands.

Unable to sustain the charade while his heart broke, Hutch turned away and let the silence close in around them.

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