This story was first published in Cross The Line. This zine is still in print. If you are interested in this zine, contact Flamingo. Comments on this story can be sent, as usual, to:



I hold you in my arms as the band plays
What are those words whispered baby just as you turn away
I saw you last night out on the edge of town
I wanna read your mind
and know just what I've got in this new thing I've found
So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise
Brilliant Disguise—Bruce Springsteen

Detective Helen Davidson sat in Huggy's Place, an all too familiar restaurant, toying with a dish of familiar food and watching, with a strange detachment, a very familiar scenario.

"Well, as usual, dummy, you've opened your mouth before engaging your brain," Ken Hutchinson said, his sly smile belying the friendly insult. He glanced past his partner, Dave Starsky, and winked at her. "I most certainly do know what the code book says. Ask Helen if you don't believe me."

"Don't get Helen involved, turkey," Dave warned chidingly. "You're on your own. 'Sides, Helen's my girl, don't try to get her to defend you." He reached back, groped, found her knee under the table, gave it a comforting squeeze. Letting her know he knew she was there. Trying to make her a part of the circle. But his eyes never left Ken's. "You're so smart, let's hear it. From the code book. Word for word, Mr. Knows-Everything-In-The-Book-By-Heart."

His razzing had the desired effect. While trying to recite the obscure traffic code the blond detective started to snicker. His darker partner continued to correct and harass and interrupt until Ken was red faced with laughter, stuttering helplessly.

It was just another evening with Ken and Dave—or Starsky and Hutch, as they preferred to call each other. She'd had dozens of them since she and Dave had been dating—far more of them, she realized suddenly, then she'd had evenings with Dave alone. She'd always enjoyed the time she spent with the two detectives, with both of them vying, like kids, to impress her with their perpetual competitions. So, why was it that over the last week or so she suddenly started feeling so removed?

She blinked, staring at her half-eaten hamburger, tuning them out. They'd never notice. When they were together like this, it didn't matter if Ken had a date, or if, like tonight, he was on his own. When they were with each other it didn't matter how many women were with them—they were alone, just the two of them. The partners. No, she corrected herself. The Partners. Like they'd invented the term, and all it conveyed.

Helen had been a cop for five years, and a detective for six months. She'd had a few partners while she was in uniform, some of them were good team mates, some of them weren't. She'd decided she liked working alone better, but accepted the fact that most cops ended up working with a partner no matter how they felt about it.

And then she'd spent a week riding with The Partners. She'd learned a lot that week, about working the streets, handling informants, questioning suspects, self-defense—especially self-defense. That week with The Partners had been a hell of a lot more valuable than her entire stint at the Academy. She'd learned a lot about herself, too. She found she liked working the streets. She especially liked undercover work. There weren't a lot of women working undercover yet, and the ones who did often found themselves in limited roles, like street-walking prostitutes. Helen had more ambition than that.

She'd also discovered that week that she liked Dave Starsky. A lot. More than a lot, really.

"Ah, next you'll be tellin' me y'got the animal control act memorized," Dave jeered as Ken stammered to a halt. "You owe me a beer, and you ain't gettin' outta it so easy."

"As a matter of fact," Ken insisted, grinning, "it just so happens that I do know the animal control act.... 'City Ordinance, Code seventy-eight-B, Section fourteen: Herewith let it be known that if any citizen keeps a dog within the Los Angeles city limits—'"

"Oh, for cryin'...." Dave interrupted rudely. "Huggy! Another round here. On Hutchinson!"

"Hey, wait a minute!" Ken protested uselessly.

The tall, slender bartender showed up as if on cue. But of course, he'd known them long enough to anticipate them.

"Starsky," Huggy admonished, as he placed fresh bottles of beer in front of the men, "if I live to be a thousand, I'll never figure out just what a woman of this finesse, this quality, is doing hanging around the likes of you. Miss Helen, my dear, your beverage." Gallantly, he poured her beer into a clean mug.

Dave was smirking, pleased with Huggy's compliment, until Ken chimed in with, "She mistakenly thinks he's come into a huge inheritance, and has only a short time to live. It's a rumor he started at the station to try to garner feminine sympathy."

Starsky glowered at Ken who only chuckled at his discomfort.

"Well, that's certainly more plausible than the concept that a woman this lovely could be attracted to you, Starsky," Huggy insisted, handing the men new bottles and letting them pour for themselves.

"Oh, but I'm afraid it's true, Mr. Bear," she said, smiling. Huggy always managed to make her feel like she was the only female on the planet. "But you're very kind to defend me."

"I'm only hoping that you'll soon come to your senses, lovely lady," he assured her. "When you do, I trust you'll remember that I, too, am single." He grinned, batting his lashes, then turned a somber face to the two male cops. "As for you two deadbeats—"

"Pay the man," Dave insisted, kicking Ken lightly under the table.

Ken started digging through his pockets. Last night had been Dave's turn, tonight it was Ken's. They always remembered whose turn it was, but they never quibbled about the amount.

As Ken dug the bills out of his pocket, he gave Dave one of those subtle eye signals they constantly traded back and forth. It was part of their telepathy, their special, uncanny rapport. If she hadn't worked with them so intimately—sandwiched between them for five days in Dave's firecracker red Mustang while they subjected her to an endless stream of innuendo, abuse, and outright flirting—she'd have never noticed it. Ken must've spotted the distant look on her face, which made her feel guilty. Dave responded instantly, turning to her, noticing her half eaten food.

He slipped an arm around her waist, gave her a friendly hug. "You okay, babe? You didn't eat much."

She found herself unable to pull her eyes away from his indigo ones. The color was so intense, so unusual—symbolic of the man himself. She grew warm inside, the way she always did when he focused on her.

"I'm fine," she assured him, meaning it. "I guess, well, it's just been a long day." Long and tedious, working dead-end cases in a squad room full of men who either treated her as if she were invisible, or simply there for their entertainment.

She caught the eye signal flash between them again, saw Dave's nearly imperceptible nod. Then he said, "Maybe we should call it a night, huh?" He rubbed her back, solicitous. She leaned against him, enjoying it.

She shook her head. "No, I'm fine. Really. You guys just got fresh beer." She winked at Dave's partner, enjoying the chance to set him up. "Besides, didn't you promise to beat Ken at pinball tonight?"

Ken gave her a long suffering look. "Oh, thanks. I thought we were pals, Helen!"

"Yeah, she's right!" Dave remembered, hoisting his beer. But he checked with her one more time. "You sure you don't mind?"

"Hey, quit babying me," she groused good-naturedly, poking him in the side. He made a face as if he'd been mortally wounded. "Besides, it feels good to sit here and not do anything for awhile. You two go on, play your game. I'll be fine."

"Just let me beat blondie's pants off, honey," Dave promised, "and we'll be outta here."

"Oh, honey, I'll be lookin' forward to that," she assured him in a Mae West accent just as bad as his Bogart, while leering at Ken's long legs. Starsky narrowed his eyes at her warningly, but then grinned and kissed her cheek. "Go have a good time," she told him, meaning it.

"Hey, I want one of those for luck!" Ken insisted, coming around to her side of the table, and kissing her other cheek. She giggled at Dave's indignant look.

"You stole that kiss!" Starsky accused his partner.

"I sure did," Ken taunted shamelessly as they swaggered toward the pinball machine. "Just like I'm gonna steal your money now."

She couldn't hear Dave's retort, but Ken shook his head disapprovingly and she could tell he was saying, "Is that all you ever think about?" Dave grinned unashamedly and nodded his head vigorously.

She had to cover her mouth so he wouldn't see her smiling. She was spending too much time with them, she thought, if she could tell what they were saying to each other when they were out of earshot.

She was glad they'd stayed to play their game. Unlike a lot of women, she didn't feel like she had to be Dave's center of attention every moment. She didn't mind having the time alone with her own thoughts—something she didn't get very often these days. And she also didn't mind being able to watch the two of them playing off each other when they weren't aware of her scrutiny. As they angled around the pinball table and waged their mini-war, she enjoyed the physicality of their play.

Two beautiful animals, she thought as Dave bent low over the machine and Ken hovered over him, harassing. There wasn't a woman at the station that didn't envy her access to The Partners, and especially Dave's beautiful, denim-clad rear. She'd had no idea how many women even knew the two men until she'd started dating one of them. As soon as she did, single females came out of the woodwork, trying to get her to set them up with Ken. While getting a date with the elusive blond wasn't terribly hard, landing a second one surely was. Dave explained to her how devastated Ken had been by his divorce a couple of years back. His wife had been a bitch on wheels, according to Dave. Ken rarely mentioned her, and if he did it was with a false casualness. Helen suspected Ken was still mourning the end of this marriage and wasn't emotionally ready yet to begin dating. Half the time he only seemed to do it because Dave insisted or introduced him to someone. She thought it was a long time to grieve over the ending of a fairly brief marriage, but both Ken and Dave were men who felt things deeply and weren't ashamed to admit it. It was one of the many things that made them so attractive.

Dave must've been winning the first round, because all of a sudden Ken started swarming him, trying to interfere with the way he was handling the paddles. But Dave was unswerving in his attention and even Ken's attempt to wrestle him away from the machine didn't distract him.

He's like that in bed, she thought, a little surprised at herself. But it was true. When Dave really turned his focus on something there was no getting it away from him. His intensity was the same whether he was working on a seemingly uncrackable case, playing a game of pinball, or trying to make her lose her mind under him. She'd never had a man make love to her like Dave did, with all that energy, that focus, that intensity. Most men were more interested in their own needs, but with Dave, her pleasure came first and foremost. He usually never even attempted to come himself until she was weak with satisfaction.

Her face grew warm just thinking about it.

Ken must've been losing badly, because he was all over Dave now, his front pressed to Dave's back, his chin hooked over Dave's left shoulder, his arms surrounding Dave's, his hands grasping Dave's wrists. The two of them were laughing, roughhousing, the game deteriorating by the second, but through it all, Dave somehow managed to keep control of paddles. She could hear the ball pinging wildly, the bells and whistles ringing, the points going up and up. But Ken couldn't shake Dave's concentration.

Just like when he's in bed, she thought distractedly.

Then, while the two men fought their own personal war, she unexpectedly envisioned a totally different scene.

Ken draped over Dave's back, his arms surrounding Dave's slightly smaller frame, but his chin wasn't hooked over his partner's shoulder. Instead, Ken's lips were pressed lovingly against the back of Dave's neck, nuzzling, kissing, nipping. And Dave was leaning against Ken, his hands rubbing along the long, powerful arms enfolding him, his plush rear moving seductively against his friend's bulging groin, his eyes shut in bliss. The mound under Dave's zipper was growing as his cock swelled in the tight confines of his pants.

She blinked, snapping out of it all at once, as she found herself staring agog at the two men who were still turning pinball into a contact sport. The sudden, shocking, incongruous image that had come to her mind's eye so abruptly had dissolved, but even so, she continued to gape open-mouthed just as Dave stepped back onto Ken's toe, forcing Ken to retreat and break contact. Dave turned in her direction for a moment to hurl an insult at his partner, but it was long enough for her to realize that there was nothing happening beneath his zipper.

She rubbed her eyes. I'm cracking up. Where the hell did that come from?

She jumped as Huggy's voice sounded right beside her. "It's disgraceful the way those two carry on, isn't it?"

It took her a second to realize he was teasing, and she made herself smile to hide her confusion.

"I keep tellin' them they're gonna give this place a bad name," Huggy insisted, grinning, "but they ignore me. At least they have the good grace to bring you around to dress their act up a little."

She nodded, unsure as to what she say, if anything. Just then another patron signaled the bartender, saving her the effort.

She thought about the toss-off comments Huggy had just made. The Partners couldn't care less what kind of a name they gave any place they frequented, or, for that matter, what kind of a name they carried. They only cared about their work and their partnership. She'd always thought they were the most supremely confident males she'd ever met.

But what if—

If she wasn't in public, she would've smacked her own face for her stupidity. She thought of the way Dave made love to her, the attention he gave her, the incredible pleasure. When they went places together, she'd had to learn to ignore the sly looks he gave other women, since a skirt couldn't pass him by without his having to make a quality analysis. In fact, he was such a notorious flirt and, at times, an outright sexist pig, that it put her off when they first met. But this was a man who could charm the leaves off the trees if he put his mind to it.

I'm just tired, she decided, stretched too thin. I'm probably spending too much time with him anyway. Not getting enough sleep.

Now it was Ken's turn on the machine, and Starsky was taking full advantage. He wasn't using full body contact the way Ken had, no, he was being more subtle, moving his hands around Ken's sides, threatening to tickle without actually even touching. It was working; Ken was sputtering with laughter even though Dave was carefully not touching him. She could hear him protesting from where she sat.

"I'm not laying a hand on you, Hutchinson! I'm just standing here minding my own business, keeping to my own space. I'm not wrestling you to the ground the way you did me, you cheater."

His fingertips nearly grazed Ken's evading ribs, and Ken shrank away from the threatened contact, accidentally releasing one of the paddles. "Quit it! You know how damned ticklish I am! You're gonna make me—" He accidentally jostled the table and it lit up with a Tilt penalty. Starsky smirked, insufferably smug.

"Like I said, Hutch," the slanted grin lit up his face as he nearly jogged back to the table, "you gotta work on your concentration. That's the key to all of life's successes." He stood beside Helen's chair. "Ain't that right, schweetheart?"

Before she could answer, he'd taken her hand, tugged on it to get her to stand.

"Now it's time for me to go home and concentrate on my lady," he bragged.

"Thanks for getting me off the hook," Ken said to her, as if it had been her idea.

She started to say something, realized she had no idea what, then shut her mouth again.

Ken looked at her, concerned. "Hey, you really do look tired, Helen. You okay?"

She nodded quickly. "Yeah. Thanks for asking, Ken." She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

"Hey," Starsky protested, "that's the second one tonight! You're over your limit, blondie. Come on. I'll take us all home."

They piled into the front seat of the red sports car, but for once, she didn't enjoy the warmth she usually felt when she was snugged between the two of the them. Dave draped his arm around her shoulders as he drove, even as Ken slung his arm companionably across the back of the seat. But somehow, Helen couldn't shake the feeling that she was an interloper, an intruder here. That somehow, she was like a big place marker, keeping the two of them the necessary distance apart, maintaining some elaborate false front necessary for The Partnership to survive.

As they pulled up in front of Venice Place, Dave leaned over her, squeezed Ken's knee. "Pick you up tomorrow?"

"Yeah," Ken confirmed, patting the hand before it released him. "Make it early, will you? I want to finish going over that stack of stuff we started reviewing this afternoon. I don't feel like making it my life's work."

"I hear ya," Dave agreed.

"Get a good night's sleep tonight," Ken admonished her, wagging a finger to prove he was serious. "Or should I be telling that to him?"

She smiled as Dave growled, "Mind your own business, Hutchinson."

She wished him goodnight as Ken stepped out of the car, shutting the door behind him. Dave pulled away from the curb.

"So, what's going on?" he asked her point-blank before they'd hit the first light. "You're not just tired. Something's the matter."

Not one to beat around the bush, her Dave. "Nothing. I don't know. Work's been hard." She didn't look at him.

He nodded, but she could tell by the tension in his body that he wasn't buying it. "Anything you wanna tell me?"

She flinched. He was so damned perceptive. "Not that I know about."

He nodded again. She didn't kid herself that he'd let go of it, and he didn't. "The last week or so, you've been a little distant. Like you're somewhere else. Have I found some new, obscure way to piss you off? Haven't used a new aftershave. Been showering. Changing my underwear almost daily—"

"Dave," she said warningly. "Can't you ever take no for an answer?"

"If I did," he reminded her with a charming grin, "you wouldn't be sitting here with me now."

She sighed and found herself smiling at him. Ken was gone. She was there. Make the best of it and stop looking for fantasy problems. The real ones will show up soon enough. "I love you, Dave."

He nodded and this time, she knew, he was satisfied. "'S'nice to hear. I love you, too, Helen." The arm around her squeezed reassuringly, and she leaned against him, wanting the comfort of his closeness.

It would be better than good between them tonight. It would be spectacular. Dave would make sure of it, need to, for reassurance. And that made her glad. She promised herself she wouldn't think of Ken again until she had to.


Starsky rolled Hutch over in the bed, and Hutch cooperated willingly, settling on his stomach, gathering the pillow beneath his head and spreading his legs invitingly.

"Yes," Hutch gasped, hungry for this man, needing the special pleasure only his partner could give him. "Starsk, please...."

"Sssh," Starsky soothed, as he leaned over Hutch's prone form. "I'm here. It's fine." Starsky's lips pressed gently against the back of Hutch's neck, the knobs of his spine, lower, past the shoulders and the flanks, kissing warmly, lovingly at the small of the back. "Can't rush this. Don't wanna—"

"Starsk, need you—" Hutch gasped, the hunger growing until it was painful. Hutch flexed his ass, arching up. Starsky's hand stroked his broad rear, comforting. Claiming. Hutch sighed and shivered.

"Gonna love you so good," Starsky promised, kissing along one buttock. "Gonna take you. Gonna fuck you, Hutch."

Hutch gripped the pillow, groaning, clinging to it frantically, his legs spreading wider.

"Gonna do it so good," Starsky promised him, his voice low, seductive. "Gonna make you scream for me. Gonna make you love it."

"Please," Hutch whispered, feeling like Starsky had his heart gripped in a fist, squeezing it, possessing it the same way he'd always promised to possess his body.

"Gonna pin you to the bed so's you can't move and fuck you senseless," Starsky whispered. His voice was deep. Throaty. There was hunger in it. "I'm gonna fuck you, Hutch."

Hutch shuddered all over and moaned softly, "Oh, Jesus...." Had he ever wanted anything, anyone, the way he wanted this?

Starsky kissed along his spine to the back of his neck. He seemed so pleased with Hutch's reaction. "I want you under me, all that blondness, and I wanna penetrate you. For hours. For days. I wanna own you, and make you mine. How does that make you feel, Hutch?"

He was ready to beg, to plead. He needed completion, and Starsky was the only one who could give it to him. "Want you," he managed to breathe, "want you so bad. Only you, Starsk. Please. Now. Like you promised." So long ago. So very long ago.

"Always keep my promises—to you," Starsky murmured. He slid one leg between Hutch's, climbing into the saddle. Hutch felt the heavy erection slide over one buttock, burning a path to his center.

Hutch loosed a small sound as he felt his partner's hand grease him slowly, tenderly.

"Ssssh," Starsky soothed, slipping one slick finger inside. "Take it easy. Take it slow. Gotta relax."

Impossible. Hutch arched against the claiming hand, the shocking feel of it impossible to deny. This was real. This was now. This was Starsky in him.

A second finger entered him, opened him, spread him wide. He cried out, tightened around it, unable to stop his body's reaction. Sensation shot down his legs, not all of it pleasant.

Starsky's mouth was at his ear, whispering his name, easing him, murmuring love and reassurance. He was beautiful, he was loved, he was needed and desired. He was all and everything. And Starsky loved him like he'd never loved another, not ever, not anyone. The pain turned into pleasure, pure pleasure, pure desire. He clutched the pillow and tightened around the hand, wanting more now. Starsky purred his approval.

Then the hand was gone, and there was blunt heat and pressure that he knew was only Starsky. He looked back over his shoulder, needing to see, needing to remember, needing to experience every separate, precious second of Starsky claiming him, finally, after all this time, and all these years of wanting.

Starsky was focused, so focused, handling himself, going slow, so careful not to hurt, easing himself against the half-opened port. "Breathe for me, Hutch," he told him. "Breathe slow and deep and steady. Push out a little."

Too much to remember, too much to do, how did he keep it all organized—? Then Starsky was there, so large, so hot, and Hutch couldn't breathe at all, or push, or think. His whole body tightened, rebelled, rejected—

"Easy, easy, come on and breathe. Hutch. Breathe in, now!"

The order was sharp, like a shot on the street, and Hutch obeyed. Instinct kicked in, survival skills, Starsky shouting a warning, and Hutch reacting. He sucked in air, and the pain diminished miraculously. He released it with a groan, and drew in another, deeper, slower, so he could grab hold of the pain, control it, push it down. Another breath, and the realization, the knowledge—Starsky is in me, in me—and the joy overwhelmed him. A hand stroked his hair, slid down his back, trailed over his ass, soothing him, claiming him, saying without words, this is mine, all of it, mine. And his body yielded, opening like a flower, allowing the solid shaft to slide all the way home. Hutch's groan was low and loud and thick with lust.

"I guess it's real enough now, baby blue, huh?" Starsky gasped, as if he could scarcely believe it himself.

Hutch surged up as Starsky pumped deeper inside. "You promised you'd make me love it, and I knew you would—because you love me."

"Oh, God, I love you," Starsky breathed, wrapping his strong arms around the smooth chest, holding him in place—Pinning me to the bed so I can't move and fucking me senseless. Yes, God, I want that—as Starsky rode him deep and hard and smooth and slow, making Hutch love it, making him need it.

"And I love you," Hutch assured him. More than I've ever loved anyone, he realized with a start. More than I ever loved Vanessa. I love you with the realest love I've ever felt.

It overwhelmed Hutch—the fucking, the love, the hunger, the need—the beauty of a passion so powerful they couldn't survive its denial.

"It's too good," Hutch swore, his voice breaking on a sob, "it's too much. Oh, dammit, Starsk, I'm gonna come. Can't stop it—"

"Me, too," his lover groaned, tongue lapping at his ear, one more final torment. "Come in you. In you, Hutch, gonna come in you—"

The cry caught in his throat and for a moment couldn't be released, until Starsky ordered it.

"Scream for me, Hutch. You gotta scream for me."

It happened like summer lightning, all shocking white heat and thunder. The name tore from his throat as Starsky ejaculated into his body, and his own manhood swelled and erupted, saturating the bed. "Starsky! Oh, God, Starsky! Starsky!"

"I love you, Hutch. I swear I do. You. Only you—."

"STARSKY!" The harsh sound ripped through the room, through the dark, through her consciousness, shocking her awake, and her lover beside her.

"What?" he demanded blearily, grabbing her by the shoulders, pulling her tight against him, holding her safe. "What, babe? What's happening, what's wrong? Helen?"

Who's Helen? she thought for a second, confused. Then she noticed her hands, long and feminine, manicured fingernails, thin silver ring. A woman's hand. She frowned. Touched her body quickly, furtively. A woman's body. She was shaking wildly, her legs trembling, her knees weak, as if she'd run a mile or just come hard. She blinked, disoriented, confused. Then she remembered. She was Helen. Helen, not Hutch.

"You okay? Talk to me, willya? You were shoutin'—Helen? Say something." He gave her a little shake.

Her throat was raw from the passion-ripped scream. "Starsk?" she whispered. "God, Starsk, just hold me."

He obliged, but she could feel the frown in his whole body. "You still asleep?"

"I love you, Starsk," she said softly, but her voice was all wrong, too light and thin— Who was she anymore? She didn't know.

There was a click and the room was flooded with harsh, glaring light. She squinted hard, the brightness painful. He grabbed her narrow chin, pulled her face around. "Look at me!" he ordered roughly. "Come on and open your eyes and look at me. What the hell's going on? You never call me 'Starsky'. Helen?"

She swallowed. She didn't want to be Helen. She wanted to be Hutch. Wanted to feel that love, that all-consuming passion, like nothing she'd ever known. As good as it had ever been with him, he'd never loved her like that. She tried to close her eyes, to be Hutch again, but he wouldn't let her.

She blinked cautiously, and looked at him. His expression broke her heart. There was real fear there, real concern. He was so worried—

The dream images shattered and scattered until she was no longer sure of anything. She touched his face. "Do you love me?" Who was asking, Helen or Hutch? She didn't know.

"'Course, I do," he murmured. "What happened?"

"Dream, I think.... Not sure."

He frowned. "Scary, huh? You were yelling for me."

She managed a smile. "Who else would I yell for? Batman?"

He ignored her teasing. "Never heard you call me 'Starsk' before. Think we're spending too much time with Hutch. You start calling me 'Starsk' like he does, I could get the two of you confused. Could make for an awkward evening. Kissin' him. Beatin' you at pinball...."

She got cold all over when he said that, the shadow of his body pinning Hutch to the bed still echoing in her mind.

He kept fussing over her, kissing her cheek, running his hands over her back, his touch possessive yet gentling all at once. Claiming and calming. She'd always loved his touch, his beautiful, long-fingered hands. Now she saw them stroking Hutch's broad back and couldn't make the image go away.

"You're all damp from sweat," he murmured. "Must've been some dream." He pulled the covers around them, cuddled her close. "Better keep hold of you. Keep the bogeyman away. You sure you're okay?"

She blinked, rolled over in the shelter of his arms so he could spoon around her. She didn't want him to see the confusion in her eyes. No. No, I'm not sure about anything anymore. Not about you. Not about Hutch. Not about anything.

He wrapped his strong arms around her tight, holding her against him, keeping her close, but for once, there was little comfort in his embrace. He fell asleep while she lay still against him, feeling the rise and fall of his chest, the steady beating of his heart. She watched the light dawn in the bedroom window, and wondered about the secrets he kept in his heart and who else might have lain in his arms and hated herself for wondering.


I heard somebody call your name from underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame underneath your pillow
Well I've tried so hard baby but I just can't see
What someone like you is doing with me
So tell me what I see when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise
Brilliant Disguise—Bruce Springsteen

"You can't come in here!" Helen argued, shoving Dave back through the doorway. He resisted, taking a few slow steps but not enough to get him out the door. "This is the women's locker room! Get out!"

He was grinning, enjoying her discomfort. "Not till you say yes."

"No!" she insisted, shoving harder. "Do I have a pull a gun on you? Call a cop? Will you get out of here?" She glanced over her shoulder into the small room she shared with the handful of other women police officers. Fortunately, she was still the only one in it, but she could hear the shower running.

"Why won't you see me tonight?" he asked plaintively.

She wouldn't look into his eyes, didn't want to see the hurt there. She couldn't resist him when he looked wounded. "I need a good night's sleep!"

"I'll let you sleep," he insisted.

"You're lying," she told him.

"I'm not lying! Besides, who's gonna save you from your nightmares if I'm not there?"

She'd had them for the last three nights, each time the same, only more vivid, more sexual, more disturbing. She had dark circles under her eyes and her fatigue was hampering her work. And it didn't make dealing with the guys on the squad any easier either.

"Maybe if I get to sleep alone for one night, I might not have them," she blurted.

He stopped arguing, stood stock still. "You think you're havin' nightmares 'cause you're sleepin' with me?" His voice dripped hurt, making her feel horrible.

"No, Dave, of course not, it's just—"

"What the hell are you doin' in there?" Hutch's familiar voice hissed from behind Dave.

"Oh, thank God, Hutch," she muttered, then corrected herself. "Ken. Maybe you can make him leave?"

He grabbed Starsky's arm and gave it a serious yank. "You're in the women's locker room! You want to get suspended? What's gotten into you?"

But Dave was still looking at Helen, eyes showing the pain of rejection. "What about tonight?"

She couldn't do this to him. It wasn't his fault. It was her problem that her brain had decided to go out for lunch. Maybe she needed a visit with the department shrink.

"Come over about eight," she agreed finally. "But I'm holding you to your word that you'll let me sleep. Now get out of here!"

He grinned, hopelessly charming, crossed his heart with two fingers. "Scout's honor. I'll bring my jammies, just to prove my good intentions."

"Come on, lamebrain!" Hutch insisted, physically hauling him out of the small room. "Before you get us both busted! See ya later, Helen."

"Yeah. Take care of him, will you—Ken...?" It was an effort to remember his name these days. Hutch seemed the only proper appellation anymore. Especially when, late at night, in her sleep, it seemed like her name, too. She blinked, too confused to work it out.

"Don't worry," Hutch assured her. "That's my job. That's what they pay me the little bucks for. Baby-sit the baby. Come on, turkey. And wipe that silly grin off your face...."

That was the last thing she saw as the doors closed on them, Ken hauling his partner away physically, while Dave's "I-got-my-way-again" grin disappeared slowly behind the door like the Cheshire cat's. She leaned on the closed door and sighed.

"Are they finally out of here?" asked an amused female voice behind her, making her jump.

Helen turned, saw the tall form of Liz Draper emerging from the shower, one towel wrapped around her athletic body, the other turbaned around her short-cropped hair. There was silence from the shower now. Helen's face went beet red. Liz knew they were in here?

"I'm really sorry, Liz," she stammered.

"Hey, don't bother apologizing." The other woman detective went to her locker and started pulling out clothes. "It's not like anyone could control that curly-headed imp. Even Hutch can't stop him when he gets a wild hair up his ass. I've worked with 'em. I know." She sorted through clothes and as she did, Helen spied the picture of a handsome man on the inside of her locker. She wondered, not for the first time, who the man was. A brother? A cousin? An old friend? If asked, Liz would say he was her lover, but Helen knew that wasn't true.

A few months ago, while new to plainclothes, she'd had to go into a gay bar to corner a snitch because the older detective she was working with wouldn't do it. Gays didn't bother Helen. She decided long ago the problem in this world was definitely not who you loved, but rather whether you loved. While in the bar, she'd spotted Liz with her female lover. Liz had gone pale, and Helen had to reassure her that it made no difference to her. She knew Liz was a good cop. Her private life was her own. Liz had been uneasy around her ever since, but gradually, a cautious friendliness had emerged from the wary woman. Helen was glad. There weren't that many women detectives. They needed to stick together, not focus on their differences.

"Helen, you're looking kind of tired, if you don't mind my saying so," Liz said tentatively now. "Things okay with you and Starsky? I mean, it's none of my business—"

"No, it's okay, I don't mind your asking. Things between us, well, they're—" She paused, having no idea what to say. Things were fine till I latched onto this fantasy about him and his partner. Or maybe I'm just getting cold feet cause he wants to get married. She shook her head. "It's not that easy dating someone from your own precinct. It causes problems...."

Liz nodded. "It's not like you picked the world's easiest guy to get along with either. I hear you two have some spectacular fights."

Helen had to laugh at that. Dave loved to fight, and it didn't bother her much either. The making up, well, that was something to write home about, assuming you would ever write home about such things. "I think we do it just for the after effects. We can never remember what we were fighting about next morning."

Liz laughed. "I've always liked those two. I mean, they're as sexist as the rest of these bastards, and as resistant to women on the force as any of 'em. But if you prove yourself, well, they'll give you the freedom to do that and then respect you for it—even if they can't help but pat your ass later. Not like some of these guys who'll never admit you can do anything right. And touch you to be hurtful, to diminish you in your own eyes."

Helen nodded. That was so true. Then, the patron saint of strange thoughts put another one in her head. She looked at Liz. Liz was gay. She knew Dave and Ken. If anyone would know, wouldn't she...? The words froze in her throat. Did she want to ask? Did she want to talk about this? She stood there, silent, torn, terrified—

Liz seemed to sense her discomfort, and turned, while buttoning her blouse. "Helen? Something on your mind?"

Helen moved closer. There was no sound from the shower but dripping. They were alone. She glanced at the closed door, then back at Liz. "Can I ask you something? Something really confidential?"

The woman froze, her hands on her buttons, and stared at Helen warily. She paused for a moment, considering, then said reluctantly, "Okay...."

"Is it true what I've heard, that-that gay people can recognize each other? Or is that just more crap like we're always hearing?"

Liz visibly relaxed, obviously expecting a far more intimate question. She sighed. "I don't know that I'd discuss this with anyone but you, Helen, but...I trust you. Spotting other gays—well, it's like everything else. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it not. I can, most of the time, but not always. Some people have to be so just depends. And then sometimes the issue is not that clearly defined."

"Like?" Helen pressed.

"Well, not everyone is just gay or straight. Some people, like me, are really bi." She tapped the picture of the handsome man. "He really was my lover once. He's bi, too, and he lives with another guy now, but sometimes we act as each other's cover when we have to. We're good friends. Some gay people occasionally fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. Sometimes straight people develop feelings, even sexual ones, for someone of the same sex. Life isn't as black and white as straight society would have you believe."

This wasn't helping her. If anything, it was muddying the waters. Liz must've figured that out from the look on her face.

"Why don't you just ask me straight out what's on your mind?" Liz suggested kindly. "You know you can trust me not to spread it around."

That was certainly true. But could Helen talk about it, even with Liz? She swallowed, afraid her voice would crack. "Have you, I mean, when you talk among your friends—" Helen knew damned well there were other gay cops and Liz would socialize with them—"does anybody ever, you know, talk about...about Dave and Ken?" Her voice had gotten softer and softer and she hoped she wouldn't have to repeat what she'd just said.

Liz snorted. "The two best set of buns in the entire LA police department? Oh, honey, get real. They break hearts in every gender—" Liz trailed off realizing that wasn't what Helen was asking. "You mean, does anyone think the two of them are—?" She didn't dare finish the statement herself.

"I was just wondering," Helen added lamely, "if you've ever heard anything...about them...."

"You're not suspecting Dave, are you?" Liz asked in amazement, then schooled her face like a good cop.

"Why didn't you mention Ken in the same breath?" Helen wondered instantly.

Liz paused. "Look, Hutch, is, well, Hutch. I mean, if anyone were going to be suspect—he's got some oddball hobbies. He raises plants, I mean dozens of plants, he's got a damned greenhouse packed with 'em. And he cooks like a gourmet. And...he wears his heart on his sleeve. He's just as apt to break down in tears as any woman. Not exactly your typical, macho cop. Add that to all that lovely blondness and— Well, if I were going to suspect either of them, it would be Hutch first, just on stereotypes."

"But he was married," Helen suggested.

Liz just snorted. "Most gay men get married, honey. It's the only way they can survive. For a gay cop, it's mandatory. But, I mean—Dave?" She shook her head. "What put this bee in your bonnet, anyway? You hear something?"

No. I just keep having this dream. She shrugged. "Dave keeps talking about marriage. And the two of them are so close. Closer than most partners. Closer than most brothers. There's an intimacy between them, a commitment you usually don't see between men. I guess I'm just getting cold feet and looking to hang it on something."

"Look, Helen," Liz said in all seriousness, "I can ask around, quietly. Talk to some people I know. If there's anything like that going on between them, someone will have a clue, a suspicion. I'll let you know. But, me, I can't see it. When he looks at you, honey, you're all there is. You oughta start worryin' about the real issues here, like how are you gonna manage your career and his needs at the same time, if you marry him." Liz finished dressing, then seated her gun in the holster that held it in the small of her back.

Helen nodded. "Thanks, Liz. I appreciate this."

"I don't know why, honey. If I find out anything, it's just gonna be bad news." Liz patted her once on the shoulder, then left the locker room.

As Helen went to her own locker and started pulling out her street clothes, she wondered about that. But at least I'd know. I'd have more than groundless suspicions and bad dreams to hang my fears on.


"I love your blue pajamas," she said, grinning, as she cuddled back against him in the bed, her nightgowned back flush against his cotton clad front.

He enfolded her in those warm, strong arms, and nuzzled his nose into her hair. "Told ya I was serious. Just sleep tonight. Like I promised. You need your beauty winks. I hate seein' those circles under those pretty hazel eyes."

"Mmmm," she sighed, happily content to feel him all around her. At moments like this, she couldn't imagine why she fed the fantasy that he and Ken— She let it go, ignored it, just reveled in his strength and security.

But something Liz had said niggled at her, until she couldn't leave it alone.

"Dave? Suppose we do get married—"

She felt him smile as he murmured, "That's nice supposin'."

"—And have a couple of kids—"

"Like that, too," he agreed.

"How—how are we going to manage that, with both of us working?"

He didn't say anything for a few minutes, so she filled in the silence.

"I mean, your mom is in New York, and my family's all gone. It's not like we're in Janice Randolph's situation, where she has family to baby-sit while she's on the job. I keep going over and over it in my head, and I just can't figure it out—"

He finally chimed in, "Well, I guess I never thought about it much, but I thought, I suppose, that, well, that you'd stay home...." He trailed off, as if suspecting this was not the right thing to say.

She stiffened. "You mean, quit the force? Give up my career?"

He paused, moving cautiously, the way he always did whenever she forced him to bump up against "that women's lib stuff" that he didn't really understand.

"I love being a cop, Dave, you know that. I love it just as much as you do. Why do I have to give that up? Why would you automatically assume I'd stay home—?" She was getting angry.

"Hey, ease up there, babe, I didn't say you'd have to. I guess I just thought you'd want to, you know, to stay home with our kids. But I know plenty of moms who work. My own mom had to go to work when Dad was killed, and we managed just fine. It was hardest on her. I don't exactly know how we'll do it, but we'll have two salaries to do it on, so we'll figure something out. You're a good cop, Helen. If you don't want to give that up, I'd never make you. We'll work it out." He kissed the side of her face. "Is this what's been giving you nightmares?"

"No, I don't know, maybe...." It sounded lame even to her. "Mary Ann Barbosa just broke her engagement with Pete Dominici, 'cause he insisted she quit the force after they got married. So, we've been talking it out in the locker room. Guess it's been on my mind."

"I told Pete he was an A-1 asshole for lettin' a woman like Mary Ann get away from him like that. But some of these guys, they just can't deal with this new stuff, can't get with the times."

"Not like you, huh?" she grinned back at him. "Mr. Modern Man?"

"Yeah, that's right, that's me." He chuckled.

She found her mind working its way back to the ever present problem and decided to give in to it for the moment. "Ken by himself tonight?"

"No, for once, he actually had a date. Some new blond stewardess who got his name off an airline toilet cubicle or something. 'For a good time, call—'"

She poked him rudely as they both laughed about that. "Well, at least he's not alone...."

She felt him shrug. "Sometimes I think he'd rather be alone than go out with a new woman. He kept muttering about having to meet this stew, like it was the biggest pain, not a date with a gorgeous lady. Ever since The Bitch dumped him, he just hasn't been the same man. You'd think he'd be over it by now. Sometimes I think he'd be happy forever just hangin' around you and me. This way, he gets the company of a lovely woman without having to deal with the intimacy." Dave shook his head. "I worry about him sometimes. It's almost like he's losing his interest in women. And I sure would like to see him be happy with someone, and settle down."

Helen suddenly was very sorry she'd brought it up. There can't be anything sexual between them, she told herself firmly. He'd have never admitted all that to me if there were.

"That's always been our plan," he confided. "Get married, have a couple of kids, matching picket fences next door to each other, the whole bit. We talked about it in the Academy, even. 'Course, Hutch was married then, so it was my problem to find the right girl. Now, he's at loose ends, and I'm the one who's settled." He kissed her ear. "Or at least semi-settled. I'd be more settled if you'd give me a straight answer. Or set the date. Hmmm?"

"Not tonight," she hedged. "You're supposed to be letting me sleep," she reminded him.

"Hey, you're the one started running at the mouth. That's it. No more chatter. Sleep, you!" He snuggled into his pillow and closed down, and in minutes was breathing steadily behind her.

It felt so good relaxing against him, sharing his warmth, his secure vision of the future—a lot of women would kill to be in this bed with this man. Why couldn't she just believe in his vision and let it happen? Why did she have to question so much? And why ever did she have to conjure up this fantasy of him and Ken loving each other physically?

Is it just because they obviously love each other so unconditionally, so completely, that I can't imagine him having anything left over for me?

She determined to stop thinking about it. She'd promised him she'd try to sleep, and so that's what she would do. She held onto the arms he'd surrounded her with, and settled back against his embrace.


"When we were in the Academy," Hutch murmured, as he clung to the arms tight around him, "all those years ago, you said then that you wanted to...fuck me."

Starsky, lying behind him, didn't move, but Hutch felt Starsky's heavy cock twitch as it hardened.

"You still want that from me?" Hutch asked, whispering, as if afraid of the power he might invoke with the forbidden words. "You still want to fuck?"

Starsky didn't speak, didn't move, but Hutch could feel him trembling.

"We could do that," Hutch said, trying to make his voice pure seduction, low and husky, inviting.

"Hutch," Starsky muttered, his voice dry and tight, "you don't have to use your body to keep me. You're my best friend. I love you. I ain't goin' anywhere."

Hutch grew quiet for a moment, then finally said, "Vanessa told me she loved me just this morning—right before she walked out on me."

Starsky tightened his grip, holding Hutch's back tight against his chest. "I'm never gonna leave you, Hutch. I swear it. An' I don't have to fuck you for that to be true."

"Starsk," Hutch said softly, finally out of arguments but still full of need, "please...."

I need to feel loved, Hutch realized. I'd happily give you my body, give you all that I am, to have that assurance even for just one night.

The tension in Starsky's arms increased as he rolled Hutch toward him, settling him onto his back.

"I wanna give you what you need," Hutch insisted.

The murmured promise pulled a shudder from Starsky, as his hand cupped Hutch's face.

He's never touched me like this. All the times we've touched without thinking twice, touched like buddies, touched to give comfort, to get comfort. All those times, and we've never touched like this—like lovers....

Lightly, Starsky's hand trailed down over his bare skin, thumbing Hutch's small, brown nipples; he watched with amazement as they hardened for him. Bending his dark head, Starsky took the nearest one into his mouth.

Beneath him, Hutch arched, sighing. Yes! One of his hands tightened in Starsky's dark, short curls.

Starsky tongued his nipple, sucked it hard, captured it between his teeth and nibbled just enough to make Hutch call his name. Hutch wanted to give Starsky everything, to make him ache with pleasure, with all the years of suppressed hunger he knew Starsky still felt for him.

Thought you'd buried it, didn't you, Starsk? Thought it wasn't there any more, your need for me. Maybe you thought I'd forgotten about it. But I knew it was still there, knew just how to tap into it, pull it into the light. It was easy, so damn easy. It'll always be there, your wanting me. And I'll never let you bury it again. Because I need you, too.

Starsky moved his mouth to the other nipple and bit it hard, making Hutch jump. But he didn't complain, just rode it out, gripping Starsky's hair. Then the mouth turned gentle, lapping at the bruised nipple, soothing it, loving it as sweet as he could. Hutch's moan was like a purr.

Oh, your mouth—your mouth is so good—a man's mouth....

His friend's wet tongue ran down the long line of Hutch's sternum, tasting his sweat. Had Starsky ever thought about this, about how Hutch might taste, how his skin might feel under his tongue? And now that he was here, tasting Hutch, loving him with his mouth, could he think or analyze? Hutch didn't want him to think. All he wanted him to do was feel his need, his hunger, the very thing Hutch wanted to satisfy.

And the most amazing thing was how much Hutch was loving it.

Hutch ran his hands over his lover, roaming Starsky's furred chest, his smooth back and sides. Gently, cautiously, he fingered Starsky's small nipples, finding them easily under the mat of soft hair. Hutch's tentative touch made Starsky moan as he kissed and licked Hutch all over.

With trembling hands, Starsky reached for Hutch's manhood.

"Anything!" Hutch insisted breathlessly, as Starsky's fingertips slid timidly over the rigid, red organ. "Anything you want!" His anus clenched, aching for the forbidden touch that would make him Starsky's own.

Starsky said nothing, just tongued Hutch's navel, drilling into it. Hutch's answering moan was throaty, full of passion. Starsky's mouth moved lower, as his hands toyed gently with Hutch's aching flesh even while his lips continued to travel, licking, nipping the soft flesh below Hutch's navel. Starsky clambered between Hutch's long legs and Hutch spread them wide for him, inviting, pleading with his body.

"Take me, Starsk. Let me be yours." Now and forever yours.

Hutch was shaking, sweating, pulling his knees up and spreading his legs as Starsky found himself suddenly confronted with the impressive length of Hutch's tall, rosy erection. Starsky stared at it as if he'd never seen one before.

He glanced up finally, to find Hutch's eyes on him. Crystal blue eyes met deep indigo. "It's yours," Hutch murmured. "However you want it."

Starsky wet his mouth, making his lips glisten. Reaching out, he touched his friend's cheek. "I love you, Hutch. I'm never gonna leave you."

The words were a balm on Hutch's tattered soul. He shut his eyes and nestled his face against the gentle palm. "Promise...?"

Starsky looked like he wanted to weep. "We're forever, Hutch. No matter what. I promise."

Starsky took hold of Hutch's heavy rod with his left hand, gripping it firmly, controlling it. Then, keeping his eyes on Hutch's face, Starsky lowered his head and ran his tongue slowly, wetly, around the ruddy crown of Hutch's enraged erection. He licked it slowly, teasingly, around and around.

Hutch gripped the bedclothes and sighed as Starsky tasted him. Starsky's eyes closed as he let the entire head slide into his mouth, groaning low in delight.

You're so good, so good to me. God, I love you, Starsk....

Hutch's hands moved tentatively against Starsky's head, stroking his hair, petting his cheek, touching his bristly face, needing to be sure it was really Starsky doing this to him.

As Starsky's tongue swirled around the heavy crown sliding slowly in and out of his mouth, Hutch started a soft, rhythmic moaning in time with the gentle rocking of his hips. His thumb touched Starsky's lower lip where it met the flesh of his own cock.

Oh, lord, that's you giving me head, Starsky. And, God help me, I'm loving it.

Hutch couldn't be quiet anymore. "Starsk. I'm still willing. I'm ready. still wanna fuck...."

Starsky stared at him, then seemed to make up his mind. His tongue left Hutch's cock, and slid down over his softly furred balls. They toyed with him there, making him wild, then finally slid down below the heavy orbs, moving lower, lower. Hutch twitched and arched, the sensations tearing through him, making him wild, making him helpless. Finally, Starsky's tongue slid into the very center of Hutch's being, wetting his entrance, asking permission for the ultimate pleasure. Hutch moaned aloud, spreading wide, reveling in the intensity of this unique sensation, wanting Starsky to know how much he loved it. Starsky clung to Hutch's legs and ass, holding him in place, keeping him still while his tongue worked its magic, soft at first, then harder, wetter and wetter, until Hutch was crazed, relaxed, opening, pressing against that sucking, licking mouth, begging...begging....

The tongue left him suddenly, and then fingers were there, opening Hutch slowly, gently. Knowing just what to do, how to do it to make it right, to make it perfect. Starsky went slowly, so very slowly, so there was no pain, just pleasure, the most intense, insane pleasure Hutch had ever known. One finger, two, three....

Hutch was humping the air, needing it bad, wanting more and more. Then at last, Starsky coated himself with lubricant, anointed his lover, then carefully, tenderly, he entered Hutch's body.

It was joy, pure, absolute joy, and Hutch loved it. Yelling it out loud, swearing it to the world, he arched his body, impaling himself on Starsky's formidable length. Starsky moved him so easily, as if he weighed nothing, shifting his hips, his ass, so he could fuck him just right, so gently, so beautifully, and make it last so long. Making Hutch his. His completely. Now and forever his alone.

"Yours! Oh, God, Starsk. I'm yours. Fuck me hard. I need it now. Long and hard. Oh, God!"

Starsky's hands tightened on Hutch's body and Hutch knew he was close, they were both close, oh, God, soon, please, make it soon. Then Starsky stiffened all over—

"Helen! HELEN! Dammit, wake up!"

Hutch's eyes opened, and he stared into Starsky's anxious expression. Who the hell is Helen? "Starsk...please, fuck me...." Starsky grabbed his shoulders hard and shook.

"Helen, you're still asleep! Wake up. You're shouting, thrashing. Helen, are you with me yet?"

The dream shattered again, leaving her bereft, alone. They weren't fucking, they weren't even making love, and the loss of that intimacy made her feel hollow inside. She moaned.

"Helen, what's goin' on, you're scarin' the shit outta me! You been twitchin' and pantin' for ten minutes an' I couldn't wake you—I couldn't even understand anything you were saying. But you been grabbin' at me and actin' wild.... Honey?"

Thank God you didn't understand me, she thought blearily. How am I supposed to tell you what I wish you would do to me? Fuck my ass and call me Hutch? I'm losing my mind. The emotional strain was too much, and suddenly she started to cry.

He sighed and pulled her in tight against his chest and held her. "Okay. Okay. Let it out. I'm right here."

Isn't that the same thing you say to him when he's hurting? I remember that time he got clipped by that sniper. You held him just like this, saying, 'I'm right here, buddy. Right here.' Oh, dammit! She cried helplessly like a child until she was all cried out. He wiped her face tenderly with a tissue, just like her father used to do when he was still alive. She clung to his pajamas, tugging at him, needing him closer.

He rocked her gently, whispering, "Ssssh. I'm here. I'm here."

"Fuck me, Starsk. Please. I need you. Fuck me now?"

He stiffened with refusal. "In the condition you're in? No way. I don't know what's goin' on with you, honey, but you need sleep, not sex. An' tomorrow, you an' me, we're gonna pay a visit to the department shrink and talk this out."

Panicked, she tried to pull away from him, shouting, "No!"

He wrestled her down against the bed, flat on her back, and loomed over her. "Yes! Yes, we are! Now, you listen t'me and you listen good. You're actin' like someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown! I know things are tough on you at work, I know you got a lot on your mind. And I know I been pressuring you besides, but I know you. You're plenty strong to handle all of that. So there's something else. Something you won't tell me. Well, you're damn well gonna tell someone, or as a senior officer at Metro I'll put you on report. You're gonna endanger yourself or someone else workin' with you in this condition. And I ain't losin' you to some punk on the street 'cause'a bad dreams you won't talk about. Is that clear enough to you?"

She'd never heard him this angry or this scared. As much as she feared a session with the psychiatrist, she feared losing him more. Yielding to the inevitable, she nodded her head, and he softened immediately, embracing her again.

"Okay, good. Fine. Now, try to get some more sleep if you can, okay? I'll be right here with you, holding you. I love you, Helen. It hurts me to see you like this, especially when you won't talk to me about it."

She squeezed her eyes shut. I just can't, Starsky. I just can't. But her mind had answered him with Hutch's voice.