Sweet Seduction

by Charlotte Frost  (c) January 2015



"You coward!"

Starsky wasn't going to disagree, while running as fast as he could down the street.  There was nothing quite like squirting his partner in the face with catsup -- however accidentally -- in order to become the victim of an attempted murder.

Though the sun shone brightly, the air smelled of the recent rains.

Those long legs of Hutch's were going to catch up to him eventually.  Starsky turned toward a vacant lot, hoping that the gooey-looking mud would dissuade Hutch from following.

He first tried to skirt along the outer edge of the lot, running along the clumps of grass, but there wasn't enough of it, and finally his Adidas landed in the mud, and he felt the moisture seep into his shoes.  It was just then that he remembered that Hutch was wearing boots, and wouldn't have as much trouble.

Starsky's stride slowed, as the mud was reluctant to let go of his shoes.  He knew he was in trouble as he ran, gasping, more toward the center of the lot, which was lower ground, and even wetter and sticker.

As he heard the sound of Hutch breath behind him, Starsky felt resigned to his fate.  He stopped.

There were grunts as Hutch collided against him, and then that long lanky body was upon Starsky, driving him face-down into the muck.

Starsky felt the dirty wetness coat the side of his face, and begin to make its way inside the front of his shirt and jeans.  He derived only minimal satisfaction in knowing that Hutch's jeans were also getting soaked at the knees, as he straddled Starsky's back.

"Let me up!" Starsky pleaded, realizing that he was grinning widely.  He spit mud from his mouth.

Hutch shoved Starsky's face into the mud, and then shifted to one side, while still having a leg draped over him.  "There.  Now we're even."

Starsky took his opportunity, and rolled over onto his back, even though it meant that now his whole backside was covered in dirty goo.  He squinted at the sun just behind Hutch's head.

Hutch was looking down at him, catsup in a slant across his cheek, some having slid into the corner of his mustache.

"It was an accident!" Starsky protested, laughing.  "But it was worth it.  Go look in a mirror."

Hutch growled and wiped his sleeve against his face, clearing some of the red substance.

Starsky continued to defend, "I didn't know the opening was aimed at you when I squeezed the bottle."

With a smug expression, Hutch said, "Even you aren't that stupid.  Or innocent."

That second sentence caught Starsky's attention.  Hutch's head seemed to have the sunlight as a halo around it.  Those blue eyes were alight with mischief.  Happiness.  Happiness that seemed harder and harder to find, of late.

Starsky inwardly sighed.  No, he certainly wasn't innocent.  He was all too aware of distance longing, teasing at the edge of his consciousness.  It had become a familiar companion.

"Come on," Starsky said more seriously.  "Let me up."

Hutch staggered to his feet, and the reached down to Starsky.

Starsky held out his hand, expecting Hutch to grab it.

Instead, Hutch waved him off.  "You're too dirty to be near me," he said with a grin, and turned away.

Starsky released a string of muttered swear words -- loud enough that he could be sure the retreating Hutch heard -- and then staggered to his own feet. 

He was covered in mud.  He wondered if there was any chance of catching a shower somewhere along this block, before having to drive the Torino.  As he walked back toward the outdoor deli, where the Torino was parked nearby, he didn't spot any kind of gym or other appropriate facility.

Hutch was sitting at the little table at the deli, where they'd left their lunch, casually eating his hamburger.  He had some mud on his jeans and boots, but otherwise didn't look too worse for the wear.  He'd wiped the catsup from his face.

Some of the other patrons looked at Starsky with distaste, as he approached.

Hutch was chewing when he looked up at Starsky with a big grin.  He swallowed, and then asked, "What happened to you?"

Starsky decided that silence was his best retaliation.  Still, he felt the unwelcome atmosphere of the customers and deli owner.  He picked up his burger, and his drink, and carried them over to the Torino.  He sat on the hood and ate his food, deciding that this wasn't such a bad idea.  From here, he could watch Hutch grinning smugly while finishing his own lunch.

Hutch brushed off his hands, dabbed his mouth with a napkin, and then gathered his trash and dumped it into a receptacle.  He started toward the Torino at a casual pace, still grinning.

As Starsky gathered his own trash, he was aware of how the mud was drying on his skin, making it feel tight.

Hutch walked up to Starsky and brushed a piece of mud from the side of his nose.

"Ouch," Starsky protested mildly, since the mud had reluctantly pulled away from his skin.   Still, he felt warmed by Hutch's gesture, and found himself wishing that Hutch would keep flicking off patches of mud.  That would keep Hutch's attention on him. 

When Hutch's hand dropped, Starsky muttered, "I don't think any place around here is going to want me using their restroom to wash up.  Gonna have to shower at the station."


As they entered the locker room at the PD, the few occupants made various comments at the shape both were in.  Someone said, "I hope the suspect looks worse than you."

Hutch grinned.  "He sure does."

Starsky merely grunted, and proceeded to his locker.  He stripped down and left the soiled clothing in a pile at the foot of his locker.  He wrapped a towel around his waist, grabbed his plastic bag of toiletries, and proceeded to the showers.

Hutch was already there, soaping himself over.

Starsky hung up his towel over the shower head, turned on the spray, and gratefully immersed himself.  He wondered what he could think of to get back at Hutch.  Then he reminded himself that being thrown into the mud was Hutch's revenge, for Starsky having squirted catsup in his face.  With that reminder, he then wondered what he could do in the coming days to make Hutch chase after him once more.

"Hey! Guys!"

Starsky looked up and saw Brett Williams just outside the shower area.

Hutch had turned off his shower head, and reached for a towel.  "Yeah?"

"Dobey is about to blow a gasket upstairs, wondering where you guys are."  Williams moved away.

"Okay, thanks."  Hutch moved toward the entrance, while wrapping a towel around his waist.

It had been a while since they'd checked in with dispatch.  As Starsky squeezed shampoo into his hand, he figured this little incident with the catsup and the mud had probably cost them a good hour. And then Starsky was going to need to clean the mud from the Torino, as soon as he got the chance.

Over his shoulder, just as he exited the communal showers, Hutch said, "Move it, Starsk."

Starsky muttered to himself, knowing that Hutch had made the statement just to get his goat once more.  He quickly rubbed shampoo into his hair.  Obviously, Hutch was enjoying the fact that Starsky had to spend more time under the shower spray, due to having gotten considerably more muddy.

Still, Starsky grinned to himself, it had been darned fun seeing Hutch with a big glob of catsup on his cheek.

He focused on making sure he was clear of mud, made quick use of cream rinse, and then shut off the spray.  He put the towel around himself, tucking it in, and exited the showers.  He grabbed another towel from the rack outside the entrance, and rubbed it briskly about his head.

Hutch was at their lockers, dressing.

"Wonder what Dobey's so hot and bothered about," Starsky said, as he moved next to him.

Hutch shrugged.  "We are behind on our paperwork, as he keeps reminding us."  Then he looked directly at Starsky, deadpanning, "It's your fault we've been out so long."

Starsky didn't bother with a retort.  Not much point in arguing with an amused Hutch.  He opened his locker, pushed the muddy clothes to the bottom, and then grabbed fresh underwear from his duffle bag.  As he released the towel around his waist, he heard Williams say, "You thinking about your date tonight?"  The man chuckled.

Starsky quickly pulled on his briefs, and didn't bother blushing.  He was accustomed to getting partial erections while walking around nude, and whenever anyone commented, he'd usually puff out his chest and say, "Just thinking about my date tonight.  What's your excuse?"  The latter inferred there was something flawed in the other person for noticing.  Now, Williams had used Starsky's own comeback, before Starsky had had a chance.

Hutch was running a comb through his hair.  With his eyes on the little mirror inside his locker door, he finished off Starsky's traditional response, calling out firmly, "What's your excuse?"  Then he put the comb down and turned his head to look at Williams, glaring.

Williams waved a hand.  "Lighten up.  Sheesh."  He turned away.

Starsky snapped his jeans, and then sat on the cement bench to put on a fresh pair of sneakers.  There were certain things that only he and Hutch were allowed to tease each other about.  Errant erections was one of them. 

Fully dressed, Hutch sat beside him, and was buckling his holster.

Starsky tied his laces, feeling that a gentle glow of warmth was at his side.  Can I chase you next time? he wondered.  Of course, once I caught you, you'd be all mad and outraged.  You don't enjoy playing around as much, if you don't land on top.

I'll bottom as much as you want, as long as it keeps you happy.  Starsk smirked to himself, realizing the double entendre of his own thoughts.

"What?" Hutch asked.

Starsky reached back to his locker, and yanked a t-shirt off its hanger.  Apparently, his smirk hadn't been entirely internal.  He muttered, "Just wondering what's got Dobey so anxious to talk to us about."  He pulled the shirt over his head.

"Maybe he's heard something about those jewelry store robberies." 

That case was going nowhere.   "Yeah."  Williams had left, as had everyone else, and it was just him and Hutch sitting here.  Starsky wished he had a reason to delay the moment.

Hutch reached back and took the gun and holster from Starsky's locker.

Starsky accepted them from Hutch, and dutifully slipped his arm through the strap. 

"You okay, partner?" Hutch asked, standing.

Starsky was warmed by Hutch's concern, and was glad to have a ready answer.  "Just planning my revenge," he replied smugly, also standing.

That got a reaction.  "Hey," Hutch protested, as they moved toward the exit, "I was just getting back at you.  There's no revenge to be had."

Starsky chuckled, and smacked Hutch on the rear.


"Where the hell have you two been?" Dobey bellowed from his doorway, upon his two top detective entering the squadroom.

"In the showers," Starsky replied.  "We ended up in the muck."

Dobey grunted in a way that indicated he wasn't interested in the details.  "In my office."

They obeyed, and Hutch shut the door behind them, before they all sat down.

Dobey looked sternly at Hutch.  "Hutchinson, you remember a man named Eric Bott?  You arrested him for aggravated assault, when you were in blue."

"Uh, yeah," Hutch glanced at Starsky, "he pistol-whipped somebody that he felt had cheated him out of some cash.  He sold weapons illegally.  He put up a hell of a fight when he was captured.  He was able to plea down quite a bit, because he had useful information on suspects in other weapons cases."

"That's right," Dobey said.  "He's continued to come up with information while in prison.  He got released two weeks ago."

Prior collars got released from prison on a regular basis.  Starsky eyed Dobey with puzzlement.  "And?"

"He made a lot of threats against Hutchinson when he was arrested."

Hutch quickly said, "Criminals always make threats."

"You did break his right arm during the arrest," Dobey reminded, "when he put up such a fight.  According to the medical report, with the type of fracture it was and the way it healed, he'll never be able to continue his legal occupation as a masseuse."

Starsky felt that something wasn't being said.  "So?  Surely, there's other occupations out there."

"Apparently Bott made good money at it, before he was arrested, working for high class motels and spas."

Hutch interjected, "But not enough to curb his desire to sell illegal weapons on the side."

Dobey grunted.  "In any case, Miller and Todd got some information from a suspect on a case they've been working, who wants to make a deal.  The suspect knows Eric Bott.  Says he still talks about getting back at you, Hutchinson."  Miller and Todd were one of the tighter partnerships in the precinct.

Hutch muttered, "Yeah, him and everybody else I've ever arrested."

Starsky felt his protectiveness well up.  What Hutch said was true, but for some reason, Dobey seemed particularly concerned about this.  "What's the bottom line here, Cap'n?"

Dobey drew a breath.  "Bott isn't some street slum.  He's intelligent and sophisticated.  He's only been out two weeks, and he still has a beef with Hutchinson.  I don't like it."

Hutch said, "You'd think he'd be concerned about getting a job and getting his life back on track."

"That's just it," Dobey emphasized.  "Every time he gets turned down for a job, he's reminded that you're the one, in his eyes, that has made life on the outside more difficult.  He can't go back to the lucrative occupation that was his passion."

Revenge could certainly be a strong motivation, Starsky had to reluctantly admit.  "Has he given Miller and Todd's suspect any details about what he has in mind?"

"Not particulars.  But he's offered money for help with a job, without saying what the job is."

Hutch asked, "How can he offer money, when he's been in prison the past seven or eight years?"

Dobey shrugged.  "Maybe he's had money put away.  Plus, we know he knows how to deal weapons.  Maybe he's back at it."

Grimly, Starsky said, "If he's so sophisticated, you'd think the last thing he'd want to do is risk going back to prison."

Dobey said, "I'd like to think he's just blowing off steam, but I don't like the feel of this.  Miller and Todd are going to keep an eye on him, and tail him when they can.  But we can't have him watched all hours of the day, every day."

Hutch said, "Maybe their informant can wear a wire."

"He's already refused to do that," Dobey said.  "Says he's not good at lying face-to-face, like that.  He seems afraid of Bott."  He shifted in his chair and looked at Hutch.  "In any case, you need to be extra vigilant, Hutchinson.   At least, until we know what Bott is up to."


Starsky and Hutch conferred with Miller and Todd, and they thought that even if Bott intended to hatch a revenge plan against Hutch, it was surely in the early stages, and it was hard to know when he might strike.


Hutch was dressed in white.  The surrounding room -- if it could even be called that, for it was so grandiose -- was in white.  Hutch looked golden and pure.  He was smiling.  He held out his arms to Starsky.

Starsky was puzzled, but couldn't resist that call.  He opened his own arms and put them around Hutch.   They hugged briefly, happily, and then they danced as a couple around the vacant, endless, white room.

Are we in heaven? Starsky wondered.  He didn't care if they were or they weren't.  Heaven was always with Hutch.


Starsky blinked his eyes open to darkness.  He rolled over and saw the moonlight out the window.  White, full moon.  Hutch had been dressed in white in his dream.  The whole atmosphere had had a white purity about it.

Would hardly consider you pure, Starsky muttered to Hutch, in his own mind.

How peaceful the dream had felt.  How happy.  How right.  Dancing joyously with Hutch.

They had danced together before.  Or, rather, sort of played at it.  After they'd done the undercover job at the dance studio.  Starsky had wanted to teach Hutch how to dance, and Hutch had been agreeable.

Starsky gazed at the moon, feeling that peace now.  Not from the dream, but because Hutch had been willing to dance with him.  In the squadroom.  So many other things they had done together, that most men Starsky knew wouldn't dare be caught doing with another guy.  For him and Hutch, such things seemed so natural. 

You're my pal, Hutch.  Starsky smiled at the moon.

Eric Bott might be plotting to kill Hutch.

Starsky felt the peace leave him.  He'd pondered, before falling asleep, whether he should pay Bott a visit.  Let him know who he'd have to deal with, if he dared mess with Hutch.  But if that stopped Bott from trying something, then they'd never have an opportunity to arrest him for his plans.  If Bott truly intended Hutch harm, Starsky wanted the man to pay for his intentions.

Of course, in the meantime, he was going to have to make sure that any such plan never got carried out successfully.  He was going to need to be extra attentive toward Hutch. 

Attentiveness toward Hutch was one of the things he did best.


Starsky felt a tap on his left shoulder and turned in that direction.

Hutch wriggled papers impatiently at Starsky's right.

With a pitiful sigh that he'd been fooled for the zillionth time, Starsky took the papers with his right hand while Hutch smirked. 

"What's this?" Starsky asked, unfolding the green and white bar pages, with holes in the sides.

"The computer came up with some store names for the Manares case."

That was someone who was suspected of robbing jewelry establishments.  "Oh, I thought it was going to be a few days before the computer was able to process our request."

Hutch's grin widened.  "Thankfully, you have partner that knows how to turn on the charm."

Starsky squelched the flair of jealousy that Hutch might have been flirting with some of the ladies down in the computer division.  He studied the paper with the rows of print.  "What is this showing us?"

"It's the stores that have had gold bracelets ripped off in the past three years, dummy.   Since Manares specializes in those, we need to talk to these places and see if they remember anything else. I bet it's Manares that's responsible for most, if not all, of them.  If we can tie the robberies together, we'll have that much of a stronger case when we catch him."

"Okay," Starsky said, relishing Hutch calling him a dummy.  "Let's get rolling."

"The one on Peppercorn Street is closest."  Hutch grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair.  "Let's hit that one first."


Hutch was the one asking the questions of the jeweler's owner on Peppercorn Street.  The man did his best to remember details of the robbery two years ago, when a short man in a ski mask had come into the store.  Manares was only five-four in height.

Starsky moseyed over to some of the cases with various watches.  At the corner of his eye, he saw a car pull up to the curb on the opposite side of the street.  It was an innocuous blue Ford Falcon, that Miller and Todd often used for undercover jobs.  Starsky turned toward the window, hoping to get a closer look.  Though it was difficult to tell from this distance, there were two men in the car who could be Miller and Todd.

Surely, they aren't tailing Hutch.  Or both of us.

No, surely not.  The occupants in the car appeared to be looking down the street, rather than across the street.  Then, as Starsky watched, they slowly moved away from the curve and entered traffic, at a snail's pace.

Starsky looked down the street.  A man with a cowboy hat low on his head was walking along the sidewalk, away from the Ford, his hands stuffed in his pockets.

Could that be Eric Bott? Starsky wondered.  If so, he felt comforted that Miller and Todd were tailing him, and apparently trying to find out whatever they could about his plans.  Bott suddenly turned into a shop along the street.  The blue Falcon quickly took the nearest space at the curve.

"What's up?" Hutch asked, coming to stand next to him.

Starsky nodded out the window.  "I think the blue Falcon is Miller and Todd.  Looks like they're tailing someone who just went into one of the stores over there.  Did Bott wear a cowboy hat?"

Hutch appeared thoughtful.  "Uh, yeah.  Liked to wear it low on his head."

"That was Eric Bott, then.  He went into that store."  Starsky's eyes squinted.  "'That's a weapons supply store, isn't it?"

"Yep.  If he buys anything, it's a violation of his parole."  Hutch turned toward the door.  "Come on, we've got our own case to follow up on.  Let's hit the next jeweler on our list."


Later that afternoon, when both pairs of cops were in the squad room, the dark-haired Anthony Miller said, "He didn't buy anything at the weapons store, though he appeared to be browsing.  And then he returned to his apartment."

Lewis Todd, who had short, red hair, added, "When he first was going down Peppercorn, he seemed to notice your Torino parked in front of the jewelry store you guys were at."

Starsky muttered, "If the last time he was out of prison was when Hutch was in blue, how would he know we now drive around in my Torino?"

Miller said, "Anyone on the street could have given him that information."

"Yeah," Starsky relented with a sigh.

Hutch asked, "How did you know he didn't buy anything at the weapons store?"

Todd replied, "I was watching discreetly from outside the store window.  I didn't want to go in an ask the clerk directly, because I was afraid they might know each other, and he might tip Bott off that cops are watching him."

Miller put in, "We've got a few snitches keeping an eye out, including a janitor at Bott's apartment building, who also lives there, and who'll report in to us about any visitors."

Starsky nodded.  "Great.  We appreciate that."


In the darkness, Starsky's bangs were plastered to his forehead, as he lay naked on top of the bed covers.

The motion of his hand lingered, drawing out the building sensation.

Her huge nipple was stuffed into his mouth.  She was in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest tits.  Starsky sucked avidly, happily....

....Hutch was on his knees, sucking Starsky's cock. 

Starsky's hand moved faster along his shaft.

Hutch was sucking his cock because he loved the pleasure it gave him, when it was thick and full.

Gonna make it so good for you, baby, Starsky silently told him.  He put his hand on Hutch's head, fingers intertwining with the soft strands, as Hutch grunted happily.

Starsky was close.  He gently tugged on that hair, and Hutch looked up, a string of saliva going from his plush lips to the shaft that he'd just released.

Starsky knelt down and captured those moist lips with his own.  They felt warm and tender and arousing.  He and Hutch were melting into each other, becoming one.

Then Hutch turned his head slightly.  "Need it," he said, in the softest of whispers.

"Okay," Starsky assured, just as soft.    One more kiss, and then he let Hutch move away, to get on the bed.

Starsky stroked himself, in preparation.

Hutch knelt on the bed, looking at him with piercing blue, vulnerable eyes.  "Hold me?" he whispered.

"Really tight," Starsky assured.  He reached out, needing to touch, and Hutch turned to lie down, on his side.

Starsky settled behind him, and snuggled close.  Taking himself in hand, he soothed, "Here it comes." 

When he pushed through the opening between pale butt cheeks, Hutch gasped with pleasure.  "Yes.  Yes."

Starsky's hand beat furiously, as he imagined even more intense groans from Hutch.  Then he was ejaculating.

He cried out as semen spurted onto his belly.  In his mind's eye, he was kissing along Hutch's gorgeous neck.

Starsky gasped for breath.  He released himself and reached for tissue paper.  He wiped at the puddle, savoring the satiation in his loins.  After tossing the tissue aside, he closed his eyes and imagined himself showering Hutch's face with tender kisses.  For, in the fantasy, Hutch had come, too, thanks to Starsky's skilled hand.

Starsky rolled onto his side, staring at the darkness.  His cock would make Hutch feel so good.

But then, he considered the thought that had crossed his mind the other day.  About how Hutch was happiest when he landed on top, so to speak, in a battle of wits.  Starsky had thought then that he'd be happy to bottom for Hutch.

Could he do that?  Hard to imagine that huge, gorgeous cock penetrating his tight hole.  It would probably hurt like a sonofabitch.

But, yes, he'd do it.  He'd do it, as long as they were facing each other, and he could relish Hutch's expression of lust and pleasure.

Still, he'd prefer to fuck Hutch.

Starsky's mind gradually turned to the threat of Eric Bott.

There's somebody out there who wants to kill you, buddy boy.  I should be at your place right now.  In bed with you, holding you.  Protecting you.

I don't just want to fuck you, Hutch.  I want to wrap you in cotton and make sure nothing bad ever comes your way.

And then make love to you as much as possible.  My cock could bring you so much joy.

Starsky sighed.

What would Hutch think about me thinking about him like this?

Perhaps Hutch was, at this very moment, fantasizing about Starsky. 

Starsky felt a smile form at his mouth.  If only I were so lucky.

The smile eventually faded.  What would he think if I told him?  They'd had such a deep trust, and physical affection with each other for all these years, perhaps for the very reason that they knew such thoughts were never a part of the love they shared as partners.

Starsky whispered out loud, "That love is so intense, buddy.  It means everything to me."

If he dared say something to Hutch, would that love and trust be damaged forever?


Hutch was his.

Starsky relished that thought, as he sat back in his chair, his feet up on Hutch's chair, and watched his partner move around the squadroom, collecting files on the jewelry heist case, coffee cup in hand.

Starsky had spent his morning, while preparing for work, with a defensive chatter in his mind:  Fantasies are harmless.  It's normal to think about sex with someone one feels enormously close to.  It didn't mean I'm gay.  And so on.

Finally, Starsky had gotten annoyed with his own thoughts, and growled out loud, "I'm crazy in love with you, Hutch, and I want to fuck your brains out."  With that honesty, the mind chatter had scurried away.  He knew what he wanted.

He just didn't know how to go about getting what he wanted.

Still, it was turning out to be a pleasant morning, watching Hutch move around, knowing that Hutch was his, even if Hutch didn't know it yet.

Hutch turned away from the file cabinets, and saw Starsky gazing at him.  "What?"

Starsky couldn't hold back his grin, and indicated his own teeth.  "You have a speck of black pepper stuck between your front teeth."

Hutch frowned.  "You're just now telling me?"

Starsky shrugged, his grin widening.

Hutch picked at his teeth with a fingernail.  Then, "Did that get it?"


Hutch tried again.  "Now?"

Starsky chuckled.  "Try again."

"Moron."  Hutch turned away and pushed out the door, no doubt headed for the men's room to access a mirror.

Dobey emerged from his office, a file folder in hand.  "Where's Hutchinson going?"

Starsky straightened, taking his feet off Hutch's chair.  "To remove an imaginary speck of pepper from his teeth.  Why?"

Dobey placed the file folder before Starsky.  "Miller and Todd called first thing this morning.  Their snitch -- the janitor for Bott's apartment building -- reported that Bott was visited last night by a man named Larry Waltz.  I had the file pulled."

Starsky flipped through the pages.  "Waltz was hired once to break somebody's legs, but there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute."

Dobey drew a breath.  "The only thing he was ever arrested for was minor drug and shoplifting offenses.  He's never served more a few months in jail."

As concern filled him, Starsky muttered, "I don't suppose the janitor heard any of his conversation with Bott."

"No.  He tried to listen through the door, but he couldn't make out anything specific. Said Waltz was in Bott's apartment for about half an hour.  When he left, he said Waltz had his hand in his pocket, like he'd just put something in it."

Starsky felt concern turn to trepidation.  "Like maybe Bott had paid him to do something to Hutch?"

Grimly, Dobey said, "We have to consider the possibility.  I'm assigning two other shifts to keep an eye on Waltz the next few days."

"I'll need to stay with Hutch."  I'll take care of him. 

"That's probably a good idea.  At his place, you think?"

"Yeah.  Surely, that's where Waltz or anyone else hired by Bott would go looking for him."

"I'm going to have an unmarked police car outside Hutch's apartment, in the evenings, until we can figure out if a plan is in place." 

Starsky nodded just as the squadroom door opened, and Hutch entered with an annoyed expression aimed at Starsky.  Then Hutch sobered, having obviously seen their serious demeanor.  "What's going on?"


Hutch crossed his arms, while alone in the elevator.  He sighed.  It was probably going to be a few days, at least, before Waltz put a plan in place -- and that was if all their speculating was even true.  He didn't relish the thought of constantly being wary and on edge in the coming days.  It was reassuring to know that Starsky would be with him in their off hours, but the tension of a constant vigil also tended to wear on both their nerves.  Granted, Starsky had a way of resorting to humor to lighten such droll moods.

Hutch snorted, thinking about Starsky having fooled him into thinking he had pepper in his teeth.  You won that round, partner.  He'd have to come up with an adequate revenge.

In the meantime, he'd left Starsky to catch up on their paperwork, while he decided to go to his apartment and install a second deadbolt on his front door.  He'd purchased the deadbolt months ago, and never gotten around to actually installing it.  Now, it seemed urgent to have that extra security.  Of course, Starsky had suggested they both go to Hutch's apartment to put in the new deadbolt, but two set of hands weren't needed, and Dobey had been on them about getting lax in turning in proper paperwork on their cases.  Therefore, Starsky had grudgingly admitted that he'd have to stay behind and work on the paperwork alone.

Hutch pulled in front of his apartment building twenty minutes later.  After getting out of the LTD, he glanced around.  Even though it would surely take Waltz a while to plan a hit, part of that planning could be familiarizing himself with the area where Hutch lived.

Hating the need to be so vigilant, Hutch nevertheless kept his ears open to the street, as he trotted up the stairs of Venice Place.  The street was actually sparsely occupied, considering it was early afternoon.

As Hutch took the apartment key off the lentil, he was wondering where he might have put the new deadbolt, after purchasing it.  Surely, in the linen closet, on the top shelf, which is where he usually put miscellaneous supplies.  Unless he'd put the package in the utility drawer in the kitchen, along with various screw drivers and other small tools.

He entered the apartment, wondering which of the two likely places he should check first for the deadbolt.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch detected movement. 

Before he could react, there was an awful pain at the back of his head.  All went black.


After the eighth ring, Starsky hung up the phone.  Hutch had been gone for more than two hours.

Dobey emerged from his office.  "Where's Hutchinson?"

Starsky shrugged, muttering, "Should be back any minute.  He wanted to put a second deadbolt on his apartment door.  I thought it was a good idea.  He must be on his way back, because he's not answering his phone.  Just didn't expect it to take this long."  He looked up and his eye met Dobey's concerned gaze, as worry and guilt settled through him.  "Surely, Waltz couldn't have possibly already made a move...."

Dobey shook his head.  "The team tailing Waltz right now checked in a few minutes ago.  That's why I want Hutchinson back here.  Waltz met with Charley Frock a little while ago."

Starsky's mouth fell open.  "Charley Frock?  The explosives expert?"

"Yes.  Considering how he's discreetly helped out the PD on a few cases, it's hard to believe he might be turning over a new leaf, and doing hits, especially on cops."

Starsky swallowed thickly.

Dobey reached for the phone, "I'm calling Dispatch, to tell Hutch to get his tail back in here."

Starsky waited anxiously, only for Dobey to be told that Zebra Three wasn't answering.

Heart pounding, Starsky grabbed his jacket.  "I'm going over to Hutch's place."


Hutch's head throbbed.  He realized he'd groaned out loud, as he felt consciousness returning.

Somehow, Eric Bott had outsmarted them.

Hutch tried to swallow, feeling the dryness in his mouth, which only served to emphasize the throbbing at the back of his head.

He was becoming aware that his hands were tied above him, and he was sitting up, on something lumpy and uncomfortable.

He became resigned to the inevitable, and opened his eyes.

Some kind of low-lit room came into view.  It was dank and unkempt.  As Hutch's eyes moved around the undecorated walls, they settled on a man sitting in an old, plush chair, minus some stuffing, holding a rifle across folded arms.

Hutch's eyes narrowed.  The blurriness in his head cleared, and he realized he was looking at someone with dirty, sandy-colored hair, a somewhat wrinkled, thin face that made it look older than its years.  Dirty clothes.  The face needed a shave.

Hutch snorted.  "Eric Bott not want to do his own dirty work?"  He couldn't fathom how Bott have organized a hit on him so quickly.

The man's eyes narrowed.  "Huh?  Make sense, Hutchinson."

Hutch squinted, which caused his head to hurt all the harder.  There was something about the southern accent that seemed distantly familiar.  While he pondered that, he asked, "What do you want with me?"

The man stood.  He paced next to the twin bed with a naked mattress, that Hutch was sitting on.  Hutch was facing the foot of the mattress, and felt something that vaguely resembled a pillow tucked between his shoulders and the headboard, while his hand were tied above him.  "We have some unfinished business, Hutchinson."

Hutch studied the man, certain that he knew him.  "Do I know you?"

"I suppose I shouldn't blame you for not recognizing me without that big beard.  I'm Trenton Pike."

Hutch blinked, wishing his head would stop hurting.  Trenton Pike.  Somebody he and Starsky had tried to catch many years ago.  A man known for having a beef with authority, and setting elaborate traps to insure his continued freedom.  Once, while chasing Pike, a police officer and been severely injured after falling into a manhole outside Pike's country home. He hadn't known the uncovered manhole was there, because Pike had placed a thin covering over it, to camouflage it.  There had also been other officers severely injured in similar, surprising ways, when pursuing Pike. 

Hutch scoffed, "So you've fallen in with Eric Bott.  I can't imagine a more mismatched pair."

Pike frowned.  "I don't know who this Eric Bott is, that you keep talking about.  I don't need any help from anybody, to carry out what I want to do."

Hutch felt his heart beat faster.  Indeed, it didn't make sense that someone like Trenton Pike would be involved with someone like Eric Bott.

Oh, no.  Once Starsky realized that Hutch was in trouble, he'd assume those responsible were Eric Bott and Larry Waltz.

Hutch tried to cover his concern.  Forcing his voice to be casual, he asked, "What do you want from me?"

"I have a beef with you cops.  You're going to pay, but you'll be given a chance to win."

"Win?  Win what?" Hutch grimaced at how the back of his head throbbed.

Pike gripped his rifle.  "I'm going to hunt you down, boy."

Hutch's insides quivered at the determined tone.

Pike continued,  "We're going to play a little game, you and I.  But not until I have everything ready.  Whether you live or die will depend upon your own skill."

Not if Starsky finds me first.  But Hutch wasn't sure if that could be possible.  He asked simply, "Why?"

"I've had to live in hiding for the past five years, once the police almost caught me.  In truth, I didn't care which of you cops I captured."  Pike presented a twisted smirk.  "It just happened to be your lucky day, after I overheard information that someone was looking to put a hit on you.  Seemed like a convenient time to make a move, and have someone else blamed."

Pike had always been cunning.  Trying to sound casual, Hutch asked, "What is 'hunting me down' going to prove?" 

"Ever since my wife died, I've had to find my amusements where I can.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm always going to be hunted by cops.  I won't tolerate being put in jail.  So, whatever time I have left before I'm inevitably found, I'll be happy to take out as many of you as I can.  But it's going to happen my way."  Pike abruptly gestured to the wall, a few feet beyond the foot of the bed.  "See that arrow?"

Hutch looked at the wall.  He couldn't restrain an involuntary gasp, upon seeing a thick arrow aimed at him, from inside a hole in the wall.

"If this bed ever has less than fifty pounds of pressure on it, it'll release that arrow."

Which would then hit Hutch right in the chest.

Pike continued.  "So, I'm going to loosen your ropes.  There's a bucket there to piss in.  I'll bring you food and water."  His voice firmed.  "But you try to get up from this bed, that arrow will kill you."


Cop cars filled the block outside of Venice Place.

As Dobey drove up, Starsky trotted over to his car.  He indicated the key he held.  "Hutch's door was left wide open.  Nothing looks disturbed, except the phone was on the floor.  And this key to the front door was also on the floor.  I'm thinking Hutch walked into his apartment, with the key in hand, and maybe got hit on the back of the head with the telephone.  There isn't any blood.  But whoever has Hutch probably took him in Hutch's LTD, because that's not anywhere around."

While sitting in his car, Dobey shook his head.  "This doesn't make any sense.  Lewis and Todd have been on Eric Bott and Larry Waltz all day.  If something has happened to Hutch, and they're behind it, they got someone else to do their dirty work.  If someone had kidnapped Hutchinson, then a third party has taken him somewhere that Bott and Waltz haven't been to."

Starsky teeth grit with frustration.  "There's still Charley Frock."

"He does explosives," Dobey reminded.  "Kidnapping isn't his scene."

"Still," Starsky said, his first curling around the key, "I'm going to pay him a visit."


Hutch knew that he had to stop obsessing over the arrow that was aimed at him.


Trenton Pike had been gone for a good hour.  Apparently, he was "getting things ready", which Hutch assumed were various traps intended to harm him during whatever "hunt" Bott had in mind.

Hutch tried to take comfort in the fact that he'd never known Pike to have killed anyone.  He got his kicks by out-smarting authority, albeit a tactic that could cause great bodily harm.

Yet, that arrow was aimed right at him, a threat to Hutch's life.

Hutch cocked his head, as he continued to gaze at it.  Would he risk ending my life?  If I'm dead, he can't enjoy hunting me.

Surely, the arrow was a hoax.

Yet, he knew Pike had the skill to rig it in some way, so that if a certain amount of weight left the bed, the arrow would release.

He wondered if he could somehow do a test.

For that matter, even if Pike had told the truth, it seemed that Hutch could flatten himself onto the bed, and roll off it, so that when the arrow released, it went over Hutch's head.

Still, there were his tied hands, though the ropes were long enough to allow him to relieve himself.  He'd have to time a move just right.  That is, when he decided it was the best time to act.

He wondered where this place was.  Surely, somewhere out in the country, if Pike was going to "hunt" him.  He was definitely in a basement, for when Pike had left, he'd gone up wooden stairs.

Hutch furrowed his brow, relieved that his severe headache had started to ease.  Trenton Pike wasn't large or strong enough to have carried an unconscious captive.  He had to have had help, though he hadn't made any mention of anyone else, nor had Hutch heard anyone else on the premises.

Hutch felt a flare of hope.  An assistant -- or two -- meant that more people than just Pike knew Hutch was here.  The more who knew, the more likely that someone would talk, and Starsky would get wind of it.  That is, if Starsky could get his attention off of Eric Bott.

Footsteps were heard coming down the stairs.

As soon as Pike came into the room, the ever-present rifle resting in the crook of his arm, he said, "You get hunted at six AM tomorrow.  I'll bring you something to eat a little later, so you have plenty of strength."

Firmly, Hutch demanded, "Who helped you bring me here?"

Pike answered easily.  "The same man that took care of disposing of your car... in a manner of speaking."

Hutch regarded Pike warily, not understanding.

A thin smile appeared at Pike's mouth corner.  "He had a little accident while driving your car to a place where he could ditch it."

Hutch's heart skipped a beat.  "You killed him?"

"Only indirectly.  I don't want the wreckage of your car being traced to you anytime soon, and I don't need to risk him ever telling anyone that he gave me a hand with a few things.  Once he came to the cliff, putting the car in neutral to push it off set off an explosion.  I heard it go off, in the distance, a while ago.  Should have taken care of him and the car both."

Hutch's teeth grit.  "Murder isn't your style."

"I didn't lay a hand on him.  I just set things into motion, and it was up to him, how he decided to play things.  He could have just left the car on the side of the road."  Pike shrugged.  "It was his choice to follow through with my directions."  He nodded at the wall opposite the bed.  "Just like that arrow.  If you want to try to escape before the hunt, that's up to you.  But there's consequences that will likely be deadly."

Hutch snorted.  "What about the hunt itself?"

"I've rigged all sorts of traps to keep things interesting.  But if you're clever enough, you'll be able to find your way out.  I respect a man who is cunning."

Hutch nodded at the rifle.  "You can't afford to let me get away.  I'll just come back with reinforcements and arrest you.  If I get through your traps, you'll kill me with that rifle."

Pike's eyes darkened, as an evil smile developed at his mouth.  "I don't believe for a moment that you've given up hope you can get away.  That's what makes it fun."  With that, Pike turned and left.


Starsky knocked on the door of the condominium.  He called, "Police!" , and then held up his badge to the peephole.

The door opened, and Charley Frock stood there.  He was a slight man, with glasses that added to the intellectual look of his greying hair and sharp, green eyes.  "Can I help you, officer?"

"I'd like to talk to you," Starsky said grimly.

The man opened his door.  "Sure, come in.  Can I get you something?"

Starsky shook his head, and didn't take the seat offered.  "I'll get right to the point.  We know that you were visited by Larry Waltz last night."

Frock blinked.  "Why, yes.  You've been watching me?"

"We've been watching him."

"So, you already know about the job he was hired to do?  I was going to tell the police, once I was sure it was going to take place.  But I didn't think Waltz and I just talking would be enough evidence for you to pay attention to."

Starsky didn't let his puzzlement show.  "Even if the intended hit was a police officer?"

Frock's mouth fell open.  "Police officer?  No, I didn't know that.  Waltz came to me because he was hired to do a job.  I didn't ask for particulars.  He just wanted to know if I'd be interested in setting up a bomb in a building, for two thousand dollars.  He said no one would get hurt.  I said I was interested, and he said he'd get back to me when he had more details."  Frock shrugged.  "I didn't see how the police would be interested in such vague information.  I was going to wait until I had some actual details."

Starsky firmed his jaw.  He was perturbed to realize that he believed Frock.  After all, Frock had a history of being helpful to the police, in cases concerning explosives.

Frock prompted, "You said this job concerned a police officer?  If I'd known that, I wouldn't have even pretended to agree to it."

Starsky felt his heart sink, with leads drying up.  He muttered, "Thanks for your help," then turned and left.

Once back in the Torino, he reported into Dobey. 

"I don't understand this," Dobey said.  "Hutchinson is gone, and we had all this evidence of a hit being set up on Hutch, and yet now it's like there might have been something else going on, that might not have even concerned Hutch."

"Yeah," Starsky said with a heavy sigh.  The city was turning dark.  "Maybe we've been barking up the wrong tree."

"That would be a hell of a coincidence, if something else happened to Hutch that has nothing to do with Bott getting out of prison."

"Yeah.  I'm going to see Huggy.  I'm sure he's heard by now that Hutch is missing."

"Sounds good.  Miller and Todd are tapping into all their available snitches, to see if they can shake something loose."


Huggy had indeed heard about Hutch's abduction.  He assured Starsky that he already had feelers out, and would contact him with the slightest information.

Starsky had taken a cheeseburger to go.  Now, he sat in the Torino, in the alley behind Huggy's and, after taking a bite of burger, let the enormity of the day's events settle in.

Where are you, buddy?  He sighed out loud.  I know you're counting on me to find you, but I'm running out of ideas of where to look.

He refused to believe the worst.  I know you're not dead, Hutch.  You can't be. 

He took another bite of burger and chewed slowly.

When I get you back, I'm not going to do any pussyfooting around.  I know what I want from you.  For us.  Guess I'll just have to straight-out tell you.

Wonder what you'll think of that. 

Starsky tapped the fingers of his free hand against the steering wheel.  I just have to find you first.


He wasn't going to participate in the hunt.  That much, Hutch had decided.

He'd been brought a meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and water.  Hutch had eaten, certain that Pike wouldn't drug him, if he wanted Hutch healthy for the hunt.

It was night, for Hutch heard crickets outside.  What were the chances that, if he freed himself, he'd be able to escape in the darkness, considering the various traps Pike had set?  Perhaps if he didn't take the obvious paths, but moved within the woods (if there were woods around) or in the open field, he'd have a better chance.  Depending on how large the property was, Pike couldn't have traps everywhere.

Hutch thought further.  If Pike wanted to enjoy himself, surely the traps closest to the house wouldn't be able to injure Hutch all that severely.  Otherwise, the hunt -- and Pike's fun -- would be over too soon.

Of course, Hutch was assuming that Pike thought logically.

He was working with an extreme lack of information, but the one thing Hutch was certain of is that he wanted to take a proactive stance in his own freedom and survival.  That meant getting out of here.

He listened, but couldn't hear anything outside.  He wondered if Pike might have tried to get some sleep, however unlikely it seemed he could be that certain that his captive wouldn't try to escape.

Hutch looked at the arrow aimed at him.  If it did indeed fire, how much noise would it make?

No way to know.  Hutch gathered his legs beneath him.  He took up the slack on the ropes that tied his hands.

Now or never.

He drew a deep breath and dived off the bed to the floor.

He heard a "swoosh" and a soft thump.

Relieved, Hutch knelt up.  The arrow lay on the bed.  Despite it's large size, he saw that the tip was merely rubber.  So, it had been a hoax, at least partially.  It couldn't have done more than cause severe bruising.

Hutch staggered to his feet.  His hands were still held by the ropes.  He looked about the dresser that had been behind the bed.  A sheathed knife was on the dresser. 

Hutch grabbed the knife, which had a six inch blade, and frantically cut at his ropes. Once freed, he looked around, wondering if there was anything he could use for supplies.

"Good job, Hutchinson."

Hutch whirled around at the bellowing voice.  No one was behind him.

A gruff chuckle, as though coming through a mega horn, sounded from the floor above the staircase. "I would have been disappointed, if you hadn't tried to escape.  Now, how are you going to get  out?"

Hutch looked frantically around, his heart sinking at the idea of having fallen into Pike's plan.  A small reflection caught his attention, and he moved to the hole in the wall where the arrow had been.  Some kind of small camera-looking device was there.

Hutch quickly straightened, flattening himself against the wall to the side of the camera, so it couldn't see him.  He looked about the room.  Beyond the knife, he didn't know of anything he could use to otherwise assist in his escape.

He needed to go after Pike.  Confront him directly, even if he only had the knife.  A knife which, Hutch realized now, Pike had intended for him to take.

To his right, away from the camera, at a small table, Hutch saw scissors, string, and similar materials.  He grabbed a roll of masking tape, and tore off a few inches.  He again flattened himself against the wall, and then reached over to feel for the camera lens.  He placed the tape over it.

Knowing he couldn't be seen only brought a small amount of relief.  Who knew how many other cameras Pike had in the house.  Hutch grabbed the scissors, as another possible weapon, as well as string and the tape, pocketing them.  His jacket was draped over the back of a chair, and he grabbed it.

Gripping the knife, he moved through the doorway of the room he'd been kept in, and found himself in vacant area with concrete flooring and a drain in the center, as though a laundry room.  There were windows that had been covered over on the outside, and they seemed too obvious of a way to escape, so Pike likely had them booby-trapped.  Wooden stairs were at Hutch's right.  There was no way he could climb up them without being heard.  But then, he hadn't heard Pike for a few minutes, either.  He wondered if Pike had moved away from where he had called out with the mega horn.

Hutch realized that his best chance was to go up the stairs.  He held to the belief that, even if Pike was waiting with the shotgun, he wouldn't outright kill him, because his fun would end to soon.

Realizing there wasn't much point in trying to move stealthily when he could be heard, Hutch gripped the knife and charged up the stairs, arm cocked to stab at Pike.

The landing of the stairs opened to a kitchen.   No one was there.  On the table was a TV monitor.  The screen was a fuzzy black, no doubt due to Hutch having placed tape over the camera lens.

Hutch listened, and could only hear is own breathing.  He doubted that Pike was inside the house.

He looked around the kitchen and found a backpack, on the floor.  He picked it up and checked the contents.  There were two bottles of water, packets of crackers and peanuts, bandaging....

He's made it ready for me.

Hutch felt a flair of resentment.  He wanted to follow his own plan to get out of here, and not be part of Pike's game.  But he couldn't deny the potential usefulness of the backpack and its contents.  He pulled his few other supplies out of his pockets and put them in the backpack.  The knife he put back in its sheath, and placed in his jeans pocket.

Now what?

He had little doubt that Pike was watching him from outside.  Hutch moved around the house and shut off lights, so at least they would both be in darkness.  The clock on the stove read 3:20.   Sunup would be in a couple of hours.

Now that the house was dark, Hutch peeked out the curtain of the living room.  He gazed into the darkness a long time, until his eyes began to adjust.  There were woods about a hundred feet from the house.  Beyond, appeared to be open plains.  He couldn't see any signs of a road.

How far out in the wilderness was he?

Hutch drew a long breath.  He wasn't going to wait until morning.  He had to make an attempt at freedom, while he had some chance of being under the cover of darkness.


It was the middle of the night at the station, and Starsky swallowed thickly as the truth sunk in.

A four hour interrogation of Larry Waltz, and Eric Bott, in separate rooms, had revealed a plot, but not one that concerned Hutch.

While Bott expressed his pleasure at hearing that Detective Hutchinson might be a victim of foul play, he himself was more interested in getting revenge on the people who had helped the police send him to prison.  First up was one of the fences he'd used for his weapons.  He'd hired Larry Waltz to find someone to blow up the weapons store.  In his own interrogation, Waltz finally gave in and presented facts that verified the truth of Bott's own confession.

They were at square one, in terms of trying to find out what had happened to Hutch.

Starsky collapsed in his desk chair and rubbed at his tired eyes.

Where are you, Hutch?  I'll find you, baby.  I know you're counting on that, and I can't bear the idea of letting you down.

His desk phone range.

Starsky furrowed his brow.  It was nearly four in the morning.  Who would be calling?  He picked up the receiver.  "Starsky speaking."

Huggy's voice said.  "I think I've got some information for you."


As quietly as he could, Hutch opened the front door of the house.  The moon was three-quarters full. 

Holding the backpack, Hutch jumped down from the porch, and placed himself against the side of the house.

Before him, set back from the house, was woods.  What were the chances that he could make a run for it, without Pike somehow seeing him?  Probably none, but once in the woods, surely Pike wouldn't be able to track him?  Of course, who knew what traps lay about.

Suddenly, the mega horn sounded.  "Daring night escape, Hutchinson.  Even in the old days of rugged frontiersmen, men were never foolish enough to travel at night, especially in the woods.  No way to know what dangers are lurking about."

Should he heed the warning, and try to find some other way out?

No.  Maybe that's what Pike was hoping for.

Hutch gripped the backpack, and charged full speed toward the woods.

He was relieved, and a bit puzzled, to reach them without any shots being fired, or further verbal taunting from Pike.  He kept moving, desperately trying to see the outline of trees so he could avoid them.  He then paused to hoist the backpack onto his back.

Which direction should he go?   For that matter, maybe he should wait for daybreak.  But the farther away he could get, surely it was in his best interest.  That is, unless he got confused and ended up circling back to the house.

Hutch tried to move more slowly, focusing on going in a straight direction -- so that he was sure he was continuing to move away from the house -- and holding out his hands to avoid running into trees.

He felt something with his foot, and suddenly he was immersed in thick netting, that landed on him so heavily that he fell to the ground.

Hutch felt a sense of panic that he'd been caught.  After struggling a moment with the netting, to no avail, he forced himself to a state of calm, and then managed to move his right hand enough to reach his pocket.  He grabbed the knife from its sheath and began attacking the netting.  Just when he began to loose hope that that there was too much material to cut to free himself, he realized he was making progress, and used the knife more forcefully.

He stopped when he was able to stick his head through a hole in the netting.  He continued moving, and got his upper body through.  Then he cut around his legs, until he was a finally able to push his legs free.

He lay panting, feeling the sweat on his forehead.  He realized that whatever his foot had felt on the ground had triggered the net to fall.

The mega horn suddenly sounded around him.  "I warned you about traveling at night, Hutchinson.  I'll let you in on a little tip.  The farther you go, the more dangerous the traps are."

There was no way, Hutch insisted to himself, that Pike could know exactly which way he would he would go into the woods.  Therefore, there had to be traps all over.  For all he knew, most had been set up for years, to make sure there weren't any trespassers that got through.

If he could have any hope that Starsky would find him soon, Hutch felt he could simply wait things out, and perhaps use the net to turn the tables on Pike and become the hunter.  But he couldn't figure that Starsky would have any way of finding out where he was, especially since it was unlikely that his blown-up car would be found in the foreseeable future.

He was on his own. 


At Huggy's apartment, Huggy gestured to an elderly black man sitting in an easy chair. who was wearing a hearing aid.  "Tell him what you told me."

Starsky turned to face the man, whom Huggy had introduced as Evan Smith, his hands on his hips.

Smith looked up at Starsky.  "I work the morning shift at the Eggs Delight coffee shop on Third and Poppy.  The other morning, I was serving two guys that were having a conversation about blowing up a building.  I know, from the name on the check he paid with, that one of them was named Larry Waltz."

Starsky's heart sank.  "We already know about Larry Waltz," he said with a glance to Huggy.  "We have him in custody for trying to set up an explosion.  It doesn't have anything to do with Hutch."

Smith shook his head.  "No, there's more.  See, there was another man at the next booth-- a sort of gruff-looking fellow, reminded me of a mountain man type, except he didn't had a beard.  He seemed out of place."

"Yeah," Starsky prompted impatiently, "what about him?"

"For being out of place, he seemed awfully interested in the conversation the other two men were having.  He was obviously trying to listen in, when part of their conversation was about one of the men grumbling about the cop who put him in prison.  He said that he'd like to make him pay some day, but first things first, and he wanted some building blown up.  When I heard them mention the name Sergeant Hutchinson, I saw the other man writing notes on a napkin."

Starsky was losing faith in Smith's credibility.  "These guys talked about stuff like that right in front of you?"

Smith's mouth corner twitched.  He indicated his hearing aid.  "Information pays a lot more on the street, than waiting tables.  If I suspect people are talking about something that could be useful, I pretend like I can't hear them, because my hearing aid isn't working.  I tell them they have to grab my coat as I walk by, if they want something.  Then they don't worry about me over-hearing them."

Starsky glanced at Huggy, who said with a grin, "Evan isn't really hard of hearing."

Though some part of him acknowledged the clever tactic, Starsky felt his frustration growing.  "Any chance of identifying who this 'mountain man' guy is that was supposedly writing down Hutch's name?"

The man reached into his coat, and pulled out a six-inch knife in a thin sheath.  "When he left, this must have fallen out of his pocket.  He came back later, looking for it, but I told him nothing had been left behind.  He seemed pretty upset that he couldn't find it, and he eventually left.  The handle is engraved."

Starsky took the sheath with the knife.  The handle read To my dear husband of twenty-five years.  All my love.  Grace   That was hardly any help, without a last name.  He flipped the sheath over, and a name and address were stamped on the back.  If lost, return to  4356 Route 312.  Elk Horn, Cal 92462

Elk Horn was a small, rural town, about twenty miles beyond the northeastern edge of Bay City.  Though Starsky didn't have a name, he now had an address.

Smith stood.  "I need to get to the diner.  We open at six AM."  He nodded at the knife.  "I hope that's somehow able to help you find your missing officer."

Filled with hope, Starsky said, "This could be the lead we've been looking for.  Huggy, where's your phone?"


Hutch had decided to rest against a tree until daylight, since being tangled in the net had made him uncertain of which direction he'd come from.  He'd eaten some of the peanuts in the backpack, and drank some of the water.  Once the grayness of dawn began to spread over the forest, he couldn't see an end to the forest from where he was.   He could barely make out Pike's house in the distance, and knew he had to keep going in the opposite direction.

Interesting that Pike hadn't bothered him during his hour's rest, but maybe he, too, had been waiting for sunrise.

Hutch had rope burns, and some small cuts from having flailed so wildly with the knife, while caught in the net, but they weren't anything serious enough to need treatment.  He gathered his backpack and stood.


Dobey, who had been at the station all night, laid a file before Starsky, as the sunrise of a new day shone through the windows.  "Trenton Pike.  HIs wife, Grace, died a few years ago.  It was thought that he'd moved north to Oregon, and the FBI has been handling his case, but he was never caught."

Starsky furrowed his brow.  "'There's no reason why he'd have a beef with Hutch, any more than any other cop.  A lot of us were after him.  And we never caught him."

Dobey grunted.  "You said that that waiter snitch got interested in the conversation between Waltz and whoever he was having breakfast with, when he mentioned a cop and Hutchinson's name.  Maybe he was just looking for a cop to go after, and he felt he had one." 

Starsky felt his mind was sharp, despite the lack of sleep.  "If that's the case, that he just happened to hear Hutch's name, then I wonder if he heard enough to think that Waltz might eventually go after Hutch.  Maybe he thought it was a chance to take a police officer, without anyone suspecting that it was him."

Miller and Todd entered the squadroom, holding a large map.  "We've figured out where Route 312 is."

Starsky was already heading past them, to the door.  "Let's go."

Dobey called out, "Take some black and whites with you."


Just as Hutch spotted a creek a few feet ahead, he felt his foot catch something, and only had a split second to feel a sense of dread.

He was pelted by objects from above, and which fell all around him, bouncing along the forest floor.

He tried to escape the onslaught, and realized he was stepping on the objects, which moved beneath his boots, causing him to lose his footing.

He fell on top of them, and only when they stopped falling, was he able to take stock of his situation.

Golf balls.  There had to be hundreds of them, if not thousands.  They were all over the ground,

Hutch started to move forward, on his stomach, rolling along the balls beneath his body.  There wasn't any way he could get his footing, until he was clear of all the golf balls.  They covered the ground to the creek.  There, Hutch would be able to get to his feet and jump across it.

He didn't bother feeling trepidation.  He crawled as quickly as he could along the golf balls, and then fell into the shallow creek, on his knees.  The water was barely more than a foot deep, but it was cold.  Hutch scrambled out as quickly as he could, and kept moving.

The mega horn sounded, "You've got a long way to go, Hutchinson.  I bet the water was chilly, wasn't it?" Laughter followed.

Hutch had no idea how Pike was following him, since he hadn't heard a motor of any kind, to indicate a vehicle.   It had to be on foot, where Pike had the advantage of knowing the area.

The forest was shallower now.  Open space, with the sun shining brightly, was up ahead.

He would be a sitting duck in open space, with Pike able to use his rifle.  He wondered how much chance there was of finding sufficient cover in the small hills and valleys of the land.

If only he could get to a road.  But he couldn't see anything resembling a road in the distance.

Just as Hutch started to emerge from the forest, he felt his foot catch on something beneath bedded leaves.  A frame of wood suddenly came up from the forest floor, surrounding him, and Hutch felt a flaring pain at his left side.  He cried out.

He looked down at his side.  A knife roped to a branch, which was part of the wooden frame, had plunged into the side of his torso.

Hutch felt panic that he'd been injured so severely, not wanting to believe that it was going to end like this.


He gripped the handle of the knife awkwardly, considering how it was attached to the wood, and pulled it out.  The blade made a nauseating noise as it reluctantly released his flesh, and blood gushed from the wound.


As the Torino led four patrol cars to the address on the knife's sheath, Starsky filled in his passengers, Miller and Todd, on what he knew of Trenton Pike, and how the man was known for his ability to set traps.

Todd muttered, "Sounds like one dangerous dude."

Starsky didn't reply, but merely stepped on the accelerator, even as they maneuvered along winding roads.


Hutch finished tying the bandage around his torso, over his shirt, and sat back against the tree at the edge of the forest, gasping.  Thank God there had been bandaging in the backpack.  Still, he didn't know what chance he had.  If he kept going, and there were even more traps, they would be even more dangerous, and he couldn't imagine anything more dangerous than a knife wound, that wouldn't result in death. 

Yet, the only other option was to wait for Pike to find him, and then somehow try to turn the tables on him.  Being severely wounded, to say nothing of being in considerable pain, did not make Hutch's chances for success very high, if he confronted Pike directly.

The one thing Hutch knew for certain is that he wasn't willing to accept defeat.  He couldn't bear the thought of being found dead, however many days or years from now, and Starsky facing the rest of his life burdened with guilt that he hadn't been able to find Hutch in time.

The mega horn sounded.  "This is a hunt, Hutchinson.  You've still got a chance.  Get moving."  A moment later, a bullet hit the tree above him.

At least, Pike still wanted to toy with him.  That bought him some time.

Hutch gripped the backpack and staggered to his feet, his eyes watering from the pain.


Lewis Todd was sitting beside Starsky in the Torino, with the map open.  "I'm thinking it's just another couple of miles or so.  We're looking to turn right on Lowell Lane.  That's part of Route 312.  These rural areas don't have good signage, so we need to watch really carefully."

Starsky bristled at the idea of slowing down, but knew that he had to, in order to read the road signs.


Hutch's side was throbbing, and he was heaving for breath  He ran on in the open pasture, trying to watch the ground in front of him for any signs of a trap.  There was a small outcropping of rocks to the right, and Hutch darted behind it.  He rested back against it, gasping.  He took a moment to look up.  In the distance, perhaps a half mile away, he saw a dirt road.

That was his only hope.  What were his chances of reaching it, without Pike shooting him?  Slim to none, but he had to try.

Hutch carefully turned to peek from behind the rock.  He could see Pike getting off a sturdy bicycle, and pulling his shotgun from his shoulder.  A mega horn protruded from the bike's front basket.

So, that's how Pike had been following him.  Obviously, he was getting ready to shoot.

Wearily, Hutch considered crawling on his stomach, so he wouldn't be an obvious target.  But then Pike would catch up to him that much sooner.

He heard rifle fire, and a bullet ricocheted off the rocks above him.

Hutch bent at the waist, his hands on his knees, and gathered his breath.  It was time to abandoned the weight of the backpack, and he dropped it to the ground.  He took off running, deciding on a zigzag pattern toward the road.


The Torino was now on Lowell Lane, a dirt road, with the four patrol cars following in its dust.

With frustration, Todd said, "That last mailbox was 2348.  We're looking for 4356.  It's hard to know how spaced apart the numbering is, since these properties have a lot of acreage.

Starsky braked as they came to a curve.  He went around it, flustered that no more signs of residences were present.  As they came out of the curve, open pasture, with various scrub brush, was out before them, with a forest set back in the distance.

From the backseat, Miller shouted, "Stop!  Somebody's out there, running on foot."

Starsky braked sharply, and looked to the pasture at his right.  A blond man was running raggedly, in a zigzag fashion.  About a quarter mile behind him, was somebody on a bicycle, with a rifle slung of his shoulder.  Both relief and horror hit Starsky at the same time.  "That's Hutch!"


Hutch was wheezing for breath, and the ground had gotten blurry before him.  He wasn't even sure he was zigzagging anymore.

He thought he heard a "Police!  Drop the rifle!", but it had to be a trick of the wind, obviously coupled with his exhaustion and shock, causing him to imagine things.

Suddenly, there was a barrage of gunfire.  Hutch continued staggering along, now stumbling frequently, and was puzzled that none of the shots hit near him.  For that matter, the gunfire seemed like it was coming from in front of him, rather than behind him.  Could he have somehow gotten turned around?

He was exhausted, confused, hallucinating....

Suddenly, something clutched his shoulders.  Hutch tried to fight, but he had no strength left.  He felt his legs buckling beneath him.  A soft, "Hutch, Hutch, Hutch" was all around him.  And then, as his knees touched the ground, the hands on his shoulders shifted to circle around his upper body, and he was against something warm and strong and welcome, and which smelled so familiar.

"Hutch, baby, I've got you."

It felt so good to collapse against that strength.

He'd apparently been fatally wounded, and perhaps crossed over.  Was God granting him some imagined moments with Starsky, before sending him on to St. Peter's gate?

As Hutch let himself bask in the love that bathed his soul, he realized that he was still breathing harshly.  His knife wound hurt.  His head hurt, though he wasn't sure it had ever completely stopped hurting since he'd woken in Pike's house.  If he'd crossed over, would his body still hurt?

Voices were around.  Some were vaguely familiar, though Hutch only wanted to focus on the one the crooned so gently to him.


"Suicide by cop," Todd snorted. 

Starsky didn't care.  What he wanted was in his arms, Hutch's sweaty head resting on the top of his shoulder, his face against Starsky's neck, as Hutch gasped harshly.

Miller came up to them.  "'They're sending a medical helicopter for Hutch, so they can take him back to Bay City, since the hospital in this area is really small.  Dobey said to keep everybody back, since we don't know what kind of booby traps have been set in the area.  He's calling the FBI in.  We'll keep officers around to secure the area."

Todd said, "I'll get a blanket."

Starsky quickly noted, "There might be a water bottle in the trunk of the Torino.  The keys are still in the ignition."

"I'll look for it."  Todd moved away.

Miller also moved off, and began giving orders to the patrolmen.

Finally, Hutch's breath began to ease.

Starsky stroked along Hutch's back.  "It's all over, Hutch.  I've got you.  You're gonna be fine."  One hand moved up to the back of Hutch's head, and he found a swelling there.  He quickly moved down, to examine the bandage around the middle of Hutch's torso, where blood had soaked through.  He straightened slightly.  "Hutch, baby?  Were you shot?"

Hutch seemed to be gathering his breath.  "Stabbed," he whispered.  Then, more softly, "Again."

Starsky furrowed his brow.  Hutch could only mean the Diana Harmon incident, well over a year ago, when she'd stabbed his arm.  Hutch sounded so weary.

Starsky was tired, too.  Once again, they'd beaten the odds and gotten out of a difficult situation alive.  How likely was their luck to continue?

Starsky squeezed Hutch tighter, above the bandage.  He couldn't tell exactly where the wound was, for he didn't want to disturb the makeshift first aid, but took heart that Hutch wasn't coughing up blood, which would suggest a lung being involved in the injury.  He made his voice cheerful.  "You're gonna be fine, buddy boy.  We've got a helicopter on the way.  I'm gonna stay right with you."  He lightly patted Hutch's back.  "Just keep resting against me." Then, "Let me know if you need anything."

After a moment, Hutch muttered, "Hurts."

Starsky thought he was melting.  His fingers furrowed in soft, sweaty hair.  "Ah, Hutch.  I know, baby.  Just hang in there, and we're gonna get you taken care of."  Then, firmly, "You're gonna be fine.  I promise."

Todd appeared, and draped a blanket around Hutch's shoulders.

"Thanks."  Starsky shifted his arms, to include the blanket in his embrace.

Todd held out a water bottle that was half full.  "I found this."

Starsky reached to take it, and then set it on the ground beside him.

Todd knelt.  He looked into the opening of the blanket, where Hutch's dirty shirt had the buttons skewed, and part of his chest was revealed.  "Look at that."

Starsky tried not to bristle at the way Todd was examining what didn't belong to him.  He looked at the naked portion of Hutch's chest.

"Bruises," Todd said in puzzlement.  "Round ones.  Like he got pummeled with something.  Can't imagine what would make that kind of pattern."

Starsky couldn't, either.  Dismissively, he said, "We'll have to get the full story from him later."  He didn't want to think about what Hutch had suffered.

Todd stood and looked back down at them.

Starsky closed his eyes and squeezed Hutch's shoulder.  He was enormously grateful for Miller's and Todd's help in finding Hutch, but he was also grateful to hear Todd move away.

After a moment of savoring their privacy, Starsky whispered, "Hutch?  You want some water?  Huh?"

Hutch was quiet, his mouth partially open, as he rested against Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky decided not to disturb him further.  Still, he murmured, "So glad I found you in time, buddy boy.  We've still got a whole lot of life ahead of us."  He wondered when he and Hutch would both be ready for Starsky to share his thoughts from recent days.

Just when Starsky was certain that Hutch had fallen into some semblance of sleep, he heard a helicopter in the distance.


Hutch's subconscious warned him not to move too much.  Slowly, he opened his eyes.  He gazed about the walls of the bedroom, recognizing the decor, but certain he'd never seen it from this angle before.  He was sitting up in the bed, an array of pillows behind him.

He took a deep breath, and sharp pain stabbed at his side, causing him to groan.

Starsky appeared in the doorway, his expression soft.  "You're awake."

Hutch glanced down at the bedspread, his puzzlement increasing.  "I'm in your bed."

A smile tugged at Starsky's mouth corner.  "I thought it was the easiest place for me to keep an eye on you."

Hutch sighed quietly, not wanting to pull at his wound any more than necessary.  "So, what's the verdict?"  He remembered being in the hospital, trying to answer questions from various law enforcement personnel, through a drugged haze.  Whenever he was somewhat conscious, Starsky was there.

Starsky came closer to the bed.  "You've got a deep flesh wound that's going to take a while to heal."  He swallowed.  "It was only a quarter inch from your lung.  Otherwise, you've just got a whole lot of cuts and bruises.  Doc says it'll be a few days before you can move around much.  He estimates you'll be off work three to four weeks." Starsky paused.  "Do you know what day it is?"

Hutch thought hard.  Then shook his head.  "I know they took me on Tuesday."

"Yeah.  We found you on Wednesday.  You spent Thursday in the hospital.  Today is Friday, in the middle of the afternoon.  I brought you home this morning, but you were pretty doped up."  Starsky stepped next to the bed.  "Dobey called earlier.  Your car has been found, as well as the body of whoever it was that was helping Pike, thanks to the information you gave in the hospital.  Your car is a mangled mess.  But since you aren't going to be driving for a while, we don't need to worry about getting you another one right away."

Hutch could only remember giving information, and not receiving any.  "What happened to Pike?"

"He aimed his gun at all us cops, was soon as we drove up.  We shot him dead.  It was suicide by cop.  We don't know anything else about what the FBI might have found at his place.  They've taken over the case."

Hutch rested his head back against the pillow.  He admitted, "Didn't think you could find me.  He told me that he'd overheard someone talking about doing something to me, so he thought he'd do something instead, and it couldn't be traced back to him."

"Yeah," Starsky said quietly.  "Thankfully, information got to us from a snitch of Huggy's.  Made all the difference."  He reached out, and brushed his fingers back through Hutch's hair.  "We lucked out.  Again."

Hutch spent a moment savoring the tender gesture.  Then he nodded toward the bathroom.  "I gotta get up."

Starsky reached to the bedding.  "Okay.  Let me help you."  He pushed the bedding back, revealing that Hutch was only in briefs, save for the bandaging around his torso.  "Listen, Hutch, you're all bruised up.  Mostly from where all those golf balls landed on you, so I think it'll go easier if you hang onto me, rather than me hanging onto you."

Hutch tried to hold his upper body still, as he turned on his hips.  Starsky reached to take his legs, help stretch them out so Hutch was sitting on the side of the bed.

"Slow and easy," Starsky prompted.

He body was, indeed, terribly bruised.  Hutch felt like every inch of him hurt, as he slowly rose to his feet, while gripping Starsky's shoulders.  He was hunched over, as he let Starsky lead him to the bathroom.  Once he was before the toilet, Starsky stepped back from the doorway, and asked, "What can I get you to eat or drink?"

Hutch fished inside the slit of his underwear.  "What's on the menu?"

"Pretty much anything you want.  I stocked up at the store before bringing you home.  I got a bunch of fried chicken legs from the deli."

He could tell from Starsky's tone that he wanted to delve into the chicken legs.  "Sounds good.  Along with any juice you might have."

"Coming right up."

After Hutch emptied his bladder, he stood looking in the mirror.  His was body was covered in little round bruises.  Plus a few larger ones, and various cuts and scrapes that had been disinfected at the hospital.  What rotten luck that the stab wound had happened on the same side as when he'd been shot in the shoulder six months ago.  His mind shied away from wondering if that side of his body had now been so tormented that physical therapy might not be enough for a doctor to approve him as being physically capable of doing his job.

Now depressed with that thought, Hutch slowly staggered back to the bed.  He was trying to get back on the mattress when Starsky entered the room, with a well-stocked tray.

"Here we go," Starsky said cheerfully.  After putting the tray on the dresser next to the bed, he asked, "Want help?"

Hutch groaned while finally settling onto his rear, and was pushing his legs beneath the covers.  He grimaced repeatedly, until he was settled back against the pillows, and had the covers draped along his waist.

Starsky studied him a long moment.  "You're frowning.  I know it hurts, but something else is wrong."

Hutch didn't have the energy to play contrary games.  He muttered, "Just so damn tired of spending so much time healing up.  Seems like I've spent more days on medical leave, the past year or so, than I have doing my job."

Starsky's eyes glanced away, which Hutch found interesting.  Then Starsky looked back at him, his smile soft.  "Everything is going to be all right."

Hutch grunted, and then grimaced at the pain it caused in his side.

Starsky grabbed some paper towels.  "Come on, let's eat.  Here's some napkins."  He placed them along the covers at Hutch's lap.  He then took a saucer and put three chicken legs on it.  "Start with those."  He handed the saucer to Hutch, then placed a glass at the edge of the dresser.  "I've got carrot juice here for you."

Hutch was determined to enjoy the food, for Starsky's sake.  It was cold from being refrigerated, but it tasted good.

Starsky was busy eating his own plateful, and they were silent for a few minutes.

Hutch handed back his plate of bones.  "I don't want any more."

Starsky grabbed a plastic container.  "What about some potato salad?"

"I guess.  Just a little."  Hutch spent a moment drinking his carrot juice.  After placing the glass back on the dresser, he asked, "How much time do I get before you kick me out of your bed?" 

Starsky lowered his eyes again, while spooning potato salad onto the saucer, from which the bones had been discarded.  Without looking up, he muttered, "I figure there's enough room for both of us."  He placed a spoon on the saucer, and then handed it back to Hutch, gaze still averted.  "Of course, anytime you want to go home, I'll take you."  He finally met Hutch's eye.  "Just think you're going to have a hard time moving around for a while, pal.  And driving is totally out of the question for a couple of weeks, especially since you don't have a car."

Hutch inwardly bristled at the idea of being confined for a few weeks.  And Starsky was going to sleep with him?  Granted, they'd shared a bed before, such as when stuck in a hotel room with one bed, or in double room while sharing with another partnership.  But they'd always stayed away from each other's bed in their respective apartments.  

He took a bite of potato salad, which was less tasty than it looked.  After swallowing, he asked, "When do you have to go back in?"

"To work?  Not until I'm sure you're moving around okay.  I've still got some vacation days."  Starsky rubbed at his arm, in a nervous gesture, while gazing at the tray.

Hutch reached to put on his plate on the dresser, which caused another grunt of pain, and Starsky quickly took it from him.  Hutch asked, "What's going on with you, partner?  You're behaving funny."

Starsky's surprised expression was blatantly phony.  "I am?"

Hutch's mind, already in a maudlin state, rifled through possible explanations.  "Is there something my doctor said, that you're not telling me?"  His stomach tightened, as he wondered what that might be.

The look of alarm was genuine.  "Hutch, no.  God, no."  Starsky reached to squeeze Hutch's shoulder, then said more gently, "You're going to be fine.  Just takes some time to heal, is all."

Hutch furrowed his brow.  "Then how come you're acting so weird?"

Starsky's head bowed, and a soft smile tugged at his mouth corner.  He drew a long breath.  "I sort of want to talk to you about something, but I want to wait until later."

Hutch snorted with self-pity.  "I've got all the time in the world to just... lie here.  So, you're not doing me any favors by waiting to tell me something important."

Starsky closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead.  "Yeah, okay," he whispered.  Then he lowered his hand and looked at Hutch.  "Actually, there's a reason I've wanted you here, in my bed, while you're trying to heal up.  Two reasons, in fact."

Hutch was cautiously intrigued.  "Yeah?"

Starsky swallowed.  "The first is, I admit that I wanted you in a position where you have to hear me out.  You're not in any shape to run away screaming."

That didn't sound good.  "Run away screaming?"

Starsky continued, "And the second is....," his face broke into a warm smile, "... I wanted you right here, so I can take care of you."

Hutch didn't understand that emphasis , and said, "We've always taken care of each other."

"Yeah," Starsky agreed, staring at the bedspread.

After a long moment, Hutch prompted, "So, what is it?  That you're worried I'm going to want to run away screaming?"

As though reaching a decision within himself, Starsky looked at Hutch.  "I love you a whole lot."

When that was the only sentence, Hutch prompted with impatience, "I know.  Ditto."

"Somewhere along the way... I don't know.  You've become more than just my best friend.  And... it's been kind of hard for me to come around to admitting to myself what that really means.  But once I understood it, I can't deny it anymore."

"Deny what?  I'm not following."

"I don't want us to be just best friends, Hutch."  Starsky vaguely indicated the bed.  "I want to sleep with you."

Hutch's heart started pounding, and he couldn't believe that Starsky meant what it sounded like he was saying.

Starsky lowered his gaze bashfully.  "But not just sleep, you know.  And... I'm not interested in anyone else."  So softly, he added, "Just you."

Huh?  Hutch was so puzzled that he could only deliver a brusque, disbelieving, "You want to boff me?"

Starsky appeared offended. "I'd like to think it could be a whole lot more romantic than that."  Then, more seriously, "Want to love you any way I can.  Any way that you're agreeable to."

Hutch couldn't wrap his mind around this.  He sputtered, "Starsky, I've got boy parts.  And so do you."

Starsky bit his lower lip, and then held Hutch's gaze.  Slowly, he said, "I love you, Hutch.  As far as I'm concerned, any parts that make up the whole person that is Kenneth Hutchison... I'm on board with that."

Starsky was serious.  Completely serious.  And leaving himself so open and vulnerable in this moment.

Hutch felt himself soften with concern and the need to reassure.  "Buddy, I know we've been through a lot, especially lately, it seems.  We've always been as close as two people can possibly be, without...."  He trailed off.

"Yes," Starsky said simply.  "Without.  I don't want to do without, anymore.  Everything inside me says it's natural.  I wouldn't be feeling this way, if there was something not right about it."

Hutch was at a loss for words, so he tried logic.  "Once I'm better" -- he was now determined to get better, and be as physically strong as ever before -- "you won't be needing to take care of me, and be worried about me.  You won't have these feelings."

Starsky's voice now had the patience of talking to the hopelessly ignorant.  "Hutch, I want to take care of you, because I love you so much.  I want to nurture and provide for you.  I haven't fallen in love with you temporarily, because you need to be taken care of right now.  Sheesh."

Hutch hadn't meant to be offensive toward tender feelings.  Yet, when he opened his mouth, he couldn't find words.

Starsky stood.  "Look, I know this is a big surprise for you."  His voice softened.  "I'll leave you alone for a while.  But let me know if you need anything."  He gathered the tray and turned away.

Hutch didn't want him to leave.  "Starsk."  But when Starsky paused to look back at him, he still didn't know what to say.

Starsky's expression softened.  "I'm all right, Hutch.  It's not like I expected you to say, 'Sounds great' and that's all that needed to be said.  I know you need to work things through in your own way."  He indicated the doorway.  "I'll just be right out here."

Hutch realized his mouth was open.  He made a point of resting his head back against the pillow, so he was looking toward the ceiling.  He flung his arm across his forehead.  What the fuck?

He wondered what had happened -- had gone on in Starsky's brain -- while he was abducted, that had brought this about.

Starsky was a person prone to phases.  Hutch felt himself relax with the realization that this was some kind of phase that Starsky needed to go through.

Hutch was dozing lightly when Starsky's hesitant voice said, "Hutch?"

Hutch opened his eyes.

Starsky entered with a saucer and another glass of juice.  "It's past time to take your pain pills.  How are you feeling?"

"Pretty much like I don't want to move.  I don't have any objection to some pain pills."

Starsky held out the saucer.

Hutch picked up the pills and placed them into his mouth.  He then took the glass Starsky held out.  After handing it back, he gently asked, "How are you doing?"

"A lot better than a couple of days ago."  Starsky sat in the chair beside the bed.  His gaze lowered.  "You know, I'd been thinking about us, and wasn't sure when I should say something to you.  And then this happened...." he swallowed thickly, and then said unsteadily, "Was afraid I might never get the chance."

Oh.  So, apparently Starsky had had these thoughts for a while.  Hearing the shakiness in his partner's voice, Hutch felt compelled to soothe.  "Buddy, I-I just think... you know... us being more than just the best of friends is something I've never considered.  Or ever wanted."  He quickly said, "Not as anything against you -- "

"You can't know if you want something you've never thought about.  You told me, after the murder of Johnny Blaine that 'it's no big thing' -- two guys wanting to be together."

Hutch furrowed his brow.  "You seemed to think it was a big thing."

"That was then.  This is now."

Hutch asked the question before thinking.  "What's changed?"  He hoped he could deal with whatever the answer was.

Starsky shrugged, and muttered, "Just... feel like I want to be with you."  His voice softened.  "It's like I think about you all the time.  Even after spending all day together."

Hutch shook his head, unable to comprehend this.  "Starsk, buddy, I just can't -- "

"Can't what?" Starsky prompted.  "Love me?"  His mouth corner twitched.  "We both know you do, Hutch.  You've been as loving as anyone I've ever known."

Hutch quickly said,  "But that's a far cry from wanting to...."  He sputtered, "My mind just can't go there."

"Maybe that's because you're thinking about it too hard."

That was such a typical, overly-simplistic Starsky statement.  Hutch countered, "Maybe you haven't thought about hard enough.  I mean," Hutch found himself sputtering again, "have you done anything with a guy before?"

Starsky shook his head.  "No.  You're the only person with boy parts that I've ever wanted to make love to."  His mouth corner twitched at using Hutch's term.

His partner's one-track mind was sometimes a difficult thing for Hutch to get around.  He finally decided, "Well, for starters, it's going to be a while before I'm feeling the least bit amorous."  He hoped that wasn't giving Starsky false hope.

"I know.  So, for a while, things are just going to be like they've always been.  Only," Starsky grinned, "I've got you in my bed, while you get better.  I like that idea."

Hutch looked around, wondering if he should flee... at least, out to the sofa.

Evenly, Starsky said, "Like I told you, I'll take you home, if you'd really rather be there."

That wasn't what Hutch wanted.  "So, I can be depressed by myself?"

Starsky head bowed while his smile turned into a frown.  "Look, Hutch."  He met Hutch's eye.  "You're going to get all better.  But if you're starting to have doubts about if the job is worth it....  And, you know, we'll be able to keep things secret for a while.  But you have to figure, eventually, that the Department is going to find out about us.  And even if gay officers are officially accepted by then, they'd never allow us to partner together if they knew.  So...."

Hutch's mouth fell open, as he considered what Starsky was apparently saying.

"So, I'm just saying that," Starsky presented a tiny smile, "I've always known that I'd rather not be a cop, and be with you, than be a cop without you."  Another shrug.  "'That hasn't changed."

Hutch felt his heart swell.  How could he ever deserve the enormous love that this man had for him?

"So," Starsky concluded, "if we're together, and we end up not being cops, at least our entire lives won't have completely fallen apart.  We'll still have each other."

"That would be true, anyway" Hutch said firmly, "without us sleeping together."

"I'd like to think we'd be even more stable, since we'd both know we always expected to be together.  Not like a pretty lady can come along and snag one of us from the other."

Is that what Starsky was afraid of?  Is that why he'd decided he wanted them to sleep together?  So, that they were be all the more intimate, and it would be harder for anyone else to come between them?  All Hutch could say to that was an absolute truth.  "There aren't any guarantees, partner."

Starsky's expression was completely open.  "Then I guess I can only speak for myself.  You're the one I want, Hutch.  That's not something I have to sit down and analyze.  After all these years, the one thing in my life I know with absolute certainty is that we love each other, and I want to make love to you, when you're ready."

Hutch didn't know what other protests he could offer.  Starsky was going to out-logic him.  He took heart that, due to his physical condition, this particular subject didn't need to reach a bottom line.  Starsky was trying so hard, and Hutch was didn't want to reject him.  And yet, the idea of them adding sex to their already extremely intimate relationship just seemed... unfathomable.

Starsky said, "You look like you're starting to droop.  How about if I bring in the television, so you can fall asleep to it?"

Hutch grunted, realizing that his brain was indeed feeling fuzzy, thanks to the pills he'd taken.

Starsky smiled affectionately at him, and then left the room.


Hutch did dozed off and on, while various programs played on the TV.  He opted for a BLT sandwich and fresh fruit for a late dinner.  He'd fallen asleep again, when he woke to find Starsky in the doorway of the bedroom, while dressed in flannel pajama bottoms and an undershirt.  Light shone from the open door of the bathroom.

"Hutch?  You need anything, before I shut off everything and come to bed?"

Hutch shook his head.

Starsky reached back to flip off the bathroom light.  Then he came into the bedroom, and moved to where the TV was propped on a dresser, and punched if off.

The room was dark.

"Don't want to jostle the mattress," Starsky muttered, as he came closer to the bed.

Hutch appreciated the caution.   The pain he felt seemed to be dull at times, and quite sharp at others, depending upon when he'd most recently taken his pills.

The mattress moved minimally, as he felt Starsky get into bed beside him.  "I'm bushed," Starsky announced.  "How about you?"

"I'm tired of being tired," Hutch admitted.

"Yeah.  Well, hopefully, you can fall right back to sleep.  Maybe tomorrow you'll feel like getting up and around a bit."

They weren't touching, so Hutch wasn't sure what position Starsky had settled into.   He himself had remained propped up, since it kept the pressure off his tender side.

Hutch wondered, if this was weeks or months from now, what it would be like, going to sleep most nights -- every night? -- with Starsky beside him.  He wondered, too, how Starsky felt, about being in bed with somebody he wanted, and not being able to do anything.

He still found it virtually impossible to believe that Starsky wanted him in a sexual way.  Some wires in his partner's psyche had to have gotten temporarily crossed.

Yet, there was something else that Starsky had said today that had surprised him, almost as much as Starsky wanting to make love to him.  "Starsk?"


It sounded like Starsky was lying on his back.  "You really think the job might not be worth it anymore?"

There was a heavy sigh.  "We've both paid some pretty heavy price tags.  So have other people we've cared about, at our expense."

Terry, Gillian, Lionel....

"So," Starsky continued, "I'm not saying I'd want to quit tomorrow.  But I can't see us still doing this when we're fifty, you know?  I don't know how many more scars -- physical and emotional -- we can keep accumulating."  His head moved on the pillow to look at Hutch.  "I just think that, if we were together, then there's going to come a time when that's going to come to a head with the police force, and then we're gonna have to get out."

Hutch wondered, "Why not just make that decision ourselves, rather than waiting for circumstances to force it?"

Starsky snorted.  "I can't imagine what we'd do instead.  You know?  We couldn't find jobs before, when we were unemployed.  But we'd have to find something, if it was necessary."

Hutch decided not to protest that they really hadn't looked all that hard, once throwing their badges into the sea, or for very long.  Instead, he was again amazed at the thoughts that had been going through his partner's head -- unexpressed, until today.

Hutch reached out, and his hand rested in the thickness of curly hair.  Quietly, he said, "I thought being a cop was all you ever wanted."

"I got what I wanted -- and a whole bunch of stuff I didn't want."  Pause.  "But the biggest thing I got, that I never expected, was finding the love of my life, right beside me on the streets."

Hutch drew a quiet breath.  Despite all of his own protests today, Starsky still believed that so avidly.

He felt Starsky clasp his hand, and then intertwine their fingers, bringing their combined fist down to his chest.  Starsky whispered, "I've always been able to face all the bad stuff -- all that stuff I never wanted -- because you've always been right beside me."  He swallowed thickly.  "Don't think I could have handled it otherwise."

"That one goes both ways, partner."

"Yeah.  We've got a good thing going, Hutch.  It can be even better."

Not necessarily, Hutch felt inclined to protest, though he didn't have the heart to say it out loud.  But he felt he should say something, when silence went on too long.  "Sex ruins things, sometimes."

"Sometimes," Starsky readily admitted.  "But, Hutch, we've already loved each other so much for so long."  Then, abruptly, "Why do you think it wouldn't work between us?"

Hutch decided to be blunt.  "Because you don't make me horny.  Girls make me horny."

"Yeah, but if you were at a nudist camp, you wouldn't get horny.  I've read that guys are always worried about getting aroused at nudist camps, but it really isn't a problem, because the nakedness is a natural thing."

Hutch was lost.  "What's nudist camps got to do with this?"

"I'm just pointing out that bodies adapt to certain behaviors.  I don't make you horny, because you've never had any reason to think of me like that.  You never made me horny, either, until recently.  And then, once I let myself think about it, I was looking at you and the potential of our relationship in a whole different way."

Hutch had never been able to counter Starsky's bizarre roads to logic.

Starsky went on, "Maybe if you give yourself permission to see me that way -- as someone who's gonna love you in all the ways a person can love -- then your body will start adapting to your changing attitude."

Hutch realized what was bothering him about this.  "Buddy, I think people are born gay or not gay.  Just like a person can have a passion for being a cop, of playing the guitar or whatever, people are born with a certain sexual orientation.  Changing one's attitude toward something isn't going to change who or what a person is."

"Yeah.   But sometimes society demands certain things of us, from an early age, so we don't ever really get in touch with who we are and what we want.  Sometimes, people don't discover things about themselves until later in life.  Besides, there's such a thing a bisexuality, you know.  Freud thought we're all bisexual."

Hutch grunted, "Maybe that says more about him than the population at large."  Then he relented, "Look, buddy, anybody can make somebody else aroused if they touch a person in the right way.  I'm sure we could get each other off, if we wanted to.  But....,"  He trailed off, when he realized he didn't have a further argument.

"But the whole thing is really scary," Starsky finished for him.  "Of course, it is.  We've faced a lot of scary things, Hutch.  You being the hunting target of that fucking Pike is just the latest.  But you survived it."  He squeezed Hutch's hand, and then released it.  "There's no fear that we can't face, as long as we're together."

We can face fear together without the sex, Hutch wanted to say, like we always have.  But his heart wasn't in voicing it.

Starsky patted his hand.  "I'm not trying to talk you into anything.  I think you'll come around to seeing that I'm right, in your own way."  The mattress shifted, as Starsky rolled on his side, away from Hutch.  "Goodnight."


The following morning, the knife wound's sharpest pain had been blunted, but Hutch felt that the rest of him hurt as worse as it ever had.  Still, he staggered out of bed, with Starsky's help, in the need to start moving around.

He managed to sit at the table to eat a bowl of Wheaties, that Starsky had thoughtfully purchased while Hutch had been in the hospital.

With having moved around a bit, he was more alert.  Which meant that he couldn't stop thinking about what was most on his mind.

After clearing the dishes, Starsky sat across from Hutch, his expression concerned.  "How come you look so depressed?"

Hutch put his hand to his side.  "Between this and getting shot... I don't know if I'm going to be able to come back from this.  Physically.  Seemed to take forever before the doctors cleared me, after I was shot.  Now to have this happen, on the same side."

Levelly, Starsky said, "Let's just take it a day at a time.  Whatever happens, we can deal with it."

Hutch muttered, "Your placating attitude is getting damned annoying."

Starsky didn't react to that.  Instead, he stood with a smile.  "How about I get the Monopoly board?  That'll give us something to focus on."

"Not Monopoly."

"Cards?  Otherwise, we'll just have to watch TV.  Or both."

A thought suddenly occurred to Hutch, and he looked up.  "If we were boffing each other -- living together, like a couple -- what would we be doing right now?"

Starsky shrugged.  "Discussing whether we wanted to play Monopoly, or cards, or watch TV."  More gently, he added, "I don't think our day to day lives would be much different than they are now.  It's just," he tilted his head, "at night -- assuming we're both healthy -- we could love each other, and then fall asleep in each other's arms."

Images flashed across Hutch's mind.  Starsky holding him, murmuring to him.  He snorted.  "I'm not sure falling asleep in each other's arms is necessarily all that different from how things have been for us, these past years."

A smile tugged at Starsky's mouth corner.  "Exactly."  Then, "I guess the only difference is that we won't have to wait until one of us is hurting -- physically or emotionally -- to snuggle up together.  We can still do it when things are great."

Hutch shied away from examining that logic, since he knew he couldn't top it.  He realized, "My plants need to be watered."

Starsky didn't seem jarred by the change in subject.  "I'm not sure you're up to moving around that much.  How about I stop by there and do it?  I can pick up your mail, too."

Hutch did like the idea of getting some short-term separation from Starsky.  "Yeah.  Okay."


Starsky wondered how one person could possibly have this many plants.  It seemed to take forever to get them all watered. 

When they were together, Hutch was going to want his plants.

That means I'm going to have to move in with him, rather than him moving in with me.

He bristled at that idea.  He liked his apartment. 

As he moved to the pile of mail he'd left on the kitchen table, he thought I'm going to have to have a PO Box, as some kind of address, so people don't know that we live together.  Of course, there were going to be certain situations, such as on his driver's license, where a physical address would need to be listed.  Maybe I'll just keep my apartment, for show.

That would be so ridiculously expensive, when they'd be sleeping most nights together, if not every night.  And people would gradually find out, anyway.  Wonder how long it would be before IA wanted to make an issue of it.

Starsky felt cheered as another thought occurred.  We can buy a two-bedroom apartment, tell everyone we moved in together to share expenses.  The second bedroom could be used for all of Hutch's plants.  Except... they would need more sunlight than most bedrooms would provide.  It would have to be the right place.

Still, he felt unsettled at the idea of Hutch leaving this apartment, where he'd put so much care into developing the greenhouse.  But surely he never expected to live here forever.  Besides... If we moved in together, we could save money, so that we could eventually buy our own place.  Surely, Hutch would be willing to make a short-term sacrifice, for a worthy long-term benefit.

Problem solved, Starsky decided.

The pile of mail included the usual bills.  Need to find his checkbook.  Starsky went rummaging through drawers.  He'd hung around Hutch's apartment before, when Hutch paid bills, but he never saw where Hutch took his checkbook from.

He finally found banking materials at the far end of the kitchen, in a drawer, beneath an ancient instruction manual for the refrigerator.  Your refrigerator has to be over twenty years old, Starsky silently declared.  What are you still hanging onto the instruction manual for?  Perhaps it was because it was simply a convenient cover for Hutch's checkbook.

Starsky grabbed everything beneath the instruction manual.  There were deposit slips and withdrawal slips.  Hutch's current check register.  Some opened envelopes with bank statements and cancelled checks.  Some thinner envelopes from the bank, some of which hadn't been opened.  Starsky laid everything on the counter, and then decided that all he really needed was Hutch's checkbook. 

Still, the thinner envelopes piqued his curiosity.  From his own experience, thin envelopes from the bank usually meant they contained statements for an account that didn't have many, if any, checks written from them.  Like a savings account.

One of the thin envelopes was slit across the top.

Starsky couldn't resist.  He peered into the opening and pulled out the single paper within.  As he unfolded it, he could see that it was indeed a bank statement.  His eyes quickly scanned it, looking for a balance.


You've done a good job of saving your money, baby. 

Starsky tried, but he had maybe only a fourth that amount, spread out among various accounts, some of which he'd have to pay a penalty to withdraw the money prematurely.  Still... We could put a down payment on a house.  Not a fixer-upper, which had been such a disaster last year.  But something they could live in.  Where Hutch could put his plants.   

He put the statement back in the envelope, and then placed everything but the check register back in the drawer.  Now, he had the confidence to approach Hutch about discussing living arrangements.

Of course, first Hutch would have to be on board with the idea of them living together.  Of them being a couple.

You'll get there, Starsky silently assured Hutch.  You just got to figure things out in your own way.


Hutch wasn't in a good mood when Starsky returned.

"What's wrong?" Starsky asked, as he tossed the mail and checkbook to the coffee table, since Hutch was sitting on the couch, scowling.

"It fucking hurts!"

Hutch had taken his pain pills two hours ago.  Starsky studied him, concerned.  Hutch wasn't a baby about tolerating pain.  To be complaining this much meant he was seriously ailing.

Feeling helpless, Starsky asked, "Anything I can do?"

Hutch snorted in exasperation.  "Since you can't make it stop throbbing, I guess not."  Then he looked at the coffee table.  "What's this?"

"Your mail, and I found your check register, in case you want to pay some bills."

Sarcastically, Hutch said, "Great.  Paying bills will make me feel a whole lot better."  Carefully, he leaned toward the coffee table.

It was such a typical Hutchinson statement, that Starsky couldn't help but grin.

Hutch looked up.  "What are you laughing at?"

"I'm not laughing.  I'm just amused at myself, because you can be a real grump-ass sometimes, but I'm so in love with you, that it doesn't really matter."

Hutch's eyes fluttered.  Softer, he said, "What are you going to do when you finally accept that I don't want to boff you? Or suck your cock?  Or sodomize you?  Or have you do any of those things to me?"  He picked up the mail, and sat back.

Starsky refused to be put off, and shrugged.  "Then, I guess we'll just have to find other ways of loving each other."  With assuredness, he said, "'We've loved each other for a long time, Hutch.  Shown it in a lot of different ways.  We can get creative, if you really don't want to go through the normal channels and experience the exquisite sensations that our bodies are capable of feeling."

Hutch looked away and muttered, "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to feel any of that stuff, ever again."

He really was depressed.  Starsky said sincerely, "I'm sorry you hurt so much.  If there's anything I can do to make it better...."

Hutch paused in his tearing open of an envelope.  He looked away again, frowning heavily.  "What if I can't ever work the streets again?"

"Then we get out."

Hutch stared at the wall.

More gently, Starsky said, "It's just been a couple of days, since you were stabbed.  I know you're in a lot of pain, but it's inevitable that you'll feel better in a few days."

Still, Starsky had never seen Hutch this depressed after an injury.  He wanted so much to, at the very least, ease his discomfort.

He went over to the sofa, and carefully sat down next to Hutch, facing him, a knee folded beneath his body.  "Wish I could hold you.  But it'll probably hurt."

Hutch turned to gaze a him a long moment.  With a hard expression, Hutch said, "Let's do it."

Starsky didn't understand.  "What?"

"Let's kiss and see what happens.  See if we can do it without flinching or laughing.  Because if we can't do even do that...."

This wasn't the scenario Starsky had imagined for a first kiss -- one of proving something.  "Are you sure you want to?"

"Yes.  What are you afraid of?"

Though Starsky didn't like the edge in Hutch's voice, he realized that Hutch had a point.  He placed his hand on Hutch's stomach.  "Okay.  Just relax, and let me do everything."  He felt butterflies in his stomach, as he rose slightly, so he could lower his lips to Hutch's.  They were dry and cracked, but yielding as Starsky pressed.

He realized that Hutch wasn't pressing back.  He pressed and pressed, feeling his whole body sink.  And then Hutch tried to take a breath.

Starsky pulled back.

Hutch gazed back at him, his expression softening

"You're not laughing," Starsky noted.  Please, let's do it again.  When Hutch didn't say anything, he made that very suggestion.  "Want me to do it again?"

"It is rather distracting," Hutch said levelly.

That admission was more than Starsky could have hoped for, at this point.  This time, he slowed his approach, deliberately pressed, while moving their mouths back and forth.

Hutch's lips parted.

Starsky's heart thundered, as he pressed more, keenly aware of the stout hairs of Hutch's mustache.  He didn't want to take this too far, for fear of tormenting himself too much.  But he did lick briefly at Hutch's lips, before pulling back.

Hutch looked confused.

Starsky said, "It's just us, buddy boy.  Loving each other like we always have.  Just showing it differently."

Hutch's eyes widened, and his fear was palatable.  "Buddy, when people love me, things go 'poof'."

Starsky felt his insides melt.  "I've loved you all this time, and I haven't gone poof."

Unsteadily, Hutch said, "You will if we take it to this level."

Hutch sounded like he genuinely believed what he said.

Starsky rested his cheek against the back of the sofa.  "Hutch, I need to tell you something.  When I was at your apartment, and I was looking for your checkbook, I found some bank statements.  I was curious, and I looked at one that was for a savings account."

Hutch didn't react.

"You've saved quite a bit of money.  And I've got a little.  But I was thinking about how our living arrangements could be.  Maybe when can buy a place.  Not a fixer-upper," Starsky quickly said, "but a place where we can live together, and you can have your greenhouse."

Hutch gazed at him.

"Or, maybe we can get a two-bedroom apartment.  Have everyone else think we're just roommates, but the second bedroom could be for a greenhouse of sorts.  And then we can save a lot of money, sharing expenses, if we want to make sure we have plenty of cushion, if we decide to buy a place of our own."

Hutch finally blinked.  "Starsky, I don't even know if I'm going to be able to work again."

"We'll work it out," Starsky insisted.  He shifted on the sofa.  "What I'm trying to say is, I'm hardly going to go poof, when I'm trying to figure out how we can best live together."

Hutch's mouth fell open, and he slowly turned his gaze away.

After a long moment, Starsky pressed, "The kissing wasn't so bad, was it?"

Hutch gazed at the coffee table.  "No," he replied, barely audible.

While Starsky waited for Hutch to work this through, he said, in a lighter tone, "Good.  Because it was great for me.  I hope we can do it some more, while you're recuperating."

Hutch turned back to Starsky.  "Why are you working so hard at this?"

"Because I want you."

"What is it you want, exactly?"

"I want - I want for us to always be together.  Live together.  Pretty much like we've been doing now.  Only, we'll hopefully live in the same place.  Sleep together.  Love each other."

"How do you want us to love each other?"

Starsky shrugged.  "However want decide."  He realized what Hutch was getting at, and gentled his tone.  "In terms of exactly what we do, and who does what to whom... you know, I was hoping that would be something we work out together.  As long as it feels good to both of us... I see that as being the only requirement."

Hutch bowed his head.  "I know I need you.  Life is scary, especially when you aren't around."

Starsky realized how much it took for Hutch to admit that.  He squeezed his arm.  "I'll always be here, buddy.  That's the one thing I always want you to be able to count on.  Just like you've always counted on it, on the streets."

Hutch closed his eyes.  Anxiously, he said, "If you ever disappear on me...."

Starsky squeezed the arm he held.  "Hutch.  You've had faith in me all these years we've been together.  What's so different now?"

After a long moment passed, Hutch couldn't seem to find an answer.  He rested his head against the back of the sofa, and turned to look at Starsky.  "Kiss me again."


They kissed and nuzzled each other for a long time, until Starsky moved away, without comment, since Hutch understood why.  Hutch wondered how long it would be before something serious was able to happen between them.  If they'd been experienced, he would have offered to give Starsky relief.

They filled up the rest of the day, playing card games and watching TV.

When they got into bed together, Starsky snuggled as close as he dared, without hurting Hutch's wound.  Then they kissed for a while longer.

Finally, Starsky turned away, with a simple, "Goodnight, Hutch."

Hutch felt for him in the darkness, and realized that his hand had found a hip.  He patted it.  "Goodnight.'"

He sat staring into the night, sitting against the headboard.

He seemed to have agreed with what Starsky had suggested for them, even though he'd never voiced his agreement.

His mind still wanted to find flaws in Starsky's logic.  Maybe when he was better....

And yet, he wanted Starsky with him.  It was too frightening to contemplate otherwise.

He liked that they were sleeping together.

He liked that they were kissing.

He liked that Starsky had plans for their future living arrangement.

He liked that Starsky seemed okay about it, if it turned out that Hutch wouldn't be able to work the streets again.

He liked that Starsky loved him.  So much.


There was a quiet, "Yeah?"

Hutch swallowed thickly.  "I-I-I'm glad -- you know -- that we're doing this."

"I am, too.  I know you just needed to work it out in your own way, Hutch."

Hutch felt his heart beat faster.  "I hope I get better soon."

"You'll get better, Hutch."

"Then we can -- you know."

"Whatever you want, buddy boy."

Hutch considered what else to say.  "Thanks for... believing in me."  His voice was suddenly choked.  "Believing that I'm worth it."

Pause.  Then, "'That's the one thing I know more than anything else, Hutch"

Hutch swallowed.  He had to steady his breath, before he could say, "Goodnight, Starsky."

"Goodnight, Hutch."




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