Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Sin and Prejudice



Hutch exited the men's room, and started down the hall. He noticed a trio of fellow cops, including his partner, standing around the bulletin board where Belinda Davenport of Human Resources had just pinned up a new notice. As she briskly walked away, the group of cops closed in to read the new notice.

"What's up?" Hutch asked as he came up behind his partner.

"Contest," Starsky said, his eyes on the announcement.

Hutch leaned over Starsky, trying to see between the shoulders of the two other cops in his way. One of them grunted. "Yeah, like anyone in this department can write worth a damn. Just look at how much our superiors complain about how badly we write reports."

His partner chuckled and even more people began to gather around the bulletin board. "Yeah, but look at that first place prize. A four-day weekend in the Bahamas, all expenses paid." He released a whistle. "Sorry, Brinkman, but if I win the contest, I'm taking someone blonde and curvy. So, forget me taking you."

The first partner grumbled good naturedly. "Fine, I'll remember that. You'll watch my ass, but you won't take me to the Bahamas with you." He sighed forlornly. "So much for unconditional love."

Other cops laughed.

Hutch was trying to read the notice. Creative Writing Contest was the bold heading. But he was distracted by murmurs from the back of the gathering group.

"Yeah," someone was saying in a sad voice, "they had to amputate his leg, so he's taking it pretty hard. Can you imagine? Someone so young and strong and athletic as that. And now he's going to have to live with an artificial leg the rest of his life."

Hutch turned toward the voice. Patrolman Gunderson was the one who had spoken, and he looked up from where he'd been speaking with his partner and met Hutch's eye.

Hutch didn't know what to say.

Gunderson eased the moment. "My nephew," he explained to Hutch. "He was in a bad mountain climbing accident, and he lost his leg."

Hutch felt a profound sadness come over him that he didn't understand. "Sorry," he muttered, wishing he had something more to say than that.

Gunderson's shoulder was squeezed by his partner, and then the two moved away.

"Panel of judges?" Starsky was asking of no one in particular. "I wonder who makes up the panel."

"It says panel of a dozen volunteer judges," someone else pointed out, then mock-complained, "Well, shit, no one asked me to volunteer." Others laughed.

Hutch was trying to focus back on the board when Starsky turned to him. "Did you see this, Hutch? Human Resources is staging a writing contest. First place is a four-day weekend in the Bahamas."

Hutch stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Yeah. So?"

"Whaddya mean, so? It would be great to win a prize like that. Maybe you and I can write a story together."

Hutch sighed inwardly. "Neither of us has a talent for writing, stupid."

"Party pooper." Starsky turned back to the notice.

"The deadline is two months from now," someone said. "It's worth a shot for a prize like that."

Hutch stepped away to the mailboxes. He grabbed the papers in his and Starsky's slot and turned toward the squadroom. His partner caught up to him just as he moved inside the double doors to face the excessive load of work at their table. He tossed to the table the usual irrelevant notices that had been in their box. Remaining in his hand was a plain envelope with the words "Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson" written on the outside.

"What's that?" Starsky asked.

"I haven't opened it yet," Hutch said with irritation as his fingers ripped along the sealed flap.

"Okay," his partner grumbled back.

Sorry, Hutch thought, but didn't say so. In his mind's eye, he imagined Gunderson's young, energetic nephew with only one leg.

He took the sheet of paper from the envelope and unfolded it. "Dear Sgt. Hutchinson" was handwritten, but the rest of it was a form letter. As he read, he felt his blood pressure rising. Today was not a very good day all the way around. But at least, there was good news in the letter: Starsky couldn't badger him about writing a story together.

"Well...?" Starsky asked hesitantly.

Hutch grunted triumphantly and tossed the paper at him. "If you want to enter the contest, you're on your own. I'm disqualified from participating."

Puzzled, Starsky picked up the paper. "Dear Sgt. Hutchinson," he read out loud, "As chairperson of the Committee for Off-Duty Activities, I have selected you as a `volunteer' to be one of a dozen judges for the LAPD's first annual Creative Writing Contest. Your presence is required at a meeting of all the judges on Thursday, February 12th, at 2:00 PM in the Human Resources Conference Room. Congratulations on receiving this honor. Yours truly, Belinda Davenport, Director of Human Resources. P.S. `Unvolunteering' yourself is not allowed." Starsky laughed as he tossed the paper back at Hutch.

"That's a crock," Hutch noted, sitting down. "I don't know anything about how to judge a story contest. This Belinda person has to be out of her mind."

"Sounds like a clever lady to me," Starsky said, also sitting. "She probably figured no one would volunteer, so she selected the panel herself."

"Based upon what?" Hutch demanded. "The whole contest is a scam if the judges don't know crap themselves about how to write."

Starsky shrugged. "Well, all I got to say is that I'm glad one of the judges is someone I share hearth and home with." He winked. "Because I'm gonna enter the contest, and it'll be good to have at least one of the judges on my side."

Hutch blinked, watching as Starsky opened a file from the stack sitting on the table. He wondered why the image of Gunderson's one-legged nephew haunted his mind.

* * *

Hutch was one of a dozen unhappy policemen and policewomen sitting around the conference table when Belinda Davenport strode in, her arms filled with file folders. "Good afternoon, everyone," she greeted with a cheerfulness that grated on Hutch's nerves. She put the folders down and stood at the head of the table. "I'm glad to see how excited you all are to have been honored by the selection committee. Of course," she relented without skipping a beat, "that selection committee had only one member, and that was me." She grabbed the folders and started moving around the table, placing one before each officer. "I'm sure you're all wondering how you managed to be honored with being volunteered for the panel of judges. I assure you that I've done my research. Some of you have written for your school papers, some of you even have published work in other publications. Some of you write excellent reports in your day-to-day work. In short," she again stood at the head of the table, having passed out the folders, "I am convinced that you all, at the very least, know how to string two sentences together. That qualifies you to be a judge in our little contest."

The officer to Hutch's left looked at him and rolled his eyes. Hutch rolled his eyes back.

Belinda continued, "Morale has been very low in the LAPD due to all the publicity from the police brutality suit that was filed last month. Therefore," she raised her voice in such a way that it was impossible to ignore her, and Hutch had to admire her public speaking skills, "the LAPD is putting on this creative writing contest to give our good people something else to focus on. So, let's put on a cheerful face and be glad for our part in helping to put together this contest. Without judges, a contest can't happen."

A policewoman from R&I raised her hand timidly. "Ms. Davenport?"


"I have to be disqualified from the judge's panel. My husband works down in the cafeteria and he always likes to enter contests. There's no way I can be impartial. If I voted for anyone else's story, it would mean divorce."

"Same with my two brothers," another officer said. "They're both cops in this precinct. I know at least one will try to enter the contest."

"Not to worry," Belinda said. "It would be impossible to put together a panel of judges who weren't close to some of the entrants. But there's no reason why every one of you can't be impartial, no matter who your friends and relatives in the LAPD are. That's because the copies of the stories you're given won't have bylines. You won't know whose they are, unless the writer shows you a copy of the story ahead of time. But more importantly, no one will ever know who voted for what stories. So," she concluded cheerfully, "just smile and tell your friends and relatives that you voted for their story. They'll never know the difference."

There were a few nervous laughs around the table. Hutch wondered if he'd ever be able to keep from Starsky the fact that he wouldn't hesitate to vote for anyone else whose stories were better than any pathetic writing attempt of his partner's.

"Now," Belinda said, "open your folders. You'll see that there's a list of criteria that make up a short story - plot, characterization, originality, consistent point of view, etc. I've included some descriptions from literary sources on what you should look for under each category. There are also worksheets for you to jot down notes on each story and what percentage of the standard they meet for each category. The worksheets are only for you; you don't need to turn those in. All we're looking for from you is a first through sixth place ranking, after you've read all the stories. I'll apply a point system for how many points a story gets for its placing with each judge. From that, the total number of points will determine who gets first place, second place, etc. There will be first through third place awards, plus three honorable mentions. The winners will be published in the July through December issues of The LAPD Review. " She looked up. "Any questions?"

There was a long silence, then someone asked, "How long do we have to read the stories?"

"One month. The deadline for entries is April 30th. Each of you will get a copy of all the entries at that time. Your rankings of first through sixth place are due on May 31st. The winners will then be announced at the LAPD's annual barbecue in June."

"I read slow," someone announced defiantly near the front of the table. Everyone laughed.

"Well, then," Melinda was still smiling cheerfully, "you'll just have to spend more time at it than everyone else."

"Can I be unvolunteered?" another asked.

"No," Belinda replied.

There was more laughter, and some grumbles.

More gently, she added, "The announcement has only been out a few days, and I hear the contest being discussed in the halls all the time. People are excited about the contest. I think it'll be good for morale. So, let's all do our part. Any other questions?"

Everyone was silent.

"Good. We'll meet again shortly after the deadline, and I'll distribute copies of all the entries to each of you. Have a good day."

The hapless dozen stood and pushed in their chairs, most muttering under their breaths.

Hutch found himself hoping that Starsky truly wasn't going to enter. He was certain that a judge and a contestant living under one roof could only make for an unhappy home.

* * *

His face looked so forlorn, his clothing ragged and torn. He was hopping around on one leg in the Minnesota snow, new flakes falling all around him. He looked so lost. He was about ten years of age, and his whole life should be ahead of him. Instead, there would be only hardship in his future.

There's nothing I can do now to help him, Hutch realized.

When he awoke to darkness, Starsky gently snoring beside him, he wondered why his heart felt so heavy and sad for a one-legged stranger.

* * *

Girlfriend turned her brindle head from the living room window to look worriedly at Hutch, who was sitting on the sofa.

"I don't know when he's going to be home," he told her gently. Dusk had fallen and Starsky still wasn't back from work. As they often did, they'd driven separate cars. Hutch was reading the newspaper while rubbing and petting The General, his pointer who lay beside him. Girlfriend was Starsky's dog, a small mutt, and she now turned her head back to watch out the window. Trying to keep his attention on the newspaper, Hutch decided it was safe to elaborate to the dogs. "Maybe Uncle Starsky has decided to not come home. Maybe he's really mad at Master Hutch for dumping oatmeal on his head."

Hutch restrained a sigh as his eyes continued to scan the paper. He didn't know why he'd done that at breakfast. He and Starsky had been eating oatmeal. Hutch had gotten up to put his dish, with its few reminding bites, in the sink. At that moment, Starsky had said something irritating - Hutch couldn't even remember what - and, on impulse, he'd dumped out the oatmeal onto Starsky's head. Starsky had leapt to his feet, called Hutch a "dick face", and marched into the bathroom to clean up. True to his usual forgiving nature, Starsky hadn't behaved as though he were still mad at Hutch throughout the day. But it was puzzling that he wasn't home yet.

"Sometimes," Hutch continued explaining to the dogs, "Master Hutch does really stupid things for no reason. Maybe Uncle Starsky has decided he's had enough." Hutch's chest tightened at the possibility that it might really be true. He petted The General and said to Girlfriend, "Just hard to believe that he'd leave his little princess behind."

She turned her head back to look at him.

"It's okay," he assured, "me and The General will still take care of you if Uncle Starsky decides never to come back home."

Girlfriend suddenly spun around and whimpered excitedly. She raced toward the door and spun around some more.

"Ah, he's home," Hutch said, hearing a car motor turn off. He'd better not want me to apologize. That was unlikely, at least. Starsky wasn't one to carry around anger. Hutch opened the newspaper wide and hid his face behind it.

The door opened and Hutch listened while his partner enthusiastically greeted, "Hey, there, Girlfriend. How's my little princess?"

She whimpered some more.

"All right, girl, you need to get back out of the way, so Uncle Starsky can bring this inside."

Hutch lowered his paper. He watched while Starsky awkwardly carried a huge box into the house. "What the hell is that?" It said Brother on the side.

"A brand new electric typewriter," Starsky replied breathlessly as he put it on the floor. "Complete with bells and whistles." He disappeared outside again, then brought in a typewriter stand.

"What's it for?" Hutch wondered.

Starsky closed the door behind him and grinned. "For writing my story for the contest." He began tearing the box open.

With disbelief, Hutch demanded, "You bought an expensive typewriter just for that?"

"Yes, I got it just for that," Starsky emphasized, not looking at him. He carefully pulled the foam protection pieces away and then lifted the typewriter out of the box.

It was the biggest and most sophisticated typewriter Hutch had ever seen in his life. He remembered now why he had dumped oatmeal on Starsky's head. Starsky had made some comment about how Hutch would love his story after he wrote it. Hutch had resented the inference that he was supposed to automatically judge it to be the outstanding entry in the contest, just because his partner wrote it.

"You can't type worth a damn," Hutch pointed out, hiding behind the newspaper again.

"Yeah, but I'll get better while I'm using this machine. It even has automatic correction. It can remember up to five pages. I can even do bold and line up the right margin, and stuff like that. It'll even count the words in a document. Because, you know, they won't allow anything longer than five thousand words for the contest."

Hutch mentally shook his head. He couldn't imagine Starsky sticking to this writing stuff long enough to write fifty words, let alone five thousand. "Sounds like a computer," Hutch said suspiciously. How much had the damn thing cost, anyway?

Starsky picked up the stand. "Well, the sales guy was tryin' to talk me into a computer, because he said typewriters are gonna be obsolete in just a year or two. But I didn't want to spend that much money. Just wanna write my story." He carried it down the hall.

Hutch tried to become interested in the newspaper while listening to Starsky carrying the new furniture into the second bedroom, which was primarily a storage room. Later, there was a grunt as Starsky lifted the huge typewriter.

Hutch listened with smug satisfaction for the next hour as sounds of swearing and muttering came from the second bedroom, along with noises of things being moved around and the pages of a manual being roughly turned. He was tempted to offer sincere help when, finally, there was the noise of the first success of keys hitting paper. Hutch settled back and turned on the television. It would be only a short time now before Starsky lost his enthusiasm for the whole project, and Hutch would be spared the expectation of voting for his partner merely because he was his partner.

* * *

Three evenings later, Hutch pointed the remote at the television and turned up the volume. That damn typewriter of Starsky's was loud. Worse, Starsky had indeed gotten faster at typing, making the clatter of keys all the more irritating. Hutch was surprised that Starsky had kept at his story the past few days. Even more surprising, his partner hadn't shown any of it to him. He'd been certain that, after typing the first two sentences, Starsky would have called him in and demanded praise for his enormous effort.

Hutch reached beside him and patted The General, needing the comforting feel of his pet's unconditional love. He knew he would have the dream about the one-legged child again tonight. But he didn't understand why.

* * *

"There," Hutch told The General as he unplugged the cord to the vacuum cleaner and gathered it up. "All done. Now I can enjoy my Sunday with my good boy." The General wagged his rear end excitedly and Hutch petted his head. "Just let me put this up and we can go play in the backyard with your new toys. Maybe Girlfriend will play, too." She was lying at the end of the hall, chin resting on her paws. Though she had been watching the vacuuming activity, Hutch knew her main "activity" was waiting for her master to come home, as Starsky was out doing errands.

Hutch put the vacuum cleaner in the hall closet. "Let's see what new toys we've got," he whispered enticingly. He walked into the second bedroom, where he'd tossed the sack of new dog toys after his last visit to the pet store. He opened the sack and pulled out a package with a squeaky hot dog inside. As he tore the plastic package open, The General whimpering in anticipation, he noticed the typewriter stand with pages scattered around it. Hutch squeezed the newly freed toy, making it squeak, then tossed it into the hall. "Go get it!"

The General obeyed.

Unable to squelch his curiosity, Hutch went over to the typewriter and picked up some of the pages. They looked neat and clean, proving that Starsky had, indeed, learned to use the machine well. Hutch squinted his eyes when he noticed the names "Blondie" and "Curly" on the pages. He scanned the sentences, amazed that they were complete and, for the most part, correctly punctuated. Then he stopped noticing the peripherals and found himself enraptured. It took a while to figure out, but he finally realized that the story was being told from the point of view of Starsky's old Ford Torino, which thought of its occupants as "Blondie" and "Curly". The Torino commented upon the antics of the humans - both humorous and serious - as they went about their day-to-day lives.

Hutch's chest swelled with the realization that his partner was writing a wonderful story, and telling it in a shockingly poignant manner. He swallowed with difficulty, silently admitting how rotten it had been of him to not encourage this bold endeavor of Starsky's. Reverently, his fingers touched other pages lying near, and he finally came upon the first page. The title read, "The Little Red Car That Could".

There was a squeaky noise and The General nudged his knee. Hutch looked down and took the toy from him. "Go get it!" he said, throwing it across the hall into the main bedroom. The General bounded out of the room, Girlfriend trotting behind with minimal interest.

Hutch carefully laid the pages back as he felt a tremendous burden fall from his shoulders. He could vote for Starsky's story, his conscience completely clear.

* * *

The dreams of the one-legged child went away.

* * *

"I would say that our contest idea was a success," Belinda told the skeptical dozen sitting around the conference table, where a tall stack of papers rested before each seat. "We had a total of thirty-two entries. You all have a copy of each story before you. Remember, you have one month to read them. You need to turn in your choices for places one through six by the 31st. So, give it your best shot. These thirty-two authors worked hard on their submissions; I hope you all give them the attention they deserve. Any questions?"

The room was silent.

"Okay, that's it. Remember, as official judges, I must ask that you not share the stories with anyone."

Someone said, "I don't think there's that much secrecy. I've already heard people talking in the halls about what they're writing. Fred Porter was showing his story to everybody and trying to get them to tell him whether it was any good or not."

Belinda said, "Let's keep as much integrity as we can in the process. I know that some of you can't help the fact that you already know about some of the stories, and who wrote them. But I have absolute faith that none of you will be biased when it comes to filling out your final ballots."

Again, the room was still.

"That's it, then. Happy reading."

Hutch picked up the stack of papers, surprised at how heavy it was. He wondered where Starsky's story was in all this paper. In any case, it would wind up on top. He found himself feeling more positive about being a judge than ever.

* * *


Hutch shifted on the sofa, trying to lean over the arm of the couch - and away from his partner. He was on page three of a story where none of the words had yet registered with his brain.

But Starsky was right at his shoulder, despite The General resting his head on Hutch's hip. "Well?" Starsky asked again. "Is that one any good?"

"How do I know?" Hutch asked with irritation. "I can't concentrate with you hovering. Besides, these are all supposed to be confidential. So... go play with your typewriter or something."

He listened to a pitiful sigh, which was followed by, "You've been reading these damn stories for the past two weeks. I may as well not exist."

Hutch looked up at him. "It's not my fault that Belinda whatshername had the stupid idea of having me be one of the judges." He, too, sighed, and felt his irritation easing. Poor Starsky; he really had been ignoring him lately. More gently, he said, "Why don't you type a letter to your mother, huh? It's been a while since you've written to her, right?" He turned farther and smiled into those rich, pathetic blue eyes, and softened even more. "She'll really enjoy hearing from you, especially if you use a lot of bold and italics. She'll be impressed that you have such a fancy machine."

Starsky perked up. "Maybe I can even use the `justify' feature. She'll really be amazed if the right side of the page is all lined up."

Hutch patted his knee. "I'll just read this one story and that'll be all for tonight."

Starsky was on his feet. "How many more nights is this gonna take?"

Hutch shrugged. "One or two. " Then, feeling self-righteous, "I'm trying to do the right thing, you know. I really want to be sure which stories deserve to be selected."

Enthusiastically, Starsky said, "But mine's the best one, right?"

Hutch chuckled and scolded, "All the other writers have to wait until the picnic. So do you."

"Urrgh," Starsky growled, then said to the small dog who was beside the sofa, "Come on, Girlfriend, let's go type a letter to Ma."

She followed him out of the room.

Hutch went back to the first page and started reading more carefully.

* * *

Hutch stared at the envelope as he stood next to the drinking fountain, a few yards from Belinda's office. The envelope was sealed. On the front was written "Ballot for Story Contest" in blue ink. Since there were only twelve envelopes needed, Human Resources hadn't bothered having them formally printed. Probably Belinda herself wrote them out.

Belinda. How could one well-meaning person create such havoc with his life?

Hutch shuffled toward her office. He swallowed thickly, and scolded himself for letting his throat get so tight. This whole process was so ridiculous. A contest was supposed to be fun. Some of the thirty-two stories had been genuinely interesting and enjoyable to read, but most were rather ordinary, and some were downright pathetic. His partner's had definitely fallen into the first category.

Hutch turned into her office, and was relieved to see that she wasn't at her desk. No chance of small talk. He stepped to the makeshift cardboard box on the bookcase that had a paper taped to it that said, "Story Contest Ballots".

Hutch's wrist rotated a moment as it hovered over the slot at the top. Then he dropped it.


He walked away, knowing the dreams would return. But still not understanding why.

* * *

"All right, everyone," Belinda Davenport said from the microphone at the makeshift podium, "gather around." All the off-duty cops began to take their seats in the folding chairs scattered around the podium at the north end of the park. The annual LAPD barbecue was always a popular event with all the cops and other departmental employees. "I know you've all been waiting on pins and needles to see who the winners are of our very popular creative writing contest. Then, after that, we'll start the flag football and badminton games."

She waited while everyone had a chance to get settled. "All right, here's the skinny. We had thirty-two entries, and I think we all - the Human Resources staff and judges alike - were amazed at the quality. Some of you guys and gals are in the wrong profession."

There were chuckles from the audience.

As Starsky sat beside Hutch, he hoped that she'd hurry up and get on with it. As much as he'd badgered Hutch, his big blond kept insisting that he didn't know anything in terms of how the other judges were voting. Since his partner seemed so sensitive about the whole subject, Starsky had reluctantly made an effort to quit bothering him and was resolved to wait for the results.

Belinda continued, "All the judges told me how difficult it was to choose among the stories. Remember, all you who submitted an entry are `winners'. We're sorry that the LAPD's budget is such that we can't give all of you a prize." She paused while there were a few more chuckles over the reference to the department's endless financial woes, especially with its likely having to pay in a lawsuit filed by the suspect who was brutalized earlier in the year. "But you should all be very proud," Belinda concluded.

Starsky shifted again, wondering how Hutch could sit so still.

"In fact," Belinda continued, "separating the two top finishers was particularly difficult. In the spirit of true bureaucrats, my colleagues and I had a meeting to see if it were possible to give away two first prizes, the placings were that close. Unfortunately, it just wasn't possible and we decided we had to stick with the original rules, and that was to treat the combined scores of the judges as final, which means declaring a first and second place finisher, even though there only four points - out of a possible one hundred and twenty - separating the first and second place stories."

Starsky's stomach tightened. He had hoped his story could win with flying colors.

"Okay," Belinda continued, "enough of the background; let's get to it." She glanced at her notes. "Our first place winner - which gets the prize of a trip for two to the Bahamas - is an extremely poignant and stirring piece of work called `The Powerless', by Lt. George Munsell."

Starsky felt as if he'd been kicked in the solar plexus. There were whoops and cheers next to Lt. Munsell.

Why had he ever thought his own story was any good? he wondered as Munsell made his way to the podium. Everybody, except Hutch, probably thought his story - with a car for the narrator - was incredibly stupid and childlike. He'd been foolish to think he could actually write something that was good. And Hutch probably looked foolish in front of Belinda, and whoever else was privy to such things, for having chosen it for first place.

"Speech!" some called as Munsell accepted a certificate from Belinda. "Uh," Munsell said into the microphone, clearly uncomfortable with being in front of a large crowd. "Uh, I'm just really, really happy that the judges thought my story was good. It was inspired by something that happened to my uncle, who was a cop in Cincinnati for twenty years." Munsell looked toward the sky. "I know you're watching me, Uncle Joe. This is for you." He waved the certificate at the sky.

Gee, sounds heavy, Starsky thought. He realized that "heavy" was what he should have striven for to win the contest.

Belinda was back in front of the microphone. "Congratulations, Lt. Munsell. Okay," she glanced at her notes, "now to the second place story, which I remind you was only four points behind the winner. The prize - a three hundred dollar gift certificate to Miller's Sporting Goods - goes to a delightful piece of work. In fact - sorry there's no prize for this specifically - many of our judges made a point of mentioning how amazed they were at the sheer originality of the story. Second place in our contest goes to....," she paused and chuckled, "well, the title is a little borrowed, but... `The Little Red Car that Could', written by Sgt. Dave Starsky."

Starsky jumped up, disbelieving after the disappointment of losing first place. "WOO!"

Hutch slapped him on the back. "Good going, partner!"

The clapping from others sounded loud as Starsky trotted up the rows of chairs, then stepped up to the podium.

"Congratulations," Belinda smiled at him, handing him the gift certificate, along with an official second place parchment.

"Speech!" some chanted.

Starsky turned to the microphone. "Uh, well, I guess... well... there's probably not much chance of George taking me to the Bahamas with him since I was only four points behind...."

"NO WAY!" Munsell shouted and the crowd laughed.

"Figured as much," Starsky mock-pouted. "I guess I need to figure out which judge I forgot to bribe for those extra four points...." He listened to more laughter. "But, seriously, some of you who have been with the Department for a long time might remember the souped-up Ford Torino I used to drive. I'm not ashamed to say that I really loved that car. To me, it seemed to have a personality all its own." He was shocked when he felt his throat closing with emotion, and knew he'd better cut the speech short. "Well, you'll understand what I mean when the story is published and you can all read it." He waved the papers he'd been given. "Thanks!"

As he started back to his seat, he heard Belinda say, "Congratulations, Lt. Starsky. Now, let's move along to our third place winner...."

Hutch had left his seat and was standing against a tree behind the rows of chairs, as though stretching or seeking shade. "Pretty cool, huh?" Starsky said as he came up to him.

"Yeah, partner, you oughta be proud."

"I am. Just wish I coulda had those other four points, and we coulda been heading for the Bahamas next month."

Hutch shrugged. "Four would have caused a tie. It would have taken five to win."

Starsky did a quick calculation. "Meaning moving my story from second to first for any one judge, since ten points were given for each judge's first place, and five points for the second placing."

"It's not necessarily that simple," Hutch said. "Your story could have been fourth, fifth, or sixth, on some judges' lists, and moving it up one place - say from sixth to fifth - would have only given it one more point."

"Yeah," Starsky relented. Then he grinned. "Too bad I don't sleep with some of the other judges."

Hutch's eyes flared. "Stop that!" he hissed with gritted teeth.

Starsky blanched. He quickly glanced at the row of chairs closest, but everyone was clapping and cheering for the third place finisher's humorous speech and not taking note of them.

"Don't cut yourself down like that!" Hutch spat. "You wrote a damn good story. You don't need to bribe someone or sleep with someone. The story stood on its own merit."

Wondering why Hutch was reacting so strongly, Starsky hesitantly admitted, "Just wish that merit would have gotten it first place instead of second." For that matter, he just now realized that Hutch had seemed to have more mood swings than normal ever since this whole story contest thing had begun.

"It would have been first in any other contest," Hutch pointed out. "It's just that Munsell's story was brilliant."

Starsky digested that and found that it didn't go down very well. His eyes narrowed. "You telling me that you thought Munsell's story was brilliant?" A feeling of disbelief was starting to twist his stomach.

"Yes, it was brilliant," Hutch said, the earlier anger in his voice replaced by a hint of desperation.

Starsky gazed into his partner's eyes, seeing the... fear?... there. "So, tell me," he demanded in a whisper, wondering why Hutch now seemed so meek when he'd been outraged a moment before. He wanted to fight with a wolf, not a lamb. "Just whose story did you vote for, for first place?" He had his answer the moment Hutch flicked his gaze away.

"Hey, congratulations, Starsky."

They both looked up to see Lt. Gibson - not their favorite person - idling by. Gibson sneered, "I'm sure your partner being one of the judges had nothing to do with your placing so highly." He walked on.

Starsky would have told Gibson to shove his head up his ass, but he was much more interested in his partner's unwilling confession at the moment. He turned back to Hutch, annoyed again with the sheepish demeanor. "You voted for me to be second, didn't you?"

"Hey, Starsky and Hutch."

They both looked up at the voice from their left. The crowd had broken up, now that the awards were over. A group of officers in cutoffs were struggling with a badminton net. "You two going to just stare at the scenery, or are you going to give us a hand here?"

Starsky released a heavy sigh as he and Hutch moved to assist.

* * *

Hutch felt a tremendous weight, even as he threw his jacket aside and unsnapped his shoulder harness. "Hi there, boy," he wearily greeted The General. The barbecue was over, and any moment Starsky would arrive home, since they'd driven in separate cars. No doubt, Starsky had every intention of continuing the discussion that had been interrupted earlier in the afternoon.

Girlfriend went berserk near the door as Starsky drove up.

"Jesus Christ," Hutch muttered, not up to a confrontation. After numerous badminton games, a quarter of flag football, and too many beers to count, he was dead tired. He went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He was peeling off his clothes when he heard the front door slam. Thankfully, there were noises of Starsky greeting Girlfriend. Hutch took his opportunity and ducked into the shower while still removing his briefs. He wished he'd closed the bathroom door, but it was too late now.

He showered while listening to Starsky come down the hall and then go into their bedroom. The shower spray felt good and Hutch wanted to stay under it forever. At least, Starsky wasn't coming in the shower stall to continue the argument which he'd tried to start what now seemed like a million years ago.

Spoiled prick, Hutch thought, grateful to feel his anger return. Who the hell is he to tell me I shouldn't have done the right thing and instead have been biased?

But he felt apologetic for the harsh thoughts a moment later. He wrote a damn good story. An incredible story. If only Munsell's hadn't been even more incredible....

Then he wouldn't have had this dilemma. And the dreams about the crippled child in the snow wouldn't have returned.

* * *

Starsky was clothed and sitting on the bed with the light off, head bowed, when Hutch came out of the bathroom, still toweling himself off. Starsky looked worn out, too, and was very still.

"Just answer me one question," Starsky said in a sad, weary voice. "Just answer yes or no. Did you vote for Munsell's story for first place, and mine for second?"

Hutch sighed inwardly as he moved to the dresser to pull out a pair of fresh briefs. He supposed it was a fair question. As a judge for the contest, he had no obligation to answer. As Starsky's life partner, he was doomed to swallow his own medicine. "Yes."


Hutch wanted to blame this all on Belinda Davenport. Her little game of volunteering people was a horrible thing to play. She'd fucked up his nice, neat, perfect life by picking out people to judge her stupid, fucking contest.

Yet, Hutch grudgingly had to admit as he pulled back the covers on his side of the bed, if it hadn't been for the contest, Starsky would never have written such a beautiful piece of work.

He got in bed and closed his eyes, wishing desperately for sleep, even if it meant having the dream again.

"You happy now?" Only the slightest hint of anger colored Starsky's voice.

Please, don't start this. But Hutch knew this argument had to happen and they might as well get it over with. He didn't open his eyes. "What do you mean?" He barely managed to sound indignant.

"You proved how you were so hell-bent on sticking to your principles - doing the `right' thing - that you became biased in the opposite direction."

Hutch felt his heart twist. The absolute calm in Starsky's voice told of his intense hurt. "That's nonsense," he snorted, feeling a similar hurt poison his own soul. He wanted to lash out at Starsky, rail at him. How dare Starsky put the person he supposedly loved in this impossible position....

Hutch felt Starsky shift to face him. He kept his own eyes closed.

"There's no way in hell you ever would have voted for me for first place, is there? It wouldn't have mattered what I wrote." Raw hurt now. "No matter what, you were going to prove that assholes like Gibson couldn't be right, and that our partnership wasn't going to influence your vote." Then solid anger. "Since when are you afraid of assholes, Hutch?"

"No," Hutch whispered, wishing he could somehow find the words to express the darkness inside himself. He forced his eyes open. He was too tired and too sorry for Starsky's hurt to feel anger of his own. "It wasn't like that, partner." The other only glared at him. "Once I'd read your story, I was planning on placing it first. But then I read Munsell's and....," he swallowed thickly, hating the salt he was going to rub into the wound, "it was better."

"Fine, Hutch." Starsky began to undress, pulling sharply at his clothing. "It really doesn't even fucking bother me that Munsell's was better. It just bothers the shit out of me that you were so hell-bent onnot voting for me." He slammed his clothing to the floor.

Hutch closed his eyes and rolled away as the bed rocked harshly with Starsky getting beneath the covers. Please let me fall asleep....

* * *

Gary Peterson was out in the snow. It was a big storm and he hobbled in one direction, found himself at a drift too high to breach, so turned in another direction. And found another drift too high for a kid with only one leg.

Hutch continued to watch as little Gary appeared so lost and kept turning around in a circle, looking more and more panicked, as the drifts built up around him. His clothing was old and worn. He was freezing to death. All because he had only one leg.

There was nothing Hutch could do about that now.

* * *

The anguish swelled, and Hutch woke with a start. It had only been a dream. Again. But now he knew the boy's name. Oh, Gary. Poor Gary. How could I have forgotten? I'm so sorry. The memory was unbearable and had been deeply buried long ago.

Beside him, Starsky lay stiffly.

Hutch glanced at the bedside clock. He'd been sleeping maybe an hour. Sleeping and dreaming while Starsky lay awake, angry and hurt.

Tell him you're sorry, a part of Hutch insisted, so we can make up and be okay again.

Being sorry hadn't helped little Gary Peterson.

A weight seemed to settle in the pit of Hutch's stomach. He struggled into a sitting position at the edge of the bed, his back to Starsky.

I'm not sorry I did the right thing, he realized. Only sorry that he can't understand.... Hutch drew a deep, deep breath... then slowly released it. That he can't understand how very, very important it was for me to do the right thing.

Tell him, a voice insisted. And then Starsky would understand and everything would be better.

But his thoughts were so jumbled. His memory was bombarded with an intensity of feelings that no small boy should have to bear.

He knew Starsky was staring at him. He had to get away, sort out his thoughts, find some way to tolerate the unwanted memories. He stood.

"Don't leave." Soft, pleading.

Hutch took a step toward the doorway. "I need to breathe," he said simply, hoping Starsky wouldn't take it as rejection.

"I'm not mad anymore."

Oh, Starsky. His partner's capacity for forgiveness was one of the most amazing things about him. I just want to leave the room, and all of a sudden he's not mad anymore. He felt his eyes water at how simply Starsky perceived things.

Hutch swallowed.

"Please don't leave," Starsky said again. Sound of the mattress being patted. "Come back to bed. `M not mad anymore. In fact, I admit I've been a spoiled prick. Okay?"

Hutch wanted to turn around. Put his arms around Starsky and hug and kiss him and make love to him, so there would be no more poison. So this whole mess could be put behind them. But pleasure would only lead to a temporary salvation. "I have to tell you something," he admitted in a choked voice. But he still wished he could take some time to sort out his own feelings first.

"Sounds heavy," Starsky noted. More patting of the mattress. "Come on. Okay? I'll listen. Promise. No interruptions."

Hutch wanted to say In a while, but he couldn't deny the plea in that voice. Had never been able to deny it.

Avoiding the dark eyes that were watching him, Hutch slipped back between the covers. He willingly reached for the arms that reached for him, but couldn't let himself relax completely. He and Starsky lay close together, holding each other by the forearms. He knew Starsky had meant it about not interrupting when things remained silent. He also knew, with tender amusement, that such a resolve wouldn't last long.

He said, "Did you hear about Gunderson's nephew a few months ago?"

"Lost his leg?" Starsky asked. "Some sort of climbing accident?"

"Yes. When I heard about it - that day the writing contest was announced - it seemed to trigger something. I started having dreams. They were about a little one-legged boy, lost in the snow in Minnesota." He wasn't sure how to continue.

"That's why you been moody so much lately?" Starsky wondered. "Havin' bad dreams?"

"They came and went. I had them when I was feeling unsure - annoyed with you expecting me to automatically place your story first. After I'd read some of your story - saw it on the desk - they went away, because I knew I could vote for you in good conscience. But then when I read Munsell's, they came back. I didn't understand why. Then, tonight - just now - I had it again. And it wasn't just any one-legged ten-year-old boy lost in the snow. It was somebody I once knew."

Starsky drew a breath of apprehension.

Hutch waited, still feeling the depth of anguish he'd kept buried for so long. It seemed like such a landslide. He wanted Starsky's sympathy, compassion - forgiveness - but he couldn't get that until he told of what he had done. "When I was a kid, every year our school would have the students sell candy to raise money. Chocolate bars. They'd give us all chocolate bars to sell around the neighborhood."

"My school did that, too," Starsky put in, his tone telling Hutch he didn't need to explain about the process.

"Yeah, well, I never sold much. Wasn't my thing. I'd walk up and down our block and maybe the next one over, but that was it. It was never important to me to sell a lot." He drew a heavy breath and released it, feeling Starsky's hands tighten supportively on his forearms. "When I was in the fifth grade, my great aunt from Maine was staying with us. Her husband had died, and she was having all sorts of health problems. Seems like she was in and out of the hospital all the time, so she was staying with us for a few months. She mainly just sat in the rocking chair, watching TV. But she took an interest in me. Doted on me in a way that I liked." Hutch felt a flush of affection long past. "She was always asking me what had gone on at school and that sort of thing. I enjoyed getting attention from her.

"Anyway, that spring, the school was selling candy again, and to encourage the kids to sell more, they offered a beautiful 10-speed bicycle as a prize for selling the most candy bars. The bike was cool, but I didn't give much thought to ever owning it, because I wasn't interested in working that hard to sell candy. But when my aunt asked me what had gone on at school, I told her about the bike. She told me to bring her five chocolate bars and she'd give me the money. I thought that was nice of her." Hutch snorted as a sense of betrayal set in. "I thought she really wanted the candy."

A finger massaged his am, Starsky having obviously picked up on the unpleasantness of the memory.

Hutch waited until he could breathe again. Then he said, "There was a boy at school, Gary Peterson. He was from the poorer end of town, but he pretty much got along with everyone. Most of us felt sorry for him because, unlike us rich kids, his parents made him earn anything he got. And he wanted that bicycle. More than anything. It wasn't the kind of thing he would have ever been able to get on his own. So, he was bound and determined to sell the most candy. Most of the kids I hung out with knew it was a foregone conclusion that Gary would win the bike. It became an everyday thing, asking him, `How many did you sell?' He was up to some incredible number, like eighty or something, that the rest of us couldn't even imagine. He was even going out to other neighborhoods. Selling candy was what he did with all his time after school and on weekends.

"Anyway, my aunt started asking me regularly `How many did Gary sell?' I-I-I," now the feelings of betrayal were aimed at himself, "would tell her. If Gary had sold five bars the day before, she'd tell me to bring her six and give me the money. I started realizing she didn't want the candy at all, she was just trying to help me out. Trying to help me win the bike, even though I'd never made a point of saying it was important to me to have it." Hutch drew a deep breath, the dichotomy of his feelings toward his aunt so poignant. He closed his eyes so he could continue. "I finally started realizing what she was up to. There was no way Gary was going to win that bike. A-a-and I felt so... confused. So utterly, utterly confused. And scared. Alone. Because when the other kids were asking Gary how many he'd sold, and oohing and aahing over it, I didn't dare say anything, because I knew I hadn't really sold anything. I hadn't earned any of the money my aunt was giving me for the school. And I didn't want the other kids to know what was going on."

Starsky's finger stroked gently along his thumb.

Hutch waited a long moment before he felt he could speak again. "Those final days that the sale was going on, I wanted so much to lie to my aunt when she asked me how many Gary sold. But I couldn't. I couldn't tell a bald-faced lie like that. I just couldn't. And I was so... confused. At that age, I wasn't able to put it into words. I was a little kid. But now I realize that what made the situation so unbearable was that my aunt was an adult. And she was doing the wrong thing. How can a kid know what's right more than an adult? I kept thinking - wanting so much to believe - that it was okay that my aunt was buying all the candy. But I knew it was wrong. And I just didn't understand why she couldn't see how wrong it was. Besides, adults always know what's best for children, right?"

The mattress shifted, and Hutch was grateful when a comforting hand settled in his hair. He wanted so much to yield to its tender feel. To let himself rest against Starsky's strength. To be made love to. But he still had to face the final, horrifying chapter of this buried part of his life.

"The day when they announced the winner of the bike felt like doomsday." Hutch heard the quiet density of his own voice. "I dreaded that Friday afternoon more than anything. We were all gathered in the gym, and then the principal stood up and, after a big speech, he announced that the proud new owner of the bicycle was Kenneth Hutchinson." Hutch stopped. For nearly a minute.

After drawing a deep breath, he unsuccessfully attempted to swallow down the thickness in his throat. "Everyone was shocked. My friends looked at me like they didn't know me, as though I had somehow betrayed them because I hadn't let them in on what I'd been `doing'. Like, they thought I'd been pounding the pavement all those weeks. But, my God," Hutch felt the deep pain now, "Gary Peterson was just... devastated. Just looked like the wind had all blown out of his sails. He didn't say anything. Just turned away and walked out of the gym.

"I started to walk the bike home and my friends were wanting to ride it. I let them. It had started to snow - a heavy spring snow - but they were having fun. They seemed surprised that I didn't want to get on it first, but I could hardly even stand to touch that bicycle, so I was glad that they took turns taking it home.

"My aunt had gotten real sick again and went back to the hospital the day before. She went into a coma and died without me ever seeing her after I'd won the bike." Hutch felt the poisonous mixture of sadness and vindication even now. And guilt about feeling she'd gotten what she deserved.

"Anyway, I got that bike out on Saturday morning. I rode it for about two minutes on the snowy streets, and that was all. I hated it. Couldn't stand it. Wanted nothing to do with. So, I started walking it over to Gary Peterson's house. It was over a mile away, and I wouldn't ride that bike," he said, remembering the bitter determination so vividly. "I wasn't even sure what I was going to say to Gary. I guess I was just going to give it to him. For no reason. I hadn't even thought through what I was going to say. When I went up to the walk and knocked on the door, his mother answered. Her face was all red from crying. I asked if I could speak with Gary, and she said Gary had gotten hit by a car on his way home from school the day before, and he lost his leg." Hutch waited a long moment, then released a breath. He just now realized, "I never saw him after the ceremony in the auditorium. His family moved away as soon as he was well enough to travel."

Gentle fingertips massaged Hutch's hand. Starsky said, "You winning that bike had nothing to do with him getting hit by a car."

Of course, Starsky felt obligated to say that. Hutch felt a swelling of tender affection. Then he told the truth. "Yes, it did. The guy driving the pickup said Gary walked right into the street without even looking up. That wasn't like Gary. But he was so despondent after losing the bike..." Hutch swallowed thickly, feeling the anguish - so long hidden - overtake him now. In a small voice, he said, "I can't believe how I've blocked this out all these years. I didn't remember anything about it. Nothing at all. Even when I was having the dreams. Not until tonight when I realized who it was I was dreaming about."

"Thank God for the ability to block things out," Starsky said. "You were a little boy, Hutch. A good little boy. You couldn't help what your aunt was doing. You had no say about what adults did. You didn't deserve to carry around what happened to Gary the rest of your life."

Hutch had always found his partner's words to be so soothing. And so right. He reached over and brushed his thumb along a stubby cheek.

"So this time," Starsky continued, his voice still gentle, "you made sure you did the right thing."

Hutch shook his head sadly. "That still doesn't help Gary."

Starsky rolled closer, smelling of dirt and dried sweat, and clasped Hutch by the cheeks. His warm breath blew across Hutch's face as he whispered, "Gary had to find his own way. Things happen, Hutch. Shitty things. Regardless of what was going on in his mind, Gary was the one at fault, not you. And he's had to live with the consequences."

"Wonder whatever happened to him," Hutch said.

"Well, from how you've described him, I doubt he'd approve of you feeling bad about it all these years later. You were never responsible for his actions."

Hutch very much wanted to believe that. But someone had to be responsible. "I know my aunt only bought all the candy bars out of caring and concern for me. There was nothing the least bit mean-spirited about what she was trying to do for me. It's just..." Again, he felt the confusion of a ten-year-old boy.

"Just?" Starsky prompted in a whisper.

"Just..." Hutch felt his mouth twist, "that she should have known how wrong it was."

Starsky kissed him on the nose. "I know this isn't going to help, but the point of selling the candy was to raise money for the school. Even if you didn't really `sell' all that candy, you still, through your aunt, raised the most money for the school. So, even if, say, the school officials had known what was going on, they still would have had to give you the bike." He shrugged. "They just may not have been very happy about it."

"It was wrong," Hutch said simply, finally starting to feel a sense of having served his sentence. "It was just plain wrong, and my aunt should have known that and not helped me do the wrong thing."

"And I was trying to get you to do the wrong thing," Starsky said with apology in his voice. "I was wrong to have assumed that you were going to vote for me."

It was both a relief, and painful, to hear Starsky admit that.

Starsky shifted to one side on his elbow. "It's just - well, you know, I'm no Ernest Hemingway." His tone was now one of confession. "But when the contest was announced, I just got this idea to use the Torino, and... Man, I really loved that car."

Hutch felt his heart swell. He squeezed Starsky's hand. "I know you did."

"I thought I had this neat idea."

"You did have a neat idea," Hutch assured. "An incredible idea."

"Yeah, and... I just wanted to write it so bad. Not just because of the Torino, but there's a part of me that wanted to tell about me and you, and our lives on the streets. I guess... maybe that's part of why I wanted to believe - to assume - that you would vote for me. So, I'd know that I'd done a good job. I guess I knew all along, deep down inside, that you'd do whatever you damn well pleased." Affectionate snort.

Hutch put his hand on Starsky's hair and rubbed with a brief motion. It felt so good. Making up would follow.... he wanted that very badly. Ever since they'd settled down and bought a house together, they'd gone through phases of intense lovemaking, and other phases of having minimal interest in sex. The past couple of months, the latter had definitely ruled. Now Hutch was eager for the pendulum to swing back.

"I'm glad you did the right thing, Hutch. I guess, if I'd known you'd voted for my story for first just because it was my story, then I always would have wondered if you truly thought it was any good or not."

"It was a beautiful story," Hutch said. "Maybe there's some more of those in you."

"Naw," Starsky quickly shook his head. "That's the only one I wanted to tell."

Hutch was glad to stay away from the topic of Gary Peterson. He even genuinely felt some of the scolding disbelief that colored his voice when he next spoke. "You mean you bought that big, expensive typewriter and now you'll never use it again?"

Starsky shrugged. "We can use it at the station."

"Somebody in some other department will probably steal it. It'll stick out like a sore thumb, it's such a huge thing."

Starsky edged close again. "Speaking of huge things sticking out...." He threw the covers aside.

Hutch felt blood pool at his groin. He watched as Starsky pushed his underwear down his hips, releasing turgid flesh. He reached for it.

Starsky pushed his hand away and rolled on top of Hutch, his face soft and tender. "Gonna love you, sweetheart."

Hutch put his arms around him and squeezed tight, so grateful that Starsky always seemed to know exactly what he wanted.

Starsky inhaled deeply with his head turned toward his armpit, then grunted. "'Cept I stink really bad."

Hutch squeezed tighter. "Doesn't matter." When his grip relaxed, he started pushing the underwear farther down Starsky's hips. He loved how Starsky wriggled to assist, his firm flesh making frequent contact with Hutch's own cotton-clad member. He inhaled deeply of Starsky's raw, masculine scent. His hips pushed upward.

Starsky kicked his the clothing off and clasped Hutch's hands. He lowered his head and Hutch felt stubbly five o'clock shadow scrape against his flesh as Starsky's lips melted against his own. He thrust upward again and firm, leaking flesh teased his center.

Starsky pulled back and regarded him tenderly. "I love you so very, very, very much."

Hutch's chest swelled as he looked back into those worshipful eyes.

A gentle thump, thump, thump was heard beside the bed. Girlfriend's little tail wagging against the hardwood floor, Hutch realized. From the corner, The General shifted in his bed and whimpered softly. Being family members, both dogs tended to expect expressions of love to include them.

Starsky's eyes lit with amusement while still holding Hutch's within their gaze. Hutch grinned back. Eyes unmoving, Starsky said, "Go back to sleep, boys and girls. This special kind of love between Uncle Starsky and Master Hutch has nothing to do with you. Go to sleep."

They held their breaths, listening until the little thump gradually died down.

Starsky growled and pressed his lips against Hutch. Hutch melted as he eagerly returned the contact.

Then Starsky pulled away and kissed him on the neck. He slid down Hutch's body, deliberately rubbing himself against Hutch's groin. Hutch groaned, arching up so that Starsky could remove his underwear. A row of wet, deliberate kisses were planted down his belly. A long kiss at his pubic region as his stiffness teased along Starsky's jaw.

Hutch closed his eyes and a moment later the head of his penis was enclosed in wetness. "Ohhhhhh," he groaned, wanting it so much. He was gripped in firm hands, and that moist suction focused just on the head, eager tongue working the underside so perfectly....

Hutch spread his legs wider. "I want to come," he directed, so Starsky wouldn't stop. He reached down, eyes still closed, and pet the curly head, wanting so much to be made love to... despite the awful thing he'd done over twenty years ago.

He whimpered, telling Starsky how close his orgasm was. As he'd hoped, that beautiful mouth suddenly filled with saliva, one hand went to the base of his cock... and then the head of his erection was being swallowed, creating the most perfect sensation....

Hutch cried out as his balls tightened and his seed raced down his barrel and emptied into Starsky's throat - Starsky's perfectly moving throat, creating the most exquisite sensation Hutch had ever known. He cried out one last time, loud and deep, wanting Starsky to know he never got tired of being treated like that.

Starsky gently released his ultra-sensitized organ, then swallowed loudly. Hutch shuddered again when a kiss was placed over the tiny slit. "God," he gasped, feeling the waning ecstasy tantalize his nerves.

Starsky kissed each of his thighs.

Hutch closed his eyes, relishing the love that had bound them for so many years. He drew a deep breath, gathering strength, then rolled over onto his stomach. He raised himself onto his hands and knees, hoping Starsky would understand what he wanted, why he'd chosen this particular position.

Moisture tickled his left buttock, an eager tongue laving along his skin. His right buttock was taken in a firm grasp, then firmly massaged. Silence, save the sounds of pleasuring, and then the attention applied to each buttock was reversed.

Hutch rocked back, encouraging the hand to grip him harder, Starsky's mouth to take in more of his quivering flesh. Wet nips across his backside....

Hutch spread his legs more, and thumbs parted him. A moment later he felt dripping wetness at his anus. And then a darting tongue. Hutch drew in a hissing breath, and rocked back more, his thighs quivering. The tongue was washing him now, patient tenderness along his opening.

Any other time, he would have loved it. But not now. "Fuck me."

His thighs were gripped. Moist flesh pushed at him, and his well-trained body opened, trying to capture the slippery tongue. His backside was always eager to take in any part of Starsky. Sometimes he wondered if his asshole had as much a mind of its own as his cock.

He spread his legs even farther, making room for something larger.

"I know, Hutch." Gentle, whispered words.

Hutch exhaled, making a deliberate attempt to relax, even as his chest swelled. His Starsky would please him as quickly as possible. Impatience wasn't going to help.

Sound of wetness, the feel of a finger stroking him, gently massaging his entrance, spreading the saliva. He rocked back again, wanting it now, trying to impale himself.

The finger pushed, forcing him open. Continued deep inside him.

He rode it, gripping the slender digit, enjoying the stimulation of his nerves. Usually, the finger was lubricated with grease. This time, there was only saliva and he could feel the satisfying contours of the knuckles.

The finger rotated, stabbing at him, and Hutch drew in a hissing breath, wriggled his hips, wanting more.

A steadying hand was on his buttock. The digit pulled back. More fumbling at his entrance, and then the familiar feel of two fingers exploring inside him, stretching him. The titillation as much from knowing that a part of Starsky was inside his body, as the movements of the digits. Hutch exhaled a steadying breath, his body swallowing as much of Starsky's hand as it could.

Gentle pat on his buttock. "Hold still now."

Hutch obeyed, quivering with anticipation. He listened as Starsky made spitting noises. His scrotum tightened, knowing that this, too, was only going to happen with saliva. No ointment. It would make the penetration more difficult, but he'd feel every ridge and indentation of that generous cock. Feel its deliberate motion as it loved him.

Inside him, the fingers parted wide, poking into the walls of his rectum. In a familiar gesture, they remained parted as they pulled out, his sphincter muscle trying to retain them as they withdrew to freedom, his nerves noting the extra stretching.

Hutch's buttock was firmly squeezed. The harsh breath behind him gently cautioned again, "Hold real still, baby."

Powerful thighs took their place behind Hutch's legs. Instinctively, his own legs spread even wider, making more room. A flush spread along his backside as moist firmness, encased in baby-soft skin, butted against his center, emphasizing his vulnerability. Hutch took a deep, deep breath, then released it slowly. He waited.

His anal membranes parted as a demanding thickness pushed past them. "Ohh!" his voice trembled at the delicious conquering. It was always so perfect anyway, but he wanted it particularly badly right now. And Starsky knew it.

He made an effort to hold still, to not push back, to let Starsky enter him. It was big, this part of his love which was forcing its way within. Demanding part of Hutch for itself.

Hutch gasped as wiry hair pressed against his rear, the final inch having reached within. His anal walls were stretched satisfyingly wide.

Hands on his back. Rubbing firmly up his body. Warm, welcome heat. Now they branched out to his sides, then felt beneath to his chest, rubbing up and down - deep, loving strokes - at the smoothness there.

"Yes," he pleaded, amazed, even after all these years, that Starsky had known exactly what he'd wanted.

Pleasant, reassuring friction as the hands moved up and down his front. Over his belly. Over his nipples. Back and forth across his chest.

A stubbly cheek rested against his back.

"Oh," Hutch gasped, not able to articulate it any better than that.

"Love you," Starsky said. "I love you so very, very, very much."

Hutch's left nipple was squeezed.

He closed his eyes and tried to rock back, but realized he couldn't because he was already fully impaled on a loving spear.

"Nothing I love more," Starsky said thickly, "than being inside you." His hands were still moving. "Loving you. Showing you how much I love you."

Hutch's spine was kissed. His muscles flexed around the piercing thickness, wanting it to move, even though he also wanted it to last.

"Ah, Hutch," Starsky said appreciatively, having obviously felt the tiny movement. He withdrew just a little, then pushed back in.

The small motion teased Hutch's nerves. "Fuck me."

This time the back of his shoulder was kissed, leaving a heavy breath of air over the spot of moisture. The thickness moved, and Hutch encouraged once more, "Yes."

Both nipples were pinched this time, gently tugged between massaging fingers. His insides were gently massaged, too, by that undulating spear.

Starsky grunted with each stroke. His fingers pinched more, and Hutch groaned again, his body prepared for the relative harshness. "Love me," he demanded.

The flaring shaft pulled out more, and then pushed in with stronger thrusts. Demanding hands now grabbed at Hutch's pectorals, as his prostate tingled through his rectal wall. Starsky grabbed at Hutch's shoulder with one hand, took his partial erection in the other. He thrust more purposely, groaning now.

Hutch shivered at the deep sound. He gasped just as Starsky gripped his balls, loving the pleasure that shot through them - such a perfect contrast to the inner massage - even though he knew he couldn't come again. "Ah, buddy," he gasped.

"Ah, Hutch," Starsky grunted against his back. "Oh, God, Hutch. Oh, God." The motion intensified, lean flanks slapping against Hutch's ass, the noise and contact satisfying as flesh met flesh.

Hutch groaned.

"Hutch," Starsky gasped. "Hutch.... HUTCH!" He released Hutch's scrotal pouch and grabbed his thigh, the fingers of his other hand digging into his shoulder.

Hutch closed his eyes as Starsky's cry waned, and his muscles gradually relaxed, making him feel very happy.

"Ah, Hutch," Starsky groaned softly, kissing Hutch's spine. Both hands gripped Hutch's waist and he moved backwards, slipping out. They collapsed to the bed on their backs at the same time, Starsky panting loudly.

Hutch reached over and let his hand drop amidst the thick, sweaty curls. He stroked along them while Starsky reached to the nightstand for a hand towel. He lay back with legs spread and coaxed it along his shrunken flesh. "Man," he whispered appreciatively, cleaning himself. "Can't believe sometimes how good it still is. We must have done it a hundred times by now."

Hutch felt himself smile at the instinct to keep score. His eyes were still closed as he felt the bed shift, Starsky turning toward him. He heard the other say, "I love doing it with you so much. Loving you." A hand stroked his forehead.

"Mmm," Hutch said simply, appreciating the contact, and letting himself be pulled down into sleep.

He was startled awake a moment later when Starsky said pleadingly, "I want you to understand that your opinion means a lot to me. That's why it was so important that you vote for me. I mean, you know a lot more about this writing stuff than I do. I wanted.... I wanted... your approval. That's all."

Hutch lay a hand against a furred stomach, trying to leave it at that. Trying not to wake up and remember why they had made love so intensely.

Starsky had shifted even closer, smelling heavily of dirt and sweat. A hand was petting along Hutch's hair now and Starsky whispered, "Really, Hutch, that's the only reason I was making such a big deal out of it. Not to win for its own sake. But to know that you... approved."

"Of course I approved," Hutch said simply, trying not to think about how negative he'd been about the whole contest from the start. He hadn't offered a single word of encouragement to Starsky during all those weeks that his partner worked on telling his special tale. He hadn't because being put in the middle, between what was right and pleasing someone he loved, had been too unbearable.

He was a coward. "I'm sorry," he said simply, the words coming out more thickly than he'd intended. His eyes were still closed, and now he squeezed the lids tighter. Sorry for how I treated you. For what happened to Gary Peterson because of me.

Fingertips gently stroking down his face, along his eyelids.... "Sorry I didn't stop to think about the pressure I was putting you under."

Finally, Hutch opened his eyes. "You had no way of knowing," he said gently, enjoying the sincerity in his partner's dark orbs.. "I didn't even know."

There was a long silence as Hutch closed his eyes again. He listened to a heavy sigh, then Starsky asked, "Do I stink too much to sleep with?"

"Just go to sleep," Hutch suggested, trying to regain the peace of slumber for himself.

The mattress rocked, and Hutch took the opportunity to roll over to his other side. His last conscious recollection was of an arm being thrown protectively across his back.

* * *

Sarah Goodson from R&I was flipping through the The LAPD Review as she paused at Starsky and Hutch's desk. "This is such a cute story!" she gushed. "I've never read anything like it."

Starsky shrugged, grinning at his partner to share the moment, then said to her, "Well, I don't know if I'd use the word cute, but...," his grin broadened, "I'm glad you liked it." He'd received many similar compliments since the newest issue of the magazine had been published out a few days ago.

"Think you'll write for the contest again next year?" she asked.

"Uh...," he decided to be straightforward. "No, not really." He wasn't sure how to put his thoughts into words. "I guess you could say that was the only story I had in me."

"Too bad, because it's a great story. I think it should have gotten first place."

"Thanks, but Munsell's story was great, too." Starsky had read it when it was published in last month's issue, and he'd had to grudgingly admit that it was an outstanding bit of writing.

Sarah turned to Hutch, as though being polite and making an effort to notice him. "So, you going to be a judge again next year?"

Hutch quickly shook his head and snorted, "I'd better not be. It's not fair for anyone to be `volunteered' two years in a row. I'll go on strike if Belinda sends me another one of those letters next time."

Sarah and Starsky laughed. Then she groaned, "Back to the salt mines." She headed to the door.

Starsky watched her leave, appreciating her feminine form.

"Stop," Hutch scolded beneath his breath.

Starsky chuckled and turned his attention back to the file that was open in front of him. He studied it a few moments, then found his eyes wandering to his partner. Hutch's head was also bent over a file folder.

Their making up had taken place over quite a few weeks. Starsky was sorry for the bad memory his participation in the contest had dredged up, and sorrier still that such a young Hutch had had to go through such a terrible experience in the first place. But he believed that adversity made one stronger, and their recent adversity had done a lot for their sex life of late, as well as making them simply kinder toward one another in day-to-day life.

"Hey," Starsky said softly.

Hutch looked up, blue eyes curious.

Starsky grinned. "We on for tonight?'

Hutch looked away bashfully, a smile forming beneath the mustache. "We're on."

Starsky went back to his file, squirming in his chair to ease the ache forming between his legs.

"Maybe we can find an excuse to leave early," Hutch's quiet voice said across from him.

Starsky's grin widened.



This story originally appeared in the fanzine HEART AND SOUL 6, published by Charlotte Frost in 1999.

Early comments on this story are posted TBA.

Current feedback can be sent to regmoore@earthlink.net



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