This story appeared in Crystal Blue Persuasion, published May, 1997 by Asbestos Press. Special thanks go to Tex for typing. Comments on this story can be sent to: who will forward them to the author.




"Starsky, we just got a call - you need to get over to Hutch's place." Even in David Starsky's sleep-dazed state, Harold Dobey's clipped utterance of his partner's name pierced his consciousness. "I've got uniform cars on the way, but you'd better get over there, too."

"On my way, but what's goin' down, Cap?" Starsky was pulling on jeans as he talked. "Why don'tcha just call Hutch?"

"We can't get him." As Dobey paused, an uneasy chill went down Starsky's spine. "We just got a call saying that Hutch's place is on fire, Starsky. The fire department is on their way now."

Dropping the phone, Starsky ignored Dobey's shouts of "Starsky? Starsky, wait!" Well aware that it took 15 to 20 minutes to reach Hutch's cottage from his apartment, Starsky wasn't about to waste any more time. Both his tires and siren were screaming as he spun away from his apartment curb.

God, let it just be another false alarm, Starsky prayed desperately, barely seeing the streets he raced through. Whoever it was, let 'em just be tryin' to scare us like that crank call I got last week. Whatever ya do, don't let him hurt Hutch. He's been through too damn much. And even if he could take any more, I'm not sure I can - Don'tcha think it's about time ya gave us both a break, God? It sure seems to me like we're overdue.

When he thought of it later, Starsky realized that was as close as he'd come to praying in years. But it had been many years since anything had been more important to him than his partner's life. He glanced at the dashboard clock for what seemed like the hundredth time and cursed softly - even a few minutes seemed endless now.

Rounding the final corner almost on two wheels, Starsky tried not to look as the brilliant flames lit the sky. Subconsciously aware it would be futile to try to drive past the police road block already in place, Starsky squealed to a halt beside the black and white cars, his car engine still running as he flew toward the inferno that had been Hutch's house. He wasn't even aware that he was shouting his partner's name as he ran.

Even before he reached the sidewalk, Starsky knew his efforts were useless—if Hutch hadn't escaped before the fire, he was already dead. Who had set out to destroy Hutch and why no longer mattered; all Starsky cared about was learning whether his partner was dead or alive. The sight of the battered LTD parked in the driveway did nothing to soothe his already fragile nerves.

Forced by the heat of the fire to remain across the street, Starsky watched the first fire apparatus approach through a daze of smoke and fear. Mesmerized by the blazing inferno that had been Hutch's haven, Starsky was overwhelmed by a sick feeling of foreboding; memories of the many good times they'd shared there brought unwelcome tears to his eyes.

"Detective Starsky!" The exclamation of his name brought Starsky back sharply, and he turned to confront a young, uniformed officer he didn't recognize. "Your partner -is he with you? Detective Hutchinson? Since he didn't answer the door when we got here, we thought he was probably with you."

"You mean you - he isn't with you guys?" Starsky could barely force the words past his suddenly dry lips. "He didn't—he wasn't - but his car's here. He must be.... Damn!"

Somehow he'd assumed Hutch was somewhere with the uniformed officers Dobey had sent before him, Starsky realized, his weak knees abruptly giving way. He found himself folded into a heap on the sidewalk, staring across at the now-steaming but still-glowing blaze. Hutch was in there, he thought numbly. He prob'ly never knew what hit him, not with a blaze like that. Prob'ly happened so quick he didn't even feel it. Didn't suffer, anyway. Oh, God, he didn't even know I was here.

It was the last thought which hit Starsky hardest, the realization their race against time had run out and Hutch was gone. Overwhelmed by a sadness so great he felt his heart actually swell with it, Starsky dropped his head to his arms and began to openly sob. He had no idea how much time had passed as several sympathetic hands touched his back and shoulders then kindly went on, leaving him alone.

"Starsky? Dave, it's time to go home now." Eventually Harold Dobey's voice penetrated Starsky's grief-stricken brain and he raised his head, his expression blank. "That's good, Dave," the man said kindly. "Come on, son. I'll take you home."

"Can't. I can't go yet, Cap'n." Starsky slowly stood up then blew his nose in the handkerchief Dobey held out. "Until I find the bastard that murdered Hutch, I'm not goin' anywhere, especially not home."

"Starsky - Dave, we don't even know what happened yet," Dobey reasoned. "And you're in no shape to try to work now; it'll be best if you come home with me. We can't do anything here until the fire department finishes anyway. Maybe we can come back and get a better perspective on things tomorrow."

"Screw the fire department and to hell with tomorrow!" Starsky shouted, flinging off Dobey's well-meaning hand. "What's left of my partner is still in there somewhere and I'm gonna find him if it's the last thing I do. You can take your perspective and shove it, Cap'n. I owe it to Hutch to stay. If I woulda been on top of this thing like I should have, he'd still be alive and be here helpin' me. I loved the guy too much to go off 'n leave him now. You go home, Captain. I'll letcha know in the mornin' what I find."

"Starsky, I—"

"Captain, please," Starsky interrupted, his voice softer. "Just save it, will ya? You know how close Hutch and I were. You lost your partner once and you know how that felt, so gimme a break, okay? I may not be thinkin' the clearest I ever have right this minute, but I do know what I gotta do. I gotta spend some time here with Hutch gettin' things sorted out so I can find out what happened, just like we always do. I'll be okay, Cap'n, trust me. Just let me handle this my way, will ya please? I'll cooperate with the fire people however I have to, but for God's sake, Cap - don't make me leave."

One look at Starsky's eyes seemed to tell Dobey further argument was futile, and the black man sighed, then looked away.

Knowing he'd won, Starsky managed to get a grip on himself as he patted Dobey's arm. "You won't regret this, Captain, I promise. If this was a set up, I'm gonna find whoever did it and hang him by the book. This is gonna be the most thorough investigation I've ever conducted, even if it's the last thing I ever do."

"Which is exactly what I'm afraid it will be," Dobey murmured, as if aware he was wasting his breath. "All right, Starsky. Do it your way. But I want a full report tomorrow from you by noon. Understand?"

"Perfectly, Cap'n. You'll get it in person. You've got my word."

Watching his lumbering superior's departure, Starsky reluctantly turned his gaze back across the street, feeling pain wrench at his heart when he saw the charred structure again. His footsteps were slow and heavy as he walked across the hose-strewn street toward the building, each step torturing his soul. When he paused on the sidewalk to let a firefighter go past him, the stench of the charcoal-filled air stung his eyes and nose.

It wasn't s'posed to end like this for us, partner. Starsky idly wondered if Hutch could hear his thoughts now. We always said we'd go out together, remember, and you wanted to live to 100 plus. Damn it, Hutch, it isn't s'posed to be like this! I don't wanna be the one left behind. You told me once the guy left behind had it hardest and I didn't believe ya—well, buddy, I sure as hell believe ya now.

Forced to move before renewed tears overcame him, Starsky donned his most brusque and business-like front, obtaining as much information as he could from fire personnel. With the fire still smoldering, its cause not having yet been determined, and though he stayed around for nearly another full hour, Starsky learned nothing more. Only when the Chief Arson Investigator advised him it would likely be morning before he or any other police personnel would be allowed inside the building did Starsky reluctantly agree to leave. Numbly, moving automatically, he returned to the Torino and slowly drove home.


When he thought of it later, Starsky had no recollection of the drive, performing the act purely by rote. He wasn't even aware of thinking anything he couldn't remember later, feeling as though he was in a daze. He unlocked the door to his apartment, went in and sat down on the sofa, dropping his face into his hands.

"Starsk? Hey, Starsky." Starsky felt the sofa sag by his side as he heard the soft words spoken, but he remained frozen, unable to move.

It can't be him. I'm dreamin'. It took all Starsky's effort to force himself to lift his head and look up. His eyes grew wide at the sight of the figure beside him, one he'd been certain he'd never see again. Yet there he was without a burn mark or scratch on his body—none other than Kenneth Hutchinson was sitting at Starsky's side, wearing one of Starsky's own shirts.

"H-Hutch?" The name emerged as a croak as Starsky extended a trembling hand. "It's really—you're alive!"

Starsky didn't even stop to think then as he grabbed his partner, clutching Hutch to him in tight embrace as tears flowed freely down his cheeks. Though he couldn't imagine how Hutch could have escaped the blazing inferno, all that mattered was the fact he was now sitting at Starsky's side. He was only vaguely aware that it took Hutch several long seconds to return the embrace.

"You—are you okay?" he managed finally, pulling back just enough to see Hutch's face. "You look...terrific." In truth Hutch looked pale and shaken, and he smelled strongly of smoke, but to Starsky he still looked wonderful.

"I'm okay," Hutch assured him, attempting a shaky smile. "Just scared to death. You were there?"

Starsky nodded. "Dobey called me." Still euphoric over the fact that Hutch was alive, Starsky clutched his partner's shoulders. "And when I got there and saw your place goin' up in smoke, I was sure you were still inside."

Hutch pause, swallowing hard. "So—I guess it's all gone?" he murmured. "The house—and everything?"

Starsky nodded, wishing he could think of something comforting to say. "Looked like it," he said softly. "I'm sorry, Hutch. Maybe we'll be able to salvage some stuff in the morning, though." His arms tightened around his friend. "Oh, God, Hutch! Thank God, you're alive!"

"I'm sorry I couldn't let you know I was okay, Starsk," Hutch said, awkwardly rubbing Starsky's back. "I just didn't know what was going down. After I woke up and smelled the smoke, all I had time to do was grab my jeans and get out. I didn't want to stick around because I was afraid the fire might be related to the guy who called and threatened you last week. Remember? The one who said he was going to take us out for testifying against Ben Forrest last spring? Anyway, I didn't have my keys or any money, so I thumbed a ride over here. I used my last dime to call in the fire as soon as I got away from the house."

"That thing with Forrest was my first thought too," Starsky sniffed, struggling to regain control. "When I left they still didn't know what happened. Said it probably would be tomorrow before they'd know the cause. There ain't much left of the place, that's for sure." He shuddered, remembering his feelings as he'd left the scene. "When I got there and they told me you weren't with any of the uniform guys, I.... well, I lost it. All I could figure was that you'd still been inside. I'll tell ya somethin'—the next time you tell me it's hardest on the guy left behind, I'm gonna believe ya, that's for sure."

Spontaneously overwhelmed by emotion, Starsky reached out again for his partner, being met with open arms this time. Resting his forehead against the strong shoulder, Starsky realized how much his friend really meant to him, how much of his life would have ended if Hutch had really died. When Hutch began to rub his upper back and shoulders, Starsky virtually melted against him with a sound much like a cat's purr.

"You can relax now, Starsk. I'm okay." Hutch's words seemed soft to Starsky's ears. "I hate like hell to think of what happened and losing everything this way, but I'm sorry I had to put you through that hell most of all. All I could think of was just getting out of there."

"I know. I...I'm just bein' foolish." Starsky leaned his head on Hutch's chest more heavily. "But you can't know what it was like standin' there watchin' your place go up in smoke and thinkin' all that time you were still in there. It was like—there aren't even words." He gave the broad back a gentle squeeze. "I guess I never realized how much more than just a partner you are to me until now."

"Really? Gee, maybe I should have my house blown up more often," Hutch responded, still continuing the gentle massage. "I never get to hear you speak all these tender endearments to me any other time."

"Don't joke, Hutch. It isn't funny." Starsky's expression was somber as he pulled away. "It wasn't any fun standing there and remembering all the great times we'd spent together only to think they were gone forever. If you want the truth, it hurt like hell." He dropped his eyes. "But I know you think I'm just bein' goofy and sentimental again, so forget I said anything, okay?"

With his emotions still ragged and fragile, Starsky wasn't even sure he was making sense and it took him several moments to realize Hutch hadn't responded to his last words at all. He looked up and was stunned to find his partner's light blue eyes locked on him, Hutch's expression more tender than he'd ever seen. Starsky swallowed hard, unsure what to say.

"You know, I kind of like hearing how you feel about me." Hutch broke the silence before Starsky had a chance to speak. "I never realized you cared so much before. It's...nice."

"I never knew how I felt either," Starsky admitted. "Not until I thought you were dead there tonight. Then everything came rushing back to me, all the times we'd spent in that house together, how much we'd always shared - the thought of never bein' able to have that again made me feel like I'd died too. Or like I sure as hell wanted to."

"I felt that way once," the blond said softly, his eyes lowered. "I never told you about it, though. It was when I had to leave you at the hospital with the Professor's poison killing you. When we thought it was the end of the line. When they took you away from me, I didn't know if I could go on. If it hadn't been that I knew there was still a little time left to save you, I don't know what I would have done that night. I've never said it, but you mean a lot to me too, Starsk. A hell of a lot."

In the next instant, when their eyes met and fixed on each other, Starsky felt overwhelmed by a firestorm for the second time that night. Only this one stemmed from something internal, raging between him and Hutch, one that was being ignited by their love for the very first time. He was powerless to stop the sparks from flying between them, and knew he'd never want to try. Starsky held his breath without thinking, waiting to see what would happen next.

It all seemed to take place in slow motion, Starsky thought later, recalling how slowly Hutch moved toward him on the couch. How the tall blond leaned forward, placing his hands on Starsky's shoulders, then drawing him close. How the fair head bent toward the dark one, and the soft lips pressed to Starsky's as they shared their first kiss. He barely even remembered moaning as he responded to the kiss with all his being, giving Hutch his heart and soul.

The love between them had always been there, Starsky knew that. That part was nothing new. It was only the expression that love was now taking that was different, but even that wasn't really a shock. The fact that Hutch was the instigator was Starsky's only real surprise.

Wrapping his arms around the broad back, Starsky succumbed to the passion, savoring every moment of his partner's kiss and touch. He moaned softly as Hutch's tongue gently forced his lips open then slipped inside for a first tactile search. His fingers pressed into Hutch's back as the blond slid one hand up into Starsky's curls and kneaded while the other clasped the back of his neck. Timidly, Starsky reached up to stroke Hutch's silky blond hair.

"God, Starsk!" Hutch was breathless and flushed when he pulled away finally, his eyes fever-bright with passion as they looked at his friend. "Are you sure about this?"

"At least as sure as you are," Starsky responded, hating to break the spell with speech. "And I don't know about you, but this feels damned good to me."

"It feels wonderful, but I... you're really all right with what's happening?" Starsky was touched by Hutch's sincere concern. "I mean, I don't want you to have second thoughts later. Or feel like I forced you into anything."

"Babe, the only force around here right now is the one pullin' us together," Starsky answered, "and I like that one just fine. Now why don't you shut up and stop talkin' so much? Hmm?"

With a smile as his reply, Hutch seemed to take his partner's advice to heart then, and all conversation ended for quite some time, replaced by the sounds of heavy breathing occasionally punctuated by a groan. Before Starsky knew it, he realized they were lying on the floor beside the sofa together, their clothes still on but in disarray. And when Hutch reached for his shirt to finish undoing the buttons, Starsky had no desire to utter any words of complaint.

Instead he reciprocated the action and finished undressing Hutch also, forcing himself not to think as he boldly reached for the blond's belt. He was vaguely aware at the same time that hands were likewise opening his belt and zipper, allowing his body a freedom that made him sigh with relief. He heard Hutch laugh softly but ignored him; Starsky was far more intent on other things.

Such as discovering the sensitive tip on Hutch's nipple that made his partner gasp and arch his back when Starsky sucked it. Or listening to the blond's soft moan when Starsky nuzzled his neck and the dip at his throat. Inspired by the passion born of their mutual desire, Starsky eagerly nipped and nibbled his way down the length of the long body, his hands stroking the sensitive skin all along the way. He delighted in how easy it was to make Hutch writhe beneath him, how eager the blond seemed for every touch. For Starsky it was like a dream, yet being wide awake to live it, like being given a second chance at a life he'd thought forever gone. As he reached the loosened belt, he hesitated for the merest of moments—it was just long enough.

"Starsk, you don't have to do anything you don't want to," Hutch advised softly, laying a gentle hand on Starsky's dark curls. "I love everything you've done and what we're doing, but don't force yourself, okay? Just do what you feel comfortable with. No more."

"Okay, but don't expect me to stop unless you say you don't want it." There was determination in Starsky's tone. "I may not know much what I'm doin', but it's been great so far. If you don't mind, I wanna keep on."

"Oh, I don't mind, believe me," Hutch assured him quickly. "I just—Oh, Starsk!"

Deliberately intending to cut Hutch's words short, Starsky quickly pulled down the zipper on the blond's jeans, the rush of air prompting the blond's gasp. With a confidence he didn't have or really feel, Starsky carefully freed the already tumescent penis from its tight denim confines, feeling a little startled when the long cock sprang free. He allowed himself a few seconds to simply stare at it, feeling awed.

Then, not wanting Hutch to sense his fear, Starsky returned to the task before him, gently closing his fingers around the warm length, surprised by how natural it felt in his hand. Though nothing like his own in shape and size, the cock seemed familiar somehow to Starsky, just as the rest of Hutch always had. He smiled a little at that thought, then gently began to stroke the smooth shaft—the sound of Hutch's tortured moan was music to his ears.

Ignoring the demands of his own body, Starsky continued stroking, gradually increasing his pace and relishing how Hutch's moans and whimpers escalated accordingly. As he ran one finger over the soft head he was startled by the moisture he found there, but responded by gently spreading it over the spongy tip. Hutch actually moaned his name at that.

Pausing at the base of the shaft, Starsky curiously investigated the lightly furred balls for a moment, not really surprised to find them heavy and hard as he gently squeezed. Hutch gave a soft cry then, startling Starsky—until he realized what the sound meant. He quickly moved his hand up and resumed stroking the now throbbing shaft.

"Ah, God! Starsky!" The words were Hutch's last and nearly a scream as he gave in to the throes of a violent orgasm, one which covered Starsky's hand with creamy semen and Hutch's belly as well. Starsky watched in awe as Hutch's cock quivered and spasmed even while he continued stroking and squeezing, taking some time before finally falling lax and still. Starsky looked up in time to see Hutch's face take on an ethereal smile as he relaxed flat on the floor.

Reassured that his partner was finished, Starsky released him then rose up just enough to grab a pillow from the sofa above them and gently position it under the blond head. Hutch opened his eyes then and smiled at Starsky, a smile more tender than anything Starsky had ever seen. He opened his arms in a mute invitation, and Starsky entered willingly.

"That was really something else, partner," Hutch murmured, sounding somewhat weak. "It's been a long time since I've felt anywhere near as good as that."

"Really? I'm glad. It kinda seemed like you enjoyed it." Starsky wasn't sure quite what to say. "It didn't seem like I did much at all."

"Obviously you had a different perspective than I did." Hutch smiled, pausing for a lingering kiss. "What do you say we see what we can do about evening the score?"

Without giving Starsky time to respond, Hutch set to work imitating Starsky's earlier actions, kissing and caressing his way down from Starsky's throat. Though it didn't take him long to traverse the length of his body, it seemed like forever to Starsky; he couldn't remember ever feeling such desperate need before. It was a struggle for him not to take matters into his own hands, but he forced himself to wait for his partner instead.

Something well worth waiting for, he discovered, having to fight back an immediate climax the instant Hutch touched his swollen cock. There was something about the knowledge that it was Hutch making love to him that was nearly his undoing, the tender warmth of his partner's hand and its gentle caress. After only a few strokes, Starsky was writhing and moaning, barely able to contain himself.

Then Hutch began to fondle his balls, gently rolling and squeezing with one hand while the other continued to stroke the length of his cock. Starsky felt Hutch's thumb come up over the tip, pausing to press and rub there, spreading the viscous liquid Starsky knew was there. Arching his back, he moaned once more.

Then suddenly he felt the throes of orgasm claim him, the hot fluid churning in his balls. Starsky stiffened, clutching at the floor. "Hutch?" he growled. "Hutch, I'm comin'. Now!" Not that he expected it to make any difference in his partner's actions; Hutch didn't seem inclined to let go. If anything his warning only served to increase the rate of Hutch's stroking, driving Starsky all the more mad. Then all conscious thought faded as his world became a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors and he experienced one of the most intense orgasms he'd ever had.

When he returned to earth, Starsky realized that Hutch had placed a pillow under his head and was lying beside him, idly rubbing Starsky's chest with one hand as he patiently waited for Starsky to recover and return to reality. Turning his head, Starsky cast a wan smile in his partner's direction, waiting another few moments before he spoke.

"As someone I know once said, that was really something," he managed finally, grinning. "I don't even know how to say thanks for that."

"Don't try," Hutch replied. "I didn't." He leaned over to kiss Starsky's cheek. "I just hope you don't hate me for this tomorrow when you're thinking clearly again."

"I'd say I'm thinking pretty clearly right now," Starsky responded, turning on his side to prop his head up on his hand. "About what just happened at least. And I don't think you have to worry about my hatin' anybody. I love ya too much to ever do that."

"I hope so, but still, I know you're not gay," Hutch worried.

Starsky paused, thinking through the words. "Well, I'm not sure I could accept everything about a gay life-style, but that isn't what we've got. What we've got is love, just between us, not with all kinds of guys. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I feel like as long as it's between us it's okay." He paused. "Does that make any sense or am I bein' too vague?"

"No, it makes sense. And I feel the same way." Hutch reached up to touch Starsky's jaw. "I just wonder if this ever would have happened if you hadn't thought I'd been killed tonight, though. I'm not sure I want to know."

Before Starsky had time to formulate a response they both were jarred by the telephone ringing, forcing them back to reality. Yet Starsky couldn't help laughing as he searched for the instrument on the floor beside them, feeling like an awkward adolescent as he struggled to function in his disheveled clothes. It was all he could do to disguise his laughter as he finally answered after several rings.

"Starsky? Is Hutchinson there with you?" The loud bark of Harold Dobey's voice made Starsky hold the receiver away from his ear. "He wasn't home when the house burned, we know that now."

"Yeah, I know too," Starsky replied, glancing at his nearby, half-clothed partner. "He was here waiting when I got home. Got any more info on who did it or why?"

"Yes—and it was completely accidental," Dobey answered, then launched into a detailed explanation of failed electrical wiring that Starsky only half listened to. Despite his best efforts at concentration, he found his thoughts drifting back to Hutch and what they'd just shared.

"Starsky? Are you listening to me?" The captain's sharp tone brought Starsky back to reality. "Did you hear what I just said?"

"Uh, not quite, Cap'n," Starsky fibbed. "There was some interference or somethin' on the line." He looked at Hutch and grinned when the blond rolled his eyes. "Say it again?"

"I said I'm going to be nice and give you and Hutchinson a reprieve," Dobey repeated. "You can both have tomorrow off. But I expect you here bright and early Thursday morning. Understood?"

"Absolutely, Captain," Starsky replied, beaming. "Thanks. We can use the time off. It's been kind of a... heavy evening for both of us."

After he hung up, Hutch said, "I heard. So it wasn't one of Forrest's friends after all. That's good to know."

"Yeah." Starsky grinned wider. "And we get the whole day off tomorrow too."

"I can use it," Hutch sighed. "Especially since I'll have to start looking for a new place to live."

"A new place?" Starsky echoed, startled. "I thought you'd wanna stay here. For a little while, at least."

Hutch smiled. "Thanks, Starsk, but I really need my own space. And I'm sure we'd drive each other crazy if we lived together very long."

"You mean..." Starsky didn't know how to express himself. Was it possible that what had just happened hadn't meant as much to Hutch as it had to him? "You don't want... to be with me again?"

"Oh, Starsk," Hutch murmured. "Of course I want to." He stroked Starsky's curls. "But this new relationship, or whatever you want to call it—it's just beginning, Starsk. Let's not rush into things. I don't think either of us is ready to give up women quite yet."

But Starsky remained silent, feeling that he was ready, that he'd been ready ever since earlier that evening when he'd thought Hutch was dead and he'd realized what his partner really meant to him.

"Hey," Hutch's voice was light, teasing. "How about if we go to bed? I think we'd be a lot more comfortable there than here."

"Sounds good to me," Starsky agreed, wincing as he moved a cramped arm. "I'm gettin' too old for floors."

Chuckling softly as he rose, Hutch slipped an arm around Starsky as they walked to the bedroom, and almost at once Starsky felt his apprehension begin to fade. Hutch had said that he did want them to again be together, and that was enough for now. Though he suspected that many more 'heavy' times, some fraught with problems, would lie ahead in their new relationship, he had faith that their love would endure, and in the end togetherness would conquer all.

Me and thee, he thought happily as he hugged his new lover. The way things were meant to be. Something told him that the firestorm they had experienced earlier was only the first of many more conflagrations yet to come.