Charlotte Frost



Starsky sucked in his breath as the taunting whisper sounded in his ear. "Maybe that's not good enough, huh, fag cop? Maybe you want something a little larger?"

He shivered and squeezed his eyes shut, even though he was blindfolded. He was also facedown, his arms and legs spread-eagled against the cold cement floor, his body naked below the waist. And he was at the mercy of the three men who were taking great delight in tormenting him.

"Yeah, that's what he wants," the second man said with glee. "Give him something larger."

Whatever they had shoved into him was pulled out, his sphincter muscle protesting at the abrasion.

"Here, try this," said the third man.

"Ah, yeah," the first man reveled, "he ought to like this." The voice returned to Starsky's ear. "Want something bigger, fag-boy?"

Starsky hadn't known what the prior object was, or the ones before that. He'd just known that it hurt like hell when they shoved them into him, and his determination to grit his teeth always disintegrated when he'd let out a string of curses that would have sent sailors cowering. Now, he tried to force his body to stay loose as he mentally braced against the dread of what they were going to next use to violate him.

He didn't know who the three men were. And he didn't know if they were doing this because he was a cop, or because they genuinely thought he was a fag. More than likely, they considered the two terms interchangeable. They had jumped him when he and Hutch went separate ways to try to catch a pair of gas station robbers who had split up when coming to a dead end in an old industrial section of the district. Starsky knew that Hutch would be looking for him. But after being jumped by the men, having his gun wrestled away from him, and slugged a few times for good measure, he wasn't sure how many blocks he'd been dragged before they brought him down to this cold basement of an abandoned warehouse to have their fun.

A hand was placed on his buttock and Starsky shivered again as he felt something ice cold and metallic press against his anus. And then it was pushed hard against the opening that was too small for it.

He screamed. The pressure was immense and he was sure he was being torn in two. When his cries had exhausted him, he realized that his tormentors were all laughing. He also realized that nothing he could do would dislodge the pressure, so he lay panting, determined to accept the invader.

"Motherfuckin' bastards," he finally managed to gasp. "My partner's still out there and he's going to have the entire force lookin' for me. Don't you know what they'll do to you for killing a cop?"

"We knew they'd be looking," the first man said. "That's why Jerry lured them away into a different direction. They won't find you."

Starsky felt his hopes die. The man had spoken with such confidence that he couldn't doubt the truth of his words. After a moment, he managed, "What the hell do you want with me?"

"Samuel here can tell you that," the same man said. "Only, he ain't so good with words. So, I'll tell you about his brother, Seth. Seth got caught by the police and went to prison. Do you know what happened to him in prison? Worse things than are happening to you right now."

The object in his rectum was twisted, and Starsky felt its angles and he cursed and panted. When he found his voice, he demanded, "What the hell does that have to do with me? I don't know Seth and I don't know any of you." He wasn't sure if that was true, but it was unlikely these men had been looking for him specifically, for there was no way they would have known that he'd be coming down the alley in which they had jumped him.

"You're a cop," came the simple reply. "You put people in prison. You know what happens to people in prison? The same thing that happened to Seth. He killed himself because of what was done to him. Don't you think you cops ought to pay for that?"

It was insane logic that could not be combated with sane logic. Starsky braced himself when he felt the object move again, but this time it was pulled out. The removal hurt, but that was overshadowed by relief. He lay panting, wishing they would give him water.

"What next?" the third man demanded eagerly.

Starsky muttered, "Killing me won't bring Seth back."

They ignored him as the second man--Samuel--said, "Use this. That ought to split him in two."

"If you let me go," Starsky made a desperate grab for freedom, "I can make it so the courts go easy on you. You haven't killed anybody yet."

"Ah, yeah," the first man said, obviously referring to what Samuel had given him. "You ought to like this, fag cop. Nice and big. You like nice, big things, dontcha? All you cops love huge things up your assholes. That's why you send people to prison. You want them to have things up their assholes, too." Then, "I'm going to need help getting this in."

Starsky braced himself as hands spread his buttocks wide. He was trembling all over. Samuel said, "You'll love this, cop. It's huge. Probably bigger than anything you've had up your ass before."

Starsky pulled against the ropes that kept him spread-eagled. "Youmotherfuckinassholescocksuckinpussyfacedperverts."

Something smooth and cool pressed against his tender anus and he tensed, wondering what difference it made, wondering if whatever it was was going to kill him. Desperate, he tried another approach, and softly begged, "Please. Please, don't. Tell me what you want."

"You want it slow, or you want it all at once?" the first voice taunted.

"Wait," the third man said. "He's a cop. Let's shove his precious badge in him first. Then put this in after it."

Samuel giggled. "Fucked by his own badge. That'll look great in the newspapers."

The smoothness was pulled away and Starsky felt a wave of momentary relief. But that was followed by dread of what they intended to do as he heard his badge being pulled from his pants, which they had divested him of after bringing him here.

"Listen," he tried again, his voice raspy. "You don't have to do this. It won't bring Seth back."

"I'm gettin' tired of your mouth," Samuel said angrily.


A fist slammed into Starsky's jaw.

* * *

They had parted on foot so that they could pursue each of the bank robbers. Hutch now wondered if it was the biggest mistake he'd ever made in his life.

His man had gotten away. He'd retraced his steps back to where they'd first split up, and got in the Torino to drive in the other direction, the direction where Starsky had gone. There was no sign of his partner or of the other suspect. Hutch had driven for a couple of miles before doubling back. Frequently, he'd gotten out of the car and called Starsky's name. Then he'd called for backup.

A man at a lonely street corner told them that he'd seen someone matching Starsky's description chasing a man, heading north. When Starsky and Hutch split, they'd gone east and west. So, Hutch and his backups--a crew that grew larger as time passed--searched the blocks heading northward. Three hours had passed. It was dark and there was no trace of Starsky.

Units were on the alert, Dobey had made an appearance in person, but Hutch still felt himself a force of one. It was his partner who was missing. His worry increased as he considered the possibilities. In the end, he thought it odd that the helpful witness had suddenly appeared and not been there when he'd originally been looking. That put his instincts in gear, and he went back to the area where Starsky should have been chasing his suspect.

While on foot, studying the old warehouse buildings that were now mostly housed by homeless people, he thought he'd heard a scream. But the wind had been blowing and he wasn't sure if it was a trick of his senses. The only way to be sure was to investigate.

The scream haunted him as he checked building after building, walking up and down staircases. Now it was dark and he was walking down the staircase of the last building on the block, which led from the second floor to the first.

He thought he heard a scurry of footsteps.

Hutch pulled his gun from its holster and listened. A door slammed, but it sounded far away. And below.

He bypassed the first floor and continued to descend the staircase. He was very quiet, listening for further sounds.

He thought he heard heavy breathing, which grew louder with each step taken.

He wanted to call out Starsky's name...just in case the other was near. But to do so would give away his location, if there were anyone about with the intent to harm.

It wasn't until he came to the third to the last step that he was able to see around the corner of the staircase. An old wall-lamp provided some brightness in the first room off the hallway. Hutch stealthily approached. Gun raised, he peeked around the corner of the doorway.

In the glow of the lamp, a man lay still, spread-eagled and naked from the waist down, prostrate on the cement floor. His blindfolded face was turned away, revealing a mass of dark, curly hair.

"Oh, my God," Hutch whispered, sucking in a breath. He approached quickly, then knelt beside the still figure from which short gasps emerged. He reached out and laid a hand on Starsky's back.

There was a dry, trembling, angry whisper. "Bastards."

Relief flooded him. "Starsky, it's me. It's me, buddy."

The dark head raised abruptly. Then a shaking, hopeful, "H-H-Hutch?"

Hutch rested his hand on his partner's spine, heart twisting at the trembling voice. "I'm right here, pal. Right here." He watched the dark head drop to the floor in relief. "It's going to be fine. Just fine. Lie still and I'll cut you loose."

His own relief was invaded by worry when Hutch considered the ramifications of Starsky's spread-eagled position and degree of nakedness. Even with the glow from the lamp, it was difficult to see much, and he couldn't be certain what had happened to his partner. He forced down a thick swallow at the suspicions that came to mind.

He took off his black leather jacket and spread it over his partner's lower body, then pulled out his pocketknife. "Just give me a minute, buddy, and I'll have you out of here."

Starsky lay silent, and his lack of conversation increased Hutch's concern. As he worked at cutting the rope around Starsky's right wrist, he forced himself to casually ask, "How you feeling, pal?"


The flat, meek tone did nothing to soothe the blond's worry.

When Hutch cut the left rope, his partner's gruff voice admitted, "Could use somethin' to drink."

Starsky's wrists were free, but his arms barely moved. Hutch heard his own heavy breath of anxiety as he gently tugged at the blindfold until it came off. He watched the blue eyes blink rapidly, and then the other's wide, moist orbs locked onto him. The effort was visible as Starsky managed a lopsided smile. "You're a sight for sore eyes."

Hutch manufactured a smile in return as he moved to his partner's feet. He cut the rope to the left one, his worry increasing. Something very unpleasant had happened here; it was evident in the tension beneath his partner's words. To say nothing of the scream he remembered.

"Almost done," Hutch soothed as he worked with the rope to the right foot. Then, thinking of his partner's complaint, he said, "There's the canteen in the Torino."


The ropes were undone. Hutch put the knife away and shifted position. "Okay, partner, let's ease you over, real careful." It was possible that Starsky had been in this position longer than three hours. "We're going to turn you toward me." He paused, considering, then asked, "You think anything's broken?"


"You hurt anywhere real bad that you need to tell me about?"

"Nah. Just got beat up."

Right, Hutch thought, not believing him. "Okay," he said gently, taking Starsky's farthest shoulder, "let's turn you over real easy. If anything hurts, be sure and let me know."

Starsky pushed with his feet, and with Hutch manipulating his partner's upper body, they eventually got him turned so that he was on his back, partially sitting up, Hutch's arm supporting him from behind. The black jacket had been dislodged in the process, and now Hutch spread it over his partner's front side. He wished he had blankets, for Starsky's skin felt cold.

"Buddy, think you can walk? I can carry you, if I need to."

Starsky's face was now bathed in light, and Hutch could see swelling along his jaw, as well as less serious cuts and bruises. The eyes worried him the most, however, for they were bright with secrets.

A few seconds passed with Starsky still considering an answer, and Hutch relieved him of the decision. "Buddy, it's okay; I'll carry you out." He slipped his hand beneath the jacket and pressed along his partner's stomach. "It'll be easiest if I put you over my shoulder. Do you hurt anywhere that I could damage?"

Starsky shook his head while Hutch pressed along his ribs, and then up to his collarbone. Starsky didn't react to the pressure, and Hutch was satisfied that he could safely use a fireman's carry.

"All right, buddy," he warned, positioning his hands and preparing to rise, "I'm going to put you over my shoulder. On three. One...two...THREE..."

He hoisted his burden, grunting with effort, heard similar noises from his partner. When he felt the other's position was stable, Hutch managed to include the jacket within his grip, so that it covered his partner's backside. He headed for the staircase, feeling something in his heart melt as one of Starsky's hands gripped his belt loops for extra security.

It wasn't an easy trip, and Hutch was glad he'd driven rather than walked from building to building. The Torino was waiting outside.

He was breathing heavily when he reached it. He put Starsky on the ground, then opened the passenger door and moved the front seat up as much as possible, before flipping it forward.

"All right, buddy," he said as he knelt down to the other, who looked more alert, yet was still quiet, "I'm going to lay you down in the backseat. How about if we move you to the floor of the car, and then up to the seat?"

Starsky nodded. "'Kay."

Hutch took his partner by the armpits this time, hoisting his partially nude body from where it rested on his jacket and sitting him on the floorboard of the backseat. Starsky winced and looked uncomfortable, so Hutch quickly gripped him again to hoist him onto the seat, where Starsky immediately lay back.

"Hang on, partner," Hutch said. He took his jacket from the ground and draped it over Starsky once again. He then emerged from the car and went to the trunk. He grabbed the canteen, blanket, and pillow that were kept there for all-night stakeouts. He then knelt on the floorboard of the car and threw the blanket over Starsky, tucking it around him. He took a moment to massage arms and legs. He then slipped the pillow beneath his partner's head.

"Here's water," Hutch said, taking the canteen. "I pour, you drink." He raised his partner's head with one hand, while bringing the canteen to Starsky's mouth with the other. Starsky swallowed many mouthfuls before signaling that he didn't need any more.

"Thanks," he whispered as Hutch tightened the lid.

The blond laid a hand on the other's blanketed chest. "All right, buddy. Just hang on and I'll get you to a hospital."

Starsky's eyes opened wide. "Hutch, no. I don't need a hospital. Just take me home."

The pleading voice tugged at his heartstrings, but Hutch's worry made his voice stern. "Level with me. What'd they do to you?" His eyes bore into his partner's.

Starsky blinked a few times, his breath still thick with the effort of drinking. Finally, he muttered, "Shoved things up my ass."

"What things?" Fury and horror raised the blond's voice.

"Things. I'm not sure what. Objects." His face closed and he mumbled, "They didn't fuck me, if that's what you're wondering."

Hutch didn't think that that fact made the situation any less serious. "Starsky, I've got to get you to a hospital. There could be something stuck inside."

"No, there isn't," the other protested feebly. "They pulled everything out."

Hutch's glare was relentless. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah." Starsky emphasized his answer with a nod.

"Starsky," Hutch's voice sharpened with building anxiety, "anything they put in you could have torn something. And an injury like that can be very serious."

"Hutch, I'd know if something like that happened." The strength in his voice gave way to pleading. "Take me home, Hutch. If you take me to a hospital they'll have to," Starsky gulped audibly, "ex-ex-amine me, and...."

Frustration raised Hutch's voice once again. "Somebody has to."

Their eyes locked, and the trust and pleading in the other's told Hutch that he had lost this argument. He knew damn well who that somebody was going to be. "All right," he raised a finger in warning, "I'll take you home, but only if I have your absolute promise that you'll tell me if something doesn't feel right."

"I promise," Starsky said quickly.

Now that the decision was made, Hutch let himself go soft all over. He patted the blanket more firmly around his partner. "All right, buddy, just take it easy. I'll get you home as fast as I can."

The other nodded and closed his eyes.

Hutch moved out of the back and got into the front seat of the car. He started the motor. Once moving, he turned on the heat and picked up the microphone. "This is Zebra Three. Please patch me through to Captain Dobey."

After a moment, Dobey's voice said, "Hutch, is that you?"

"Yes, Captain, I found Starsky and I'm taking him home."

"What the hell happened?"

"I'm not sure, but I'll get the story from him later."

"Is he all right?"

"He's...roughed up...but nothing that looks too serious. I'll take him home and take care of him."

There was a pause, as though Dobey was considering saying something else. But the Captain's voice was soft when he spoke again. "Let me know when you know something."

"Right. Zebra Three out."

The drive was long, even with Hutch hurrying through traffic lights. When he was forced to stop he would reach back and pat the blanket and say something reassuring. It was nearly twenty minutes later when he finally turned off the motor.

"We're here?" came the hopeful whisper from the back.

Hutch turned and petted the blanketed form. "Not quite, buddy. Just sit tight. I've got to go in and get some things. I'll just be a minute."

Hutch rushed through the aisles of the drug store and picked up a variety of ointments and medications, not knowing if he'd need any or all, as well as some latex gloves. He also grabbed a book on treating common ailments at home and ignored the raised eyebrow that came from the sales clerk.

"Just a couple more minutes, buddy," he said as he got back behind the wheel. Then he asked, "How you feelin'?" as he reached back with one hand, while starting the car forward with the other.

"Just wanna get home," was the muttered reply.

"Just a couple of more minutes and we'll be there. Take it easy."

When he turned off the motor the next time, it was for good. "We're here, buddy," he soothed. He heard shifting in the back seat.

"Think I can walk."

It was a good sign. Hutch supposed part of the difference was that now Starsky had circulation in his limbs, and it encouraged the blond to think that his partner wasn't in as bad a shape as he'd originally feared.

He helped Starsky out of the car, re-wrapped the blanket around him, draped his jacket over the other's shoulders, then put one of Starsky's arms around his neck while putting his own arm around his partner's waist. Together, they slowly made it through the parking lot, and even more slowly made it up the staircase.

Both were panting as they entered the apartment.

"Just a little longer," Hutch encouraged, after pausing to switch on the lights. "We've got to get you into bed."

They made the short trek to the bedroom. From there, Hutch unwound Starsky's arm from his neck and the other collapsed onto the mattress. Hutch went into the bathroom and found a thermometer. He came back out and said, "Here, put this under your tongue."

Starsky was stretched out on his side on top of the covers, the blanket still around him. He took the thermometer and did as he'd been told.

"You want some more water?" Hutch asked.

Starsky nodded.

"I'll get it after I get the supplies out of the car."

He received another nod. After retrieving the sack from the car, Hutch went into the kitchen and poured a glass of water. Then he took out the book from the sack and laid it on the counter. He wasn't sure what he should look up. He finally came across "anal" in the index and went from there.

He came back into the bedroom with water and the sack of supplies just as Starsky removed the thermometer and handed it to Hutch. "What does it say?"

Hutch traded the glass of water for the thermometer. He studied the shiny mercury and then smiled with a degree of relief. "Ninety-nine point five."

"No reason for it to be higher," Starsky said after sipping from the glass.

Hutch put the thermometer on the nightstand. "I want to keep taking it every few hours, just to make sure there's no infection setting in."

Starsky took a large swallow of water, then reached to put the glass on the counter. His voice was much clearer when he said, "I'm okay, Hutch. My asshole's just bruised as hell."

Hutch sat on the bed beside him and gently touched his cheek. "So's your face."

Starsky took a breath, then muttered, "Thought they were gonna kill me."

Hutch managed to refrain from flinching at the memory of the scream he'd heard. If he ever got a hold of whoever had done this....

He laid a hand on his partner's blanketed back. "Who were they?"

"I don't know. Just three creeps who have a thing against cops because one of them's brother committed suicide in prison, I guess because he was raped or somethin'." Starsky's eyes darted to Hutch. "They never acted like they wanted to fuck me themselves. They just wanted to shove things into me."

Hutch gazed at those bright, blue orbs. "You have no idea what they used?"

"No. Everything just felt big. They started small, relatively speaking--could have been a damn carrot for all I know--and kept switching to larger things. Things too damn big to fit." His brow furrowed and he said thoughtfully, "Now that I think about it, one of the things may have been a flashlight."

Hutch closed his eyes and looked away.

"I don't know what they were gonna finish me off with. They kept talking like they had something huge that was gonna split me in two. Considering the last object before that almost felt like it did, I think they were gonna kill me with whatever it was." He swallowed. "And then they got this idea to shove my badge into me first."

Hutch's eyes flew open and he looked at his partner in horror and disbelief.

"They didn't," Starsky assured him. "They were almost goin' to, but then I guess they heard somebody outside...must have been you. One of them wanted to shoot me with my gun, but the others didn't want any noise to give away their location. They just decided to high tail it outta there." He swallowed thickly, his eyes meeting his partner's. "Sure am glad you came."

It was stated so casually, and yet was such an understatement, that Hutch found himself wanting to do anything he could to comfort the other. He moved his hand from Starsky's back to his hair. And presented an understatement of his own. "Sorry, buddy."

"Yeah, well," Starsky snuggled further beneath the blanket, "I just wanna go to sleep. Everything'll be better in the mornin'."

Hutch wanted to give in to Starsky's wishes. But the desire to heal and protect took precedence. "Buddy," he began apologetically, "I have to look you over. You know I have to."

Starsky sighed heavily and closed his eyes. "Not gonna be a pretty sight." He couldn't summon a smile at his own joke.

Hutch ignored the attempt at humor and took a box of latex gloves from the bag. "I'll be as gentle as I can," he said as pulled one onto his right hand.

Starsky's eyes remained closed. "Wish I could say it's my first time, but I guess those creeps beat you to it."

Though he was encouraged by his partner's black humor, Hutch still couldn't bring himself to respond to it with equal frivolity. He had a glove on his other hand. He touched his partner on the arm and lower back. "I need you to turn all the way over."

Starsky hoisted onto his elbows, and then shifted until he was lying fully on his stomach. He tucked his head beneath the blanket.

Hutch went to the closet and pulled out another blanket. He brought it to the bed, sitting down beside his partner. As he pushed the first blanket up Starsky's legs, he covered the lower part of his body with the second one. Finally, he had the first one pushed up so that it was resting on the highest area of his buttocks, just leaving the lower portion exposed.

Hutch laid a hand on pale flesh and leaned toward the head of the bed. "Starsk?" he said tenderly, "I need you to spread your legs, if you can." He waited, but there was no movement. "Starsk?"

Starsky had a fist curled next to his chin. With eyes closed, he said, "Can't," in a small voice.

The blond felt himself go soft inside. Despite his prior humor, Starsky was definitely feeling some trauma about what had happened. "All right," he soothed. "Just bear with me, buddy, so I can do what I need to do."


Hutch decided that Starsky would just as soon he be firm so it would all be over with faster. He parted the exposed buttocks and found himself looking at a mass of dry blood mixed with fecal matter. The debris didn't allow him to see anything else.

He straightened and pulled the blanket down. "Starsk," he said, pulling off the gloves, "I can't tell anything, because there's too much dry blood in the way. We need to let you sit in a warm bathtub for a while. Besides," his voice softened, "it'll help you feel better, anyway, to get cleaned up."

Starsky's shyness seemed to have eased. "That's good, then, right? If there's just dry blood then it means nothing's bleeding anymore."

"I don't know, buddy. I need to make sure that once the dry part is cleaned up that there's nothing else happening down there." Hutch squeezed a blanketed shoulder. "I'll get the water going." He left for the bathroom.

He made sure the water was nice and warm and that the tub filled up as high as it could. He wished he would have done this first rather than putting Starsky through his amateur examination twice.

Hutch brought Starsky's robe when he returned to the bedroom. "All ready for you." His partner was still under the covers, but he had removed his shirt. He slid into a partial sitting position, and Hutch threw the robe around his shoulders as Starsky emerged from the protection of the blankets. His partner walked awkwardly, but under his own power, as they went into the bathroom.

Hutch held the robe while Starsky slipped from beneath it and got into the tub. He plopped down unsteadily, despite Hutch's assisting hand, then slid farther down until the water reached his shoulders.

Hutch sat down beside the tub, facing his partner. "There. Just relax for a while."

Starsky obeyed and closed his eyes.

The blond took the other's chin and tilted it up. The bruises had grown more pronounced in the past hour. "We probably need to put some ice on your jaw."

Starsky shook his head. "Not now."

"Later then." They sat silently and Hutch felt relief that Starsky looked like he was starting to relax from the soothing warmth of the bath. "Too bad there's not enough room for two."

The other's eyes didn't open. "Pervert."

Hutch snorted and got to his feet. Starsky had always been amazingly resilient but he knew that, at some point, his partner would have to express the anger that he was sure to be feeling about what had happened to him. Hutch was fully aware of his own anger, but for now it was taking a backseat to his need to protect, heal, and nurture.

He got a washcloth from the linen closet and dropped it into the tub. "Don't forget to clean up."

Starsky's eyes opened and he picked up the cloth. It was then that Hutch noticed the abrasions on his partner's wrist. He knelt and took Starsky by the forearm. "We'll need to disinfect those." He was sure the other wrist was just as bad, and probably his ankles, too.

"Yeah, they sting a little," Starsky admitted.

Hutch squeezed his partner's shoulder. "I'll leave you alone for awhile." He stood. "Do you want anything to eat when you get out?"

Starsky shook his head.

Hutch went to the kitchen. He read more from the book while listening to the sounds of washing. After a few minutes, he sat down, feeling the beating of his own heart. The gentle caretaking at times such as these, that most would consider a burden, was not that way at all; but an outlet for expressing the love he felt for his partner that he badly needed.

Hutch closed the book. "You ready to get out?" he called as he approached the bathroom.

"Yeah," came the reluctant response.

Hutch entered and held open a towel, even though his partner's eyes were closed again. "Come on," he prompted, "water's probably getting cold, anyway." He reached and gripped a bicep to help Starsky stand. "How you feelin'?"


Hutch wrapped the towel around him and rubbed briskly. When the other was reasonably dry, Hutch guided him to the bedroom. "Under the blankets again, pal."

Starsky's face closed as he obeyed.

"Here, buddy," the blond said tenderly. He sat on the bed and pushed at Starsky's leg, which hadn't been covered yet. "If you can hold your leg up, it'll make it easier." His voice softened further. "Can you do that?"

Starsky responded to the pressure and drew his knee up closer to his body.

"That's good." Hutch covered all but his buttocks with the blankets. His throat tightened as he watched Starsky's fist curl as he again withdrew under the cover of the blanket.

As before, Hutch sensed that Starsky would prefer for him to hurry rather than worrying about being gentle. He pulled on another pair of latex gloves. "Try to relax," he soothed, and then parted the twin hemispheres.

The delicate flesh that stared back at him was swollen and deep red--some parts almost blue--with bruising. Hutch could imagine how tender it must be. There were small bright red streaks that he identified as blood, which had probably started bleeding again after the warm bath stimulated the veins. His fingers reached deeper, touching the wrinkled skin, which was much less elastic than normal, and he heard Starsky's indrawn breath. He reluctantly touched the swollen opening, felt his partner's hips buck, and then damned himself as he pulled the outer skin back, attempting to see if anything more serious would be revealed within.

Starsky was gasping for breath, his whole body tight, and Hutch saw more of the little tears, but nothing beyond that. He removed his hands and sat up.

"Sorry," he whispered. He reached for the sack he'd left on the nightstand and pulled out a tube of ointment.

"Well?" Starsky was looking up at him.

Hutch managed a reassuring smile. "Looks like there's lots of little tears, but nothing too deep."

"Sorer 'n hell."

"Let me massage this cream in. It's going to hurt at first, but the anesthetic should kick in before too long." Hutch pulled the cap, then squeezed Starsky's arm beneath the blanket. "I'll hurry." It crossed his mind then that Starsky could do this part himself. But he would probably be too timid and not do a very good job. "Try to relax."

Hutch pulled the nearest buttock aside and squirted some of the cream into the wrinkled area, hoping it would have a numbing effect before he'd have to touch it. He waited a moment and then massaged it against the anal opening.

Starsky gasped and squirmed. After a moment, he tightly grumbled, "Dammit, if you weren't my partner, I'd slug you."

"Slug me anyway, if it'll make you feel better." Hutch meant it, and he hoped it was healthy for his partner to be expressing at least a little anger.

Instead, Starsky pressed himself against the mattress, his breath heavy with the effort of restraining himself and tolerating the pain.

Hutch removed his hands and took the tube of cream. "Buddy? I've got to squirt some inside."

There was an exhaled breath of resignation.

Hutch inserted the small nozzle at the swollen opening and squeezed.

Starsky swallowed, then said with surprise, "That wasn't so bad."

Hutch put the tube aside. "I have to put my finger inside to rub it in."

The other squeezed his eyes shut. "Damn."

"I'll be quick." Hutch gentled his tone and laid a hand on Starsky's blanketed back. "Relax, buddy. Try to relax."

"Already feels better on the outside," Starsky admitted.

"Yeah? Then when I'm done, the inside will feel better, too." Hutch patted his partner's back, then went back to work. Knowing whatever he did was going to hurt, he didn't bother to hesitate and slipped his finger inside. There were more subdued cursing noises and bucking hips. Hutch rubbed the cream against the inner walls of the sphincter muscles, trying to cover as large an area as possible.

Starsky seemed to relax a little. "Doesn't hurt as much when you do that."

Hutch paused. "What?" he asked in puzzlement.

"What you were just doing, rubbing like that."

His finger moved again, massaging firmly, and he felt when his partner relaxed more.

"Kind of soothing," Starsky muttered. Then a snort . "Bet you never guessed that part of being a cop meant sticking your finger up your partner's asshole."

"Hey, whatever my partner wants, my partner gets."

"Yeah? Well, remember that the next time I tell you what I want for Christmas."

Hutch laughed softly. "Not a chance."

"It's feelin' kind of numb now."

Hutch withdrew. "Done, buddy." He reached to the nightstand and sifted the contents of the sack. He found what he wanted and opened a box, pulled out a capsule and unwrapped it.

"Now what?" Starsky asked with dread.

"Suppository. It'll help with the inflammation."

Starsky looked away, whispering, "Jeesus."

"I'll be done after this," Hutch assured. He picked up the open tube of cream and squeezed some onto the capsule. When it was well lubricated, he shifted on the mattress and pushed at Starsky's covered leg. "Move your leg up again, buddy. It'll go in easier. Okay?"

Starsky couldn't bring himself to move it, but he let Hutch push it up. "Just hurry up," he pleaded.

Hutch braced one hand against the bed. With the other, he felt for the opening with one finger, then pushed the capsule in with another finger. His partner stiffened, and Hutch swallowed thickly and pushed in farther, wanting to make sure it went in deep enough to not be expelled. As he withdrew, he looked up and saw that Starsky's clinched fists were shaking, and his eyes were squeezed shut, his jaw clenched as he made more noises of restraint.

"Sorry," Hutch said. He covered Starsky completely with the blankets. "All done." He got up and pulled off the gloves as he headed for the bathroom. He tossed them into the trash and then washed the latex powder off his hands. He looked under the vanity and was glad to see that his partner still kept a first aid kit. As he emerged into the bedroom, he saw Starsky curled up on his side, his fists having uncoiled.

"Just your wrists and ankles now," Hutch said, scooting the sack of supplies out of the way and placing the first aid kit there. He noticed the thermometer and picked it up. "Let's try your temperature again," he said as he shook it down.

"Why?" Starsky asked.

"Just to make sure it hasn't gone up." He checked that the mercury was reading normal. "Indulge me, okay?"

Starsky opened his mouth and accepted the thermometer.

"Let me see your wrists," Hutch said. He moved the blanket and Starsky stuck out his arms. Hutch placed one in his lap and squeezed a stream of Cortisone along the lacerations. He rubbed the ointment in, then wrapped the cuts in gauze. After repeating his attentions to the other wrist, he removed the thermometer. He read it, then smiled at Starsky. "Almost normal."

In a quiet voice, Starsky said, "Told you I'm okay."

Hutch shifted so he could reach the lower blanket. He flipped it back up to reveal his partner's feet. "I have a right to worry," he defended and started applying the same first aid to Starsky's ankles as he had to his wrists. "I'm your partner."


He was rubbing in the ointment and looked up. "Hm?"

Starsky had tucked his hands back under the blanket. "I don't want to report what happened."

Hutch bowed his head, renewed realization of his partner's hurt and humiliation washing over him. He reached for the gauze and expelled a heavy breath. When he was working with the ankles again, he said, "If we don't report it, we can't ever prosecute them for what happened when we catch them. We can only get them for assault and battery, and they'll get a slap on the wrist."

Starsky swallowed. "Even if we did catch them and just got them for assault, they're crazy enough that they'd tell the whole thing...brag about it."

"And then you'd been answering a lot of questions," Hutch interpreted with a sigh. He tied the gauze on one ankle and turned his attention to the other one. After a moment, he glanced up and gently said, "Partner, you know I'm with you however you want to handle it. But I think you should give yourself a chance to think about it first. Not reporting it means we'll never get justice for what they did." Hutch finished with the ankle. "Ready to get under the covers?"

Starsky began to shift beneath the blanket, reaching to pull the bedclothes back.

Hutch stood and opened a drawer. "Want some underwear?"



There was hesitation, then "Yeah."

Hutch wasn't surprised that Starsky wanted to be covered up. He tossed the clothes to the bed, confident that his partner could get into them on his own. "I'll be right back. Want anything to drink?"

Starsky shook his head.

Hutch went to the kitchen and poured a glass of juice for himself. He locked the front door, then turned off the living room light. After doing so, he glanced at the couch. It was where he would be expected to stay, but the desire to be close to the man in the other room was strong. Still, he didn't know, after what Starsky been through earlier tonight--and just the past hour--if he would welcome company.

Hutch shut off the bedroom light as he entered. The blankets were on the floor, and Starsky was beneath the bedclothes, curled up on his side at the edge of the bed.

The instinct was so strong to mold himself around the other, offering protection. But Hutch figured that the last thing Starsky would want was to have someone curved against his backside.

Hutch kicked off his shoes and carefully climbed into bed. Honesty had always served them well. He knelt behind his partner and placed a hand on the other's shoulder. His fingers squeezed. "Buddy? Do you want me to stay close, or do you want me to leave you alone?"

There was an extended moment of silence. And then Starsky rolled over to face him. He reached up and tugged at the front of Hutch's shirt.

"Ah, buddy," the blond said, insides turning to mush as he stretched out on top of the covers. He put his arms Starsky's shoulders and pulled the other against him.

Starsky still had hold of his shirt. He pressed his face against Hutch's chest as his whisper penetrated the darkness. "I was scared."

"Ah, pal, I know." Hutch pressed the other closer against him. He reached inside the blankets and rubbed his hand up and down Starsky's cotton-clad back. "I'm right here. It's all right now."

"Lousy creeps."

"I know. It's gonna be all right."

The hand on Hutch's shirt tightened. There was an audible swallow, then, "I was screaming and pleadin' with them."

"It's a good thing you screamed," Hutch said quickly. "That's how I knew where to find you." He rested his forehead on the top of Starsky's hair, so grateful that the other was allowing this.

Another difficult swallow. "Sorry you had that."

"It's okay, buddy. You would have done the same for me."

The material of his shirt twisted as Starsky's grip tightened. "You gonna stay here?"

Hutch closed his eyes. He wasn't sure if his chest felt lighter or heavier. "'Course I am."

Starsky rubbed his face against Hutch's shirt, attempting to get more comfortable. They were silent for a long time, but swallowing and other small noises told the blond that his partner wasn't asleep.

"Want to talk?" he finally offered.

"No. Just wanna go to sleep and wake up tomorrow when everything'll be better."

Hutch tightened his grip. He knew everything wasn't likely to be better with dawn's light. Once the physical was healed, more would be focused on the emotional.

They both lay quietly through the night. But neither man got much sleep.

* * *

When Hutch turned in their report the following day, it was minus many details.





"Nice, huh?"

Hutch studied the watch on Starsky's wrist, feeling a sense of deja vu. How many times in all their years together had Starsky enthusiastically showed him a new watch? But he could stand being charitable this time, for it wasn't for his partner. "Yeah, it's great, buddy. She ought to like that."

Still bubbling, Starsky said, "Only better gift I ever got her was when I helped her buy a new car. I think she'll like this even more than that. It's fancier than the things she's used to having."

Hutch said, "Every Mom deserves a nice watch on their sixty-fifth birthday."

Starsky removed it and handed it to the sales clerk. "I'll take it. And I'd like it gift-wrapped so I can mail it to New York."

"Certainly," the sales clerk replied.

While Starsky took out his wallet, Hutch said, "I'll be outside."

After receiving a nod, the blond moved outside the jeweler's into the bright sunshine. He walked half a block, then sat on a cement bench that circled a small fountain outside the shopette where the jeweler was located.

Hutch rested his hands on an upraised knee and stared at the water emerging from the fountain. This was another typical day in their lives. They had spent a good part of the morning tracking down and questioning two witnesses to the murder of a prostitute. They had stopped for lunch at a ma-and-pa taco stand, one of Starsky's favorites. And now his partner was in a fine jewelry store, enthusiastically buying a gift for his mother's birthday.

A typical day. For some reason, it was typical days that affected Hutch the most. For it was on those days that his feelings seemed to be the strongest...and those feelings were not typical by any possible definition. Nor had they been for some time.

There had never been a turning point, just a gradual shifting. Even now, Hutch hesitated to say that he was attracted to his partner, for he had always been attracted to him--in many ways that went far beyond the normal meaning of the word. It wasn't any different now. What was different was how his feelings had shifted to standing back and watching Starsky with loving protectiveness, exasperation, amusement--whatever the situation called for--to wanting to actively pursue the continuance and expression of those feelings when their typical day was over.

It had taken a while for Hutch to define just exactly what he wanted to do with these newly developed feelings. It had taken longer still for him to admit it. And when he had reached the point where there was only one possible answer, it became a game with himself to decide when he should discuss his feelings with the subject of all his analyzing. Part of him never wanted the anticipation to end. Part of him couldn't wait until it did.

And then three creeps--still on the loose--had changed everything.

Hutch blinked, realizing his eyes were straining from having stared at the fountain too long. He wanted to rest his forehead against his knee, but resisted, not wanting Starsky to find him in such a forlorn stance.

He had almost spoken of his wishes six weeks ago. Now, it was too late. Starsky had recovered well, seemed to bounce back from his traumatizing, humiliating experience to continue on as before. But Hutch knew that any suggestion of his thoughts could only remind Starsky of the hurt those men had caused. Starsky would never be able to separate the two, no matter how much he might wish to.

Hutch did not doubt that Starsky would wish to. His biggest fear, he had come to realize, was that Starsky would agree to whatever Hutch wanted to do. Starsky would allow them to become more intimate because that's what Hutch wanted. Starsky would not be able to separate his own desires from his desire to please his partner.

Hutch closed his eyes, then swallowed. His heart swelled gently, as it always did when presented with that truth: Starsky wanted to please him.

Ah, buddy, Hutch thought now, say "no", so I'll know you aren't doing it just for me; but then somehow--some way--come around to saying "yes".

But even a verbal "yes" wouldn't matter. Those three men had taken something from Starsky that would prevent him from ever giving of himself freely that way. Surely, Starsky would want to overcome whatever ugly feelings those men had created, but the price would be too high. There would be too much heartache, too much frustration. Starsky would want to please him, give Hutch anything he asked for, and if only failure resulted, it might be something that their relationship could not recover from.

Over the past few weeks, Hutch had silently tried to find a solution. Maybe they could just agree to keep things on a manual or an oral level. But he ultimately concluded that doing so would still create a feeling of failure and frustration, for what they weren't doing together would always be something that existed between them.

Things were too perfect now to risk that.

And yet, Hutch had to admit, there would be nothing more wonderful in this world than Starsky walking up to him some day and saying, "I love you so much, Hutch, that I want us to make love together." If Starsky was the one who initiated it, then surely they could overcome anything.


Hutch turned around and his partner was standing there, powerful darkness against the brightness of the sun.

Starsky indicated the small box in his hand, wrapped in brown parcel paper. "We gotta go to the post office so this has a chance to get there in time."

Hutch stood. "I'll drive so you can run in."

Bouncing beside him with that seemingly endless energy, Starsky said, "Mom's really gonna love this."

Hutch walked a little more slowly so that Starsky moved ahead of him to the Torino. He smiled wryly at his partner's eagerness as they both got in.

It was another typical day.

* * *

As was the next day. Starsky parked the Torino in the lot of a Mexican restaurant, but different from the one they had visited the day before. He pulled off his sunglasses and put them on the dashboard. "Remember Josie, who works here?"

"Which one is she?" Hutch asked, folding his own shades.

Starsky drew an outline in the air. "Nice and petite, young little Mexican gal?"

"There's a lot of nice, young, petite Mexican girls working here," Hutch pointed out.

"The pretty one," Starsky insisted as they got out of the car.


The darker man elbowed his partner in the ribs as they moved as one toward the little building. "I got her primed to go out with me. Watch the master at work."

Hutch feigned exasperation. "This is something I've got to see."

As was often the case in recent weeks, he hung back a few steps while his partner moved eagerly ahead to the line at the outdoor counter. They had spoken little of women lately. Hutch wondered if this was his partner's first attempt at a date since The Creeps.

"Josie?" Starsky greeted when it was his turn.

She looked at him and brightened. "David. Hi."

"You remember my partner, right?"

She nodded politely at Hutch but turned her attention back to the man in front of her. "What will it be?"

"Three burritos and a Dr. Pepper for me and a couple of tacos and some water for my partner. And how about Friday night?"

She did a double-take. "Friday night?"

"Yeah. As in date. You and me. My partner's not invited."

She laughed and Hutch chimed in with a "Ha, ha."

"Well, sure," she said, as though she couldn't believe her good fortune. "I get off at six, but I'd want to go home and change first." She took a napkin and a pen. "Here's my phone number and address."

Starsky watched her write it. "I can pick you up at seven. We'll have dinner and a movie and..." he let the thought linger.

"That'd be great!" She went back to her order pad, laughing. "Now, what did you want?"

Starsky repeated the order, while Hutch stood back and observed Josie. She looked very young and he wondered if she was even twenty-one. But she seemed very enthused to be going out with his partner.

He hoped they would have a good time.

* * *

"How's my breath?" Starsky asked, and then proceeded to blow air into Hutch's face.

Hutch closed his eyes as the warm moisture hit him. When they opened he said, "It'll pass. What's the occasion?"

"It's Friday night," Starsky said impatiently. "I gotta leave in the next five minutes and pick up Josie."

Hutch regarded his partner. He'd forgotten about the date that was made three days ago, but there was something endearing about Starsky's enthusiasm. "The way she was looking at you, I don't think you need to worry."

Starsky grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. "She one hot little number, don't you think?"

The blond turned back to the file open on his desk. "A young, hot little number," he emphasized. Then, with feigned seriousness, "Just don't let the 'heat' burn you."

Starsky leaned toward him and winked. "It's more likely to be a spontaneous combustion."

Hutch chuckled as his partner trotted out the door. Starsky's happiness was the most contagious thing in the world.

He searched himself inwardly, pleased to conclude that the jealousy he felt was minimal. He wanted Starsky to have a good time. A great time. For Hutch's own happiness was so intertwined with his partner's.

He focused on the file in front of him.

* * *

"Come on, honey," Hutch cooed to the LTD. The engine was sputtering and backfiring, and he worked skillfully with the gas peddle, trying to coax a few more blocks from it.

It was Sunday afternoon and Hutch had made a trip to his favorite plant store. Thankfully, the store was in Starsky's neck of the woods. His partner was sure to have some extra ignition points on hand, which should solve the least for the time being.

Hutch slammed on the brakes as a light turned red. Just as the car came to a halt, the engine died.

"Ah, damn it, honey," he muttered, turning the ignition and babying the peddle. The engine started hesitantly, and he quickly shoved the gear in neutral, so that he could rev the engine while waiting for the light to change.

It turned green, and he slipped into gear and darted out ahead of the other cars. He made a sharp turn onto a side street, the engine dying as he braked. He had to start it up again and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally turned into the parking lot of Starsky's apartment and saw the Torino there.

Most likely, Starsky was either napping or watching baseball games. Hutch assumed the latter and knocked on the door, calling, "Starsk, it's me."

The door opened, and Starsky stood there in his bare feet, but otherwise dressed, and showing no emotion at the sight of his visitor. "What's up?" he asked blandly.

"How about some ignition points?" Starsky stepped back and Hutch entered the quiet apartment. "You napping?"

Starsky shrugged and led the way toward a closet. "Don't think I have any spare points."

Hutch watched the tenseness of his partner's shoulders as the other opened a closet. The dark head shook. "No. Nothing here."

"Damn," Hutch muttered.

Starsky turned to him, scowling, "You know, if you'd buy a damn decent car you wouldn't have to keep patching up that ridiculous piece of crap." He turned away.

Starsky's complaint hadn't been in the tone of a joke. "You get up on the wrong side of the bed?" Hutch asked.

Tersely, and still walking away from Hutch, the other replied, "I'm just sick of that piece of junk never running right." He flung an arm through the air angrily. "Get rid of it!" He went into the kitchen and carelessly tossed dishes into a sink of soapy water.

Hutch frowned. Starsky was tense, wound up. Surely, his simple presence hadn't caused that. "What's eating you?" he asked.

Starsky turned, almost shouting, "Nothing. I just like to have a quiet day at home every now and then--without you comin' over expectin' me to patch up that piece of shit just because you're too goddamned stubborn to get a car that actually runs."

"Quit pretending this is about the car," Hutch countered. "What's going on?"

Starsky came to stand before him. "Hutch, I don't have any goddamned ignition points. Unless you expect me to tow that piece of shit home--which I'm not--just take your tail and leave." He pointed toward the door.

Even though Hutch was certain that nothing personal was meant in the attack, he felt hurt just enough to strike back. With both hands, and knowing it was playing with fire, he pushed at Starsky's chest.

Starsky went backwards a couple of steps. And then his face twisted into rage as his left fist pulled back.

It took every bit of strength Hutch had to quench all the instincts that called for him to defend himself. He didn't understand why, but he knew Starsky needed this more than anything else Hutch had to offer. He kept his hands at his sides.

Starsky's fist shot out and Hutch felt the most incredible impact against his right cheek. It dazed him so much that he didn't remember hitting the floor; he just knew that suddenly he was sprawled upon it, his cheek tingling with shock and the room spinning dizzily.

He shook his head to clear it and realized his tongue was tasting iron inside his mouth. As the numbness went away, throbbing replaced it. And then there was a fierce stinging as his tongue investigated the inside of his cheek.

The rug had stopped spinning and he pulled his hand away from his face. It brushed his mouth in passing and he studied the droplets of blood, feeling more forming inside his cheek.

In retrospect, he realized he should have at least put his hands up to defend himself.

He looked at Starsky.

His partner stood there, his mouth open as he stared at Hutch, a horrified expression on his face.

When their eyes meet, Starsky stuttered in disbelief, "H-H-How come you let me do that?"

Hutch gingerly felt his jaw. It throbbed more with each passing second. He managed, "It seemed to be what you needed at the time."

"Ah, man, Hutch," the other said sorrowfully, springing to the kitchen. He ran a dish towel under cold water for a long moment, then hustled cubes out of an ice tray. He placed the cubes onto the cloth, tied it into a bundle and rushed back to where Hutch was still sprawled next to the couch.

Starsky knelt and pulled Hutch into a sitting position by the shirt-front. "Here, buddy," he said breathlessly, bringing the bundle up, "easy does it." He pressed the ice against Hutch's cheek.

Hutch gasped at the cold and pain.

"Come on, Hutch, hold it there."

Obediently, Hutch replaced Starsky's hand with his own, holding the ice against his cheek. It hurt, and he wished the numbing effect would hurry up and begin.

"Here," Starsky was peeling back his lower lip, "let me see how bad it is."

Hutch held his mouth open, wishing Starsky would hurry up. The last thing he wanted to think about was going to the emergency room for stitches. He grunted to express his disapproval.

"Just hang on a sec," Starsky said, jumping to his feet. He went through the bedroom and into the bathroom, and then emerged with a spray bottle containing red liquid. "Here, hold your mouth open," he said when he was again kneeling before his partner.

Hutch swallowed more blood, then obeyed. Something sprayed against the cut inside his cheek, and a moment later the stinging pain was numbed almost to the point of non-existence. The bottle was pushed into his free hand as Starsky said, "Keep it."

Then Starsky had a hold of his ribcage. "Come on," he said, pulling at him, "off the floor."

Hutch glanced behind him to see where the sofa was, then pushed himself up so that Starsky could sit him on the couch. Hutch laid his head back, glad that the dizziness cleared almost immediately after moving.

Panting from his efforts, Starsky stood back and looked at him. "Big dummy," he said raggedly. "Least you coulda done was defend yourself."

Hutch silently agreed, but that didn't matter now. Trying to keep his tongue from touching the cut, he slurred, "What was that all about?"

Throwing up his hands for emphasis, Starsky said, "I wasn't mad at you!"

"Tell me something I don't know." Hutch swallowed more blood. "What's got you so wound up that you had to explode? You owe me that, at least."

Starsky spun around to the bookcase that separated the bedroom from the rest of the house. He spread his hands, leaning against it, rocking back and forth as though trying to rid himself of some unbearable trauma.

"What happened yesterday?" Hutch prompted, his voice more gentle. He could see from his partner's stance how much Starsky was suffering from...something. "Or this morning?"

"Nothing happened yesterday or this morning," Starsky muttered, not turning around.

Then...."Friday night?" Hutch asked. It seemed the only explanation. Starsky had had a date with Josie. And to think that, whatever was causing so much upset, his partner had had to suffer through it all yesterday and today.

"Ah, Hutch," Starsky was still braced against the bookcase. "We went out together and had a really good time. And then I took her back to her place, and she invited me in...." He trailed off. Then--BAM!--he slapped his hand against the edge of the bookcase, rattling it.

"Starsky, turn around," the blond demanded. "Look at me."

The suffering showed on the other's face as he obeyed. Raggedly, he said, "She was all hot for me. And I was wantin' her all night. And then we were at her place and," he swallowed thickly, "before we even got undressed I just...." He squeezed his eyes shut and with gritted teeth muttered, "Damn."

Hutch felt himself go soft inside. He straightened on the couch, still holding the ice against his cheek, which was starting to numb. Sympathetically, he said, "Just couldn't go through with it, huh, pal?"

"I wanted to go through with it," Starsky jabbed a thumb at his chest, "but," he vaguely indicated his lower body, "the rest of me wouldn't cooperate." He took a breath and meekly said, "The look on her face...felt two inches tall."

"Starsky, it doesn't make you any less a man," Hutch said firmly. "You gotta admit she was barely out of the cradle. She's probably never had that happen with a date before and she didn't know how to react."

"That doesn't solve anything!" Starsky shouted. Then, "I've never had that happen before."

The inside of Hutch's mouth was started to sting again, and he positioned the spray bottle and applied more of the medication. The pain he was suffering reminded him that there was far more going on here than a case of simply not being able to get it up. Starsky's anger and humiliation went very, very deep. And the bastards who were responsible were still at large....

Starsky slammed the flat of both hands against the nearest wall. As he had with the bookcase, he now leaned against the wall, his back to Hutch. Then, in a low voice, he muttered something that the blond couldn't decipher.

Hutch put the spray bottle down. "What? Stop turning your back on me, so I can hear you." His voice gentled. "Come over here and sit down and give me a chance to help."

The other swung around. "You think you can fix what those creeps did?" he challenged. "You think you can give back what they took away?"

Hutch felt relief that Starsky acknowledged the source of the problem, but he also hurt for the other's continued pain. Gently, he prompted, "What did they take away?"

Starsky stared at him for a long moment. Then he threw up his hands. "I don't know!" Then, softly, "That's what I keep tryin' to figure out." Suddenly, he turned and kicked at the wall, dislodging a painting. "I never thought it would matter," he forced out through gritted teeth. He continued to kick a few more times, until he abruptly turned away and prowled back toward the other side of the room.

"What do you mean?" Hutch prompted. "You didn't think what would matter?"

Starsky stopped and looked at him. "What they did," he finally sputtered. Then came a rapid flow of words. "I-I thought I was okay about it. I thought, 'Okay, I can't change what happened. But it's not like they killed me or maimed me or anything like that. They didn't even fuck me'--which would have made it a hundred times worse--knowing they used me to get their rocks off. But they didn't. I didn't even have to go to the hospital. So, what's the big deal? I thought it was over and done with. And then...Friday night...."

He threw himself onto the sofa, sitting hunched forward with his head in his hands.

Hutch was relieved that Starsky seemed resigned to staying in one place. Gently, he asked, "What were you afraid of Friday night?"

Finally, the other's words were calm. "I don't know, Hutch. That's what I keep tryin' to figure out. I mean, it's not like I was afraid she was gonna...violate me. Like they did. I can't figure out the connection." A pause, then, teeth gritted, "I can't stand it that I've given them the power to affect me this much."

Hutch put the ice on the coffee table and turned on the cushion to face his partner. This part he could definitely help with. "Look at me."

Starsky raised his head up and turned to face him.

Slowly, Hutch said, "I know where you're coming from, pal." His insides churned as he prepared to elaborate, as this was bordering on sacred territory. "You know what Ben Forrest's monkeys did to me. I couldn't stop it. It wasn't my fault that they turned me into...." he trailed off, not able to speak the despicable words that came to mind. He took a breath. "Later, I kept thinking that I should have never let it happen. That I should have fought harder, over-powered them. Resisted the substance they injected into me against my will. I kept thinking, 'I should have been stronger. What does it say about me that I wasn't? I couldn't even protect Jeannie.'"

The anger and frustration on Starsky's face transformed into sympathy. "But...," he began worriedly, "you eventually got over all that...right?"

The softness inside turned to liquid. "How could I not? You were there...constantly."

Starsky tilted his head away bashfully, a grin lighting the side of his face. He countered, "How could I not?"

Hutch basked in the silence a moment, then he pointed out, "It was a different kind of rape, partner, but rape nevertheless. I had a foreign substance forced into me against my will."

"Never thought of it that way," Starsky admitted. Then he looked up. "But you never had any problems in the bedroom...?"

Hutch shook his head. "No. But what happened to me didn't have anything to do with sex. Maybe those men didn't technically 'fuck' you, but you know damn well it was a violent, sexual thing for them."

Starsky didn't have anything to say to that. He sat staring at the carpet, elbows resting on his knees.

Hutch didn't want Starsky thinking that, because what had happened was sexually related, that made his problem unique. He pointed out, "My demons came in a different form." When Starsky looked up again, the blond said, "You know how I feel about taking any kind of strong medicine. And you know those drug busts still scare me when that white powder is all over the place."

"But you get through it, Hutch."

"Yeah, I do, because you're there with me."

Starsky took a deep breath and sat back. Wryly, he said, "Well, then that's the answer: I guess you should just start 'being with me' whenever I sleep with someone."

Hutch chuckled, but stopped abruptly when it hurt his cheek. He picked up the ice again.

Starsky watched him from the other side of the couch. "Ah, Hutch, I'm sorry. You shouldn't have let me do that."

"You should have called me to talk before you let everything build up this much."

"Kept wanting to believe it was no big deal. That it didn't happen. Anything but the truth."

Hutch was sympathetic again. "Maybe you're not giving yourself a chance. Maybe you should go out with a few more people and see if the same thing happens before you go beating yourself up over it."

The other's eyes widened. "There's no way on this Earth I'm goin' out with anyone again. Not until...I'm okay. You didn't see the look on her face. How disappointed she was. I can't go through that again."

"So, you're going to live like a monk?" Hutch countered with disbelief.

"You don't know what it was like. If I go out with someone else, I-I'll be afraid that it's gonna happen again...and that'll just make everything worse."

"Maybe you should explain to your date what happened to you."

The other's eyes widened like saucers. "I can't do that! Hutch, you're the only person besides those creeps who knows what happened. You think I'm gonna reveal something like that to someone just because I'm spending the night with them?"

Hutch waited a beat, then offered, "Maybe you should wait to sleep with someone until you've spent enough time with them that you do feel comfortable enough telling them. Give yourself a chance, buddy."

Starsky closed his eyes. "I can't do that, Hutch. Any more than you would tell someone what Ben Forrest did to you."

Hutch put the ice down again. His cheek was as numb as it was going to get. "Touché," he granted.

Starsky sat lacing and unlacing his fingers. "Don't know what to do," he muttered. "Hate being afraid, especially when I don't even know what I'm afraid of."

Gently, the blond offered, "Is it that you think you're less of a man because of what happened?"

Starsky shifted restlessly. "No, that's not it. I've already thought all that through. They humiliated me and hurt me and scared me, but it's not like they cut off my nuts."

"Not even metaphorically?" Hutch prompted.

"No," Starsky emphasized. "That's not what it felt like. I know I'm still the same person."

Voice soft again, Hutch said, "Maybe you're afraid of her touching you back there."

"So what if she does?" Starsky countered, getting up and pacing. "It's not like she's gonna shove somethin' into me. It doesn't make sense to be afraid of it."

The blond watched his partner, evaluating the body language, turning over and examining what he'd said. Finally, he suggested, "But that's what it is, isn't it? You're afraid she's going to end up touching you back there and you're afraid of how you might react, even though you know consciously she can't harm you."

Starsky was back at the bookcase again, leaning against it. But this time he merely sighed. "I don't know, Hutch. I just...don't know." He turned around. "You touched me there, when that was the absolute last thing I wanted, and it wasn't the end of the world."

"Yes, and you were wound up tighter than a drum. But you knew what I was going to do. You were able to control your reaction because you were prepared. But with her, you don't know if or when she might touch you back there--or if she will at all--and if she might even try to put her finger in there. What if you overreact and can't stop yourself in time?" Hutch indicated the side of his face.

Starsky looked away shamefully.

"Buddy," Hutch emphasized, "maybe the reason you can't perform is because you're protecting her from you."

"Because I don't trust myself?" Starsky asked doubtfully.

"More or less," Hutch offered after a moment. "Maybe, deep down, you're enraged because of what happened to you, and you're afraid you'll take it out on her if she does anything to you that will bring that rage to the surface."

Still doubtful, his partner asked, "Are you sure about that?"

Hutch let out a breath. "You're the only one who can know what you're feeling. But you haven't outright denied anything I've said the past couple of minutes." His voice softened. "Maybe because I'm right?"

Starsky sat down on the sofa with a weary sigh. "If that's the case," he muttered wryly, gazing at the coffee table, "then I guess that makes you the only person I can sleep with."

Hutch looked away, all too aware that it was the second suggestive comment Starsky had made in the past thirty minutes. "What?"

The other shrugged. "You're the only person who knows what happened to me--so you'd know what not to do--and you're the only person I really trust deep down. I mean," Starsky's voice became very soft, "I could be afraid with you, and you wouldn't hold it against me."

Hutch waited a long moment, expecting a smile to break out on the other's face, acknowledging the joke.

Silence stretched for what seemed close to eternity. The blond snorted mockingly. "You've got great logic, buddy." He pushed off the couch. "I'll sleep with you because you trust me, and I'll make you feel hurt and violated and humiliated--and use you to get my rocks off--and then I'll be the person you feel the most betrayed by. Great. Fantastic." He headed toward the kitchen. "That'll solve everything." He opened the refrigerator and took out a beer. "Want a brew?" He watched the dark head shake once.

Hutch closed the refrigerator and returned to the sofa. Starsky was still staring at the coffee table. The blond took a swallow of beer, then realized it was a bad idea when the inside of his mouth stung. He put the bottle down and knelt on the couch, propping his elbow on the back and resting his head in his hand.

Without looking up, Starsky said, "I wouldn't feel betrayed if you took pleasure from me. I'd want you to like it. Then it would mean something--something good. Instead of something ugly."

Hutch fought the rapid beating of his heart with as much harshness as he could muster. "That's what you want?" Starsky turned to look at him, and he demanded, "You want me to pin you down on the bed and shove my prick up into your ass, and that's supposed to make everything fine so you can see women again?"

Starsky took a breath, eyes lowering. "I just thought if I could take the bad memory and replace it with would help. I wouldn't be mad at you for doing that to me."

Hutch felt a sense of panic building. The irony was so cruel. Here was Starsky, offering him what he wanted most in the world. And he would be his partner's worst enemy if he accepted. Rapidly, he countered with, "But you don't really know, do you? Just like you didn't know what was going to happen when you took Josie home. Sorry, buddy, but I can't risk that." He picked up his beer and carried it to the sink.

He spent a long time pouring it out, and was startled when a nearby, casual voice asked, "How come you just don't say no?"

Hutch looked up. Starsky was leaning against the entrance to the kitchen, his arms crossed. The dark-haired man pressed, "How come you didn't laugh at me, or tell me to go to hell?"

Hutch felt himself start to stutter, and he swallowed a couple of times to make sure his voice was level. "Starsky, I can't stand here and outright reject you, when that's what she did when you couldn't...." He trailed off. At least it sounded good. But the other was still studying him, and he decided to appease those inquiring eyes with a drop of honesty. More gently, he said, "After everything we've been through together, it's not like the idea of making love to you is the worst thing that could ever happen in the world."

Quietly, yet so casually, Starsky asked, "Then why don't we?"

The blond snorted harshly. "Buddy, you don't even know what you're saying. You sound like you're talking about us doing it with each other and yet, just a moment ago, you said I'd know what not to do." Hutch nodded firmly. "You're right. The thing not to do is to hurt you the way those creeps did. That's the last thing I'd ever do to you."

Starsky sighed forlornly and shuffled back to the sofa. He sat heavily upon it.

Hutch watched the dejected figure, feeling that he'd yanked away Starsky's only hope for a resolution to his problem. He moved toward him, "Buddy, it was just one night. Maybe what happened with her has nothing to do with what those creeps did. Maybe it would have happened, regardless. That kind of thing happens sometimes, it just does."

Starsky looked up at the tall figure standing before him. "You don't really believe that," he pointed out. He sighed, then muttered, "I just don't know what to do."

Hutch sat on the coffee table, facing him. "Maybe you should see somebody. Huh?" The other scowled and the blond rapidly explained, "You aren't the only person this kind of thing has happened to. If you saw a professional therapist--someone with experience in treating your kind of feelings--they might be able to help."

Starsky stood and moved away. "Hutch," he said with his back to the blond, "I can't talk about it with anyone else. Any more than you could know."

Hutch swallowed, not having an argument against that one.

"You're the only one who knows," Starsky said again. Then, softly, "Makes all the difference."

Hutch decided to accept that fact. He went to his partner, placed both hands on the other's shoulders, and turned him so they were facing each other. He looked squarely into those hesitant eyes. "Sleeping with you is not the answer."

"Then what is?" Starsky demanded, a hint of desperation in his tone. "I mean, if we did it, it would be like sink or swim. Either I can accept it from you, or I can't. And if I can't..." he gulped, "then I guess there's no hope for me."

"Even if you can," Hutch pointed out with his own sense of desperation, "what does that have to do with performing for someone like Josie? Even if we had incredible sex together, buddy, why would that solve your fear of doing it with women?"

"Because I wouldn't be afraid because it would mean I'd conquered my fear," the other reasoned. Hutch's eyes narrowed in puzzlement at the sincerity of the other's belief. Starsky continued, "If I can accept someone fucking me--and you're the only person I could accept that from--then there's nothing left to be afraid of. A woman just touching me like that would be a piece of cake."

Hutch blinked, amazed at the naïve reasoning. "And what if you can't accept me doing it to you?" he countered, nostrils flaring. "Then I become the enemy. I become the person who destroyed your trust."

"If it doesn't work out, I'd blame myself, not you. I'd know you were only trying to help, because I asked you to."

More like demanded, Hutch corrected silently. He took a deep breath. "Look, do us both a favor and take a step back for a few days. Huh?" he pleaded. "There's no reason why you've got to figure something out today or tomorrow, or next week. Give yourself a chance to get some perspective."

Starsky didn't reply, but he seemed to accept that nothing further was going to be said.

Hutch squeezed his shoulder. "See you tomorrow morning, okay?"

The other didn't look up. But he nodded with a twisted semblance of a smile.

The blond started toward the door, but he didn't like leaving so abruptly. He reached back to squeeze Starsky's shoulder again. "Look, if you still need to talk, I'll be home. Okay?"

He received another nod.

Gratefully, Hutch made his exit.

* * *

Starsky didn't call him on Sunday night. On Monday, his partner looked worn out, but he was in a reasonable mood, albeit on the quiet side. On Tuesday, it was more of the same. After eating lunch, Hutch dropped Starsky off for a haircut. Then he drove to the park up the street and got out. He started walking.

They had not spoken further of that Sunday conversation, but Hutch's thoughts had been rooted there, and it had taken every conscientious effort to keep from attracting his partner's attention with his own distraction. He knew he had to figure out how to deal with his thoughts and colliding emotions before they began to affect his own mood and temper. Starsky deserved nothing less.

Starsky was the kind of person who, once deciding he wanted something, wouldn't let go. He would push and badger until getting what he wanted. Despite his relative silence the past two days, Hutch didn't think for an instant that Starsky had discounted the idea of them sleeping together. The subject would come up again, his partner probably all the more forceful when it did, as he would have had a few days to figure out how best to achieve his goal.

Sink or swim. The phrase made no sense to Hutch with regards to how his partner had used it. Starsky seemed to think that Hutch should just up and fuck him. If it was tolerable, then that meant Starsky was cured of the problem he'd had with Josie. If it were unbearable, then that would mean he would continue to berate himself for having let The Creeps affect his ability to perform. Who knew what would happen then.

It was a chilling thought and Hutch quickly moved to more pleasant territory. He couldn't deny the gentle beating of his heart at the idea that Starsky counted on him to find a solution to his problem. Pain exists/Hutch will stop pain. Starsky's rationale was so endearingly simple.

But how could the pain stop when Starsky was demanding that Hutch do something painful? The image was there before Hutch's eyes: Starsky facedown in front of him. He imagined the curled fist, the closed eyes, ducking his head beneath whatever blankets were available as Hutch lubricated him as thoroughly as possible. And then pressing his aching erection against that tight opening, forcing it in. Starsky squirming, trying to escape the pain and pressure, perhaps crying out....

Hutch picked up a rock and angrily threw it into the ditch that wound through the park. Before The Creeps, when he'd imagined himself and Starsky together, it hadn't been anything like that. In his fantasies, they'd done all sorts of wonderful things to each other over a period of days, so that when they finally Did It, everything was soft and tender and beautiful. Nothing but wonderful feelings were expected or experienced by each of them. Neither had anything to prove to the other. It was simply an expression of love. An achingly intimate expression of love.

Why doesn't he want that, too? Hutch wondered longingly, sitting on a bench.

Maybe because he doesn't realize he can have it, a voice inside his mind answered.

Hutch's brow furrowed as he attempted to follow this new thought.

Starsky had no way of knowing how Hutch had felt before The Creeps. Therefore, he had no reason to believe that Hutch would want to make slow, patient love to him. Starsky could, therefore, only perceive his own needs in the situation, and probably felt that asking Hutch to fuck him would require the least amount of sacrifice on Hutch's part. In Starsky's mind, it would be like a consolation for his partner. I know you don't want to really do it, but at least you'd be able to get your rocks off, in addition to helping me solve my problem, seemed to be Starsky's line of reasoning.

How would Starsky feel about it if I were to tell him everything about how I've felt?

No, he couldn't do that. Starsky only wanted to get past a temporary problem. If Hutch revealed his feelings, it would be burdening the other, shackling him, when Starsky only wanted to be "cured" so he could return to dating women.

Then what if I agree to sleep with him, but not tell him how I feel?

It would mean hiding himself from Starsky, not giving fully of himself when making love to him. Hutch cringed, hating the thought.

Worse, Starsky would know Hutch was hiding something. He'd already been suspicious of what Hutch hadn't said on Sunday, when he wondered why Hutch hadn't outright rejected the idea of them sleeping together.

Does he suspect...? Hutch wondered now. But he found that hard to believe. Starsky had been confused as to why Hutch hadn't laughed at the idea of their being in bed together, which Starsky would have expected Hutch to view as ridiculous. In fact, Starsky's puzzlement at Hutch's lack of rejection was the proof that he hadn't suspected where Hutch's thoughts had been in recent weeks.

Still, the idea of being intimate with Starsky but also hiding from him seemed an impossible task, to say nothing of a too-painful restriction.

I have to be honest, Hutch concluded. He wants to sleep together for completely different reasons than I do, and I have to lay it all on the line. He has to know where I'm coming from. And then he can decide what he wants.

Before The Creeps, Hutch had enjoyed the anticipation of deciding when he should tell Starsky how he felt. Now, there was no joy in waiting, because the stakes were so much different. He had to face this now...and let the chips fall where they may.

Hutch drew a deep breath. As he headed back to the car, he tried not to imagine what Starsky's reaction might be.

* * *

He would have thought making a firm decision to talk about it would have calmed him. Instead, he felt jittery after picking Starsky up and heading back to Parker Center. Starsky kept looking at him curiously, and Hutch finally blurted out, "We need to talk. After work."

"Okay," the other replied after a moment, still staring at him, this time with concern.

* * *

Your place or mine? Hutch wondered when he was driving them home that evening. Mine, he decided. That way, Starsky could leave if he didn't like what Hutch had to say. He'd give him the keys to the LTD.

They were silent in the car for a long time. Finally, Starsky asked, "Do we get to eat before we talk?"

Hutch turned into a drive-up fast food stand.

* * *

Starsky scarfed down his burger and fries before they reached Ocean. Hutch only had a chicken sandwich, and he ate it while driving. It was a light meal, but his stomach felt heavy when he finished.

He felt a sense of irony, of destiny--of being on the verge of a turning point--as they made their way to the second floor of his apartment building. Both of them were still sipping soft drinks.

"Have a seat," he said as they entered the apartment.

Starsky obeyed, sitting on the sofa, watching him expectantly.

After hesitating, Hutch finally decided to sit on the floor on the opposite side of the coffee table, facing his partner.

"Is this about Sunday?" Starsky asked. His instincts, as always, seemed to be in full gear. "Or something else?"

Hutch had already been running possible ways of opening the conversation through his mind. "I need to tell you something," he said.

Starsky placed his hands in his lap, still holding his paper cup of cola, as though trying to show his lack of resistance to anything Hutch needed. "I'm listening."

Hutch bashfully tilted his head away. "I-I-I'm n-not sure how to say this."

"Why don't you just come right out with it?" Starsky suggested helpfully.

That sounded like a good idea, but Hutch didn't know how to word the bottom line. Instead, he said, "Yeah, this is about Sunday. Sort of. It actually goes back to well before then." A thick swallow. "There's something I have to tell you."

"You already said that," the other pointed out patiently.

Hutch nodded, realizing he was going in a circle. He swallowed again, then took a deep breath. Staring at the tabletop, he said, "Before what...happened," he glanced up briefly and saw that Starsky understood his meaning, "I was going to talk to you about something. I-I-It had been on my mind for a while. And a week or so before...I'd decided I was going to talk to you. It was just a matter of picking the right time." The words started coming faster. "But then those creeps did what they did, and it just seemed to..." he trailed off, then, "spoil everything. I knew that how you might react to what I wanted to say would what those perverts did to you."

The other's voice was soft, curious. "What were you going to say?"

Hutch looked up at his partner's open expression, feeling his insides turn to mush. "Ah, Starsk, we've always been so damn good together. At everything. A-A-And I was havin' such a hard time of it, making a go of any sort of relationship at all with the opposite sex. And I--" his eyes lowered. "It just, over time, started to appeal to me."

"What did?" the other asked breathlessly.

Hutch looked up again. Confusion was now on the other's face, but surely, being a detective, Starsky had a pretty good idea where this was leading. Softly, Hutch replied, "I'd started to realize that I had a real desire to....It eventually got to the point where that's what I wanted more than anything. And I was going to tell you...." He trailed off. Starsky was looking at him blankly.

Suddenly, a smile broke out on the chiseled features. "Hutch, this is great!" Starsky exclaimed.

Hutch frowned. Enthusiasm was the last thing he'd expected. "What are you talking about?"

"What do you mean, what am I talking about? This makes everything perfect. We can go to bed together, and you'll be getting something out of it, too, other than know, helping me out."

Firmly, the blond said, "This makes everything far from 'perfect'."

"But we both want the same thing," the other protested.

"But for different reasons, buddy. You just want to be 'cured' of your problem so you can," he gestured with a hand, "go back to being a lady killer." He took a breath. "I just want...just want...." He looked helplessly at the other.

"You want what I want," Starsky offered after a moment, still cheerful. "You want us to do it together. I want us to do it together. So what's--"

"You want a one-shot deal," Hutch insisted. Again, his eyes lowered. "I want...." He drew a deep, deep breath. Then, almost a whisper, "I want the whole ball of wax."

Starsky blinked, staring at him. He sputtered a moment, then said, "You can have the whole ball of wax. I mean, if we're really good together, it's not like we can't ever sleep with each other again. Why give up a good thing?"

Hutch blinked this time, trying to decide if Starsky was missing his whole point or being deliberately obtuse. He tried again. "Starsky, you want me to love you and set you free. I want to love you and....keep you."

The other seemed just as flabbergasted. "You can! All these years together haven't we been 'keeping' each other? Out of the freedom of our own choice?"

"Starsky, I don't want to go back to women. You do."

"You don't hafta go back."

"But you will!" Hutch almost shouted. "For you, that's the whole point of us sleeping together in the first place."

The other's voice also rose. "Hutch, the whole point of us sleepin' together, for your information, is so that I can..." he hesitated, for it was obviously still difficult for him to talk about it; then, meekly, "get my confidence back. That I can perform. That I won't be afraid of bein' in bed with someone, because I'm afraid of what they might want to do." His face softened. "I trust you, Hutch. If it comes down to sink or swim, then--"

The blond jumped to his feet. "If we sleep together, it's not going to be 'sink or swim'. You've got to understand that right now, or it's never going to happen."

Starsky was wearing a puzzled frown. "But--"

Hutch spoke rapidly to make his point before further interruptions. "Buddy, the only reason a person has to 'sink or swim' is when they're out in a body of water. All alone. You either got to learn to swim to survive, or you sink and die. You aren't alone. I'm here, pal. It doesn't have to be that kind of ultimatum, because I'll help you to swim so that sinking's never a problem."

Starsky's eyes were moving back and forth, as though trying to absorb Hutch's point. Finally, he asked, "You mind translatin' that into English?"

Hutch put his hands in the back pockets of his jeans. Firmly, he said, "I'm not going to fuck you. Not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not the next night or the next. Probably not the next few nights after that."

The other leaned forward on the sofa cushion, as though anxious to make his point. "Hutch, I gotta face my fear. If what you were sayin' the other day is true, then deep down inside I'm afraid that I'm gonna overreact if someone I'm sleepin' with touches me in a way that I'm gonna feel threatened by. I gotta learn not to feel threatened by it. I mean, I figure, what is it that I'm most afraid of? Getting fucked, right? Someone shoving somethin' into me that's gonna hurt real bad. Like those Creeps did. If I can face lettin' you do it to me, then the worst possible thing will have happened--and if it's you doin' it, it can't be that bad--and then I won't have to be afraid of it anymore."

Hutch sat back on the floor, his head in his hands. Something about the way Starsky so sincerely believed the things he wanted to believe pulled at him, making him want to give the other anything he wanted.

But his own solution was so much better. He looked at his partner, his voice gentle now. "Buddy, if we go about it my way, you won't have to face your fear, because there won't be any fear left to face. There will just And warmth. And closeness. And pleasure. Good things."

Starsky was silent for a long moment. Then he asked, "How do you figure?"

"It's not a matter of 'figuring'. I just know what...I want to do." Hutch felt bashful now. "How I want to go about it. I know that...that fantasy and reality usually don't mix, but...I do know there can't be any harm done if we...start out slow. Easy. Just peripheral stuff at first. Nothing heavy. And then," he said hopefully, "if we work up to it gradually--very gradually--and only do what you're comfortable with each night...then you'll be able to trust that there's nothing to be afraid of. Nothing is going to happen without your wanting it--really wanting it--to happen."

"That could take forever." The voice was glum, but Hutch could see that there was a gleam in his partner's eye. Starsky was obviously intrigued by what he'd suggested.

"So?" Hutch countered with forced casualness. "As far as I'm concerned, forever with you is a wonderful proposition."

The other man's eyes lowered, as though he didn't know how to receive such sincerity of feeling.

"Starsky," Hutch said more seriously, "that doesn't change all the other stuff we were talking about before. I just-just want you to understand where I'm comin' from, that's all. This all means a lot more to me than just solving a problem you're having." He'd decided against trying to convince Starsky that when they came through this there were going to be consequences to deal with. Since the pain would all be his own, Hutch decided he'd just have to accept it. They'd gotten this far in his book of fantasies...he wasn't about to throw away whatever other chapters he could have.

The other looked up, presenting a shy grin. He picked up a sofa pillow and hung onto it. "If it means that much to you..." he trailed off, letting the thought linger. Then he shrugged. "Then it's only natural that it's going to mean that much more to me, too."

Hutch stood looking at him, amazed at how such simple words could affect him so much, even though he still doubted that Starsky understood the point he'd been trying to make. Hutch knelt back down at the coffee table. "Starsky, I love you."

The grin widened, Starsky's eyes lowering bashfully. "Now you're gettin' mushy."

"I like being mushy when my feelings are this strong."

Starsky managed to look up at him again, the grin still there. But then he raised his shoulders in a hesitant shrug. "What happens now?"

Some part of him insisted they still had some talking out to do, that Starsky didn't really understand where he stood, that he was taking it all too lightly. But Hutch found that he wasn't interested in conversation any more. He swallowed, meeting those bright, curious eyes. "I guess one of us has to make the first move."

There was a small chuckle and then, as though delighted by the game, Starsky slipped from sitting on the couch to kneeling on the carpet. He moved around the coffee table, eyes on his partner's, until he was facing Hutch. And then he licked his lips, as though savoring the anticipation.

Hutch laughed softly, loving the game at least as much.

"I mean," Starsky said in a low voice, "I'd intended all along for there to be kissing and stuff."

The blond felt his chest inflate as he inhaled deeply. "So did I."

Starsky looked away a moment, then asked, "You ever kiss a guy before?"

"You know I haven't, goofball."

The other considered a moment, then, "I have."

Hutch felt a bolt of shock go through him. "When?"

Now a huge grin. "Just kiddin'."

Their knees were only inches apart. Hutch moved the remaining distance necessary to close the gap, so that denim touched denim. "You moron." He leaned his forward, just a little.

Starsky did as well. "Guess we may as well check first to make sure we're compatible."

Hutch felt his heart flutter, his head inching closer to his partner's. "I know we're compatible." He closed his eyes just before contact was made. His own lips felt dry to him and Starsky's did, too. Hutch let his mouth part and pressed harder. Then he was sinking...sinking...sinking....

A hand touched him on the jaw, rubbing at the skin there. His heart vibrated and he pulled back.

Starsky was looking at him, the grin still there. Hutch whispered, "Not really that different, is it?"

"No," the other agreed. "Except, I've never kissed a woman before with hair on her upper lip."

"Want me to shave it off?" After he'd spoken, Hutch realized he was serious.

The dark head shook. "Like you just the way you are." He leaned forward again.

The sinking sensation returned as their lips pressed together once again. Hutch reached out, placed a hand on Starsky's shoulder. The other yielded to the touch, reminding the blond that there was a purpose to all of this.

He pulled back. "Starsk?"

The other's face was soft, his lips kiss-swollen. "Yeah?" he breathed.

"There's a rule. Just for tonight."

Puzzlement and curiosity responded to his statement. "What's that?"

"No matter what, I'm not touching you below the waist."

Dark lashes blinked. "But....How can...?"

"We'll just have to enjoy what we can do above the waist."

Emotions crossed the rugged features: disappointment, further curiosity, intrigue. Starsky obviously decided not to voice them, for he leaned forward once again.

Hutch met him half way.




"Where's that partner of yours?"

Starsky looked up from where he was folding a paper airplane. "Well, see, Cap'n, Mother Nature called and he had to make a beeline for the little boy's room." He winked conspiratorially. "Too much bran this mornin'."

"Humph. When he's finished his business I want to see you both in my office."

Starsky saluted. "Yes, El Capitan."

Dobey turned to his office, unimpressed with the dramatics.

Starsky sent the paper airplane flying at the black man's back, but it made a nosedive and landed in Hutch's chair. Dobey had already closed his office door.

Starsky frowned at his lost creation--for he didn't want to get up from his comfortable position and retrieve it--and started folding another. He couldn't do anything more on their current assignment until Hutch returned from sweet-talking the clerk down in Records for files they needed in a hurry.

The clerk was young, pretty, and single. And had lots of nice curves. Starsky grinned inwardly, knowing that Hutch would enjoy looking at her, but that, when it got down to it, he wouldn't be interested. The big blond's nights would now be occupied by his partner.

Starsky shook his head. It amazed him how the world was full of so many different ways of expressing love. And Hutch had decided that the way he wanted to express his love for his partner was to take him to bed.

Big softie.

Of course, it fell right in line with Starsky's own needs, at least for the time being. Hutch had stuttered through an apparently difficult confession, bearing his soul, admitting that he'd wanted to talk to Starsky about it before.

How would I have felt about it if none of the other stuff had happened?

He would have been surprised, that was for sure. For that matter, he was surprised yesterday when Hutch revealed all, but his exuberance that they were both after the same thing over-rode it.

But would I have wanted to sleep with him?

It was hard to imagine turning Hutch down when the other wanted something, because the big blond asked for so little.

But I would have felt funny about it, that's for sure. Still, it's hard to believe we wouldn't have eventually ended up in the sack. As for the long-term association that Hutch was looking for....

That was a harder pill to swallow. Starsky could see them keeping each other amused, meeting each other's needs, soothing away a particularly lonely night, as the years went by. Their own private little secret. But it was difficult to imagine that the only other people either would ever sleep with again was each other. That seemed like closing a door.

At least for Starsky. Maybe Hutch would want monogamy for himself, while Starsky went off to enjoy himself with whomever he wanted.

He frowned now. Seeing others was off limits for the time being. Who knew how long it would be before he felt confident enough to go out with someone again. But at least the wheels were in motion for a cure. It might take forever at the rate Hutch was wanting to proceed, but Starsky couldn't deny that last night had been...magical.

They had eventually moved to the bedroom. Hutch had undressed as casually as if they were in the locker room. Starsky had decided to undress, too, though he didn't see the point if Hutch wasn't going to touch him below the waist.

At first, Hutch's rule had annoyed him. But as time ticked by, with them rolling around in bed together, doing nothing but kissing and rubbing at each other's backs and chests, Starsky was able to see the benefit of it. There was no anticipation--no dread--of when Hutch was going to attempt to touch him in the sensitive area that was the cause of all this in the first place. Knowing that Hutch wasn't going to press the issue had allowed Starsky to simply enjoy what they were doing, without having the expectation of it building to something further.

But it did build, as it was impossible for two bodies to be treated to so much intimate contact without a reaction. Starsky developed a firm hard-on and brought it to his partner's attention. Hutch had more or less responded with a nonchalant, "So?" After all, Starsky's ability to get aroused had never been a concern. It was just that now that he was aroused, he wanted it to receive some attention. But they resumed their kissing, enjoying it for what it was instead of an act of foreplay. Still, his erection wouldn't subside, and eventually he'd remembered that Hutch had said he wouldn't touch Starsky below the waist, but there had been no mention of vice versa. Finally, he'd gotten himself into position and shamelessly humped Hutch's leg. Hutch had let him do it, arms locked around his back, and then holding him close after he'd left his little residue on the soft-haired skin. And then they'd kissed some more.

Hutch had gotten a hard-on, too, but he seemed content to let it be until it subsided when they finally decided that sleep was in order, the air warm and cozy between them.

He'd liked doing it with Hutch, Starsky decided now. Even more than he'd imagined when he'd only wanted his partner to fuck him and get it over with. He'd known, of course, that the trust would be there since, for him, that had been the whole point in the first place. He had also expected a degree of warmth, given the intensity of their feelings for each other. But what he hadn't anticipated was the simple joy in pleasuring each other...making love to the person they each loved most in the world.

Starsky lowered his eyes, creasing the already-creased paper of his new airplane. He'd never had a desire to take Hutch to bed. He'd always enjoyed loving his big blond in other ways. Standing back and watching him. Rallying him whenever he seemed to get down or discouraged. Letting him always have the last word when it seemed important to him. Playing the fool whenever he seemed to need a good laugh. Holding or petting him whenever a show of affection was the only thing that could make it better.

All of those had worked for Starsky, and made him feel complete in the partnership that he and Hutch owned.

And now there was frosting for that already very delicious cake....

"Four o'clock this afternoon...maybe."

Starsky looked up. "No way sooner?"

"Nope." Hutch sat down. "And maybe not even then." He stood abruptly, wearing a puzzled expression, and then pushed Starsky's squashed airplane from his chair. "I see you've been busy."

Starsky tossed his new plane into the air. It went a few feet before making a nosedive. "Dobey wants to see us."

"What about?"

Starsky shrugged as both men headed toward their superior's office.

The black man was wearing a self-satisfied smile of amusement as the detectives sat down. "Hutchinson, I suppose there is such a thing as too much health food."

The blond's face was puzzled again. He looked at their superior and then at his partner, who only shrugged. "What, Captain?"

"Remember, son," Dobey said firmly, "moderation in all things."

Hutch started to speak again, but Dobey interrupted by clearing his throat. "How long is it going to be before you get your files?"

"Four o'clock at the soonest."

"In the meantime, you can start working on this." He handed them a sheet of paper. "This is an anonymous tip that we received."

"Tip for what?" Starsky asked.

"The identity of the men who killed Stanley Morrison. You remember--Morrison used to be a detective."

Both men nodded as Starsky accepted the slip. Hutch looked over his shoulder as they read: Try old industrial district for the men who killed Morrison.

"That's all?" Hutch asked.

"All we've got," Dobey replied, "which is more than we had before it arrived. Morrison's body was found in the alley between 2nd and Fleming. That's quite a ways from the warehouse district."

"That murder was months ago," Starsky said. "I wonder why the tip is just coming through now."

Dobey shrugged. "We may never know. But I want you two to see what you can find out while your other case is waiting for R&I."

"Right, Cap'n." Hutch stood and Starsky followed him to the door.

"Oh, and Hutchinson," Dobey was grinning again. "Remember: moderation in all things."

Hutch nodded obediently as the two stepped into the squadroom and closed the door behind them. The blond looked at his partner. "Do you have any idea what that was all about?"

Starsky picked up his jacket from the back of his chair as they headed out the door. "Yeah," he replied casually. "I told Dobey that you'd made an emergency trip to the john because you had too much bran this morning." He shrugged. "I guess he believed me."

Silently, Starsky counted one...two...and then he charged down the hallway.

Behind him, Hutch yelled, "STARSKY!"

* * *

The old industrial district covered some ten square blocks. Many buildings were abandoned; some housed machine shops. Starsky and Hutch flashed Morrison's picture to some homeless people on the street and paid generously while requesting if any recognized Morrison or had seen him in the area months before. None had.

While Starsky bought hot dogs for them both from a mobile stand, Hutch found himself looking up and down the length of the block. Surely, Starsky was thinking the same thing as himself: they weren't far from where Starsky had been assaulted.

He was reluctant to voice the thought. Apparently, Starsky was, too.

Besides, they had much more pleasurable things to look forward to when their shift was over.

* * *

Hutch waited until they were warmed up, flesh warm and fuzzy from having kissed leisurely since abandoning their clothes. He hadn't stated any rules this time, but was pleased to see that there was nothing hurried about his partner's actions. Even without forced restrictions, Starsky seemed content for them to once again enjoy what they could, without making an issue of the direction they were headed.

The perfect time to introduce a new technique.

Hutch pulled back, lips releasing his partner's with a reluctant sucking noise. "Starsk?"

The other opened his droopy-lidded eyes. "Huh?"

"Want to do like a mirror?"

Starsky blinked, as though trying to get his brain in working order. "Mirror? Whaddya mean?"

The other looked so kissable that Hutch hated to interrupt what they'd been doing. But, hopefully, this would be even better. He turned down to Starsky's feet and propped himself upon an elbow, so that they were facing each other, on their sides, head to waist. It was hard not to notice the almost-full erection in the vicinity of his mouth.

"What are we doing?" Starsky asked curiously.

"Put your hand on my butt."

Starsky did...without hesitation, Hutch noted tenderly.

Carefully, Hutch also put his hand on Starsky's hip, keeping his touch light. "What I want you to do," he said, "is touch me any way that you want to be touched. My hand will only do what your hand does." When the other didn't say anything in reply, he prompted, "So, explore all you want. Or as little as you want."

The hand on his rear moved a few inches, as though testing, and Hutch moved his own hand as well. He was gratified when Starsky relaxed against the mattress. He, too, allowed his cheek to drop to the sheets.

The hand slowly moved down his buttock, then back up. As Hutch followed suit, he was pleasantly surprised that Starsky was willing to be touched so much in that area. His partner was demonstrating an unexpected boldness, but not one born of martyrdom, such as when he'd wanted Hutch to simply fuck him. It seemed that Hutch's ploy was working, for Starsky trusted that Hutch's hand wouldn't go anywhere he didn't want it to go.

Their hands skipped the crevice and moved to the opposite buttock. There, they rubbed leisurely.

After a time, Starsky said, "You know, for someone who's tall and pretty skinny, your butt sure has a lot of cushion to it."

Like it? Hutch wanted to ask. Instead, he said, "So's yours."

"Yeah, well, I've always been a pretty compact person. One just wouldn't expect someone with your build to have much substance to their ass."

"I like how yours feels," Hutch told him. It was as close as he'd come to reminding Starsky how deep his feelings...and yearnings...ran. He was making an effort to not squeeze the flesh beneath his hand.

He felt Starsky relax further against the mattress, the other's hand continuing to wander across Hutch's buttocks. Hutch relaxed more, too, enjoying the simple pleasure they were providing each other.

After a time, Starsky shifted and Hutch felt a soft touch against his scrotum. His legs parted as he also shifted to copy the action. Now, the gentle digits rubbed lightly against his tender skin.

"Ah, that's nice," he purred, mirroring the activity.

The exploration continued, fingers against his pouch hesitantly feeling along their shape before becoming bolder and pressing more firmly. After a time, the fingers moved back to his buttocks. They rubbed again for a moment. There was a pause. Then, so gently, fingertips crept into the crevice dividing them.

It seemed such amazing progress that Hutch was tempted to stop the exploration for now. Starsky had come so far, exhibiting no negative reaction to anything Hutch's fingers did. But there had to be a limit, for surely The Creeps had left their imprint.

While Hutch contemplated calling a halt, Starsky's fingers crept deeper, creating a tingle of exposure within the blond. His fingers copied the action.

Starsky gasped, then froze.

Hutch did as well, cursing himself for not stopping this mere moments ago.

He could sense the beating of the other's heart. He wanted to take his hand away, but Starsky still had his own fingers frozen in place, and Hutch thought it more important to keep demonstrating his determination to mirror his partner's action, and do nothing more...nor less.

After a timeless moment, Starsky swallowed thickly and moved his hand back on Hutch's rump.

Hutch did as well.

Starsky swallowed again. Gruffly, he said, "I keep trying to tell myself that it shouldn't matter. You aren't going to do anything to me that I don't want you to do."

"Starsky, it does matter. That's why you stopped just now. It went further than you're ready for." Hutch gentled his voice. "That's all. You'll feel less threatened with time. It's amazing that you were willing to do this much...let me run my hand all over your ass."

The other didn't reply, but Hutch could sense his partner's self-deprecation. He shifted into a sitting position, nudging his partner onto his back. Starsky's eyes were bright with shame and frustration.

"Hey," Hutch leaned over him. "Look at me." He bent close to the rugged features as the hesitant eyes obeyed. "I love you so much." He blinked, feeling his chest swell, and reminded, "The night's still young."

The bright eyes softened just before Hutch lowered his head.

Starsky's lips were warm and receptive beneath his. The love Hutch felt intensified as the other's arms came around him, Starsky showing his willingness to put the prior disappointment behind them. They kissed for a long time, the blond stretching out on top of his partner. He was willing to relinquish Starsky's lips only when he felt a promising hardness swelling against his thigh.

Hutch pulled back and gazed down at the other's love-soft features. He whispered, "There's something I've been wanting to do for..." he hesitated, then admitted, "it seems like a long time now."

A spark of curiosity flared in the deep blue orbs.

Hutch kissed Starsky on the chin. Then he buried his face into the other's chest rubbing his cheek against the mat of hair, swirling his tongue about it. He moved downward, making loud smacking noises as he devoured the other's flesh along his journey. Starsky squirmed and quivered beneath him, occasionally gasping at the force of his partner's attack.

When Hutch reached the groin, he briefly rubbed his cheek against the stiff erection. He allowed his mouth to fill with saliva. And then he lowered himself on it, his own erection hardening with excitement.

Starsky made a noise of disbelief. And then his hands were in Hutch's hair, frantically rubbing and petting.

Hutch slowed his pace, determined to take time to enjoy the thickness filling his mouth, the little cries and gasps that signaled his partner's pleasure.

He sucked leisurely.

* * *

The fat man moved away with his food, and now the person in front of them was at the window of the hamburger stand. Starsky fidgeted, anxious for it to be their turn in line. He glanced down the block and spotted a refuge.

He nudged his partner. "Hey, get me the usual. I need to get some spark plugs." He indicated the shop on the opposite corner.

Hutch glanced at the shop, then at Starsky. "I don't have enough cash."

Starsky took out his wallet and slapped a five into his hand. "There." He then trotted briskly toward the auto parts store.

Upon entering, he made a left so that he was looking out the front window. He stared back toward the hamburger stand.

Hutch was waiting patiently in line, his tall form slightly hunched as he rested a hand against his back pocket. His other hand held the five Starsky had given him, which could be seen flapping in the breeze. The blond now frowned up toward the sun, as though wishing he were wearing his shades.

Starsky took a deep breath, but it did nothing to still the thundering of his heart. It had taken all his willpower to stand next to Hutch and appear as nothing more than the partners they'd always been. The urge had been so strong to butt his head against Hutch's shoulder, rub his cheek against the cotton of the other's plaid shirt, perhaps nuzzle his nose against the taller man's armpit.

What are we going to do? Starsky wondered. He thought the question forlornly, but couldn't deny the excitement that was there, too.

He had been disappointed in himself last night. Hutch had presented a brilliant means for allowing them to increase their physical closeness with each other in a totally non-threatening manner. And yet, the minute there had been the slightest hint of Hutch's fingers touching him intimately, he'd felt himself freeze, his heart pounding wildly at the remembered pain.

Hutch, of course, had taken it in stride. Not only had he not seemed surprised or disappointed, but he had continued with the pleasuring, culminating in the most wonderful blow job Starsky could ever remember receiving.

But it wasn't just because of the technique, Starsky admitted now. In fact, he wasn't sure it was because of technique at all. It was the way Hutch had gone about it, even verbally admitting he'd been wanting to do it. And then that gold head was lowered over Starsky's groin, taking his rock-hard cock into his nicely lubricated mouth. Hutch had sucked on him as leisurely as if he genuinely enjoyed it.

And it had been a turn-on watching him do it.

After his orgasm--which Hutch swallowed eagerly--Starsky had wanted to do nothing more than to roll over and fall asleep. But his partner was aroused and it just didn't seem fair to let him go another night without returning such freely given pleasure. So, they had traded places. There were no words or further foreplay. Starsky had felt desperate not to allow himself to think as he took that pale, smooth-skinned hardness into his mouth. For there had been a time when he'd thought sucking another man's cock to be the ultimate in to being penetrated.

He'd felt terribly self-conscious as he went about his task. He wanted to hurry so the awkwardness would be over as quickly as possible.

But then he'd felt a hand beneath his jaw, gently pushing him back until only the first couple of inches remained inside his mouth. And then his partner's tender voice had directed, "Easy, buddy. I like it best just behind the head."

Starsky had relaxed then, the kind words reminding him that this wasn't a cock in his mouth, but his partner, who only wanted--and deserved--to feel a special pleasure. He ran his tongue along the underside, just behind the ridge, knowing where the special spot was, feeling ashamed that he hadn't paid more attention when he knew better.

He was determined, then, to make it up to Hutch. And he'd stayed with the other, gently milking him, even when his jaws got tired. He grew bolder upon hearing his partner's agreeable whimpers, and reached down to squeeze his scrotum. Hutch had liked that. He'd come moments later, yelling loudly.

They'd both fallen asleep shortly thereafter.

Now what, pal? Starsky wondered.

He knew what he wanted to do tonight. He knew when his fear was going to emerge, and he was determined to fight it. Hutch wasn't going to push him on the matter, so he was going to have to push himself. As it was, he'd enjoyed what they did last night before he'd frozen up. Running his hands over Hutch's ass. Scratching at his balls. While he had his own hang-ups about going further, Starsky was now intrigued with the idea that Hutch might not have any at all. After all, the blond had obviously given this all some thought before the incidents with The Creeps. Maybe he wanted to be played with. And then some.

Hutch was now at the serving window and Starsky lowered his gaze. He could feel the tightening in his pants even as he thought about the possibilities, and tried to view their love-making and potential lovemaking as Hutch did. Already his chest was expanding, merely from the idea of their increased closeness. Sex wasn't everything, but there were times when it was the ultimate form of communication between two people in love.

Starsky grinned now, scoffing silently. In love? Don't know about that one, buddy.

Or maybe the idea seemed so far-fetched because it implied that their love for each other had changed.

But it hasn't changed, has it, Hutch? We love each other like always. It's just the way we show it to each other that's changed. That's all.

Tonight, the way they showed it to each other was going to change even more.

Starsky's erection softened as determination now dominated his fantasies. He went back to his partner's side.

"Where's the spark plugs?" the blond asked while handing Starsky his food.

Starsky shrugged. "They were out of the right kind."

* * *

Hutch hung up the microphone after logging out. Gazing out the windshield, he said, "Let's go to my place. It's closer."

Starsky felt too bashful to look at his partner, though he sensed the other's grin. "Okay."

* * *

"Let's do that mirror thing again."

Hutch wasn't surprised at the request, which was voiced more like a demand. They had warmed up quickly tonight, Starsky having seemed more intense and eager than the prior two sessions. Now that Starsky's fear had a more specific definition, Hutch had assumed the other would be all the more hell-bent to conquer it.

The blond lay alongside his partner, head to waist. He felt a hand on his buttock and hoisted himself onto an elbow. "Let's use lubricant. There's some in the top drawer there."

The fact that Starsky didn't hesitate or ask for a reason showed that Hutch's instincts were correct. He watched the other pull a tube of K-Y from the indicated drawer. It was why Hutch had wanted them to go to his place tonight, since he knew he had some on hand.

Starsky had the cap off, and he squeezed a generous amount along the fingers of his hand. Then he tossed the tube to Hutch, and the blond did likewise.

They lay back down. Starsky had his hand on Hutch's hip, and he stammered, "Uhhh..."

They weren't in the best position to do what he wanted them to do to each other. Hutch lifted his leg, allowing Starsky to get his head and arms between them. Then Starsky did the same, and Hutch settled against the mattress and Starsky's lower leg, the other's generous buttocks directly in front of him. He felt himself harden merely from the extra exposure occurring at both ends.

"Remember," Hutch said breathlessly, "I'm only going to do what you do. No more, no less."

"That's what I'm counting on."

Starsky's hand rubbed against his buttock. Then it gripped it. Hutch did likewise, and as he hardened further he wasn't sure if it was because of what Starsky was doing to him, or what he was doing to Starsky.

The hand skipped over to his other cheek and squeezed that one, too. Hutch wished his partner would take the time to slow down a bit, but he wasn't surprised to feel moist fingers inch into the crevice between his own asscheeks. Resigned to the situation, he mirrored the action.

It wasn't until his fingers almost touched the opening that Starsky froze. It was already more progress than last night, but they had just gotten started and Hutch knew his partner would demand more of himself. There was only silence, save the sound of Starsky taking deep, steadying breaths. And then the finger pushed at him.

Hutch wriggled from the threatened invasion, unable to fully appreciate the bluntness of the digit. He firmed his jaw as he did likewise to Starsky, pushing against the opening, hating that he was causing the same offense.

Starsky froze again, and the ring of muscle contracted involuntarily. Hutch was sure his own probably had as well.

Now a finger stroked gently against his asshole. Hutch relaxed, relieved that his partner seemed to realize there was an easier way of doing this. Starsky might grit his teeth and bear his own pain, but he would never intentionally hurt his partner.

Copying his partner's actions, Hutch stroked at the wrinkled orifice before him. He liked feeling along it. This was entirely different than when he'd applied first aid after The Creeps did their number. This was a testing and exploration of pleasure centers. He certainly liked what Starsky was doing to him, and his erection--which had shriveled at the prior bluntness--now surged appreciatively. Starsky's had swelled only slightly, as fear was probably still a strong intimidation.

"Where's the gel?"

Hutch found the tube and stretched awkwardly to give it to the hand that reached back toward him. The finger was removed, there was the sensation of fumbling, and then his lower buttock was pushed aside and a thin substance was smoothed around his anus.

"Here," Starsky said a moment later.

Hutch stretched again and took the tube back. He placed the nozzle against the orifice before him and squeezed. Clear liquid settled upon the bunched muscle, and he dropped the tube to the bed.

A finger was already circling around, nudging against his opening. As Hutch focused upon his own task, the finger gently pushed inside. It didn't seem as invasive this time, now that it was so well lubricated. He hesitated, then did the same thing to Starsky with his own finger.

He heard the other swallow, could see the penis near him retract in protest.

There was a long moment of silence, then the finger penetrated farther. Hutch resisted the urge to wriggle around it to increase the stimulation. He had a job to do.

He pushed his own finger in, feeling the muscle harden around it, trying to reject it.

"Take it out."

Hutch withdrew the digit, relieved to do so, but puzzled that Starsky had made the request verbally, rather than removing his own finger from Hutch's body.

"Just wanna do you," Starsky explained in a gruff voice.

Hutch felt his brow narrow in puzzlement. The whole point of all of this was to conquer Starsky's fear. But tonight, Starsky didn't seem interested in himself.

The other was nudging him with his free hand, the finger of the other hand still inserted. "Turn over."

While Starsky moved his legs away, Hutch flattened himself against the mattress, on his stomach. He felt the other shift behind him, and then the finger was stabbing at him more purposely. It stimulated him, and his penis surged against the bed.

The finger stopped. "Gonna put in another one, if you want it."

Starsky sounded so confident, so sure of himself. "I want it."

Hutch felt the other shift more. There was the sensation of something else probing at him. He made a conscious effort to relax as the ring of muscle stretched as the new finger pushed in.

"Is there enough grease?"

Hutch hesitated a moment. The second finger created an uncomfortable pressure, but now that both digits were moving back and forth, he had to admit that he liked the way it felt. "Yeah," he replied.

"What do you want me to do with them?" Starsky asked. "Want them to go in deeper? Want them to play with the opening? What?"

The blond felt his chest constrict. He'd never imagined Starsky as anything other than kind and considerate in bed. But the other's request for information--solely for the purpose of increasing his partner's pleasure--was so far beyond anything Hutch had expected. It even encouraged him to overcome his shyness about answering such deeply personal questions.

"Want to feel them," he muttered, his mouth against the mattress.

He could feel the fingers wriggle, stretch, bend, teasing. He groaned, then gasped, "Dear God." He didn't want them to stop. Never wanted them to stop.

Then something touched his balls, flat and soft. After a moment he realized it was Starsky's palm, gently rubbing against the back of his scrotum. He gasped again.

With one hand up his ass and another massaging his balls, what more could he ever want?

He moved his hips a little, trying to rub against the sheets.

"Hutch?" Starsky's voice was deep, almost trembling.

The blond only breathed heavily in reply.

"You want another finger? Want me to beat you off?" A pause. "Or do you want my prick?"

Such a short time ago, he'd thought it could happen only in his dreams. Thought there was no way they could come to this. Hutch would have been completely content with either, or both, of the first two suggestions. But he couldn't resist the third. "Fuck me."

There was a pause...a millenium ending and another beginning. Then Starsky said, "Where's the grease?"

The fingers were still inside him. Hutch felt for the tube and weakly held it up.

It was taken from him. The fingers shoved deep within--Hutch could feel the rest of Starsky's hand against his ass--and then they were removed. He missed them immediately.

He spread his legs and wondered if he should get a pillow, then decided he could maneuver on his own into any position that would help Starsky's angle.

There was the quiet sound of gel being handled. Then the soft bouncing of the mattress, the brush of a foot against his leg. The feel of a moist, steel hardness against the back of his thigh. Then his buttocks were parted wide.

Time seemed to stop as he waited to be pierced.

There was only silence. For an eternity.

Then there was a brief, gut-wrenching cry of despair. Then a whispered plea. "No." Hutch got on an elbow and looked back. Starsky had released him and was sitting up, eyes squeezed shut. Hutch could barely make out the shrunken flesh between the strong thighs.

His excitement disintegrated. "Ah, buddy," he said, getting to his knees, taking the other's tense form into his arms. He brought Starsky down on top of himself as he lay back against the mattress. He rubbed up and down the other man's back, determined to not let the disappointment fester.

Starsky only gasped again, as though trying to get his breath.

"Buddy," the blond said tenderly, continuing to pet, "is it because you were afraid of hurting me?" He squeezed with his arms.

Starsky nodded, managing to open his eyes, revealing pained orbs. "Yes."

Hutch pressed the other against him, so that the dark curls rested beneath his chin. "Not wanting to hurt is nothing to be ashamed of." He was relieved to feel the body in his arms start to relax. "Besides," he whispered, "you wouldn't have. Couldn't have. I was as ready for it as I could possibly be."

"I know," Starsky said, voice trembling. He pulled back to look at Hutch. "I was ready, too. But I just--" His expression revealed confusion as he trailed off.

Hutch continued to rub the other's back and shoulders with both hands.

"Wanted so much to give you what you wanted," Starsky muttered against him.

"Already given me more than I'd thought possible." Hutch released his hold, then pushed on Starsky's shoulder until the other was propped on his elbows. The self-deprecation was still there. Hutch couldn't bear it. He pulled the rugged features down to his own soft ones.

He kissed Starsky, a gentle touch on his lips. Then his cheek. Then the other cheek. Then his chin.

When he brought their lips together again, he wrapped his arms around the slightly broader form, pulling it closer.

They had moved too fast. And yet, Starsky had seemed so ready. So willing. So confident, since his focus had been on pleasing Hutch rather than fighting his own demons. But, still, the demons were there.

They had appeared the moment before penetration. As he continued to love the other with his mouth, Hutch wondered what it must have been like for Starsky. His partner had been hot and eager, wanting to complete the act. And then, everything was ready. He had been behind Hutch. In between his spread legs. Pulling his buttocks apart to have greater access.

And then all desire had fled.

Hutch circled his legs around Starsky, locking the other into place on top of him. Starsky's mouth was hot and pliable, showing a willingness to put this new setback behind him. Hutch could even feel the renewed stir of the genitals against his own.

When Hutch had found Starsky two months ago, Starsky had been facedown. Legs parted. No doubt, the Creeps had needed to spread his buttocks wide to insert whatever objects they'd violated his partner with.

Perhaps it was the image that had been Starsky's undoing. Seeing his partner lying there, exactly as Starsky had imagined himself appearing to the Creeps. And that image was associated with extreme pain in Starsky's memory.

Perhaps changing the image would change the association. Starsky was definitely getting aroused again, and now he attacked Hutch's throat, firm nips that caused the blond's own groin to reawaken. He reached between their bodies and took Starsky's gel-coated phallus in hand, stroking it.

Starsky moved down and tongued at Hutch's nipple. The blond groaned, loving the wet feel, wishing the fingers would return to fill the emptiness below. Or better yet....

He gripped the thickness more firmly, then reached awkwardly between their bodies with his other hand and squeezed his partner's balls.

Starsky made a noise of agreement, rubbing his cheek against the smoothness of Hutch's chest.

They needed to try again. He wanted to. Starsky wanted to. "Need the pillows," Hutch gasped, as Starsky sucked in a mouthful of flesh between his ribs. The other was still attacking his torso, so Hutch squirmed beneath the onslaught and grabbed the pillow beside him. He arched up his hips, and Starsky finally moved to one side so Hutch could slide the pillow beneath his own butt. Then he took the pillow from beneath his head and struggled to arch up high enough to fit it between himself and the first one.

Starsky helped out, but his expression looked doubtful.

"It'll be easier this way," Hutch assured, settling on top of the mountain of softness. "Just watch me, buddy." He encouraged the other to get between his upthrust legs. "Watch how much I want it. I'll do the rest." He took his partner's phallus in hand.

Starsky leaned over him, studying his eyes, breathing heavily as Hutch's hand brought him back to full erection.

Hutch lifted one leg so that his foot could rest against Starsky's back. He guided the phallus down to the area below. "Okay, buddy," he panted, pulling it closer until he felt it nudge against his slick opening. "Go ahead and push."

Starsky's eyes brightened with renewed excitement. Hutch felt the thickness pushing against him, but that was all. The deep blue eyes reflected alarm.

"It's okay, buddy, it's okay," Hutch soothed. He thought quickly through his own experiences with women. "Don't be afraid of it feeling too tight." But telling someone who was afraid not to be afraid never worked. "Listen, buddy," he said, hearing the other's thick pants even more than his own, "on three, okay? On three, you push and I'll open for you. Okay?"

The other gave a quick, desperate nod.

Hutch gripped the phallus again, making sure it was still hard enough. Then he held his partner's gaze. "One...two...THRE--" he grunted, forcing himself to open, and something thick and hard surged passed his sphincter muscle.

He closed his eyes against the pressure, at the same time gripping the nearest thigh to keep Starsky from pulling back. "It's okay," he gasped. "It's okay."

He opened his eyes. Starsky was still perched over him, panting heavily, confusion and distress on his face.

"Push," Hutch told him. He took a deep breath, then more calmly assured, "It's okay."

Starsky closed his eyes and pushed again. Hutch was penetrated more deeply, and Starsky let out a long moan.

Hutch grinned, feeling sweat plastering his bangs against his forehead. "Feel okay?"

The dark eyes opened. They looked different now. Hutch wasn't quite sure if it was pleasure reflected there; perhaps wonder was a more accurate description.

Starsky made a small noise--almost a whimper--of disbelief.

Hutch's grin widened, feeling that thickness fill him. He swallowed, then gasped, "You know what I'd like more than anything?"

Starsky's mouth opened, but no sound came out. He barely shook his head.

"I want you to use me to enjoy yourself." Hutch's voice softened as he repeated, "That's what I want the most."

Starsky pulled back, then pushed in harder. Hutch took a moment to raise his other leg, giving his partner easier access. Then he relaxed as his partner began to pump in earnest, loving the feel of the thickness brushing against his prostate, the look of intense concentration on the face above him as Starsky seemed to be listening inward to his own pleasure.

Starsky was thrusting so hard that the bed rocked and Hutch felt his head bump against the brass headboard. There was the sound of flesh against flesh as Starsky's flanks smacked his ass. There was a growl, and his shoulders were gripped hard....

And then quick, shallow thrusts as Starsky was screaming toward the headboard.

Hutch felt a wave of relief wash through him as the pumping motion abruptly ended. Finally, Starsky had the confidence of knowing he could once again successfully complete an act of love.

His partner withdrew and collapsed on top of him.

Hutch felt his protective instincts over-ride his prior excitement. His erection softened as he scratched into Starsky's hair. After a long moment, he said, "That was nice, buddy."

Starsky tilted his head to look up at him. With concern, he said, "But you didn't come."

Hutch closed his eyes briefly, wishing it wasn't so complicated. Gently, he said, "I guess you could say that I understand now what women mean when they say that sometimes the closeness is enough." His voice softened. "I liked it, buddy. It was still stimulating. And...special...knowing that you can get that from me."

Starsky let out a breath. Then he hoisted onto his elbows and kissed Hutch. "Was it really okay? Didn't hurt?"

Hutch shook his head. "Just a lot of pressure at first."

Starsky kissed him again, this time on each side of his nose. When he pulled back, his eyes were bright, and he said, "I feel like a man again."

Tenderly, Hutch replied, "I didn't know you hadn't."

"I didn't," the other admitted. "Not really. Yet..." he trailed off.

"I guess I know what you mean," Hutch said, feeling that he did, though it couldn't be put into words. After a moment, he suggested, "Maybe you're really all right now. Maybe this is all you needed."

Starsky shifted. He picked up Hutch's hand and guided it to his rear. The dark head shook. "If your hand goes too far, I still feel afraid of it. That's why I had to stop what you were doing tonight, so I could just concentrate on you."

"That was a pleasant surprise," Hutch admitted.

A lop-sided grin developed above him. "Yeah. You really like your asshole played with."

Hutch looked away, not knowing how he was supposed to respond to such a mixture of fact and teasing.

A finger brushed across his mustache. More seriously, Starsky said, "You should have told me before."

Hutch raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

"I mean, you've told me you've been thinking about us doin' it for a while. So I figure you've had a lot of time to decide what you'd like doin' and not like doin'. You should have told me before."

Hutch said sarcastically, "Oh, sure, buddy, I can just picture the scenario four or five months ago: 'Starsk, after shift let's go to my place for some scrambled eggs. Then, after dinner, how about doing me a big favor and sticking your fingers up my ass and playing with my nuts?'" He snorted. "I can imagine how well that would have gone over."

Starsky was grinning, then he grew serious. "I woulda done it, Hutch. I mean, it would have been kinda weird but, when you think about it, no more weird than other little quirks you have. I mean, drivin' a car that oughta be condemned, and having something like scrambled eggs for dinner." He briefly lowered his gaze. "I might have thought it was strange, but in the end I would have given you whatever you wanted."

Hutch pushed Starsky to one side. Now that the other's weight was off him, he took a deep breath and propped himself on an elbow. "That just it. That's part of what was making me hesitate to even bring up the whole idea of us sleeping together in the first place. I knew you'd do anything because I asked you to. And, then, I'd never know if you really wanted to or not."

"Same difference," Starsky replied. "What difference does it make whether I was wantin' to do it because I thought of it, or I wanted to do it because you thought of it? If something makes you happy, then it makes me happy to make you happy, so I don't know why it matters whose idea it was."

Hutch blinked, trying to compute what Starsky had just said. On the surface, his partner's reasoning made sense. But in reality.... He shook his head, not up to the task. "I think it's time for sleep." He began to shift the covers.

Starsky sat up, holding his hands away from his body and looking down at himself. Droplets of lubricant was stuck to various parts of him. "I gotta shower." He looked at Hutch. "Wanna use the john first?"

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea, but Hutch shook his head.

He watched the trim, compact form leave the bed and make its way toward the bathroom.

What Starsky said couldn't be true, even if the other believed it was. Starsky wouldn't have been willing to pleasure him like that, if he'd up and suggested it. Starsky would have looked at him like he was crazy. Maybe even laughed at him.

Of course, Starsky looked at him funny and laughed at him at times, anyway. Once, he threatened, in a severe tone, to take Hutch's National Geographic magazines away from him. Would he have really reacted all that differently to Hutch's revelation of a private, deeply personal desire?

Hutch curled on his side and closed his eyes. It didn't matter now. They had conquered a mountain tonight. And there was still another to follow. He hoped climbing that summit would be as rewarding as this one had been.

* * *

Starsky pulled the Torino into the parking lot of the taco stand and turned off the motor. He looked at his watch. It was a quarter until three, so he settled back and resigned himself to waiting.

He wondered if Hutch had been truly as sincere as he'd appeared when he'd shrugged and said, "Okay," when Starsky told him they couldn't get together tonight. The blond hadn't asked for any explanations. Perhaps he'd figured that it was only natural that their intense, every-night sessions had to come to an end. And, perhaps, Starsky's quick assurance that they would get together tomorrow evening curbed any insecurities that would have otherwise developed on the blond's behalf.

Starsky shifted in the seat again, spreading his legs as he ran his hand over his groin. Such a relief to have everything in working order. To be whole again. And it seemed ironic that it had all happened without them ever doing what Starsky had originally insisted was the point of all this in the first place.

In the two evenings since Starsky had proven that he was still capable of fucking, Hutch had spent hours trying to help him conquer the more direct fear. Starsky would never again have a license to tease Hutch about liking his asshole played with. For Starsky himself now fell into the same category, perhaps even more blatantly than Hutch did. For Hutch had corrupted him, seduced the most wonderful way imaginable.

All Starsky could recall about the last two nights was fingers. Fingers up his ass, fingers playing in his crevice, fingers massaging his balls, fingers teasing the area between his ass and his scrotum. Of course, Hutch had started out two nights ago with only one. Had gently probed at Starsky's tight, reluctant muscle. He had patiently stroked and teased it. They no longer did the mirror thing. Like Starsky had for Hutch, Hutch had his whole concentration on Starsky. And every time Starsky relaxed enough to let the finger penetrate a few more millimeters, he was rewarded with its teasing and stroking of the area already conquered. It was a great motivator to allow it to penetrate further.

Starsky wasn't sure if what they'd been doing could even be defined as sex. The only orgasm that had occurred the past couple of evenings had been his own last night.

Hutch had two fingers fully inside him. It was as far as they'd gotten during the prior session, when a call from Starsky's Aunt Rosie just to chat had disrupted the mood and they both were content to fall asleep afterwards. Now those fingers were moving, flexing, stroking, bending, all that activity inside him making him crazy and feeling like his balls were being fondled from inside. Fear was no longer an issue. Those fingers had gone this deep and there was nothing but good things as a result. There was nothing left to be afraid of.

He was on his side, and when his eyes were open he could see Hutch's expression. So serious it concentrated. The blond now grabbed the flattened tube of lubricant with his free hand. As he worked with it, he glanced at Starsky. "Going to put my ring finger in." And then the blond's attention returned to where they were joined.

Starsky laid his head back and closed his eyes. He realized he was sweating in tune to his panting. His prick had been rock-hard for a long time; but demanding completion would mean an end to what Hutch was doing, and he wasn't ready for that yet. But then, he didn't know if he would ever be.

He felt the entry of the new finger. The muscle stretched to accommodate as it slipped inside, but it wasn't even uncomfortable anymore. Hutch had to have practically his whole hand covered with grease, and everything moved in and out easily. Starsky groaned as the three inserted digits now did just that. Moving as a group back and forth, their combined width stimulating the walls of his rectum, rubbing against the back of his nuts. And then they bent, knuckles probing at him, a fingertip reaching back and playing with the ring of his sphincter muscle. Starsky shivered all over, feeling sweat run down into his eyebrows.


Starsky's eyes popped open at the single word. Hutch was shifting so that he was now in front of him, his fingers still inserted. The blond looked up to make sure Starsky was watching. And then he stuck out his tongue and dipped his head. His tongue ran around the crown of Starsky's penis.

Starsky cried out, the sensation shaking him profoundly, but not enough to the pull the trigger.

And then that wet mouth enclosed him.

He came frantically, arching up, his anal muscles spasming around the fingers within. He continued to cry out at the multiple sensations, feeling it was a wave that might never crash down.

But it did crash, and dimly he realized he was gasping for breath, his throat making a high-pitched noise. It was only when he felt the residual after-spurts that he realized the mouth was no longer enclosing him. He squinted his eyes open and saw Hutch bent over his prick, trying to bathe his face in the fountain of fluid.

"Godalmighty," Starsky muttered. He wasn't sure if he were still on this side of the living. "Oh, man. Oh, man."

Hutch had straightened and was watching him from the corner of his eye. The blond stuck his tongue out and ran it along his own lips, then past them, reaching as many of the droplets as he could.

Starsky had no strength left, but a growl emerged. "Demon," he breathlessly accused.

Hutch looked at him without expression. He picked up a towel from the night before and rubbed his hands along it. When he tossed it aside Starsky limply reached out and tugged him down to the mattress.

Though he was totally devoid of strength and felt like he could sleep contentedly for a million years, he maneuvered himself on top of Hutch. He bent and tongued frantically at the drying droplets of semen along his partner's cheeks and nose. He didn't stop when he couldn't taste it anymore. Instead, he continued to lave at the soft skin, licking down into Hutch's neck, tasting the salty sweat. When he felt he'd covered every part he could reach, he held his partner's face still. Then his lips collapsed on top of Hutch's. He sucked and sucked at the other's lips and tongue, then inserted his own tongue, starting a new, desperate exploration of every part of Hutch's mouth, sweeping along the gullies of saliva, trying to brush along the roof of his mouth, wanting to insert his entire self inside there, where it was moist and warm and beautiful; Hutch's life-breath coming through....

He was pushed back, and he had no strength to resist. Hutch was panting. He was panting. His head was pressed against the soft shoulder, a hand resting in his hair.

His face was near an armpit. It was tempting to use his tongue again, nudge Hutch's arm out of the way, and explore the flesh beneath. But they had to least for tonight. He let the hand continue to hold his head in place.

Starsky swallowed thickly, clearing the way to speak. He was surprised at how small his voice sounded. "I love you."

The hand on his head pressed him closer. An arm that was draped around his waist tightened.

"Sleep," Hutch whispered.

Starsky obeyed.

It would be anti-climatic, Starsky decided now, whenever Hutch got around to fucking him. He knew he was cured, at least in a peripheral way. Nothing Josie or any other woman could do to him would hurt him like those Creeps had. Constant waves of pleasure were now the dominant memory. Having things lovingly put up one's asshole could be an exhilarating experience.

Of course, he couldn't cheat Hutch out of fucking him. Even though that in and of itself was no longer necessary, Starsky couldn't imagine denying his partner's right to do it. A part of him wondered if Hutch's continued hesitation was because the blond was afraid it would be the final chapter, and afterwards they would no longer be sleeping together.

Starsky had no such intentions. And he would tell Hutch that if the other didn't leave him so exhausted after literally hours of pleasuring. And they certainly couldn't talk before things got started, for they always departed to the bedroom as soon as they got home and had scarfed down dinner. It always started with kissing, rolling around on the bed together, feeling each other over. And then the night's lesson would begin.

There was the sound of voices and Starsky looked up. Josie had arrived and was waving to the girl at the counter. He got out of the car.

"Hey, Josie," he called.

She looked over at him. He was relieved that she smiled when she saw him. She trotted toward him.

He met her halfway. "Hi, there," he greeted.

"Hi, David."

She was young, so much so that he wondered why he'd ever gotten involved with her in the first place. "Hey, uh," he lowered his gaze bashfully, "I know I've been a prick for not seeing you sooner, but..." he chuckled self-consciously, "I was pretty embarrassed about..." he shrugged. "I'd like to make it up to you."

She stood there, grinning at him, waiting for more.

"So, uh, are you available tonight after you get off work?"

Her grin widened.




It was the sense that something was different that awakened him. Hutch sat up in bed, staring into darkness, listening.

Through the corner of his eye, he could see that the bedside clock glowed with hands that indicated it was past 2:30 in the morning. He was also aware, as he sat with ears strained, that he was alone in bed. It had been a while since he had slept alone.

A definite noise this time. Then a whisper. "Hutch?"

The blond relaxed. "Just a second." He reached to the bedside lamp and turned it on.

Starsky was standing before the bed, dressed in a nice sweater and jeans darker than his usual faded denim.

"Where have you been?" Hutch asked, his tone one of curiosity.

Starsky moved around to the side of the bed. "With Josie."

Hutch blinked, a myriad of emotions sifting through him. Confusion won. "Doing what?" But even as he asked, he knew.

Starsky sat on the edge of the mattress and pulled off a shoe. "What do you think?" he said over his shoulder, but he wouldn't meet his partner's eye.

Hutch's stomach twisted. He thought he should be outraged that Starsky would come here, right after leaving someone else. After what he'd done....

"Then why come here?" he managed in a level tone. Then, more harshly, "After you've been with her."

The other shoe was removed and Starsky sat with his head bowed. "I had to see her, Hutch," he said. "You know I had to. Had to prove to myself...."

The blond took a deep breath. Yes, he had known that. Had known it all along. That had been why he hadn't expected any promises. And it was why he didn't feel outraged, even though he thought he should.

He decided to be practical. "Was it...all right?"

Starsky reached down and worked with his socks. A shrug. "Yes, I guess it was. I proved what I needed to prove." He shifted to face his partner, pulling one knee upon the bed.

Hutch straightened with alarm. "You want to come into bed with me after you've been with her?"

The other man blinked, voice a touch feeble. "I showered before I left her place."

Hutch shook his head in disbelief and stared at the ceiling, hoping he might find guidance there.

There was the sound of a swallow. "I'll leave if you want me to."

The blond closed his eyes. He should be angry, but he wasn't. He wanted to be mad, but he couldn't. He should tell Starsky to leave, but he wouldn't.

The bed shifted and Hutch opened his eyes just as Starsky stretched out on the mattress, head in his hand. "You ready for the good news?"

His curiosity kicked into gear. "Try me."

Starsky grinned affectionately, then lowered his gaze. "You know, it's amazing how, some times, human beings have to learn the same lessons over and over."

"What lessons?"

"Like hangovers. You wake up from one and you tell yourself you'll never indulge to that extent again. It isn't worth it. But, then, a coupla weeks or a coupla months, maybe even a coupla years later, you're downing the booze and you don't care how you're gonna feel the next mornin'."

When Starsky paused, Hutch said, "I'm with you."

"Well, it's that way with sex, too. When you've experienced bein' in love with someone, you find out that the 'just sex' stuff really isn't very satisfying, doesn't even compare. But, there you are, lining up another conquest, and not caring that you're going to feel lousy afterwards."

Hutch's brows pulled together. Starsky seemed very cheerful. "You feel lousy?"

Another shrug. "No. I needed to make sure I could do it, and I don't feel lousy that I proved that I could. And Hutch," his gaze lowered again, "she wanted me, and she felt good, and she was young and eager and...all that stuff. But, when I'm in the shower, I'm thinkin' to myself, 'Why should I ever do this again? Why should I ever go to bed with someone just...because?'" His eyes darted to his partner again and his face softened. "No one else is ever gonna make me feel the way you do. No one is ever gonna know my heart or my mind like you do. No one is ever gonna give so much of themselves to me as you do."

Hutch felt his chest constricting, his heart expanding, his stomach uncoiling. He knew his mouth was open, but he didn't know what he could say.

"So I guess," Starsky went on, "what I'm saying is that..." he shifted so he could hold his hands open, "I'm all yours. Exclusively. Don't wanna belong to no one else. You've got all rights to me." His eyes lowered bashfully. "You can claim 'em whenever you want 'em."

Hutch swallowed thickly. It was an invitation. To finish what they'd started so they could begin a whole new adventure. Together. But he couldn't see acting upon Starsky's words. It would be too rushed. The mood wasn't right for him to take the necessary time to get his partner ready. And he wasn't going to dare risk undoing all their careful progress the past week.

Starsky sat up and pulled off his sweater, leaving a T-shirt beneath. He moved over to Hutch and straddled the blond, sitting on his thighs. He put his hand on Hutch's shoulder. "Want to claim your rights now?"

Hutch put his arms around the compact frame before him, resting his hands at the other's spine. He shook his head. "No. Just sleep for now."

The other grinned. "Okay," he said softly. But he bent and kissed Hutch's forehead, then rested his own forehead there, his hands coming up to pet the blond hair. "I love you so much, Hutch."

Hutch closed his eyes and swallowed. Starsky had never been big on saying it. He just showed it over and over in a million different ways.

"So incredible that it's come to this," the darker man muttered.

"As much as I hate to say it," Hutch pointed out, "I guess we have the Creeps to thank for that."

Starsky pulled back abruptly. "Hutch, no," he insisted, his eyes boring into his partner's. "It would have happened anyway. You gotta believe that. You would have found the courage to tell me what you were wantin' to tell me, with or without the Creeps."

Hutch wasn't convinced, but he gave in gracefully. "I guess you're probably right."

The other's eyes narrowed. Then, softly, "Hutch? I hope you don't think that just because it wasn't my idea that...." He tried again. "I mean, just because it never would have otherwise occurred to me for us to sleep together, that doesn't mean...doesn't mean that I ever felt...well, you know, less about you. I mean, I didn't love you any less than you loved me just because I never would have thought about...showin' it...this way."

The blond head shook, his heart expanding. "Starsky, I never thought that." He laid his head against the other's chest, feeling the fur through the cotton of the T-shirt. "I've always felt very, very loved by you."

"Good," Starsky's arms came around him, "'cause I've always been crazy about you. 'Sides, you have an active imagination."

Hutch grinned, too. "That's from reading all those National Geographics."

Starsky pulled back. "If that's the case, then I'm gonna have to get you a lifetime subscription."

Hutch put his hands on the other's cheeks and pulled his face closer. He kissed the soft lips.

Tauntingly, Starsky asked, "Sure you wanna just sleep?"

Hutch reached to turn out the light. Then he lowered them both down. "Yes, sleep. Together."

Starsky began to wriggle around. "Gotta get the rest of my clothes off."

Hutch waited until the grunts of effort ceased. Then he rolled toward Starsky, enclosing the other in his arms. One of his hands reached down to a naked rear and pressed it closer.

There was more wriggling as Starsky got comfortable. Then he muttered, "I can't wait until you claim your rights to me."

The blond kissed the part of Starsky's neck that was next to his lips. "Behave yourself, and I'll think about it."

Starsky giggled.

* * *

The puppy in the window tried to follow Starsky's finger as he tapped repeatedly against the glass. When it finally turned away to give its attention to a customer inside the store, Starsky straightened and looked down the street. Hutch had dropped Starsky off to talk to the owner of the Laundromat next door, while Hutch took the LTD around the block to interview the liquor store salesman. Both had been victims of heists the past week.

Finally, he spotted the LTD as it turned the corner. But it wasn't a casual turn. The tires were squealing. In fact, Hutch was putting the mars light on the roof.

Starsky ran to the curb as the car screeched to a halt just long enough to let him in. "What's goin' on?" he asked.

The blond's jaw was firm. "There's trouble down at the old industrial area. A patrolman has been assaulted. Other units have closed in."

"Dammit," Starsky swore.

They listened to the activity on the radio. They had not been called to participate, but Starsky signed them out with the code for a lunch break so they could at least act as bystanders.

When they arrived black-and-whites were all over the scene. So were a couple of ambulances. Most of the officers were gathered around in a circle in the street.

In the circle were three covered bodies.

"What the hell happened, Douglason?" Starsky asked the nearest man.

The uniformed officer turned to the pair. He said, "Brookman and Tomilson responded to a call about a cat trapped in an old warehouse. They separated to look for it and Brookman got jumped." Douglason shook his head, his voice quivering. "He got jumped by three guys and they assaulted him. They tried to...sexually assault him. Tomilson didn't know where Brookman was and he called for backup. They found the three suspects and a shootout occurred. We got two of them. The third killed himself when he knew he wasn't going to get away."

Starsky nodded at the man and he moved closer to the bodies. He knelt down to the nearest one. Though he knew it wouldn't tell him anything, since he'd never gotten a good look at his assailants, he pulled back the covering. An unknown face greeted him.

He glanced back at Detective Gunnison, who was nearby. "You find out his identity yet?"

Gunnison glanced at his pad. "The ID on him said his name was Samuel Jones."

"Use this. That ought to split him in two." The words from the one named "Samuel" came back to him. Starsky had thought he was going to die when those words were spoken.

Gently, Gunnison asked, "Did you know him, Detective?"

Starsky realized he'd been staring at the face a long time without seeing it. He looked up. "No." He let the sheet drop. "I didn't know him at all."

His partner was standing back, watching him. As Starsky approached, the other's expression asked for confirmation.

Teeth gritted, Starsky muttered, "They got what they deserved." And walked past him to the LTD.

Hutch followed.

* * *

The warm tongue lapped along his flushed lips. It was amazing to Starsky, how they always seemed to be so hungry for each other. They both had a need to taste each other over and over again. Experiencing each other with their mouths seemed more important than anything else. Still...

"You ever gonna put your prick in there?" he asked breathlessly. They'd already been through nearly an hour of foreplay.

Hutch laved at the area underneath Starsky's chin, then straightened. One greasy hand disappeared between Starsky's legs.

Starsky's eyes sought the ceiling as he felt fingers probe at him, then pushed in. From how much they stretched him, he knew it was three. They had been inserted at once...Hutch making sure he could handle the thickness. The whole area was already so relaxed from having taking three before--albeit one at a time--that the insertion was entirely painless.

"Hutch," he began, feeling a touch of amusement, "I know your prick's so huge that it ought to be certified as a dangerous weapon, but I really don't think it's any thicker than three of your fingers put together." He could feel the flat of the blond's hand against his ass, meaning the digits were in as far as they could go.

"Just making sure," Hutch muttered.

His hand slowly pulled back, and the fingers turned, probing upward.

Starsky gasped and closed his eyes. Demon. It created the feeling that his balls were being massaged from the inside. Hutch had already driven him crazy earlier tonight doing that, and then sucking him until he came.

Abruptly, everything was removed. "That'll teach you," the blond said. When Starsky opened his eyes, he saw the satisfied grin.

It left him feeling empty...wanting to be filled again. Hutch.

Hutch leaned over him, his expression softening as he placed a hand on Starsky's middle. "How do you want it?" he whispered.

It was on the tip of Starsky's tongue to say However you want it. But he knew from when he'd fucked Hutch that being face-to-face made for awkward mechanics. And he didn't want to just lie there and be fucked. When he'd done Hutch, he well remembered how it had felt...that tightness pulling at his prick as he moved in and out. From the other end, he intended to enjoy it at least as much.

Starsky sat up, "Let's try this way." He got on all fours and swung around until his ass was facing the edge of the bed. "Get behind me."

Hutch took a deep breath, and his cheeks billowed as he exhaled. He reached for the pathetically flat tube of grease.

"You don't want that," Starsky told him. "If you put it on you, too, it's gonna make everything too slippery." He grinned. "Just bring that thing over here and I'll use spit." He really didn't think any lubrication--he had more than enough up his ass--was necessary, but he wanted an excuse to put his mouth on it.

Hutch hesitated, then abruptly dropped the tube.

Starsky reached for the protrusion between the pale thighs. Hutch moved closer, on his knees, and Starsky ducked his head and lapped the smooth-skinned shaft.

"Oh, God," Hutch whispered. His hand came up and grasped his partner's jaw.

Starsky drooled liberally upon the head, then licked it back to the shaft, loving the smooth skin. Then he ducked his head farther and pressed his nose against the pouch there.

Hutch gasped sharply, his hand now moving briskly about Starsky's hair.

Starsky licked at the hair-covered ovals, darting his tongue along the seam. When his mouth went dry he pulled back, loving how Hutch's shaft brushed against his cheek. He looked up at his partner. "You ready to fuck?"

The blond's mouth was open. He nodded, breathing heavily.

"Then get behind me."

Hutch got up from the bed and obeyed.

Starsky felt a hand on his lower back. It applied pressure, and he spread his legs, lowering his ass. "Lower?"

Another gripped his right cheek. "Perfect," came the whisper-soft reply. The hand on his back moved up his spine, then rested between his shoulder blades.

Though the hand didn't push, Starsky lowered his upper body to the mattress, stretching his arms out in front of him. Maximizing his vulnerability.

Fingers brushed against his balls, then gripped them. A noise of pleasure escaped his lips. Another hand took his shaft and stroked. He was rock hard. Even after the blow job Hutch had already delivered.

While the hands fondled him, he was aware of the stiffness poking at the back of his thigh.

After a moment, feeling himself grow harder with stimulation and impatience, he asked, "You aren't afraid, are you?" Surely Hutch realized he was way past being ready.


Starsky swallowed, listened to the beating of his own heart. The hands left him. One reached for the bedside lamp and turned it off. The room went dark.

Nothing was touching him now. Starsky waited, hearing both their breaths.

Something was inserted inside him. A finger again. Only one.

"Grip it."

Starsky did.

"As hard as you can."

He obeyed, but muttered, "Would rather it be your prick."



The finger was removed. His left buttock was gripped.

And then wetness licked along his spine.

Starsky quivered. Oh, God. Damn that tongue. Shakily, he said, "If you don't hurry up I'm gonna come all over the bed."

"What's wrong with coming all over the bed?" Hutch asked casually, and then his tongue continued up Starsky's back.

"You big dummy," Starsky accused. He was trying to resist the urge to squirm. He'd been in such a perfect position to receive Hutch. "I'd really like to enjoy being fucked first."

A soft chuckle as the tongue stopped. Then lips kissed his shoulder blade.

"My legs are getting tired, you big, goddamned tease."

For a moment there was silence and all contact was removed. "Starsk?" Hutch's voice sounded soft and serious.


"Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much in bed?"

Starsky slapped the mattress with his hand. "If you don't hurry up, I'm gonna rip your prick off and use it to fuck myself."

Another soft chuckle. "That's an interesting image. I'd love to watch."

Starsky growled, then realized nothing he could say would help speed things along. In defeat, he slumped against the mattress, his legs still spread, his arms stretching out farther in front of him. "H-u-u-u-tch," he begged in small voice.

A hand was back on his shaft, squeezing around the head. "Starsk?" The tone was soft and tender this time.

"What?" he pouted.

"I love you."

Starsky felt his upper body melt against the mattress. His penis twitched, trying to dance in the hand that pampered it.

"So much."

Ah, man. "Hutch?" Starsky waited a beat. "My heart's on fire."

His right buttock was gripped. The tender voice whispered, "So's mine."

His lower back was petted. Then his butt. There were hands shifting, fumbling. Flesh inserted.

He released the breath he'd been holding. Fingers again. Three of them this time. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, since Hutch wouldn't have seen it. The fire in his heart billowed and expanded. He knew Hutch had to check after the few minutes of conversation, to make sure the parting of his partner's flesh was still painless.

Hardness was brushing against the back of his balls, buoying at the smooth skin between his nuts and his ass. Hutch pushed and Starsky squirmed. That little area was ultra sensitive and he'd discovered it with his tongue when previously working Hutch over and made his partner crazy with his attentions there.

His prick flared painfully.

The fingers were removed. The hardness was now at the lower part of his rear cleavage. He felt a hand adjust it upward. And then it was there against his asshole.

Another hand pushed at the top of his butt, and he lowered his ass again, even though his legs were weary from being stretched for so long. Then the hand pulled, as though having second thoughts, and Starsky tried to raise himself. He let the hand adjust him further so that he was in position for the best possible aim.

Hutch's panting was loud and heavy.

A push and he was penetrated. He knew it was Hutch's prick this time. It didn't feel any bigger than the trio of fingers, but he felt the roundness of the head.

A grunt of satisfaction broke the silence.

The flesh seemed to pull back, and Starsky was fearful of losing it. But then it pushed forward, penetrating farther.

"Ah, Hutch." He loved knowing they were sharing a single physical space.

"Think you can take all of it?" The question was a panted plea.

Starsky felt a grin break out on his face. "You kiddin'?" Then, gently, "Make yourself happy, buddy boy."

The blond's breath trembled. His hands gripped Starsky's hips, and then long, thick flesh speared him.

"Ah, man." Starsky's pricked throbbed in the air. The thickness was up inside his ass...farther than Hutch's fingers had ever gone.

Hutch groaned...loud and long. And then a quick grunt as Starsky's cheeks were parted wide and course hairs pressed against the parted flesh.

A few sharp breaths, then "That's the whole thing, partner." The tone was one of both pride and praise...and restrained pleasure.

"Man," Starsky panted. He loved how long it was. How huge. Loved that it had the potential to give his partner so many wonderful feelings. "Fuck me with it, Hutch."

"If I do," the blond's voice trembled, "we'll end up in outer space."

Starsky grinned. "Then it'll be a heck of a ride."

"But," the voice was tight with restraint, "we'll suffocate from lack of oxygen."

His love for Hutch surged past his heart and threatened to expand out through his pores. "Then we'll die a beautiful death together." Starsky took a deep breath. "Take us there, you big gorgeous beauty."

He felt it flare inside him. Then it pulled back. And then it slammed deep and Hutch's weight drove him and the mattress toward the floor, the blond's flanks against his ass, the box springs squealing in protest.

And then it snaked backwards....

And slammed forward, and Starsky had to brace his exhausted thighs to keep his hips from being flattened against the mattress.

It pulled back and Starsky waited. Just as it slammed forward once again, he pushed off his hands and forced himself back against it.

Starsky gritted his teeth and Hutch cried out as their bodies smacked together, jarring them both, the vibration from the collision ricocheting through his ass.

Starsky used his legs to push himself forward as Hutch pulled back, and there were more soft cries of delight. His own prick turned to stone, envious of the snug friction the other's was receiving.

He focused on the rhythm...pushing back as Hutch slammed forward, and rocking forward as Hutch pulled back, loving all those noises that meant he was being good to his partner.

A hand gripped his prick and the motion stopped.

A cheek pressed against his back, and he felt the other's sweat-damp skin. The hand squeezed him. "Outer space," his partner whispered softly. "Want to get there at the same time?"

Starsky could only gasp, for a thumb was rubbing at the head of his penis.

There was shifting, stretching...and then another hand squeezed his balls. "Tell me how to get you there."

The hand on his shaft went away. There was the sound of spitting, and when the hand returned it was enticingly moist.

The hand stroked him. "Like this?"

As intimate as they'd been with each other the past week, they really hadn't played with each other's pricks much. Starsky flexed his ass muscles, wishing the thickness would move again, but knowing that Hutch was trying not to come before his partner was ready.

"Don't," Hutch pleaded in a small voice.

Starsky tried to relax and concentrate on the hand. "Tighten farther up," he gasped. It stroked him, gripping just behind the crown as it moved up and off. "Good," he encouraged, his own voice small.

Lips kissed his shoulder. "How do you like your balls?" The hand fingered his scrotum.

It was funny the way Hutch said it. "Very well done."

Hutch chuckled and kissed his shoulder again. Starsky felt more droplets of sweat on his back. He knew it was awkward for Hutch, the way his partner had both hands around Starsky's waist, playing with his crotch area while keeping his prick well inside. "Light touch on my nuts," Starsky whispered. "Soft squeezes." Then, "My prick's feelin' damn good."

The hands paused a moment, and the big cylinder shifted within, as though seeking just enough friction to stay poised for takeoff.

And then the hands were back, squeezing gently at his balls, stroking firmly up the length of his prick.

In between gasps of effort, Hutch whispered, "I like fucking you."

It turned him on when Hutch said that, made him flare within the big, sturdy hand. "Hutch, I'm close to the edge. Do somethin' with that big, long prick of yours."

With his hands occupied, Hutch could only pull back a little ways, but Starsky felt it slide back an inch or so....

And gently push in.

Hands were stroking, encouraging the gathering sensations, his pouch being squeezed to add a lingering effect.

Hutch moved again, slowly backing out. The lubricant was being absorbed by the heat of Starsky's body, and the resulting dryness allowed Starsky to feel the flesh move against the sides of his ass, tantalizing the muscles at the opening.

Sweat ran down his forehead. "Hutch," he gasped. "I'm gonna come. I'm gonna come big-time."

"Outer space, buddy," the blond reminded breathlessly. "That's where we're going."

And it was there, the peak that was such a sharp point that he could only tip over the edge.

Starsky cried out, feeling his body's response, the expulsion race down his barrel and into the gripping hand.

He shuddered through its duration...surge, surge, pause, surge....

Hands released him.

He realized, as the fuzziness set in, that Hutch was panting at his back, but there been no accompanying yell.

Starsky was going to say something, but then his hips were grabbed and Hutch's prick drove farther up his ass. He was unprepared and he collapsed forward from the force, his legs flattening against the bed and no longer supporting his hips. Hutch's prick almost slipped out, but Hutch followed just in time and pounced on top of him. Starsky's shoulders were grabbed with desperate fingers, and the long body slammed against his unsupported rear, driving him down to the mattress.

He didn't have time to be sorry he was in the wrong position to meet the thrusts. The weight slammed down on top of him once again--all of Hutch's weight--and the wind was knocked out of him.

The grip on his shoulders tightened, the hips stilled...and then there was only silence.

It wasn't until a long moment later that the silence was broken by the sound of a deeply expelled breath.

His shoulders were released. There was a moment of shifting on top of him, and then the fullness--which wasn't so full anymore--left him.

"You came?" Starsky asked in puzzlement.

He now recognized the sound of soft panting. Hutch had moved most of his weight to one side, but his head was resting against his partner's shoulder blade.

The whispered response was breathless. "Of course, I came."

"Didn't hear nothin'. Didn't feel nothin'."

There was amusement in the other's response. "I'm not always a screamer." Starsky's chin was touched and turned toward Hutch. Lips kissed him gently, and he was aware more than usual of the brusque hairs of Hutch's moustache. Then he was released. "When it's the most incredible is when I want to enjoy it more...privately, I guess."

That made Starsky feel good. But..."Just expected to feel your hot sperm."

Hutch shifted again, sitting up. "That's only in the porno books."

"Oh." Then, "How do you know?"

"Because I didn't feel it when you came inside me. Think about it, goofball. Our body temperatures are the same. The temperature of sperm isn't any hotter than the rest of us. Besides, it doesn't feel hot when it shoots out of you, does it?"

"No." Starsky wondered why they'd started this conversation.

"Then it's not going to feel hotter to another human body."

Starsky rolled over onto his back and relented, "All right, blond genius." He restrained a groan. The muscles in his groin area were very stiff and sore. And despite all the lubrication and foreplay, his asshole felt tender. "Why don't you turn on the lamp?"

The mattress shifted, then light appeared next to the bed.

Starsky blinked to adjust to the brightness. The sight that came into focus was so beautiful. Hutch's hair was all mussed and his mustache all scruffy, and his eyes all bright and shiny, and his skin all pale, and his face all soft. He reached out. "Did you like it, Hutch?"

The other moved closer, taking his hand. "You kidding?"

"I'd had so long to think about it, fantasize about it. You had a lot more expectations than I did."

Hutch stretched out alongside him. His hand rested on Starsky's chest and his eyes were tender. "The only expectation I had was that we love each other. Everything else has been icing."

"Ah, ya big softie." Starsky ran a finger along the hairy lip.

"What about you?" Hutch asked, his expression more serious. "Did you think about those Creeps at all?"

Starsky's eyes widened. It had never occurred to him that Hutch might think.... "Oh man, no. I haven't thought about them for...well, it seems like a long time."

"Not even when I had you pinned down just now?"

Starsky was appalled. "That's what was going through your mind?"

Hutch looked away bashfully. "Not till afterwards," he admitted.

"Hutch, The Creeps are gone. They have no hold whatsoever on our love for each other, or our ability to show it."

Hutch shrugged. "Never know when some memory from your subconscious might flare up."

"If that happens, we'll deal with it then." Starsky took a deep breath, anxious to move away from the subject. He grinned. "How you doin'?"

Hutch grinned back. "Feel like a million bucks."

Starsky let the warm feeling make its way through his system. Then he said, "You know, this is weird."

"What is?"

"We gotta get our lives back on track."

Hutch frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Hutch, we've been in bed together almost every night the past two weeks. Like, right after work until it's time to sleep. All we do is work and love."

The blond's face was so soft. "So?"

"Well...if we never go to the grocery store, we can't eat. If we never turn on the television or the radio, we won't know how the Lakers are doing. If don't ever go to the bank, we can't cash our paychecks. If we don't ever pay our bills, we'll be evicted and the utilities will be cut off."

Hutch made a noise of amusement, then bent his head. His mouth landed in the vicinity of Starsky's left nipple. He tongued at it, and it hardened appreciatively.

Starsky put his arm around the other's head. Damn that tongue. So much extra special pleasure they'd given each other in recent times, and so much of each other they still had yet to explore.

Hutch stopped licking and went limp, his cheek resting comfortably against Starsky's chest.

Starsky giggled and petted along the golden strands of hair.

"I'm exhausted," Hutch admitted.

"So 'm I. I think we both need some big-time sleep. But we need to shower first because we're both in disgusting shape."

"If we're disgusting together it doesn't matter if we shower or not."

"Yeah, well, think about where your hands and your prick have been and maybe you'll change your mind." Starsky dislodged the blond head so he could get into a partial sitting position. "Plus, that goop is all over everything."

"It's always all over everything. Never bothered you before." Hutch was curled in a ball, his cheek against the mattress.

"Well, we've got quite a few days' accumulation. Why don't you get your ass up and I'll change the bed while you shower."

Hutch closed his eyes.

Starsky swatted him on the rear. "Go on!"

"Tyrant," Hutch muttered. He rolled to the edge of the bed, and then got up. "This isn't even your apartment."

"Yeah, well, now they're both our apartments. Get used to it."

Hutch marched off the bathroom, muttering, "The honeymoon's already over."

Starsky realized he was grinning as he placed the bedspread on top of clean sheets and blankets. Him and Hutch. Honeymooners. He supposed that might be an accurate term for the two weeks. Just work and love. Both with Hutch.

Hutch returned with a towel around his waist. He dropped it to slip into some briefs, and then got beneath the covers.

Starsky straddled him on top of the blankets. "Mmm. You look clean enough to eat." He bent for a brief kiss.

"Yeah, well now that I'm clean I consider you too filthy to sleep with. Your turn."

Starsky sighed dramatically and got to his feet. Hutch had already rolled over and closed his eyes. He knew that the blond would be asleep by the time he returned.

Demon, he thought fondly, standing there looking at the blond head that was turned away. And a gorgeous one, at that.

Starsky picked up the towel Hutch had left and headed for the shower.




This story originally appeared in the fanzine HEART AND SOUL 4, published by Charlotte Frost in 1997.

Early comments on this story are posted TBA.

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