This story was originally published in the S/H zine COLD PIZZA AND BUTTERFLY BONES. The story is reproduced with the permission of the author and editor.   Please do not print or reproduce this story except for your own convenience. Do not post the story to lists or reprint it in zines. Please respect the author's wishes so that the fans of Starsky & Hutch might continue to enjoy this piece of classic fiction. This story was written for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to infringe on any rights held by any holders of rights to Starsky & Hutch.

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Trails In The Dark


Sarah Problem

    Stale and bitter cigarette smoke wafted around the corner table, nearly obscuring the dark-haired man who occupied it. It had been a long, tiring day, and the late-night disco was too loud and crowded to be comfortable. Right at this moment, David Starsky wished he were somewhere else. Anywhere else.

    The smoke, the pulsing Technicolor-patterned darkness, and the blaring music all combined to beat a tempo in Starsky's head that was dangerously close to a headache.

    I'm too old for this shit, he thought as he sipped at his second beer, eyes scanning the writhing bodies on the dance floor. I don't want to be here, not in this smoke and sure as hell not with this music. My head's gonna fucking explode. He leaned back in the hard chair, tipping it against the wall in a futile attempt to get comfortable. He was tired of this whole scene. So far this has just been a waste of an evening.

    Starsky caught a glance of his partner's blond hair in a split-second of blinding white strobe light. Hutch was sharing the dance floor with another nameless woman, moving smoothly and gracefully, his hips making sensuous movements towards hers in time with the frantic beat.

    He watched in growing appreciation of the man, the wild and gyrating rhythms of the dance only hinting at his lithe and powerful physique. Starsky thought him beautiful. He always had, in a dispassionate and brotherly sort of way. But for a long time now the sight of his blond friend had also stirred something deeper in him, the man's golden presence inflaming sensual feelings and sexual reactions that had once upon a time scared and shamed David Starsky--until almost a year ago, that is. Dying will do that to you.

    The curly-haired man was not sure what he had expected from this rare evening out with his partner. He had wanted some quiet time...maybe a peaceful meal, a long walk...watching the sunset from the beach...anything that would have brought him into close and intimate communication with his beloved friend. They had important things to work out between them. There were things he needed to confess to Hutch, and questions he needed to ask.

    For the past year or so the undercurrents of tension, unbearable secrets, and denial had undermined a relationship that was worth more than life itself to Starsky. The partner with whom he had worked for years, and had been friends with for even longer, had become the unknowing keeper of Starsky's heart, soul, and desire. True, his heart and soul had been freely given and long ago accepted by the golden man-but Starsky's sexual and possessive longings had come close to poisoning the friendship, because of his own almost violent denial of them. But he had to come to grips with his own secrets after returning to the force following Gunther's attack, facing the reality of his deep love and burning passion for another man, finally admitting the truth to himself.

    Much later he had backtracked through the years, seeing himself, and his reactions, more clearly--and just recently he had been stunned to suddenly recognize the same warning signals reflected in the man he loved. If his detective's gut feelings were true, then Hutch was carrying a burden similar to the one Starsky himself had borne for so long. Starsky had known then that they needed to talk, and had cajoled his reluctant partner into agreeing to a night out for just the two of them, a night out like they hadn't taken in what seemed like forever.

    But Hutch hadn't stopped moving since they'd gotten off of work. Dinner on this rare evening together had been take-out in the Torino, and then the blond had insisted on this place; they hadn't been in the disco more than minutes before he had spotted two single women in a corner and had practically pounced on them, inviting them over to his and Starsky's table for drinks. All evening Hutch had acted as if he were afraid of being alone with his partner.

    It had been awkward, the music too loud for comfortable conversation. Starsky had barely been able to make out the girls' names and had not been very impressed with either of them. He had given up after only a few dances, and had been neither surprised nor displeased when his lady companion had wandered off in search of better company.

    Good luck, Starsky had thought kindly toward her. Anybody else would be better company than I am tonight.

    The dance floor seemed to ebb and flow as the music throbbed on. Hutch was looking and acting happy, turning on the Hutchinson charm to impress his dance partner; but Starsky could see it was all empty show and contrived interest. You didn't work with a man for years without knowing his body language intimately, and he and Hutch had been as intimate as two men could be without being lovers.

    It's a vicious cycle, this one-night-stand circuit, Starsky thought sourly toward his friend. Go ahead-cruise the dance floor and hope to go home with company. You just wake up alone and depressed. Starsky sighed. Like I did.

    During the past few months Starsky had searched for something to fill the horrible void he had felt in his life and soul. He had found female companions to fill in the time, but had been left feeling even emptier afterwards. All the women he had bedded had been pleasurable and willing, but not one of them had even come close to sating his hunger for something...more. Starsky had awakened too many mornings with sticky sheets and gold-filled fantasies to have gone on deluding himself--he had known then in his heart of hearts that what he'd been looking for had been right there all along. But by then Hutch had pulled away, and for many weeks now had been emotionally distant and closed-off.

    Tonight was supposed to have been different. This isn't where I wanted to be with you, Hutch. This isn't what I wanted to be doing.

    Starsky felt the soft click of the rings on his left pinkie as they tapped slightly on the beer glass. He eyed them fondly. They were worn and familiar, a part of who he was and a constant reminder of people lost and found. He held his hand up to study them, a welcome distraction. The thin bands, one cool silver and the other warm gold, differed not only in color, but in shape and texture as well. Yet both sat comfortably side by side. They had been his father's rings, one of the few possessions of his David Michael had kept.

    The young Davey had never really perceived them as separate entities, just as a consistent part of his father. A scant day after the elder man's death a suddenly older David had seen both rings on his mother's table and had known immediately whose they were. It had been strange, seeing them lying there, as if a part of the murdered man's presence were still there with him. The new man of the house had taken them and had slipped them on, barely able to keep the too-large rings on the middle finger of his left hand. He was careful to pair them just as his father had, gold to the top, silver toward the bottom. His mother had never said a word, allowing her husband to be buried without them. She'd known where they were and where they would always be.

    Years later his mother had tried to answer his questions. As far as she knew, one had been his father's ring and the other a final gift from a dear friend who had passed on years before David Michael had been born. His mother knew nothing about this friend, save that her husband had missed him terribly over the years, even unto his death.

    Starsky now played with the rings, rolling them around on his finger. I ought to give one to Nicky, he mused for the millionth time. He frowned at the familiar thought and sighed. It was a brotherly urge that hit him less and less as the years passed and was just that much easier to wave away when it did. Like he'd care. It was a mean thought, even if true, so he brushed it aside. He knew deep down he could never part with either token. They were too special to him now, for they not only reminded him of his father, but of Hutch as well.

    The lone man smiled to himself, looking toward the milling dance floor and hoping for another glimpse of his partner. There were bits of blond scattered here and there amongst the crowd, but he couldn't differentiate between them. Starsky sighed, wishing Hutch were clearly visible. He loved to watch his friend move, he always had, and now more than ever. Hutch could be clumsy with self-consciousness at times, yet when stalking or pursuing a criminal he could move like quicksilver.

    That was one of the reasons the silver ring reminded him of Hutch, but not the most important. As a rookie Starsky had worn the rings on a leather thong around his neck, because jewelry was not allowed in uniform. Once, during a struggle, an escaping thief had grabbed the thong, ripping it from Starsky's neck. The rings had flown and clattered wildly, disappearing into the dark and filthy alley.

    The curly-haired rookie had sustained a concussion and had woken up in a hospital. The headache had hurt, but the loss of his father's rings had nearly made him weep. Every minute they kept him there was another step closer to them being lost forever. But Starsky couldn't bring himself to explain this to the older, no-nonsense officer he had been partnered with. He wouldn't understand.

    It wasn't until late afternoon, when Starsky was near to leaving against doctor's orders, that his blond friend from the academy had stopped by. "Looking for something?" he had asked mischievously, and Starsky had nearly fainted with relief at the sight of the silver and gold bands on his left pinkie.

    Starsky had never asked Hutch how he had known they were gone, nor how long he'd had to dig through filthy, crud-encrusted garbage to find them, but ever since then, whenever Starsky had been forced to remove the rings for hospitalization, they had gone straight to Hutch. Later, when he was well again, and Hutch's mother-hen mode was no longer needed, the blond would quietly present the rings back to him. It was a ritual that, unlike so many other things, they had not lost during the last few rocky years.

    We'd been taking things for granted for too long, Starsky mused bitterly. It's as if we'd gotten distracted, like we'd lost track of each other, and now... Hutch's image floated before his mind's eye. Starsky's 'partner' had always been there, as dependable as ever, but his 'friend' had closed doors as time had passed. In the months before the shooting they had spent less time 'hanging out' with each other, and when they did had talked about less substantial things than they'd used to. Worst of all, it had seemed as if Hutch had gotten more antagonistic as time wore on.

    True, Starsky hadn't really paid a lot of attention to the warning signs. Neither had he worked very hard to seal the rift, to heal the widening emotional breach; it hadn't been until much later that Starsky had realized that he himself had been at odds with his life and his career. Lionel Rigger and "Uncle" Frank Anderson's deaths had hurt him more than he'd wanted to admit, and his own faith in the system had all but shattered. He knew he had only added to the distance between himself his partner by ignoring their problems. Hutch was too upset to be happy about coming back to the force, and I was too numb to care, he decided. We weren't of any help to ourselves, let alone each other.

    Starsky startled as the music suddenly stopped and he saw Hutch and his dancing partner walk toward the restrooms. The blond's 'date' for the evening was small and blonde, with soft curls framing her face. He felt a stab of relief that the look on Hutch's face still spoke of little interest for her personally. She looked too much like Kira.

    That last year and Kira, Starsky recalled bitterly. Hutch and I had been at odds throughout that whole case, then I told him I loved her. Starsky took another sip of beer, wincing at the memory. I knew she wasn't serious about me and I can't say as I expected much from her. I ignored her obvious flitting with Hutch, but his flirting back burned. Starsky had relived his relationship with Kira over and over in his mind during the last few months. It still galled him to think about how blind he had been to the lack of any real feelings he'd had for her. I hadn't cared that she'd slept with him, she would've slept with anybody--but it'd hurt like hell to see him come out of her bedroom, all tousled and undressed.

    Starsky had had a glimpse of himself at that moment, one that he had not wanted to see. For a fleeting, burning second he had seen himself as if in a mirror, and the man reflected back at him had been enraged not out of jealousy for Kira, but jealousy of her. She was not allowed Hutch. No one was but him.

    I didn't realize what it was I was feeling until that very moment. I was in love with you, Hutch, and I wanted you. But I couldn't accept it, any of it, so I fought it tooth and nail. Being with Kira was a desperate attempt to deny my feelings for you--by Finding a woman, any woman, whether I cared for her or not. But when you came out of her room, looking like guilt and sex, I was jealous. And scared. You were sabotaging my last hope. Still, I couldn't figure out how you could hurt me that way...did your 'explanation' sound as false to you as it did to me? I couldn't see it then, I didn't get it, and I was too busy running away from my own feelings to ever consider yours, but now...Was it really just jealousy, Hutch, all that time ago? Did you need to come between us, to keep me away from her? Did you love me like I loved you?

    He hadn't had time then to even begin to formulate the question. He and Hutch had barely made up over the Kira fiasco, had barely begun to bridge the distance that had grown between them, when Gunther's assassination attempt had happened.

    Damn Gunther to hell anyway, Starsky mused with another sigh, catching a glimpse of his partner escorting the young woman back out onto the dance floor. He brought us back together, but we never did get around to finishing what we'd started. Everything happened so fast, and we just pretended that Kira had never happened. Worse, I pretended I didn't feel how I truly felt. In the hospital, babe, your touch was my lifeline, but it was easy to continue denying how much more it had come to mean to me when I needed just to survive--needed all the emotional and spiritual support it gave me--and maybe I was just too hurt, too doped up, to respond physically--maybe that's why that part got pushed aside. 'Course, you didn't say anything, either .. but there's more than one way to make love, isn't there, Hutch?

    After Starsky had gotten out of the hospital, it had been like old times again, their relationship restored to the 'me 'n' thee' of before, prior to the still-never-touched-upon-or-talked-about rift, as easily as if the past uneasy year had never transpired. Hutch had taken sick days, vacation days, and finally unpaid leave to be with Starsky during his recovery. The grateful patient had not known about Hutch's unpaid leave status until Huggy had slipped one evening--and Hutch had practically frozen the poor guy with an icy glare. By then, though, Starsky had been well enough to kick his partner out during the day, so he could go back to work without feeling guilty about it. But Hutch had returned every evening, and Starsky had thrived on the attention.

    Hutch the Nag. Hutch the Nurse. Hutch the Trainer, Dietitian, and Jewish Mother, all rolled into one, Starsky remembered with amusement. Always there for me, never shirking an unpleasant task, never giving in to my frustrated tantrums and depressed rantings. Rock-solid in his conviction that I could and would overcome any setback, and loud and joyful in his praise as every little hurdle was conquered. My personal night fight warding away those dark demons that stalked my sleep...

    The nightmares had not begun until later in his recovery, when Starsky had been able to move more comfortably and could finally sleep without pain pills. He could never remember them in their entirety afterward, but he knew they were full of fears that involved Hutch in ways he could never identify, and Starsky would jolt awake, sweating and shaking. It was then that Hutch had started sleeping with him...


    Starsky sat up suddenly in the dark, gasping at the painful movement of chest muscles and the pull of new scars. He sobbed and gulped air hungrily, curling his shaking body around the pain in his chest and the terror of an unknown fear. He didn't hear Hutch leave the couch, but was not surprised to feel the close warmth of the man's body settle behind him, nor the large, gentle hands that rubbed his shoulders and back through his t-shirt. It felt wonderful, calming him down like nothing else could. After his shaking subsided, Starsky took those tender hands from his shoulders and drew them to cross over his own chest, tacitly entreating his friend to settle close behind him.

    He could feel the larger man's strength and warmth, could feel his breath stir his curls with a sigh...felt Hutch's palms flatten against his chest, felt his own heartbeat echoed in those loving hands and Starsky lightly touched the twin bands gracing the left hand of his partner. After a few seconds of contact, drowsy with contentment, Starsky lay down on his side, pulling Hutch down with him onto the bed. The blond followed his partner's silent directive without protest, and Starsky wished it could be this way for them forever...


    Without a word the two of them had fallen asleep. After that, they had taken to sleeping with each other every night, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

    Then that, too, had changed.

    Starsky had been ecstatic about making the review board, thrilled by the advent of his long-awaited return to active duty. Even desk duty had seemed like a miracle and he had been delighted with his newfound freedom. Furthermore, he had seen his own happiness reflected in Hutch's smile.

    So when Hutch had announced his intention to move back to Venice Place, Starsky, shocked, had numbly let it happen. Neither of them had seemed inclined to talk about it, and both had been strangely silent as Hutch had loaded the LTD with his things. Starsky had consoled himself by thinking that spending the night alone again would be the signal that he was truly a normal person again, so he concentrated on pushing all other feelings aside in order to savor that little bit of independence. It had not been until later on that first evening, when Starsky found the rings on his nightstand, that he had realized how utterly alone he now felt.

    Hutch's departure had given Starsky his total freedom, but he soon realized that it wasn't actually what he wanted most. No, nothing from before had changed for him. He still loved Hutch, still wanted him, still desired him -- and he had let him walk away.

    But by the time he'd seen that clearly and owned it fully, Hutch had disappeared.

    Oh, he saw Hutch at work. He had declined a replacement partner and Starsky had worried about him being out on the streets without him, but Dobey was keeping Hutch working on cases that were more footwork and phone calls than actual street work, so Starsky had eventually lightened up. For the first few weeks the big blond would check in almost hourly on his desk-bound partner, and Starsky had looked forward to those stolen moments. They'd talk about Hutch's current cases, his court appearances and the results, and then they'd talk about Starsky's exciting life in R&I, filing records and flirting with all the lovely ladies who ran the department.

    During the days he and Hutch had seemed back in place as friends and colleagues, but Starsky had come to dread the evenings. Hutch, to Starsky's profound disappointment, no longer invited himself over. Starsky had thought at first that perhaps they both needed the space, so he had let it pass, going out on his own, bar-hopping like he hadn't done in years, hitting all his old haunts--and as often as possible he had ended up in some woman's bed, aching for the arms of the man who no longer shared his. The nightclubs, the singles scene, the passionless trysts--it had all become a strange, humorless joke, and afterwards his sleep would be filled with bitterly hopeless dreams and teasing illusions, fantasies of bringing that man back into his bed, where he belonged.

    And then one day...Starsky wasn't sure himself how it had happened, but once he had looked up and had caught his partner's eye--and had seen for the briefest of instants his own hidden pain reflected in a fairer face and ocean blue eyes.

    At least, he thought he had.

    Can it really be true, or am I that desperate for him? Do I dare take the chance that he doesn't want what I want? Is our friendship worth the risk? And will he forgive me if I'm wrong?

    Suddenly, powerfully, Starsky had needed to know. Once and for all. Hence this night, a night out for them, a night that he'd had to beg and cajole out of his partner--a night that was not going at all as he'd planned. But whatever else came of this evening, Starsky knew with certainty that he could not live with the lie anymore. Watching the other couples dance, he knew that there was only one person in the world for him and it was time he was truthful with himself, and with Hutch. He wondered if he was really ready to face the future, really brave enough to take that first, irrevocable step.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Hutch is looking for something else, something I can't give him. But I'm not sure I can or should keep my feelings from him, no matter what changes. Neither of us can go on like this, and he deserves the truth. I have to know, tonight. And so does he.

    "Tired, Starsk?"

    Starsky looked up with a jolt, seeing his tall partner pulling up a chair next to him. "Yeah," Starsky half yelled over the blare of the music. "Where's the little lady? Did ya scare off another one?" he asked, giving Hutch his teasing smile and greatly relieved that the man had returned to the table alone.

    "Nah," Hutch replied, his face showing him to be tired and drained. "Just wore her out." Hutch eyed the empty glasses on the table. "I think we've spent enough for the night, don't you?"

    "Let's go," Starsky replied quickly, rising to his feet. I'm sick of this place, he thought savagely. I need some air. We need some air.

    It was a wonderful relief to step out of the double doors of the disco and feel the cooling city wind on his face. Starsky paused a moment, surveying the crowded lot. The Torino, worse for wear but still running, stood on the street and out of the crowded mob of cars.

    They got into the Torino quietly, and it wasn't until Starsky had started the motor that Hutch spoke. "Guess it's late. Time to head home, huh?"

    "Nope," Starsky replied, then smiled at his friend's questioning glance. "I wanna get out some, outta the city. Wanna go for a ride? It's Friday night, after all. Besides, I feel like prowlin'."

    Hutch looked at him for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then he shrugged apathetically. "Sure, if you want."

    Yes, I do want. We're goin' to the mountains, he thought toward his apparently uninterested partner. I've got someplace I wanna to show you. And we're gonna talk.

    On the highway, going full speed, Starsky turned the radio on and settled back to drive. They had a ways to go and Starsky didn't want to start a conversation now, not until they had arrived at their destination. But it didn't stop him from studying his friend on the other side of the seat.

    He looks empty, Starsky realized, regarding his friend. Hutch was sitting quietly as far over in the passenger seat as he could get, head lolled back in the door frame, the wind from the open window blowing his hair back in a cloud of silver. Hollow, he thought, sudden sorrow gripping his chest, like he's lost somewhere, barely hanging on.

    No complaints, no griping, no long-winded discourses on man's inhumanity to man that Starsky knew were Hutch's attempts to deal with his emotions, his hurts and frustrations. How long had it been since Starsky had heard his friend cut loose in his presence? How long had Hutch been holding everything inside, letting it eat away at his soul?

    We're gonna get to the truth tonight, Starsky vowed, slightly sickened that he had missed so many of his friend's signals. Whatever it is that we both need to face, we're going to do it. Neither of us is goin' home until we fix this. I've missed you too much and I need you, however this turns out. We need the truth, and I know the perfect place to find it.

    After Gunther's attack and during his outpatient recovery Starsky had become better acquainted with his city. Driving had become his most precious freedom during the last few months of intense therapy, as sitting behind the wheel of the Torino was relatively untaxing, while giving him the self-reliance and mobility he had been desperate to regain.

    There had been many solo trips during his better days. Starsky would wait until Hutch had left for the station, then he'd fill the Torino up and drive for as long as he could, winding his way through city traffic, watching the people and reacquainting himself with the city and individuals he had almost died to protect. His wanderlust had turned him toward the mountains and the canyon roads that ringed the large metropolis.

    He had never talked to Hutch about his trips, wanting just this little bit of privacy and independence from his live-in caretaker. Stuck at a desk job, voluntarily partnerless and restricted from street work, the blond didn't need to come home to a tired, bored, sore, and depressed friend who had only cabin fever to add to his list of accomplishments for the day.

    One especially horrible day, Starsky had found himself more depressed and sullen than ever before, and had eschewed all company, wanting only to get as far away from everything as possible. He had taken the Torino and had headed up the coast, not caring where he ended up, uncertain even if he ever wanted to return home again. After an hour or so, he had followed a whim and had pulled off the highway and into the mountains, wanting to see the ocean from a distance. It was there that Starsky had found his special place. After that, he had spent a lot of time there, alone with his depression and his thoughts, getting his head screwed back on straight and his priorities back in order.

    The two men in the Torino passed the late-night hour in silence. The news reports were predictable and depressing and Hutch had not commented on them, as he was wont to do. In fact, the blond hadn't moved, seemingly asleep, but out of the corner of his eye Starsky could tell that Hutch was indeed awake, staring off into the distance.

    What do you see? Starsky wondered. You're here physically, but miles away mentally. You haven't even asked where we're going. Is this just something else you're livin' through? Don't fight just go with the flow, then get away? What are you running from, Hutch? Do you feel the same way about me as I do about you? Is it us you're running from?

    They were high in the mountains now; the main highways replaced by hilly roads and closely-packed woodland. The blacktops winding their way up and down the slopes seemed to make a dark tunnel of the Torino's headlights, blending with the surrounding closeness of crowding woods and the velvet blackness of the night. The breezes whipping through the Torino were less wild than they had been on the highway, but they had lost both the salty tang of the ocean and the obvious taint of smog and fumes. The wind gently fluttering through the car was sweeter now, filled with the smell of green grasses and healthy forest. Starsky drank in the lung-clearing air and relaxed with it. But he noticed that his passenger seemed oblivious to the change.

    "We're almost there," Starsky said softly, turning to see how his friend responded.

    "Yeah?" Hutch replied, distractedly, listlessly. "I didn't know you had anywhere specific in mind."

    "Got someplace to show you," Starsky replied, switching the radio off. "I found it a couple'a months ago, when I was toolin' around the area."

    There were a few moments of silence, and Starsky waited patiently for a reply.

    "Wondered where you went," Hutch finally admitted. He took a big breath and sat up straighter, studying the passing scenery as if he had just noticed where he was. "I'd call around lunchtime and during breaks and you'd be gone. When I'd get home the Torino's hood would still be hot. Thought you must have had someone on the side or something."

    Starsky glanced sharply over at Hutch's words, hearing the slight accusation that floated through them. 'Someone on the side?' Is that what you were worried about? Were you jealous...? You didn't want me to have someone else, did you? But you were afraid to ask me where I had gone...

    Starsky schooled his face into a harmless smile. "Nah, just me and my true love, the Torino. I found out that I didn't feel so crippled when I could drive." He forced his attention to the road. It's here, very close... "I'm surprised you didn't tear into me, if you knew I was out travelin' around." Starsky watched for his landmarks, sneaking a glance at his passenger.

    Hutch shrugged listlessly. "Couldn't get much safer than in the Torino, having the police radio and all. I figured if you'd've wanted me to know, you would've told me."

    Maybe I should have, Hutch. Maybe I should have...

    "Here it is," Starsky warned suddenly. "Hang on a minute." He slowed and turned the Torino carefully off of the road and onto an unseen, but memorized, trail. Starsky saw Hutch's eyes widen in the moonlight as he quickly grabbed onto the Torino's door handle and braced for a feared impact. Even in the daylight the small trail was hard to see; and in this darkness, there was no visible path, just Starsky's firm memory of it.

    Surprise, babe, Starsky thought in amusement. That sure woke you up.

    They had turned onto an old access road that Starsky had seen one day by chance. He had originally parked the Torino on the little-used blacktop and had followed the trail by foot. It had led into the dense forest that paralleled the main road all the way up the mountain. The car tracks had led through the thick, but narrow, patch of woods to the remains of a barbed-wire fence and an ancient wooden gatepost. There was a small clearing, filled with tall grass, but with room enough to turn a car around. From that clearing Starsky had noticed that any vehicle would be well hidden from the road. But the area's true magic had been discovered further into the trees. Following an unknown urge, Starsky had forged past the ancient gate and down between the trees, freezing in astonishment at what he saw.

    It was one of the most beautiful places that Starsky had ever seen. There was a yard-sized circle of grassy field, half-ringed by solid and massive woods and half by the wide and endless ocean. From his first view, it looked as if the whole ocean lapped up to the very edge of the grass, as if you could sit on the edge and dip your hand into the briny water. Further investigation found a steep and rocky cliff on the other side. There were no visible signs of civilization, no buildings, streets, or power lines. Obviously there was no way to this site from the cliff, and Starsky soon found that the trail in from the blacktop was the only way in from the forest side. By the look of the overgrown trail, the detective could only wonder at the last time a human had stood here and gathered in the beauty.

    I always meant for you to see this, Starsky thought toward his partner as he pulled into the small clearing and parked. I guess the time is finally here.

    Starsky turned off the engine and sat back, looking at Hutch. "We're here," he said quietly, watching Hutch survey the wooded darkness. His partner looked at bit stunned, sitting stock-still and blinking rapidly, trying to get accustomed to the dim light. Starsky knew it would take Hutch a minute to really see into the woods, but the moon was bright and the light glancing off of the leaves would be more than adequate to light their way. "So, what do you think so far?" he asked.

    "I think it's dark," the blond answered, uncertainty wavering his voice. "But it's pretty and quiet. It'd make a great make-out spot." Starsky could see the sudden flush of Hutch's face, even in the moonlight. "So, how many lovers have you brought up here so far?" Hutch asked with the flash of a stiff smile.

    Just you, Starsky thought. And no one else but you, ever. It's my gift to you, to us. No matter how this turns out. "You're the first," Starsky answered deliberately after a moment's silence, watching Hutch's face.

    "Oh, yeah?" Hutch spoke quietly, his face white in the dappled moonlight and his shoulders and body held stiffly. He was obviously going to ignore the obvious implication of Starsky's remark. "Well, I guess this is quite the honor then." Hutch sank back into the seat, refusing to meet his partner's eyes. The blond shifted nervously under his scrutiny, and practically flinched when Starsky reached out a hand to squeeze his arm.

    "There's more," Starsky announced cheerfully. It seemed crystal clear to him now that it was his own closeness that was bothering the blond, and through his hand he could feel the other man's racing pulse. I am the one you're running from, aren't I? You are drawn to me as I am to you...But you're still fighting it, you're afraid of what could happen if you admit to it. Now if I can just convince you to accept it... Starsky released Hutch's arm gently, exiting the Torino and hurrying toward the trunk. There was something he needed for tonight.

    "So, what now, nature man," Hutch asked with hollow levity, following his friend. "We go Bigfoot hunting or what?"

    "No," Starsky replied with a grin. He pulled his old and battered blanket from the trunk tucked it under an arm. "Just sightseeing. Follow me and be careful not to trip."

    Starsky turned toward the small field, knowing that the moonlight would be enough. He set out carefully at first, then more confidently as he recognized his landmarks: familiar rocks, roots, fallen branches. He strode purposefully toward his destination, his friend close behind him. After a few minutes, Starsky broke into the clearing. He stood to the side to watch as the blond emerged from the dark woods.

    "Oh, my God," Hutch breathed. He had frozen at his first glance, face blank and mouth agape, clearly mesmerized by the view.

    It was an unbelievable and magical sight. The moon hung midway down the horizon, throwing a trail of light on the rippling ocean. The distant swells picked it up as glints and sparkles that flashed like stars, each lasting only a second. The path of illumination seemed to run up and the small field, the whisper of wind doing little to disturb the slight grasses in the moonlit path.

    Starsky had known it would be like this in the dark, and he had been right to save his first night visit for now.

    "It''s..." Hutch gasped and faltered. He looked toward Starsky with helplessness.

    "I know," Starsky replied solemnly. "It sure is." He left Hutch standing there to drink in the sight, walking out to the middle of the field. He carefully spread out the blanket and sat down, willing to wait until Hutch had looked to his heart's content. The darker man carefully removed his shoes, them over in a small pile to the side, his socks soon following. If nothing else, I'm gonna be comfortable. He smiled to himself in pure self-indulgence, wiggling bare toes as he settled down, leaning back on his elbows and crossing his ankles, watching the moonlit ocean and waiting for his friend.

    "How long...?" Hutch began, drifting off after a few minutes of silence. He stood motionless behind Starsky, having made no move to join him.

    "A couple of months after I started therapy, before I started back to work," Starsky replied quietly knowing his voice would carry. "I found this place on the day the station doctors and I had that 'heart-to-heart' talk, back when they were afraid I was 'harboring unrealistic expectations' about my recovery. They weren't sure I still had the lung capacity needed to stay on the force, and they weren't hopeful that I could overcome the problem. They really blew my little canoe out of the water there, and I just took off in the Torino and headed for the hills. That's when I found this place."

    "I remember," Hutch answered sadly, his eyes shifting from the view to his partner. "You had me worried. I had heard about it through the grapevine that morning and tried to track you down all day. By the time you came home that evening, I was about ready to call in the bloodhounds." Hutch turned his head and Starsky savored the silver glints off of pale hair. "But after I had a minute to talk to you, I could tell you had taken it pretty well. And you proved them all wrong anyway. But I had thought you would have been more upset at the news."

    "I was," Starsky admitted candidly, studying his partner in the silvery light. "I just wanted to run and hide and never go back. But finding this place gave me some private time to think about it and work it through. You should see this place in the daylight, Hutch. It's almost this pretty. But it helped me realize that whatever problems I would have in the future were due to that fact that I was alive, that I had survived. It got to be really hard to belittle what life I did and would have when you see beautiful things like this." And when you know that a certain beautiful, loving person is waiting for you at home, Starsky remembered fondly. "So, you gonna come and join me, or what?" Hutch still had not moved. Starsky felt himself holding his breath. Come on, he pleaded silently. Come and be with me. Let me be with you. It's been too long, for both of us. Trust me to know what you need. It wasn't until Hutch moved uncertainly up to the blanket that Starsky felt he could breathe again.

    The tall man settled on the edge of the blanket, shoulders and movements stiff. Starsky reached over and placed a reassuring hand on his back. "It's just me, you know. Relax a little. I ain't gonna hurt you."

    Hutch chuckled a bit, looking slightly embarrassed, and settled back further on the blanket, keeping his eyes on the ocean. He looked as if he were ready to bolt, visibly uncomfortable at being so close to his partner.

    "Shoes," Starsky reminded.


    "Take your shoes and socks off," Starsky replied with a smile in his voice. "Can't have my good spread getting dirty."

    Hutch snorted, but removed his shoes and placed them neatly to the side. His folded socks soon followed. As soon as he moved back away from the edge of the blanket, Starsky moved closer. Hutch tensed slightly at his nearness, but said nothing. They sat awhile in silence, watching the moon make its slow decent toward the ocean. Starsky turned and studied his friend's profile, knowing that Hutch was both aware of the scrutiny and distinctly uncomfortable with it.

    It was then that Starsky knew he was right, with no possible doubt as to what it was that the man was fighting. It seemed as certain as his own heartbeat, as his own feelings in the matter. He knew that Hutch wanted and desired him just as strongly as Starsky wanted and desired him. But he also knew that somehow, someway, the blond would deny it forever, even if it killed him.

    He's afraid of losing me, Starsky thought, knowing his partner too well. He's afraid of my reaction to what he feels. He can't give up control, even when it's just the two of us out in the middle of nowhere. He doesn't want to ruin whatever it is we still have. Starsky wasn't quite sure what he needed to do, but he was afraid that admitting his own feelings to Hutch would only encourage the man to 'save' them both from such a future. If I tell him how I feel, he'll fight me off, for my own good. It'll kill him, but he'll do it. I can't let him have control in this. I know the truth. Now I just have to get him to admit it, or this won't work.

    Starsky turned sideways, facing his friend and leaning intimately close. Hutch stiffened even more at the movement and the dark-haired man deliberately placed his left hand on Hutch's inner thigh.

    The blond suddenly jerked and made a panicky move to rise, but Starsky twisted quickly, legs grabbing Hutch around the waist and arms locking themselves around the tall man's shoulders, holding him in a death grip. The fear that Hutch would leave gave Starsky the strength to outmatch the larger man in this.

    "Starsk," Hutch gasped warningly, "let me go!" He shook in Starsky's grasp.

    "Never," Starsky replied solemnly, tightening his grip with arms and legs, not letting Hutch move from his seated position.

    "Get the fuck off me!" Hutch replied viciously, trying to bring a trapped arm up to loosen his captor's grip. His movements were panicky and desperate. "Dammit, Starsky, I'm not joking!"

    "Neither am I." Starsky tightened his hold even further at Hutch's struggles, then suddenly they both froze and sat that way for several long minutes, their harsh breathing overriding any other sounds.

    I'm gonna hang on, Hutch, Starsky thought with determination. I'm with you for the whole ride this time. You're gonna let me take control and the blame, if need be.

    Slowly, Hutch relaxed; but as his heart slowed and his breathing deepened, the darker man could feel hopelessness taking the place of his friend's panic. Hutch was now leaning away from his partner as much as he could, head turned away and eyes on the dark horizon.

    He's too tired to fight anymore, Starsky thought sadly. He's carried this too long.

    "Please?" Hutch whispered, his voice close to a sob. He still refused to look at his friend.

    "No," Starsky replied kindly. He laid his head on Hutch shoulder, willing his friend to relax and let go. "Do you love me?" Starsky whispered, the question tender.

    He could feel Hutch tense, apparent panic rising again in the tall man's body, causing him tremble. He made another move to break Starsky's grip, and almost sobbed at his failure.

    You're not leaving now. Starsky tightened his grip again. We're almost there.

    "Do you love me?" Starsky repeated quietly into Hutch's shoulder, relaxing his hold slightly after a moment of silence.

    "Yes," came the whispered reply, voice quavering with fear.

    "Are you in love with me?" Starsky asked, his own voice full and trembling. He drew a breath, his eyes starting to mist during the blond's continued silence. He could feel the man shivering harder now, his breaths coming in half-sobs as he clearly struggled for control. Come to me. Trust me. I'm here.

    "Yes." This time the word was a sob and Starsky could see the silver streak of a moonlit tear find its way down Hutch's cheek.

    Starsky took a deep breath, willing himself to ask the final question. "Do you want to make love with me?"

    "Yes," the answer came, immediate and with a cry that nearly broke Starsky's heart for the shame and embarrassment it held.

    Hutch gasped and started to cry in earnest, still leaning away from his friend. Starsky pulled the man in toward him, relaxing his grip to hold him close and not contain him as a prisoner. Instead of pulling away from his captor, Hutch's arms reached up to grab Starsky in desperation. He buried his head in the smaller man's shoulder, shaking, his muted sobs filling the small field.

    Starsky's own tears fell unheeded down his cheeks. You've given me all the control and the power now, babe, he thought gratefully. Now trust me with it. Let me give you what we both need.

    He held the disconsolate man close, arms around his shoulders and legs still wrapped around his waist. He rubbed Hutch's back, feeling his partner's tears with every part of his soul.

    Hutch cried for a long time. Eventually his sobs subsided, but he made no move to pull away from Starsky's embrace, until he needed to wipe at eyes and face.

    "D-Don't even have any s-s-sleeves to wipe my nose on," Hutch whispered shyly, sniffling wiping his eyes, but not looking at his partner.

    "Not much of a Boy Scout if you ain't prepared." Starsky smiled and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket.

    Hutch took the offering and proceeded to wipe his face. Starsky studied him. There was no fight left in his friend now, but no barriers either.

    "How long?" Starsky asked after a moment, still closely watching his friend's face. "How long you been hiding it from me?"

    Hutch shrugged, staring at the handkerchief in his hands. "A long time. After Marianne Owens' brother got killed. I guess I didn't realize what it was I really wanted until then. Marianne and I both realized that I was using her, in more ways than one." Hutch smiled at his hands, embarrassed, new tears marking silver trails down his face. "It scared me, when I realized that I wanted you, Starsk. I was scared it was going to ruin everything between us. I remembered how you reacted to John Blaine and I was scared I'd see that look in your face if you ever found out what it was I wanted for us."

    Starsky reached out and took Hutch's chin, turning his friend's face toward him. "I wasn't upset about him bein' gay, or wantin' men," Starsky replied, looking deep into Hutch's eyes. "It was the deception. He deceived his wife, he deceived me, and he deceived himself. You didn't know John all those years like I did."

    Starsky shook his head in frustration, willing Hutch to understand. "John was a good guy, but sometimes he had a hateful, nasty attitude. I guess he was afraid of bein' found out or somethin', but he used to use every epithet against gays there ever was. It always rubbed me wrong, that John could be such a nice person one minute, and say such horrible things about people the next. I never understood and I never saw the signs. I guess I was disappointed in the way he chose to live his life. But it was his life to live, and I'm sure he did the best he could."

    "I'm not gay," Hutch said firmly, pulling his head out of Starsky's grip.

    "I know that," Starsky confirmed softly. "But sex is one thing and love another." Starsky rubbed Hutch's back again, feeling the muscles relax. "You love who you love, babe. And there's not a damn thing wrong with showing it. Or sharing it."

    They were silent for a few minutes. Hutch sighed a little and leaned in toward his partner. Starsky could feel the trust flow from his friend like a wave of warmth.

    "I tried everything I could think of, you know," Hutch whispered shyly. "I tried ignoring it, tried picking up every girl I could find. I tried reading about it, so I could control it. But every time you went out with a new girl, I got jealous. I couldn't help it, but I hated it. And it just kept getting worse."

    "Kira," Starsky said quietly. "Kira."

    "Yeah." Hutch shrugged, leaning further into Starsky's embrace. "I didn't love her. I didn't even like her. But I couldn't control myself and kept trying to get between you two. And when you told me you loved her...I..." Hutch faltered, his voice filled with shame.

    "You made sure I knew you'd slept with her," Starsky finished. "I was so goddamned mad at you, you know. I didn't even think a thing about it comin' from her. But betrayal by you..." Starsky stopped and shook his head, leaning to rest his forehead on the silver strands of Hutch's hair. "I guess this detective missed an elephant-sized clue right there, huh?"

    "I was glad you did," Hutch chuckled a little. "I didn't even realize it until after it happened. I was scared shitless you'd've guessed what was going on with me." Hutch shook his head slightly. "But Gunther's attack was so close after that, just when I'd vowed to get my head on straight and take another step back away from you." Hutch sighed and pulled back, looking into Starsky's eyes. "It wasn't so hard, being with you all that time. I thought it would be, but it wasn't. I guess I wasn't really focused on wanting you that way when I knew you couldn't respond physically to me, anyway. And it meant everything to me to help take care of you, to be there for you when you needed me. I guess it took awhile for me to really...believe you had survived, believe that I hadn't lost you."

    "We needed each other," Starsky added with certainty. "We always have."

    "I was fine as long as you were getting better, but I became afraid of myself when you got back on your feet." Hutch sounded sad. "It was hell, leaving you after you got better, but I knew if I didn't, I'd end up taking advantage of your health and your bed. I was losing control pretty fast, being around you so much."

    "So you left," Starsky couldn't hide the disappointment--disappointment for both of them, that they hadn't gotten past this roadblock sooner. "I was ridin' so high on being able to be independent that I wasn't even aware at first that you were pulling away from me." Starsky looked back at his partner solemnly. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice that my friend wasn't there anymore? That I wouldn't come lookin' for you?"

    "I guess that deep down, I had hopes," Hutch answered with a weak and embarrassed grin, "but I didn't dare think you would. I couldn't..." he trailed off, looking back out to the low and haunting moon. "And now that you know, I guess it'll be easier, assuming you still want me around as a partner and a friend. Whenever I look like I'm crossing the line you can--"

    "No," Starsky interrupted firmly. He watched as Hutch turned shocked and hurt-filled eyes toward him. "There is no line," he continued softly. "I'm not sure there really ever was." Starsky reached up and placed his palm on the blond's cheek, wanting to soothe away the look of disbelief and fear.

    "What's going to happen to us?" Hutch asked, his voice small and scared. "Tell me what you want me to do. I don't know what to do, I don't understand anything anymore." Hutch looked at him with the face of a drowning man -- pale, fearful, and desperate for that which he needed to survive. "Just tell me what you want, how you want things to be. Even if it's for me to leave..." Hutch drifted off, his whole body seeming to deflate at the thought.

    "What I want," Starsky began, caressing Hutch's cheek with his palm, fingers sliding up into silver-gold hair, "is for you to let me love you."

    "What?" Hutch's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. He tensed again, determination steeling his features. "No." Hutch pulled his face out of Starsky's palm, turning to staring out into the darkness. "You don't have to. I'm not asking you to. We can work around my--"

    "The first thing I want," Starsky continued as if Hutch hadn't spoken, reaching around to pull the man's face back toward him and looking deep into his friend's eyes, seeing the pain and frustration deep within. "The first thing I want is for you to shut the hell up." And with that, Starsky pulled Hutch's head down to him, felt his startled gasp merely a hairsbreadth away.

    "And the second thing I want is to kiss you," Starsk whispered into the waiting lips. Slowly, softly, he brought Hutch's mouth to his own, feeling the astonished intake of breath, the slight tremor of neck and jaw in the palm of his hand. Don't be scared, babe, Starsky thought during the last second of separation. I'm not. Not now.

    The first touch was all softness and flesh beneath the stiffness of Hutch's mustache. Starsky kissed him lightly, pausing with his mouth still upon his partner's. Hutch moaned into him, but held still, and Starsky could feel the tension in his friend's body and lips. He pulled back a little, leaning his forehead against the fairer one, giving them both a chance to get used to the newness of things.

    "I love you," Starsky whispered, hearing his own voice tremble. "The third thing I want is to love you. Let me. Please?"

    Then, slowly, Starsky leaned in once again and kissed Hutch more firmly. Tears, he thought, thrilled by the slight return pressure of the blond's lips on his own. Carefully drawing a breath, he parted his lips slightly, letting the tip of his tongue taste the firm flesh of Hutch's mouth. Salty tears and sweetness as soft as butter. With a deep sigh of surrender Hutch parted his lips and sucked in on Starsky's mouth, drawing his tongue deep inside.

    Oh, God! Oh, God! Starsky felt his heart jolt at the first instant of enclosure and his mind whirled as his tongue was met and caressed by Hutch's. He tasted the warm, sweet flesh of the man as their tongues explored, savoring this new intimacy. The heat of the blond's mouth filled Starsky's senses as nothing else ever had, as if he could partake of this joy and survive on it alone. Every passing second seemed to turn the warm glow of desire in his center into a fiery volcano, encompassing every limb and pore of his body. He and Hutch consumed each other, playing push and shove with tongue and teeth, nipping and nipped, both victor and conquered at the same time.

    They broke apart with deep drags of breath, still clinging to one another and shaking. Starsky looked at Hutch and saw in the flushed face and desire-black eyes an inner volcano that matched his own. But there was fear there also, his long-held conviction that only devastation and humiliation could come from the release of his truth even now holding him back. The darker man ached with empathy, willing the beloved soul to see that the deep and abiding love David Michael freely offered was the antidote to that fear.

    Hutch sighed slightly, a new tear glinting upon his cheek, and then he seemed to melt into fire, his countenance transforming before Starsky's eyes, showing the loss of his fear and leaving only such love and desire that Starsky felt both a deep urge to protect and a wild, unbridled need to claim and mark this man as his.

    You trust me totally now. I promise I won't hurt you; you are my soul. Just let me love you. And claim you...

    Starsky grasped Hutch's shoulders and gently urged him back onto the blanket. He followed the taller man down closely, reluctant to have any distance between them, and stretched himself out beside the beloved body. The warmth and pleasure at the contact stilled the darker man's raging desire for half a moment. Lying beside Hutch had always been a warm and safe haven from hurt and cares through the years, and was in itself a homecoming to be cherished. But with that recognition, the comfort intensified into desire again and Starsky found himself fighting an urge to cover the man with his body, to mount and thrust and claim this love.

    Not yet, Starsky admonished himself, not until he understands that this is what I have chosen, what I desire. He can't ever believe that he forced this upon me, upon us. He ignored his own hard, throbbing erection and burning nerves as best he could, concentrating instead on the man beside him.

    Hutch lay still, hands lightly resting on Starsky's torso, watching intently. Starsky smiled, then bent over his lover, slowly covering Hutch's shirt-clad chest with his own. Carefully supporting his weight on his elbows, he cradled Hutch's head in his hands, then carefully leaned down to taste again of Hutch's mouth, pressing as much of his body as he could along the tall form. The fair man met him halfway, mouth open and eager, and Starsky felt once again accepted and cherished.

    They kissed deeply for several minutes, pausing only to breathe. Starsky carefully shifted his weight, freeing his left hand. The kissing had left him breathless, and now his body and mind demanded more. Starsky reached down and grabbed the bottom of Hutch's shirt, pulling it up to slip it off.

    Hutch, apparently realizing what his new lover wanted, helped him remove the clothing, pulling it over his head. Starsky watched broad muscles flexing at the movement, and waited for the blond to settle before lying close to him again.

    He studied the smooth, heaving chest, lightly tracing the scar left by a young girl's bullet, far too close to heart and love. He's alive and he's mine, every inch of him. Starsky looked, mesmerized by the sight of Hutch's heart beating in the curve of his neck. And he's gonna be mine forever. We belong here. We belong together.

    Fingers skimming muscles, neck, and the curve of collarbone, Starsky carefully placed his palm on the center of Hutch's chest and leaned in to lick along the long and golden neck, wanting to taste the beat of his lover's heart, drinking in the scent of the man.

    Hutch groaned deeply, then reached up and started fumbling shakily at the buttons on Starsky's shirt. The darker man again licked at the curve of his neck and nibbled at an earlobe as the last button was undone and his shirt opened. The blond reached frantic hands up to remove the clothing, and a second later Starsky was chest to chest with his partner.

    The shock of skin on skin threatened to pull Starsky over the edge of control, and his mouth desperately sought Hutch's. He moved slowly as they kissed, rubbing his chest against the blond's in a side-to-side motion, sighing into the other man's mouth at the tingle of a million points of contact between them.

    Oh, man, he's like silk, Starsky realized in fascination, feeling Hutch's warm and fragrant skin covering the hardness of lean muscle and solid bone. Starsky could feel the hard scar tissue of his own chest tighten in response, still sensitive, now tingling with the feel of his chest hairs sliding across the other's smoothness. The blond arched into the movement, drawing broad shoulders back to press upward.

    Starsky broke the kiss, searching for air. His movements quickened until his own hardened nipples brushed across Hutch's and they both gasped with shock at the contact. The darker man found himself trembling in reaction; his erection, straining against his jeans, had pulsed in impending orgasm at the stimulation of usually insensitive tissue. He panted, trying to keep himself from falling over the edge.

    Can't, not now, it's too soon, he chided himself breathlessly, heart pounding like a bass drum his ears. God, if I even press against his leg I'm gonna go off.

    Starsky pulled back against Hutch's desperate grip, hearing his partner's moan of loss at the contact. Starsky rolled to the side, panting desperately, trying to control the surging tide of his groin. Starsky grinned at himself, remembering the first time he had touched a girl sexually. He had embarrassed himself, becoming so excited that he had come in his pants in the first few minutes. Not this time, he vowed. Not until Hutch wants it that way. This is too important.

    Starsky turned back to his love, hearing him moaning under his breath. He reached his hand over to Hutch's chest, palm flat, caressing skin and muscle, pausing to feel and rub hardened, sensitive nipples. The man groaned, arching his chest to meet Starsky's touch, desperate hands clutching the blanket.

    The blond was all silver in the moonlight-hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, even mustache. His deep, guttural moans echoed such profound ecstasy that Starsky could almost feel them physically. He leaned over and licked at the nearest nipple, sucking on the hard bud. Hutch gasped, head thrown back and thrashing from side to side. Leaving warm fingers on the wet nub, Starsky leaned over and licked the other, marking a trail up to his lover's exposed and throbbing neck.

    The tender flesh there pulled at some ancient and primitive response in Starsky and he fought off the impulse to bite and nip, to mark this living being as his own property. Instead, he slowly trailed his hand down to Hutch's middle, watching as the washboard muscles twitched and rippled, evidence of the man's fight for control. Questing fingers stopped at the top of Hutch's jeans, and then slowly, deliberately, he lifted his hand and placed it on the warm, hard bulge of Hutch's crotch, pressing firmly on the hot, moist hardness, molding his hand to his new lover's shape.

    "GOD!" Hutch yelled, his body stiffening, pushing the bulge into Starsky's hand, legs spreading to increase the contact. The blond's hips jerked as his body instinctively sought to thrust against the pressure. Starsky didn't move, but held still and firm, watching Hutch's face fight for control.

    Even through his pants, Hutch's erection was startling in its size and shape. The blond felt massive, strong and powerful under his hand, making Starsky feel a bit overwhelmed. But a new exhilaration grew within the darker man with the knowledge that he was the love of this large and powerful male.

    Starsky had seen Hutch naked hundreds of times, and even partially erect after a shower, or early in the morning, but he had never seen Hutch fully aroused and rock hard. With the heat from Hutch's erection burning through his tight jeans, Starsky found himself wanting to see his lover, to touch him and taste him, to control the pleasure of the long, lean body. Removing his hand and sitting up carefully, ignoring the pounding ache of his own strangled hard-on, he moved to kneel beside the tense body. Moving down to Hutch's middle he carefully unbuttoned the jeans at the waist and tugged them away from his lover's body, making room for the zipper to pull down over the tight swelling. Hutch tensed and moaned deeply as the fabric parted and his cotton-clad erection moved into the freed space.

    Starsky moved quickly to divest Hutch of his jeans and underwear. The silver-blond man lay still, panting and spread-eagled, sharp eyes glued to his lover's every move.

    Starsky squatted between Hutch's legs, rubbing light fingers on strong, corded thighs. He placed his hand palm down on Hutch's naked sex; he was a big man in every way, but perfectly proportioned, and Starsky felt a touch of jealousy at his friend's larger size.

    He's larger, bigger boned, but I control him. Starsky could feel an evil smile spread across his face. David and his Goliath.

    Hutch's erection was thick and long, the engorged shaft pulsing with desire in the thin light. He was also uncircumcised, and Starsky gazed at the foreskin with fascination as it stretched to what seemed near breaking over the swollen glans. The testicles were drawn tightly up next to his body among the light dusting of blond hair. Starsky could see the perfect oval shape of each and he reached out and touched Hutch's wrinkled scrotal skin. He lightly traced the outline of one testis, seeing it jump and quiver at the contact. Hutch groaned deeply, biting his lip.

    Time to take you home, babe, he thought a bit sadly. I know I'm driving us both crazy with this, but I hate for it to end so soon.

    The blond's erection quivered as he panted and Starsky could see the glitter of moisture at its swollen tip. He leaned closer and closed his eyes, breathing in Hutch's scent. The musk of sex and male seemed to invade Starsky's lungs and inner core, drawing from him a deep and territorial moan. Starsky paused, then almost without thinking he slowly and deliberately licked firmly up the tall, hard shaft of Hutch's vulnerability, tasting skin, desire, and love.

    "YES!" Hutch gasped, frantic hands digging into thick, dark curls. Clutching at his pleasure he yelled, "OH! YES!"

    Starsky instantly took as much of his lover's erection into his mouth as he could, astonished to find it so thrilling and erotic. He had never in his life held nor touched another man in this way, and he found himself savoring the moist and slick silk of sensitive, tender tissue. He liked the fact that it filled his mouth, and he sucked carefully at first, hands caressing and then pulling at the thick shaft, until Hutch's helpless moaning and thrashing encouraged him to suck harder, rub faster. He indulged himself for a precious few minutes, and then used his tongue to massage the super-sensitive seam he knew to be hidden under the throbbing glans.

    Through tongue and touch Starsky felt it happen. Muscles tensed to breaking, testicles quivering and tight, Hutch's body froze as his wild roar echoed in the darkness.

    One last, wild thrust took the darker man by surprise and he lost his hold on his lover's pleasure. Split seconds later Hutch gasped as if drowning and gave issue to a flood of silver-white semen that sprayed his body with dots of liquid fire and graced Starsky's enthralled face with spots of erotic warmth.

    Stunned, thrilled, and beyond words at what he had wrought forth, Starsky gasped and fought back his own oncoming climax. Gut clenched in reflex, he watched as Hutch's spasms slowed and deepened, semen pooling on his pulsing testicles and erection.

    "Starsk," Hutch gasped, body trembling, arms opened in entreaty. "Now! Please!"

    Somehow, some way, Starsky undid his murderously tight jeans and shoved them down, kicking out of them quickly. His own hot and throbbing sex expanded in the freedom as it hadn't done in years and the darker man gasped at the cooling air along every inch of his trembling, hot body. With a deliberately slow and careful move, in a heart and soul-fulfilling moment in time, Starsky leaned forward, pressing himself between the welcoming, still-quavering legs of his companion.

    It was beyond thinking--beyond words or feelings or time. Arms wrapped tightly around his conquest, his lover's body calling to him with warm skin and firm pressure, Starsky thrust hard, feeling his erection rub and slide deliciously in the cooling semen. He nudged the still-hardened sex of his love and gasped at the contact.

    Chest to pounding chest, head buried in his lover's neck, Starsky spread his legs, forcing Hutch's thighs farther apart. He desperately wanted the most sensitive, most defenseless parts of himself to caress those of his lover, to touch as they had never touched before. Starsky tried to slow down, to savor the contact, but his body was too far gone to cooperate. A growl grew deep in his chest at the delightful friction and he freed it, howling his joy to the stars as he instinctively thrust faster and harder, feeling his lover's hands pull harshly at his back and ass, encouraging the motion. Semen-covered and slick with his own pre-come, he was pulling back for another powerful, hard thrust when Hutch's lips found his temple and he both heard and felt the strangled whisper.

    "Love you..."

    The darker man froze and gasped at the sweetness and longing he heard in the soul-felt cry. The suddenly possessive grip of the blond's arms around him pulled him even closer, as if to meld them into one.

    The heat and incredible pressure of their impassioned embrace ripped his breath away as he felt himself enfolded almost painfully between their bodies. It was then that he truly lost control himself and thrust savagely, desperately seeking to complete this union. His guttural moans and pants filled the small field as his body responded, muscles tightening and testicles clenching as his body prepared to present its greatest gift.

    In a split second that lasted an eternity, David Michael Starsky gave his soul to his lover in a flash of light, a scream of pleasure-pain, and the explosion of his liquid essence, finally, irrevocably, sealing his claim to the most precious person in his world.

    Starsky's last clear memory was of the sweetness of the limbs that enfolded him and the murmur of soft-spoken, tear-laden endearments.


    Starsky awoke slowly, listening with total concentration to the heavy beat of a muted drum. Love you ... throbbed the heartbeat of his lover, pulsing deeply into his sleepy body and mind, almost lulling him back into contented slumber. The dark-haired man smiled sleepily at the words, opening his eyes carefully. Blackness and stars, he thought with a moment's shock. I'm on the edge of the world... He started, instinctively tightening his grip on the body beneath him.

    "Hey," Hutch's slightly amused whisper floated in the nearby darkness. "I'm here. I'm not going to let you go." Starsky heard the slight chuckle and felt long fingers card lovingly through his hair. "But really, babe, I've got to breathe."

    Starsky loosened his death-grip, smiling at his own slight astonishment at the disembodied voice. It's Hutch and me. It really happened! He felt wonder and surprise at the realization, a million questions racing through his mind. Is this what it means to be complete? To finally find the other half of your soul and be rejoined? I feel like I've finally found where I truly belong, forever and ever. I can't believe I ever had any doubts about any of this, about the way it would be. He smiled to himself in pure joy. At the way it will be...

    Starsky moved away from his warm and living bed with reluctance, realizing he had fallen asleep on top of the larger man. Hutch had pulled the edge of the blanket over the both of them and had let him sleep undisturbed.

    "How long was I out?" Starsky asked, sounding a bit shy, even to himself. He leaned back on an elbow, trying to see his friend's face in the dim starlight, wondering at the direction of the other man's thoughts. Does he feel like I do? Is it the same for him? I know it is, it has to be.

    "Don't know," Hutch replied casually, one hand drawing lazy fingers over Starsky's back. Before the light of the moon had outlined the blond in silver, but now the starlight was only suggesting his form in the soft darkness. "The moon set awhile ago, but I wasn't keeping track."

    "Are you okay?" Starsky asked, placing a palm flat on his lover's chest. The voice that had floated to him had seemed too casual, and Starsky hadn't heard a reflection of his own feelings of surety in the man's reply.

    "I'm fine, Starsk," came Hutch's quiet reply. "it was everything I had hoped it might be and more. But..." Hutch drifted off into an uneasy silence.

    'But?' Something's wrong, Starsky thought in shock, feeling as if his heart were suddenly clenched in a vise. An overwhelming desire to weep threatened him and his newfound joy. Not now, he admonished himself. Talk him around it. It's what you always do. It's what he needs you for.

    "What is it?" Starsky asked with a false sense of calm. "Tell me. Please?"

    "You didn't finish telling me the rules, Starsk," Hutch replied calmly. The blond struggled to sit up and Starsky pulled away, shifting with him, blanket over legs. Starsky pulled up the back of the blanket to cover their shoulders, enfolding them both.

    "I love you," Hutch continued, his casualness sounding forced. "And I'm tired of looking for something I already have. I will always love you, no matter what happens. But I don't want to force you, or push you. I can deal with an on-again off-again relationship. I can even face 'never again' if I have to. But whatever you decide, friend or lover, just know that I can't live without you." Hutch shrugged in the dark, a forlorn tone hushing his voice. "Just tell me the rules, Starsk. So I'll know what I'm allowed."

    Rules? Starsky hurt at the sadness in Hutch's voice. He still thinks it's a game he has to play. A game with rules, limitations, and penalties. Ah, Hutch, no more playing for either of us now. Can't you believe that we've both won?

    At that moment Starsky would have given almost anything for the return of the moon and the silver sight of his lover's face. "I told you already," Starsky chided, laying his head back upon the broad chest, arms pulling the taller man close around him. "There are no rules, and no limits anymore, either. Just us." Starsky raised a hand to caress his lover's tense features. "But you started by asking me what it was I wanted," he reminded him. "You already know the first three items on my list -- but the fourth is the most important of all. I want you to marry me."

    Hutch froze for a second, then shook his head as if at a joke. "What?" he chuckled, obviously refusing to take the words seriously. "Cute, babe. But what does that mean?"

    Starsky held up his left hand and looked at the tiny sparks of starlight flicking off the rings on his left hand. I always knew they were special, that they meant something important, Starsky mused as he pulled the silver ring off his pinkie. They always were a matched set, meant to be together. And they always will be. He held the ring up in front of them both and heard his lover's ragged gasp of breath as he recognized the object Starsky held as an offering. Hutch, more than anyone else, knew what they meant.

    "To have and to hold, forsaking all others," Starsky began, spilling out words he had only heard second-hand, but had saved for this very moment. "In sickness and in health, to death and beyond. Kenneth Richard Hutchinson, will you marry me?"

    "Oh God, babe," Hutch gasped, his voice trembling with emotion. "You can't know what--"

    "Marry me," Starsky interrupted, voice rich with all the love he possessed. "Right now, in front of God and Heaven. Now and forever. No turning back."

    The silence was deep and Starsky held his breath, feeling as if the world had stopped its turning to await this moment. He could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest, his mind numb hope. Say it, babe, and we'll be forever and ever.

    With a breathless sigh and a voice full of tears, freedom, and love, Hutch finally gave his answer.


The End