This story originally appeared in "Heart And Soul I" edited by Charlotte Frost. To find the other stories from HAS 1 go to the:
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Hour of Separation Part 3

Hour of Separation


Sylvia Bond

Part 4

    Hutch ran up the short steps to Starsky's apartment with bags of food and drink, planning from the onset not to ask Starsky to pay him back, hoping it would make things better. And wondered how it was that two people who had wanted only to work together again could almost come to blows over whose turn it was to drive. He wanted it to be okay between them, and thought maybe he would refrain from trying to convince Starsky that it really had been his turn to drive, no matter what he'd agreed to over the phone.

    And hopefully they could talk, really talk about what was wrong. Why they were at each other's throats half and the time, and why...

    Starsky had obviously seen him coming and held open the door, letting Hutch in with a shrug of his shoulders. There was still a stiffness between them, but Hutch hoped that would disappear when they ate; food usually improved Starsky's mood. He sat in a chair at the table, pulled out his alfalfa sprout sandwich and began to eat.

    The second Starsky opened his sandwich, there was sounds of a scraping chair, and Hutch looked up to see him hurling it, wrapper and all, into the sink.


    Hutch's sandwich faltered on its way to his mouth.

    "A tuna burger with MUSHROOMS? Why dincha get me something I really hated, if you wanted to be mean? Like desiccated liver, feh instance?"

    "I-I wasn't being mean; you didn't say." Hutch tried to remain calm. "You ate that tuna burger I bought you that one time; if you didn't like it--"

    "I was trying to be nice, 'cause you bought it for me!"

    Hutch felt some anger of his own coming to the fore. "It's good for you, lotsa vitamins."

    Starsky was not mollified. "What's good for me is eating what I like to eat, not some slimy clam sandwich."

    "It's not clam, it's--"

    "I don't care if it's a freakin' shark san'which; if you ever thought, you'd get me somethin' I liked instead of all this crap you're forever tryin' to shove at me!"

    "Not thinking of you?" Hutch's mouth opened and closed before he could come up with a retort. Starsky was all he'd thought about all day, but at the moment, it was hard to remember why. "I was thinking of your HEALTH, buddy, I guess that means nothing to you." He threw down his sandwich, out of which he'd only been able to take one bite and stood, scraping his chair back loudly.

    "Health, my ass!" Starsky tore the lid from the drink container and tossed that into the sink, too. Bright green liquid sloshed up to the window and dappled the sides of the cabinets. "Wheat-grass juice is not my idea of a nice, cold one, which you'd know if you ever asked me." He stabbed a finger in Hutch's direction over the table. "But you didn't. All you can do is think of what you decide is best for me, what's good for me, and never what I think is best for myself."

    He turned away from Hutch to stare out the window, hands gripping the sink. "Don't know why I ever thought working with you again would be so wonderful."

    Something clicked in Hutch's throat and he went around the table and grabbed one of Starsky's arms and pulled him around. Stepped in close so they were only inches apart, could spit in each other's eyes and back away snarling.

    "Well, you're no easy shakes to work with either, pal, cracking your ice and spreading potato chip crumbs all over my car!" He poked a finger against the hard bone in the center of Starsky's chest. "All the things I do for you, and all you can do is complain!"

    "Complain!" screeched Starsky, not cowering, "about a tuna burger I never wanted?"

    "I'm talking about when I saved your butt with Dobey yesterday!"

    "That was your decision, partner, babe, I coulda handled that one myself, without you!"

    Something inside of Hutch began to hurt very badly, something he couldn't identify, probably wouldn't want to, if the truth were known. The sparks in Starsky's eyes were angry, hateful, and he reached within himself for the most awful thing, the worst, the thing that would hurt the most.

    "Why don't you," he whispered, "go and find yourself a new partner then?"

    Hutch whirled away, wrapping his arms around himself. When he'd said it, he'd meant it, especially if Starsky didn't need him like he said he didn't. There were sounds of slamming from behind him, as Starsky threw all the food away, but he couldn't look, stumbling to find a perch on the arm of the couch. One hand went to his head and he pushed away the hair that was in his face, then he realized the real reason he couldn't see.

    How were they going to fix this? It was a mess that had started the second Brown had taken over the station. It was all Brown's fault. It had to be. But it had really only gotten very bad when Dobey had come back and they had been partnered again, just like they'd wanted. Dream come true. Their only desire.

    It had actually been a nightmare. From that second on, their idealized friendship had fallen apart.

    From across the room he could hear Starsky puffing away, and felt, with his arms around his chest, the echoing rise and fall of his own labored breathing.

    This is it, he thought.

    Starsky stared at the floor, hands on his hips, and realized that he was starving. It was his home and damnit, he wasn't going to go hungry.

    "M'gonna order a pizza," he announced to the silence. There was no reply, but he didn't really give a shit. He never could eat half the crap that Hutch called food, and even when he did, he usually had to go and inhale a sub sandwich on the sly to take away the hunger pangs. When Hutch wasn't looking. He ordered a large with the works, and as he hung up the phone he knew that Hutch would inhale every bite of his share anyway, even if it was loaded with carcinogens, or whatever the hell it was that sausage was packed with. Well, anyway, Hutch's new partner, whoever that fool might be, it would be his problem to figure out Hutch's odd eating patterns. Health food one day, pastrami on rye the next. A guy could go crazy.

    There was complete silence, so still that he thought that Hutch'd gone. He peered around the corner to find him on the arm of the couch, shoulders bowed forward. Starsky's anger broke off like a sudden whirlwind dying in the absence of a breeze. He moved toward Hutch and stopped.

    "Why'r we bein' like this?"

    Hutch shook his head, still looking away. Starsky moved till he was in his friend's line of vision and then froze. But those eyes, still yet hidden, flicked away, restless. He wanted to make Hutch look at him but there was a stubbornness there that would resist all but the most subtle of methods.

    "This isn't about whose turn it was to drive, is it, or something I did?" Again he shifted closer while Hutch wasn't looking.

    A moment of silence, and a loose, seemingly disinterested roll of shoulders. Green light. He moved closer.

    "And it's not about all that stuff you try and make me eat, is it?"

    A less definitive negative this time, Hutch's eyes meeting his eyes for only a second, brows raised slightly in question, for confirmation. Red light.

    Then Hutch looked away, green light again.

    Mere inches away now, close enough to see the fine, pale hairs on the back of his hands as he planted them on his knees, the cords in his arms, the rolled up shirt sleeves, the uneasy shift of his hips as he sat on the arm of the chair. The tops of Hutch's cheeks were damp, a slight sheen from his earlier yelling, an over-washed whiteness to his face.

    Then Hutch looked up, eyes flicking open to belie the sleepy curve of their lids, circling over Starsky. Not surprised to seem him there, so close.

    "Is it something about us?" It was going to be his last question, sometimes a guy just needed his space.

    But he knew it had to be, they would normally never get so worked up over food or cars, and he knew that Hutch knew it too. But he didn't want to be alone with this, didn't want to try and make it okay between them by himself. There was something larger to all of this, something about them. Something they'd been struggling with ever since Brown had separated them, something they couldn't make work in the same way even now that they were together.

    "C'mon, babe," he whispered, only realizing he was vocalizing the thought when he heard the words.

    Hutch stood up, suddenly fluid and moving now, to the kitchen. Starsky caught the scent of body heat, detergent from his clothes, and the intangible essence that was Hutch. Oh, don't leave.

    "Where y' goin'?" he asked aloud.

    "Kitchen," replied Hutch, equably.

    Starsky followed, watching as Hutch pulled a root beer from the fridge. He opened it with one twist, tossed the cap on the counter, and took a long swig, leaning with one arm along the top of the open fridge door.

    "Yeah, I know," he said as if talking to himself, "we don't own the electric company." It was something he said to Starsky often.

    Hutch sighed then and straightened, pulling Starsky closer with his eyes. He reminded himself to trust Starsky, to trust the process.

    It was Starsky's insistence that had brought him here, face to face with the dark-haired figure reflecting his own soul. It was Starsky's way to pull this out of Hutch, gripping with two fists and planting his heels against the dead weight. And he really, really wouldn't stop until Hutch spoke, said what Starsky probably already knew anyway, but which only awaited confirmation from him.

    It was as if Starsky knew that when Hutch said "talk to me", he meant "talk to me so I don't have to talk to you," where when Starsky said it, it meant "talk to me so I can hear you."

    And still those eyes beseeched him, as if afraid that he would not respond. Starsky stood, sentinel-like in the doorway, watching his every move.

    "It's alright, Starsky," he said, catching the darker eyes with his own before flicking away to concentrate on a cupboard door. This seemed to reassure Starsky not at all and he moved all the way into the kitchen. Hutch reached into the fridge once more and tossed a root beer to Starsky.

    He moved past his friend now, trying to remain relaxed, avoiding the questions in that face. Throwing himself back on the couch, he flung his legs across the coffee table. And like a puppy, Starsky landed on the cushion next to him, sideways, cross-legged, took a swallow of his soda, and looked at him with open-faced expectation.

    Ah, Starsky.

    It was a sigh from inside him.

    "What I want to know," he said slowly, acknowledging Starsky's unspoken apology and meeting it with his own, "is when it all started to go bad."

    "When Brown separated us," replied Starsky, nodding, his expression set and assured.

    Hutch leaned his head back to rest it on the couch. "No," he said slowly, sipping on the root beer. "We were still getting along."

    "When I got pissed about you getting shot and nearly..."

    "No," interrupted Hutch, suddenly looking his partner right in the eye. "I was never angry at you for that."

    Starsky met his gaze solidly and nodded. "When you kissed me," he said softly.

    Neither one of them looked away. "Or for that matter when you kissed me back." Hutch finally turned away and sighed. "No, that wasn't when it started to go bad, when we started to argue nonstop."

    He could see Starsky's bent knees out of the corner of his eye, could feel the sock-covered toes moving against his thigh. How brave of Starsky to mention the kiss first, but he couldn't somehow find the answering courage to continue with that particular subject.

    "I think," he began evenly, instead, staring straight ahead, "that after being put back together by Dobey after being so long apart, that we got on each other's nerves."

    He sensed Starsky looking down to hide a sudden, wide smile. "And after we only just wanted to be partners again, right?"

    Hutch dropped his chin to his chest, lengthened neck feeling dark eyes there before moving on. Nodded.

    "Maybe being apart made us more aware of being together." There, now that was said, he could look at Starsky directly, to meet that straightforward gaze. To see the awareness that took him in without blinking.

    Hutch had often thought that, rose colored specs aside (and damn, they had to find him a new pair) Hutch was one thing which Starsky saw with absolute clarity. Or maybe it was that he felt that Starsky was the only one who never projected onto him what he should be or could be. The only hopes Starsky seemed to have for him were those he had for himself. It was a crystal clear mirror that Starsky held up for him. I see you, he always seemed to be saying, in one way or another, I see you, I love you.

    "I don't really want you to get a new partner," Hutch said, knowing it needed to be said, knowing he needed to say it. At last he could look away.

    Starsky was nodding, the small smile on his face somewhat mixed as if he already knew that Hutch had never meant it. Yet, at the same time, his shoulders relaxed, dark eyes blinking away a large measure of worry. Hutch had to look down. He fought the urge, then, to get up and move away; yet Starsky deserved something more. Almost of its own accord, his hand reached out to touch one of Starsky's resting on a bent knee. There was an answering squeeze. "I'm sorry," he said.

    It was absolutely killing Starsky that Hutch wasn't looking at him.

    "C'mon, willya lookit me, huh?"

    A swallow, slight flare to the nostrils, and a pause as the fair head dipped even lower.

    C'mon, buddy, c'mon.

    Slowly, Hutch turned to face him, head pivoting, eyes at the last flipping up. Hutch carried his softness on the inside, and here, through his shining eyes, Starsky saw it. And although Hutch had not continued with Starsky's opening about the kiss, at least he had acknowledged it, had allowed for its existence.

    "Guess we sorta romanticized some, huh?" said Starsky. "Like it was going to be perfect."

    An answering streak of color on Hutch's fairness and Starsky went on. "All I wanted was to be with you, drivin' around, workin' and like that, you know?"

    For once Hutch's gaze did not waiver, a slight double breath showing that it was by force of will alone, and he was listening, really listening.

    "I liked it better when I didn't think about us, we just were. Brown showed me how much I had, but he also showed me how much I had to lose."

    He stopped. Something had caught in his chest, separating the upper half from the lower. He was treading on new ground here, but Hutch was nodding slowly, his mouth set in a thoughtful frown.

    "You get it?" he asked, his voice squeaking in the middle. "I thought..."

    "It's not unknown, Starsky, just unspoken."

    With a whoosh, he let out his breath. "I was really pissed off at Brown, but he..."

    "He showed us us, Starsk."

    Us. We. You. Me. Very, very short words, but dense with the capture of the idea of their friendship. The weight of it pulled him backwards until his head rested on the arm of the couch, legs uncrossing, feet tucking themselves beneath Hutch's thighs. He rested his root beer in the space between his hips and the couch and he tilted his chin back.

    "I love you, Hutch." And the kiss be damned.

    Hutch's hand came to rest along the inside of his thigh, a firm caress that answered him. The palm was hot at first, then that eased to match his own temperature.

    Abruptly the contact ended as the doorbell rang and Hutch rose to answer it, his hand pulling away from Starsky's thigh.

    "Pizza man," announced Starsky unnecessarily, watching the long strides to the door.

    When Hutch got there, he opened up and let the delivery boy partway in. He took the pizza box and rested it on top of the small shelf there and reached for his wallet. Which of course was not there. Starsky sat partway up, pulled his own out of his back pocket and threw it. Hutch caught it, looking backwards only briefly.

    They set up the gin rummy and pizza on the mostly cool linoleum floor of the kitchen, candles in small bunches and ate in silence for a few minutes.

    "Guess I had t' go and spoil it all, huh?" Starsky muttered.

    "Yeah," agreed Hutch, "by saying something stupid."

    But Starsky knew what he meant because he was looking at him when he said it.

    What Starsky said and what Hutch did were usually the same thing. Or at least they meant the same thing, carried the same weight.

    I could look at you all night, Hutch found himself thinking unexpectedly, or fling my arm around you and you would know what I meant.

    But even for Starsky's enormous faith in him, it might not be enough. Shouldn't have to be.

    Starsky dealt out a hand of Gin Rummy and proceeded to beat him soundly. Hutch dutifully wrote down the points and then stared at his new hand. A mess. No chance, nothing matched up.

    His partner was busy with his hand, obviously full of opportunity. He bent his dark head, an almost maddening gleam to his eyes as he hummed to himself. Cross-legged, he was stocking-footed, his sneakers only having been thrown in the corner.

    Does he, I wonder, ever think about it? Hutch had used to wonder. Now he knew.

    Hutch knew that others, Dobey and Huggy especially, thought that he was closemouthed, but sometimes he wondered if Starsky was even tighter than he. They had never discussed it, though he knew they eventually would. That was their way.

    "C'mon, Hutch, out with it. Talk to me."

    Hutch started. Starsky had not even lifted his head or raised his voice. It was as if they had been talking all along.

    "Out with what?"

    Now Starsky looked at him, eyes deep and calm as a northwestern bay.

    "The reason you're lookin' at me like I'm a specimen."

    Hutch had to look away and wondered if Starsky, as he did, ever thought beyond the boundaries of their friendship.

    "Do you ever..." he trailed off, allowing his eyes to flick up once to meet Starsky's, "do you ever think about that kiss?"


    There was only one; they had just talked about it; Starsky could not possibly misunderstand him. "Yeah, you know..."

    "Yes," came the answer. "All the time."

    Hutch's eyebrows shot up. All the time? "What do you think?"

    There was a small, private smile playing around Starsky's mouth. His concentration was seemingly on his cards, and he said, as if to himself, "I think of it as a covenant."

    "A covenant? But that's a legal term, what lawyers use. It's formal!"

    Almost tenderly, Starsky rearranged several of his cards. "No," he said, "it's a token of a promise of faith."

    A token? Hutch mouthed silently. "Promise of faith?"

    "Yeah," sighed Starsky, laying his cards down. "Gin."

    Starsky gathered the cards absently. "I liked to think of it as our promise to each other that nothin' would separate us. Not Brown, not nothin' for that matter."

    Okay. "Did it change anything?" Hutch had been wondering that.

    Starsky continued, his hands busy shuffling and cutting the deck. "Here, you deal," he said, handing the cards to Hutch. Then he took a swallow of root beer.

    Hutch dealt the cards out absently, waiting for an answer. It seemed a long time coming, though he knew it was only till Starsky had arranged his cards to his liking.

    "Naw, it didn't change nothin'. Just sorta re-- re--," Starsky snapped his fingers, searching for the word.

    "Reaffirmed?" asked Hutch, separating out three aces.

    "Yeah, reaffirmed it. Nice."

    Hutch watched as his partner arranged and rearrange his hand, frowning, and slowly gathered the card from the top of the pile. How Starsky could concentrate on the game was beyond him; he found himself incredibly distracted by the questions in his head. He looked down at his hand after his hand, and realized that he'd just dumped a very important card.

    Hutch nodded slowly, stealing a glance at his partner. Starsky looked at him and didn't look away. "It was nice," said Hutch.

    "Gin, gin, gin," said Starsky, planting his arrangement of cards on the floor. "You lose."

    "What do I owe you?" he asked, expecting that Starsky would want dinner at Pasquini's, one of the many Italian restaurants which reminded him of the one his grandparents lived over when he was a kid.

    There was a pause. "A covenant."


    Starsky turned his head to one side and as Hutch followed his line of vision, he saw that Starsky's hand was brushing the tops of the candles. All but one went out, the smoke curling upwards to the ceiling in a single grey veil. He remained that way, the tips of his eyelashes curling away in a silhouette.

    "A covenant," he repeated, moving back to face Hutch, his eyes still downcast.

    Starsky was a fidgiter by nature, constantly shifting and fluid. But now he sat with his hands, one on each knee, statue-like, sock-footed toes not wiggling.

    "Okay," said Hutch, wondering if they'd started something they shouldn't have.

    He saw the dark head lean forward slightly, the expression on Starsky's face determined, as if he would make Hutch meet him halfway by force of will alone. It was impossible to resist, this will of Starsky's, as if, by its absence and rarity, it compounded till it matched and exceeded Hutch's own. So he leaned forward, tipping his head to one side and their lips met briefly over a pile of cards, half-eaten pizza, and tender candle smoke.

    Starsky sat back, hesitating before his eyes met Hutch's, looking like he expected to be reprimanded or at least have Hutch laugh at him. Hutch never felt less like laughing at Starsky than he did at this moment.

    I wish I were as brave as you, Hutch thought.

    He took his partner's hand and gently kissed the palm as he had the other night. Felt the quiver of tendons beneath the skin on the inside of his wrist. And allowed himself a small glance at Starsky's face. His eyes were dark and deep, open with some surprise, mouth in a small circle. Almost as if he hadn't been expecting that, which was good, Hutch decided, since he hadn't known he was going to do it.

    With a twist of his hand, he curled Starsky's arm so the wrist was only that far from his mouth. Laid his lips upon it, tracing the pounding veins with his tongue. Followed them up the inside, to the softness that was the beginning of Starsky's tricep.

    Suddenly, Starsky jerked his hand away, and Hutch was left with an open palm, as if in supplication. His heart suddenly hurt.

    Then Starsky stuck out his left hand, and Hutch understood. That was the hand he wrote with, drove with, shot with. That was his hand, just as Hutch's was his right. Hutch repeated the motions, lingering along the crease of the inner elbow, resting on the curve of muscle.

    Starsky was unprepared for Hutch to suddenly stop, pull his hands back and look away. "I think I better go," said Hutch and his eyes beseeched Starsky with a sudden confusion.

    Yeah, thought Starsky, okay.

    It was suddenly important to remain very calm so that Hutch wouldn't get spooked. He was pretty spooked himself, but he just nodded and watched Hutch walk out the door.

    He listened for the car engine and there was none. A second later and Hutch was back, staring at the floor, coming in no further than the doorway.

    "M'car won't start," Hutch said.

    Starsky kept his mouth shut and walked out to sit behind the wheel of the LTD, feeling the slight warmth of the presence of Hutch's hands on the plastic. He turned the key, but though everything lit up okay, nothing happened.

    He leaned back in the seat and looked up at Hutch, who was standing beside the car and looking away.

    "How long has this orange stick been on the left side of this big 'E' here?"

    Hutch's whole face blinked. "Most of the afternoon."

    Starsky resisted the urge to lecture, about smart practices of car maintenance. He'd done it a thousand times before, but now, with Hutch's shoulders slumped the way they were, was not an occasion for the one-thousandth-and-one lecture.

    "Let me take you home," he said instead.

    Dipperfuls of milky fog were pocketed in the lumps and folds of the valley below as Starsky drove along. Topanga Canyon was steep and windy, but every now and then there was a flat spot where the dark, light-speckled valley would stretch away to the ocean.

    He looked over. Hutch was leaning as far out the window as he could go and still be at least halfway in the car. Starsky could hear him taking in lungfulls of cool-edged night air, could see the tips of his pale hair flying crazily around his head.

    It was like that other night when he had taken Hutch home after a single kiss, except that this time, Hutch did not have a headache (and he wondered if that meant what he thought it did) and he was taking the long way home for no reason at all. And there was nothing between them and the night sky but the roof of his car, the sea breeze having somehow, mysteriously, pushed the brunt of the smog away to somewhere else. And it was at times like this, when the air was an angel's wing against his face that he wished he had a convertible. Then Hutch could sit beside him and smile as the wind whipped around their heads.

    'Stead of being halfway out a car window, where a guy couldn't tell what he was thinkin'.

    Starsky stopped momentarily at the overlook near the top of the ride. Spread below them the city lights, and above them, the stars, swirling in the freshet of after-rain air. Finally, Hutch slipped back in the car with a thump and a sigh. He ran his hands alongside his head but his hair seemed untamable. He looked slightly demented as he smiled to himself.


    "Yeah." Another sigh. "Yeah, I'm beat."

    There was no animosity in the silence. We are here, it said, and that seemed to be enough.

    Starsky pulled up in front of Venice Place, and some of the heat retained in the city sidewalk thrust itself into the car.

    "Coming in?" asked Hutch.

    Hutch's place was an oven, the windows closed solid against the clean air and Starsky shouldered his way past his suddenly frozen friend, opening them all. Immediately, the hot air began rushing out, creating small sub-currents that whispered past Starsky's ears.

    Neither one of them had turned on any lights and the half-darkness made Hutch look like something out of a shadowy painting. Starsky moved to the door as if to push past and go into the night once again. But at the last second before his hand reached the doorknob, Hutch placed the tips of his fingers on Starsky's forearm.


    A firmer grasp could not have frozen him more effectively. "Okay."

    What were they going to do now? Hutch's hand was trembling like fine silk, his grip so light as to be almost non-existent. Starsky found himself turning away from the door and towards the tall, still figure. The half-light opened Hutch's face in a way that the broad sun never could have. Open, the eyes burning with the crystal light of a slow dawn, the bow of his mouth tilted downwards. One closer step and he realized that Hutch was shivering all over.

    So was he.


    Heartbeat. Arms enfolding him the solidness of that chest against his own. Hands locked into his ribs.

    "Jeezus," muttered Hutch. "Jeezus."

    Like a departing tide, Hutch suddenly pulled back, light hands on Starsky's jaw. Their eyes met then, Hutch's piercing through him like an arrow, flicking up, whites sparkling in the dark. One kiss landed somewhere on the side of his face.

    "Is this all right?" A question, Hutch's voice soft in the night. "Is this okay?"

    So gentle, thought Starsky. "S'wonderful," he replied out of the side of his mouth that wasn't being kissed.

    "S'marvelous," Hutch said, his voice low.

    Hutch kissed him full on the mouth, like he had before, and pulled back, one hand on Starsky's chest, the tips of his fingers moth's wings on his collar bone.

    "I dare you to do that again," said Starsky, gravely.

    A spark appeared in those light blue eyes.

    "And I double-dare you!"

    Proper school-yard etiquette. And that was fair wasn't it?

    "I double-dog dare you," returned Starsky.

    Hutch racked his brain, trying to remember the proper response. It was like Starsky to bring the texture of the street to lace their night-covered words. So like him to ease the way for Hutch so that Hutch could lead. Or was he?

    It was Starsky's way to follow Hutch, through doorways, in patterns of thought, major decisions. Part of his makeup to try whatever health shake Hutch would foster on him, this vitamin, that camping trip; whatever Hutch laid forth Starsky would go along with. But even though it had been Hutch who had, oh so long ago it seemed, planted the first kiss, it was Starsky who had returned it, Starsky who had demanded they discuss it, Starsky who had held out his other hand for Hutch to kiss, Starsky who had driven them the long way home. And it was Starsky who now had dared him to continue. So, just who was in control here?

    Did it matter?

    Starsky was watching him, eyes frank and blue with expectation. What the hell came after double-dog?

    "I-I triple dare you." There, that had to be right.

    The smile Hutch received was a kiss in itself.

    "I triple-dog dare you," Starsky said, carefully.

    Now what the HELL came after that? Hutch suddenly felt confused and irritated because Starsky was playing some kid's game that Hutch didn't know the rules of. And what were they doing standing hip to hip with their arms linked around each other's waists anyway?

    "Damnit, Starsky--"

    "Don't get mad," Starsky admonished softly, a twinkle in his eye, "get even."

    There came that melting feeling again, like sugar in water, and he swung Starsky up in a fireman's carry, marched into the bedroom and dumped him on the big brass bed. The bed creaked under the strain of both their bodies as Starsky shrieked his indignation and pulled Hutch down on top of him. Hutch found that he liked the sensation of having Starsky beneath him, and planted an elbow on either side of the dark head.

    "You will behave," he growled. "And you will submit."

    "Make me."

    A different kind of dare then.

    Hutch knew he was pushing the edge, but instead of a barrier, it was more like a marker on the way to someplace new. Before he realized it, he was undoing Starsky's jeans, pushing open the fly and placing his hand there. He straightened Starsky with one tender pull.

    "How did you know?"

    "How could I not know?"

    How could he not press Starsky's body into the mattress, enfolding the dark head in his arms? How could he not force Starsky's chin up and inhale the fragrance of his neck? How could he not smother the grunts of protest with a series of kisses guaranteed to make even the most experienced stewardess crumble?

    But Starsky was not a stewardess, nor any other kind of floozy or one night stand. He was a man, and his legs entangled with Hutch's in an effort to flip him over.

    "Uh-uh," Hutch warned, drawing back for a second. It took both of his hands to pin Starsky's forearms and the leverage of his hips to keep the other man's body on the mattress. And rising within him was some new lightning, its distant roar coming closer as Starsky struggled beneath him.

    And any sounds Starsky was making only incensed him further, and the ability to use his full strength and have it almost not be enough was sending him flying over the edge. He was rock hard, the space between their bodies non-existent. The friction created as Starsky moved to free himself was anything but soothing.

    With a growl, Starsky shot his knee to the outside of Hutch's thigh, and twitched his shoulders, sending Hutch off balance. In another second Hutch was entombed in pillows and blanket, thunder covering him with dark kisses.

    "Damnit, Starsky," hissed Hutch.

    "Oh, man," whispered Starsky in return, his mouth finding the soft flesh behind Hutch's ear.

    Hutch shuddered. "Don't do this to me," he said, voice low. "Don't Starsky, don't."

    Though Starsky was shorter, his muscles made up for what he lacked in leverage, and Hutch felt him using all of that and more, the tendons standing on the dusky neck. Hutch could not move. And Starsky's mouth, finding him, boldly making hot paths down his front. Even through his t-shirt he could feel the fire. Several inches lower and Starsky let go for only a second, and as he was reaching for Hutch's zipper, Hutch grabbed him. Flipped him back over. Reached for the extra handcuffs he kept in his nightstand. One end went around Starsky's wrist and the other laced through the brass headboard before either one of them could breath.

    "Not fair, Hutch," snarled Starsky, and Hutch suddenly felt like he'd only half-caged a wild beast. Starsky reached forward and grabbed with his free hand a mass of Hutch's shirt, tearing the cotton fabric and he pulled Hutch close to him. Hutch let it tear, the sound of ripping cloth doing mad things to his brain, his insides, his groin.

    He could easily control Starsky's one free hand, he decided, proceeded to lean against it as he undid Starsky's zipper the rest of the way. His hand found the hard heat to match his own, could feel Starsky's double-time heartbeat as he grabbed that heat. Managed a quick kiss on Starsky's protesting mouth as he slid his body down, pressing the other's free arm into the mattress with an outstretched hand.

    "Oooooh, jeezus, Hutch, you're not gonna..."

    "Be quiet," Hutch warned, "be very, very quiet"

    Starsky's scent was not new to him, but that of his sex, the warmth between his legs, had a different power to it. He moved his hand in to shift the underwear away and cup the soft flesh in his palm. Starsky lifted briefly as he pulled the blue jeans down, and Hutch rested the whole of his hand the length of Starsky's hardness. It was like fire beneath his fingers.

    He looked up. Starsky had ceased to struggle, his one hand lax beneath Hutch's, the other hanging loosely in the cuff. The dark curls were tucked against his shoulder, eyes closed, mouth moving over sharp breaths.

    Hutch bent his head. He would do this first and then let Starsky go.

    He took Starsky in his mouth. Simply that and Starsky's whole body jerked beneath his grasp. He cupped the base of the hard sex in his palm, his mouth sucking along the ridge of the underside. He'd never felt Starsky move beneath him in a way that suggested he was going out of his mind. And the taste of Starsky, dark salt and man sweat. Tenderly Hutch nipped at the base with his lips.

    "Huuuuuutch..." Starsky's voice was very ragged.

    "Mmmmmm?" said Hutch, not pausing. He lowered his mouth till he could feel Starsky's hardness at the back of his throat. Moved very slowly up and down. Lingered over the crown, swirling his tongue in the indent there, and moved back to its base again.


    "I thought I told you to stay quiet," scolded Hutch, stopping for a moment.

    "Please don't..."

    Hutch planted a kiss beneath Starsky's belly button. "Don't what?"


    He let go of Starsky's uncuffed hand, and found it instantly entwined in his hair. The other was tending the locks with his fingers, over and over, pulling at them gently.

    "Hang on, buddy," he said, whispering.

    Hutch lowered his mouth on Starsky again, vowing not to come up for air until the other man came. Vowing not to lift his head until Starsky was screaming. He wrapped one arm around Starsky's hips to bring the other closer to him, his other hand pressing on the flesh between the jean-tangled legs. And as he pressed, he moved, unceasing, until he heard Starsky's breath catch in his throat. He paused as he tightened his hand around the base of Starsky's sex.

    Starsky's head was pressed back into the pillows, his throat arching away, his chest rising and falling fast. Something rose in Hutch's throat.

    "Love," he whispered, not thinking Starsky would hear.

    Then he bent his head, feeling the sigh of Starsky's body as he did so. Eased his hand up and down in time with his mouth, and thought fleetingly of how many women had done this exact same thing to him. And how Starsky had once, drunkenly, told him how he liked it done. As he felt Starsky move, he went faster, as Starsky's body stilled, he moved slower. Faster and slower. Harder and softer.

    Felt the scream building in the other man and tightened his hand, the circle of his mouth.

    When Starsky came, it was like a storm from inside his soul. Hutch heard it low at first, then it sounded, issuing forth like a growl. Louder. Hutch swallowed, tasting the bitter salt, swallowed again, wondering how he was going to take it all. He almost couldn't manage it, felt his throat closing up in reflex, but forced himself, as if Starsky's semen were a needed medicine.

    When it was done, and Starsky's body had almost stilled its quivering, Hutch laid his head on the other's belly. Felt the sweat collecting there, and moved his head to mark Starsky with it. Then he realized he was shivering all over himself.

    "Hutch, Hutch, Hutch," whispered Starsky.

    Hutch shifted his body till he was lying alongside the other man, felt their heat meet and double, and reached over Starsky for the key he kept in the nightstand.

    "Hope I didn't accidentally throw it away when I cleaned last week," he muttered, feeling in the drawer for it.

    He felt Starsky's arm looping around his throat. "Not very funny, damnit," said Starsky against his neck. "You'd better find it."

    When Hutch's fingers closed around the cool metal, he ducked his head to escape Starsky's grip. Bent to kiss a hair-tangled nipple and felt Starsky's chest rising against him. "Here you go," he said politely, unlocking the cuff.

    Starsky ripped it off his hand and tossed it to the floor. Hutch knew that Starsky was worked up but he hardly expected the onslaught of kisses that pressed him into the cocoon of bedclothes till he was almost smothering. He struggled against it, but Starsky wouldn't let him up. Two hands pressed him back and he felt the full of Starsky's body on top of his own.

    "W-what, what--" he managed briefly, pulling his mouth away.

    It was captured at once, Starsky's lips moving against his. "Oh, you're gonna get it, babe, but good."

    Starsky was playing with him now, moving his hands up and down Hutch's ribcage, pushing away the remains of his t-shirt, and pushing impatiently at the catch of Hutch's jeans.

    "Damn this thing," snarled Starsky. In another second he'd pulled so hard that the brass rivets popped and the copper-plated button went pinging across the floor. The zipper soon followed, never to work properly again, and Starsky's hand was between his legs.

    And when Hutch moved to regain the top position, his legs wrapping easily around Starsky's, Starsky easily looped Hutch's arms behind his back, and gripped several blond hairs.

    "Don't," he breathed, "move."

    Hutch froze, his breath pushing against Starsky's chest. And Starsky's face, inches from his own, somehow stern, somehow more formidable than he'd ever seen it. He obeyed at once.

    And yet there was a tenderness there, in Starsky's eyes as they swept over Hutch, taking in his features as if absorbing them. A soft kiss brushed across his forehead. Hutch closed his eyes to it, and felt the feather-light touch on his cheek.

    "Love," Starsky whispered.

    Hutch's breath caught in his throat.

    Starsky's mouth engulfed his breath, and he breathed in as if to absorb Hutch's essence. And Hutch felt himself swept up, somehow uncontrollably out of control as, with one arm still locking Hutch's arms behind his back, Starsky began to move his hand on Hutch's sex. Up and down, ever so gentle, as if he were stroking a cat. Or merely patting Hutch's arm. It was too light, so light, and Hutch raised his hips to force the action into more firmness.

    "Oh, no," Starsky scolded, his voice raising the hairs along Hutch's neck. "You wait your turn, young man."

    It seemed as if Starsky were about to stop altogether and Hutch, feeling rather than hearing his own involuntary sighs, resisted the urge to undulate in time with Starsky's hand. After a bit, the force of the strokes became harder and Hutch promised himself that he would remain very, very still and not beg.

    But Starsky's hands, the pressure of his stomach against Hutch's hip, the magic he was working, as they breathed in time together...

    "P-please, oh jeezus..."

    "Mmmmmm," said Starsky in reply. "Like this?"

    As Starsky finally applied the pressure, all Hutch could do was moan. His world suddenly became quite small, and all of it contained in the circle of Starsky's hand. He felt Starsky's mouth on his own and he pulled his head away.

    "Don't do that--I can't breath."


    Starsky proceed to move harder, faster, his hand an increasing rhythm, a hotter friction on his hardness. A focus on a single point of light that suddenly exploded inside his head and he heard the shattering cry that he realized was his own. The friction stopped, buildup ceased and then followed the beautiful blankness. He felt Starsky breathing in his ear.

    "That was fast," came the voice, only slightly teasing.

    "'t's been awhile," Hutch replied between breaths.

    "Aw, Hutch."

    Another kiss, slowly, almost casually on his temple. "We'll have to get you in the saddle more often."

    Hutch could only nod his head against Starsky's chest, feeling the rough hairs, and reached out to kiss and taste the salty flesh.

    Starsky sighed, his body shuddering the bed. "Look at this mess, will ya? Must be about two gallons here." He made no move to clean anything up however, remaining absolutely still, holding Hutch to his chest. Hutch felt like he might fall asleep just as he was.

    "I think my jaw is broken," he murmured.

    "Wha's that?"

    "Don't know how the weaker sex does it."

    "What, you mean swallow?"

    Hutch smiled in spite of his sudden bone-melting tiredness. "Hold the position, swallow, all of it."

    "Well, you managed," Starsky whispered, and Hutch could hear him smile.

    "Liked that, did you?"

    "Well," came the overly casual reply, "let's just hope your jaw is better soon. Like tomorrow."

    "In that case," replied Hutch around a yawn, "you better get yours warmed up."

    He felt himself drifting off and realized how marvelous it was not to have to remain awake to make sure his partner was alright. Starsky would let him know if he needed anything, unlike his previous female bedmates who always seemed to expect Hutch to stay awake to talk to them or cuddle them. Starsky held him secure in arms that somehow still contained strength, though he could sense the other's weariness. But words were unnecessary.

    "When you finally let go," he muttered, "just make sure my head doesn't hit anything harder than the mattress."

    Through fast-approaching sleep, he heard Starsky's reply. "I'm never letting go."


    Starsky rolled out from under the covers before he was awake, realizing where he was but not quite remembering why. Then he felt the coldness of the handcuffs beneath his feet. He smiled, looking over at Hutch, and gently lifted one of Hutch's hands. It was limp in his grasp, like spaghetti. In fact, Hutch's whole body, what could be seen through the gaps in the tumble of covers, looked like some noodle that had been cooked at high boil for a good half an hour. It had been a long while since he'd seen his friend that relaxed. Not since...well, not since Gillian.

    Glad I could help, buddy.

    He popped himself in the shower, then popped out again, throwing on his only too-wrinkled clothes. Once in the kitchen, he made himself a cup of instant and browsed over yesterday's paper that he found neatly folded on top of the fridge.

    Presently, over the comics page, he heard the shower running and then bare feet padding across the carpet. A hand ruffled his hair and then Hutch was there, tightening the sash on his orange robe, hair askew from the towel, turning on the burner and pulling ingredients out of the fridge. Starsky thought the other was making a health shake until a glass of juice was placed in front of him. He looked up.

    "What, no run this morning?"

    "For you," replied Hutch with his back to Starsky, cracking eggs into a bowl with one hand, "I break training."

    Starsky felt his mouth drop open, and vocalize, of its own accord, a sputter of surprise, thinking of all the women he knew that Hutch had never done this for. But Hutch ignored him, the way he always had, in that way that meant he wasn't ignoring him at all. And felt at a loss for words as he watched Hutch turning bacon, buttering toast and beating the eggs until they were a lather. He wanted to say something or wrap his arms around Hutch but thought that would be as intrusive as if Hutch would try the same thing to him when he was working on his car.

    So he remained seated, watching with silent eyes, and within minutes, Hutch turned away from the stove and put a plate loaded with eggs and bacon and toast all buttered up in front of him.

    "I," he managed, "I could get used to this."

    A terry-clothed arm went around his shoulders and a soft kiss brushed his forehead. "Do."


    The friendship, much to Starsky's profound pleasure, remained essentially as it always had. With very few alterations. Hutch still acted on what he thought was his right to take whatever food he wanted from Starsky's plate. He continued to believe in his own mental superiority, digging at Starsky whenever the opportunity presented itself. He still liked to lead the way on the job and continued to complain about Starsky's driving. His pockets were, on the flip side, still full of money for candy or whatever Starsky's sweet tooth claimed it couldn't live without, and his unswerving loyalty to Starsky had not changed.

    What, then, was different?

    Over the next few weeks, Starsky's own dating of women had come to a shrieking halt. He had not informed Hutch of this, figuring the pressure might be too much for his partner. He did not want to force Hutch into a monogamous relationship. On the other hand, it was usually Hutch, after they were off duty and when they usually just sat around shooting the breeze, who would suddenly pounce on him and drag Starsky to the floor, or the couch, or whatever horizontal platform happened to be available. Once Hutch had even gotten him off against the kitchen counter. He'd never known flour stains to be difficult before.

    And in fact, they tended to trade off attacking each other. It got pretty rough; just last week Hutch had accidentally opened Starsky's lower lip during one of their tumbles. There had been an ice-cloth and soft kisses afterwards, and Starsky had enjoyed the attention. Hutch had whispered that he would try not to be so rough, but Starsky figured that both of them were working through some male macho shit. It would be awhile before they both felt they could be gentle with each other. Hopefully not too much longer. There were a few sweet nothings Starsky could hardly wait to see Hutch react to.

    It was the end of a long shift and Starsky sighed as he threw the last folder in the out tray. He stood and stretched, hands over his head, and yawned till his ears popped. Then he looked around the room for Hutch. The blond was leaning against the wall next to the water cooler, arms across his chest, one leg bent to press against the wall. He was waiting, not for anything in particular, it seemed, just passing time, just waiting. His eyes were unfocused, tired at the corners, mouth tilted downward.

    Starsky approached him, trying to sneak up on him, but when he was still a yard away, Hutch's head snapped towards him. And in his eyes was the look, that look, the triple-dog dare. It was a breach of etiquette, as far as dares were concerned, but it would have been worse to ignore it. So Starsky walked as close as he dared, and stole a glance around the squadroom. Everyone was extremely busy, though Hutch would hardly have dared him had they not been.

    The blond's jaw moved and Starsky realized that even Hutch was not totally without fear. It made him feel a little braver.

    Starsky raised himself to his tiptoes, titling his head to one side. Hutch remained perfectly still, as if unaware of Starsky's intent, until the last second. Then he too tipped his head to the side, at a mirror angle to Starsky's, to the exact correct angle for their lips to meet.


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