SANCTUARY
by
Charlotte Frost

 

Part 1

            Harold Dobey rammed his foot against the door and the lock gave way, the door crashing open.

            Hutch lay on the dirty mattress, gagged and blindfolded, his hands behind his back and his feet tied to the headboard.

            Dobey rushed forward.  "Hutchinson," he called, going for the blindfold first.  "It's all right, son."

            Another law officer - a Ventura County deputy - was untying the rope around the blond man's feet.  Yet another deputy said, "I'll tell the ambulance to come on up."

            Dobey nodded as the blindfold slipped free of the filthy blond head.  He smelled heavy body odor, but focused only on the blue eyes which blinked up at him repeatedly.  "It's all right, son," he said again, pulling at the gag.  The deputy had freed Hutch's feet and now worked at his tied hands.  Outside, there were noises of the two men who had held Hutch being arrested by other county lawmen. 

            "Cap'n?"

            The big man's heart accelerated as he laid his hand on a shoulder clad in a dirty flannel shirt.  For the past two weeks he had feared he might never see Hutch again.  "Take it easy, Hutchinson."

            "St-st-st---"  Hutch began shakily.

            It hurt to hear the pain in the other's tone.  Dobey had never been happier to deliver good news.  "He's alive."

            "Wh-wh-at?"  Hutch's mouth was open and his eyes were bright with disbelief... hope.... 

            Dobey gentled his tone.  "They told you he was dead, didn't they?"

Hutch nodded slowly, his expression still one of shock.  His hands were untied and Dobey looked up at the deputy.  "Wait outside for the ambulance."

The deputy nodded and left.

"We know he's alive," Dobey continued gently.  Hutch was shifting on the mattress, trying to sit up, and Dobey helped him.  "We should have word on where he's being kept in a matter of hours."

Hutch closed his eyes.  After a long moment, he swallowed.  Then, slowly his eyes opened, and those bright orbs looked at his superior squarely.  "I-I tried not to believe them - didn't really believe them - but...."

The pain in those eyes was so great.  Softer still, Dobey said, "You can explain later."  He looked Hutch up and down.  The blond man was filthy, bruised, thin, and reeked of stale sweat, but Dobey couldn't detect any obvious injuries.  "Do you think you're hurt anywhere?"

Hutch shook his head. 

"The ambulance is here," one of the deputies called from outside the door.  There hadn't been a siren since this little stucco house was the only structure on the hillside.

Dobey placed his hand on Hutch's back.  "We'll get you taken care of."

"But," Hutch protested, "wh-what about Starsky?"  His voice was so dry that Dobey wanted to give him water, but he realized he should let the paramedics take care of the details for now.

            "As soon as we get the word where he's being held," Dobey assured, "we'll go get him."  He squeezed Hutch's thin shoulder.

            Thank God Huggy Bear's connections finally came through, Dobey thought.  For the past two weeks, he'd feared never seeing either detective again.

 *   *   *

            The case had started two weeks ago when Starsky and Hutch failed to arrive for work after a three-day weekend.  Dobey waited half a day, then called their homes.  No answer.  He wondered if they might be playing hooky - it wouldn't be the first time - but he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.  Nevertheless, he waited until the next day.  When they still didn't show, he went to visit Huggy. The Pits' proprietor had nothing to offer except concern.

            The Torino was at Starsky's apartment, but Hutch's LTD was nowhere to be found.   Relatives were contacted but they couldn't shed any light on the bizarre disappearances.   Dobey put out ABPs and notified Missing Persons.  Six days went by and the trail was still cold.  The Department advertised a reward of $20,000 for any information leading to the whereabouts of either detective.

            Huggy contacted everyone he knew.  On the eighth day of the disappearances, a friend of a friend of a friend knew yet another acquaintance who had mentioned being paid a lot of money to kidnap a cop.  The person providing the information hadn't known the motivation for the kidnapping or who was behind it.  He'd only known that the kidnapper drove an old blue Ford pickup and hung out in the hills near Ventura.

            A description of the pickup was put in newspapers along with the mention of the reward money.  That was when a grocery store owner in the small town of Vincent, near Ventura, called his local sheriff's department, since he'd seen the blue pickup on occasion.  The sheriff's department contacted the LAPD, and Dobey wanted to be there to stake out the grocery store and wait for the blue pickup.

            By that time, a long line of informants had finally brought word to Huggy that Starsky had been kidnapped with Hutch, but that the curly-haired detective was being held at a separate location. Huggy hadn't found who the mastermind was behind the kidnappings, but he was informed that each detective had been told of the other's death.  That critical information originated from one of the men being paid to hold Starsky somewhere in the hills near Ventura, but who had walked out on the job when he got tired of no direct contact with "The Boss".  The police had not yet been able to find the man, but Huggy's finesse with his underground contacts had at least provided the information.

            Just the day before, Huggy told Dobey that he hoped to have Starsky's exact location by today -- the very same day that Dobey and two other cars from the Ventura County's Sheriff's Department staked out the grocery store, waiting for the blue pickup.  It had driven by just an hour ago, and the three unmarked police cars had followed it to the little house at the end of the dirt lane.  Two men - one who had been driving the truck and one in the house - had been arrested.  Inside the house was Hutch.

            Dobey was now relieved that both men were alive.  Having his two best detectives missing with no leads had affected him deeply, on both a personal and professional level.  He'd become so difficult to live with that Edith had taken the kids to live with her mother, telling him to call when he was willing to let her help, instead of pushing her away.

            Dobey was grateful he'd be able to make that phone call soon.  And he wondered why he'd ever treated so badly someone whom he cared for so much.

 *   *   *

            Hutch was quiet and distant while the paramedics examined him.  But he looked up at Dobey as they finished.  "I'm not going to the hospital," he said determinedly.

            Dobey restrained a sigh.  Of course not.  Word could come through any time regarding Starsky's whereabouts.  From what the paramedics reported to the hospital, it appeared that Hutch's most immediate need was food.  He'd lost a good ten pounds the past two weeks.  And he was hardly going to have much appetite while fighting the doctors.

            "He needs to be checked out more thoroughly at the hospital," one of the paramedics said to Dobey.

            Dobey nodded.  "I'll have the staff at Memorial in Los Angeles look at him.  In the meantime," his attention turned to Hutch, "we're going to get you a shower and some food."

            Hutch nodded.

 *   *   *

            The Ventura County Sheriff's Department arranged for a room at a motel in the nearby town of Vincent.  They said they would make sure a change of clothes and toiletries were waiting.

            Dobey drove toward Vincent with Hutch silent in the passenger seat.  He knew the other man's thoughts were only on his partner.

            A sign said that Vincent was still five miles away.  Dobey asked, "How did they get you?"

            Hutch shifted in his seat.  "We - Starsky and I - had driven to a restaurant in Thousand Oaks.  We were supposed to meet a couple of girls we were going to spend the weekend with."  He paused a long time.  Then, "We'd met them at the bowling alley a few days before then.  So, we had dinner with them at the restaurant.  One of the girls said her uncle owned some acreage that was real private, and since he was out of town, she thought we could all spend the weekend there.  I was driving and I followed her directions into the mountains, and then she told me to turn onto some little dirt road.  We came to a big gate, and Starsky got out to open the gate.  He was having trouble with it, so I got out, too.  The gate had a big chain around it, and Starsky and I were wondering how we were supposed to open it.  We turned back to the girls, and they were both standing there next to men with guns to their heads."  Hutch drew a deep breath.  "Looking back, I should have realized we'd been set up, since there wasn't any sound from the girls.  But the men had the guns to their heads and were threatening to shoot them unless Starsky and I dropped our weapons.  Then two other armed guys came out of nowhere and also told us to drop our weapons.  So we did."

            Hutch drew a deep, weary breath, his gaze on the windshield.  "As soon as Starsk and I were weaponless, they handcuffed us, and then they let the girls go.  The girls had been part of the plan all along.  One of the guys gave them a bunch of money and told them to take my car and ditch it.  Two of the creeps started dragging me into the woods.  I kept asking them what they were going to do with Starsky, since they still held him by the gate, where I could hear him trying to put up a fight.  The creeps with me said it wasn't their concern, that  'The Boss' had only told them what to do with me.  I fought them, but they got me down and tied me up.  Then they carried me until we came to that house.  Kept tying me tighter, because I almost got away a few times."  Hutch stopped for a long moment.  He took another deep breath, then said, "A few days later, they came into the room I was in and told me that they'd heard Starsky had accidentally been killed while he was trying to get away from the two creeps who were holding him."

            Dobey glanced at the man beside him.  "According to Huggy's information, they told Starsky the same thing about you - that the men guarding you had had to kill you.  Like you," Dobey tried to assure, "he probably didn't believe them, deep down inside."

Hutch stared out the window and didn't say anything. 

*   *   

When they reached the motel, Hutch spent a long time in the bathroom.  When he emerged, clean and freshly shaven, he looked much more like his normal self.  Except for the worry that still dominated his expression.

            "They'll call here when Huggy hears from the informant," Dobey told him.  "Food will be here soon.  I ordered a bunch of sandwiches."

            Hutch didn't respond.  Instead, he picked up his discarded trousers and took out a wallet from the back pocket.  Silent, staring at it intently, he sat down on the sofa.  He flipped it open, then caressed the inside with a finger, focusing on the clear plastic that probably contained a driver's license.

            "What's that?" Dobey asked.

            Hutch didn't look up.  "Starsky's wallet."  He swallowed thickly, then finally raised his head.  "When they kept insisting Starsky was dead, I kept telling them, 'Show me a body, show me a body.'" He swallowed again.  "They kept saying they'd already buried him.  I said, 'Take me to where he's buried.'  They said they couldn't let me leave the house."  Hutch looked at the wallet again and his speech slowed.  "Then they brought me this.  It was covered with dirt.  They said they'd opened up the grave to bring me this to prove that he was dead."

            Dobey didn't say anything when Hutch fell silent.  He could imagine how painful it must have been; he'd experienced a degree of that pain himself... concerning both detectives.  When Hutch took a deep, deliberate breath, and his shoulders relaxed a bit, Dobey gently ventured, "But you still didn't completely believe them?"

            Hutch kept gazing at the wallet, caressing it.  "I-I wasn't sure.  I knew it might very well be true.  But I also... there seemed to be something almost... too deliberate... about how they kept telling me he was dead.  Deep down in my gut, I couldn't believe they were telling the truth."

            "I guess, then, they took your wallet, too, and gave it to Starsky?"

            Hutch looked up sharply, as though surprised by the deduction.  "No.  I still have my wallet, less the money they lifted, just like they did from Starsky's."

            "Hm," Dobey grunted.  "That doesn't make sense.  Surely, Starsky would have needed proof, too, that you were dead."

            There was a knock at the door and Dobey went to open it.  He accepted two sacks from the delivery boy who stood there, and paid him for the sandwiches.  He brought the sacks to the coffee table.

            Hutch was shaking his head thoughtfully.  "That would have been too obvious.  If they'd taken my wallet while giving me Starsky's, I think they knew I would have figured out what was going on."

            Dobey was relieved that Hutch stopped talking to focus on eating.  Despite his claims that he was "well treated", he obviously hadn't been privileged to an abundance of food.  At least now, even while worried about his partner, his appetite was healthy.  Or maybe he was just storing up energy for the highly emotional reunion that surely lay ahead.

            "They didn't tell you anything about The Boss?" Dobey asked after Hutch had devoured two sandwiches, washing them down with orange juice.

            "They kept saying they were waiting for further instructions."  Now, having eaten, Hutch sounded more like his normal self.  "That they didn't even know who The Boss was, but they were getting paid handsomely for following his orders.  That they didn't know why me and Starsky were supposed to be kidnapped."  He paused, then, "When they got tired of all my questions, they started keeping me gagged.  When I almost succeeded in getting away, they started blindfolding me and tying my feet to the bed."  Hutch had taken a third sandwich from the sack.  "Hard to believe it's been just two weeks. Seems like forever."  He gazed at the sandwich a long moment.  Then he whispered, "Poor Starsk."  He picked up the wallet with his other hand.

            "At least you'll be able to give that back to him," Dobey said.

            For the first time, Hutch actually smiled as he met his superior's eye.  "Yeah."

            The phone rang. 

*   *   

            They were silent on the drive through the Los Padres National Forest.  Hutch was hunched over in the seat , shoulders taut, staring out the window. 

            The directions Huggy had delivered were complicated.  A lot of small dirt roads that weren't well marked.  Since one of the pair that was guarding Starsky had run off, they would have only one guard to deal with.

            Dobey had told the local authorities to have back-up ready, but that he and Hutch would go in first.  After all, he explained to them, the captured man was Hutch's partner.  What he didn't mention was how he hoped to give his two men as much privacy as possible when they saw each other in the flesh for the first time in what felt like a very long time.

            "That must be it," Dobey muttered, spotting a cabin in the clearing at the top of the hill they were driving up.  He picked up his radio.  "All units, we have visual contact with the destination.  Please proceed with caution, and do not get any closer than one hundred yards until ordered.  Dobey out."

            Hutch hadn't spoken, but the black man could feel the muscles coil in his companion's body as he prepared for battle.

            "Let's keep it simple," Dobey cautioned.  "According to Huggy, all the remaining guard cares about is eating and watching movies on the VCR.  He shouldn't present much of an obstacle."

            As they came to a halt, they could hear the sound of the television.  They snuck up to the door, both drawing their guns.

Hutch knocked on the door, then shouted, "Police! Open up!"

            There was no sound, other than the movie.  "I don't think he heard us," Dobey said.

            Hutch nodded, and put his hand on the door.  He turned the handle, and looked at Dobey triumphantly when it turned, not locked.  Dobey nodded back, indicating he was ready.

            Hutch pushed open the door.  Dobey swung into the entrance, gun extended.

            An overweight man sat among boxes and empty cans of food, dressed only in his underwear, staring at the TV screen.  He looked up with his mouth open.

            "Freeze!" Dobey yelled, hearing Hutch come in behind him.

            The man's beefy arms went up.

            Hutch rushed forward, lifting Dobey's cuffs in the process, and grabbed both hands to cuff them to the back of the chair.  "Where is he?" Hutch spat.

            Dobey called over his walkie-talkie, "The suspect has been apprehended."

The man, who seemed to have a nonchalant attitude about being caught, nodded toward the other side of the cabin.

            They turned as one.  The other side of the front room was full of dirty dishes and more boxes and open cans of food, but there was a door, leading to another room.

            Hutch shoved his borrowed gun into his borrowed holster and moved to the door, breathing heavy with anticipation.

            Dobey watched while Hutch turned the handle - the door was unlocked - and pushed open the door.  All they could see was darkness.

            "Starsk?" Hutch called gently, stepping forward to disappear past the frame.  "Starsky?  It's me, buddy."

            Dobey stepped closer, feeling a sense of foreboding as he approached the room.  Already, his nostrils were detecting the scent of what smelled like a cesspool.  Was it possible that they were too late?  No human being could exist in these conditions....

Still, he crept forward until he could see into the room.

            He spotted Hutch first, squatting down on the floor, his back to the door, hands carefully at his sides.  When Dobey took another half step in, more of the foul-smelling air assaulted him.  Now he could see that someone was sitting on the floor in front of Hutch. Dobey pushed the door open wider.

            It had to be Starsky, but Dobey would never have known if he had not come here specifically looking for him. 

            The man on the floor was bearded.  His hair was thick and stuck out in all directions.  His clothing hung on him.  When the door opened wide enough to see his eyes, the orbs were abnormally bright within sunken sockets.

            Those eyes were looking up at Hutch.  Then Starsky's gruff voice said simply, "I thought you were dead."

            Hutch's hands reached for him.  "I know, partner," he said gently.  "That's what they told me about you, too."

            Starsky didn't move, but Hutch leaned forward and wrapped his arms around him, drawing the other against himself.

            Starsky lay silently, his head against Hutch's shoulder.

            Dobey had been expecting a more exuberant reunion.  But Starsky's circumstances had changed everything.  An ambulance had been following the police cars to this location, but had been needed on another call.  Dobey hadn't worried about it at the time, since Hutch seemed to be in reasonably good shape, considering his ordeal.  But now.... "We'll take him in my car."  

            Hutch nodded.  His hand ran slowly up and down Starsky's back, the motion one of taking great care with a fragile object.

            Starsky hadn't said another word.  He seemed content within Hutch's grasp, but he was making no move to raise his arms and return the hug.

            Despite his feelings for the two men, Dobey could hardly stand to be in the room, considering the smell.  He knew that Starsky's person had to be even worse, but Hutch obviously wasn't able to stay away.  He stepped out, relieved to draw a breath of mere rotting food rather than human waste.  The guard was still watching television, despite being handcuffed to his chair. 

"Is there a flashlight around here?"  he asked the prisoner, surprised his tone was casual, for it was difficult to think of the guard as a human being when he'd been so cruel to one in his care.

            "Somewhere on that counter," the guard said.  "You'll need that key, too."  He turned his attention back to the television.

            Dobey spotted the flashlight.  He wasn't sure what the man meant, but he picked up the key.  Then he realized, with a sense of dread, that Starsky must restrained by some  means.  In fact, it seemed odd that Starsky hadn't found some way of getting out of his predicament when such a lowly example of the human race had been all that stood between freedom and enslavement.  Of course, there had been a second guard before he split.  And there was Starsky's mental state from hearing that Hutch was dead.... 

            Dobey picked up his walkie-talkie.  "All right, a couple of you boys come in here and haul this piece of garbage out of here.  I'll be with Detective Starsky."

            He went back into the room, bracing for the smell.  Hutch was still cradling Starsky, petting up and down his back.  Dobey couldn't see Starsky's face.  He pointed the flashlight toward the floor and turned it on.  Behind him, he heard other law enforcement officers enter the cabin and deal with the guard. 

            Dobey shined the light until the beam caught Starsky's left arm, hanging limply at his side.  Further down, his fingers clutched something.  "What's he holding?"

            Hutch glanced at Starsky's hands, then picked up his left hand.  "What's this, buddy?" he asked with forced cheerfulness.

            Starsky made a sound of disagreement, and his fingers tightened.

            "It's okay, partner," Hutch soothed, but Starsky's grip didn't ease.  Hutch turned the hand over and the beam caught a flash of gold.  In amazement, he said, "My pocket watch."  Then, sorrowfully, "Oh, God."  This time, when his arm went back around Starsky, he hugged even tighter. 

            Dobey swallowed.  The guards had used the pocket watch to convince Starsky that Hutch was dead.  The way Starsky gripped it so tightly made it obvious that Starsky had believed them.  Dobey wondered, with the subhuman conditions Starsky had been living in, if the other man's mental state was such that he didn't realize that Hutch's presence was a genuine reality.

            Dobey shined the beam along the weakened man's body.  The way his torn clothing hung on him was unnatural.  Hutch's gaze followed the beam and, with a sad glance at Dobey, he started to tug the dirty shirttail upward. 

            Ribs jutted out from Starsky's back.  Hutch gently ran his hand along them and Starsky made a soft cry of pain.

            Dobey stepped closer to shine the light where Hutch had put his hand.  "Oh, good Lord," he said when the beam revealed a layer of raised, red blotches along the skin at the small of Starsky's back.  Hutch pulled at the waist band of the baggy jeans, and the light revealed that the rash was even more prominent along his waist, and probably further below.

            "We've got to get him out of these clothes," Dobey said, then mentally added, Out of here But then the beam fell on Starsky's legs.  Both feet were bare... and filthy.  A shackle was around the left ankle.  A short chain was connected to it, which was fixed to the wall.

            Hutch held on tighter.  "Dear God."

            "I've got the key," Dobey said quickly.  He hesitated before squatting down; the odor around Starsky was even more foul.  But he held his breath and inserted the key.  The shackle fell open with a creak.  He stood quickly, unable to look at the swelling, filthy abrasions left by the metal.

            Hutch asked hopefully, "Is the way clear?"

            Dobey stepped back.  "I'll make sure it is."  He, too, didn't want anyone to see Starsky like this.  "And I'll round up some blankets.  Stay put another minute."           

Hutch gently laid his hand against the back of Starsky's head.  "Hang on, buddy," he whispered.  "We'll have you out of here in no time."

            Starsky showed no reaction.

            Dobey breathed deeply after leaving the room.  The beefy guard was outside, being led by a pair of patrolmen to a black-and-white.  A detective was taking pictures of the outside of the cabin. Dobey went up to the man and said, "You'll be able to take some inside as soon as we get my men out."

            Dobey marched over to the black and white, where the suspect was waiting for the door to be opened for him.  He stopped in front of the man, struggling to keep his temper under control.  "Just one question: were you ordered to starve him?"  He couldn't imagine why Hutch would have been reasonably well-treated when Starsky wasn't.

            The man shrugged.  "I was told to keep him alive.  As long as he was breathing, I figured he was alive.  He's still breathin', ain't he?"  The question was genuine, as though the sorry excuse for a man hadn't checked on Starsky in a while.

            Dobey felt his blood pressure increase.

            "I made sure he had plenty of water."

            "What about food?" Dobey hissed.

            "He wasn't gonna get any of my food," the man said, as though offended at the suggestion.  "Whoever was payin' me was responsible for him.  I was supposed to be hearin' from him any day."

            The man was stupid and less than human.  Dobey turned away.  He was going to make sure his two detectives were properly cared for, and then he was going to find out who the scum was behind this whole mess.  He knew the guard didn't know the identity of the man who paid him, so didn't bother to ask.  What Huggy had learned so far was that no one involved in the kidnappings knew anyone else two links farther down the chain of command.

            Most of the other patrol cars had left.  "Wilkerson," Dobey called to a patrolman who was just about to get in his car.  "I need your regulation blanket."

            Wilkerson went to his trunk.  He took out the blanket and handed it to Dobey.

            "Thanks," Dobey muttered, still seething.  He opened up his own trunk and pulled out his LAPD blanket, plus another blanket that was used by his family for picnics.

            Picnics.  He hoped his family would be able to enjoy another one someday very soon.

            As he passed by the photographer again, he said, "Stay back until after he's been brought out."  They would need pictures of Starsky for evidence, but that could be done at the hospital.

            The photographer nodded.

            Dobey went back into the house.  He spread a blanket out on the floor, left the other two beside it, then took a deep breath before walking into the back room. 

            Hutch had Starsky's shirt peeled off past his shoulders.   The flashlight revealed more of the rash at the top of his shoulders.  When he moved closer to assist, Dobey could also see that Starsky's eyes were open as he rested against Hutch, but they seemed to be unfocused.

            "How aware do you think he is?" Dobey asked as he squatted down to assist Hutch with the clothing.

            "I don't know."  Hutch swallowed thickly, then, "He's so weak... it's hard to tell."

            The right arm was free of the shirt.  They rolled the loose material down Starsky's left arm, but had to stop at the fist that held the pocket watch.

            Hutch massaged the clenched fingers with his own.  "Buddy," he said gently, "how about letting go for just a second?  Huh, pal?"  He tugged at Starsky's fingers.  "You can have it right back."

            Starsky made a noise that sounded like a choked sob, and moved his fist a half inch away, still clutching the watch.

            "Cut it," Hutch ordered.

            Dobey felt inside his pocket for his knife.  As he worked with the shirt, Hutch asked, "Did the guard say anything about why he treated him like this?"

            Dobey shook his head with disgust.  "He can't have an IQ any higher than forty.  He said as long as Starsky was still breathing he was following The Boss's orders and keeping him alive."  The cuff of the sleeve was now cut and the shirt slipped off.

            Hutch pushed it aside and, with Starsky's head still resting against his shoulder, he used both hands to undo the snap of the jeans.  He looked up at Dobey.  "How about I lift him up, and you pull them off from the bottom?"

            Granted, Starsky was probably some 20-25 pounds underweight, but Hutch wasn't in top shape, either.  "You sure you can lift him on your own?" Dobey asked.

            The blond man's jaw firmed and his eyes were defiant in the beam of the flashlight.  "Of course, I can."

            "All right."  Dobey put the flashlight down and took the ends of the filthy jeans.  "You say when."

            Hutch gathered his burden closer.  "All right, buddy, we're gonna carry you out of here.  You just stay right where you are and let us do the work."  He got his feet beneath him, then started to rise, bringing Starsky with him.

            When Starsky's weight was no longer on the ground, Dobey pulled.  The jeans and underwear came off after one firm tug.

            Even Hutch had to turn his face to the ceiling.  "Oh, God," he gasped from the oppressive stench released.

            Dobey held his breath, dropped the clothing, and grabbed Starsky by the calves.  "There's a blanket on the floor, in the front room."

            They carried Starsky out and lowered him onto the blanket.  In the bright room, they saw that his eyes were red-rimmed, the lids puffy.  Starsky was trying to turn his head away from the light, and Hutch, who had Starsky's head resting against his stomach, put a hand over his partner's eyes.  "Easy, buddy."

            Now that Starsky was stretched out, naked before them, Dobey could see that the rash covered a least a third of his body, some parts so irritated where his clothing had rested that open sores had developed.  The leaking sores were as responsible for the foul odor, Dobey realized, as the dried excrement.

            Dobey grabbed another blanket and tossed part of it toward Hutch, who spread it over his partner.  Hutch's fussing with the blanket left Starsky's eyes unprotected, but they must have adjusted to the pale light, because after blinking, they rested on Hutch.

            Dobey spread out the second blanket, watching Starsky's hollowed eyes follow Hutch.  "He knows it's you," he remarked as Hutch tucked the second blanket around Starsky's shoulders.  "Maybe we should try to get the pocket watch from him."  He didn't like the way Starsky's hand seemed frozen around it.

            Hutch picked up the hand that gripped the watch.  "Hey, buddy," he whispered cheerfully, massaging the hand.  "How 'bout letting me keep that for you for a while?  Huh, pal?"  He worked a finger in between Starsky's.

            Under the beard, Starsky's mouth fell open and he released a weary whimper, as though he knew he was too weak to fight anyone who would try to take the watch from him.  His eyes started watering, as though in despair.

            "Hey, buddy, it's okay," Hutch soothed, now holding the fist and petting along the top of it.  He bent Starsky's arm so that it rested against his blanketed chest.  "You go ahead and keep it if you want.  Give it back to me when you're ready."  The blond man's expression hardened when he looked at Dobey.  "They'd better not try to take it from him at the hospital."

*   *   

            They carried Starsky to the car and put him in the back.  He was stretched out, his head once again resting heavily against Hutch's shoulder.  Hutch leaned back against the door, arms snug around Starsky's blanketed form, but careful not to squeeze.  Starsky's eyes were open, but they didn't seem to register anything they saw.

            Dobey thought, while looking in his rearview mirror, that Starsky was content where he was, even though it was apparently too much effort for him to look up at Hutch.  As for the blond detective, it occurred to Dobey that this closeness they were allowed while being driven to the hospital was really more for Hutch's benefit.  He, too, said very little, but he obviously had a need to hold Starsky.  Starsky may have been subjected to the more painful ordeal, but it was Hutch who was most in need - needing to comfort and nurture his partner.     

            "I thought I'd drive all the way back to Memorial," Dobey said, still looking in the rearview mirror.  There would be other hospitals on the way, but Memorial was close to home.

            Hutch nodded and rested his cheek against the top of Starsky's head.

            Dobey felt his own heart swell as he kept glancing at the mirror.  His partnership with Elmo Jackson, his partner who died a brutal death at Stryker's hands, was the closest friendship he'd ever experienced.  He'd once told his two detectives, "We were tight, just like you two."  But now, seeing the two emotionally wounded men drawing strength from each other, he wasn't sure that was true. When it came down to it, he didn't know of any two people who were as bonded to each other as Starsky and Hutch.  They were, to quote a Greek philosopher, "two bodies sharing a single soul".  Even now, he could almost see the waves of energy - what kind of energy, Dobey wasn't even sure - being passed back and forth between them.                             

            After a time, Hutch raised his head and, with a puzzled expression, gently parted Starsky's hair, studying the exposed scalp.

Dobey took a guess.  "Is it lice?"

            Hutch didn't look up.  "Think so."  Then he relaxed again, arms snug around his charge.

            He was going to have to disinfect the car before letting the kids in it.  For that matter, Hutch was probably now infested with the parasite, as well.  But Dobey didn't see any reason to point it out, since the blond detective wasn't about to distance himself from his partner.           

            Dobey had his radio patched through to the hospital.  He told them to be ready, and tried to describe Starsky's condition as well as he could.

            All three occupants of the car were silent as they approached the city.


Part 2

Hutch helped them wheel the gurney down the hall. Starsky was staring at him, but the blond man wasn't sure if his partner saw anything.

He remembered Dobey saying, "He knows it's you." That had to be true, the way Starsky had lain so trustingly against him since they'd found him. But the lack of any real emotion, considering Starsky's vulnerable state, was a cause for concern.

A concern Hutch would rather have any day than worrying if Starsky was even alive, as he had the past two weeks. Hard to believe that, a few short hours ago, he himself had been in enemy hands.

"ER Twelve," the nurse directed, as she guided the gurney toward a room with the same label.

"You'll have to wait outside," another nurse told Hutch.

He shook his head. "He's my partner. He needs me. I'll stay out of your way."

She opened her mouth to reply, but then glanced at Starsky, and saw him watching Hutch. She softened. "The doctors still might ask you to leave."

Hutch tightened his jaw. "Let them tell me that. But it won't matter, anyway. He needs me right here." He looked at his partner, then back at her. "Don't try to take away the watch he's holding. It'll upset him."

Her mouth hardened, too, but she said, "We'll try to work around it."

The doctor appeared and started ordering IV's. Hutch took a stool from a corner and placed it near Starsky's head and sat. He ignored the activity going on around him; he just wanted to be there for Starsky... and to drink his fill of his friend's living presence. He touched Starsky's cheek and rubbed gently, while resting his chin on his arm, which lay on the gurney.

He was aware of the medical personnel examining Starsky, of taking his vitals, of shifting him to catalog the rash. They scrubbed him with some strong-smelling soap, and even stronger smelling shampoo. Hutch had to remove his fingers while they shaved his partner's beard, and he instead stroked along Starsky's shoulder, below the rash. Starsky continued to gaze at him, and didn't seem disturbed by the doctors and nurses, even though the scrubbing of his open sores had to be painful.

It was after they'd turned him and administered an enema that he showed more expression, and his eyes started to fill. Hutch wondered if it was because Starsky felt violated, or simply because all the activity over the past couple of hours - to say nothing of the IV's administering nutrients - was finally rousing him from his stupor.

Hutch brushed a finger along Starsky's prominent nose and whispered, "It's gonna be okay, partner." Starsky's eyes filled even more, but he remained still.

"He has to let go of whatever is in his hand."

Hutch looked up at the invasive male voice. It was the doctor.

"We need to examine that hand," the doctor said, "and treat it for any cuts or other injures."

"Let me try," Hutch said, and waited until the doctor stepped back. He took the clenched fist and placed it across Starsky's chest, keeping his own hand around it. "Hey, buddy," he told the watery eyes that watched him, "we need to switch your watch to your other hand. You can still hold onto it; you just need to change hands. Will you let me help you?"

As soon as he tugged at one of Starsky's fingers, tears filled the corners of his partner's eyes, and he made the same whimpering noise of protest that he had back at the cabin.

Hutch's heart twisted, but he tried again. "Hey, pal, I need you to help me out, that's all." He brought up Starsky's right hand and placed it next to the fist. "You take the watch in your other hand." He encouraged the right fingers to touch the fist. They did, but that was all. Bracing himself, Hutch worked his way beneath one of his partner's curled fingers, soothing, "It's okay, buddy. Nobody's going to take your watch away. Just need to switch hands."

The hand had neither tightened nor released. Hutch locked eyes with his partner's distant ones and worked further at loosening Starsky's fingers one by one. "It's okay, partner. It's okay."

Starsky drew in a feeble breath as the watch came free. Hutch quickly transferred it to his partner's right hand, which immediately curled around it.

"There you go," Hutch said as he took the right fist and placed it against Starsky's chest, over his heart. "Let it rest right there. Right where it belongs, huh?" His own eyes misted.

Starsky cringed, as though in pain. Hutch looked up and saw the doctor trying to straighten the curled left fingers while examining the inside of the hand.

"No cuts," the doctor said. "But when he's well enough, he's going to have to exercise this hand before it moves normally again, the fingers are so stiff right now." The doctor put the hand down and turned his attention to the open sores that a nurse was covering with ointment.

Hutch could see the gold of the watch resting between Starsky's fist and chest. The watch looked dirty, like Starsky's wallet had been when it had been presented to Hutch as proof of his partner's death. But the wallet had been covered with dirt intentionally in an attempt to deceive. Hutch knew the watch had not been treated the same way. When he'd first realized he was being taken somewhere without Starsky, he had fought his kidnappers. In the fight, his watch had slipped out of his pocket and landed in the rotting flesh of a dead animal. One guard had put a gun to his head, while the other guard picked up the filthy watch, saying he was going to keep it. Hutch had hated the man for that, but concerns about what they wanted from him quickly over-shadowed that of material possessions.

When Hutch had been presented with Starsky's dirt-covered wallet, as proof of his partner's death, he had pressed it to his face when he was left alone. Consciously, he had been to try to bring himself as close to Starsky as possible. Now, Hutch realized that there had been a subconscious reason as well. The wallet should have been in the pocket of a decaying body, rotting beneath the dirt. But there was no offensive odor radiating from it. The dirt had smelled fresh. Hutch realized now, too, that that subconscious knowledge had helped to reject what his captors had said about Starsky's fate.

But, for Starsky, proof of his partner's death had been genuine. Starsky, too, had probably pressed the watch close to himself when it was given to him, as a need to bring himself as near to his deceased partner as possible. The watch carried the odor of the dead animal. Starsky could only have thought that the stench was from the remains of his partner.

Dear God, Hutch thought now. Starsky had suffered so much more than himself, emotionally as well as physically.

Hutch heard a noise and turned to his partner. Starsky swallowed, trying to wet his lips. Even though he was struggling to speak, his eyes still looked vacant, as though the lights were on but only a groggy presence was home.

Starsky's mouth moved and Hutch heard feeble words, but they weren't loud enough to understand. He rolled the stool closer, his chest pressed against the examining table, and rubbed at Starsky's cheek while bending nearer. "Hey, pal, what's that you're saying?"

Another swallow, then words strained from the effort of speaking. "D-d-don't... l-l-let... wa-ake... up."

"Don't let wake up?" Hutch repeated, trying to understand. Then he realized that he did. "Don't let you wake up? You don't want to wake up?"

"Ple..ee..ase." The red-rimmed eyes filled again.

Hutch's hand stroked his partner's hair. He, too, swallowed, then tenderly asked, "You think this is a dream?"

"Don't... want... wake... up."

"Ah, buddy," Hutch said, his heart filling to capacity. He leaned even closer, his eyes just inches from the ones that were locked onto him. "Listen, buddy. It's all right to wake up. I promise it is. Because when you wake up, things are going to be just like they are right now. And I'm going to be right here with you. You know I wouldn't lie to you about something like that. It'll be fine."

There was the faintest movement of Starsky's head shaking. "Don't wanna wake up," he stubbornly insisted, his lower lip quavering. His voice was small and threatened to break. "Wanna ... stay... here."

Hutch placed both hands on Starsky's arm, above the IV line. "It's all right, pal. You can stay here as long as you want. Just know that, when you decide you're ready, it'll be okay to wake up because I'll be here."

"Is he talking?" the doctor interrupted, leaning over Starsky.

"Just barely," Hutch said without looking up. "He thinks he's dreaming."

"Mr. Starsky?" the doctor prompted. He shined a tiny flashlight in each of Starsky's eyes, which were still focused on Hutch. "Mr. Starsky? Can you hear me? You're going to be fine, Mr. Starsky. Just fine."

Hutch looked up at the doctor, hoping to give his partner a hint. But when he returned his gaze to Starsky, the other's eyes were still on him.

"How about some food?" the doctor tried. "Mr. Starsky? Would you like something to eat?"

"Hey, buddy," Hutch piped in cheerfully. "How 'bout something to eat? That sounds good, doesn't it?"

Starsky only blinked, and Hutch couldn't tell if it was incidental or supposed to be a response.

To Hutch, the doctor said, "The faster we get some real food into him, the faster his digestive system will start working again, and his recovery will move that much further along."

"Let's try," Hutch said, eyes on Starsky. "I'll see what I can get him to swallow."

The doctor moved away to talk to the nurses. One of them leaned toward the control panel opposite Hutch. "We'll need to sit him up."

The top part of the examination table started to move upwards, and Hutch squeezed his partner's arm. It felt so frail and thin. But his voice was cheerful. "Now you're all cleaned up, and we're going to get you sitting up, and then you'll be able to eat. That'll be great, huh?"

The doctor approached again. "It might be a good thing that he's out of it for a little while; otherwise, he'd probably want to be covered up. We need to keep those sores exposed to the air as long as possible."

Hutch looked down at Starsky. His partner's thin, bony body was completely naked, save the thick covering of ointment all about his groin area, the tops of his shoulders, and various other places. A catheter had been inserted and there was some other tube that extended from his lower body to a pouch at the side of the bed.

No, Starsky wouldn't want people to see him like this.

But at least he was clean, and he didn't seem to have any complaints. Hutch returned his gaze to the eyes which refused to release him from their focus.

A nurse rolled a stand next to the bed, and a serving tray was extended across Starsky. She studied him a moment, then said to Hutch, "He doesn't look like he'll be able to feed himself. We're going to have to help him."

Hutch wasn't sure if it was her way of asking him to step out of the way. His expression hardened. "I'll feed him."

"Well, what do you know," a familiar voice said from the doorway.

Hutch looked back as Dobey came toward them. He realized he hadn't given any thought to the captain's whereabouts.

"Well, he looks a darn sight better than he did two hours ago." Dobey stood beside the bed. "How you doin', son?"

Starsky's gaze remained on Hutch and he gave no indication of having heard the question.

"He thinks he's in a dream," Hutch replied for him. "I think he's feeling okay, considering."

"He's spoken to you?" Dobey asked in surprise.

"Just a little." Hutch rubbed Starsky's upper arm. "He thinks he's dreaming and he doesn't want to wake up."

Dobey squeezed Hutch's shoulder. "He'll be all right, Hutchinson. He's made it this far."

The words were encouraging, but the tone was weary. Hutch looked up at his superior. "You find out anything from that sonofabitch?"

Dobey sighed heavily, then shook his head. "He knows no more than Huggy's informants have already uncovered. He said he was waiting for The Boss to send him money and directions about what he was supposed to do with Starsky. He said he was only going to wait another few days, then he was going to split."

"And leave Starsky behind?" Hutch asked indignantly.

Dobey shrugged. "He didn't say. It doesn't matter now. In the meantime, we're going to see if Huggy can find out anything further. We'll need a thorough report from you, as well." He nodded toward Starsky and said gently, "As soon as you're up to it."

"When he falls asleep."

"When you can leave him, I want you thoroughly checked out by the staff here." He looked toward the doctor, and the doctor nodded back.

Hutch felt there was nothing wrong with him that food and rest wouldn't cure, but he didn't bother with a protest.

A nurse had placed a bowl of broth in front of Starsky, and the captain stepped away. Then he paused. "Oh, and Hutchinson...."

Hutch had picked up the soup spoon. "Yes, Captain?"

The other's gaze didn't waver. "This case is mine."

The case. Finding out who had done this. Hutch had spared little thought for that; he'd only been concerned about getting to Starsky and, now that he was with him, helping him through the physical and emotional trauma. He wondered how long it would be before he started thinking like a cop again. "Okay."

Dobey left the room.

Hutch turned back to his charge. A nurse had put a bib around Starsky, and Hutch scooped up some broth and slowly brought the spoon up to his partner's mouth. "Hey, buddy, how about taking a sip of this. Huh?" He placed it against the chapped lips.

"Don't force it down him," a nurse warned as she placed a stack of paper napkins on a tray. "Give him plenty of time to swallow between spoonfuls."

"Can you try to open up?" Hutch beckoned. "It'll be good, buddy. Smells good, doesn't it?" But Starsky's nose hadn't given any sign of having detected the aroma. "Come on."

The dry mouth barely opened and Hutch tilted the spoon. The broth spread out across the crease of Starsky's lips, and they closed a little, until some of the soup disappeared.

"Hey, that's good, buddy. That's great. You're doin' great." Hutch scooped up another spoonful. "Just swallow now, pal. Can you swallow?"

He had to wait, but the Adam's apple finally bobbed.

"That's my boy." He brought the spoon up again. "Now that you know how good it tastes, how about trying again?"

Starsky's eyes hadn't changed their vacant gaze, but his mouth opened more readily.

"Ah, that's terrific, buddy," Hutch said as he tilted the spoon. He brought up a napkin to wipe at a thin stream of broth that ran from the corner of Starsky's mouth, but he didn't have to ask him to swallow. This time he did so readily. "We're rolling now," Hutch encouraged.

After a while, his partner was opening his mouth in anticipation of the next spoonful. It seemed like such a victory... but Hutch knew it would be a long road to complete recovery. For now, he had to be satisfied, and proud, of these first few steps.

The bowl was almost empty when he brought the spoon up to lips that would no longer part. Hutch realized that Starsky's eyes were closed. He let the spoon drop back to the bowl, relieved that his partner now had some degree of peace.

"We'll be taking him to his room now," a nurse said in a hushed voice

Another nurse took Hutch by the arm. "Mr. Hutchinson, please come with me."

Reluctantly, he allowed himself to be led away. They took him to another examination room and told him to undress. Now that he was the focus of the attention, Hutch found himself feeling the full affects of his ordeal. He was exhausted. For two weeks, he'd had no exercise, and been given a limited amount of food.

The doctor talked about Starsky's condition while examining Hutch. In addition to serious malnutrition, Starsky was suffering from a variety of skin ailments, which ranged from an extreme dermatitis, to a fungus on his feet, to bed sores from his clothing having not been changed or even shifted for a prolonged period. His muscles were atrophied, and his left hand was stiff from holding the watch so tightly for so long. Nevertheless, the doctor noted that, "Mr. Starsky has an unusually strong heartbeat."

As for Hutch, he was told to take in extra calories for a couple of weeks, not to return to work for half that time, but to rest and exercise sensibly. He was also given a special shampoo to kill any lice that he may have picked up from his partner..

Hutch went up to Starsky's room, which was a private one. His partner was sleeping, so Hutch left the hospital to visit Parker Center for the first time in two weeks. And make his report.

* * *

Starsky remained groggy for the next three days. He was eating, but he was still listless and whatever attention he was capable of giving was still aimed at Hutch. The nurses said that their patient seemed more alert when Hutch was around, but otherwise he didn't seem disturbed when his partner wasn't there, which wasn't often.

Since Hutch had been ordered to rest, he figured he may as well do it in Starsky's room. A haggard-looking Dobey checked in frequently. Neither he nor Huggy had been able to come up with any additional information that would lead to the kidnapper.

The doctor told Hutch that, despite Starsky's lethargic state, his body was getting stronger every day.

* * *

In the hospital cafeteria, Hutch picked up his tray with the remains of his lunch and tossed it into the trash. He was feeling stronger, too. Though he'd spent a lot of time at the hospital, he was also jogging in the mornings. He'd also done some weight lifting and was amazed at how much effect a two-week change in lifestyle could have on his strength. It reminded him all the more of how long the road to recovery was going to be for his partner.

Hutch rode the elevator up to the eighth floor. As he approached Starsky's room, he thought he heard a noise within. The lights were off since Starsky usually slept through the morning. Hutch paused outside the door, trying to identify the sad sounds. Then he realized they were sobs.

Entering the somewhat darkened room, he saw that the top portion of the bed was elevated. Starsky's head was turned to the right, since that's where Hutch tended to sit. But instead of being asleep, or staring vacantly, Starsky shuddered with a choking sound. It seemed as if he were trying to hold them back, but then he couldn't and his body shook harder.

It took Hutch a moment to realize he was staring and not helping. He flipped on the overhead light, then rushed toward the bed. "Buddy?"

The eyes darted to him in surprise. They registered recognition. And then they squeezed shut as Starsky cried harder - a choked, congested sound - his cheek pressed into the pillow.

Hutch was assaulted by a mixture of emotions. On some level, he thought the release of emotion had to be healthy. It also looked as though Starsky was, finally, genuinely awake. But it also hurt to see him in such distress.

"Ah, Starsk," Hutch sympathized as he rolled the IV stand back a few inches. He sat on the edge of the bed, and leaned back against the headboard. Wrapping his arm around his partner, he pulled Starsky against him so that the other's head rested on his chest. "It's okay now. It's okay. I'm right here, pal. Right here. It's going to fine." With his free hand he rubbed the arm that wasn't hooked up to the IV. "It's okay now."

Starsky gave a final hiccup, and then went silent. Hutch felt the weight against him grow heavier. He bent awkwardly so he could look into his partner's face. The watery blue eyes were open as they stared up at him, but there was now a presence behind the orbs, instead of a vacancy.

Hutch waited, then asked, "Hey, what was all that about?" His hand continued to pet Starsky's bony arm. "Huh? Can you talk to me, buddy?"

Starsky's soft voice trembled. "I-I woke up. And I couldn't remember if you'd really been here or not."

"I've been here almost constantly, pal. I - "

"I know," Starsky interrupted, sniffing. "But I didn't know if you'd been here in a dream, or if it was real. I was trying to figure it out - what was real and what wasn't." His voice broke. "But I couldn't. Nobody here to ask." He took a deep, quivering breath, then his voice grew softer. "Didn't know if you were alive or not."

The not knowing was the worst, Hutch knew. He took Starsky by the chin so their eyes could meet. Firmly, he said, "I know what they told you. I know how they made you believe it. And I know where they kept you, how they treated you. I was a captive, too, about fifty miles from where you were. They told me you were dead, too. I know what you've been through, buddy. But it's going to be okay now." He released the chin and pressed Starsky's head back against his chest.

"W-were you in the hospital?"

Hutch stroked his partner's hair. "No. The goons that held me took better care of me."

The were silent a while, then Starsky asked, "You gonna be here awhile?"

"Yeah. I don't have to report to work for another two days. You'll have plenty of time to get sick of me."

"I've never been sick of you."

Hutch closed his eyes. What a responsibility it was to mean so much to another. And how unfortunate that there were so many people in the world who didn't have anyone who loved them this much. He cleared his throat. "I'll be here as long as you need me."

They fell silent again. Now that Starsky was fully conscious, Hutch was anxious to get as much food into him as possible. But he also understood that what Starsky needed most of all was physical contact. It had been that way for him, too.

Hutch let ten minutes pass in silence. Then he asked, "Think you can eat something?"

"Don't know if I can even lift my hands."

"I'll help, buddy. The sooner you start eating, the stronger you'll get. And then you'll be able to go home." Hutch made sure one arm was secure around his partner. With the other, he reached behind the bed where the call button was, and pushed it.

When a nurse appeared, she said pleasantly, "You're awake." She stepped closer. "That's good to see." She removed a blood pressure sleeve from the wall and wrapped it around Starsky's arm.

"He's hungry," Hutch said.

She nodded while pumping up the sleeve. "I'll bring him something as soon as I'm finished here."

Starsky didn't react to her attentions. Hutch was glad that she seemed satisfied when she put the sleeve back on the wall.

"A few more minutes," Hutch said after she left, "and you'll be able to feast all you want. Imagine how it'll be when you get out of here - I won't be ragging on you about all the trash you put into your system. You're going to be able to eat as much as you want for a long time."

For a moment there was no reaction. Then, Starsky asked, "How long have I been here?"

It was such a relief to have a two-way conversation. "About four days. You've been pretty out of it, pal. Now that you're fully conscious the most important thing is to get some solid food into you. The IV's can only do so much."

"Don't feel like myself," Starsky muttered.

Hutch started rubbing his arm again. "You've lost a lot of weight, buddy. I know you don't feel very strong right now, but I'll help you get back to where you were before." The nurse walked in with a tray. "And step one is to start putting some pounds back on." Hutch reached to the serving stand and rolled it closer.

The nurse put the tray on the stand. She asked Hutch, "Are you going to help him?"

He sat up straighter. "Yes." While she removed coverings from the dishes, he said gently, "Hey, pal, look what we've got here." He studied the soft lumps. "Oatmeal, mashed potatoes, soup, jello, pudding. Want to sit up more?" Even with the bed elevated, the food seemed far from Starsky's mouth.

Starsky shifted, which Hutch took to be a yes. He slipped his arm around his partner's bony back, and nudged his weight forward, until Starsky sat hunched over the tray. Hutch picked up a spoon and placed it in his partner's left hand. "Want to try by yourself first?"

The nurse seemed satisfied that they could manage, and left the room. Since Starsky was naked except for the blankets, there wasn't any place to tuck the napkin in. Hutch instead spread it along his partner's lap. "How you doin' there, partner?"

Starsky scooped up a bit of mashed potatoes. His hand shook as he brought it to his mouth, and he lowered his head to shorten the journey. A moment later he swallowed.

Hutch patted him between the shoulder blades. "Hey, you're doin' fine." He continued to rub his back as Starsky took another shaky bite. "Taste okay?"

"Not much flavor."

Hutch pointed to another dish. "Try that. Looks like banana pudding."

Starsky scooped up a spoonful. He took a deep breath, as though gathering strength, and the journey to his mouth took a little less time.

Hutch waited until he swallowed. "Better?"

"Yeah, 'cept 'm not all that fond of bananas."

"Well, maybe the oatmeal will be a compromise."

Starsky grunted. "Feels good." He carefully nudged the oatmeal forward.

"What? This?" Hutch rubbed harder across his lower back.

"Yeah."

Hutch was more than happy to do something nurturing. He concentrated, working his fingers along vertebrae and the surrounding muscles. They were silent for the next few minutes. Then Starsky sighed deeply and the spoon dropped to the tray.

"What is it?" Hutch asked, wondering if his partner was going to be sick.

"Full."

"Yeah, okay. Lie back. You can try again after your stomach has had a chance to work."

Starsky collapsed back, part of his weight heavy against Hutch.

"Just rest for a while. You're already a lot stronger than you were a few days ago. You weren't able to eat by yourself before." He hugged Starsky. "You've got a monster of a heart, buddy. The doctor even said so." Hutch knew he was babbling, and maybe Starsky really wanted to rest, but he was anxious to have as much conversation as possible, now that Starsky could really hear him. He spotted a stethoscope draped over a stool. He reached out with a foot and nudged the stool toward the bed, until he was able to reach the instrument. "Hey, wanna hear?"

Starsky was interested enough to keep his eyes open. Hutch placed the small plastic knobs in Starsky's ears. Then he warmed the circular piece at the opposite end by rubbing his palm against it. He placed it over the left side of Starsky's chest. "There. Hear that?"

Starsky managed a grin, and Hutch grinned back - widely - because it was the first smile he'd seen since before they were kidnapped.

But Starsky suddenly sobered and took the round piece in his hand. Weakly, he nudged it against Hutch's arm. "Wanna hear yours," he demanded in a sad tone.

"Sure." Hutch remained cheerful as he opened the next highest button on his shirt, but he wondered how deep the hurt and grief that Starsky had suffered still ran. He placed the instrument against the smoothness of his own skin. "Hear anything?"

Starsky quickly shook his head.

Hutch moved it lower. "Now?"

Starsky closed his eyes. "Uh-huh."

His partner's voice was too low. "Uh-uh or uh-huh?"

"Uh-huh. Leave it there."

Hutch relaxed, leaving his hand over his chest. He wondered how long Starsky would need to listen. He hoped Starsky wouldn't fall asleep, because he really wanted him to eat more.

But Starsky's eyes finally opened. "Who did this to us?"

Hutch took a deep breath, not sure how much he wanted to talk about the case. But if Starsky needed to.... "We don't know yet. The guys who did the kidnapping were never told anything about who was sending them the money. Huggy has been pulling out all stops with the contacts he has. Dobey is counting on him to lead us to the mastermind behind it. It was through Huggy that they found out where we were held."

Starsky tilted his head back to look up at him. "When were you rescued?"

Hutch hugged him closer. "Just a few hours before you."

Starsky had lifted his left hand and he flexed his fingers. "This feels funny. Hurts."

Gently, Hutch said, "That's because you were holding onto something for a long time... real tight." He wasn't sure if this was something that should be discussed now. But they were going to have to face it sooner or later. Hutch reached for the bedside drawer. He took out the gold watch.

Starsky's eyes widened as he spotted it, and he made a desperate grab for it, mouth curving into a pitiful frown.

Hutch placed it into Starsky's right hand, and the fingers clutched it tightly. Starsky's eyes squeezed shut and he gasped.

Hutch took the stethoscope out of his partner's ears. "I'm here, buddy," he whispered. He wondered yet again how deep Starsky's pain ran - wondering if he really had any clue. "You don't need to hold onto it anymore."

"Oh, God," Starsky whimpered, pressing his face against Hutch's shirt. His hand eased its grip on the watch, but Starsky now pressed it to his own stomach. After a long moment, he took a deep, steadying breath.

Bastards. Hutch felt his first raw anger since he'd been rescued. Who would have done this? For what purpose? Even if it was done out of utter hatred for them both, whoever was responsible hadn't been there to witness their pain. What was the point?

He tried for distraction. "Dobey's taken the case himself."

Starsky's looked up. "They let him do that?"

Hutch smiled. "I'm not sure they had a choice. He's working it with that new kid, Newton." He reached up and gently scratched Starsky's scalp. "We weren't the only ones hurt by this, buddy. We were missing two weeks and no one knew what had happened. Rumor has it that Edith took the kids and left Dobey, he was being so difficult to live with."

"Does Ma know I'm okay?"

"Yeah. Dobey played down how serious the disappearance was." Hutch felt himself blush. "And, after we found you, I played down what kind of shape you were in."

"What kind of shape was I in?" Starsky asked quietly.

Oh, God, did he really want the details? Hutch took a deep breath. "I think starved and filthy pretty much covers it."

There was silence for a few moments, and Hutch was relieved that he wasn't asked for more specific details.

Then, Starsky asked plaintively, "Did you get Lard Ass?"

Hutch looked down at him. He could only mean the guard. "Yes, he was there and we arrested him -- without a struggle, in fact. But he wasn't much help. He's borderline retarded, buddy. As much as I hate to say it, I don't think he realized how badly he was treating you."

Starsky grunted. "Every time he had to piss or take a crap, he came back to where I was to do it."

Hutch stared at the ceiling. The only thing he could say to that was point out, "You survived it."

"What about the other guy?" Starsky asked after a moment.

"He's disappeared."

"Wasn't so bad when he was around," Starsky muttered, "even though he was a big sucker. Could never get the best of him. They'd take me outside and stuff to take a leak. Bring food every now and then." A pause. "And then one day they came and shackled my leg to the wall. Wouldn't tell me anything. Only saw Lard Ass after that, and only when he had to relieve himself or a few times he gave me water. Kept trying to trick him into letting me outta that shackle, but he never paid attention. Just wanted to watch the fuckin' television."

"Ah, buddy," Hutch whispered, hugging Starsky against him.

After a long time, Starsky continued, "The third day I was there they... they...," his voice caught, and he had to draw a deep breath, then, "They gave me your watch...." He shut up abruptly.

"And you believed it, just like they wanted," Hutch finished.

Starsky nodded. "Never occurred to me it wasn't true, that they were making it up. A-and - and - it's like I died inside. I didn't even know who to fight." His voice was still choked. "Even if I woulda somehow escaped, what was I 'posed to do, since I didn't have you to go looking for?"

Hutch closed his eyes. He gently petted the back of Starsky's head, wondering again if he had any idea of the cost the incident had taken on Starsky's psyche.

After a few minutes, Starsky moved his head and looked up at him. "They told you I was dead, too?" he asked.

Hutch was relieved that his partner's memory was functional. It had been over an hour since Hutch had mentioned that a similar crime had happened to him, too.

He reached into the drawer and pulled out Starsky's billfold. He placed it in his partner's lap. "They gave me this."

"They took it from me," Starsky said, fingering the leather. "I thought they wanted the money."

"I thought the same thing when they took my watch, but they just took them as proof for each other. Only..." Hutch wondered if Starsky would understand what he was about to say.

"What?" Starsky prompted, eyes on the wallet.

"I never really believed it, buddy. Not deep down inside. They kept telling me you were dead, and I kept demanding proof. As long as there wasn't proof, I had hope. And then they brought me your wallet. Said they'd dug it up from where they'd buried you. But, even then, I wasn't totally convinced." Hutch quickly corrected, "I realized that it might be true, but I didn't have the strength to deal with thinking you might be dead, so I focused on believing you were alive. The two guys that kept me... they acted too deliberate about the whole thing. There was something about it that didn't feel genuine. But I had no idea why they were holding me. They kept saying they didn't, either. They were waiting on further instructions from The Boss."

Starsky shook his head and muttered, "Don't understand."

"I don't either, buddy. But whoever is behind it will be caught eventually, and then we'll know."

Starsky was still holding the watch in his right hand, but his grip had eased. Hutch pointed to it. "The reason your other hand is so sore is because you had such a tight grip on my watch for so many days." Ten days? he wondered.

"Thought it was all that was left of you," Starsky said gruffly.

"Yeah," Hutch sighed. He heard Starsky's stomach gurgle. "Hey," he said, grateful to change the subject, "sounds like everything's working in there. How about trying to eat some more?" Seeing Starsky's hesitation, he pointed out, "It's the fastest way to get stronger."

Starsky shifted. "Yeah, I guess."

Hutch helped him sit up again. Starsky complained that everything was too cold, but he finished off the oatmeal, pudding, and jello. He looked sleepy afterwards.

"Buddy?" Hutch said as he stood. "Looks like you can use some shuteye, so I think I'm gonna go. I'll be back later tonight."

Starsky nodded. "Okay."

When Starsky was able to sleep, Hutch wondered if he might be disoriented when he woke up. His grieving, choked sobs were a painful memory. Hutch took his partner's wallet while bending close. "Listen, pal, when you wake up, if you can't remember if I'm real or not, just reach for your wallet. Because you know I had to be real in order to give it back to you. In fact...," Hutch gently took the watch from Starsky's reluctant fingers. He placed it inside the flaps of the wallet and folded the leather in half. "There. Let's slip it right under your pillow here, in case you wake up and need to feel for it." He guided Starsky's hand to where the wallet was. "You won't ever need to wonder."

Starsky nodded again, his eyes still watching Hutch.

Hutch pushed his friend's hair back from his forehead. "When I come back, I'll have your pj's, so we can get you into some clothes. Okay?"

Starsky nodded again. Hutch knew from the way he was watching him that Starsky didn't want him to leave. But he was being brave and not complaining. Hutch briefly gripped the pointed chin. "You get some shuteye while I'm gone, okay? And when I come back, maybe we can get you some real food."

Starsky managed the hint of a smile.

"Okay, buddy. See you in a bit." He patted the curly head.

Then he turned and left the room. And didn't dare look back.

* * *

Starsky continued to improve. Hutch brought him a hand weight that he could lift while in bed, and helped his partner walk around the floor. He also started to bring him "real food" from outside, since the hospital staff didn't object to anything that added more calories, as long as it had some degree of nutrition. When they told Starsky he could go home after being in the hospital for a week, he still had another twelve pounds to put back on.

As for the mastermind behind their abduction, Dobey and Huggy felt they were slowly getting closer.

* * *

"Never thought I'd see this place again," Starsky muttered as they entered his apartment.

Hutch found some scissors. "Here," he said, cutting the plastic ID band around his partner's wrist, "now you're a free man."

Starsky pulled at his jeans, which were still a little baggy, and looked about the apartment. "You must've been keepin' it up."

Hutch shrugged. "Of course." He moved toward the kitchen. "Want something to eat?"

"Like what?"

"I got some fresh chicken slices from the deli. How about a chicken sandwich?"

"Sure."

Hutch watched as Starsky sat down on the sofa. He already looked bored and tired. Hutch sighed inwardly, knowing that complete recovery would take a while longer. But at least the most direct course was one completely painless for his partner: eating.

Hutch had left all of Starsky's unimportant mail on the coffee table - of course, bringing him the more timely stuff while he was a patient - and Starsky now idly leafed through a magazine, chin in his hand. "Wish I could get out and do something," he muttered.

Hutch applied mayonnaise to the bread slices. "Yeah, like what?"

Bony shoulders shrugged. "Anything. Just, like, walk outside in the sunshine."

Hutch smiled. "We could do that. Maybe just around the block, for starters." He made them each a sandwich and took the plate into the living room. "Here, eat this first."

Hutch was a little disappointed that his partner didn't seem more cheerful about being home. He knew that gaining strength would go a long way toward bringing back Starsky's usual good spirits, but knowing that didn't make seeing his partner so listless any easier.

By the time the sandwich was finished, Starsky had apparently forgotten about the idea of a walk. He went into the bedroom, moving in the shuffling way that told of his weakness, and sat on the bed. As Hutch watched while cleaning up the coffee table, Starsky took his belongings out of the duffel bag. When he pulled out the wallet folded over Hutch's watch, he suddenly frowned, as though sadness encompassed his whole being, and put the wallet on the nightstand with an unsteady hand.

Hutch leaned against the doorway and gently said, "I'm here now, partner."

Starsky gave a small nod and, without looking up, began to remove his clothes.

Hutch turned away, wanting to give Starsky his privacy, and uncomfortable with the way the other still had such a strong emotional reaction to his partner's fictional death.

Without further conversation, Starsky got into bed and soon fell asleep.

* * *

It was two days before Starsky mentioned a walk again. But he was in much better spirits, and they went four blocks before he slowed down. Hutch suggested they sit on a bus bench to rest, and was relieved when Starsky didn't protest.

His partner did look much better today, and was more talkative than he'd been, but that was only relative. In general, Starsky was much quieter than he'd been before the kidnapping. Hutch didn't badger him much because he knew Starsky would talk when he was ready. His partner still showed an intense reaction to the wallet and watch, which he kept by his bedside, and Hutch wondered if he reached for it in the middle of the night.

"You been having any dreams?" he asked conversationally. He himself had only mild dreams of what he'd been through; nothing nearly as terrifying as reality had been.

"Not particularly," Starsky said. "Don't really remember them, so...." he shrugged.

"Yeah, me neither." Hutch laid a hand on his partner's shoulder and squeezed. "Reality was bad enough."

Starsky nodded distantly, and Hutch furrowed his brow. Of course, he'd been showing his partner the affection they'd always counted on each other for, and it just now occurred to him that Starsky had been uncommonly non-reactive every time. Almost as though he didn't want that affection from Hutch, but - perhaps because he didn't want to make an issue of it - declining to say anything. But Starsky's body language was expressing - if not "hands off" - then at the very least indifference to the contact.

Hutch took his hand away.

"When do you have to go back?" Starsky asked, his attention on the people walking by.

Hutch shrugged. This was his lunch hour, and Dobey wouldn't say anything if he made it longer than usual while Starsky was convalescing. "Whenever."

Starsky glanced his way. "Dobey making any more progress?"

Hutch had to control the urge to reach for his partner again. "He thinks they're getting closer to The Boss. But the closer things get, the slower the going is."

Starsky watched a bus stop at a bench across the street.

"We'll get him, buddy."

Starsky gave a twisted half-smile, but that was all.

Desperate for further conversation, Hutch said, "How many sit-ups are you up to?"

"Thirty." Then a sheepish grin while still watching the people. "Well... thirty as long as I can rest between fifteen and twenty, and twenty and twenty-five, and twenty-five and twenty-six and...."

Hutch chuckled.

The other drew a deep breath and prepared to stand. "Okay, I'm ready to go back."

Hutch stood. As his partner took a few steps ahead of him, he wondered how much of the distance between them was fueled by his own worry.

* * *

Starsky was almost recovered and Hutch no longer stayed with him. While the blond was grateful to return to some semblance of normal life, he continued to worry about his partner. Despite the physical progress, Starsky continued to hang onto the watch and billfold. Once, entering his partner's bedroom unannounced, Hutch found Starsky with his hand underneath the pillow. He obviously kept the wallet and watch there. Hutch then knew that Starsky had been sleeping with them under his pillow ever since returning from the hospital.

Hutch hadn't said anything, for he had no idea what to say. He hadn't been through what Starsky had been through. Still, he couldn't deny that Starsky's obsession with the symbolic objects was disturbing and even hurtful - hurtful in that his partner seemed more connected to the inanimate objects than to Hutch himself.

* * *

"So," Dobey said, reaching for a stack of files now that the briefing was concluded, "you can get started on these right away."

Hutch grimaced as he accepted the stack. "Lucky me."

"I'm late for an appointment." Lt. Richardson from Vice stepped past Hutch and opened the door. "Good to be working with you gentlemen."

Dobey and Hutch nodded. Hutch had tucked the stack under an arm, and picked up his coffee cup.

"So, how's Starsky doing?" It was the first chance Dobey had had to ask that day.

Hutch smiled. "Oh, he's doing great. Looking much better. Packing on pounds and exercising more. He must be up to 160."

Dobey's eyes were on him and he nodded perceptively. "Uh-hm. You've only mentioned the physical things. What about the rest?"

Hutch shrugged with exaggeration, uncomfortable with the subject. "I think he's okay, Captain. No nightmares or anything."

"No anger or mood swings?"

Hutch shook his head. He'd been on the lookout for such things.

Dobey relaxed. "That's good to hear. Maybe he'll be back in a week or two."

Hutch nodded vigorously. "Tops." He turned toward the door. Then he realized that Dobey might be the one person he could actually talk to. He turned back. "Uh... there's just one thing."

Dobey straightened, concern spreading across his features. "What's that?"

"Well," Hutch shrugged again, feeling bashful, "it may be nothing."

Dobey watched him, waiting.

Abruptly, Hutch sat back down, the files resting in his lap. Voice softer, he said, "It's hard to describe, Captain. It's almost like... like...."

"Like what, son?" Dobey's voice was unusually gentle.

Hutch's brow furrowed as he studied the seashell pen set on his superior's desk. "Almost like he... like there's a gap... a chasm or something... between us."

"What do you mean?" Dobey was surprised.

Hutch shook his head, releasing a heavy breath. "I'm not sure what I mean. It's like a distance. Usually, when one or both of us has been in a tough spot, it draws us closer together."

Dobey leaned forward, voice incredulous. "And now he's pushing you away?"

"No, not pushing," Hutch corrected. "And I'm sure it's nothing he's doing consciously. But it's almost like...," with his free hand, Hutch touched his chest, "... he doesn't believe it's really me." Now that he'd said it, the words came faster. "Like, deep down inside, he thinks I'm a ghost and he's afraid to believe I'm real." Hutch paused, realizing how silly it sounded. "I'm not saying this right. Maybe it's nothing."

"I doubt that," Dobey noted soothingly. "You know him better than his own mother. It's got to be something, if you've noticed." He grimaced half-heartedly, as though knowing his words were of little help. "Maybe he just needs more time."

"Maybe." Hutch wanted to believe it was that simple.

"Or maybe he's been hurt in such a deep place by thinking that you're dead, that he's not letting himself risk being hurt that badly again."

It was on the tip of Hutch's tongue to point out that Starsky was more of a fighter than that; that he wasn't one to avoid hurt because of pain in the past. But then he reminded himself, once again, that he really had no clue what Starsky had been through emotionally. And if what Dobey said held any truth, Hutch wasn't sure he could bear never being as close to his partner as they'd been in the past. He stood abruptly and this time didn't pause on his way to the door. "I'd better get started on these."

* * *

"What's buggin' you?"

Though the tone sounded annoyed, Hutch felt a tremendous relief that Starsky noticed enough to comment. But that didn't make answering any easier.

Hutch broke open his cornbread from Kentucky Fried Chicken, where he'd stopped on the way over. After his conversation with Dobey earlier today, he'd become increasingly fearful that his captain's speculations were true. "Just have things on my mind." He reached for the butter.

"Yeah? Like what?" The tone was a touch suspicious.

Though it was tempting to be coy, Hutch decided it was foolish to be anything other than honest. "About us."

Starsky pulled a chicken leg away from his mouth, looking as though that was the last thing he'd expected to hear. "What do you mean?"

Hutch shook his head, hoping he wasn't the one who would have to do all the talking. "Don't you feel it, too?" He waited, and when no reply was forthcoming, he pushed on. "I-it's not the same between us. It's like you don't want to be close to me anymore." Having said it, Hutch suddenly felt confined, and pushed his chair back and stood, turning toward the window. "I know it's not your fault," he said more quietly. "I know you can't help it."

It was a long moment before a subdued reply came from behind him. "Yeah, I guess I know what you mean."

"It's not your fault," Hutch said again, gazing out the window.

He heard the sound of movement, and when he glanced back, Starsky was sitting on the sofa. The dark-haired man picked up a sofa pillow and hugged it against himself. "Don't know how to explain it."

"You don't need to. You went through something that destroyed your faith that I'm going to be there for you."

"Hutch, it isn't like that," Starsky said firmly. "When I'm back on the street, I'm going to be trusting you with my life. I know you're going to be watching my backside. This isn't going to mess that up."

"Fine," Hutch said unhappily, focusing on the window again. "When we're on the streets, maybe it will be like before. But what about the rest of it? When you're frustrated by trouble Nicky gets into in New York; or when you fall in love with a beautiful lady and have your heart broken, are you going to share any of that with me?" Hutch shook his head, turning around. "I don't think so." He gestured toward the table. "I have to get belligerent just to have dinner with you." When he'd called him before leaving the station, Starsky hadn't sounded enthused about Hutch bringing the chicken so they could eat together. The blond head bowed. "When it comes to personal stuff, you push me away."

Starsky took a deep breath, looking like he wanted to say something to make it better, but instead he just wore a sad expression.

Hutch decided to let it all out, and didn't cushion the anger in his voice. "You'd much rather cling to that damn watch of mine than cling to me."

That got a reaction, albeit a hesitant one. "I-I can't explain it, Hutch. I guess I just feel the watch is you."

Hutch patted his chest, taking a few steps toward the sofa. "But I'm here, buddy."

"I know." Starsky took a deep, troubled breath. "I don't know how to explain it. It just seems...." He trailed off, lost for words.

"Safer?" Hutch supplied levelly. "Safer to hold onto the watch? Because while I might not be around for you someday, the watch always will? The watch can't hurt you, but I will if I die again, and that's what you can't bear?"

Starsky's grim expression told Hutch that his partner thought the speculations might be true. And now Starsky's voice carried a touch of anger. "Keep telling myself that I should have been like you. That I shouldn't have believed them." He looked at Hutch sadly, desperate for an answer. "Why did I lose hope so easily?"

The self-blame surprised Hutch, and he wanted to ease that burden as quickly as possible. "You had no choice, buddy. When I fought them, the watch fell out of my pocket. There was some dead animal - possum or something - rotting by the road. My watch fell into it. When they gave you the watch, it smelled like death. Whether you were conscious of it or not, you had absolute proof that I was, dead, dead, dead. It was impossible for you to believe otherwise." His voice gentled. "For me, the clues were different. And that's why I was able to hold onto that small bit of hope."

Starsky was silent for a long time, staring at the wall. Then he simply said, "Yeah." He hugged the pillow tighter against himself.

Sadly, Hutch turned back toward the window. There was no solution. If he could only show Starsky - the deep, down subconscious part of his partner - how real he was, so that Starsky believed it -knew it - in his soul. That Hutch was here now, alive, well, and healthy. And while Hutch couldn't promise that he'd never die, he would never leave Starsky voluntarily.

Frustrated, the blond found himself wishing there was some way he could show Starsky, without a doubt. He imagined himself taking his partner by the arms and shaking him. "I'm here, I'm here, I'mhere. Feel me. Feel my strength. Feel how real I am." Holding himself against his partner, making Starsky totally aware of the reality of his physical self.

He imagined himself on top of someone. Some woman. Any woman. Pounding into her. When he gave her all of himself like that, there was no way she could deny his realness. For they shared the same physical space, him inside of her. No phantom could create that feeling.

As Hutch gazed, unseeing, out the window, he decided it couldn't do any further damage to their relationship by voicing his thoughts. Softly, he said, "If you were a woman, there's no doubt how I'd show you how real I am."

Silence.

Hutch decided to swallow his medicine. He turned around to see his partner's reaction.

Starsky had the same grim expression, apparently not surprised or angry by what Hutch had said. Being a man, he obviously understood why Hutch would seek the physical as a method of presenting himself in the most intense, no-room-for-doubt way possible.

Hutch sighed. "I'm afraid, buddy. I've been telling myself to give you more time, but it's like we're just moving further and further apart. I miss what we had. And I'm afraid that we'll never have it again." He had to turn back toward the window, for his voice was shaky. "I feel like I'm losing the most important part of myself. That I'm not whole anymore, that part of me -- what I am -- is lost, because you aren't there anymore. Because so much of what I am is wrapped up in my partnership with you."

Starsky swallowed. "It's not by choice, Hutch." The desperate tone was still there.

"I know," Hutch said. Once again he faced his partner. "But knowing it doesn't solve anything."

Starsky hugged the pillow again. "I don't know what to do."

"I don't either." Hutch picked up his jacket from where it was draped over the sofa arm. "I gotta go." Hutch felt more depressed than before, because there was no solution. He had to get away.

He didn't bother saying goodbye.

* * *

Starsky sat staring at the wall, still hearing the gentle slam of the door. Hutch was in pain, and Starsky had no comfort to offer. Only a feeble, "I can't help it."

He had been nothing less than selfish ever since Hutch and Dobey found him. The fact that it was completely unintentional - that he didn't know how to make himself get past the extreme, inconsolable hurt of knowing Hutch was dead - didn't make it forgivable that Hutch was still hurting. From loving Starsky so much.

Starsky put the sofa pillow aside and sighed. Time wasn't going to help. He didn't want Hutch close to him. It was much safer to hold onto the billfold and the watch. Even now, as the thought crossed Starsky's mind, he felt reassured. That's how he always felt when he reached for the two items beneath his pillow each night. They were safe and secure - all important symbols of his and Hutch's importance to each other.

Coward, he railed himself now. Let him get close again. Just... let him. But even as he imagined his partner's arms coming around his shoulders - as they had so many times - he wanted to squirm. To get away from it. To not let his heart love this man again.

What a great "reward" for Hutch after all he's done for me, he snarled to himself.

It wasn't fair. And yet, he knew he couldn't pretend to be closer to Hutch, even if for Hutch's sake. He would be too transparent.

Damn.

He wanted to make it better, for Hutch's sake, but didn't know what the answer was. Hutch didn't either, other than mentioning what any man would do if he had this problem with a woman. Then, the answer would be easy. Use his body to express his inner being, the sheer physical existence of himself.

Starsky furrowed his brow. Would it make a difference?

Hutch pounding into him. It would hurt. Sharing the same physical space. It would force its own sort of intimacy.

I couldn't push Hutch away while he was on top of me. Maybe it would force all these walls I've put up to come crashing down... having Hutch sharing a part of himself, like that. Even if I tried pushing him away, he'd be right there. My sore ass couldn't deny what we'd done together. Would I still be able to push him away after sharing something like that?

Or was it a recipe for disaster? Having sex together with such a sense of purpose, without expressing love or even wanting to bring pleasure to the other person. Just to see if it would bring them closer, because they were out of ideas as to how to cure the unintentional breach between them.

Starsky resisted the urge to go to the bedroom. He wanted to feel under his pillow. Lay his hand over the wallet that was folded over the watch, stick his finger in between the leather and caress the watch. Even just thinking about it gave him a sense of peace and security.

Once Hutch folded the wallet over the watch at the hospital, he'd never removed it. It just seemed so... right... the way the watch was inside the leather. The symbol of Hutch inside the symbol of Starsky.

Just as, if they fucked, Hutch would be inside of him.

He should feel threatened by that, Starsky decided. He would be the one on the bottom. He wondered why that seemed automatic. Wouldn't it accomplish just as much if he were fucking Hutch?

No. That would require on act on intimacy on his part. He wouldn't be able to bring himself to do it. If they were going to fuck, he'd have to just lay there and let Hutch do it. Be passive. Hope that by the act of fucking, it would somehow bring them closer together.

He imagined what it would be like after they were finished. In his mind's eye, they were face to face. Hutch had just withdrawn and was soft and sweaty all over. Starsky would reach up and bring Hutch's head down to his chest. He would stroke his hair, those delicate golden strands.

Thinking about it now made Starsky feel warm all over.

Why could he imagine himself being close to Hutch like that, but not be able to imagine feeling good about it if Hutch simply put his arm around him? Because Hutch would be doing the latter for Starsky's sake. But after sex, Hutch would be vulnerable during his blissful weakness, and Starsky would feel protective. It was easy to imagine being close to Hutch if it meant protecting Hutch.

Starsky felt more confident. If his partner ever needed comfort and nurturing from him, Starsky could still provide it. But once Hutch was okay again, would Starsky go back to keeping him at a distance?

No way to test. For that matter, there was no way to test if having sex together would actually accomplish anything either. On the contrary, it could ruin everything; it could create even more hurt and frustrated feelings.

"No," Starsky muttered out loud. Things were so messed up between them, he couldn't imagine that they could be made any worse. He reached for the phone.

* * *

Hutch heard the phone as he wrestled with his key in the door. Finally it was open, and he rushed to the telephone. "Yeah, talk to me."

The familiar voice was plaintive. "I want to do it."

He was relieved that it was Starsky, simply because it meant his partner was making an effort. But he didn't understand the statement. "What?"

"I want...," now Starsky sounded shy while struggling for words, "to do what we've never done before."

Hutch's heart pounded as remembered what he had said in Starsky's apartment. It had become more than just a flippant remark, for Starsky had taken the words to heart. It was on the tip of Hutch's tongue to say, "You sure?" or "What do you mean?" But that would be insulting his partner's courage. He didn't know what to say. "Uh...."

He heard a thick swallow through the line.

"Uh...," he struggled for words, feeling foolish. Then, "Do you...," now his own voice was delicate, "want me to come back over... right now?" What were they supposed to do, set a date?

And was this really supposed to help anything? He was supposed to go to bed with somebody - his male partner - who didn't even want him to lay an affectionate hand on his shoulder?

"Um, well," Starsky, too, was obviously struggling for the right thing to say, "why don't you, you know, give me a coupla hours. And, you know, you need to.... you know, stop by the drugstore and get... well, whatever."

Hutch stood there with the phone to his ear.

Another deep breath from Starsky, then a meek, "I don't know if it's going to help anything, but I want to... try. For both our sakes. I need something to... free me." There was that desperate tone again.

Free him to love again? Hutch wasn't sure if that was what Starsky meant, and obviously the other was struggling just as much for the right words.

"I'll be there," Hutch said and quickly hung up. He sat heavily on the sofa, feeling a sense of disaster. Whenever he'd slept with anyone for any reason other than to make love, it had always ended up being a negative experience, even if the bad feelings didn't start until the afterglow had worn off. When he did it with Starsky, it would be for the sheer purpose of pounding home the reality of his physical existence.

Maybe, instead, they should try tender sweet love....

No. Starsky wouldn't - couldn't - allow that. He'd built too many walls to protect himself from getting hurt again. He wouldn't be able to give anything of himself. He was waiting for Hutch to unlock the door between them, to "free him".

Nothing like having the weight of our entire relationship on my cock, he thought forlornly.

He had no hope that this would work. But it couldn't possibly make things any worse than they already were. For him, the hurt from his partner's rejection already ran far too deep.

* * *

This is insane, he thought for the hundredth time as he climbed the steps to Starsky's apartment. We wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for my big mouth. My hormones must be acting up because I haven't had any in a while.

He knocked. Dear God, what do I say?

The door opened and Starsky stood there. His eyes were cold and determined. He was wearing a robe; the slight dampness of his hair indicating he'd showered. Those eyes made one truth clear to Hutch.

He knows this is as wrong as I do.

"Come on," Starsky said simply, turning to lead the way to the bedroom.

Like I'm some cheap whore here to perform a trick. Hutch realized he was angry. I won't get paid with money, though. If I'm a good boy, if I do a good job, my partner will be free to love me again. Do I really want it that badly to go through with this? He gritted his teeth as he stepped over the threshold to the bedroom. Yes.

Starsky was standing beside the bed facing Hutch, and he untied the sash to his robe and let it fall from his shoulders. He stood naked, waiting.

Hutch's back was to the wall. Great. I'm supposed to get aroused while watching him stand there like some sacrificial lamb? And yet, he had the sneaking suspicion that he was the one being offered at the altar.

Starsky made a deliberate attempt to soften. He stepped closer to Hutch. Sympathetically, he whispered, "Need help gettin' the motor running?" His hand went to the crotch of his partner's jeans, sliding over the soft mound.

Hutch closed his eyes. God, it did feel good, those strong fingers kneading at his crotch. He was growing. He would be able to go through with this.

Starsky reached up with his other hand, held it an inch away from Hutch's shoulder. "Where else?" he asked gently.

Where else did he like to be touched? Personal preferences were hardly what this was about. He looked into those still-harsh eyes. "I need to know that you want it," he said firmly. "Really want it."

"Calling you back over here wasn't a haphazard impulse," Starsky said, his own voice just as tight. "I want it. Maybe not in the way people normally want it, but I want it - need it - anyway."

Hutch gasped between words because of the effective hand tormenting him. "You know damn well it's going to hurt." Especially the way we're going about it.

"Of course, it will." Starsky blinked, but his eyes were just as feral. "And if I scream or something, don't worry about it. At least...," he hesitated, searching for words, "at least pain is something that isreal."

Hutch looked toward the ceiling. Starsky wanted permission to express his pain, and know that Hutch wouldn't "worry about it", wouldn't stop. Pleasure would not have any place in it.

His jeans were too confining. "That's enough," he muttered, feeling guilty that he could be so aroused when his heart was so sad about what was going to take place.

Starsky moved his hand away. Once again, his voice struggled to be soft. "We can do it under the covers, if you want. I know I'm not exactly built like Marilyn Monroe."

As if looking like Marilyn Monroe would make a loveless ass fuck any more enjoyable.

Hutch firmed his jaw. "You'll do for what we have in mind."

Starsky studied him. "You're pissed off."

"No, I'm always like this when someone wants me to come over for a hard fuck that's going to make them scream." Sarcasm covered every word. "I love using my dick for pain."

Starsky wasn't going to take all the blame for that one. "Still, you came over."

Touché, buddy. Now I'm going to get what I deserve, aren't I?

Starsky tried softness again. "Hutch, it's all forgiven. Whatever happens - if it turns out to be the biggest mistake of our lives - I forgive you." His eyes were shadowed with hurt. "I hope you can forgive me."

"I'm here, aren't I?" That game could be played both ways.

Starsky seemed to get the point. He changed the subject, glanced around. "Did you bring...?"

Hutch reached into his jacket pocket and produced a tube of K-Y, holding it out. When Starsky took it, Hutch said tersely, "I'm surprised you don't want me to go in dry. If it's pain you're after, you'll get a lot more of it that way."

Starsky stared at the label, as though pretending to read the directions.

Dear God, Hutch thought, don't tell me he's actually thinking about doing it like that. Quickly, but forcing his voice to sound calm and in control, he said, "Not that I'd want to tear the skin off my cock."

That seemed to rouse Starsky from his thoughts. Looking up, he took a deep breath; then, sounding terse himself, said, "So, are you going to get undressed or what?"

Like any cheap whore. Hutch was getting angrier. "Are you sure you don't want me to keep my clothes on? It'll help keep us more distant from each other while we're having a nice, intimate fuck."

Starsky swung around. "Have it your way." He tossed the tube onto the edge of the bed. Then he got in the middle of the mattress and lay facedown, spread-eagled.

Hutch's erection had softened, but now his increasing anger fueled it again. Fine, buddy, I'll give you exactly what you want. That's what I'm here for, isn't it?

He removed his jacket and took off his shoes. Then he undid his jeans and pushed down the denim and underwear in one motion. At least his cock was cooperating. Despite everything, the promise of a warm, snug enclosure was keeping it interested. He didn't bother with his shirt or socks. He moved to the bed, stroking himself.

He wanted to find some degree of intimacy - some common ground - between them. Something other than anger. But there was still harshness in his voice when he spoke again. "You need pillows to arch your ass up if I'm supposed to get any leverage."

Starsky took both pillows and tucked them under himself. "If you want more get the sofa pillows."

No, this will do nicely. Hutch reached for the K-Y and unscrewed the cap. Round, cushiony globes. Darkness peaking from between them. Maybe in other circumstances he'd even be able to enjoy himself.

Unfortunately, this wasn't other circumstances.

Hutch knelt on the mattress behind Starsky's raised hips. It was tempting to stroke along his buttocks, using a tender touch, to be loving. But Starsky didn't want that. Instead Hutch focused on applying the gel to his flaring length. His cock bobbed eagerly.

Forcing all sense of propriety aside, he inserted his finger into Starsky's darkness. He felt the clean, wrinkled orifice, and pushed. There was no give. It would have been impossible to do it without grease. Sitting back on his heels, he took the tube, aimed, then squeezed the plastic.

Too much. It ran down the crevice to each of Starsky's thighs.

His partner made no comment.

Hutch dabbed at the silky smoothness, then pushed at his partner's clenched opening. The finger went in easily but he could still feel incredible tightness. The lubrication would allow him to get in there, but the opening was still impossibly small and tense. Starsky was going to get exactly what he wanted: it was guaranteed to hurt.

Normally, at this point, he would say something tender and reassuring to his bed partner, but Starsky didn't want any of that.

Hutch rose up on his knees, took his thickness in hand. It would take a firm shove to get in. It would hurt. Starsky might scream, and Hutch would have to concentrate hard to ignore it and not pull out.

This is senseless.

Nevertheless....

He pulled a buttock aside, then lifted his shirttail out of the way. Pressing his weapon at Starsky's opening, he closed his eyes, focusing. He tried blocking everything except his duty to his partner.

One, two....

He thrust.

Starsky screamed - a soul-filled, terrorizing sound. It came from such a deep place that Hutch knew it involved far more than the pain from having his asshole ripped open.

Hutch cringed, wanting to escape it. He lunged again, fighting against muscles that were trying to expel him. Starsky continued to cry out. Hutch grabbed his shoulders for a better grip and bucked again, forcing his length farther into the tight channel.

Hutch kept on pumping, and his partner released one long, continuing cry. He hated what was happening - himself most of all for continuing. But with bitter determination, he kept up his side of the bargain, fighting against the body that did not want him.

Yet as he worked, sweating profusely, Hutch soon realized that his partner's cries were a completely separate event from the fucking. The screams had a pattern, but the pattern wasn't in sync with the fucking. Whatever pain Hutch was causing had very little to do with his partner's suffering. That was a small relief, but a relief nevertheless. As he continued the harsh motion of his hips, a truth fell into place. What they were doing had nothing to do with reclaiming intimacy. The pain of Hutch's actions was a way for Starsky to tap into the rage deep down inside himself... and release it.

Hutch's anger melted into compassion. He understood now the reason behind all their harsh words. Starsky hadn't understood why he wanted Hutch to fuck him, but he had known it was something he needed. Their mutual lack of understanding why it was needed was causing the confusion between them.

Encouraged, Hutch pumped harder. Was there some way he could cause more pain, so Starsky could release more of the poison inside? He considered squeezing his partner's scrotum, but that be cruel. Perhaps even damaging. Focusing on Starsky's thick mass of hair, he abruptly grabbed a handful. Yanking hard, he jerked Starsky's head back.

Starsky yelped and pounded the mattress with his fist. Was that progress? Up to now Starsky had simply lain there, crying out. That pounding was his first active participation in his own healing.

Hutch's stamina was wearing thin. He understood now why rapists rarely ejaculated. While the friction kept him hard, the sensations weren't building toward climax. The pain he was causing, no matter how much Starsky may have wanted it or even, on some twisted level, needed it, was a deterrent to his own pleasure.

"Get off me," Starsky demanded angrily, still pounding the mattress.

Hutch paused, surprised, wondering if this was one of those times when "no" meant "yes". He waited, immobile, while Starsky's channel still tried to force him out.

"Get OFF!"

That was definitely a no. He withdrew, throbbing, and knelt beside Starsky's upraised hips. He wondered if Starsky would turn around and slug him. He wouldn't defend himself.

Starsky didn't move from his position, but he was panting, his screams exhausted. Suddenly, he punched the mattress. Then, glancing up at the headboard, he backhanded a clock radio that went crashing to the floor. He seemed lost, searching, and Hutch realized he was looking for something else to break.

Hutch didn't want to be the first to speak, but it was too difficult to not say anything. "Breaking things won't change anything." His own voice was heavy with exhaustion.

Starsky held still a moment. Then a deep, choked sound emerged, almost as a sob, but there were no tears. His upper body collapsed against the mattress, hands covering his head.

Ah, buddy.

Hutch pulled his shirttail over his groin, grateful to have that small degree of covering, as he knew he was heavily soiled. Shifting carefully, he reached over the bed and found his partner's robe. He draped it across Starsky's back and rear, then wrapped his arm around his friend. He rested his cheek against the robe, desperate for some tenderness, some degree of closeness, between them.

Starsky muttered inarticulately. Coughing, he rose up on all fours. Hutch lifted his head, shifting out of the way while Starsky delicately removed himself from the bed. He moved as if he ached in every bone. Grabbing the robe around himself, he rushed to the bathroom without even a glance at Hutch.

Hutch pulled up his knee and rested his forehead against it. Had this been a disaster or a step toward healing? He had no way of knowing.

What he did know was that he needed to wash up, and he felt too dirty to wait for the john. He went into the kitchen where he knew a bar of soup rested on the sink. He found a clean dish towel and wet it, then used soap liberally. He ended up using two towels. After he was clean, he put them in the wastebasket, and threw a couple of dishrags and anything else he could find on top of the pile, to hide the filthy evidence of Starsky's rejection.

At least washing up had taken his frustrated boner away. Opening the refrigerator, he grabbed a beer and got one for his partner. Starsky's throat had to be absolutely raw. But Hutch paused before returning to the bedroom, wondering if his presence was the least bit welcome.

He wondered, too, what had caused Starsky to put a stop to it. Was it because the physical pain had simply gotten to be too much? Or was it because Starsky had exhausted his rage and didn't need to be hurt anymore? Or was it because he'd come to his senses and realized what a ridiculous expectation he'd had from the whole process?

Hutch was stepping into his underwear when the bathroom door opened. Starsky appeared, looking haggard. He glanced at Hutch briefly, then silently turned to the bed and got beneath the covers, leaving his robe on.

Hutch approached, holding out a can. "Here."

"Thanks," Starsky murmured, avoiding his eyes.

Hutch stood back and watched as Starsky popped the can and sipped. He took a sip of his own and wondered again if he was welcome. Their lack of communication, considering what had just taken place, was unbearable. He stuttered a moment, then whispered, "We don't have to figure everything out right now; but, please, let's say something to each other. "

Starsky looked up at him, a plea in his own voice. "Give me a minute, 'kay?" He arranged the pillows behind himself so he could sit up comfortably. Afterwards, he patted the side of the bed.

Hutch thought he would collapse with relief. He was still welcome. In Starsky's bed, no less.

Taking a moment to discard his sweaty shirt, he sat on top of the covers, his back against the headboard.

"Oh," Starsky said wearily. He shifted and pulled at one of his pillows, as though to offer it.

"No, it's okay."

Starsky seemed grateful, sinking back into the softness and closing his eyes. After a long moment he opened them and took another sip of beer. Then he looked over at Hutch. "Sorry about making you stop in the middle."

"Didn't matter. I wasn't going to come, anyway."

Starsky sighed heavily. "Yeah, that happens to me sometimes, too. Hump forever and that feeling just never seems to be there."

"I can't feel pleasure when I know I'm causing pain."

Starsky slowly shook his head. "The pain was already there, Hutch. I just needed you to create it in the here and now so I had something to fight against." He snorted with amusement. "Maybe fight isn't the right word. Just... get it out of my system."

Your ass muscles were fighting me plenty. Hopefully, Hutch asked "Is it out?"

Starsky bowed his head. "Yeah, think so." Then, more softly, "Hope so."

Hutch supposed it would take time before either of them really knew. Anxious to keep the communication going, he said, "All this time that you've been pushing me away, it wasn't because you were afraid of being intimate again. I think anger was the wall between us. It wouldn't allow you to cross over and love again."

Eyes heavy with exhaustion, Starsky turned to his partner, cheek pressing into the pillow. He gazed at Hutch for a long time. "Sorry about everything."

Hutch managed a half-smile. "S'okay."

Starsky reached out tiredly. "Come on over here."

Hutch sucked in a quiet breath. Starsky really wanted him near? It seemed so long. His relief, and his need, showed on his face.

"Don't look like that," Starsky scolded half-heartedly.

"Like what?" Though he knew.

"Like you thought I'd never want you near me again."

Hutch stuttered, "I-I've never... never been very sure. For a long time now."

Starsky stretched and tugged at the blond's hand. "I've been incredibly inconsiderate of your feelings, haven't I?"

Hutch shrugged. "You've had good reason to be wrapped up in your own." Shamelessly, he curled up beside Starsky, resting his head on his friend's robed chest. It felt like bliss when Starsky's arm enclosed him.

After a few moments of silence, Starsky said, "Thanks for giving me what I wanted, even if it meant I was just using you."

Hutch had no pride. "It was worth it if this was the end result."

A hand furrowed through his hair, which was still damp with sweat. "Big baby."

Hutch grunted, having no desire to protest.

Fingers tilted his chin. "Hey."

Hutch looked up. Before he knew what was happening, soft, dry lips touched his own.

"Least we can do, after what we just did," Starsky said.

Yes, it was the least they could do. Hutch propelled himself upwards and found those lips again. He wanted them badly, if they were agreeable, for this contact was so much more satisfying than what they'd just been through. He pressed, and pressed some more, until gravity made it awkward.

"Man," Starsky said with a half smile. "You are one hell of a kisser."

Hutch's cheek returned to the soft pillow of terry cloth, but he was still looking up. "I could have told you that."

Tired eyes studied him. "You want to do that again."

Why lie? This kiss had been so delicious. "Yes."

"To make up for everything?"

Hutch sighed with frustration. Now, they were talking too much. "Do we need reasons?"

"Well... considering that we've never done it before. I'm mean, this," Starsky indicated the bed, "was just supposed to be a one-time deal."

Hutch hadn't thought it about it one way or the other. "Yeah," he finally said, discouraged.

"I mean...," Starsky went on delicately, "it's not like... you know, you'd want to do it in other circumstances." He paused, then said hesitantly, "Would you?"

"What other circumstances?" Hutch wanted to know. "I did this tonight - however grudgingly - because I love you. It's what you wanted. What you needed. If we ever did it 'in other circumstances' it'd also be because I love you. That's what I meant: do we need other reasons?"

He patted Starsky's robe-covered stomach. "Doesn't matter, anyway. You're beat, so nothing's going to happen, regardless. We both need to be playing with a full deck to talk about stuff like this." There, that left a door open. So there couldn't ever be any misunderstandings along the lines of, "I would have be willing, but I didn't think you'd want to."

What was the big deal, anyway? Tonight they'd committed what some would call a great sin. Having gone that far, there wasn't much else they could do that could be protested on grounds of morality.

And the kissing had been so very pleasant....

Hutch straightened. "Just once more," he warned, and found Starsky's lips. Pressed... It was so easy to lose himself when the feelings were so nice....

Starsky pulled back first. Breathlessly, he said, "You really want it, don't you?"

Hutch tried rationale. "If we've used sex to hurt each other, don't we deserve to use it to love each other?"

Starsky frowned. "You aren't just talking about a one-time thing, are you?"

Hutch was exasperated by all the questions. "Starsky, it's not like I can talk you into anything you don't want to do."

The other's voice was soft now. "I didn't mean it like that. I'm just... surprised, that's all. Never really thought...." He shrugged.

"Neither have I. But, I guess, once you've turned a corner, it's hard to step back and pretend you haven't seen around it to the other side."

"Yeah," Starsky said wistfully, and seemed happy at the thought. His loud yawn concluded the discussion.

Hutch reluctantly disentangled himself from the arm around him. "Guess I better go." He needed to be alone, to contemplate what had happened tonight. All that had been said... and not said. He patted Starsky's head. "I'll drop by tomorrow. Okay?"

Starsky watched him sleepily. "'Kay."

Hutch gave him a smile. Then he gathered up his clothing and left.



Part 3

"How's Starsky doing?" Dobey asked a week later.

Hutch grinned broadly from where he sat in his superior's office. "He seems okay now. I mean, really okay. You know, he's got an appointment with the Department's physician tomorrow."

"Yes," Dobey smiled. "That's good to hear."

"He'll pass everything with flying colors," Hutch said with affection. Neither he nor Starsky had any doubts.

"Glad to hear everything is working out, son."

Hutch stood. "So am I." He indicated the file Dobey had given him. "I'll get Records going on this."

"Keep me updated."

"Right." Hutch left Dobey's office and continued out the squadroom. As he headed for Records, he sighed, aware of what he hadn't told Dobey. What he could never tell anyone.

The good news was that Starsky seemed truly okay after their little sexual interlude. The bad news was that his partner didn't seem particularly interested in talking about it.

Starsky's reticence didn't seem to have anything to do with intimacy. After getting the rage out of his system, he seemed to be the same toward Hutch as he'd always been - warm, concerned, affectionate, playful. But any conversation Hutch tried to start about their feelings for each other all seemed to go the same way....

"Why don't you ever want to talk about it?" Hutch had finally asked outright.

Starsky had shrugged casually. "We can talk about it. I just don't see why we have to do anything about it right now."

"But...," Hutch couldn't hide his hopefulness, "... you do want to do something about it... eventually?"

Another shrug. "Maybe. Someday. It's just not in the cards right now, Hutch."

Hutch wanted to demand why and when, but that would be blatantly pushing the issue. He couldn't blame his partner for being hesitant after the harshness of their first time. And since Starsky obviously wasn't ready, it would be pointless to pursue it.

But he remained hopeful.

* * *

Their wine glasses clinked together and they looked into each other's eyes as they sipped. Starsky grinned. Tomorrow he would be on the LAPD's roster for the first time in six weeks. And life would be back to normal.

But, he suddenly remembered, there was one last task left to do. He put the wine glass aside. "There's something I want to give you." He turned and led the way toward the bedroom. He could sense Hutch's curiosity as soft footsteps followed him.

Starsky sat on the mattress and pulled open a bedside drawer. The springs creaked as Hutch sat beside him. He reached in and pulled out the leather wallet. Unfolding it, he took out the gold pocket watch. "Here." He waited until Hutch held out his hand. "You can have this back." He dropped the watch into Hutch's palm.

His partner's blue eyes looked at him in amazement. They also held sadness. "You sure?"

"'Course, I'm sure." Then, softer, "Don't need it no more, Hutch. I still remember how deep the hurt was. But I don't feel the hurt as much now." He took the empty wallet - he'd long since removed the driver's license and other contents - and tossed it into the wastebasket. "It's over. Time to put it behind us."

Hutch blinked. "Except for the minor fact that whoever did this to us is still at large." "We'll get him," Starsky said. "Or rather, Dobey will. With Huggy's help. But, for us, this whole thing is over. Time to move on."

Starsky was immediately sorry he'd said it that way, for he could sense the intense hopefulness in the man beside him. Ah, Hutch. He didn't want to torment the other any more than necessary. It would be so easy to give in with them sitting so close. When they'd kissed that night, it had been so beautiful. So precious. So special. It would be too easy to get started again.

Starsky released a sigh. "Well, guess I'd better turn in early. Got a big day tomorrow." He didn't look up, but he could sense that Hutch was resisting the obvious dismissal. The blond was staring at the floor.

Finally, the long legs moved and Hutch stood. "Yeah, okay," Hutch said, not bothering to hide his disappointment. Clutching the watch, he shuffled out of the room.

Starsky waited until he heard the closing of the apartment door. Then he sighed again and collapsed back on the bed. Sorry, Hutch. Just give me a little more time. I gotta figure this out.

He wished he could take back what they had done two weeks ago. If he'd known that raw anger had been the source of his problem, he would found some other way of getting over it. But it was too late now.

It would be so easy to sleep with Hutch. For reasons of love. They were both ready and willing. But Starsky knew Hutch. His big blond would not be able to relegate their prior joining to something over and done with, a harsh physical act best forgotten. And, surely, Hutch would very much want to show Starsky that he could make love to him painlessly. Lovingly. He'd be desperately anxious to treat him with kid gloves. Afraid to love him passionately.

The ghost of their first coupling - if one could even call it that -- would be hanging around a long time. If thinking Hutch dead while he'd been held captive had taught him one thing, it was that life was too short. The brief kisses he and Hutch had shared had shown Starsky that it could, indeed, be very special and precious between them. If they could somehow release that baggage from their botched first time.

Hutch had been through a lot because of him. Especially lately. Starsky wanted to make up for that. In a big way. A special way. A way that left no doubt in his partner's mind just how strong Starsky's feelings ran.

He gazed at the ceiling. Just give me a little more time, babe. So I can figure out how to ... handle you. I promise I'll make it worth it. So worth it. And you won't ever have to worry your beautiful blond head about the past stuff between us.

Lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about Hutch, Starsky put his hand over his heart. And started planning.

* * *

"There's that handsome guy."

The female voice seemed vaguely familiar, and Hutch paused with his hand on the stair railing. He glanced back at Starsky, wondering if the woman was talking about his partner. This was only Starsky's second day back at Parker Center.

"I'm talking to you, Ken Hutchinson."

That voice was too friendly and upbeat to ignore. Hutch took his foot off the first step and looked down the hallway.

"Oh," Starsky said behind him, "that's Lucy Dannings. When did she get back in town?"

Oh, yes, Lucy Dannings. He'd had a couple of dates with her a million years ago. She was fun, friendly, and eager for an uncomplicated roll in the sack. "Uh...," Hutch tried to remember his partner's question as he watched the tall brunette smiling broadly at him from the permit counter. "She's been back on duty maybe a week or so." The whole story was returning to memory. "Her mother's recovered now from her accident, so Lucy's come back to California and her job." As he talked, Hutch's legs were taking him to the direction of the counter. He felt confused.

She leaned as far over it as she could. "Hey, there, handsome," she grinned at him in her naturally flirtatious manner. "You ever going to ask me out again, or did you get snagged while I was back east?"

"Not hardly," Hutch said bashfully, lowering his eyes. He knew what he was going to do. Go through the motions. Like a hundred times before. There was no reason not to. Only his wish that there was one.

"Well... uh," he slipped his hand nervously into the back pocket of his jeans, "of course I'm going to ask you out again. What night's best for you?"

Her grin was now coy and teasing. "Just let me check my busy social schedule and get back to you."

"Deal." Hutch turned back toward the stairs. He heard the smacking of her lips behind him, blowing him a kiss.

As he started up the staircase, Hutch found himself strangely aware of his surroundings, as though all of his senses had become heightened. The multitude of conversations as people passed them. The Santa Ana winds blowing outside the window. The odor of something resembling food from the cafeteria. The growing crack in the plaster midway up the staircase. The metal handrail that felt sticky with gum on the off side. And his sixth sense that told of... something... that he could not put into words.

Around the landing and starting up the next staircase. So many people, so many conversations, so many footsteps. But one pair of footsteps stood out. The soft ones of the Adidas of his partner, just behind him.

Hutch took a deep breath as he conquered those final steps to the next floor. And then they were walking down the hallway, toward the squadroom.

A firm grip was on Hutch's arm, and Starsky pushed open a "Janitorial" door, shoving Hutch roughly inside, then closing the door behind them. They were in a small, dark space with dirty mops, brooms, and wash buckets.

"How come you're going out with her?" Starsky stood two inches in front of him, hands on his hips.

It occurred to Hutch that his partner had no right to ask that question. "Why wouldn't I?" He refused to hide his annoyance.

Starsky relaxed a bit. "What you really mean is either shit or get off the pot."

That was his Starsky - always getting right to the point. Hutch nodded. "Yes. That's exactly what I mean."

His partner's bravado crumbled, but his voice was firm. "Okay, okay. Make a date with me instead."

Hutch stared at him, disbelieving. "Just like that?"

"Whaddya mean, just like that? It's only been three weeks. I still remember what it was like."

Surely, Starsky had to mean the kissing and not the fucking.

Now that Hutch, finally, had firm confirmation of Starsky's feelings, he felt it was safe to let his own be transparent. Voice tight with emotion, he whispered, "It's seemed like a million years, for me."

He could see the hint of a huge grin from the light seeping through the door vent. "Big soft-hearted softie." Then, as though skirting around an apology, "Don't you like a little challenge? I mean, the prize isn't any fun if you don't hafta work for it."

A game. It had all been a game. Ever since that fateful night, Starsky had been standoffish whenever Hutch had tried to broach the subject of their feelings. Now, he seemed as eager as Hutch himself.

"You imp," the blond accused.

Starsky's thick eyebrows darted up and down. "And you love me for it."

God, that confidence. That brashness. Boyishness. Playfulness. Strength. It could all be his....

This was such a small closet. So dangerous.

Hutch turned a half step, trying to escape Starsky's nearness, but realized he was trapped in a corner. Resting his cheek against the wall, he tried to get his equilibrium. But his heart was pounding too hard, his stomach tense with the lifelong implications of it all. He needed room to breathe... but his nose was pressed into the corner.

God, if only Starsky would touch him. Press up against his backside, run his hand across the open buttons of his shirt. Someone might open the door and find them. And then they would be fired. And then they wouldn't have to worry about being caught.

"Let's get one thing straight." His partner's voice was firm again, perhaps even angry. "Just because I don't want to talk about it does not give you permission to go seek out someone like Lucy Dannings instead."

I didn't seek her out... Hutch wanted to protest.

Starsky's voice was thick, dangerous. "When you rammed your cock up into me, you made it mine. You can't go giving it to someone else. Ever."

Ever? Oh, my God...

Was Starsky really angry?

His heavy whisper continued. "Once you give me a part of yourself, you can't just go taking it back and giving it to somebody else. Understand? Just like you can't give your heart to anybody else. Because you gave it to me a long time ago."

Hutch knew Starsky wasn't talking about a particular incident, but of the length of their partnership. Oh, God...

Starsky's voice seemed mocking now. "It never works out when you try to give it to someone else, does it?" Heavy breath. "That's because it already belongs to me."

Jealousy? Hutch would never have imagined it could be so strong within his partner. The tangible reality of it was too much to take. He felt himself dissolving, floating, and couldn't hold onto himself. His trembling legs could not hold him up anymore, and he slowly sank to the floor, his cheek smearing against dirty paint, his limp fingers clutching a broom handle.

Trapped.

"Look at you," Starsky spat. Genuine anger now. Or was it still a game? "You're on your knees. I haven't laid a single hand on you, and you're on your knees." His heavy breath was thick with passion. "Has anyone ever sent you to your knees before? When you and Vanessa went through your puppy love - "

God, what a polite phrase for it....

"—you never went to your knees for her, did you? Without being able to see, let alone touch, her? No, I know you didn't. Only I can do that to you. Only I can make you come over and fuck me like you did, when that was the last thing you wanted to do."

Silence. Except for the sound of their breathing.

Then, softer, "So, don't you be getting any ideas about putting your dick anywhere else. I own it, just like I own the rest of you."

Oh, God....

"And if I decide I don't want any part of it for six months, then you go six months without. Understand?"

Starsky paused, then the rules continued. "You gave up your right to anyone else, and to your own independence, the moment you shoved yourself up into me."

Keeps coming back to that, Hutch thought in a daze. Did the fucking itself actually mean that much to him? If so, why did he tell me to get off him....

Harsher now. "And I shouldn't have to be explain any of this to you. You knew it the moment you sold your soul to me."

Oh, dear, dear God....

Hutch wanted to protest that he had made no such agreement, that Starsky had no right to claim anything of him. But why argue for merely academic reasons? Why argue for argument's sake?

Please, buddy, your hand. Just put your hand between my legs... and then he would be released from the awful, confining pain at his crotch. He knew Starsky was feeling it, too. The air in the tiny space was thick with their desire. Hutch released the softest of whimpers.

"I know other things about you, too." Bragging. Or was there a touch of tenderness in that voice? "I know the weight of our world that you've been carrying on your shoulders."

Our world? Ohhh....

Definite tenderness now. "Gotta survive. Gotta take care of your partner, so he survives. Because his survival means your survival. And then he's pushing you away. But you still have to take care of him. You struggle for answers. He's not talking so the answers are all up to you. And then when he talks his answer is impossible. It's wrong. But you do what he says. And you know that, despite what he says about forgiveness, that it's all your responsibility. That's a heavy, heavy burden, Hutch."

Yes.... As he forced down a swallow, his lips tasted the ancient filth of the wall.

"I'm freeing you from it, Hutch. Because of you, I'm strong again. And right this moment, I'm releasing you from all responsibility. I'm handling things now, Hutch. What I say goes."

God, that strength. That confidence.

"I'm taking care of everything." A promise? Or a threat?

Already, it was happening. His shoulders felt lighter. His cheek pressed more heavily against the wall as a wave of relief washed his strength away. Because he wouldn't need strength anymore. Starsky was handling everything.

"Your monster hard-on is shrinking. Because you're so weak right now. You have my permission to be weak, Hutch. You won't have to be strong again for a long, long time."

Oh, God. Sanctuary. Finally. Sanctuary. Peace. Freedom. Without losing him. Anything goes and he'll still want me. Because he loves me. No matter what.

Death could come now, because his life's mission had been fulfilled. At the very least, he wanted sleep to come. Go to sleep and never have to wake up. And Starsky would watch over his soul.

"Now, listen while I tell you what we're going to do." Whispering, but sounding like his normal, playful self. "I'm gonna make sure the coast is clear, and I'm going to walk out of here. I'm gonna go to Dobey and tell him you've suddenly got sick and couldn't even make it to the john and you're puking all over the broom closet."

Hutch didn't have the strength to smile, but his heart flipped over. That was his Starsky: Seamlessly switching from a lifetime of love to throwing up.

"I'm gonna tell him I'm taking you home to take care of you - stress an' all from everything you've been through." Pause. "And the taking care of you won't be a lie."

Hutch held his breath. What does he mean exactly by `taking care'? It almost sounded like a threat again.

"And since you're so sick, you obviously won't be able to come in tomorrow. And I'll tell him I'm taking you to see a doctor for a thorough examination." Pause.

Exhale....

"So, we're covered for the next day and a half. So, after I leave here, you walk outta here lookin' real miserable, and then you go down to the parking garage and get in the car and wait for me."

No request for agreement. Just a pause while waiting for the sound of footsteps to disappear. And then Starsky opened the door and slipped out.

* * *

The hardest part was trying to reassure all the concerned people that he didn't need help; that he could make it to the car on his own, that Starsky would be taking him home in a few minutes. Yet, he had to admit that he didn't feel at all guilty at the looks of concern as he stumbled down the stairs and halls, hunched over with his arm across his stomach.

If being in love was insanity, then he was indeed a very, very, very sick man.

* * *

He made a conscious decision not to speak. Every time he started to say something - about where they might be going, what they were going to do, whether to stop or run the yellow light - he reminded himself that he didn't have to. He was free. None of what was going to happen now or in the near future was his responsibility.

He hadn't known it was possible to feel so light and carefree. He'd never felt a freedom like this in his entire adult life. Not since he was a small child.

Starsky seemed cheerful, eager, and energetic. He had a definite sense of purpose. They stopped by his apartment. While Hutch stood silently, Starsky threw things into a duffel bag, including shirts Hutch recognized as once being his. Finally, the duffel bag was stuffed with clothes and toiletries for them both, to the point where it was too full to close the zipper. The last thing Starsky tossed on top of the open bag was the tube of K-Y.

Hutch knew that was going to be used on him.

They had just started for the door when there was a sudden knock. Starsky glanced back at Hutch, his mouth dropping open in puzzlement.

No, Hutch pleaded. Don't let anything interfere with this.

Starsky put the bag down and opened the peep window. "Who is it?"

"Starsky?"

"Huggy," Hutch muttered. But what is he doing here? To the fates, he pleaded, Please don't let it be anything important.

"Yeah, just a sec," Starsky called back. He opened the door. "Hey there, Huggy, what brings you here?"

The black man entered. "I've been looking for you guys all day. Then I heard you'd gotten sick, Hutch." He looked the blond up and down.

Hutch put a hand to his stomach. "Yeah, uh...."

Starsky changed the subject. "What's up?"

"I heard something about what happened to you guys that I'm not ready to talk to Dobey about."

Starsky stepped back and gestured to the sofa. "Have a seat." He met Hutch's eye with the same puzzlement that the blond felt, as he straddled the sofa arm.

Huggy sat down. "One of the cats I've been working with found out some more stuff on the person behind it. I don't think what happened to you guys had anything to do with someone trying to get revenge on you both."

"WHAT?" they demanded in unison.

"I think the guy - if it's him - was after Dobey. That's why I wanted to come to you two first."

"Whaddya mean, after Dobey?" Starsky said. "If this weirdo wanted to get Dobey, why the big charade with Hutch and me?"

"I know it sounds crazy. But... have either of you heard of a man named Parker Green?"

Hutch thought hard. An unusual name. Surely, they'd remember....

"No," Starsky answered for them both.

"Okay, just between us for now, this is what I think is going on."

Both detectives waited.

"About ten years ago, Parker Green was a young detective who was one of the first ones to work under Dobey. Green and his partner, Ron Gibson, were put on an assignment under Dobey's command. Something went wrong, Gibson got killed, and Green blamed Dobey for his partner's death. So, Green has held a grudge all these years."

Starsky blurted, "But how -"

"Let me finish. Green has still been working in the Department all these years. He was transferred to Public Relations after Gibson's death, working the charity end; you know, getting contributions for funds for officers killed in the line of duty, that sort of thing. He never moved up in the ranks."

Both detectives nodded, absorbing the information.

"A rich aunt of Green's died a year or so ago. Green inherited a lot of money. But he didn't quit the force. Maybe the money was what he'd been waiting for. Finally, he had the bread to put his plan into action." Huggy sat back against the sofa and looked at both men. "He wanted to get at Dobey. Hurt him. Humiliate him. What better way than to have his two best detectives disappear without a trace?"

"But if we're talking about real hurt," Hutch said, "Green would have gone after Dobey's family."

"No," Huggy said, before Starsky could agree. "He wanted to hurt Dobey in a way a cop would understand. If Dobey was still on the streets and had a partner, then I suppose Green would have gone after the partner. Since Dobey was flying a desk, Green had to go after the best Dobey had, make it so mysterious that Dobey had nothing to offer the press or his superiors about what happened to two of the LAPD's best that Dobey was responsible for; and, best for Green, it was two real tight partners that disappeared."

Hutch wondered, "But why do that to Starsky and me, if it was Dobey he wanted to hurt? As much as I know that our dear captain went through, it wasn't be anything like what we went through."Especially what Starsky went through, he added silently.

"I'm don't know the answer to that," Huggy said. "But from what my people have found out, it sounds like Green was after Dobey more than the two of you. I know someone who runs a gas station that Green uses a lot. He said Green had mentioned a few times how funny it was that Dobey was struggling so hard to find out who kidnapped you two. And then, after you guys were safe, Green was laughing about how the police - and Dobey in particular - couldn't find out who was behind it."

"I don't know," Starsky said, "This Green fellow sure went through a lot of trouble...."

Huggy shrugged. "I guess it was all he had to live for - getting back at Dobey."

Starsky said, "And so this Green guy is still showing up at the station for work every morning, confident as hell that no one is going to know it's him behind the whole thing?"

"He was careful to make sure that nobody knew anybody else two links further down the chain of events. That's why information has been hard to get."

"What about evidence to convict him?" Hutch said. "You haven't told us much that's concrete."

"That part, gentlemen, is out of my realm of expertise." Huggy grinned. "That's for you law enforcement types to figure out."

Starsky looked at Hutch and sighed. "Then we need a confession."

"Right," Hutch said.

Huggy got up. "Anyway, I wanted to bring this to you two first - thought the truth might be hard on Dobey." He moved to the door.

"Good work," Starsky said. "Hutch and me will figure out how to handle Green."

Huggy waved and left.

Hutch turned away while the door closed. His mind was racing. They'd have to approach Green carefully. Green was a cop and he'd be aware of the law, and be careful of what he might say. How should they go about confronting him? Should they set up something in advance, or just show up -

Hutch grunted when a weight was suddenly upon his back, dragging him down to the carpet, his chin scraping the rug.

"You don't listen real good, do you?" Starsky's angry voice said.

"Wh - "

A hand clamped over his mouth. "Shut up," his partner ordered. "I'm in charge, remember? And you don't speak, unless I tell you to."

Was this real anger? Or more of the game? Starsky's weight was heavy, straddling across his back.

Starsky's voice grew softer, but only because he had moved closer to his ear. "I released you from all responsibility this morning. And what do I get? I get thinking. You thinking, when the only thing you're supposed to be doing is breathing in and out and obeying ev-er-y sing-le thing I tell you."

"B—" No, he wasn't supposed to speak.

"Put your arms at your sides." As the order was spoken, Starsky grabbed his arms and put them alongside his body.

Helpless. Facedown with Starsky on top of him. His arms in a vulnerable position, unable to defend himself.

"You don't seem to understand what's going on here," Starsky's disgusted voice continued. "You seem to think that just because someone knocks on the door and has something to say that that somehow changes what's going on between me and you. Uh-uh."

A bolt of glee shot through Hutch. Still going through with it....

Starsky stretched out on top of him. His voice was softer now... yet somehow more dangerous. Hips ground against Hutch's buttocks, then suddenly a denim-clad hardness rammed against his denim-clad ass.

Oh, dear God....

That tight voice was at his ear again. "Let me explain what's going on, since you don't seem to have a clue." Steel pushed more firmly against him, bunching his clothing. Then breathlessness in his ear. "This is going to happen to you. And it's going to happen before the day is over."

God, dear God.

"And it's going to happen to you because I want it to. And what you want has absolutely no say in the matter. Because none of it is your responsibility. You could look me in the eye and tell me you don't want it, and it would still happen. Because you don't have a voice, Hutch. I own you -- "

Breathe... breathe... breathe....

" - and that means you only have a voice if I say so, and I took your voice away this morning. So there's no way you can stop this from happening." More grinding from that steel thickness against his crevice.

Fingers fumbling beneath him....

God!

Feeling near the top of his jeans...

What's he doing? Breathe... breathe... pleasetouchmycock....

Tugging his shirt up and out of the way....

Can't take it. If he doesn't let me come, I'll die...

Hand rubbing across the bareness of his stomach....

"You think this is a hand?" Starsky demanded. "Uh-uh. It's a tool I use to control you with."

Control?

Shifting on top of him....

God, he's heavy....

Relief, as Starsky settled beside Hutch, his knees taking his weight. He pushed up the back of Hutch's shirt. Hutch felt soft wetness in the middle of his spine. "You think these are lips? Uh-uh. They're a tool I use to control you with."

Arrogant, arrogant rascal....

Hand underneath again. Parting the snap to his jeans.

Holy Moses. Holy, holy Moses....

Now at his lower back, tugging at his jeans.

Dear God, he's going to do it right here, right now? He was a little disappointed. Had thought they were going somewhere....

No, the tugging stopped, leaving just his upper buttocks exposed. Then wet softness darting along the upper seam of his ass crack....

Hutch cried out, jolted against the carpet, a wave of goosebumps flushing through his body....

"You think this is a tongue? Uh-uh. It's something - " Abruptly, Starsky shut up.

Silence.

The world stopped spinning on its axis. Hutch knew that, from this moment on, his life would never be the same again. But he had no idea why.

"Ahhh, Hutch." The voice was soft now. Tender. Playful.

Jekyll and Hyde...

"You're so, so, so transparent. It would be shamefully disgusting if it weren't so shamelessly beautiful." Starsky sighed deeply, as though resigned. "I'm real disappointed now."

Really? Hutch hoped not.

Starsky shifted on his knees. "See, considering how you reacted just now, I have a fantasy, but I'm not going to be able to act it out. In the fantasy, I pull your pants down. And I tell you to spread your legs real wide. And then I pull your ass cheeks east and west, and I start feasting on your asshole."

FEASTING?

. "And, you know, Hutch, it wouldn't be like any other ass lick you've ever had before. Because, you know, sometimes when you get a little favor like that, she runs her tongue along you or somethin', but it never lasts very long. And, you know, if she's someone you like and you care about, you're hardly gonna ask her to do that. And even if she's someone who's name you don't remember, you feel embarrassed if she spends too much time there, so you don't ever hint at how much you want it. You're too polite."

Another heavy sigh. "But, Hutch, I'm not gonna pull your pants down and tell you to spread your legs wide and pull your ass cheeks east and west and feast down there." He paused, and his voice grew harder. "Because you've shown me that I can't trust you."

Huh?

"I told you I was takin' care of everything, and you went off and started thinking. That was very disobedient of you, Hutch. So, instead of sitting here fulfilling my fantasy of tending to your asshole allafternoon - "

Breathe, breathe...

"I instead have to use this little bit of information I just now found out about you for blackmail to make you behave. I'm not very happy about that, Hutch."

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut. Punish me any way you want, but let me come, please....

Starsky softened. "All right. First we're going to go over what's going to happen if you're a hundred percent good and you don't do anything else wrong. Listen good, because I'm not going to repeat it. When we get to the place where I'm going to fuck you, I'm going to first spend thirty minutes licking your asshole."

Oh, Jesus, God Almighty....

Heavy, heavy breath. "Thirty minutes, Hutch. But every time that you're bad, I'm gonna subtract five minutes." Threatening: "I'm not gonna be very happy about it if I have to subtract any time, Hutch. Cause it'll mean you're interfering with my pleasure."

His heart was going to stop. He was going to die....

Slightly softer again. "All right. Now, what do you have to do to be good? It's very simple, Hutch. Ridiculously simple. So simple, that there's no excuse for messing it up. All you have to do is keep breathing in and breathing out. That's all. You don't think. You don't talk, unless I specifically tell you to talk. And you do exactly what I tell you. You just do what I say, and there's no thinking involved. It's so simple I don't get how you've already screwed up and messed up my fantasy. I'm still mad about that, Hutch."

But - Hutch wanted to protest. No, don't think.

"Now, there's two rules that we're gonna live by that are always in effect."

We're gonna live by.... Oh, Starsky... His heart was somersaulting.

"The first is that, at any time, anywhere, you're always allowed to come. You don't need my permission."

Thank God....

What a clever devil Starsky was. Already, Hutch felt the worst pain of his aching erection start to ease, as the urgency disappeared with the knowledge that he never had to try to prevent it from happening.

"Even if we're in a grocery store or some place like that."

!!!

"Second, you're always allowed to make noise as long as you can't help it. But no words, Hutch, unless you have my permission. And you're not allowed to ask for permission."

Oh, my God....

The voice came closer, dropped lower. "So, see, there's no reason why you can't be obedient. There's no reason for me to take any time off the thirty minutes I'm going to spend with my tongue up inside your ass."
Was Starsky really going to spend thirty minutes at it?

"But, an hour ago, I woulda thought you couldn't do anything bad at all. But you've shown me I can't trust you about that."

Starsky stood.

"All right, we've wasted enough time. Pull your beautiful carcass up off the floor so I can take you to where you're going to get fucked."

The world began to rotate again. Hutch hauled himself onto all fours. He was weak, dizzy, and still throbbing terribly at his crotch. Would he be allowed to touch himself? But he wasn't allowed to ask. Slowly, he staggered to his feet. His heart must still be beating, because he was breathing.

Starsky's hand was already on the door and he gripped the duffel bag. "For God's sakes, Hutch, fasten your pants and tuck in your shirt."

* * *

He kept looking out the side window while they headed north up the coastline. Every time he thought his desire was ebbing, he couldn't help but think about what was going to happen to him if he was good. He had to sit with his legs spread wide and wonder how long the torment would last.

Starsky stopped for gas, and after paying, he reached across the seat to Hutch. "Here. Ice water."

Hutch tried to take it, but it slipped out of Starsky's fingers. Into Hutch's lap.

His eyes widened as the biting cold collided with the heat of his groin. It was on the tip of his tongue to yell and swear and call Starsky everything in the book....

.... And then he realized how important it was not to say anything. So, he was good and didn't react and didn't have any minutes subtracted. Instead, he just looked up to see Starsky's reaction.

His partner met his eye and shrugged sheepishly. "Oops."

* * *

Starsky pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway. "I don't want you to see where we're going."

Oh, Jesus, God....

"It'd be easiest to blindfold you, but a passerby would call the cops within seconds. So, we gotta do the next best thing. Lower your head, Hutch, like you're in church."

Hutch lowered his head to look at the floorboard.

"Good. Don't you dare look up until I say so."

Thankfully, they only drove another ten minutes. Hutch was sure they were in Long Beach. He couldn't imagine the reason for the secrecy, but he wasn't sure he understood anything Starsky had said or done since shoving him into the closet this morning. He did know that he'd never felt such a sense of danger while in the presence of his partner. Nor had he ever felt this excited.

"All right," Starsky said when he'd turned off the motor. "Get out of the car without looking up."

Hutch opened the door and got out, watching his shoes step onto the pavement. As he closed the door, Starsky's came up beside him.

"Okay," Starsky said. "Without turning your head, move your eyes until they're on my crotch."

Hutch's obedience was automatic. He gazed at the thick mound of Starsky's crotch. It moved within the denim.

Dear God... His lap had dried in the afternoon sun, but now he was going to embarrass himself just as blatantly. Except.... Hutch knew he was truly free. He wasn't the least bit embarrassed, even if they were in a public place. This was all Starsky's game and Hutch was just a pawn. Nothing to be embarrassed about because none of it was his doing.

"All right. You keep your eyes right there until I say otherwise. Let's go."

They started walking across a parking lot. Hutch realized that, to a passerby, he would just look like someone with a bowed head.

Up a step... go through a glass door...

Hotel lobby.

The thick crotch paused next to a desk.

"May I help you, sir?" The male voice was formal, giving the impression that this was a classy establishment.

"Yes," Starsky said, "I'd like to get a room for the night." He kept shifting so that he wasn't completely facing the desk, keeping his crotch in view.

Brash, arrogant.... Hutch had to remember to keep breathing. I ought to turn him over my knee for thinking he can get away with behaving like this. Displaying himself for anyone who cares to look.... (not that I have a choice)....

"I'm afraid that singles are all we have left for this evening."

"That'll do."

"If you care for a rollaway, I can - "

"Nah, that's okay. We'll manage."

"The beds are king-sized." As though being helpful.

"Good."

"If you can fill out this card."

Sound of papers and shuffling. "I'm sorry, sir, but we haven't yet replaced the key that was lost. There's only one to that room."

"That's all we need."

"And how would you like to pay for this?"

"Credit card." A hand moved passed Hutch's vision, and then contained a wallet when it passed back again.

"Will you be paying separately?"

"No, and, uh," clearing throat, "we'd also like to keep the room until six o'clock tomorrow evening."

In a room with Starsky all that time.... Hutch saw the thick lump twitch again. Starsky was shifting his feet more than ever. "Do we have to pay for a whole `nother night even though we're leaving at six?"

"Uh, let me check with the manager."

Silence. People were standing behind them.

"Sir, our normal policy is to charge another night for anyone who stays past noon. However, since it's not our peak season, our manager has given permission to charge only fifty percent for keeping the room the entire day."

"Thanks. Appreciate it very much."

More sounds of paper. Hutch had the feeling he was being stared at.

"He can't talk," Starsky said by way of explanation.

"Oh, I see." Embarrassment. Pity.

"I mean, he can talk, but he's just not allowed to. It's a religious thing."

Starsky, I swear....

"He's paying penance for a bad thing he did. I'm helping him get himself straightened out."

Paying penance for a bad thing, Hutch thought defiantly, that wasn't a "bad thing" until I'd already been "bad", which is why he knocked me to the floor. If he hadn't done that, then he never would have had that fantasy of licking my asshole all afternoon - breathe, breathe -- in the first place.

Hutch wondered if Starsky had any idea how transparently faulty his logic was.

The air across the counter was thick with embarrassment on Hutch's behalf. Hutch wished that he could look up and see their faces.

Oops. The crotch moved and Hutch had to concentrate to keep up. Then it paused again and there were sounds of elevators. Once again, Hutch was aware of people standing behind them.

Into the elevator. Four of them, including himself and Starsky, and two women.

Starsky leaned back against the railing, exposing himself fully.

"Beautiful day, isn't it?" one of the women said.

"The greatest on Earth," Starsky replied. The denim shifted again. Expectant silence, then Starsky explained, "I'm getting married today."

MARRIED???

"Oh...," puzzled female voices, as Starsky was hardly dressed for the occasion. "Congratulations."

"Thanks."

God, how many floors? Married. I never agreed....

But I had no say. I didn't argue when he said he was in charge. So, he's in charge. But... is this all part of the game, or does he really feel that's what we're doing?

Extended silence, and Hutch again had the sensation of being stared at.

Awkwardly, another female voice asked, "Are you with this young groom?"

"Yes," Starsky answered for him.

The door opened and the women quickly exited.

The elevator started up again, the air thick between the two of them. There was the noise of a throat clearing, then casual whistling.

Will he give up the game as soon as we're in the room?

Hutch hoped so. Then they could collide together and hump like rabbits. Release and relief.

But then maybe he wouldn't get his thirty minutes. He wanted his thirty minutes. He'd gone through this ridiculous charade for his thirty minutes. He wanted his thirty minutes more than anything.

He realized he was sweating.

Elevator opening. Starsky strolling casually into the hall, still whistling, Hutch keeping up at his side. Pausing... as Starsky checked room numbers. Walking. Walking. The hallway was so long. If penises could undo zippers, Hutch's would have already freed itself and extended clear down the corridor from all his backed up desire.

And after I was done paddling his arrogant ass, I'd pin him against the wall and ram my sixty-foot cock into him. That'd show him. That'd humble him. Maybe even for two full minutes....

Sound of a key....

Oh, God....

They'd stopped and Hutch hadn't even realized it. The mound of Starsky's crotch was so huge that the outline of every bit of his flesh could be seen... or at least imagined.

Door handle turning.... Door opening.....

"Stay here." The gentle command was delivered just inside the door. The door closed. Then the crotch walked away.

What's he doing?

A casual voice from across the room. "You can look up if you want."

Hutch did. Starsky was gazing out the window. It was a very nice hotel room, but still just a hotel room. Hardly worth all the secrecy. Hell, all he had to do was find the stationary to see what hotel it was.

It was never a secret, he knew. Just part of his game.

Slowly, Starsky straightened and stared across the room at Hutch. Matter-of-factly, but with a hint of sadness, he said, "I'm not very happy with you, Hutch."

What? He'd been good. Hadn't done a single bad thing. Starsky had better not -

"You were thinking." Heavy sigh. "Thinking in the lobby. Thinking in the elevator. Thinking down the hallway. That's fifteen minutes off your time, Hutch."

WAIT A SECOND! He made sure his exasperation showed on his face. When I was thinking as we came off the elevator it was about getting my thirty minutes. How can that be held against me?

Starsky slowly walked up to him, tilted his head to one side, as though considering. Then he said, "I'm going to ask you a question, and the only answer you're allowed to give is yes or no. One of those times you were thinking, were you thinking about your thirty minutes?"

"Yes." Ask me again. Ask me about those other two times and I'll lie and say yes. I want your tongue up my ass so bad that I'll do anything to get my whole thirty minutes back.

"All right, we'll compromise," Starsky said, as though having made a great decision. "I'll give you three minutes back for the time you were thinking about me darting my tongue up inside your asshole." He stared at Hutch as his tongue darted out to circle around his lips.

God, I'm going to faint. Hutch was breathing so hard he could hear himself.

Starsky switched gears and the edge was back in his voice. His eyes were dark and dangerous. "But I'm still not very happy about the twelve minutes you've taken off my time, Hutch. You need a helluva lot more practice at this thing. You've got a long, long ways to go before you're any good at being good. I keep tellin' ya how simple it is. You just breathe in and out. And do exactly what I tell you. You don't think. Now get undressed."

Yes, undress. Hutch tore at his shirt. No chance to be bad while he still had eighteen minutes. Do what he says.

It was such relief when his jeans and underwear went down his legs, freeing his giant erection. Within sixty seconds, he straightened, completely nude.

Starsky had watched, but didn't seem particularly interested. Or impressed. He moved into the bathroom, and Hutch heard bath water running. Starsky called out, "If you have to piss, go ahead."

Piss? His lower body had been so tormented, how was he supposed to know which urge was which? Nevertheless, it seemed like a good idea, so he walked into the bathroom and stood before the toilet. He had to stand there a long time, as Starsky fussed with the bath water, before the contents of his bladder got through.

He shook himself dry and turned to the tub, waiting for orders. Starsky had just turned off the water and the tub was less than half full.

"Okay." Starsky eyed him up and down, from where he knelt beside the tub, his gaze soft and gentle. "In you go." He took Hutch's arm.

Hutch stepped into the tub, thinking it was the first tender touch from his partner in a long time.

"Sit down there." A slight tug.

Hutch sat in the warm water. It didn't even come up to his waist, and his dick bobbed along the surface, seeking more of the wet warmth.

Starsky leaned toward him, breathing heavily. "Listen, Hutch. Listen good. Cause I don't want you to mess this up and have any more of my time taken off."

Oh God... please don't make it something difficult. Eighteen minutes I've still got.

"'Kay, now listen. I'm going to get undressed right here in this bathroom. But, Hutch, listen good, now. You can only look at me above the waist. Your eyes drift for one zillionth of a second to below my waist, I'm gonna have to take more time off for disobedience." Heavy breath. "I don't want to take more time off, Hutch."

Hutch felt his mouth fall open. I'm not supposed to look at that huge thing of his? After staring at its outline all the way from the car to our room? Don't I have a right to see what he's going to shove up into me? (Later... after my eighteen minutes.)

"I know it's a tough one, Hutch. But it starts right now. You can look anywhere else, but not at me below the waist."

Hutch dropped his head back against the edge of the tub and stared at the ceiling tiles. Can't take a chance on messing up...

Soft sound of the movement of clothing. Then feet against tiles. Foot stepping into water. Awkward movement, legs brushing against his legs.

Want to look so bad....

"Sit up on your ass more."

Hutch was practically lying down, and he now straightened so there was a little more room.

"Spread your legs so they're outside of me."

Oh, God. Eyes determinedly on the ceiling, Hutch felt around with his feet until he'd managed to slip his legs outside of Starsky's body. One leg rested on the side of the tub, the other draped over the edge.

Exposed.... He can put anything into me and there's nothing I can do about it.

"All right." Soft now. Incredibly tender. "There's something I hafta do Just hafta. Because I can't wait anymore. But Hutch, you aren't allowed to move anything below your neck."

Oh, God, more rules. He wasn't going to survive this. He knew he wasn't. From what direction is whatever he can't wait for anymore going to happen? What part of him is he going to use to touch what part of me?

Dark hair came into his vision, then that heavily chiseled face. Hot breath tickled his chin. And then lips were against his....

Oh, Godddddddd.....

Sinking, floating....groaning loudly.... Oh, no! Messed up!

But Starsky was still pressing against him. Okay to make noise if I couldn't help it, he reminded himself. No, I can't help it. I can't help any of it.

Their heads were moving back and forth, Starsky's hand now rubbing against his chest.

God, so beautiful. I want to die right here. Starsky on top of me, kissing me so tenderly, my prick aimed straight up at the ceiling. Floating away....

But it ended. Starsky pulled back. Hutch's eyes had closed, and when he opened them he was looking into the soft features of a face that appeared to be floating off the planet as well.

Soft lips touched his cheek, his chin, the corner of his mouth. Starsky's eyes were barely open, the lids were so droopy. His voice so tender. "I could take or leave any of the rest of it. But I could spend the next day and a half in this hotel room, just kissing you."

Ah, Starsky... Ah, buddy....

Despite his words, Starsky looked down. Hutch had to be very careful not to follow his gaze, for fear of seeing something he wasn't supposed to see. He dropped his head back and closed his eyes.

Lips touched his right nipple. A wet tongue lapped at it.

Ohhhhh, boy....

Teeth barely nibbled at the surrounding area. Then that luscious mouth sucked....

I'm gonna come. Any second, I'm gonna come. Touch me, please....

The touch went away. Silence for three seconds. Then, "We're going to have to do something about this."

Hutch opened his eyes and saw Starsky's bent head. Looking down at him. Seeing his huge, purple cock aimed toward the ceiling.

Movement.

Oh, God! What's he gonna do?

Soft roughness of a washcloth, moving over his prick. Fingers/thumb/something feeling along the crown. Squeezing....

"AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" exploded out of him as his pressure released, and creamy liquid fountained, as sensations rushed all through his body. Hutch collapsed back with closed eyes, bumping his head on the wall, even as more spurted from his cock.

"Man," wonder in Starsky's tone, "your balls must have turned inside out."

Yes. His balls had turned inside out. They'd never be able to hold sperm again, and that was fine, because he never wanted to know pressure like that again, but he wasn't sorry that he was completely comatose from the ecstatic release, which had been beyond description.

"God, you're beautiful, Hutch." So tender.

Lazily, he let his eyes drift open, making sure he was looking up. Though he didn't know what difference obeying made now. Something about a tongue up his asshole, but he wouldn't be able to enjoy it, anyway. He was incapable of feeling any further physical sensations whatsoever. That capability had just ejaculated out of him.

Starsky look so pleased with him. Hutch grinned.

Then Starsky shifted just a hair, and Hutch suddenly felt claustrophobic.

"All right, Hutch, you left a big puddle on yourself."

Yes, he could feel it cooling along his belly and on his ribs.

"What I want you to do - "

Still giving orders?

"is scoop it up with your fingers - "

I want to sleep.

"—and place it anywhere on your upper body where you want me to put my tongue."

Hutch breathed deeply. The game isn't over. All right, maybe he didn't have to be selfish. He could do this for Starsky.

What was it? Scoop up the cum. He didn't look down at the puddle, because that was against orders, but he did put his hand down in it and rub his fingers through it.

Man, that is a lot. What was he supposed to do? Put it where I want Starsky to put his tongue. He was amused now. Yes, he could still play along.

Hutch waited until Starsky looked up. Then he locked eyes with him. And he took his cum-covered fingers and rubbed them along his right nipple. Holding the other's darkening gaze, he scooped up more of the cooling substance and treated his left nipple the same way. And then, his breath heavy with the excitement of teasing Starsky, he scooped up the remainder. He rubbed it along his lips. Finally, refusing to release Starsky from his gaze, he stuck out his tongue and rubbed the remnants of the fluid along the top.

There. He waited, holding his mouth open. You want it, you come and get it.

And Starsky was on him, panting, licking around Hutch's lips, tongue darting along them as though he couldn't get enough. He grabbed Hutch by the sides of his face and pressed their lips together, thrusting his tongue inside, dancing along Hutch's tongue.

Jesus, he's so hot. He was getting another hard-on. And... Starsky hasn't come at all yet. A wave of sympathy washed through him.

Starsky calmed down... a little. He was still kissing, licking and sucking at the inside of Hutch's mouth. But now the kiss became more normal, like the one before, where all they did was float....

Eventually, Starsky released Hutch's lips, his dark head bowing. Hutch lay back and closed his eyes as his nipples were tended to. Damn, Starsky spent a lot of time there. Licking and sucking... testing reactions. I like that. Like that a lot.

Starsky's hands came up to the sides of Hutch's face again, this time their grip light and gentle. Panting, the well-chiseled face came closer. "You've been a good boy, Hutch." He actually sounded surprised.

Eighteen minutes. Yeah, I do want it. I'll come again if he spends that long with his tongue licking my asshole. God...

"And now I'm gonna make it real easy."

Oh, no, not another order.

"Close your eyes, Hutch."

Hutch closed them.

Soft, earnest, gentle voice. "You have to keep them closed, Hutch. Until I tell you to open them. And when I tell you to open them, it'll be okay to look at me below the waist. But that's gonna be a little while, so just keep your eyes closed and do exactly what I tell you."

Hutch tried to draw a breath, for he was having a hard time taking in enough air. What's going to happen?

"Open your mouth." It was an order, but the tone was very gentle.

Hutch opened his mouth.

"Wider."

A hand was now in his hair, its touch just as tender. Hutch opened wider.

"'Kay." Panting. "Work up some spit."

Hutch did, panting in sympathy with his partner's arousal.

"Wet your lips by running your tongue along them."

Good idea, since they were so dry. To the left... then the right....

"Good boy." Starsky sounded like he couldn't get enough air. "Keep your mouth open. Stay real still."

God, what's he going to put in there? He had a pretty good idea....

Shifting, movement of the water, sound of limbs connecting with bathroom tile, as though seeking a better position.

"Okay, real easy." A bare whisper. "Easy does it."

Smooth skin pulled taut over swollen tissue touched Hutch's upper lip... then his lower lip... Passing between them....

God, so big. It was so difficult to hold still, because he wanted to clamp his lips around it and go to work. To please Starsky. Please him so much.

But the huge cylinder now rested along the top of his tongue.

"'Kay." One breath. Two. "Now close your lips around it - just the head."

Gratefully, Hutch let his lips wrap around it, feeling the taut ridge just inside his mouth. Huge. The strain of its fullness. The bitter, musky taste coming from it. He's got to be in torture. Go ahead, buddy. Ram it against my tonsils and come down my throat.

"Let your tongue slide along the underside. Suck against there." The hand in his hair now stroked down the side of his forehead, onto his cheek. An even gentler touch beneath his jaw. God, the skin was smooth. Why wouldn't Starsky let him have the whole thing?

Another moment of heavy breathing. Then, "Find the tip with your tongue and lick it."

Retracting his tongue. Dancing along that underside. Hardly any room to maneuver. Find the even smoother crown. Lick the slit.

"Ah," Starsky let out a soft cry and quivered.

The taste was very strong there. Hutch swallowed it, felt himself shiver at the tanginess.

Pushing farther, more of that massive thickness moving past his lips. Hutch didn't think there was enough room to suck. The girth of it filled up his whole mouth.

"I know it's big, Hutch." Not even bragging; but tender apology. "I'm gonna have a heck of a time fucking you with the whole thing." Now threatening. "But that's what I'm going to do."

Hutch exhaled, letting his heavy breath find its way around the obstruction, which flared at Starsky's words. He'd forgotten the whole reason why they were here. This thing couldn't even fit all the way inside his mouth, and it was going to be shoved up inside his ass?

He wanted very much for Starsky to come, to release the pressure, to make it smaller. Except... he knew that it was only fair if it ripped him open, like he had done to Starsky.

Just when he was thinking about going to town on it, and risk defying orders, it was pulled back, so the tip rested against his lower lip.

Please let me open my eyes. Let me see it.

"Hutch." One breath. "I'm real close to exploding all over the place." Two breaths. "If I happen to come in your mouth, don't swallow it until I say so."

Why not? Let this beautiful thing of yours come all over my mouth. I'll drink every bit of it and be back for more.

The crown parted his lips again. But it frustrated him when it was pulled back. And then that throbbing, smooth skin teased along his cheek. So hot. And then down....

"Open your eyes, Hutch."

Hutch did. It was huge, deep red. Pointed at his throat. Starsky screamed and it was shooting against his neck, down onto his chest.

Starsky looked like an ancient warrior, head thrown back as he cried out to the ceiling, his bare legs struggling to maintain some sort of purchase against the sides of the tub...

He's so damn beautiful and he's going to fall....

Hutch could only sit there and watch. He hadn't been ordered to do anything.

Starsky slid into the shallow water on his rear, splashing. He winced as his back came into contact with the faucet.

He sat hunched over, breathing deeply. And then he let out a long, breezy sigh. Swallowed. Raised his head. Grinned.

Hutch grinned back.

"Now." Rising up on his knees with renewed vigor. "Now that that's out of the way we can get serious."

Get serious? Why? What about curling up together on that huge bed and falling asleep in each other's arms? We can fuck later.

Starsky bent down to him, their lips connecting... No matter how tired they were, it was so beautiful, the way they melted together. Hutch wanted so much to put his arms around Starsky. Hold him. Love him.

With obvious reluctance, Starsky pulled back, eyes slit as they gazed lovingly at Hutch. "You're allowed to speak right now, if you want. Up to three words."

"I love you."

A grin spread along the right side of Starsky's face. Then those lips were on his once again. Pressing. So wet and soft. Floating.... Melting... Floating away, all melted together....

The softest, warmest breath blowing across Hutch's face brought him back to reality. "I love you too, Hutch." Tender, whispered words. "That's the only reason all of this is happening today. And that's why we've got so much more to do."

Hutch relaxed against the back of the tub. No use arguing with Starsky's determination.

Starsky looked around and found a small bar of soap. He peeled off the wrapper, and dipped it into the water. "Scoot down more so I can reach your asshole."

Hutch avoided rolling his eyes. Anything you say, Mr. Romantic. He hunched down lower in the tub, tilted his lower body up slightly.

Starsky wet the soap again. And then Hutch felt the bar against his opening.

Starsky looked at Hutch's face while his hands worked. "You know what this means, don't you? Why I'm getting you all cleaned up and ready?"

Blood rushed through the veins of his dick.

"It means I'm very close to taking my pleasure from you. I can't wait to start enjoying myself. Just wish you woulda behaved and I coulda had the full thirty minutes. I'm still not very happy about that, Hutch."

Then give the twelve minutes back. His prick was already pointing toward the ceiling again.

"Maybe, to teach you to be good," a wash cloth down there now, "I'm going to have to keep a Hutch Diary. And in the Hutch Diary I'll keep Hutch Points. And every time you're good, which means doing exactly what I tell you, you'll get a Hutch Point. And then, on any given day, I'll decide how many accumulated Hutch Points it'll take to prove to me that you want my tongue up your ass."

Hutch dropped his head back and closed his eyes. God. I can have his tongue up my ass whenever I want. Life was impossibly good.

No, wait. That's not what he said. He said he decides each day whether there's enough points or not. Meaning it'll all come down to whether he feels like it or not. Moron.

"Okay." Extreme gentleness again. "We're all done except for one major cleaning chore. Left a big mess up here." Curiously, Hutch opened his eyes. It was just in time to see Starsky close his own eyes and press his tongue against Hutch's throat.

Oh, God. Starsky was licking up his own semen. But it wasn't hurried. Long, patient strokes of his tongue. He paused to say, "This is good practice, because it lets me get warmed up for doing your asshole. I'm going to do you just like this, Hutch." Looong stroke. Looong stroke. Then daft-dart-dart. Dart-dart-dart.

His balls ached. His prick was going to burst again. What was the point of them having sex together if neither of them ever got any relief?

Done with his neck now. Onto his chest. A careful moment cleaning up the left nipple where the semen had spurted. Extra time spent there, teeth barely nibbling.

Dear God... Maybe, when Starsky was finished with the cleanup, he'd keep going lower.... After all, Hutch still had his legs spread nicely for him, giving full access....

But, no, Starsky came up. A kiss now on his chin. Gentle lips brushing against his. Hutch opened his mouth, let the tongue come in, as he knew it would. Sucked on it gently. Tasted the strong muskiness of the emission.

Suddenly Starsky was out of the tub, reincarnated erection bobbing in the air. He ran a towel along his legs, then said, "All right, you beautiful blond. Stand up and get out."

Hutch did. A towel was there at his legs, drying them and then his buttocks.

"Lean against the wall."

Huh? Hutch bent at the waist and put both hands against the bathroom wall.

"Spread your legs. Real wide."

Oh, God. Any second his tongue's going up there. His legs were quivering.

But, no. It was a towel that touched him. Gently cupped his balls. The edge running along the crack of his ass. Toweled hand running along his fire....

Oh, God, I'm gonna explode.

"You're leaking like crazy, Hutch."

Tell me something I don't know.

Starsky dropped to his knees in front of him.

Dear God. I won't be able to stand it.

Took his throbbing length in hand.

I'm going to explode all over the earth. All over him.

Leaned forward and put his mouth on it.

Oh, dear God, I can feel the back of his tongue.

Held the shaft in his strong hands that wasn't enclosed by the moistness. Sucked against the underside....

Can't think, can't breathe....

Bobbed his head back and forth while gripping firmly with his hands.

Out of this world.....

One hand moving, reaching down to Hutch's balls, fondling....

Hutch's legs quivered as a deep masculine groan forced its way from his chest up through his mouth. His whole body shook as he ejaculated, and he quivered even more, knowing his emission was going down Starsky's throat.

Recovery was faster, and it was all he could do to keep his weight against the wall, instead of collapsing. And then his shriveled-up prick was cold.

"All right, Hutch." Soft, whispered words. "To the bedroom. My turn now."

Dazed, Hutch allowed Starsky to lead him out of the bathroom. But any further pleasure was impossible. He couldn't take it. Starsky had to know that. Except Starsky was in charge and now all he wanted to think about his own pleasure.

Not responsible for anything that happens. Including my own death from over-indulgence.

"Sit down on the bed."

Hutch did, gratefully. He watched Starsky take the two chairs from the table by the window and bring them to where Hutch was.

"Lie back."

Hutch collapsed back onto the firm mattress.

Could fall asleep right here while he does whatever he wants with me. I can fake participation.

"Put your legs up on these chairs."

What? Dear God. Go along with it. Lazily, he lifted a leg and put it on the back of the chair. Then he put up the other one. Is this how women feel at the gynecologist?

"Move your ass closer to the edge, so I can get at it."

Asking a lot. Hutch pushed with his arms until he felt his tail bone at the edge. He settled back and gazed at the ceiling.

Starsky was standing over him, between his legs, grinning. "You're beautiful."

Right.

"And I love how your cock tastes."

Oh, God, don't start with that. He felt it twitch at the compliment.

"Be back in a sec." Starsky turned, bare ass disappearing into the bathroom.

Hutch expelled a deep breath. Hate it when he's cheerful and I'm exhausted.

Starsky came back out, grinning, watch in hand. He was messing with the dials. "I'm setting the alarm for eighteen minutes from now."

You're dealing with dead meat, buddy. I'm too far gone. You can rim me for two minutes or two hours and it's not going to matter.

Starsky placed the watch beside them on the bed. He knelt between Hutch's legs as Hutch closed his eyes.

Thumbs parted him. Wide. Warm breath blew across him, and he knew he reacted down there. Then moist softness touched the delicate skin, licked along it. Circled around.

Hutch tried to ignore it. But couldn't. He quivered and goosebumps flushed through him, the sensation intensifying as thumbs got a better grip at the center and parted him more. The tongue darted into the barrier of the bunched muscle.

And then it was gone. He opened his eyes and Starsky had pushed a button on the watch and then looked up at him. Starsky leaned over him. "So sensitive," he cooed in the most tender of voices. "You're so sensitive down there, Hutch."

Who isn't? And does he ever shut up?

"Incredibly sensitive." Starsky's hand ran slowly up his flanks. "I'm going to have to take extra special care in getting you ready for my prick when I fuck you. These eighteen minutes will help. But it'd be better if we'd had thirty."

Then take thirty.

"But you're fighting me, Hutch. Let me explain this to you again." Still so tender. "All you have to do is breathe in and breathe out. That's all, Hutch. You aren't responsible for anything happening to your asshole. You just breathe in and breathe out. And accept what happens to you. There's no effort involved."

Hutch closed his eyes and released a breath. He had no idea what Starsky was talking about. He was dead to the world and incapable of fighting. How could Starsky think he was fighting him?

"Oh, and Hutch? You aren't allowed to move. Make all the noise you want, but if you move a single centimeter, I'll stop completely. And I won't be very happy about that."

His eyes had barely drifted open when Starsky made a point of pushing another button on the watch, to start the timer again. And then he knelt.

Thumbs got a good grip, then pulled him apart, exposing him. That tongue went to work, lapping now. Looong stroke. Looong stroke. Then lapping quickly, making smacking noises.

Jesus God. He was quivering again, his prick getting interested.

Darting up just past the sphincter....

Oh God....

Too much. It was too much.... His asshole was involuntarily gripping the tongue, greedy for more.

His whole body was shaking. He wanted to thrash against the bed, but that wasn't allowed. All he was allowed to do was... accept it.

Hutch gave in. And cried out. Again and again and again.

* * *

The alarm sounded and Hutch gasped again. Suddenly, the tongue was gone. He was sweating profusely in the semi-darkness, the sun having set. Aftershocks were still ricocheting through the nerves of his entire body. His cries had been exhausted a long time ago and he'd been left whimpering instead. His cock throbbed even though another orgasm was totally out of the question, his balls were so empty.

The alarm stopped. Starsky put the watch down. He, too, looked exhausted. "You were a good boy, Hutch," he stated simply. "It finally sunk in what I meant about just breathing in and breathing out, and realizing you have nothing to do with anything that happens to you."

Abruptly, Starsky was on top of him, his hot erection poking into Hutch's middle. He looked haggard, breathless. "I've got to have some more of this." He tilted his head.

Hutch parted his lips eagerly. He, too, was exhausted, but he could never stop doing this, sharing this intimacy that had no overt sexual connections. Starsky was now holding his head with one hand, cradling him, while continuing to kiss with that mouth that had sent him to a delicious place he had never been before.

Starsky pulled back, now leaving his lips, going down his chest instead. Planting a kiss here, there....

Then Starsky straightened and released a heavy breath. This time, his voice was apologetic. "I gotta come again, `cause I'm too horny to get you ready for me." He got on his knees, and straddled Hutch. Then he reached past him. A moment later pillows were supporting Hutch's head.

That huge thing was pointed right at him.

"Open your mouth, Hutch."

He opened it.

"You know how I like it nice and wet."

Hutch worked up a good helping of spit. He ran his tongue along his dry lips, moistening them.

Tender hands rested in his hair, along his jaw. "Gonna work it in farther. And come in your mouth."

Oh, God.

He felt strangely re-energized. He wished Starsky would let him milk that big thing. He was sure he would be good at it.

It was brought up to his mouth, and he opened wider for it. The smooth skin penetrated past his lips. That incredible thickness. The taut veins. The moisture at the tip as it pressed against the back of his throat, threatening his ability to breathe.

Accept it. Don't think.

"Move your tongue, Hutch."

Hard to suck, it took up so much room.

"'Kay," Starsky relented. "Gonna pull it back so just the head is in. Work the head, Hutch."

He whimpered with disappointment as it pulled back. But his wants did not matter. He closed around the head, lips wrapped around teeth. He put pressure against the sensitive underside behind the thick crown.

"Oh, my God." Starsky was panting now. Both his hands wrapped around the part that didn't fit comfortably.

"Milk it, Hutch."

He sucked it in, just the head. Continued using his tongue.

"Don't swallow it yet." Panting. Panting heavily. "Don't stop, Hutch. Don't stop."

And then Starsky was crying out, a low guttural sound, and only after that did Hutch feel a stream of fluid against the side of his mouth. Powerful taste. Don't swallow.

The sated flesh pulled back. Starsky collapsed onto an elbow. He spent a moment catching his breath, then stroked the side of Hutch's face with a feather touch. His lips fastened onto Hutch's and his tongue went crazy inside Hutch's mouth, trying to share. And then they ended up kissing leisurely.

"You can swallow now." Starsky seemed amused.

Hutch did. He ran his tongue along his teeth, while Starsky watched, then swallowed again.

"Ah, Hutch," Starsky panted, running his fingers along Hutch's lips. "My cock is crazy about your mouth. I'm crazy about your mouth."

Hutch grinned, glad that he'd made Starsky so happy.

Starsky sighed, almost reluctantly. "But we're moving on to even better things." He rose to his knees. "Gotta get you all ready for it."

A lamp was turned on over the bed, illuminating it. Hutch was aware that his legs were still perched up on the backs of the chairs. He thought he should move them, but it wasn't his responsibility so he didn't worry about it.

Starsky appeared between them with the tube of K-Y. He held up his middle finger and squeezed some of the runny substance onto it. Then the finger went below.

It probed at him, then pushed in. It worked around, just to the knuckle, stretching him outwardly. Hutch felt himself reacting to it, gripping it, the walls of his asshole quivering as the finger explored him.

After a few minutes Hutch realized that Starsky was only partially erect, and he wondered how it was going to get hard enough again. Not my responsibility.

The finger pushed in farther, his sphincter noting the second knuckle. The walls of his rectum reacted to the additional penetration. His muscle flexed convulsively, trying to draw it in farther.

Jesus God, I want all of him up my ass. That gigantic cock, and the rest of him, too. Tear me open, buddy. Put your entire self inside me.

Withdrawing. Pausing for more application of lubricant. Then greasy fingers pulling at the outer rim of his asshole, stretching it out. And then two fingers going inside there.

He grunted from the pressure.

Starsky looked up, but he kept working. Fingers wriggling around in that tight space.

Another pause. More lubricant. Three fingers now. Hutch whimpered as they pushed through the bunched muscle. It felt uncomfortable the way they bowed outward, stretching his insides. And then they pushed upward and a jolt of pleasure raced through his body. He thought he made a noise at the same time.

"What?" Starsky asked, pausing. "This?" He worked the fingers again, behind Hutch's testicles. And Hutch let his head fall back, and a low moan escaped his lips.

The fingers slowed, moved more deliberately. "I'm going to ask a question and you can answer either yes or no. Does this feel good?" Fingers massaged along his upper tract.

"Yessss."

The fingers stayed there. Before long, Hutch was whimpering again. The fingers of the other hand were still stimulating the outer part of his asshole - poking and stretching and stroking and pulling.

He would have gotten a hard-on, but his dick was dead.

And then everything was removed, leaving him feeling numb and empty.

"All right." Starsky was panting as he straightened. He lifted Hutch's right leg from the chair. "We don't need these anymore."

Hutch's leg swung heavily to the floor, and it was a relief to rest it. A moment later, the other one followed.

Starsky pushed the chairs away. "Get on your knees on the floor."

It didn't occur to him to even question the command. He knelt on the carpet in front of the bed, facing Starsky.

"Open your mouth."

Hutch did.

Starsky laid a gentle hand in his hair, guiding his erection with the other. His voice was tight with arousal. "Gotta get me all nice and hard so I can fuck you proper. You know how my prick loves your wet mouth."

Despite Starsky's obvious level of arousal, the thick flesh wasn't as hard as the other two times. "Just let it rest in there, where it's nice and wet."

It went to the back of his throat again. And stayed there.

"I can't even get it all the way inside your mouth, Hutch. But the whole thing is going up your ass."

Yes.

"That's what I was thinking about a few minutes ago. My fingers feeling all around the inside of your ass, and I'm thinking my big cock is going to get to feel all those things real soon. And it's going to reach up inside there a lot farther than my fingers did."

The hard flesh throbbed as Starsky talked.

"My prick is going to own you, Hutch."

Oh, God. Sweat broke out across his forehead.

Starsky pulled the huge thickness from his mouth. "Get the lubricant."

Hutch looked over his shoulder and saw the tube on the bed. He picked it up.

"Squeeze it all along the top of my cock."

Hutch's hand trembled as he brought it up to that thick, bold flesh. He turned the tube upside down, squeezing a stream along the entire length.

"Take your fingertips and rub it around. My whole dick has to be covered, Hutch, or it'll never make it up inside your ass."

Have to do a good job so the whole thing can be inside of me.

He touched it near the base, reverently. He circled his fingertips around, spreading the lubricant, being so careful. It was the biggest mass of flesh he'd ever seen in his life. And it was so ready. Hot and hard and ready for him.

He was halfway up the barrel. Starsky said, "Spread it all the way back to the hairs. Because even the part way back there is going to be up inside you."

Oh, my God.

Hutch gulped. He spread the slippery gel all the way back to the pubic hairs. His whole body quivered as he moved his fingers underneath and treated the lower half the same... feeling the very top of the scrotal pouch.

If only he'd let me feel his nuts.... So tempting to be disobedient. Focus. Obey. He was now back to working it towards the crown.

Determined words. "My cock is going to marry us, Hutch."

Though his fingers stayed focused, Hutch skipped a breath.

"There aren't going to be any vows because none are needed. You don't have a voice, anyway. You don't have a choice. This is what's going to happen between us because I said so."

Hutch's fingers trembled as he stroked the gel over the ridge. Maybe this isn't a game, after all. He sounds so serious. Wants to marry me.... His heart fluttered and threatened to take flight from his chest.

Wants to marry me whether I want to or not.

Wants me.

He was breathing harshly, fingers shaking as they worked with the ultra smooth crown.

Taking me. Kidnapping me against my will. Because I have no will, because he took it away. Going to make this happen between us, so I can't protest. So I can't find reasons for it not to. As though he knew I'd find reasons....

"Kiss the tip."

Hutch's fingers stopped. He'd covered the crown except for the very tip, which was leaking fluid.

He bent and kissed it, tasting that harsh flavor. Felt the incredible heat on his tongue.

Heavy breath, then, "Put more on the head."

He reached for the tube.

"Because that's the part that's going to pave the way up inside your ass."

Digging my own grave, Hutch decided as he squeezed more gel onto that glistening smoothness. That huge thing was going to hurt. Probably even more than when he'd hurt Starsky, despite all the careful preparations. Does he understand that it won't matter? Like when I did him, will he go ahead and fuck me even if I cry out? Will he understand how much I want it?

"Make sure the tip is covered."

Hutch squeezed a dollop of gel onto his fingertip and rubbed it across the very tip.

Softer voice now, though very tight. "I'm going to fuck you, Hutch. Stand up."

Hutch stood on shaky legs.

Starsky moved to the bed and took the pillows. He tossed them on top of each other in the center of the bed. Then stood to one side. "Lay facedown and drape your ass over those."

Hutch got on the bed on all fours, then collapsed on top of the mound. He squirmed until he thought his ass was in the highest possible position.

"Spread your legs real wide."

Oh, God.... He spread them, feeling them quiver. Rested his cheek against the mattress. A virgin awaiting sacrifice.

The bed rocked. A limb brushed against his leg. The dip of the mattress told him Starsky was in between his widely spread thighs.

Steel-hard, moist heat laid along the crack of his ass. Weight resting there. Hands massaged up his bare back, then into his hair, tenderly rubbing.

"I'm going to fuck you, Hutch." Trembling voice.

Yes.

"It's going to hurt, Hutch."

Yes.

"There's nothing you can do about either of those things."

I know.

"I'm going to marry us, Hutch. And there's nothing you can do about that, either."

His eyes watered. I love you.

A kiss in the center of his back. Now a cheek resting there. "Love you." Breathless. "So much."

Then fuck me good.

The heat left his crack. A hand pulled his ass cheek aside.

Oh, God. What if he didn't live long enough to see this night reach its conclusion?

Thick, steel-hard heat covered his asshole. Neither the smallness nor the tightness of the opening was going to stop it. He'd been too obedient and made it hard enough and slippery enough that it would do what Starsky wanted.

Not my responsibility.

Pressure... pushing...

His eyes watered.

A grunt from Starsky, then a lunge. A searing explosion of pain as Hutch's sphincter was ripped open. He gasped, but lay there, letting it happen. Huge mass replacing the space there....

A deep grunt from Starsky. Heavy breaths. Effort of lunging again.

Hutch cried out helplessly as it forced more of him open. A tear splashed onto his cheek.

Momentary relief as it seemed to draw back, but then it pushed in farther with an even deeper grunt from Starsky. Cramping up his rectum. Hutch choked out another soft cry.

Snaking back... stimulating his sphincter.... Then shoving in even deeper.

He cried out again.

No relief from the pressure. He could feel the effort Starsky made to push the rest of it in. His whole ass was on fire, spread so impossibly wide.

Starsky grunted heavily, then released a tight sound of bliss.

Eventually, there was silence, except their panting. The pain ebbed inside Hutch. It only hurt at the opening. And there was nothing he could do about it but lie there and try to get his breath. Which was difficult with Starsky's weight upon his back, hot exhalations tickling Hutch's shoulder blade.

After long moments, Starsky began to move. He stroked Hutch's hair. So tenderly. Brushed the side of his face with a feather touch.

The huge thickness pulled back, and Hutch was suddenly aware of every square millimeter. Only this time, it wasn't pain he noticed, but the way that weight pressed against his privates.

It pushed in again. Heavy weight massaging the back of his testicles as it passed over that area. Oh.

Pulled back. Jesus. Pushed in. Man. Pulled back....

He whimpered this time.

Pause, as though taking time to decipher what it meant.

Push forward again. Incredible. It would never be enough to make him come again, but it titillated his entire lower region in the most wonderful way.

Pulled back... and he realized he'd whimpered again.

No pause this time. Faster motion. Pumping more earnestly.

Jesus God.

No room to think. Pulling back almost as soon as it was finished pushing forward. No break from the waves of pleasure. Constant motion. So beautiful....

He cried out softly, for his exhausted vocal chords were incapable of anything further.

Starsky obviously had no such problem. He was yelling in time with each stroke, as he was reaching his own level of ecstasy.

Pounding harder... the noise and feel of sturdy flanks smacking against upraised buttocks... Ball sac slapping against his own.... Bed rocking with the harsh motion.

Asshole so sore.... But his tract dancing with stimulation... his balls tight....

Starsky cried out repeatedly now, smacking harder against Hutch, grabbing Hutch's shoulders to brace against.

And then an ear-splitting cry... shallower motion...

...And then suddenly no cry at all, but an incomprehensible masculine noise... the unmistakable signal for Hutch that Starsky was filling up his gut.

Ridiculous satisfaction in knowing he'd accepted emissions both up his ass and down his throat. That they would meet somewhere within his body.

Heavy weight on his back. Desperate gasping for air. Incomprehensible little noises of waning ecstasy.

Then a sudden grunt, as though Starsky realized life still existed and he was one of its inhabitants.

Raising up... getting off of Hutch....

The non-threatening thickness snaked backwards, then slipping out.

Ouch. His asshole was so sore.

Numbness. Emptiness. Exhaustion. Drifting peacefully....

Groans of continuing sensation. Bed rocking, then still. Heavy, staggering footsteps on a plush carpet. Sound of a light switch. Slight illumination from the bathroom area behind him.

Faucet running. Deep clearing of throat. Heavy, blissful sigh.

Satisfaction in knowing that Starsky had enjoyed fucking him.

Hutch drifted, eyes closing against the darkness of the distant window. He felt chilly, but it wasn't his concern.

Long silence now, except for the water. Then it was turned off. Soft sound of clothing. A snap. Maybe a zipper being pulled together.

The door opening... then clicking shut....

Hutch blinked. Did Starsky leave?

He held his breath, listening.

Silence.

He swallowed. A deep sense of foreboding descended over him.

Is he...upset? How could he be? Especially making all the blissful noises afterwards. Or is it more of the game? Testing him? Maybe coming back and laughing at him for still having his bare, mutilated ass raised in the air?

Should move....

No. Be obedient. Show Starsky how good he can be. Risk the humiliation if it turns out Starsky quit playing as soon as he came.

Hutch closed his eyes at the thought. Incredible. The sensations of Starsky's huge cock up his ass. Massaging him from the inside. If only they could find some way of bypassing the pain of getting that huge thing in there in the first place. Of course, between the two, he'd opt for the pain and pleasure, rather than having neither. After all, Starsky had tolerated that pain....

Starsky, where are you?

Maybe hungry. But there's room service.

What if he's never coming back?

No. Impossible. His Starsky would never speak those words about love and marriage, and then up and abandon him.

Hutch felt a twisting mixture of warmth and sadness. So much effort Starsky had gone through for him tonight. But how could he up and leave like that?

He shivered. It wasn't from the thoughts in his head. He was feeling a genuine chill from the sweat cooling on his body.

Should cover up....

But that was for Starsky to decide.

Where are you?

He swallowed and realized he was thinking too much and Starsky would disapprove. Instead, he focused on the darkness of the window and let himself drift. So tired... Dizzy almost. Weak.

A key in the lock.

He gasped. Please, not a maid. No, surely not at this hour.

The door opened behind him.

Please be Starsky.

Door closing. Soft, rapid feet on the carpet. A lamp coming on behind him.

Weight on the bed. A gentle hand on his shoulder.

Thank God....

Rubbing, petting....

Something opening. A tin box?

Other noises. A squeeze on his shoulder. Tender voice. "Easy does it, Hutch."

Easy does it? What's going on?

"Bear with me a moment." Sound of paper tearing. A hand on his ass. Gentle parting of his lower ass cheek. Something moist wiped against the extreme soreness there.

He flinched and sucked in a breath.

"Eaaaasy now." It wiped again.

He gasped and felt his eyes water. Accept it. He couldn't change whatever Starsky was doing. He let his body relax.

"That's a good boy." Not teasing, but soothing. Hands leaving him. More noises. "This is probably going to sting." A sympathetic squeeze along his side.

He didn't bother bracing himself. Wetness touched him and needle points of pain exploded along his asshole. Tears spilled from his eyes. He was aware of an antiseptic odor permeating the room.

He went down to the lobby and got a first aid kit. After seeing the blood in the bathroom.

"You're okay, Hutch." Another gentle squeeze.

It was good to hear the words, for he'd felt a momentary panic building, wondering what kind of condition he was in. Poor Starsk. But the pity was also momentary, for Starsky sounded sure of himself and not guilty.

"Maybe this'll help, too."

Hutch wondered what further pain there was going to be. He managed not to brace himself as his buttock was pulled aside once again. This time thick grease touched him. Vaseline? Again pain as fingers pressed against his tender region, but it was soothing as the grease was spread. And reassuring now that the area was now lubricated against further abrasion.

The box closed. The mattress shifted. Tender hands moved along his back, gently gripping. "Here, let's get you off of this."

Starsky tugged a pillow from beneath Hutch.

Move legs. It seemed a nearly impossible task, they were so stiff. But Starsky was helping, gently lifting and moving his limbs, then pulling back the covers on the bed. He placed pillows where they were meant to go.

It was very slow going, but Hutch was finally in bed, the covers drawn up to his shoulder. He was still facing the window. In fact, he hadn't looked at Starsky since.... since getting him ready for me.How much worse would it have been if they hadn't used so much lubricant?

The light went off and the room was dark. Sound of a zipper. A moment later the bed rocked. And then a warm nude body was up against his back, an arm circling around him protectively.

Okay to sleep now. Except... he sensed that Starsky needed reassurance. Needed to know that Hutch was okay about everything that had gone on this momentous day.

He was so tired. But he had to make the effort. Even without the order to do so. Hutch staggered up on an elbow and felt Starsky's grip loosen. He managed to pull his other elbow up, so it could also take his weight, and for a moment he was facing the pillow. And then he managed to twist to the opposite side, collapsing back to the mattress, now facing Starsky.

Fingers immediately fanned out along his face, spilling into his hair.

"Mm," Starsky said, as though that touch were exactly what he needed. There was shifting around, gentle rocking of the bed, and then Hutch was curled up with his head resting against Starsky's side, strong arms around him.

"Sleep, Hutch."

He obeyed.

* * *

Hutch was facing the window again when he first awoke. Judging from the amount of light it might have been a few hours after daybreak. He was completely comfortable and knew that he had no cares now that life consisted of just sleeping and fucking. Pleasing Starsky.

He drifted back to sleep.

* * *

When he awoke again it was because a warm body was against his back, an arm feeling up the front of his body to his chest. The arm left him a moment, and when it returned the fingers were wet with spit, and they fondled his nipple.

He couldn't deny it was a tantalizing sensation, and when Starsky's arm stretched to the lower nipple, Hutch became aware of a hot, huge thickness against his ass.

It did not matter if he wanted it or not. Starsky would take it from him, anyway. Obligingly, he brought his knee up toward his chest. It was going to hurt even more than last night, because he was so sore, but the memory of that weight massaging behind his balls created a hard-on of his own. And the only way to adapt to the size of that thing was to be fucked more.

Once he moved his leg, the hot cylinder found his opening. Starsky whimpered a little, squeezed the nipple between his fingers, and then turned away from Hutch, as though reaching back. Hutch felt Starsky manipulating the tube of ointment.

Starsky settled back behind him. Hutch closed his eyes, expecting to feel his asshole worked with. But, instead, a hand took his prick in a firm, masculine grip.

Mmmmmm. That felt tremendously good. Starsky had hardly even touched him there yesterday. That grip was sure and strong, tugging up his barrel, making him lengthen. There was slippery moisture on his sensitive skin, for Starsky's hand was full of gel. Spreading it.

???? What was Starsky's doing? Getting his cock all lubricated.

Did Starsky want to get fucked?

Hutch opened his eyes to watch Starsky actions. That hand stroked him, making his hard-on glisten. Fluid leaked at the tip.

Jesus, God.

He hadn't expected Starsky to be willing to do it again for a long, long time. He was ready for Starsky to fuck him, and Starsky's prick obviously wanted to; but Starsky wanted something else.

A quiver raced up Hutch's spine.

"That's my eager Hutch." Gentle words. One last stroke, and then Starsky knelt. "Roll over onto your back."

Hutch obeyed. Starsky was pushing the covers out of the way. Then he grinned at Hutch. He picked up the tube of gel and squeezed it out onto his fingers. Then, spreading his knees apart, he reached behind himself with his coated hand.

Goddddd, Hutch silently groaned. What if he fainted first? His eager flesh was flaring like crazy, showing that it was still alive and healthy, even after being overworked the previous day.

Arrogant rascal. Starsky was posturing for him. Closing his eyes and panting as he played with his own asshole.

I ought to slam him against the wall. Fuck him standing up. Or bend him over a chair. Fuck him clear through to Kingdom Come. How dare he look like that while he plays with himself.

Breathe... breathe...

Starsky's huge cock jutted out from his groin.

Hutch felt sympathy now. Surprised he doesn't want to get blown first. Not that that thing of his can fit very well in my mouth. He really wanted to work on that. Get better at it. Make himself take it. Shove it down my throat and make me accept it.

Starsky removed his hand from his body. His hair was messed up, his eyes heavy-lidded with arousal, his flesh rock hard. He approached Hutch.

Hutch's mouth fell open as that hard body straddled his chest, the tip of that huge organ bobbing near his throat. Just give the order and I'll milk it dry. I'm already salivating like Pavlov's dogs.

But, instead, his own prick was taken in a firm hand. Starsky was leaning forward, then rocking back as he pulled on Hutch, trying to guide the stiff erection to where it belonged.

JESUS GOD.

Since he wasn't allowed to do anything, Hutch laid there and watched in fascination. The head of his cock was now pressed against Starsky's anus. Starsky filled his lungs up with air. And then, as he released it, he lowered himself.

Jesus God Almighy. Moist tightness pushing down on the skin of his prick....

Starsky letting go now and making no effort to control the movement. Just letting gravity take over and sinking into a sitting position.

Sitting on Hutch.

Hutch couldn't believe Starsky had done that. Just taken it. Starsky's eyes were open wide, watering, and he was panting, but he had taken it.

God, I love you.

Hutch wanted to thrust more than anything, but Starsky's weight didn't allow it Starsky grinned. "Too bad I can't lean down and kiss you without losing my place. You look awfully damn kissable, Hutch. Gonna have to make up for it afterwards."

Oh, yes.... Kiss me forever afterwards.

"'Kay. This is what we're gonna do."

No more games, pleeeease.

"I'm gonna rotate around - "

Rotate??? Breathe... breathe...

"—until I'm facing the other way. And then, real careful, I'm gonna rock forward until I'm on my hands and knees. Hutch, it's real important that you stay with me when I do that. I'll be awfully disappointed if your cock slips out."

No, no. I'll be a very good boy. I'm gonna stay all the way up inside your ass, just like I am right now.

"You ought to see your face, Hutch. You're so transparent."

Ha, ha. I'm going to fuck you clear through to Kingdom Come, you insolent imp.

Starsky closed his eyes and took another deep breath. Then he moved his legs and grimaced and slowly rotated his body.

Jesus, God. Like a steady wash machine rotating around my prick. Hutch was now facing Starsky's back and saw the bruise from the bathtub faucet.

"Stay with me, Hutch." Panting, Starsky started to move forward.

Hutch thrust just as Starsky started to rise. God! So good. Hutch pushed with his legs the same time Starsky did, and landed heavily on his partner's back. But he was still partway inside, and Starsky was on his hands and knees.

Now what?

Starsky wriggled, spread his legs wide, stimulating Hutch's prick. "Fuck me, Hutch."

He didn't need to be told twice. Hutch pulled back a little, then slammed in. Oh, yes. This was nice. This was damn nice. Back... and forth. Back... and forth. Tight walls massaging him. Pulling back a long ways because he liked the feel of that tight sphincter, then slamming back in, driving his cock inside Starsky, smooth and deep.

Ah, man. Starsky was good. Starsky was being so good. Even though the bed rocked as Hutch slammed his ass, Starsky's strong legs were well braced so that he took the thrust every time, and didn't fall forward. Holding himself still so Hutch could get the deepest possible penetration.

Damn nice. Perfect. The fuck of my life.

Noises now. Little grunts from Starsky. Then high-pitched cries. Hutch knew what those meant.

Starsky balanced on one hand, still taking those powerful thrusts, and grabbed his own cock, then stroked himself fervently.

Ah, yes, partner. This is what I can do for you. It doesn't have to be like last time.

Heady, that Starsky was trying to come while getting his ass fucked.

No, not just trying. Hutch realized from the noises Starsky was making and how fast his hand was working that it was going to happen.

Jesus God. He wanted to time it just right. Fuck Starsky properly until the last possible moment.

He waited for the cry. And then pulled out.

With Starsky's legs being spread so wide, Hutch had a full view as the tight testicles contracted, asshole flexing convulsively. Talk about being transparent....

Another time he'd stay inside and feel all those muscular contractions around his cock. But this time he wanted to see. See Starsky shooting his cream along his hand, which had now slowed almost to a stop. Starsky, flushed from his climax, was sighing deeply, as though he might collapse.

Wait, partner. I'm not done yet.

Hutch mounted him again. Drove his cock up inside in one smooth stroke. He wasn't surprised when, weak from the orgasm, Starsky's upper body collapsed to the mattress. No matter. Hutch grabbed his shoulders and braced against them to drive himself in deeper. Two desperate strokes triggered his own release. He yelled as his body shuddered, wanting the whole world to know the beauty of it.

He waited until he was totally drained, until his cock had no sensation left. Then he haggardly pushed his weight from his arms to his knees and withdrew. He collapsed beside Starsky.

After a time, Hutch was aware of Starsky's recovering, shifting to sit up. Then, breathlessly, "I woulda been making use of your talents years ago if I'd known it was going to be like that."

Make use of? Yes, use me, use me.

"Come up here." Gentle now. Hutch moved up to Starsky's side where his arm was outstretched, waiting. He pressed his head against his lover's shoulder.

"It's only about noon. We've still got six hours that I can spend kissing you properly."

Oh, God, yes.

Starsky's lips touched his, creating that incredible feeling of melting together. Of floating away. This all somehow so much more of a sharing between them than any of the other stuff.

Starsky's tongue licked at his lips, parting them, then gently sucked on his tongue. One hand casually rubbing up and down Hutch's arm, the other against his chest. Loved and protected and cared for. He had been born for the sole purpose of pleasing Starsky. Now, at the age of thirty-five, he was finally realizing his potential. Whether or not he fulfilled his potential all depended upon how many hours a day Starsky would make use of him.

They parted, but were still close together. Hutch let his eyes drift open and saw Starsky looking at him lazily.

"We're gonna have a real problem, Hutch."

What? How dare Starsky speak of problems when all they had left to do in life was sleep and fuck.

His partner straightened in the bed, then settled back against the pillows. "The way I figure it, at least once every twelve hours, my cock is going to want to be either down your throat or up your ass. That's gonna take some big-time planning."

Your problem, Hutch thought defiantly. You're the one in charge. (Every twelve hours....)

"Let's see." Starsky was rubbing thoughtfully at his chin, and Hutch realized that the kissing was on hold for awhile. He settled back on his own pillows beside Starsky. "We might be able to find an alley. And I can drive into it and tell you to get out of the car and drop your pants, and bend over the hood of the Torino."

Jesus, God. His balls started churning. Does he ever shut up?

"And I shove my huge prick up into you and drive you onto the hood of the car. And the hood's all hot from being in the sun, and so you arch back against me to get away from the hot hood, and I slam you onto it again, because I don't realize that it's hot. And I think I'm getting the fuck of my life, because you keep pushing yourself back onto me."

Don't you wish. Arrogant ass. If I ever get a chance to put you over my knee....

"That's one way of getting my fuck during the day. Let's see.... Oh, remember that carpentry shop on Fifth and Lincoln? They have all those sawhorses. In the summer, they let everybody go at four o'clock. So, after the place is closed down, I drive us over there and we get inside. And I tell you to drop your pants and bend over one of the sawhorses."

Oh, dear God....

"You've been bad again, Hutch, and I have to straighten you out. So, I tie your feet to the sawhorse and your hands to your ankles. So, you're all bent over that sawhorse, awaiting your punishment. And I get down on my knees behind you and drive my tongue up into you."

Almighty God. He was getting hard again.

"I've got you tied so tight you can't even wiggle. You just have to take it."

Breathe... breathe....

"And, then, say, we're going to Huggy's to meet another snitch with information. Only, that's what you think we're doing, because I can't ever let you know anything that's going on, or you'll be bad and start thinking about it. So, anyway, we get there and Huggy tells us the meeting room is ready, go on in. So, we go back there and no one else is there and it's pitch black. I tell you to drop to your knees. And you're there on your knees, in the dark, being a good little Hutch. Your mouth hanging open, waiting to service me, waiting for me to give it to you. You listen to me unzip my fly and drop my pants. Your mouth is watering like crazy, drooling at the corners, while you wait for it. But what I really do is bend over and spread my ass cheeks. And then I tell you to put to your tongue to work. Your tongue has to search around in the dark for my asshole."

Hutch closed his eyes and groaned out loud. It occurred to him that, despite all the mingling of body parts the past day, Starsky had never demanded his tongue.

His cock was moving beneath the covers, thickening. Yes, yes, make me do it. Tell me to get on my knees and drive my tongue up in there. Make me lick it and tease it and suck on it. Make me make you crazy. Give yourself permission to be crazy.

That was the beauty of the ass lick Starsky had given him. No shame or embarrassment. No effort on his part. Just lay there and get stimulated. It was, perhaps, the purest form of pleasure that there was.

Make me do it, buddy. Make me do it. My life means nothing if I can't be pleasing you every moment of every day.

He looked over at Starsky, trying to show his eagerness. But the groan must have already given him away, because Starsky had leaned over to the nightstand to look at the bedside clock. Almost tantalizingly, he noted, "Still have five hours." He sat back and looked up at the ceiling, an arm folded behind his head.

Why does he have to think about it? I want to do it. I want to do it so bad my mouth is watering.

Risking disobedience, Hutch ran his soppy tongue along Starsky's ribcage. See? See how much I want to do it.

Starsky raised his head and looked at him in surprise. Hutch stared back defiantly.

And then Starsky went all soft. He shifted to get on top of Hutch....

Oh, yes. What's going to happen to me now? Have I been bad?

Starsky's fingers massaged along Hutch's hairline. Then that tender face came closer, and lips were upon his.

Oh, yes....

"Mmmm." It was so delicious, this gentle tasting of each other.

Starsky held Hutch's face and stroked his cheek. His eyes grew very intense, but his voice was soft. "I love you so very, very, very much."

Ohhh.... Hutch swallowed, wanted to say something very badly.

Starsky's voice was exceedingly gentle. "You can say anything you need to say."

Hutch opened his mouth to say something. But "I love you, too" was too trite. Didn't even begin to cover it. So he said nothing.

Starsky smiled tenderly and kissed his nose. Then his forehead. Then he got on an elbow and looked between their bodies.

Hutch's erection had softened with the tenderness. But now it throbbed, knowing Starsky was looking. He was sure his love was thinking about a blow job to relieve the pressure, but he hadn't washed up since fucking Starsky earlier.

Starsky groaned reluctantly and kissed Hutch again, running his fingers reverently along his mouth. Then he sat back. "We both need a shower."

* * *

More reverence as Starsky soaped and washed him. Carefully handled his balls. Then guided the showerhead to rinse him off good. "Get out and dry off."

Hutch did. While Starsky tended to his own cleansing, Hutch ran a towel over his body. He couldn't help but remember what had happened yesterday afternoon. When Starsky had dried him. Had told him to lean against the wall and spread `em. Delivered an incredible blow job. How would he do it this time?

Starsky got out, took a towel. "Go out and sit in a chair and spread your legs."

Ohhhhh.

Always something new. Hutch realized he was having a hard time taking in enough air as he went to one of the chairs. He turned it around, facing the bathroom, and sat in it. The seat was cool against his buttocks. He looked down at his prick, watched it harden as he waited, imaging wet suction....

Starsky emerged, still drying. He grinned. "Aren't you a sight for a hungry mouth." Hutch held his breath. Not going to last if he's going to behave like that.

The towel was tossed aside, revealing a partial erection. Starsky came toward the chair, his manhood bobbing in the air.

Goddd.

Starsky grinned down at him, then said tenderly. "Have to start up at the top." His finger settled beneath Hutch's chin, pointing it up. Then lips. Beautiful lips.

They released his mouth to kiss down... down.... Down his throat.... Down to his chest. Pausing to pay homage to each little nipple. Kissing down his center to his belly button. Swabbing there.

Hutch flinched. Tickles.

Down to the softness of his belly. The wiriness of his pubic hairs.

Ohhh, Goddd....

Starsky looked up. Eyes so bright. "Keep your arms at your sides, Hutch."

Why? He wanted to pet Starsky. Pet and love him. Especially now....

Starsky enclosed him, warm wet mouth on his waiting flesh. Best way to shut him up. Now there was an idea.

Hutch spread his legs wider, slumped back in the chair. Oh, yes. That mouth had most of him. Sucking on him. Hand holding him at the base of his prick. Beautiful, beautiful mouth. Dark head bent over him. Beautiful lover. So giving and generous.

All mine.

Pushing farther onto his shaft, taking more of it, feeling the back of Starsky's mouth....

Oh, God.....

He jolted when the feeling came. Whimpered. And that was all. No strength for anything else. Hardly any cum left to reward Starsky with. But such a sweet feeling....

He sighed airily.

Starsky released him. Kissed the top. Then stood up, bent forward....

Yes.

Their ritual. Inviting Hutch's tongue in to taste. Such a familiar flavor to him. So much more enjoyable when shared within Starsky's mouth.

"Mmm," Starsky said as he pulled back.

Yes. Now what was he going to want to do? Starsky had a thick erection.

"Get on your knees, Hutch. Facing the bed."

Oh, yes. What he was going to do to Starsky. He wanted to do it so good. Do such a good job. He slid off the chair and knelt before the mattress.

Starsky sat on the bed. He grabbed the pillows. "Let's try it like this." He piled the pillows near the edge of the bed, then lay back on top of them, so that his ass was thrust in the air. His spread feet were barely able to rest on the mattress edge. Then he relaxed back with a sigh of finality. "Do anything you want, Hutch."

Almost apologetic, as though he's not really sure I want to do it. Stupid ass. Of course, I want to do it. It'll please him so much. Doesn't he realize the point of my whole life is to please him?

Hutch moved closer to the edge of the mattress. Grabbed the dual hemispheres with his hands. Parted them. Bent forward. Dipped his tongue.

Starsky reacted, made a noise.

Yes. Please you. Stroked with his tongue at that wrinkled opening. It was swollen from where he'd fucked it this morning. Amazing, knowing that his big prick had pushed through that tight space.

Lick it now. Lick. Lick. Dart. Dart.

Starsky purred like a cat.

You don't know the half of it, buddy boy. He spread the cheeks wider, drooled around the edges of the bunched muscle. Licked with his pointed tongue, delighting in the way the orifice flexed from his attentions.

"Oh!" Hot little cry.

Yes, love. Hutch blew on it now. Drying it. Watched it wink at him. Then, so carefully, he slowly pulled back the outer skin with a finger, then licked at the inner edge with his rigid tongue.

A deep gasp rewarded him.

Darting at the inner edge now. Darting. Darting. Feeling the body in his hands shudder and quiver.

Yes. You like that, don't you?

Pushed his tongue in. Frustrated that it wouldn't go very far. Please, God, make my tongue long enough to taste myself inside there. Put his lips up against the opening and sucked on the tender, swollen skin.

Starsky cried out and thrashed.

Hold still, lover. He took a better grip on those rounded buttocks. Let me love you properly.

Starsky pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.

Yes, love, make yourself more accessible to me.

Sweeping tongue again. From the bottom up. Sweep. Sweep. Feel him shudder.

Wet his tongue. Dip his head back down there and run his sopping tongue clockwise all along the outer rim, feeling the wrinkles. Then counterclockwise.

A gasp choked off a noise between a scream and a sob.

Take it, lover. Take it.

Hutch sucked in the excess saliva, then held on tight, because Starsky was trying to buck. Blow on it. Dry it all out. His stiff tongue worked at the inner walls of Starsky's opening. He used his fingers and tried to open it wider. Stuck tongue up there. Moved it back and forth, left and right, then thrust it forwards and backwards.

More gasping, intermingled with noises of disbelief.

He's giving in, like a good boy.

He kissed it, making smacking noises. Licked it. Swept across it. Circled to the left, then around the other way. Blew on it. Then darted up inside. Swept around the inside. Felt Starsky shake and shudder in a way he hadn't before.

Now he's let go. That's my Starsky.

Hutch felt goosebumps all over Starsky's body.

Nobody else in the world is ever going to make him feel like this.

Reward him for being so good. Lick. Even strokes. Let him relax. Let him think this is all that's left. Let that flexing muscle grip that tongue every now and then to reward it.

He's breathing nice and even. Now shorten the strokes. Push inside. Hear those sounds of disbelief. Withdraw to the swollen rim. Kiss all around it. Then lick quietly. Short strokes. Attend to each wrinkle, one by one. Listen to him sob.

Wide sweeping tongue again. Taste all of him. Then suck on the center of his hole and feel the goosebumps. Listen to the cries. Bring up fingers and try to open him wider. Make tongue long and stiff and force it up in there.

"Stop!" Desperate cry.

Hutch straightened, breathing hard.

Panting, Starsky reached with an arm above his head, felt around the bed. He picked up the K-Y. "Give me your right hand." Breathless.

Puzzled, Hutch held out his hand. Starsky's huge erection looked utterly painful.

Starsky managed to sit up enough to hold Hutch's hand at the wrist while also squeezing gel along his middle finger. Still gasping for breath, he rubbed the gel around the finger. Then he collapsed back on the bed. "Listen good."

STILL giving orders? Starsky, don't you ever shut up?

"My prick's on fire."

Wonder why.

"I want you to put that finger in me, and fuck me with it while you suck the head of my cock." Heavy breath. "Won't take much to finish me." He eyes almost rolled back into their sockets. "Then I'll be dead."

No, not dead, buddy. Rejuvenated. After numerous orgasms in twenty-four hours' time, Hutch felt better than he ever had in his life. And for the first time in a long time, he didn't have a hard-on. But he was no less eager to please.

Already, his mouth was filling with saliva.

He pulled one buttock aside, then pushed his finger into that wet opening with one long, smooth stroke.

Starsky made a sound of approval.

He likes that. He pushed farther, then pulled it almost all the way out.

"Mmm."

Twisted it back and forth.

A cry of delight.

Oh, yes, love.

"Suck my dick." Breathless.

Hutch leaned over that giant phallus. Fucking Starsky with his finger, he lowered his wet mouth on top of the swollen crown and took it between his lips, just past the ridge.

He sucked. Twisted his finger. Ass muscles gripped him. The hard cock swelled even more in his mouth. He bobbed his head on it.

Hutch pushed his finger in, toward the ceiling and felt that special little gland that made ass fucking so enjoyable.

Starsky sobbed in delight.

Yes, buddy. I'm fucking you and sucking you at the same time. Sending you to heaven.

Starsky's legs spread wider, allowing him to ride Hutch's finger more freely. Allowing his prick to slide back and forth in that wet cavern.

Then he exploded. Only, this was more an exhalation of exhausted bliss. His ass muscles still tightened around Hutch's finger in a way Hutch found very satisfying. And the tip of massive flesh delivered a small helping of fluid. Then Starsky simply closed his eyes.

Hutch withdrew his finger, wiped it off, and curled up beside Starsky, still tasting the flavor of him. Sleeping and fucking. That was the only life they knew.

* * *

Hutch didn't understand why they weren't staying. Then they could sleep until the middle of the night, fuck, and still leave early enough in the morning to be on time for their shift.

But Starsky said they were leaving and Hutch had no say. As he dressed in his jeans and a fresh shirt, he found himself wondering how they'd gotten from point A to points B, C, D, and beyond.

"What's on your mind?" Starsky asked gently, coming to stand in front of him. He now had the duffel bag packed.

Hutch wet his lips, hoping he wasn't going to disrupt the mood between them. "That first time... when I did it to you... why did you want me to stop?"

Starsky let go a deep breath. "Things were kinda crazy that night, Hutch."

"I know."

"But mainly it was because you pulled my hair. That hurt."

Oh.

"I didn't want you to do that again."

"I only did it," Hutch rushed to explain, "because I thought you needed something else to get to your anger." He shook his head, wanting to make sure Starsky understood. "It wasn't a turn-on for me, or anything like that."

Starsky shrugged. "Thought it was sorta outta character."

And, needing to make sure, "You didn't like the fucking, did you?"

"Hutch, I wasn't capable of enjoying anything that night. I mean... not until afterwards."

Yes. The kissing. Hutch nodded, curiosity satisfied.

Starsky picked up the duffel bag. "Let's go."

* * *

Dusk drifted into darkness as they began the journey back to reality. Starsky had said they were going to stop for food along the way. It was amazing to Hutch that his partner had gone a full twenty-four hours without even thinking about eating. Having me please him was more important than feeding his stomach.

That was a good Starsky.

As Hutch watched the dark ocean out the side window, he knew that the game playing had to come to an end. Back to the real world. Back to pretending that there was something else out there that was meaningful. Contribute to society. But maybe they could occasionally indulge their impulses, have a little special fun.

Starsky squirmed in his seat, then sighed. "Hutch, I think I need to tell you how it's going to be."

???

Starsky was using That Tone again. The one that said he was in charge.

Breathe... Breathe....

Hutch blinked, staring out the windshield now.

"See, when we get back, we're going to stop at your place first. The moment I turn off the motor, you need to get out of the car and trot up the stairs and unlock the door. Leave the door wide open, because I'm going to be bringing our things up from the car. Then go stand next to the bed, pull down your pants, bend over, and lean against the wall next to the bed with your legs spread wide."

Jesus God.

"Because I soon as I'm inside the apartment, I'm going to fuck you, Hutch. Fuck you with my giant cock. Fuck you standing up, next to your own bed. That'll christen your apartment so that it's ours. We'll christen mine later."

He turned to look at Hutch, jaw firm. "Understand?"

Hutch gulped, feeling a shiver race up his spine. God, yes. He understood.



Part 4

Starsky watched from the corner of the gas station. It was about seven o'clock at night, and a blue Ford Pinto had just pulled up at the full service pump. A man matching the description of Parker Green got out. "Fill it up and check the oil," he told the attendant.

When the attendant rubbed his nose, confirming the customer's identity, Starsky stepped out from the shadows. "Parker Green?"

The man looked up. He was about five and a half feet tall, wore thick glasses, and was dressed in the casual clothing allowed in his particular division of the LAPD. "Yes?" he asked, looking uneasily toward the direction of the call. He squinted as Starsky came closer. "Oh, Detective Starsky, isn't it?"

Starsky nodded. "That's right."

Green held out his hand. "Don't believe I've ever had the pleasure. But I know who you are, of course."

"Of course," Starsky said levelly, pointedly ignoring the hand.

Green slowly put his hand down. Warily, he asked, "What can I do for you?"

Starsky allowed a tight smile. "I'm glad you're being so cooperative, Mr. Green. It should make everything much easier. Why don't we take a little walk and I'll explain exactly what I need you to do for me."

The man licked his lips and glanced hopefully at the gas station attendant, who was looking under the hood.

Starsky shook his head. "He's been paid to be dumb, deaf, and blind." He let that sink in while Green's eyes widened.

Green spun on his heel and ran toward the other end of the building.

Hutch appeared from around the opposite corner. Green collided into him.

Enjoying the contrast in height of the two men, Starsky watched while Hutch grabbed Green by the collar and took him around to the side of the building. Starsky followed, sparing a nod to thank the attendant for his help.

Hutch had Green by the shirt, and was restraining him with an arm across his throat.

"What do you guys want?" the man asked in a high-pitched voice, fearful eyes on the menacing expression of the blond who held him.

Starsky kept his voice friendly and casual, while also moving close enough to smell the other man's sweat. "Just what you've already agreed to give: your cooperation. See, everything will be easier on me, my partner here, you, Captain Dobey, and the taxpayers who pay all our salaries, if we keep it nice and simple."

"What are you talking about?" Green's eyes were now on Starsky, as though grateful to be able to look anywhere else but at the silent hatred radiating from Hutch.

Starsky rocked on his toes. "Now, Mr. Green," he laughed softly, "it's only going to make matters worse for you if you insist on playing an I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about routine. See, it's taken a long time before anyone was able to find out who was behind sending Hutch and I on our little unauthorized vacations a few months ago. But now we know. And Hutch and me - well - I admit we've sort of fantasized about, discussed - you know," he shrugged casually, "what we would do to the person when we found out. But, the truth is, we've also found out something else at the same time. And that's what your whole motivation was behind your little flawed scenario."

Starsky sighed with exaggerated patience and leaned his arm against the brick of the building, letting his weight rest against it. His shirt almost touched Green's arm. "See, Mr. Green, Hutch and I understand about partners and partnerships." He nodded his head, encouraging the other to follow his line of reasoning. "And we can understand sorta flyin' off the deep end when your partner is killed. And we can understand wanting to get revenge for it." Starsky sighed again, forlornly this time, scratching his head. "But, see, we've read all the reports of how your partner got killed. And it's clear as day to us that the only person responsible for Lt. Gibson's death was.... you."

Green's eyes widened and he shook his head frantically. "No. No. No, it wasn't like that. It was the way Dobey insisted we go in. He's the one who set up the approach for that bust when Gibson got killed."

Hutch came alive and jerked Green forward by the shirt, then slammed him back against the brick. His nose was an inch from the other man's face. "Your cowardice killed your partner," he insisted, anger seething from his voice, hot breath drifting over Green and then to Starsky. "You pathetic little weasel. Your partner needed you and you hesitated when those two-bit clowns raised their guns. Don't you understand, you worthless excuse for a scumbag, that it was only IA's compassion," Hutch spat, "for what you'd been through that kept them from hanging you out to dry?"

Green whimpered, "No, that's not - "

"And you made a big, big mistake," Hutch said, breathing harder, "when you decided to use me and my partner in your little revenge scheme." His fist tightened on Green's shirt, his face now just a bare quarter inch from Green's. "When I found my partner, he was chained to a wall in a little room full of shit. You'd better give me a damn good reason, right now, why I shouldn't tear you apart, piece by piece, to take my own revenge for that."

"I-I never meant for any of that to happen!" Green screeched. "I didn't know how the guard was treating him. No one was supposed to get hurt."

Starsky shook his head. "Doesn't wash. See, me and Hutch know all about how the whole point of kidnapping us and keeping us separate from each other was so your little merry men could convince each of us that the other was dead." He clicked his tongue against his teeth. "Tsk, tsk. You tryin' to tell us that wasn't supposed to hurt?"

"I-I-It was only supposed to be for a short time. I was going to let you both go."

"Hmm," Starsky mused thoughtfully. "Well, I have to tell ya, Mr. Green, that the time I spent in that filthy little room, thinking my partner dead.... Well, I'm sure you can understand that it didn't seem like a very 'short' amount of time to me."

Green's voice was helpless now, defeated. "I didn't intend to hurt either of you. Honest I didn't. I just wanted to get back at Dobey for Gibson." He looked hopefully from one to the other. "You're both all right now... right?"

Starsky released a heavy sigh, straightening. He moved closer to the man, so that between him and Hutch, Green couldn't draw a single breath of fresh air. "Let me explain something to you, Mr. Green, because I don't think you're getting the seriousness of your situation. See, my car is parked two blocks from here. I'm gonna turn my back and take a little walk to my car. I'm gonna walk real slow, Mr. Green. And once I turn my back, what Detective Hutchinson chooses to do with you is none of my business."

The man's eyes widened fearfully, not looking at Hutch. "What do you want from me?"

"Like I told you before," Starsky said as though speaking to a child. "Your full cooperation. That means that we drive you down to the station, and in a little room with me and Hutch and Captain Dobey and a stenographer, you tell us the full story of your little scheme. You name all the names of those who have assisted you. And you face Captain Dobey and tell him what a lower-than-slime creep you are for getting your partner killed and what a coward you are for having blamed someone else all these years. And how you deserve to go to prison for all the trouble you've caused." Starsky paused. "That's what you're going to do when we take you to the station."

The man's jaw quivered and he was sweating.

"But in the meantime," Starsky paused dramatically, "it's real important to Hutch and me that you understand - deep down inside yourself - just exactly what your little plan put us through. And, you know," he leaned even closer, "it really sorta bothers Hutch and me that we have to stoop to being involved with a two-bit cowardly creep like you." He shook his head. "We don't like that. You're small potatoes, Green. We don't like spending our time on small potatoes when there's a lot more bigger fish out there that we could be spending our time capturing."

Green's eyes were only on Starsky, as Hutch hadn't relaxed his hold in the slightest. "What do you want me to do?"

"Like I said," Starsky's tone made it obvious it was a struggle to be patient, "we want a full confession."

Green stared at him, breathing heavily.

The lack of an immediate reply was irritating. Starsky looked up at his partner. "He's all yours."

Green's knees gave way. "NO! NO! All right, all right!" Hutch was holding him up by the shirt.

Starsky gave up the pretense of congeniality. "Stand up, asshole."

The man was shaking violently. "All right, all right."

Starsky's eyes pinned him. "All right what?"

"I'll confess."

"To what?"

"Th-that I did the whole thing. I set you guys up - the kidnapping, everything, to get back at Dobey. Hired the guys to do it."

Starsky brought his face close again. "All right. We've got that part settled. Now. Here's the other thing we need you to do. See, despite everything Hutch and I have found out about your little revenge scheme, there's still one question we need you to answer for us. We'd better get the right answer, Mr. Green. The truth. Because nobody's gonna give a rat's ass if you turn up in a ditch somewhere tomorrow. Understand?"

Green was shaking so badly that he appeared to be on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

Starsky lowered his voice. "And we don't even care if you include it in your confession. We just want this for us. Now, Mr. Green, explain to us why it is that when your whole purpose was to get back at Dobey, you thought it was necessary for Hutch and me to think each other was dead. That didn't have anything to do with Dobey. That was something you intentionally wanted to do to Hutch and me. And we have a right to know why."

Hutch shifted to plant his arm against Green's collarbone. His other hand came up and grabbed the shorter man's chin, gripping it tight in a warning.

Slurring through his pinched mouth, Green whimpered, "I was jealous."

"Jealous?" Starsky asked with feigned interest.

"You guys were tight," Green forced out. "Gibson was a good cop - the best. I wanted to be tight with him. And when he died," his voice choked, "it hurt so much. Wasn't fair that you two should take so many chances, make so many big arrests, make the papers all the time, and still be alive."

"And you think," Starsky pressed, "that Ron Gibson would approve of you trying to make Hutch and me pay for your shortcomings as a partner?"

Green shook his head. He was sinking again, sinking to his knees, muttering, "No. No, he wouldn't." He began sobbing, "I'm sorry, Ron. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Hutch released his hold and stepped back. He looked at Starsky with tired eyes.

Starsky sighed and nudged his partner on the arm. It was a victory of sorts. "I'll get the car."

Starsky walked away, leaving Green sobbing in a heap on the ground, Hutch standing guard. It was going to be a long night, since they would need to be in the room for Green's confession. And then they would have to deal with Dobey's feelings about being part of the cause of what had happened to them.

Of course, since they had planned to grab Green tonight, Starsky had thought ahead and made provisions during the day. He and Hutch had taken an extra long lunch hour in the middle of the day. On their way to his apartment, Starsky had told Hutch what was going to happen once they got there. And he'd kept talking about it - what Starsky was going to do to Hutch, how it was going to feel to Hutch - until they were both ready to explode the moment they were inside the door. But Starsky made Hutch undress and sit on the edge of the bed. And then he'd knelt before him and taken that beautiful thickness into his mouth. Loved it and sucked on it until it sent its relief down his throat. And then he'd told Hutch to turn over. He'd greased both of them up, spent time opening Hutch with his fingers, and then taken his own satisfaction.

Tonight, when they finally got home, there would be only sleep.

* * *

It was past eleven o'clock when Dobey sat down heavily in the nearly-empty squadroom. "Can't believe it," he finally muttered.

Starsky sat on the table facing their superior, while Hutch sat in a chair between his partner and his captain.

Dobey sighed and folded his hands. "Don't even remember questioning the procedure when Ron Gibson was killed."

Gently, Hutch said, "That's because there was nothing to question. Parker Green was the one who got Gibson killed."

"We've been over all the reports on the incident," Starsky put in. "There's no question that it was Green's hesitation to fire at those punks that caused Gibson to get shot." He shrugged. "It's possible Gibson may have been shot, anyway. And IA looked into it, of course, but there was a lot of sympathy for Green and, you know, he never really was cut out for work on the streets. That's why he's fit in so well down in the charity division."

Dobey sighed again. "Yeah, I remember all of that. IA asking me if Green was cut out to be a cop. I didn't think he was."

All were silent for a long moment.

Then Starsky reached to clasp his partner's hand. "Captain." He waited until their superior raised his eyes. "Hutch and me are okay. Really. We've put this whole thing behind us."

"That's right, Captain," Hutch said. "Green is the only one to blame for this whole thing. Now he's finally able to admit that to himself."

Dobey nodded slightly, and Starsky knew that was as much emotion as they were going to get. Then the black man said, "Good job, you two."

Hutch said, "Huggy deserves a lot of the credit," as Starsky released his hand. Then he grinned as he met his superior's eye. "But most of it goes to you."

"That's right, Cap'n," Starsky piped in. "Now, hopefully, life can get back to normal again."

Dobey merely grunted.

* * *

Starsky was on top of Hutch in the early evening, kissing him leisurely while both were lying on the bed, still clothed. Enjoying the special closeness that only this act provided. It had been five days since Green's confession.

In total, it had been eight days since they'd left the hotel in Long Beach. Eight days of Starsky dictating when Hutch could and could not speak, who was going to do what to whom, and when. How the pleasure was going to take place. In the squadroom and around other people, they behaved the same as always. They slipped in and out of their private and professional lives easily. Except... both had taken to wearing jackets or shirts that covered their groins. Because the constant anticipation of what lay ahead kept both of them aroused a good part of the time.

Despite his bravado in Long Beach, Starsky hadn't quite been able to see that they coupled every twelve hours. But he'd come as close as he could, including stealing moments for them during work hours. That was always the most arousing. Driving Hutch around, trying to figure out where he could stop and demand special favors - or give them. Knowing that Hutch was aroused just from wondering when they would next stop, and what was going to happen then. And as their shift drew to a close, the blond getting more and more restless, wondering what activities were going to dominate the evening before they succumbed to exhausted slumber.

The interlude Starsky was most proud of, however, wasn't the usual fucking or sucking. He'd stopped by an abandoned shack one afternoon. Of course, Hutch had a hard-on a good part of the time, because he never knew when Starsky was going to make use of him. Starsky told him so little of his plans. Once inside that shack, with the sun shining through the cracks in the wood, Starsky told Hutch to unbutton his shirt. And Hutch had. Starsky had parted the flaps and spent the next fifteen minutes working on Hutch's nipples. He had been fascinated by them from the start, and he knew Hutch liked attention there. They just weren't as blatantly sensitive as other parts. But he suspected they had a lot more potential as an erotic area, if he could just figure out how they liked best to be stimulated. So, he'd spent all his time there that afternoon, slowly tasting, pinching with teeth or fingers, testing sensations. And, while doing so, he'd been able to pet up and down Hutch's back. Tenderly loving him. Of course, Hutch had gotten all hot and bothered. And Starsky had ordered him back to the car, without providing relief, for they had some witnesses to question and fifteen minutes was all the time they could spare.

But he'd made up for it, of course. As soon as they were home, he'd undressed and greased him and Hutch both and demanded, "Fuck me." It was his favorite command of all. For Hutch seemed to enjoy it so much and Starsky was nuts about that thick cock. He always came when Hutch fucked him, for it so intensely stimulated him. Hutch fit perfectly inside his ass, after all; at least, once he was up inside him. It still hurt a little when Hutch first entered him each time.

He knew he hurt Hutch even more when he did the fucking. But it was getting better. At first, he'd watched closely for signs that Hutch might not want it. That Hutch was being merely obedient. But he'd found none. And once Starsky gave time for the pain to ease and started pumping, Hutch made those blissful little noises that proved how good it was feeling. But he never came. Of course, he never stroked himself; probably because Starsky hadn't told him to. Maybe he needed to tell Hutch to play with himself next time. Or maybe he needed to take that prick in his own hand while he was fucking him. Granted, he hadn't in the past because he'd been so selfishly involved in his own pleasure. That was the fun of being in charge.

Being obedient had been good for Hutch also. Starsky's original intent had only been to get them past the first time without a lot of emotional shackles. Show Hutch how much he wanted it by demanding all that had happened, so Hutch wouldn't feel burdened to do right, in his view, by Starsky. Remind Hutch over and over again how big his flesh was, so that when Starsky parted him with it, Hutch would be psychologically ready to feel the vindicating pain he needed, despite all of the careful preparation ahead of time. And it hadn't all been mental. Hutch had been bleeding afterwards, but not seriously. Still, Starsky had felt an overwhelming desire to pamper Hutch and take care of him - so much so that it hadn't been until he was in the elevator that he realized he'd left the room without even saying anything. When he'd returned with the first aid kit, he'd been surprised that Hutch hadn't moved from where he'd been positioned on the bed for fucking. And he obviously wasn't going to move until Starsky told him to.

Yes, Hutch responded well to obedience when it was demanded of him. That discovery had gotten Starsky to thinking. And, as a result of his thoughts, he'd carried on their own little modified version of a master/slave routine for a lot longer than he'd ever intended. At times, he wondered if he was carrying it too far, but then he would remind himself that all Hutch had to do was say "No", or refuse to obey Starsky's verbal commands. Or simply say, "I don't want to play this game anymore." The fact that the blond never did was very telling.

But being in charge was also becoming a burden for Starsky, since he had to constantly dream up new, fun, erotic things for them to do. He was looking forward to returning to how it used to be, when Hutch acted bossy most of the time -- as though he were in charge of their partnership, even when he really wasn't. Starsky had always played along, because something about Hutch seemed to need the security of thinking he was the boss. And the blond seemed to have a strong need to say "No" whenever Starsky asked him for anything. After all, Hutch was a master at saying "No". Let's buy a house as an investment and fix it up. No. I have to piss, so stop by a gas station. No. Get me two cheeseburgers and fries. No.

Of course, even though he always said "No", Hutch always ended up doing what Starsky wanted. But with Starsky in charge, and Hutch not being allowed to talk a good part of the time, that "No" stuff had been effectively ended. And now Hutch seemed to outright relish having his need for saying "No" removed. Starsky didn't give him a choice in the matter.

A complex person, his Hutch.

Starsky kissed Hutch again, pressing their lips together, enjoying the "mmm" noise coming from them both. He wondered how tonight's loving might be different if the game was over. He knew, of course, that there was going to be some point in the future when they would both look back and shake their heads and laugh at how obsessed they'd been with fucking. But now, while the obsession with carnal pleasure was so intense and so mutual, he intended to enjoy every blessed second of it.

Starsky pulled back, but kept his face close to the soft, sleepy one beneath him. "Hey."

Hutch blinked, waiting for the next order.

My beautiful, obedient Hutch. I hope I'm not going to be sorry....

Starsky ran his finger along those generous, so soft lips. "I think you've had enough of a break, you big beautiful blondie. As of this moment, I'm not in charge anymore."

Hutch blinked again.

Starsky kissed him. Let's fuck. Mutually. Where we're both allowed to speak whatever's on our minds. God, I'm hard just thinking about it....

Of course, being hard had been a fact of life the past eight days, no matter what the circumstances. Starsky had just plain stopped worrying about whether anybody noticed. He was having too much fun. And he knew Hutch hadn't worried because none of it was his responsibility.

The only worry that crossed his mind on occasion was that both their peckers might shrivel up and die from being so over-worked and tormented.

He ground against Hutch. See what I have for you?

"Move aside." Hutch's hands were on his shoulders, pushing.

"What?"

"Don't speak." Firm. "You aren't allowed to talk unless I say so."

Oh, Jesus. Don't tell me he's going to start in like this. I didn't mean for him to think that now he's supposed to act the way I've been acting. Starsky grinned inwardly. Okay, wait a minute. Indulge him. This could be fun. He moved aside.

Hutch got up. "Get undressed from the waist down."

Starsky started to obey, snickering inside. Wants me to keep my shirt on. Wonder why.

Hutch was watching him with a firm jaw.

How could he have dreamed this up so fast? He didn't know I was going to forfeit control. Unless this is something he's been thinking about...?

Rebellious devil. He wasn't supposed to be thinking these past days. Just reacting. Obediently.

His dick hardened as he removed his pants and underwear. He pulled off his socks and looked up.

Hutch's voice was unusually thick. "Turn around and get on your knees and stick your ass up into the air, with your legs together."

Legs together? That's a new one. Starsky swung around, butt to Hutch, and lowered his upper body to the bed, resting his cheek against the mattress. His legs felt funny, with his thighs pressed together. He giggled inwardly. Maybe he's sick of looking at my asshole, he's seen so much of it. Maybe he'd rather admire my butt instead. I've got a nice-looking butt, don't I, Hutch? He wriggled it suggestively. "DON'T MOVE!"

Shit. He sounds mad. What's wrong with you, Hutch? What are you going to do to me with my butt in the air and my legs together?

Quiet now. "Pull your shirttail down over your ass."

Huh? You're weird, Hutch. Starsky reached up and pulled at his shirttail. It draped halfway down his butt. Is it the curtain effect that you're after? He was starting to feel uneasy, not knowing what Hutch was going to do.

Behind him, Hutch opened a drawer. Then slammed it shut. Starsky heard another drawer opening.

What's he looking for? He knows where the K-Y is.

"Here it is." Soft, satisfied laugh.

Here what is? What's going on? There was a weird noise. Rubber banging against wood, rhythmically. Hutch appeared in front of him, holding a paddle with a ball attached with a rubber band.Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

Starsky smiled nostalgically. Hey, I used to have one of those. I once hit that ball 232 times without a miss.

Abruptly, it stopped. Hutch took the ball and string and ripped them from the paddle. Sheesh. Take it easy, Hutch. Hutch held the paddle in front of him. His voice was very firm. "Do you know what this is? You're allowed two words."

What kinda stupid question is that? "A paddle."

A satisfied nod. "Good. What are paddles used for? One word."

Hitting the rubber ball, stupid. No, wait, only one word. Oh, I got it. "Paddling."

A glint in those crystal blue eyes. A very satisfied glint. Soft, seductive voice. "Very, very good."

Huh? Oh.... wait. WAIT. He can't mean....

A grin overtook Hutch's face, softening it like a Chesire cat's. "I see that you understand now."

Huh???? Hutch, no. No way. You can't mean what I think you mean. Uh-uh, no way. No way in hell, Hutch.

More casual now. "Buddy, the list of offenses against you is staggering."

Staggering? What the hell? What offenses? Come on, Hutch. You enjoyed all that stuff as much as I did. What did I ask you to do that you didn't enjoy? Well... maybe having you stare at my crotch in public was a bit much. And telling that clerk you were paying a religious penance -- thought that was pretty clever of me, actually - and that ice in your lap was only because I was genuinely concerned about how over-heated you were.

Hutch rubbed his hand slowly against the surface of the paddle. "This wood feels hard. Strong."

Starsky drew a deep breath. You aren't really gonna paddle me with that thing. Come on, Hutch, cut it out. I never would have played these stupid games if I woulda thought you were gonna retaliate. Starsky's brow furrowed. There was no way Hutch had dreamed this up just now. How long has he wanted to do this?

He didn't want to know the answer. Because that meant Hutch thought he'd been bad. No way had he been bad. He'd been having way too much fun to be bad. Hutch had had fun, too.

Hutch was still rubbing the paddle. Reverently. "The reason this is going to take a long time," he explained slowly, "is because I haven't figured out yet how many strokes will be an appropriate punishment."

Punishment? Come on, Hutch, you're making me feel like a little kid. It wasn't that bad walking around in public with your eyes on my crotch, was it? Or are you mad at me for not giving you the full thirty minutes for your ass lick? Those eighteen minutes were all you could handle, anyway. And it was your own fault for being disobedient. Sheesh. I'm just now realizing how disobedient you've been. Dreaming all this stuff up while you were only supposed to be attentive to obeying me.

He was defiant now. You just wait, Hutch. Wait until I'm back in charge again. Boy, are you ever going to get it for even thinking that you're going to use that paddle on me.

Hutch grunted with amusement. His fingertips were still worshipping the wood. His voice was soft, even though he was pretending to be angry. "I know you think you don't deserve this. And you're figuring out how you're going to get back at me for it. But, Starsky, you don't have a clue about the Hutchinson stamina. It's going to be a long, long time before you're in charge again."

Oh, shit, what had he done? He should have never turned power back over to Hutch. Why hadn't he seen this coming? Because he'd spent too much time fucking, that's why. He hadn't paid attention and hadn't realized Hutch had blown a gasket.

Hutch stepped a few feet away, looking very thoughtful, the paddle rubbing against his chin. "While I'm thinking about how many whacks you deserve - "

WHACKS? Dammit, that sounds like it's gonna hurt.

"—I'll need something to do with my hands. I don't like my hands to be idle."

Keep breathing. Keep breathing.

"So, I think I'll put some lubricant on my middle finger and insert it into your asshole. And move it in and out and rotate it around--"

Starsky grinned inwardly. Ah, Hutch, you sound so weird, using crude words like that. You're not used to speaking this stuff out loud. He restrained an affectionate giggle.

"—and every time you move, I'm going to add two whacks to your total."

HUH?? Hutch, godammit, that's not fair. You know I can't hold still when you're working your finger inside my ass.

Starsky felt a sense of doom. His ass was going to get paddled good. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. And, shit, it was going to hurt.

Hutch nodded with satisfaction. "I see you realize the error of your ways. You know you deserve this."

I do NOT. He glared at Hutch. Accepting the fact that this is gonna happen has NOTHING to do with admitting guilt.

A chuckle now. "You ought to see yourself in a mirror. You look all angry and indignant, and your cock's so hard it's practically ready to explode."

Godammit. Get down, Brutus. Down, boy. He thinks I'm enjoying this because you're so hard. Shit. How can he think that I'm gonna enjoy real, honest-to-God pain?

Starsky inhaled deeply, realizing he'd forgotten to breathe a long time ago. He's enjoying this way too much. Goddamn him. He's going to enjoy the fact that it's gonna hurt. Since when are you a sadist, Hutch? I don't think I like that about you.

But that possibility brought forth a hopeful thought. He'll paddle me and my ass will get all red, and he'll get all turned on and fuck me clear through to the other side of the earth. Exhalation of relief. And that'll be the end of it. Maybe I'll even still have some skin left.

"I know what you're thinking."

Yeah, so what?

Hutch was toying with the wood of the paddle again, fingers tapping against it. Ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum. "You're thinking that I'll get so turned on while straightening you out that I'll fuck you and exhaust myself." Voice firming. "You apparently weren't listening when I told you about the Hutchinson stamina."

Oh, fuck.

"After I drain my balls by fucking your red, blistered ass -"

BLISTERED???

"— clear through to the center of the earth, I'm going to go right back to disciplining you for all your insolence. It's not going to end until you've had the full number of whacks I've decided is appropriate."

Jesus. He was doomed. How could Hutch hurt him like that?

Hutch was looking down at him, thinking. Then he said, "I don't think your discipline is going to mean as much if your attention isn't on it one hundred percent." He nodded toward the area between Starsky's legs.

Oh, Jesus God, he's gonna make me come. You're beautiful, Hutch.

"Keep your legs together." Hutch disappeared behind him.

Legs together? How the hell am I supposed to enjoy it with my legs together?

Hutch reached around him, fondled his balls....

Oh, yes.... For some reason, he'd never had Hutch play with his balls much. Big mistake. It took a tremendous effort to not move his legs apart.

Another hand took hold of the thickness between his legs.

Oh, boy...

Stroking.

Jesus.

Special pressure on the crown.

Oh, man... oh, man

Fingers releasing his balls to stroke the smooth area between his sac and his asshole. Pressing....

Any second now. Damn, he's good....

Squeezing the area behind the head.

My dick's in love with your hand, Blondie. Trying so hard not to part his legs....

Ohhhh, Jesus, God....

Tingle running through his lower body, rushing out of his prick. Hutch milking it so perfect, the cum getting all over his hand.

Jesus, God, that feels good. Big, airy sigh. Oh, dear God, that was beautiful. Ah, man. He swallowed and opened his eyes, so relieved that he was nicely drained.

He'd been a good boy. Didn't spread his legs, even when it seemed so natural to do so. And his ass had remained in the correct position for his paddling, his shirttail still draped across it.

"My hand needs cleaning."

It was in front of Starsky's eyes, Hutch holding it up from behind him. Yes. There wasn't a lot of fluid, because they fucked so much that their balls stayed drained. But enough to make it worthwhile.

Starsky got to work. See how good I am? Lick, lick. I can be so good if you'd just explain to me what you want. Paddling isn't necessary to keep me in line.

"Pay special attention to the middle finger. That's the finger I'll put inside your ass while I decide how many whacks with the paddle are necessary."

Oh, yes, the middle finger needed special attention. Starsky licked it with long strokes of his tongue, eagerly worshipping it. That finger had been so good to him whenever he'd told Hutch to put it up inside him. Amazing, considering how satisfying Hutch's thick cock was, that that one little narrow finger was so talented. Hutch could move it in incredible ways up inside him.

There. Your hand's all clean, Hutch. See what I good boy I am? I don't need that wooden paddle cracked across my ass. Honest. I'll do anything you want, if you just tell me.

The hand went away. "Close your eyes."

Oh, no. Starsky closed his eyes, heart beating frantically in his chest, wondering what Hutch was going to do. Please put that finger up my ass. You said you would.

Smooth wood rubbed against Starsky's lower right buttock.

Oh, Jesus. That wood is really hard.

"Of course," Hutch pointed out, "the number of whacks is probably going to be somewhere in the hundreds."

HUNDREDS??? Oh, God. Oh, God, no. Hutch couldn't be serious. Couldn't possibly be serious. What person on earth deserved that many whacks? Not even Charles Manson deserved that many....

"It's just a matter of exactly how many I decide. And if you move an inch while I'm deciding, I'll add more."

Starsky could scarcely get his breath. He was doomed all right. No way was his ass going to survive getting hit that many times with a hard wooden paddle. And it was going to hurt like the dickens....

Hutch, you're sick. You're totally sick. I can't believe I've missed how sick you are.

The wood moved in a big circle over his butt cheek, creeping up beneath his shirt.

Starsky could scarcely breathe.

"I see that you finally realize this is no laughing matter."

Shit, you're damn right it's no laughing matter. You're going to damage my ass, Hutch. That isn't funny. And I'm gonna be screaming from pain instead of pleasure. That's not funny, either. What's wrong with you? Starsky was panting. Was it possible that there was some magical way that hard wooden paddle wouldn't hurt? Hutch wasn't going to really hurt him... was he?

The hard paddle moved toward his ass crack... turned... the wood slowly slid down the seam, past his defenseless asshole and then to his even more defenseless balls.

He shivered. Man, that wood is stiff. Gonna hurt like a sonofabitch.

The paddle turned again so that it was flat. The lip moved up underneath his scrotum, then picked up his balls.

Oh, Jesus God. His legs were quivering. Goddammit, Hutch, you'd better not do anything to my balls. That would really hurt. See: my prick's shrunk with fear. I'm not enjoying this one damn bit.

A slyness in the blond's voice. "I'd say it's who-do-we-trust-time, eh, partner?"

Heavy breath. Keep breathing. There had to be a way out of this. Yeah, Hutch, I trust you, Starsky thought defiantly, but one accidental move of that paddle, and my balls could be sliced off. Just remember that if I lose my balls, it'll hurt you as much as me.

Abruptly, his nuts were released.

Oh thank you, dear God in heaven. He panted heavily, dizzy with relief. God, I swear, I'll go to services every Sabbath if you find a way to get me out of this. I don't want that hard wooden paddle cracked over my ass hundreds of times. He felt a long bead of sweat drop down the side of his forehead.

Something on his ass again... Hutch's hand. Thank you, God. Moving slowly along his skin. Up underneath his shirt. Such a light, deliberate touch.

Oh, no. He's getting me ready. Getting my ass ultra sensitized so it hurts all the more when he hits me with that paddle. Hutch, I can't believe you're going through with this. But you're really going to hit me, aren't you? Goddammit, I didn't know I'd married a sadist. Somewhere along the line, I should have asked you first if you were a sadist.

His brow furrowed, his eyes still closed. Maybe that's one of the "offenses"? I married him without asking if he was the least bit interested? But that shouldn't upset him. Dammit, Hutch, I did you a big favor by not giving you a chance to say No. Because it woulda taken us months to get around to it, because you would have found all sorts of stupid excuses not to be happy.

Unfortunately, he thought with doom, I didn't consider myself. I didn't consider how raw my ass was going to be by marrying someone I didn't know got turned on by this sort of thing.

The hand was still moving, so slowly, over his butt. For God's sakes, Hutch, you're enjoying this way too much. I don't like you enjoying this. And don't you dare hit me with that hard wooden paddle. I can't promise I'll still be obedient if you hit me even once with that thing. The game ends the minute you hit me with it. He was breathing harshly, wondering how their joyous fucking had come to this.

The hand squeezed his ass cheek, just a little. Airily, as though distracted, Hutch muttered, "So tempting to just use my hand."

Starsky's face collapsed against the mattress. Oh, God, yes, Hutch, use your hand. Please, please, use your hand. Your bare hand against my bare ass. Yes, that would be just. You know that's the right way for us. Not cracking that wooden thing over my ass. If it's preordained that I deserve a spanking, then use your hand, Hutch. Your big large hand. I'll even admit I deserve it, if you just use your hand.

Oh, dear God in heaven, I'll try to go to temple sometime to thank you for showing him there's an alternative to that hard wooden paddle. Yes, yes, he needs to paddle me with his hand.

Wait a minute. Hutch hadn't been working out as much as in years past, but he still kept in reasonable shape. Lifted weights. Those loving, protective arms of his were strong. Very strong. Especially his right arm.

Shit. My ass may still have all its skin, but, dammit, it's still going to be beet red after he spanks me hundreds of times. Stinging like crazy. Dammit, Hutch, I can handle my ass tingling a little from you spanking me, but stinging is pain. You know what a crybaby I am when it comes to pain. I'll never forgive you for doing that to me. I'll have to get back at you.

And by the way, when are you going to stick your finger up my ass? You told me you'd do it. And I'm not going to even try to hold still. I'm going to writhe all around that finger. And, remember, my bare ass gets spanked more with your bare hand if I move before the spanking starts.

A hand on each cheek now, the paddle having obviously been laid aside. Rubbing slowly down... then up... beneath the shirttail.... . Circling around.... Big wide circles.

Ah, yes, Hutch. You love the feel of my ass, dontcha? My ass is nice and round, like a cushion. Admit it, Hutch, your hands are in love with the shape and feel of my ass. That's why they can't stop feeling it. You don't want to damage that shape and feel, Hutch. I can understand that it'd be sort of a turn-on to see my bare ass a deep red from a spanking with your bare hand, but it won't feel as nice and smooth if it's stinging. You don't want to make my ass sting, Hutch. Just sorta pat at it with your hand. Hundreds of times. Then we'll both enjoy it and the nice smoothness won't even be damaged. Please, Hutch.

Hutch softly cleared his throat. "Of course," big slow circles, "if I do it with my hand, it'll be more appropriate to turn you over my knee."

Blood stormed down the center of Starsky's cock.

Over your knee? Giddiness surged through him. Oh, God, yes, Hutch. Yes! Why didn't I think of that? Yes, yes. Turn me over your knee. Please, please put me in your lap and turn me over your knee. Paddle my bare ass with your bare hand - but not too hard - and I'll writhe across your thighs. Feel your hard cock rubbing against my hard cock. My hard cock trapped between your legs, holding me still so I don't fall off your lap as I wriggle around from the (gentle) pain. Oh, Goooddddd....

Breathe... breathe....

I need a spanking, Hutch. You've shown me the light. I've been a bad boy and I deserve a spanking. I need to be draped across your lap and spanked. Just not too hard. Gently spank my ass, Hutch. Maybe it'll even get a little red for you. Then fuck me clear through to the other side of the earth. Hutch, my ass is so ready for you. I need to spanked a lot, to teach me to be good. My ass is tingling, it's so ready for spanking. See how good I am to you? I even know when I need to be spanked. I won't whine or protest one single bit.

He was breathing harshly, erection throbbing, as his face lay against the mattress, eyes closed. Surely, Hutch couldn't mistake the condition he was in.

"The only problem," Hutch said slowly, "with turning you over my knee and spanking you the appropriate number of times -"

Oh, Gooodddd.....My cock is in desperate need of attention.

"— is that I think you might enjoy it too much. And if you enjoy it, you'll miss the whole point of it. The point of it, Starsky, it to teach you a lesson. To teach you how to just be a tiny bit humble."

No, it won't be a problem. I promise, Hutch. I swear. If you're afraid my enjoyment means I won't learn a lesson, then just do it more than one session. Spank me once a day even. That'll be your control, Hutch. I'll know that if I'm bad, I'm going to get spanked. I mean, after a certain number of strokes, it's going to start to hurt. So, I'll never be more than just a little bad, because I'm a big baby when it comes to pain. I don't want my ass to sting. Even if it turns you on, I don't want my ass to sting.

Heavy exhalation. Hutch's voice was thick, as though he were having trouble catching his breath. "I think the wooden paddle might be a better way."

NO! Please, God, no!

The warm hands had left his nicely tingling ass. That hard wood was on his left ass cheek, rubbing around.

Oh, dear God, no.

"Sometimes," Hutch said slowly, as though measuring his words, "I think I'm too soft-hearted where you're concerned."

No, Hutch, you aren't soft at all. Not at all. You're a tyrant. A terrible, terrible tyrant. Please don't hit me with that hard wooden thing. My prick has shrunk, I'm so afraid of it.

"At the very least," the wood turned again to rake down his crack, "I think I should paddle you with this once. Just to show you what's going to happen when you're really bad. So you'll know and not ever have to wonder."

No, no, Hutch. You got it all wrong. I already know how bad it's gonna be if you hit me with that thing. See? My prick's all soft now. You don't need any further proof. Honest, babe. Put that hard wooden thing down. It has no business being anywhere near my smooth, tender butt. You don't want to hurt my ass, do you, Hutch? Just one whack with that hard wooden thing will hurt like hell. Might even damage it. Please, Hutch.

The lip of the paddle pushed a little at his asshole.

Dammit, Hutch, that thing's gonna give me splinters. You don't want to be responsible for splinters along my crack, do you? Run your tongue along my ass and come away with a mouthful of splinters. You'd look pretty damn silly. Come on, put that wicked thing away. It puts evil ideas in your head. You aren't evil, Hutch. Just a little mixed up about how I need to be spanked. Please turn me over your knee. That's the only way it can be done right.

Soft sigh. The wood went away.

Thank God.

Casual now. "You're transparent, Starsky."

Yeah, so what? Shut up and turn me over your knee like I deserve.

"Your cock tells me everything."

Good. I love my cock for telling you what I coward I am when it comes to that paddle.

"I'll keep this in mind when you're extremely bad. The wooden paddle is always an option, Starsky."

Heavy exhalation. Yeah, yeah, I get the point. I admit it: you can control me by threatening to use that paddle. I'm your slave, Hutch. Now, spank your slave. Show him the error of his ways.

"The only question now," Hutch was breathing very hard, "is how many strokes are appropriate."

Shit. Just spank me, Hutch. Pull down your pants, put me over your lap, and spank me until we come all over each other. What's the big deal? You need practice at this. You take too long figuring this stuff out. I never took that long with you, did I? I always knew exactly what I wanted to do with you. Even now. I know what you need to do to me more than you do. You're lousy at being in charge, Hutch. When I'm back in charge, I'm gonna get back at you for being so wishy-washy. And I'm not gonna have to think about it very hard. I know where that wooden paddle is kept, after all. I'm going to crack that thing over your ass just to get back at you for even thinking for one single second that you were going to use it on me. And no amount of pleading or begging is going to get you out of it. In fact, I know you won't even bother to plead or beg, because you'll know you have it coming. You just wait, Hutch.

Nice, big, bare hand moving up his left cheek....

Oh, God. Brutus was getting interested again.

"Open your eyes."

Starsky let out a breath and opened his eyes. Hutch stepped in front of him, still fully clothed. Of course, his jeans were tented. And Starsky was getting damn tired of being in a crouch with his legs together and his ass in the air.

Hutch grinned. "You're getting impatient."

Starsky glared at him. Hell, yes. I want my spanking, Goddammit.

Teasing softness now. "All right, my eager prince."

Prince? I'm your slave, not your prince. Spank my ass. Spank it as hard as you can. Geez, I can't believe how lousy you are at this. I'd spank it myself, if you'd let me, just so we can move on to a different game.

Hutch ran his fingers along his mustache. "Tell me how many, Starsky."

Huh?

"Tell me how many times I'm going to spank you. You know how bad you've been. You know all the things you've done wrong. You know how badly you need to be taught just a small degree of humility. So, with all the things you know, you can determine better than I can just exactly how many times my hand needs to smack your ass to straighten you out."

Starsky's mouth fell open. That's not fair. When you're in charge, you're supposed to be the one taking on all the responsibility. Don't make me responsible for my own punishment, Hutch. That's... that's.... well, dammit, that's downright humiliatin'. What thirty-five-year-old man in his right mind is going to admit to deserving a spanking?

Hutch looked at his watch. "You have thirty seconds to answer."

Shit. He could say zero, and spare his pride. But then I won't get spanked at all. And then all this will have been for nothing. But I can't see admitting....

All right, dammit. Five whacks.

No, wait. It's hardly even worth being laid across his lap for just five. It might be over before I've even come.

Okay, twenty.

No, wait. Hutch's arm is really strong. Especially his right one. By twenty my butt might be stinging pretty good. I don't want it to hurt.

Shit, how am I supposed to come up with a number?

All right, let's see. He wants me to come up with a number I think is fair. To teach me a lesson. When I wanted to teach him a lesson, I took twelve minutes off his ass-lick time. Not that he could have stood one second more, screaming like he was....

His prick flared. Ah, Hutch, I loved making you crazy like that.

"Time's up." Hutch put his arm down. "How many?"

"Twelve."

Hutch's face went soft all over. He was on the bed, on his knees before Starsky. "Ah, buddy, I knew that's what you were going to say." He lifted Starsky's face close to his and kissed him. Gentle. So gentle, as their kissing always was. Then, "I love you so very, very, very much."

I love you, too. What about my spanking?

"Come on, get off your knees. Lay down here." He helped Starsky roll onto his back.

Oh, boy....

But, wait. Hutch was on top of him. Kissing him all over. Rubbing lovingly up and down Starsky's cotton-clad arms, his chest. He whispered again, "Love you so, so much."

Oh, Jesus. Was the game over? Come on, Hutch, you hafta hold up your end the bargain. My 'end' is ready and waiting.

Hutch was cradling him, rubbing all over him, up underneath the shirt.

Ah, Hutch.

When Starsky was in charge he'd never ordered Hutch to hold him. He supposed he shouldn't be upset with Hutch now for trying to make up for it. In fact, he felt a bit guilty. Hutch was such a touchy-feely person. His big blond needed to express love.

More than he needs to fuck. Starsky relaxed against the bed. All right, you big softie, feel me up and be tender and gentle and make me feel like I'm gonna float away.

Starsky let himself be held. Felt warm all over when Hutch lifted him into a sitting position and hugged him back and forth.

Ah, Hutch....

After a long moment Hutch stopped and kissed Starsky's nose, his eyes warm and soft. "I love you."

Starsky grinned. He almost said "I love you" back, but remembered he wasn't supposed to talk without being ordered.

Hutch's voice was so gentle. "Get on your knees."

Huh....? On my knees?

"On the floor. Facing the bed."

Puzzled, Starsky dropped to his knees beside the bed.

Hutch's expression was still so soft. But he was breathing roughly as he sat on the edge of the bed, in front of Starsky, jean-clad legs spread.

He bent and tenderly kissed Starsky's forehead. "I want to be thanked in advance."

Thanked? He let his puzzlement show.

"Yes." Heavy breath. "Thank me for the lesson in humility I'm going to teach you." Hutch kissed Starsky on the lips. Stroked his hair. Then both hands fought with the zipper on his fly.

Starsky listened to the sound of his own breathing. So, it's still going to happen. And he's gettin' all turned on thinking about it. He grinned inwardly. Oh, boy. Yes, Hutch, let me thank you properly for that. Thank you properly for draping me over your lap and smacking my bare ass with your bare hand. I like this game.

The zipper was finally down and the smooth erection popped free from the slit. Hutch was otherwise fully clothed.

Oh, yes, that's the most beautiful thing on this earth. I'm gonna do it so good, Hutch.

Hutch held it in his hand. "Show me how much you appreciate my efforts to teach you a lesson."

Starsky leaned forward and gobbled it down. "Mmmmmmmmmm." God, I love this thing of yours, Hutch. Love how smooth it is. How the veins stick out. Ah, man, see how good I am to it? My tongue loves running all over it.

Hutch bent over Starsky, stroking his hair so tenderly.

Mmmmm...mmm. I love this, thing, Hutch. See? I can take it down my throat. He pushed his mouth forward on it, felt it block his air. Oops. He paused and coughed. I'll get better, Hutch. He bobbed his head back and forth. Man, I love sucking you. Gonna suck the whole thing dry. Incredible, how my mouth and my ass are both made for your cock. I need this thing twice a day, Hutch. Don't you dare not let me have it twice a day.

Hutch's hand moved down to his jaw, stroking so gently.

Ah, yes, Hutch, feel my throat working you. I love your cock. I want it in my mouth all the time. I'd walk around on my knees with my mouth permanently attached to it, if you'd like."Mmmmmmmmmmm."

It swelled.

Try again. Be prepared for that feeling down my throat. He pushed himself forward on it, felt the zipper of the jeans at his nose. The head pushed down into his throat.

"Oh, God." Soft cry of delight. Legs spreading wider.

Starsky coughed and released it for a moment. Shoulda taken your pants off, dummy. He went back to work along the underside of the barrel. Then sucked it in. Suck, suck, suck. Mmmmmm...mmm. His mouth vibrated around it. Tastes so good.... I deserve a good spanking for doing this to you, Hutch.

Hands on his hair. "Easy, buddy."

Easy? Why? Nevertheless, he slowed the motion of his tongue and lips.

Deep breath. Then, softly, "Listen while you're thanking me. Because I'm going to tell you how it's going to be -- "

Huh?

"—and you'll want to thank me even more for my ongoing commitment to teaching you to be just a touch humble."

Ongoing? Starsky swallowed around the thick flesh without thinking and Hutch held his breath a moment. Oops, sorry. He curled his lips around his teeth. Am I going to like this, Hutch...? Or not?

Big gentle hands stroked along his face and neck. "Each day, as soon as we come home from work, your task is to take a shower, then go into the bedroom and put on a shirt -"

What is it with the shirt?

"—and get on the bed with your legs together and your ass in the air."

I don't like that position, Hutch. Reminds me of the wooden paddle.

"Make sure your shirttail is pulled down over your ass."

Jesus, you and the shirttail. This obsession of yours is making me nervous, Hutch. He much preferred sucking on this big delicious dick. Suck, suck, suck.

"You'd better be listening, Starsky." Heavy breath. Gentle voice but threatening words. "It'll make everything worse if you don't do exactly what I tell you. I still have that wooden paddle."

Okay, okay, okay. He eased up on the sucking.