Blinded by the Light
Katherine Robertson


The sky was as blue as only an October sky can be. And, for the first time since summer there was a new crispness in the air. Hutch sat back, closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. The sun had just crested the hills but in this affluent spot the only signs of life were those of workers; the wealthy, for the most part, slept in.

"Don't know why you wanted to wait until morning to pay a visit to Mayhew," Starsky remarked as he turned down Bella Vista. "And I sure as hell don't like the idea of you seeing that clown without me along." He cast a jaundiced eye at his partner, noting the nervous tension which fairly radiated off Hutch even with his eyes closed.

"Morning's better because we can see what in hell we're doing!" came the answer, "and Dobey agreed we could try the 'desperate cop' routine, Starsk. So give me a few minutes alone with Mayhew. I'll offer him some dough, then go so far as to suggest I pass on tips of raids, you know. If he tries anything, you can save my ass."

The words were brave, but Starsky paid little attention to them. The idea of Hutch going in alone bothered him more than he cared to admit. Setting up the businessman was one thing, Julius Penneman another. "Just promise me you won't do anything stupid," he said seriously. "And give me time to get down the hill and into position, will ya?"

He managed to pull the Torino far enough off the road to be certain no one could see it from either direction. As soon as he switched the engine off, Hutch sat up, face set in tense lines. He checked the Magnum, slipping the extra bullets into his pockets. As usual, he spun the barrel, making sure there was one bullet in the chamber.

"Don't drop it, you'll shoot off your foot," commented Starsky. He d been trying for years to get Hutch to switch to an automatic, but his friend preferred the bigger gun.

Hutch just smiled, then opened the car door, easing himself out into the sunlight. A faint breeze caught at his hair, and as he bent down Starsky leaned over. "Thanks for dinner," he said, watching the clear eyes widen in surprise, and laughter curve the full mouth. "And when this is over, we're gonna have a long talk."

Hutch reached in, placing his hand on Starsky's shoulder. "We'll see. Wish me luck."

"Wait!" Starsky said urgently, covering the strong fingers before they could escape. "I mean it, Hutch. I-I need to talk to you."

"I know," came the soft response. "Tonight, okay? Listen, you radio the back-up as soon as I'm out of sight. Give me at least five minutes." The hand was withdrawn, and with a nod of the blond head, Hutch was gone, racing down the footpath that curved behind the hill.

As soon as he could no longer see him, Starsky lifted the mike, grumbling when the cord tangled on itself. "Zebra Three," he stated, fiddling with the wire, "Officer is on his way to suspect's house. Requesting you move into position in five minutes. Go in on Code Three, no sirens — I repeat, no sirens! Zebra Three out." He slid down across the seat, trying to untwist the cord, reaching up to pull it out. He frowned, focusing on an inconspicuous button of metal that looked vaguely familiar. His blood ran cold when he recognized it, and realized its implications. Stunned, he stared for a moment longer then ripped it off the radio. Twisting around in the seat, he heard the sound of a car approaching at tremendous speed, and knew instinctively it wasn't a police unit. There was no time to warn Hutch, so his best bet was to try to stop whoever was racing down the road. He heard the squeal of tires as the vehicle tried to take the curve, and he yanked his gun from its holster, releasing the safety just as the car came into view. "Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed upon recognizing the grey Datsun that had followed him before.

Starsky got off one shot, trying to take out a tire, then realized the driver was slowing down. He saw Penneman's leering face over the muzzle of a gun and fired again. As he ducked, there was a sharp bang!, a moment of searing pain, and his world suddenly turned red. He stared blindly out the window, then slowly slipped into darkness.


Mayhew paced restlessly back and forth in his bedroom, checking his luggage for the fourth time. Sully was off getting the Cougar serviced, but where the fuck was Juli?

After his urgent call of last night, informing him of Starsky and Hutch's success in linking them to the old murder, he knew he had no choice but to cut his losses and run. Juli had convinced him of that. Cops were like leeches, and he had no desire to be sucked dry by the LAPD just because he wanted revenge on one of their own. Better to get out while he still had his freedom.

Their plan was to leave the country for the time being, set up new identities in Brazil, and live off some of the money he'd salted away in Swiss bank accounts. Penneman was supposed to be arranging their transportation out of the country, damn him, and should have been here an hour ago.

A faint sound made him whirl around and he found himself staring down the barrel of a very big gun. Shocked, he looked up into a pair of blazing blue eyes. It was Hutchinson. He stood stock still, fear leaving him speechless. "How the hell did you get past my dogs?" he finally blurted out. "You're trespassing on private . . ."

A piece of paper was waved under his nose. "Search warrant, Mister Mayhew — or Daniels — and a warrant for your arrest as well." The paper was folded, neatly tucked into Hutchinson's pocket, and still the hand holding the cannon never wavered. "Now, let's talk."

Watching the younger man perch on the arm of the chair, Mayhew recalled something Penneman had said last night. The cops hadn't discovered the bug and were unaware their plans were known. He smiled to himself; if his luck held he'd have his revenge and still get out of the country. "You can put the gun away, I never carry one." He went over and sat down on the edge of the bed, curiosity getting the better of him. "How did you get past my dogs?"

The Magnum lowered, coming to rest across the cop's thigh. "Some kind soul must've put them back in their pens." He got to his feet, and with quick strides explored the room, making certain they were alone before he came back.

Mayhew was intrigued in spite of himself. The cop was beautiful; an uptight, menacing kind of beauty it was true, but still gorgeous. "So what do you want?" he asked conversationally, stalling for time. He fiddled with his pinky ring, but the cop never even looked at it, so he quit. The contempt in those blue eyes was disturbing.

"A little information, first of all. Did you take those pictures?"

Mayhew laughed, deciding he might as well play his part to the hilt. "Yes. What'd you think of them?"

"Are there any more?" came the steely response; the huge gun now aimed straight at the businessman's heart.

The older man was suddenly afraid. "No," he whispered. "Please don't shoot." He was afraid to take his eyes off the long fingers that held the Magnum.

"For your information, Mayhew," said Hutchinson, "Starsky and I don't sleep together, so you could have had us followed until Doomsday, and not gotten anything." He smiled coldly. "Penneman always was a bungler, though — too bad you've stayed in touch all these years. Where is he, by the way?"

Hutchinson had stated his own sentiments so perfectly that all he could do was nod. "Mind if I get a drink?" he asked, waiting for a nod before he got to his feet. He walked over to the wet bar at the far end of the room, and poured himself a stiff three fingers of bourbon. Turning around to drink it, he raised his glass in a mocking salute. "Where's your partner?" he asked after he emptied the glass. "Still parked up on the hill? He should be here with you, shouldn't he? I mean, isn't that what partners are for?" He raised his voice, approaching the cop with his big gun, and big blue eyes.

Before Hutchinson could answer there was the sound of a vehicle screeching to a halt in the driveway. Running feet pounded along the asphalt, and Mayhew heard his name shouted. "Danny! Hey, Danny!"

Immediately Mayhew spun around, looking to see what the cop was doing, but he was gone. "I'm in the bedroom!" he shouted, hurrying toward the hallway. "What's wrong?" In some deep recess of his mind he wanted to watch the two men kill each other so he could walk away Scott free. But when he saw Penneman`s expression, the fear in his eyes, he knew something bad had happened.

"I just killed Starsky!" he gasped. "We gotta split. He called for back-up just before he found the mike! They're waiting for Hutch's signal!"

Cold fury swept over Mayhew, and he struck Penneman a hard blow to the side of his face. Now there would be cops swarming all over the place, led by the big blond. And where the fuck was Hutchinson? He yanked back the curtains, seeing only the open door leading to the sundeck. The cop was nowhere in sight.

When he turned back to face his friend, he had his temper under control. "Why'd you ice the cop, Juli? Where've you been? We could be out of the country by now, you stupid ass." He shut up, warily watching the bigger man as he prowled around the bedroom. On his guard now, he wished Hutchinson was still behind that curtain.

"Where's the cash, Danny?" came the almost gentle response. Penneman glanced toward the two suitcases and smiled. "All packed, and little candy-ass is getting the car filled for a quick getaway. Better and better." The tone changed, hardened. "Open the safe, baby, and dump the money into this." He held out a plastic bag. "Get a move on, Danny. You got exactly two minutes."

It was like a bad dream, Mayhew decided; you want out, yet are somehow trapped by your inability to wake up. Like a sleepwalker he went over to the safe, sliding the picture covering it to one side, then spun the tumbler. The door opened easily, and he heard Penneman suck in his breath as the safe's contents were exposed.

"The jewelry! Dump that in the bag, too. And a kilo of the white stuff!" He sounded like a kid at Christmas, but there was nothing childlike in the eyes. Mayhew complied, filling the bag in less than two minutes. "Anything else?" he asked sarcastically, holding out his hand. "Want my ring?" That was a joke; Penneman had lusted after the huge stone since he'd bought it almost ten years ago.

"Maybe," said Penneman. "I thought Hutchinson would be here, where is he?"

Mayhew gambled. "Gone. Must've heard what you said about killing his partner and got the hell out of here. Speaking of which, we'd better go down and wait for Sully. He'll be back in a minute". He went over to pick up the suitcase.

"Sit down, baby," Juli said, lifting the .45 automatic and pointing it at the other man. "You ain't going nowhere." He ran his fingers across the gun's snout. "Beautiful weapon, this. Belongs to Sergeant Starsky. Very efficient."

Gambled and lost, Mayhew thought calmly. He had never trusted the man; why should he be surprised? "Hutchinson said they weren't lovers, but that doesn't mean he won't hunt you down."

Penneman ignored him. "Look at this barrel, baby, shoots a bigger bullet than that Magnum Hutch totes around. Just imagine suckin' this cock, eh? Come on, baby, a little head for the .45?" Obscene laughter gurgled up from Penneman's throat as he forced the gun closer to Mayhew's mouth.

If he had to die, it wasn't going to be sucking a goddamn gun! Mayhew reached up and knocked the pistol away. "Kill me, Juli, but don't act like a fag all the time! Just goddamn shoot me and get out! God, I hate you!"

Penneman leaped to his feet, face pale with fury. He aimed the gun at Mayhew's head and squeezed the trigger, laughing when the body jerked as the skull was blown away. "Always thought you were smarter than me, didn't you? Well, you ain't any more, baby!" He emptied the entire clip before he stopped.


There were bells ringing somewhere, and a very large truck was driving back and forth over his head. Starsky groaned, rolling over in the front seat trying to get rid of the damn thing. Fingers, shaking but obedient, searched through his curls, finding at last a very tender groove where Penneman's bullet had left its mark. "Shit!" Starsky exclaimed, struggling upright, only to discover the truck was gone and in its place was a huge drum. He'd been creased before, but never this severely. How long had he been out? He opened his eyes, astonished to see it was still early morning.

Hutch! Jesus, their plan called for Hutch to have five minutes alone with Mayhew, and that was all. Penneman had tried to kill him and no doubt had gone down there, gun blazing, and Hutch was all alone against both men. Fighting the vertigo that threatened to send him back into limbo, Starsky managed to unlock his door, ignoring the blood spattered on the dash and windshield. He leaned heavily against it, righting himself shakily. Reaching inside his jacket, he was horrified to find that his gun was gone. Penneman! Hutch didn't have a chance in hell against the .45. Then he remembered the black and whites awaiting the word. Groaning when he changed position, he leaned across the seat and called in, summoning down the two units. Let them take the house, he was on his way to find his partner.

He staggered across the small ditch, then made his way up a low embankment, beginning a slow and painful climb to reach the crest of the hill. Juli thought he'd killed a cop, and that meant Hutch didn't stand a chance because the ex-con would undoubtedly go into the house, eager to finish the job.

Starsky sank down to catch his breath, pressing his left hand to his eyelids. Hutch would be counting on him to be there, backing him up. He didn't dare think about what was going down, or what he'd do if he was too late. It took all his willpower to stagger to his feet, ignoring the tumbleweeds with their thousands of stickers, cursing steadily when one shoe worked loose in the soft dirt around a gopher hole. Blood was seeping across his forehead, and impatiently he wiped it away. Hutch needed him and he couldn't even find the strength to yell a warning, for Christ's sake.

He sank to his knees, dizzy again, and heard what he dreaded most. One shot, coming from the house. It was followed by a volley — all from the same gun — his. There'd been no answering boom from the Magnum, and he knew then his friend was either dead or mortally wounded.

"Hutch . . . Jesus . . . ah, babe." Slowly he lay down, head resting on his hand, the drum pounding again. There was no need to move, no need at all.


The words had no sooner left Penneman's lips than Hutch was on his way, racing back to the Torino. Starsky couldn't be dead, had to be alive. Let the bastards try to escape, if anything had happened to his partner, he'd hunt them down like dogs.

He vaulted the fence, then scrambled up the hillside, taking the shorter, steeper way. He grabbed handfuls of the dried grasses, ignoring the stiff blades that slashed his palms like razors. Penneman's words rang in his ears as he clambered higher, scaling the face of a large boulder. God in heaven, why hadn't he admitted how much he loved Starsky? Why hadn't he told him the truth? Always hiding behind lies, always denying what everybody else saw.

Just as he came to the crest of the hill, he heard shots from below. A wave of nausea engulfed him; it sounded like Starsky's .45, which meant Penneman must have taken it off his partner. He pulled himself together and climbed up over the crest, chest heaving from lack of oxygen. Kneeling, he scanned the gentle slope that led to the road, seeing no sign of life at first.

Cautiously, he got to his feet, spotting a dark blur of color partially hidden behind a mesquite bush. His heart began to pound furiously as he identified the blue and white shoe that lay almost directly in front of him. Eyes misting, he reached down and picked it up, holding it against his shirt. "No . . . " he whispered brokenly, eyes fastened on the half-hidden shape. It wasn't possible he was too late. "Please, not now."

He ran the last few feet, glance devouring the sprawled figure. Tenderly, he touched the sock-covered foot, fitting the shoe back in place, "Never thought of you as Cinderella," he murmured, gathering his partner to him. He examined the blood-streaked face, the matted curls, and rocked the limp body back and forth for a moment or two, dropping kisses on the dirt-stained brow. There was no response.

He stopped suddenly, arms clasped around the warm body — too warm, in fact, to be dead. "Jesus!" Hutch quickly settled Starsky back on the ground, running his fingers over the bleeding head wound. He bent down, pressing his ear to Starsky's chest, and heard the strong, steady beat of the heart. Very carefully he examined his partner for other wounds, finding none.

With a fierce joy he once more drew Starsky into his arms, murmuring forbidden words into the dark curls. "I love you — always have. Never dared think about it. Oh, Starsk, it's no use . . . no use . . ." Tears blurred his vision as he pressed his lips to Starsky's forehead. "So damn beautiful . . . " he said softly, touching the thick lashes with one finger. "Never wanted anybody the way I want you. Never loved anybody as much as I do you." Lashes fluttered, signaling returning awareness, and Hutch struggled to become merely Starsky's partner again. "Hey, you going to wake up?" he asked gently, lifting one limp hand and bringing it to his lips. "Come on, Starsky, time to join the living. Can you hear me?" He couldn't bring himself to let go, not yet. "Starsk! It's me —"

"Don't yell. Just gimme a sec to find my head," came the slow rejoinder. Starsky's fingers closed over Hutch's in a firm grip, preventing the blond from pulling away. "You did say the living, didn't you?"

"Sure. Do I look like a ghost?" He smiled down at the head nestled in the curve of his shoulder.

Deep blue eyes opened; long lashes cast shadows on dirt-smeared cheeks. They surveyed Hutch gravely, naked hunger in their depths. "You look like something the cat dragged in," he said hoarsely, struggling to sit up. "I thought he'd shot you. Thought I'd lost you." The words were spoken from the very bottom of Starsky's soul. "I wanted to die, Hutch."

Remembering the pain and bleakness he'd just experienced himself, Hutch squeezed Starsky's hand. "I heard Juli say he killed you, and . . . " To his horror he felt tears running down his cheeks. "Shit!" he said angrily. "This is stupid!"

"No, it's not. Not to me, anyway," Starsky replied slowly. "Because I felt the same way before I passed out."

Hutch put his finger to Starsky's lips. "Shh. First things first. I take it our back-up is somewhere nearby?" He stood up, ignoring the burrs and stickers clinging to his jeans. "Look, I want to call them, let 'em get down there — I heard shots just a few minutes ago "

"My .45," Starsky said grimly.

"Yeah, and you need something done for that head wound." His fingers smoothed back the curls, exposing the seeping furrow. "You be okay until I get back?"

Starsky closed his eyes, turning his face into Hutch's shirt. "Yeah, but hurry back. I don't feel all that good."

Carefully, Hutch drew away, then raced back to the Torino to give the order to surround Mayhew's property, wondering what they'd find when they got there.


Penneman hefted the bag with the safe's contents over his shoulder. He'd gone through the house, grateful for Sully's absence, leaving enough clues around about Danny's murder to confuse Sherlock Holmes himself. Starsky's gun lay hidden in the bottom of Sully's laundry hamper, and Danny's big diamond ring was buried in the sand in the fish tank. He'd showered in the chauffeur's bathroom, washing away tiny parts of Danny that would collect in the trap. Now, grinning at himself in the mirror, he stopped long enough to pour himself a long drink.

The man grinning back wore a uniform, boots, and a cap. All he needed were Sully's ever-present sunglasses, then he could make certain the neighbors saw him driving up Bella Vista and onto Canyon. Since today was the day the Cougar went to the carwash, he'd take that car. He chuckled; whoever found it could pay for its next shampoo — he wanted witnesses to swear pretty Sully had been in the neighborhood about the time Danny was iced.

If he was curious about anything, it was about the blond cop. Where in hell was he? Maybe crying fag tears for his partner, maybe waiting somewhere to ambush old Juli, but he doubted it. In fact, he was just too smart for them, from Snake on down.

He hurled the half-empty liquor glass against the wall and picked up the car keys, barely glancing at the rapidly stiffening corpse lying to his left. "So long, baby," he said offhandedly. "Thanks for the bonus." Like a deckhand he set the bag high on his shoulder and headed for the garage. The uniform was too small, but he'd soon be out of it.

The garage door was unlocked and as he opened it he saw the limo, sleek and silent. However, the sunglasses weren't on the dashboard. Puzzled, he drew back, wondering where they were.

"Looking for something, Juli?"

He jerked up, whirling around to see who'd spoken.

"Kill, Fury!"

The last sight he saw was Sully's laughing face.


"They're on their way," said Hutch as he rejoined Starsky. "How do you feel?"

His partner didn't answer, merely shrugged and leaned over to put on his shoe. "Sock's full of stickers," he said finally, as if that explained everything. He looked up at Hutch.

The breeze was picking up, Hutch thought absently, bringing with it some cool ocean air. He heard mockers warbling their liquid song from somewhere in a thicket. Bees droned — everywhere was peace, except down in that house, and here in his heart.

"How much did you hear?" he asked abruptly, looking away. "I thought you were dead."

"You gonna deny sayin' anything if I tell you?" Starsky responded somewhat wistfully. He ran fingers through his curls, grimacing at their condition. "Gaah! That Penneman . . ." He shifted position, effectively closing the distance Hutch had put between them. "You were ready to tell me you loved me, just so long as I was dead . . .  That doesn't make much sense, Hutch."

Closing his eyes, Hutch bowed his head. "I haven't the right " He was seized with surprising force, then shaken until his teeth rattled. "Wha —!"

"Will you listen to what you just said? You — my best friend, my partner, the person I love the most in this whole crummy world, and you say you don't have the right? Just who does then?" Real anger blazed in the blue eyes.

Who indeed? Hutch stared, thunderstruck by the implication of Starsky's words. Who did have more right than he? Some woman who'd only known him a few days? Some stewardess in for a three-day weekend? Anyone just so long as they were female.

"Every lady you ever knew," he said sadly. "Every one you meet in the future." Firmly he removed the gripping hands from his arms. "I do love you more than anything in the world, but it doesn't matter."

He stood there, feeling the breeze ruffle his hair, the sun warm the sudden chill in his bones. Looking at his friend, he smiled, holding out his hand. "Come on, partner. It's time to be cops again. You need someone to look at that head of yours."

He saw Starsky staring at him, squinting into the sun, and let his hand drop, turning away. He wished life wasn't so damn complicated.


He turned back to face Starsky, carefully schooling his expression to one of concern — nothing else. "Yeah?"

"You know something? I always thought when a person fell in love — really fell in love, he'd hear bells, and see stars, that sort of thing. It's not like that at all." Starsky looked mystified for a moment, then got to his feet, reaching up to touch Hutch's hair. It's sorta like bein' blinded, ya know? There's all this light, then gradually you can make out things when your eyes get accustomed to the glare." His hand moved down to rest on Hutch's neck, fingers pulling his companion closer. "I think I've been blind long enough, babe."

Firmly convinced his partner was suffering from a concussion, Hutch made no reply at first, but when he felt his head being cupped in Starsky's hands, he jerked back. "Starsk, don't play games, please," he said huskily, very much aware of the heat and power of his friend's body.

"You're all gold this time of day," came the bemused response. "All honey and amber." With one final touch, Starsky moved back. "Let's go, pal. I wanna get this case closed — or at least on the books before tonight. You 'n me have a lot to talk about." He sighed, wavering from side to side. "Damn. Think you can give me a hand until we reach level ground? I'm still not too sure which way is up."

Hutch brushed dirt from Starsky's jeans and jacket, then slipped his arm around his partner's waist. Overhead the sun spun and wheeled in great golden circles, and he saw Starsky close his eyes against the brilliance. Was that the problem? Were they like two small suns so hot and bright that they'd each backed away, ignoring the light and warmth for so long?

He wanted to believe Starsky, but was afraid to. Being shot in the head, then thinking you'd lost your partner was enough to give anyone second thoughts. He tightened his hold on his friend, offering the love and support he'd been offering for so many years.

"I mean it, Hutch. We gotta talk about what I said. There's no way you're gonna leave me for some jerk just so you don't have to feel guilty. That's dumb."

Starsky might be babbling, but his voice was strong and assured. As Hutch looked up he saw the Torino just a few hundred feet away. Back to normal.


"Actually, looking back on it, I think we owe that Sully creep a vote of thanks," reiterated Hutch for the tenth time in as many days. "Not that I'm inclined to believe he was acting out of any altruistic motive, no matter what he claimed. Still, Penneman got what could be called some sort of justice." He grinned over at his partner who sat with his feet up on a hassock, bathrobe barely covering his freshly-showered body. "Sorry you had to miss the excitement, but under the circumstances it couldn't be helped."

"Tossing my cookies in my car didn't do a lot for me, either," came the disgruntled response. "Who'd think a simple crease would make me that sick?" he ran his fingers through his closely-cropped head of curls and sighed. "I look like a sheep, now. I look "

Hutch closed the distance between them in a flash, kissing the top of Starsky's head. "Like the sexpot you are, babe, so don't mourn them. Be grateful the thickest part of your anatomy was under them." he smiled again. "You'll be back to work in less than a week, then you can see how you feel."

The blue eyes were hooded, and Starsky didn't seem inclined to lighten his mood, so Hutch knelt in front of him, horribly aware of the temptations his friend presented. "Hey, pal, think about it for a minute. Mayhew's gone, Juli's gone, Sully won't say anything because he doesn't give a damn what happens to me. We were spared all the business of a long court trial, and I gave you my word I wouldn't quit. What more do you want?"

"You know what I want, damn you. I wanna talk about us — you and me!" Starsky got to his feet, then pulled his kneeling partner up so they were face to face. He gripped Hutch's arms at the elbows, forcing him to stay as near as could be without actually embracing him.

"Starsk, th-there's nothing to talk about," was the barely-audible response. "I was so sure you were gone that I'd lost you . . ."

"Yeah, so you made this great confession, telling the whole world that you loved me more'n anything else, but you can't do anything about it! Well, that's a crock and you know it." He tried to hug the man, not caring if he got decked or not. Then Hutch's arms encircled him, pulling against his shoulder blades so tightly he nearly lost his breath.

Hutch reached out to gather Starsky to him. "Damn your eyes," was all he said before pulling him onto the bed and into a long, hard embrace.

Starsky found the scent and warmth irresistible, and began kissing Hutch, wondering what had changed his mind. He plundered the warm mouth, tasting it, marveling at the textures. When Hutch buried his face in his curls, he closed his eyes, unable to move,

"Beautiful . . . jus' beautiful. Makes me want to eat you up, " Hutch crooned, and Starsky felt his heart was ready to burst. So much love and he'd almost missed it! He opened his eyes; Hutch smiled down at him then rolled away, hands piously crossed on his chest. "Not to worry, babe, your virtue's in safe hands."

"I don't want to be in safe hands, dammit!" Starsky growled. "I liked it better before!"

Hutch propped himself up on his elbow, expression severe. "What I really want to know, pal, is why we had to go to bed to have a long talk? Why can't you be like everyone else and have us sit on the couch, fully dressed, and spill our guts?" Then, as if struck by something, he asked, "Remember that chess game? Starsky's law? Well, this is the same kind of thing, isn't it? You lie there looking like a Greek god, and I'm supposed to be so rattled I tell you about every day of my life. Right?" He grinned wickedly, and a long finger stroked down Starsky's cheek. "I knew it! You're a real cock tease." Leaning over, he dropped a swift kiss on the tip of Starsky's nose. "I forgive you, but now I'm going to go home and get some zzz' s. I'm bushed."

"You really think I look like a Greek god?" Starsky said the first thing that came into his head, stalling for time.

This time Hutch laughed. "You're fishing, Starsk. But yes, I do . . ." He shook his head.

Starsky was delighted with the declaration. He reached over to caress Hutch's face. "Always figured that was your part. Sort of like Apollo." He continued the caress down Hutch's throat, ending on his collarbone. "So smooth," he whispered, shifting position so he was facing Hutch, their bodies touching at belly and thigh. "Not girl-smooth, but silky . . .  Jesus, I dunno how to talk to you!" He broke away, frustrated.

Hutch lay quietly for a moment before answering the outburst. "You're doing fine," he said drily. "And if you don't watch out, my hands-off speech won't be worth a thing." He lifted Starsky's hand, examining it. "What do you want, Starsk? I mean, there's only so much of this platonic love I can handle. On the job, after hours, fine. But to expect me to lie here next to you and wait while you sort out your feelings, hell, I'm not made of stone."

Not stone, nothing so hard and cold, thought Starsky as he studied Hutch's face. "I'm not tryin' to play terrified virgin, Hutch," he said carefully. "But when I think about you and somebody else I see red, and that scares me." He placed his hand on the blond head. "I know what you do is your business, and I know I don't feel the same way when you date girls." His hand slid under the wayward neck curls, fingers curving around the proud head. His eyes searched Hutch's, and he struggled to make the man understand. "Trouble is well, my imagination gets to thinking about you falling in love with a guy — like Harper, maybe. Really falling in love . . ."

"In other words if I was going to fall in love with a man, why didn't I pick you instead of some stranger?" Hutch's smile was tender and wordlessly he pulled the naked body across his own, fitting them comfortably together, yet making no move that could be interpreted as wanting more than holding.

The gesture was so open, so filled with understanding, that Starsky felt the sting of tears in his eyes. Hutch was waiting for him to make the first move — any move — so he would know what to do next. He tried not to think about the implications of this dangerous game; they were both adults, they knew where it might lead. Starsky wasn't about to stop. He kissed Hutch's mouth tentatively, small pecks, really — then pulled away, suddenly unable to breathe.

"Starsk — uh, what're you doing?" Hutch asked foolishly, smothering a grin.

"Kissin' you, what else?" came the muffled rejoinder from Hutch's chest. "Now hold still." Starsky cursed, his fingers working away at Hutch's stubborn belt buckle. "You could help," he muttered sarcastically, grinning when Hutch dissolved into giggles when he brushed his chin with his curls.

"Jesus!" Hutch gasped. "Get off and I'll do it myself. I can tell you had this scene worked out in advance." He batted Starsky's hand away, looking about eighteen, expectation bright on his face.

Starsky was caught up in the look, shaking with curiosity about unknown and forbidden sex. Whether or not he and Hutch went any further than just holding one another didn't seem so important any more. Sharing this magic moment was everything.

He rolled out of the way, deciding to add a little light on the subject. He padded across the room, pulling down the shade so his neighbors couldn't see in. When he turned back Hutch was stepping out of his briefs, kicking them aside to join the rest of his clothes. In the dim light all Starsky could make out was the top of Hutch's head and a blur of white ass. He strode over to turn on the lamp, hungrily watching as Hutch stretched out, face down, hands over his head. A flash of desire raced through him and he shivered at its intensity. He slid into bed, hand lightly touching that rounded, snowy ass. Hutch had asked him why they couldn't sit and talk like normal people and he hadn't answered him. He stroked the smooth flesh again. "I was afraid you'd run away," he confided. "If you had your clothes on, I mean. This way you've got to get up and get dressed before you leave. . . and I'm not gonna let you do that before we get some things settled."

"You going to talk, or sit with your hand on my rear end all night?" But Hutch made no move to escape those fingers, nor to cover up.

Starsky, intent on examining the golden body, made no reply. He slid his hand up the long back, fingered the penny mole that rode Hutch's shoulder blade, then rubbed at the knotted muscles of the wide shoulders.

Hutch lay with his eyes closed, obviously enjoying the intimacy too much to move. Against the dark blue sheets his hair was a pale drift of silk. Starsky edged closer, easily turning his companion onto his back. When Hutch lifted his hand to gently pull him down, so close that their mouths were only inches apart, he sighed. "You gonna be mad at me tomorrow, or are you gonna pretend this never happened?" He ran his hand along that impossibly smooth chest, watching as goosebumps followed its progress.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" breathed Hutch, eyes wide open now, face flushing with arousal. Starsky saw his cock, nestled in dark gold curls, begin to stir, and Hutch put his hand down to cover himself.

"Don't!" said Starsky sharply. "I want to see you." He was only too aware of what was happening between them, yet his need for the contact was overwhelming, threatening to put an end to any sort of restraint. Hutch might try to lie to him, but his body couldn't  there was proof right under his hand. The impressive cock was swelling, silently seeking fulfillment. Starsky pulled Hutch's hand away, resting it on his own belly, feeling its warmth penetrate his flesh.

"This isn't fair," murmured Hutch. "I want you so badly, but there's no way in the world we can ever be more than . . .  He turned his face away.

His own feelings racing in exactly the opposite direction, Starsky removed his hand slowly from Hutch's groin. Was he being that cruel? How closely had he examined his own motives, anyway? Hutch had hinted that perhaps his feelings were more dog-in-the-manger than real love . . . was that true? Besides, what had he said to Hutch in the first place? Weren't they supposed to be talking? Yet here he was, busily flaunting his body and sexuality — both of which he knew Hutch longed for. Suddenly ashamed of his behavior, he drew away, covering them with the sheet. He scrambled to sit up with his back against the headboard. "Sorry, babe, but you really get me going."

Blue eyes, filled with shock, met his. He saw Hutch's quick appraisal, and realization that he'd won — for better or worse. The lean body was very still, then Hutch moved over to settle his head on Starsky's chest. It was a gesture of such trust that Starsky couldn't speak. His hand lightly stroked down Hutch's cheek until his fingers could outline that impossible mouth.

"Thanks," came the heartfelt whisper. "There's a lot to be talked about, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Although what we were doin' seemed more important." He smiled down at the up-turned face. "You know us hot-blooded types — we all got one-track minds. So, what do you want to talk about?"

"Us," came the immediate reply. "Why you all of a sudden decided we should, ah, do this." Hutch's big hand slid up Starsky's chest, one finger finding the strong collarbone. "Christ, never in my wildest dreams . . ." His voice trailed off, but his hand stayed where it was, the wrist gripped between Starsky's fingers.

"Feels good. Leave it there."

"Do you want to know about my background — being gay, I mean?" Hutch asked quietly.

"Only what you want to tell me, babe. It's not important unless you feel it is." Starsky knew his answer sounded indifferent, but deep inside he was scared to hear about past loves, past affairs. If he was already this jealous about that goddamn Harper, what was he going to do if he found out there were more? "Just tell me since we've been partners." Like a flash of lightning, Starsky knew for him life had begun on that day. God, how blind could a man be?

Hutch cleared his throat and settled himself so he lay back against Starsky's chest. "Rather be here than anywhere else," he began, and was rewarded with a quick kiss on the top of his head. "Since we've been partners? Jesus, that covers a lot of ground, doesn't it? Well, first of all I never bar-hopped . . . no pick-ups for me. Too many undercover cops working the gay bars to begin with, and I'm not into heavy action — never have been."

"You love Harper?" asked Starsky bluntly.

"Love? What he wanted was a business merger with perks. Us living together would have saved time and energy insofar as travel went." Hutch smiled as he remembered. "No, I didn't love him, Starsk, but I did like him a lot. He was a good lover, and stayed away from discos and drugs . . . two qualities I appreciate."

"I like discos," stated Starsky rather defensively, hating to hear the word lover used about some jerko who'd hurt Hutch so badly. "You just can't dance to that stuff."

"Really? I'm a hell of a lot better dancer than you think I am," said Hutch proudly. "I make like a klutz because I want to . . .  keeps the crotch-grabbers at a distance. Anyway, he's not important now — we are. I didn't fall in love with you right away, did you know that?"

Starsky kept silent, not wanting to miss a word of this confession; instead, he let his hand steal around Hutch's waist, enjoying the warm and satiny skin.

"I liked you, of course, felt you were the best cop — or had the potential to be — I'd ever met. It's your honesty, I guess, 'cause you don't really try to fool yourself." There was a long pause. "I'm always lying to myself . . . tried to convince myself I loved you like a brother. That was true for a long time."

"Mmmm. When did ya fall for me?" Starsky tried to tease, but heard the catch in his voice. He was on the verge of making an important discovery about himself.

"You want the day, the hour, or the minute?" murmured his companion. "Because I can give them to you." His hand crept down, coming to rest on Starsky's thigh. "Remember when I was in the hospital with that damn plague, and you wrote your name on the glass? Well, I read it and felt good, but still had just a platonic, uh, love for you. But the next time I woke up somebody'd erased your name, and I felt as though you'd left me. Not willingly, of course — but like you were the one who'd died." Hutch shook his head, his voice husky. "I almost gave up fighting after that. I knew I loved you more than anything or anyone, and that it was totally hopeless. You are what you are in this life, and my loving you can't change that."

For a second longer, Hutch stroked the muscular thigh, then pulled his hand away. He faced Starsky, smiling ruefully. "But I didn't die, did I? I'm a hell of a lot tougher than you give me credit for, pal. And if I live through tonight, well, I'll be ready for my Superman cape!"

"Wanna hear my side of this?" asked Starsky. He tightened his grip around Hutch's waist. "I've always loved you — maybe like a brother, maybe more — I'm beginning to wonder. But when we were on that hillside, and I thought Penneman had wasted you, I-I was never so lost in my life. Funny thing, until that day I was always jealous of your friendships, not the girls — but the other guys . . ."

"Except for Gillian," Hutch interrupted, placing his hands over Starsky's.

Starsky rubbed his cheek against the blond head, quiet for a moment. "Would you have married her?" he asked curtly.

"I don't know, Starsk. I loved her, but I think she'd guessed that we were real tight, you know? Once, she asked me how much you loved me."

Starsky remained silent, fighting back the guilt he still felt whenever he thought about the murdered woman. Try as he would, he knew his actions in trying to buy her off had been totally unprofessional, and Gillian had known it. He'd driven her to do a stupid and desperate thing, and she'd paid with her life. "She wasn't right for you, babe. Maybe right for somebody else, but not you." That knowledge didn't help.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right, but for a while, I thought maybe . . ."

"No! I love you, damnit! Nobody else for either of us. No lookin' back, understand!" Starsky loosened his hold on Hutch, reaching to cup the beautiful face between his palms. "I didn't mean for us to lie here and torture ourselves about what happened before. This is us, Hutch, and we've got to make some decisions now. Nothin' that happened then makes a damn bit of difference."

"We are our past," said Hutch, a trifle coolly, "and I have to remember that. Have to remember the women you loved and how you struggled to get over them."

"They're dead. We're here and very much alive," Starsky said evenly. How alive he was, was being brought home to him by the trip-hammer pulse in his groin. He kept his hold on Hutch while he got to his knees, bracing his feet against the headboard. "I love you. Maybe I did just find out about it, but I do love you!" He slowly drew the bigger man to him, placing a tentative kiss on Hutch's mouth. When he felt his partner's arms encircle him, he deepened the kiss, seeking both forgiveness and commitment. More than ever it was being hammered home that he and Hutch belonged together — really together. He sucked eagerly on the soft inner portion of Hutch's lip, then ran his tongue over the hard teeth, pushing up against their barrier. "Let me in, damn you," he growled, holding Hutch's face even more tightly, caressing the fall of silky hair with his thumbs.

Hutch gasped, pulling away suddenly. "Be sure you know what you're doing," he said hoarsely, "because I'm getting to the point of no return." He ran his tongue along his lip, dropping his gaze to Starsky's hardening cock. "Keep waving that in front of me and I'm likely to take a bite out of it!" His eyes glittered.

"Yeah? I could say the same thing, couldn't I?" challenged his partner, actually reaching for Hutch's already-engorged sex. "And don't sputter on about I'm no cocksucker, babe, because . . . because . . ." He faltered. "Well, I've done it once or twice. What're you grinning for?" he demanded indignantly.

"I believe you. Let me guess when . . . drunk, fooling around. In the Army and drunk and fooling around, right?" A blond eyebrow arched, the fair head wagged slowly back and forth, and the light died in the blue eyes. "Dreams, Starsk, just wonderful dreams. Even if you do love me that much . . . I can't expect " Hutch started to rise from the bed, his back to his silent partner.

"You're not leaving me, Hutch. We're gonna make love, and then you'n me are going to work out whatever comes along. You got that?" Starsky made no effort to touch his partner, merely knelt on the bed, sex thrusting against his belly. He saw Hutch turn, eye his cock, then swallow. "Yeah, you wanna make love to me so damn bad it's killin' you. And I want to know what it's like to hold you and love you. Don't make me beg," he said humbly.

In a flash Hutch was back beside him, pulling Starsky into his arms, kissing his hair, eyes, throat, whatever was close. "Jesus! I'm the one who should be begging, don't you understand? I'm the one who's been trying to forget what you must be like to love." With desperate hands he smoothed back the short hair. "I want you to take me and love me until I die. Want you to fuck me so hard . . . so long . . . that " He choked back a sob, then bent to nuzzle Starsky's chest.

"Jesus!" Starsky hissed, pulling Hutch down on top of him. "You're gonna make me pop off if you don't shut up! Whatever you want, darlin', that's what I want, too. Now, will you stop lying to your heart and to me?" For a second or two the dark head bent to press kiss after kiss on Hutch's seeking mouth. Heated flesh, gripped in strong hands, became the center of desire for each of them.

Starsky's tongue delicately and deftly bathed a nipple while his hands smoothed and kneaded Hutch's ass. "Wanna love you, babe," Starsky sighed, relinquishing the nipple so Hutch could reach down to kiss the tender flesh just inside his knee, fingers working up toward his heavy sex, his aching balls. He felt a fire flaring inside, racing along his nerves, finally gathering at the base of his cock. The wet wash of lips fed the fire, and he cried out, pulling Hutch across his scorching body. "No more! I'm gonna explode. I need to cool down for a couple of secs . . ."

He heard low laughter, and knew he'd never felt this kind of high just before fucking. Hutch stopped his assault for a moment, but Starsky knew if he didn't make a move soon the blond would. "Ah, babe, you know what you do to me? Look at me. I'm damn near drunk just holding you this way." He watched the light eyes darken with hunger and smiled, murmuring in Hutch's ear, "Yeah, sweetheart, gonna take us to the moon. Gonna get so far inside you I'll come in your mouth."

The golden body shivered and Hutch quietly settled back. "Prove it, beautiful man," he commanded. "Make love to me. God knows I never thought this would happen." He wrapped his fingers around his swelling cock, and slid the other hand up Starsky's arm. "Fill me up with love, David."

Never allowing his glance to stray, Starsky nodded, easing Hutch into position. He wasn't ignorant of the act; he and several of his dates had experimented with it. Wasn't afraid of hurting his lover; if Hutch said to stop then he would. What amazed him the most was the fact that this seemed to be the most natural thing in the world . . . him making love with Hutch. He'd calmed down enough that when he ran his hands along the satiny backside he didn't tremble, although he felt Hutch grow tense. "Easy, babe, just let me know what you want."

He heard Hutch inhale and automatically paused, leaving his hands pressed against the powerful inner thighs.

"I want you to know that Harper and I — well, we never did this."

"No? Jesus, why not?" But even as he framed the question, Starsky felt a rush of joy and triumph at the confession. He really didn't give a damn why they hadn't screwed each other through the floor, all he cared about was that Harper hadn't invaded Hutch's body like he was about to do. Hutch hadn't loved the man! He closed his eyes for a moment, fighting his emotions. Taking one fast look around, he was amazed to see how bright the light was here, while the rest of the room appeared to be in deep shadows. That was the bottom line, wasn't it? There was nothing so bright beyond these walls, nothing out there to lure him away from Hutch's side. "Gimme the stuff," he said in a stranger's voice, holding out his hand.

There was a sigh, then Hutch struggled to reach the drawer in the bedside table. "Nothing like being prepared, huh?" He yanked it open, rummaging around inside until he pulled out a mashed, very much-used tube. "Starsk! What am I going to do with you?" His grin was both devilish and endearing.

Grabbing the tube, feeling the blood mount in his cheeks, Starsky growled, "Never mind what you're gonna do, just pay attention to what I'm gonna do first!" He made short work of his own preparations.

In reply, Hutch lay back and slowly opened his thighs. Very deliberately, he lifted his buttocks while Starsky slid his hands beneath to pull him closer. The heat radiating from the smooth skin was incredible. Hutch's bright hair spread on the blue pillowcase, each strand glimmering in the lamp's glow. His skin was the color of new honey, and Starsky ran his tongue over lips that were suddenly dry while he stared at the waiting body. He heard Hutch say softly, "I love you, even if this is all we ever have."

"Mmmm. Don't close the book on us before we even get started. It gives me an inferiority complex." With careful fingers he caressed the delicate skin.

"Inferior? Starsk, you're the sexiest man I've ever seen. Don't have any doubts about how good the loving's going to be!"

"Just tell me when to stop . . . okay? Lemme know what turns you on. Might as well get it right the first time." What if he wasn't able to satisfy Hutch? What if Harper had been more romantic? He stared down at his cock, suddenly afraid . . . what was love all about, anyway?

He raised his eyes and met a lazy-lidded gaze that restored all his ebbing confidence. Hutch — loving him enough to let him do this. His partner lay ready and waiting, sharing a glance so full of trust and desire that his own need flared deep in his belly. "Sorry, was just sort of . . ." He had to look away.

"I know," Hutch said quietly, smiling that wonderful smile. "But just remember this — if you stop now, I'll kill you!" He ran his hand along Starsky's hip, then closed his eyes.

Funny how a room could become a place without walls, Starsky thought. A somewhere place where the colors were all red and gold and it was cold, then hot, and Hutch's legs were wrapping around him. He felt their strength and weight, knew their pull . . . and he wanted no escape, no chance to turn back. He began rubbing his cock down toward the tiny, exposed opening, felt the first, slight giving of muscle and knew wonder. Delight, hunger, and overwhelming lust swept all his doubts away, threatening to overload his sensory system. Blood pounded at his temples, raced through his body at a frightening rate, all of it ending up in his mighty cock. He groaned aloud, sweat sheening his face and body. With one hand he guided his shaft against Hutch, pressing harder, sucking in his breath when he was suddenly admitted entrance. "Jesus! You're hot!" he hissed, just before his tongue glued itself to the roof of his mouth and he became speechless. All sensations were here, centered in this place, and in this person who now lay very, very still. Fighting for control Starsky slowly thrust deeper; Hutch was hotter, tighter, softer . . . and stronger than he'd imagined.

With a grunt he pushed harder, seeking even more heat, but when he heard a low moan he paused, pulling back, remembering suddenly Hutch had said Harper hadn't fucked him. Was he hurting him?

Unable to speak, he ran his hands in soothing circles over the flat belly, then slid them under the smooth cheeks, spreading them further apart until Hutch relaxed. He pushed again, this time penetrating almost his entire length into that incredibly hot channel, hearing yet another moan — this time one of pure pleasure.

"That's it. Tell me it's good," he crooned, filled with a fierce elation when muscles began squeezing, urging him on. He let instinct guide him, allowing himself the sheer thrill of trying to make this the best fucking he'd ever done.

Beneath him Hutch whispered his name, then gasped. "God! You're all cock!" he cried, eyes hot with delight — and apprehension. He lay back, obviously trying to relax his arching body. "Starsk.. I don't know how much more . . ." He bit his lip.

"Shh, it's okay, babe, you'll see." Starsky paused, hefting Hutch's thighs so he could have more freedom of movement, then, slowly and very deliberately he began thrusting again. For a moment he listened to the sounds of their lovemaking, feeling the slap of his balls against lush, moist flesh. He wanted to crawl inside Hutch, take all the heat and love . . . giving back his own.

But instead he pulled back, leaving only his cock-head buried, waiting until Hutch opened his eyes to stare at him, then very slowly pushed as far into Hutch's body as he could, smiling when he heard a soft sigh of satisfaction. He repeated the action, now in total control and sure of his power. "Gonna fly, lover . . . hold on!" His pumping became harder, deeper, and his blood sang in his veins, lending him an unholy sense of being God, of taking this beloved man and doing what he would with him. "Yeah, you like this, don't you? Like me this deep?" He rammed himself up to the hilt, allowing Hutch to close around him, shutting his eyes to savor the heat and musky male odors of their lovemaking, opening them only when he sensed Hutch was moving, wanting to watch him pleasure himself.

Hutch began stroking his own cock, wrapping long fingers around the pink/gold shaft, rubbing the engorged head, slowly pumping himself while his other hand cupped around his balls; twisted in the dark gold curls. He fingered Starsky's cock as it slid in and out, moaning his pleasure, then thrust upward, legs tightening around Starsky's hips, pulling him closer, giving him more leverage. "Love you . . . want more . . . more . . ." he whispered, lashes glistening with tears. "Don't stop, lover . . . please . . ."

That one endearment brought Starsky up short, sending little shock waves through him. As he began thrusting again, he knew the truth. They were making love, real, forever love, not just sharing the best fucking around. He entered the hot ass with a new sense of joy, eager now to bring them to climax, to share everything, to shatter them into little pieces so they could re-form as one person. Sweat ran off his upper lip, his nose, as he fucked; there was too much heat, too much pressure. He strove to find that one spot he had to reach, had to rub against again and again . . . even if he could hear Hutch calling out his name like some sort of prayer. Starsky thrust wildly into that sweet, secret place, pounding against flesh-covered bone, taking pride in the fact that Hutch's body rose so willingly to meet his, obeying his fierce commands, the beautiful face a study in ecstasy. They were both ruled by his cock; it was master and slave, blindly seeking what Hutch held inside . . . that last hiding place where he would find release. There was nothing in all the world but their sighs, their muffled curses, their desperate need for an end to the sweet pain, the throbbing, pulsing hunger.

"God, yes!" Hutch shuddered, his hands clamping down on his cock. His body arched against Starsky's, melted there, only to fall back onto the bed, semen spattering over Starsky's chest and groin.

Starsky's eyes widened when he felt those first spasms. He glanced down, watching the creamy fluid mix with his sweat. The musky odor was overpowering, and as he felt the rectal muscles tighten, squeezing him relentlessly, he cried out, "No! Not yet!" he thrust harder, finding at last that place he sought, unable to resist the seductive, endless milking. He came, jolted into shuddering release, sending his seed deep into Hutch, melting down into honeyed warmth, somehow finding the strength to spill himself into that trembling body.

Dimly he heard Hutch murmur his name, but he couldn't respond. Finally, when Hutch's hands came to rest on his shoulders in a tender caress, he raised his head. "Gonna fuckin' turn inside out," he panted, feeling ridiculous for complaining about the greatest loving of his whole life. He leaned his pelvis hard against Hutch's, not wanting to end the sensation, yet feeling his resolve ebbing as his limbs betrayed him. "So good . . . so sweet . . ." he said shakily, reaching up to twine his fingers in Hutch's. "How come we couldn't figure this out before?"

"Be quiet. Dead men can't talk," came the gentle reproof. "Starsk, are you for real?"

Despite his exhaustion, Starsky grinned foolishly at Hutch's sappy remark. His partner sounded worn out, sated, and happier than he'd ever heard. Suddenly, he wanted to be held in those strong arms, be told how wonderful their loving had been, to be kissed . . . 

"Sorry, Hutch, but I gotta lie down." He withdrew from the hot flesh, eyeing his shrunken sex sadly, thankful at least it was still attached.

Hutch pulled Starsky down across his chest, dropping kisses into damp curls. "World class, lover, I'll be standing for a month . . . and gladly." He laughed, hugging the silent form. "Are you always that inspired — or was this something special for you, too?" 

It took a great deal of effort for Starsky to raise his head, but he wanted to look into those clear eyes. "Never in my whole life has it been that good," he said emphatically, trying to wrap Hutch's arms around him. "Never knew it could be so . . ."

"Beautiful?" finished the blond, rubbing the still-quivering body. "I didn't either, thought people just made it all up." He drew Starsky to him, covering his mouth with a long and tender kiss. "Thanks . . . for everything." His voice was a mere whisper, but the gentle tone conveyed love, and something else.

Starsky struggled in the embrace, searching Hutch's features for a long moment. "I've got this crazy feelin' you're goin' to tell me that was it . . . that we can't do it again. That so?" He thought his heart would burst with pain at such an idea. Sighing; he decided not to get angry — yet. "Ain't no way you're gonna convince me we have to pretend it didn't happen!" He slumped against the damp, satiny chest. "Staked my claim, partner, set my brand on you, too." His eyes closed as a laughing Hutch pulled him into a warm embrace, lips nuzzled at his nape, pressed against his shoulder, nipped at his ears, whispered wonderful words of love, and fear.

"Ah, darlin', don't worry. Everything's gonna be okay. You'll see." If he had to do it himself, he would. Just him and Hutch, nobody else sharing what they'd just shared. "Go to sleep," he ordered, "clean up later on." He smiled, drowsily wondering if Hutch would be up to being fucked again when they woke up. It was nice to think about . . . damn nice.


Starsky woke up with the sun probing insistently at his eyelids. He stirred lazily, groaning when an elbow jabbed him in a tender spot. "God, get off me, will ya," he muttered, wondering when he and Hutch had switched positions. One blue eye glared at him, then shut against the light. By pushing and coaxing, he managed to move his partner onto the bed, then lay back with a groan, hoping his usually wide-awake friend would remain still. Vain hope.

Hutch yawned, stretched his full length, then sat up on the edge of the bed. "Starsk, wake up. Time for those showers."

Starsky merely glared at him. "Shut up. Go back to sleep."

"Can't," Hutch said cheerily, scratching at his thigh. "Christ! Looks like a war zone." He made a brief attempt to pull the covers even, dropping them when Starsky snarled at him. Patting the top of the dark head, he hurried into the bathroom.

Starsky heard the door close quietly, and grinned. There were a few things he'd have to make sure Hutch understood, like how much he despised happy faces before coffee. He lay back, listening to the shower, picturing Hutch as he scrubbed himself all clean. The sound of running water almost drowned out the shrill clamor of the phone.

"Bug off," he growled, then groped blindly for the receiver, praying it wasn't Dobey. "Yeah?" he finally managed to say.


The voice was low, unaccented, and reserved. It woke Starsky immediately and he sat up, trying to place it. "Who's calling?"

"Is Ken Hutchinson there? I'd like to speak to him." If anything the voice was even more reserved.

Starsky glanced down at his sweaty, bruised body and grinned. "This Harper?" he asked softly. He looked over at the bathroom door, not certain what to say if he was wrong. Even less certain what he'd do if his guess was correct.

"May I ask who's speaking?" came the cool rejoinder.

"Detective Sergeant David Starsky, Metro Division LAPD. That answer enough?" he asked abruptly.

"Ah, then you're the officer who was shot. I trust you are out of danger now?" Very polite, very disinterested. "Is Ken there?" An impatient note had crept into the tone.

"Yes. But he's in the shower. Want to leave your name and number?" Starsky dropped his voice down to a confidential level. "See, Hutch came over to see how I was doing, and well, one thing led to another . . . you know how it is." Smoke that pipe, asshole, he thought angrily.

"I'm certain if Ken knew I was calling he'd want to speak to me," came the calm retort. "We need to talk."

"What for? You didn't want him when you found out he was a cop. I saw his lip " He felt very lost talking to this man.

"Who's on the phone?" came a soft inquiry. Hutch, a towel wrapped around his waist, was standing at the foot of the bed, eyes wide.

Starsky took a deep breath, trying to regain his equilibrium before telling Hutch who the caller was. "Didn't hear ya, babe." His glance raked possessively over his partner, and he reached out with his free hand to bring Hutch closer. "Some guy's asking for you. Won't give his name, but I think it's . . ." He made a face.

The light blue eyes sparked with resentment, and Hutch took the receiver firmly, plunking himself down on the bed. "Hutchinson here." He listened for a moment, then ran his hand through his wet hair. "Yeah, that's what I thought. How'd you get my partner's number?" His tone was chilling — and official.

That hadn't even occurred to Starsky and he stared open-mouthed at the blond. "Hell, it's not listed. That sonuvabitch!"

Shaking his head, Hutch put his hand on Starsky's arm, squeezing it lovingly. "Listen, Harper, you didn't make a mistake, so don't  " He stopped, mouth a thin line, eyes narrowed as he listened. "Not a chance, pal. Not the Red Gull or anyplace else." There was only the slightest trace of regret in the quiet voice. "Maybe. In a few years, you'll find another lover  "

Starsky leaned over suddenly, pulling the receiver out of Hutch's hand, and kissing him before he could protest. Grinning, he handed the phone back.

Regaining his composure, Hutch smiled, cupping his palm around the receiver. "Let's just say I'm not going to be looking any longer. I found what I wanted all along."

Forgetting his manners, Starsky made a grab for the phone but Hutch wrestled it away, shaking his head. "Tell him to peddle his papers somewhere else, Hutch! I don't want him callin' here again!" He wanted to tell the bastard what he and Hutch had done last night, tell him what it had been like — and that now Hutch was his. He saw Hutch mouth goodbye, then hang up, a slight smile on his face.

"Guess he heard you," he said ruefully, then tossed the receiver onto the bed, drawing Starsky into his arms. "He knew, partner, but he hates to lose, that's all."

Starsky allowed himself to be thoroughly kissed, shivering when the warm mouth sucked first at his throat, then at his nipple. Hutch smelled of soap and shampoo, yet here he was licking all sorts of stuff off his body. It must be love.

Hutch broke away, staring solemnly at Starsky. "It's going to all change, you know. You can't be so protective when I'm back in my closet." he frowned, running his fingers over Starsky's chest, playing with the matted hair. "Can you live with that, lover? My making it in the straight world? I know it'll be a lie, but there isn't much choice, not while we're cops." Hutch's mouth trembled. "Last night was so damned wonderful, but "

"No buts! No never again, either! Hutch, don't you understand? I meant it when I said you 'n me." Starsky chewed at his lip, love and frustration warring in his heart. Standing before him, towel almost off, eyes huge and bewildered, Hutch was suddenly so vulnerable, so obviously afraid to take the chance of loving him back. "You know I love you, don't you?" Starsky said quietly, reaching to stroke the cool skin. "If I had any doubts, last night took `em all away." He rubbed his whiskery chin across Hutch's freshly-shaven one, chuckling when his ticklish lover wriggled. "Now, I'm going to get cleaned up and then we'll police this mess." He indicated the soiled bed linens, grinning from ear to ear. "And, after a big breakfast, we'll do it again . . . right?" His hands closed firmly around Hutch's wrists, pulling his arms down to encircle his waist. "This time we can neck . . . didn't really get the full benefit last night."

"Jesus, what am I getting into?" Hutch murmured, hugging Starsky. "So much to learn about you. Do my best to make it work." There was a note of tension in his voice.

Starsky pushed him away, saying firmly, "Your best is better than anyone else's, pal. Just don't get scared and shut me out." He moved back into the comforting arms for another hug.

"My God, why would I want to do that now?" Hutch whispered.

He was backlit by the morning sun, hair almost luminous in its light, and it made Starsky shake his head. "Dunno, babe, but just lookin' at you scares me. I never thought about wanting you like this before  " He stepped back, away from Hutch, his voice deepening. "I'm the jealous type, Hutch, don't want to share, especially now. But you're the type everybody wants — don't deny it." He stood, proud, uncertain, head bent a bit. "Maybe you can tell me why you fell in love with me — make me believe you won't tell me to get lost after a while . . ." He smiled suddenly, seeing the denial on Hutch's lips. "Is there room in that goddamn closet for two? That's the only way I'm going to make it — have to keep an eye on you day and night."

Hutch stared at him, then nodded. "Just one question, Starsk, before I agree. You've already answered the question about my sleeping around, but how do you feel about Pasadena?" The blue eyes were full of anticipation.

"Pasadena?" Starsky looked doubtful, not knowing what to say. "Never gave it much thought." He brightened. "Except I really like some of those old places they have  " He was grabbed and hugged within an inch of his life by a crazy man. Who kissed him, then shoved him toward the bathroom.

"I accept! There's room in the closet for two." Hutch pointed his finger. "But not the Torino! The Striped Tomato stays at the curb. I'm not marrying it."

Starsky turned to stare at him, then, deliberately flaunting his rear end, said, "Marriage, huh? Well, if we ever get to take a honeymoon, we go in my car! Oh, and you better put a new tube of stuff on the shopping list." Making a face, he ducked into the bathroom, laughing at Hutch's indignant glare. Closing the door, he turned to stare at the man in the mirror. His reflection wore an idiotic grin, was bruised and sweaty, yet there was something changed about it. He stared into the blue eyes. Yes, he'd been blind, all right, but so had Hutch. It was going to be tough, but they'd make it work because they wanted to make it work. Hutch loved him and that love was the best rock they could build on.

Nodding at his image, Starsky began humming as he turned on the water. How did the saying go? Today was the first day of the rest of his life? A cliché, but true. It was nice to think about sharing all those days with Hutch. He wondered why he'd asked about Pasadena. Well, maybe someday things would change and he and Hutch would be able to make those dreams come true. He began whistling The Wedding March.