reached for the phone when he saw that Johnny Carson was going
to have a cheetah cub on the show, then he hesitated. Hutch needed
a laugh, but his moodiness had made Starsky leery of saying or
doing the wrong thing lately. He might think a friendly call
was out of line. Then he'd be pissed. Multiply temperatures in
the high ninties by Hutch in a bad mood and Starsky's life wouldn't
be worth living. Starsky sighed, let go of the phone and went
to the refrigerator for a beer, enjoying the draft of cold air
on his skin. Even stripped to his Fruit of the Looms he was sweating
steadily and too hot to sleep.
Johnny was dull, and the cheetah hid behind his trainer's chair.
The half-gone beer warmed in the can, and Starsky's head nodded.
He was dozing off when a whisper of sound under Johnny's monologue
brought him back to consciousness. The door? He muted the TV
and heard it again. Cop's friends do not announce themselves
by scratching tentatively at the door. Someone was trying the
knob. Starsky reached for his gun and padded across the room,
easing the safety off. The doorknob turned as if someone were
probing the lock mechanism.
As intent as a bird-stalking cat, Starsky was unaware of the
incongruity of apprehending a thief while dressed only in briefs
and a Beretta. Crouching to one side, he reached for the doorknob,
turned it and jerked the door open.
A weight came with the door, all the way, light glinting on wheat-pale
hair as Hutch fell into the room. Suddenly aware of how exposed
he was, Starsky covered the outside dark with his gun and heaved
Hutch's long legs over the threshhold with his free hand. Slamming
the door shut, he turned to the limp form on the floor.
Hutch had been beaten, that much was obvious from his face, but
Starsky's quickly exploring hands found neither broken bones
nor bullet holes. Hutch's left fist was covered with blood and
"Hutch? Hey, Hutch?"
The blond made no response, and Starsky chewed his lip in indecision,
then left his partner on the floor, doused the lights, and pulled
on his jeans. He opened the door cautiously and peered around
it before slipping outside and down the stairs, searching the
night for any lurking menace. The streetlights rayed down as
usual, the traffic whispered past, and no one appeared to notice
him. Hutch's latest junker was pulled up to the curb. Starsky
walked over to it, still cautious, but feeling the adrenalin
subside. The car was empty, the front seat and the steering wheel
wet with a dark stickiness Starsky had no trouble identifying
as blood. Hutch had been hurt somewhere else and come to him
Back inside, Starsky flipped the lights up again and brought
a towel and a bowl of water to mop up the worst of the gore.
Hutch had the beginning of a beautiful shiner with a good-sized
goose egg on his left temple. The blood was mostly from his nose
and one cut over his eyebrow. Starsky bathed the clenched fist
but couldn't pry it open, so he tossed the bloody towel in the
shower, emptied the bowl in the toilet, and came back with a
bottle of ammonia. A good slosh of the pungent liquid waved under
his nose made Hutch groan and roll his head to the side.
"Come on, Babe, wake up. That's a boy."
Hutch made an effort to focus his eyes and tried to sit up. "Gonna
be sick," he said. "Help me to the john."
Starsky managed to hoist him up and Hutch held it until he bent
over the toilet. He retched so hard the spasms shook his whole
body. It was all Starsky could do to ease them both down to their
knees. He braced Hutch, alternately flushing the toilet and stroking
the clammy forehead, until the spasms subsided. When Hutch was
ready, Starsky helped him up to the sink and turned on the water.
Hutch rinsed his mouth and splashed water on his face with his
"Lemme get you to the couch, okay?"
"I'm all right," Hutch said.
Starsky doubted that. Hutch had his hurt hand clamped against
his middle, and he was trembling like a thoroughbred at the gate.
Starsky stayed close until Hutch made it to the couch.
"What happened? Who did it, Hutch?"
"Kids," Hutch said vaguely. "Doesn't matter. What
are you doing?"
"I've gotta take a look at your hand. Open up."
Hutch let Starsky pry his tight-clamped fingers open. The pin
fastener of his badge had been bent down at an angle and stabbed
into his palm. Starsky's stomach levitated toward his diaphragm.
"You need a doctor."
"No doctor." Hutch was coming back into focus as the
pain brightened his eyes.
"There's nerves in there," Starsky protested.
"Just pull it out and soak it."
Starsky's hand tightened on Hutch's knee. "I can't, Babe,
I don't want to hurt you."
Hutch pulled away from the comforting touch, his sudden anger
flaring. "God damn it, Starsky, I need you! I don't want
a doctor who will have to file a report." He saw Starsky's
startled reaction and modified his tone. "I'm not mad at
you, but I mean it. If it hurts, I fucking well deserve it. Just
get it out."
"Okay, okay--lean back for a minute." Starsky settled
Hutch more comfortably and started toward the kitchen.
Hutch's eyes had closed. Now they flew open. "Where are
"I'm just gonna get us a drink."
Starsky poured two generous slugs of Scotch and nursed his own
while encouraging Hutch to guzzle his down. The blond wasn't
normally much of a drinker. Twenty minutes later he was sweating
and vague again, but he seemed in less pain. Starsky took Hutch's
nearly empty glass away and settled his own full one on the coffee
table. He planted Hutch's right hand on the arm of the sofa.
"You hang on good. Don't get mixed up and deck me, okay,
Hutch? Hutch, you in there? What're you gonna do?"
"Deck you." Hutch chuckled, but his right hand tightened
on the padded arm of the couch and his eyes cleared a little.
Starsky turned his attention from the battered face to the wounded
hand. The metal oval of the badge was flush against the palm.
Moving as gently and quickly as he could, Starsky clamped Hutch's
hand to his knee and began to pry under the metal. He felt Hutch
stiffen, but concentrated on raising the badge high enough to
get his fingers and thumb under it. When Hutch's head rocked
back on the couch, Starsky stopped. He was shaking almost as
badly as his partner.
"Halfway home," he said. "How you doing?"
"Okay--give me a minute." Hutch reached for Starsky's
glass and downed the rest of the Scotch. Starsky needed to stay
sober, but he could have used another belt himself. Hurting Hutch
was worse than hurting himself.
"Wish it was me, Babe," he said, rubbing Hutch's knee.
"You don't know anything about it," Hutch said cuttingly.
"Hell, I can't get drunk--let's go."
Starsky was ready, and this time one long pull did it, extracting
the pin from Hutch's flesh and a curse from between his clenched
"Put your head down," Starsky advised. "Back in
a minute." He rinsed out the bowl he'd used as a wash basin,
ran hot water into it, gave it a splash of ammonia, and settled
on the couch next to Hutch. He guided the hurt hand to soak while
he rubbed Hutch's tense neck and shoulders. Hutch gradually relaxed
and leaned against Starsky until his head was resting on his
partner's knee. Starsky kept up the massage, making it as soothing
as he could.
"You wanna tell me about it now?" he asked.
Hutch tightened up again. Starsky kept up the smooth circling
of his free hand. "How come?" Starsky persisted.
Hutch rocked his head against Starsky's knee. "Can't--"
His voice was full of mournful alcoholic certainty.
"Sure you can," Starsky coaxed. "I'm unshockable.
You rob a bank on the way over?"
"Thash shu-stupid. Bank's closed."
"But you did get in a fight?"
"How'd you guess?"
Starsky grinned. "How's the other guy?"
"'S a mess."
"Yeah? What'd you hit him with?" Starsky's hand circled.
He ran his thumb down the spine, the way Hutch liked it.
"How come your knuckles ain't bruised?"
Hutch pressed his forehead a little harder against Starsky's
knee, as if he were trying to clear his head or hide from the
light. "Couldn't hit him," he whispered, and the rest
was only a long sigh.
Starsky let his fingers wander up through the warm silk of Hutch's
hair, counting on shock, booze and coaxing to get through the
"Couldn't hit him, huh? Too bad he didn't feel that way
about you. Awwww, Hutch. You're gonna have to tell me what's
wrong, Babe. I can't fix it till I know." He gripped the
drooping shoulder firmly. "You can't hide forever."
Hutch stirred and sat up, cradling his left hand in his right,
but he kept his eyes on the floor and didn't respond to an affectionate
hug. "You can't fix it," he said.
"So? I'll sympathize. Come on, buddy. What's happening that
you let some punk kid beat on you?"
Hutch hesitated, pain and alcohol weakening reserves of silence
he had built up over months. Starsky didn't push. Hutch was addicted
to truth. Maybe now, in the aftermath of trauma, it would come
"He wasn't a punk," Hutch whispered. "He was a
hustler. His friends beat on me when they saw my badge. They
thought--" Hutch's long throat moved in a swallow. "--they
thought I was setting him up."
Hutch wouldn't look at him, so Starsky kept up the encouraging
pressure around his shoulder.
"So? What were you doing?"
Beads of sweat were forming over Hutch's upper lip. Starsky could
see them in the drab blond of the mustache. Hutch wrenched away
from him and stood up, blood draining visibly from his face,
his eyes fixed on the blank wall behind the TV set as if some
terrible vision confronted him there.
"I was--pricing a blow job--from a scared kid who had the
bad luck to look just like you."
It sounded so much like an accusation that Starsky had trouble
extracting the meaning from the sound. He almost said, "What?"
And then he didn't know what to say. Hutch's secret. Hutch's
problem. Wanting him.
Starsky's side was still warm from where he had pulled Hutch
against him, and his hand still felt the exact structure of the
muscular shoulder and jutting shoulder blade, the texture of
the sweat-damp shirt sliding over smooth skin. He tried to pull
a coherent thought out of the jumble Hutch had made of his mind.
But Hutch wasn't waiting. "Thanks for the first aid,"
he said and turned toward the door.
"Hey!" Starsky vaulted the couch and made the door
before the unsteady blond could get there. Whatever else was
coming down, Hutch could not be allowed to leave in his present
condition. Not hurting like that.
Hutch stopped, facing the door, swaying slightly. He turned his
head away, but not before Starsky saw something silver slide
down his cheek.
"Hutch, are you crying? Shit--don't do that." Unaccustomed
tears stung his own eyes.
Hutch looked at him then, making no effort to hide his pain or
need. "I tried not to love you, Starsk. I'd die before I'd
hurt you. But I can't help wanting--"
The longing in that shamed whisper, the faint hope in the drowned
blue eyes spilled tears down Starsky's face, too. He didn't have
"We'll have to sort it out tomorrow. Right now you need
some sleep. Come on."
He ignored the faint negative of the blond head and steered Hutch
toward the bedroom, but his own hot tears wouldn't stop flowing
while he stripped Hutch out of his bloody clothes and pushed
him into the bed. They wouldn't stop while he tossed his own
jeans toward a chair and slid into bed himself. "He's my
partner!" Starsky wanted to say in defiance to something.
The last thing he saw before he turned out the light was the
slow leak of tears from Hutch's closed eyes.
Starsky woke to a solid sense of warmth and reflexively cuddled
closer until the memory of the night before surfaced. Then his
heart missed a beat and picked up tempo as he lay with his forehead
pressed against Hutch's shoulder and his body curved around his
Hutch wanted him. Had been wanting him long enough and bad enough
to go looking for a substitute on the street. And Hutch was the
best cop Starsky knew. Remembrance of Hutch falling into the
light, Hutch straining not to cry out as the bloody pin was pulled
from his hand, tightened Starsky's gut. A chill prickled down
his spine at the thought of all that might have happened--injury,
Damn you, Hutch, why couldn't you stay home with someone who
loves you? But he knew why. Hutch didn't want the love of a friend
or a brother. He wanted what he had to give--an intensity of
passion that couldn't be feigned. "I'd die before I'd hurt
you," Hutch had said, and Starsky believed it. He had to
believe the rest of it, too. Hutch would never settle for accommodation.
I'd die for you, too, Starsky thought. I'd do anything. But there
was a void where the kind of feeling Hutch wanted should be.
His mind drifted to problems he could solve. Hutch couldn't take
that face to work. He needed time. Starsky disentangled himself
and rolled out of bed, picking up the phone on the way to the
living room. The dispatcher going off shift took the message
that the dynamic duo was hors de combat with possible
"Tell the Captain that Popeye's ribs did us in--been sick
all night. I'm gonna unplug the phone and sleep till Monday."
That would give them three days. It was always best to be beaten
up before a weekend.
As quietly as he could, Starsky put on coffee, brushed his teeth,
shaved and showered, but no amount of lather or cogitation brought
him closer to feeling what Hutch felt. He pulled on clean shorts
and went back to the bed where he knew at once the huddled form
was too still to be genuinely asleep. But he slid back in anyway
and reached to pull Hutch close.
Starsky settled for a slow massage of Hutch's available shoulder.
"I called us in sick. You okay?"
Hutch's silence was eloquent. Starsky sighed, got back out of
bed and poured two cups of coffee.
The blond pushed himself up against the pillow. "What are
you going to do, Starsky, wipe my nose and get me off out of
Knowing the deliberate crudeness hid fear, Starsky only shrugged.
"I had something else in mind, but if you want it, you've
got it." He tried to keep his own voice even, because he
meant it and he didn't want to sound scared himself. But what
"Yeah?" Hutch was sneering. "Finding out about
Johnny Blaine made you sick. If some faggot put his hands on
you, you'd freak out like a fucking virgin."
Hutch wouldn't look up, so Starsky squatted down, still balancing
the two cups of coffee. He looked Hutch straight in the eye.
"Well, you ain't 'some faggot,' you're my partner. And I
ain't a fucking virgin--least not most ways. Now you want a hand
job or a cup of coffee?" He could be crude, too.
Hutch turned pink and reached for the coffee. Starsky relaxed
a little, pulled a chair up and propped his feet on the bed next
"Giving me a treat?" the blond asked. But he sounded
more like himself.
"I like it when you look at me," Starsky said. "I
like to look at you. It's about seven years too late for bunny
suits, and this can't have been going on all that time. How`d
it get started?"
"After Gillian, I guess. I hurt so bad, Starsk. The ladies
never work out for me, and you were right there doing everything
but stand on your head to make me feel better. I don't know why--I
just got to thinking. I thought you might notice something after
a while--but you didn't. Then I got scared someone else might
guess--other guys used to think I was gay, but I never did."
Starsky nodded. No one could help noticing Hutch--and he took
his manhood seriously, with that pretty-boy image to fight.
"So then?" he prompted.
"So then I tried other girls, tried jacking off--"
The color deepened in Hutch's face. "Tried the streets."
Starsky was examining his coffee cup. "Were you that scared
to tell me?"
"I'm still scared."
Starsky looked up then; they both did. "Me, too," Starsky
confessed. He felt about ten years old. "I don't want to
let you down."
"You never let me down," Hutch said, almost angry.
Until now, Starsky thought, what if I just can't-
"For God's sake, Starsky, you don't have some kind of obligation--"
Hutch stopped, took a deep breath. "I've been thinking about
this for a long time. It's all new to you. You want me to clear
out and give you some breathing space?"
The last thing Starsky wanted to do was let his high-strung partner
out of his sight.
"I'm breathing just fine. I wanna look at your hand, grab
some breakfast--then maybe head down the coast. Take along some
trunks and go swimming if you feel up to it." He realized
the innuendo a second after Hutch did. Neither of them commented.
"Sure," said Hutch.
They ate a silent breakfast while Starsky wondered what other
pitfalls he would have to avoid. Hutch's hand was a little swollen
and inflamed, but only clear fluid oozed out of the puncture
when Starsky pressed the skin on either side of it.
"It's all right," Hutch said impatiently. "Let's
The tide was full when they got to Huntington
Beach, and Starsky parked and led the way to the sand with a
tattered quilt over his shoulder. They left jeans, shirts and
sneakers on the faded patchwork and trotted out into the surf.
Hutch dived cleanly under an incoming wave, surfaced, and swam
out beyond the breakers while Starsky played in the bottle-green
swells and waist-high foam, keeping an eye on him.
Hutch was beautiful in the sunlight, smooth muscles working down
his back as he cut through the waves in measured strokes. He
looked good. He felt good. Starsky had always liked touching
his partner, had liked Hutch touching him. He couldn't imagine
Hutch doing anything that would hurt or disgust him. But that
didn't add up to desire.
Which was funny. Because Hutch, in Starsky's opinion, was not
only a good cop, but a nearly perfect person: guts, integrity,
strength and compassion in equal balance. It was inconceivable
that anyone Hutch wanted wouldn't want him. He'd had women so
beautiful they got their names up in lights, that bitch Vanessa
most beautiful of all. It just didn't add up that Hutch would
want plain, ordinary David Michael Starsky--a man.
The solitary swim didn't improve Hutch's mood. He was as silent
as ever when he came back and stretched out face down on the
quilt. Starsky sat with him for a moment, not knowing whether
to go or stay, his eyes on a group setting up a volleyball net.
When Hutch showed no signs of conviviality, Starsky decided he
might nap if left alone, so he ambled over to the players.
"Need a hand?" he asked.
An hour later, exhausted and rank with sweat,
Starsky returned to find his own things on the quilt and Hutch's
gone. He looked up and down the beach for a halo of silver-gilt
hair and then struggled into his clothes in a near panic until
he found the keys to the car still in his pocket. He squinted
at the dazzle of sun reflecting off the water, but realized he
wouldn't be able to identify Hutch there.
Although he told himself he was over-reacting, he couldn't stop
himself from sprinting across the road for a quick tour of the
ice-cream stores, yogurt stands and art galleries. When he actually
caught sight of Hutch through the glass front of a bookstore,
relief made his knees weak. A clerk approached Hutch and pulled
a book from the shelf, opening it to show him something inside.
Hutch jerked away and stalked toward the door. Starsky went to
meet him. Hutch's face was flaming.
"Evidently I've got 'fag' written on my forehead. Did you
Starsky matched the rapid stride of the long legs. "Yeah.
I thought you were asleep. Why didn't you come over?"
"Why'd you come after me?"
"'Cause I was hungry," Starsky lied. He made a long
arm and anchored his partner, pretending he didn't feel him flinch.
"How about a milkshake?"
"How about going home," Hutch said. "I'm not going
to grow a whole new personality in one afternoon."
"No reason I should suffer. You got any change?"
Automatically, Hutch dug in his pocket, although they had both
been paid only three days before. "What do you do with your
money?" he groused, coming out with a handful of change.
"I'm a big tipper. Can't distort my manly form with nickels
and dimes." Starsky grabbed the coins and dodged into the
ice-cream shop before Hutch could see him blush. He felt the
blue eyes on his ass all the way. He was half-surprised to see
Hutch still standing there when he returned with two milkshakes.
"Uh--I'm sorry," he said.
Hutch sighed. "It isn't as if I never noticed. I don't know
how to talk to you or look at you or touch you now. I did want
to tell you I appreciated your not spending the night on the
couch. I'm not going to--"
"Shut up and don't be dumb, then maybe I can manage. Let's
go back to the car. I feel like driving."
Back in the car Hutch finished the milkshake he hadn't ordered
and tossed the container in the back seat. His own car, poorly
maintained and none-too-reliable, was a rolling compost heap.
After a moment he slid down and braced one knee against the dashboard,
leaned his head back on the top of the seat. Starsky made no
concessions to the Friday traffic, but the rhythm of braking
and acceleration was as familiar as a rocking chair. Hutch's
eyes closed, his bruised lips parted, and the frown line between
his brows smoothed out in sleep.
Starsky drove south beside the glittering sea. The steady hum
of the engine was soothing, and he let the miles and minutes
flow. Short of La Jolla he stopped to gas up, thinking Hutch
would wake, but the blond only turned away from the sun and hunched
into a more comfortable position. His forehead and cheeks were
pink, and his left hand, resting open on the seat, showed a center
of white around the puncture and then a red ring.
"You got a temperature or a sunburn?" Starsky asked,
feeling Hutch's forehead. Hutch's eyelashes, colorless blond
or tinsel-bright as the sun caught them, stirred against his
cheek, but he didn't wake. The iris-hued bruise under his eye
made him look like a fallen angel.
"Got to do something for that hand," Starsky said.
He signed the credit slip for the gas and pulled away from the
reek of the station into a Payless parking lot. "Mind the
store," he told Hutch as he left the car.
The temperature in the Torino was up twenty degrees by the time
he got back. Hutch only cracked an eye when Starsky spread ointment
on the wounded hand, then settled back to sleep again. Starsky
slid back into traffic, grateful for the breeze and turned east
toward the mountains.
"Nobody can say you ain't a good listener," he told
Hutch. Hutch didn't stir.
The air cleared but didn't cool as they climbed toward Alpine.
For long stretches the red Torino was the only car on the road,
popping bubbles in the asphalt. From time to time a meadowlark
spilled song through the burning afternoon, or a gust of sage
or pine puffed through the open window. Starsky gave the little
mountain town the go-by, heading south and down. The road descended
in a series of curves to the salt-white desert floor, then straightened
out for the run to the Mexican border.
They crossed into Tecate with a wave from a bored guard, and
Starsky paused just long enough to counter the effects of dehydration
with a dark beer so cold it had icy slush in the neck of the
Hutch finally woke up when the back road from Tecate joined the
toll road along the coast. Starsky handed him a warmer version
of the beer. The sun was heading for China down the cloudless
sky, colored like a California poppy, and Hutch's long throat
took color from it as he tilted his head back to drink.
"Where are we?" he asked in a voice husky with heat
"Coming up on the world-famous Rosarita Beach Hotel. Thought
we might stay over. Go snorkeling tomorrow."
"Oh." Hutch flicked him a pale unreadable look, then
stared ahead again, his eyes ice blue and indifferent.
In the dim, cool hotel lobby Starsky waved
Hutch toward the dining room. "I'll check us in. Order me
lobster, two of 'em and nothing else."
In spite of that, the lobster was preceded by a crisp salad and
accompanied by fritata, pilaf and a bottle of Gewurztraminer.
Hutch worked his way silently through the meal as if he were
paid to eat instead of the other way around.
Starsky leaned back when the coffee came and indicated their
surroundings--the arches, French doors, potted plants, white
linen and heavy cutlery. "Reminds me of Casablanca.
I could get used to living like this."
"It's a little too far from L.A. to commute."
Starsky flung an arm over the back of his chair. "Wouldn't
be a cop if I was rich. Hang around with the jet set."
"In a tatty leather jacket."
Starsky leaned forward earnestly. "Listen, Hutch, if you're
really rich you don't have to give a shit. That's probably why
the service was so good. They figure anyone sloppy as us must
not give a damn."
"You're sure it doesn't have anything to do with the twenty
I slipped the maitre d' to let in two scumbags without
Starsky tossed his napkin on the table in disgust. "Spoilsport.
You finished? We're in a bungalow down by the beach."
Hutch relapsed into silence again, and Starsky led the way through
gardens heavy with scent where oleanders and hibiscus edged the
paths and bird-of-paradise fought stiff anthuriums for space.
The bungalow was whitewashed adobe inside and out, with a red
tile roof over heavy exposed beams. A handful of fire, mere symbol
of hospitality, crackled and hissed in an angle between two walls,
and the hush and whisper of the gentle surf drifted in through
louvered windows. There was one king-sized bed with a gilded
headboard and a brown velvet spread.
"Nice, huh?" Starsky took off his jacket and tossed
it at a chair. "There's some things I picked up in the bathroom.
I got some medicine for your hand and some toothbrushes and junk."
Hutch obediently went into the bathroom to investigate. Starsky
walked to the fire and stood watching the flames.
"Starsk?" Hutch had taken off his jacket too and was
standing in the door holding a blue-and-white tube in his hand.
Starsky could feel the blue crystal stare clear across the room.
Hutch's voice was soft, carefully neutral, as he asked, "Did
you pick this up, too?"
Starsky faced around and looked from the tube of KY to Hutch's
intent face. "Figured we might need it," he said. His
voice was almost steady.
For a long moment Hutch just looked at him, then down at the
tube in his hand. He put it aside and came closer where the firelight
set up a moving play of light and shadow over his face. His height
and the width of his shoulders were suddenly noticeable, making
Starsky feel small.
"Is this what you want?"
Starsky forced his eyes to stay steady on Hutch's. "I don't
want to lose you, and I don't want you goin' on the streets.
You'll have to show me the rest."
Hutch nodded, accepting the truth of that. He bent his head.
It was a gentle kiss--just the butterfly brush of Hutch's lips
and the faint tickle of mustache--gentle but warming.
"Bad?" Hutch murmured against Starsky's lips.
"Could be better."
They tried it again, more thoroughly, and it was definitely better.
Starsky felt the second kiss--and the third--slip directly into
his bloodstream and tingle through his entire body. Hutch was
hardly touching him, not asking for response, but moving ceaselessly
from lips to eyes to temples, bestowing kisses as he went. This
was not what Starsky had expected or what he thought Hutch wanted,
but it felt too good to stop in the name of altruism, especially
when the lips parted under his ear and a wet tongue licked its
way down the side of his neck and around the base of his throat.
He tilted his head back helplessly as the tongue continued its
path to the other ear and Hutch's hands contributed a soft circling
on his back.
"Like that?" Hutch whispered in his ear.
"Uh--" Starsky's hands were pulling Hutch closer of
their own accord, and it seemed like a waste of time to discuss
"Thought so. I'm going to kiss you everywhere," Hutch
promised, nuzzling his hair. Starsky let himself relax against
the solid body, his head on Hutch's shoulder, while the soft
lips found the back of his neck, inside his collar. His shirttails
were tugged free, and Hutch's hands stroked his back--soothing,
relaxing the chills his kisses and words were creating. "I've
wanted to kiss you forever."
Starsky pulled back and offered his mouth again, let Hutch's
lips open his, met Hutch's tongue halfway in slick exploration.
Hutch brought his hands forward, pulling the front of Starsky's
shirt loose, playing gently with the soft pelt fuzzing his chest
and stomach. A tingling, prickling pleasure answered his touch.
Starsky became aware that he had closed his eyes, and he opened
them again as Hutch took his hands away. Hutch was smiling as
he reached for the shirt's top button, and the happiness on his
face pierced his partner like a knife. How long had it been since
Hutch had been happy?
"Take yours off, too," Starsky whispered, fumbling
past Hutch's hands to unbutton his shirt and return this delicious
stroking. Hutch was silky to touch, but the strong muscles of
his back worked under Starsky's hands as the blond bent to kiss
and nip along Starsky's collarbone. Starsky was achingly aware
that none of that strength was being used to hold him. Hutch's
hands on his back and sides were as gentle as his kissing exploration
down Starsky's chest.
The firelight was striking gold from Hutch's hair, and the fire-laced
sweetness of his mouth was settling right through Starsky's flesh
to the marrow of his bones.
"You taste salty," Hutch said. "Sea salt and sweat
and the Torino. Soupçon of sagebrush."
Starsky himself thought he smelled more like Vinnie's gym on
a hot night. "Maybe I should grab a shower, huh?" he
"Mmmm," said Hutch against his neck. "Maybe we
An unusual absence of gravity under his belt buckle reminded
Starsky that showers were generally taken without clothes, and
he experienced a sudden, absurd anxiety about the etiquette of
removing one's shorts: In the bedroom? In the bathroom? Back
turned or full front?
Hutch read his mind, because his warm fingers slipped firmly
inside Starsky's waistband, thumbs resting on the belt buckle.
"I'll take care of it," he said.
Starsky raised his chin a little at the challenge and the understanding
grin. After all, he was the one who had made the remark about
bunny suits. For a moment he thought, That was just this morning?
Things seemed different when you weren't involved. Right now
he felt awfully involved. Hutch was waiting for permission, and
Starsky's lips felt stiff as he said, "Go ahead," and
thought, I'm lightheaded. There isn't enough oxygen in here.
Hutch kissed him again, confirming the anoxia, and tugged his
belt momentarily tight to unfasten it, unbuttoned his jeans,
and slowly pulled the zipper down. Starsky could hear the distinctive
sound, feel his cock shift to take advantage of new freedom.
His body felt real and present, but his mind was somewhere in
an upper corner of the room, looking down from a distance. Hutch
let go and the jeans started to slide. The blond followed them
down with eyes, hands, and lips, and Starsky watched dizzily
as he lifted each foot, pried the sneakers off, and pulled the
socks and jeans free. Slowly he raised his eyes and hands up
the bronze legs with their feathering of dark hair.
"Anybody ever kiss your knees before?" he asked, and
Starsky dropped from the ceiling back into himself with a rush.
"For God's sake, Hutch!"
But knowing hands were lightly skimming the edges of his briefs,
around his legs, his belly, the small of his back. He couldn't
flinch away from the delicate attack; he was far too close to
Hutch. But he couldn't stand still either, or he would explode
with tension. The mouth struck as suddenly as a snake and covered
his navel, sucking hard.
Starsky grabbed for his shorts himself, only to have his wrists
caught and held away from his body as Hutch ran the tip of his
tongue from hipbone to hipbone along the top of the elastic.
It was more than Starsky could stand. His cock jumped, and he
thrust forward against Hutch's face and then froze.
Lazily, deliberately, the blond stroked first one side of his
face and then the other against the warm bulge under the fabric,
like a cat asking to be petted. He sighed, and Starsky felt the
warm exhalation on his balls. A tremor shook his thighs, and
his knees where Hutch had kissed them felt liquidly weak.
"Kiss you everywhere," Hutch repeated as he released
Starsky's hands and drew the fabric down at last, freeing the
scimitar curve of Starsky's cock. He gave it one kiss as a reminder
and moved away, around Starsky's groin and hip and ass, turning
his half-hypnotized partner like a mannequin, kissing, licking,
breathing in the scent of arousal until the straining, lifting
cock rubbed once again against his cheek. Starsky's hands were
combing the blond silk out of his eyes as he looked up, blue
gaze meeting blue.
Hutch opened his mouth and deliberately licked the hot, pulsing
shaft. "Still want to shower first?" he asked.
Starsky saw Hutch's lips parting, saw the glint of white teeth,
and the red tongue reaching for his wine-dark cock. Every image
was haloed in a burst of light against surrounding dark--unfocused,
yet shockingly, erotically explicit, as Hutch sucked him in in
slow motion and he thrust deep and came at the first touch of
his cock at the back of the hot, constricting throat. The explosion
was so strong it broke him in pieces, so sweet he almost died.
When he could breathe again, Starsky was flat on the floor and
Hutch's bright head was pillowed on his stomach. Starsky reached
down with a shaking hand and traced his partner's profile--forehead,
nose, and passion-swollen lips. "What's it like?" he
Hutch closed his eyes and smiled. "Heaven." After a
moment he rolled his head so he could look at his partner. His
clear blue eyes were brilliant with pleasure. "You're like
satin, Starsk--so smooth--and hard as steel underneath. You curve
just right to fit my mouth and throat. With my tongue I could
feel your pulse, and when you came, so hot and strong, I wanted
to swallow your whole cock. I did swallow you. You're inside
me." Hutch laid his hand on his stomach.
Starsky blinked back tears. He didn't deserve that much love.
He hadn't earned it.
"And you know what?" Hutch continued. "Your cock
is the most beautiful color in the world. It's the color of desire."
Hutch, you're killing me. Don't love me so much I can't match
"Yeah?" Starsky stroked the golden head softly. "Well,
I ain't no poet, but you look like sunflowers and vanilla ice
cream to me. Don't know if I should keep you to look at or gobble
The brilliant eyes smiled at him. "Whatever makes you happy."
Starsky knew Hutch meant it. He could stop now, leave Hutch pinned
down under fire--just walk off and leave his partner without
a backup. Starsky hadn't done anything. Nobody could call him
names. He squirmed free and settled Hutch's head gently on the
carpet. He knelt up and reached down to trail his fingers over
Hutch's chest. Satin? Hutch's whole body was like satin, skin
as tender as a baby's. Starsky trailed his knuckles down the
line of the long throat, the hollow between the collarbones,
the midline of Hutch's chest to his waist. Muscles tensed then,
as he unfastened Hutch's jeans. He was careful as he pulled the
zipper down over the obvious bulge at the crotch.
"No games, Babe. I wanna look at you. Lift up."
Hutch raised his hips, and Starsky slid jeans and shorts down
his thighs. Look what he's been hiding, Starsky thought. Hutch's
cock was thick and long, and it lifted toward Starsky as he looked
at it. He took it in his hand, and Hutch thrust up once, his
hands gripping the shag carpet, his head rolling.
The cock swelled and hardened in Starsky's hand. More? What a
monster. But Starsky tightened his grip and began to pump strongly
from the golden fleece to the rose-flushed tip, timing his rhythm
to the thrust of the bond's arching hips. Hutch's whole body
was trembling, and clear drops oozed from his cock. He wouldn't
be able to hold it long. He wouldn't be able to handle this without
a backup. When it's just too much for one person, that's when
you need your partner.
Starsky turned parallel to Hutch, reached across his belly to
brace himself and bent down. He kissed the pink glans, let it
part his lips and slide in, until Hutch's cock stretched and
filled his mouth. He heard Hutch from far away, cursing or calling
his name as he stroked, sucked, swallowed and gagged, pulling
response from the thrashing, ecstatic blond who shouted and spurted
the scalding result into his partner's mouth. Starsky swallowed
and swallowed until the last drop was gone and Hutch went soft
and slipped away. Starsky's heart was pounding as if he'd been
in a shoot-out, and an unexpected tenderness flooded through
him. He'd made it. They'd both made it. He cupped Hutch's relaxing
balls in his hand and kissed the wrinkled velvet.
"God, Starsk. Come and kiss me up here. I'm too weak to
He slid up and Hutch kissed him deeply, holding him tight, silently
communicating his love, his gratitude. Starsky cuddled closer,
reveling in the sensation of that long, strong body pressed to
his. Earned now. He kissed Hutch's neck, felt the shiver he caused
travel through Hutch's entire body. He couldn't believe he felt
so much sensation, couldn't believe he caused so much.
"If you're so smart," he whispered, "how come
you never thought of this before."
Hutch returned the kiss. "You give me so much, babe. It
seemed greedy to want more. I still don't know--" A different
shiver shook him, not desire. "I'm not doing you any favor--"
"That's funny, it sure felt like a favor," Starsky
said, but he knew what Hutch meant. He could give Hutch covering
fire, but he couldn't make the bad guys stop shooting. Maybe,
even after this, maybe Hutch couldn't handle it. "We
don't have to decide anything yet," he offered, feeling
a little lost.
Hutch relaxed against him again, seemingly unable to stop the
slow glide of his hands over any part of his partner he could
reach. "Oh? I thought you had decided something...."
His tone was teasing now. "Or is there some other cocksucker
in the room?"
It was said to shock him, and Starsky had to admit that it did,
though not as much as Hutch's hand moving between them to touch
his cock again, to cup his balls and hold them. It was true.
He had sucked Hutch's cock, kissed his balls, and he was starting
to tingle again, wondering about the next step. His cock showed
it, nudging Hutch's hand for more. Cocksucker--
"There better not be," Starsky said, "'cept you.
And watch who you're calling dirty names. You might give me ideas."
Hutch pulled back so he could see his partner's face, and Starsky
looked down between their bodies to watch Hutch's hand on his
cock. Hutch was making him hard again--on purpose. Starsky reached
down and stopped him, then leaned forward to kiss the beautiful,
"It was your idea first," he whispered.
Hutch had turned away from the fire, so the light that swept
his face had to be an illusion--or pure love--but the sight of
it strengthened Starsky's commitment. If it meant that much,
he would have given Hutch his heart on a platter. He wanted Hutch
to have everything beautiful and good in the whole world. Everything
"We're going awfully fast, Starsk. You sure you're not scared?"
Starsky was sure, under that celestial gaze. "I've seen
a lot, Babe. Only thing that scares me is seeing it without you.
I love you, Hutch."
"I love you too, Starsk--God, how I love you!"
For a long moment, Hutch just held him close, then he pulled
back again, propped himself up on an elbow. "Let's not rush,
okay? Let's get that shower and go slow."
Starsky nodded and Hutch unfolded himself, kicked his impeding
jeans away, and pulled his dark-haired partner up after him.
In the bathroom two showerheads sprayed into a tile tub big enough
to swim in. The soap was real, honest-to-god soap and not two
slivers wrapped in paper. The towels were bathsheets.
"How much did you pay for this place?" Hutch asked
as he turned on the taps.
"Enough to get my back scrubbed. It's great, isn't it? Shoulda
brought the snorkels down here." Starsky tested the spray
and stepped under it. "C'mon in, the water's fine."
Hutch didn't need persuading, and in a moment the water was beading
and trickling down both bodies. Starsky reached for the soap,
but Hutch took it out of his hand.
"What's a partner for?" he shouted over the rush of
water and began, none too expertly, by holding Starsky's head
under the spray. Since drowning was accompanied by the press
of Hutch's body, Starsky resigned himself, but the knee between
his and the nip on his shoulder had an amazingly enlivening effect,
as Hutch lathered first his hair, then his chest, transferring
the suds to his own person through a series of serpentine contortions.
Starsky went under the spray again.
"You're supposed to be washing my back!" he sputtered.
"I will. You're supposed to be relaxing!" Hutch shouted
"I'll relax you." Starsky shook his head like a retriever,
momentarily blinding Hutch, and grabbed for his partner's ribs.
The blond curled away from the tickling fingers, and the soap
escaped to the floor. "Starsk, d-d-don't!" And Hutch
followed the soap, laughing too hard to protect himself.
Starsky followed up his advantage in spite of guarding elbows
and knees and a distracting view between Hutch's legs. "Say
"All right, you win-Manischewitz, Manischewitz!" Hutch
blinked tears of laughter out of his eyes, and they sat under
the spray, catching their breath, grinning at each other like
"Put the plug in," Starsky advised. Hutch got up on
hands and knees to do that and switched the water from the shower
to the tub spigot, a modest affair of bronze and crystal in the
form of a flying swan. His ass, milk white and beaded with crystal
drops, was too much temptation for Starsky. He kissed one cheek
and licked up a drop of water. Hutch flinched away.
"Don't make me feel too good, Babe. There's a method in
my madness. Can I see how tight you are? Just lie back."
Hutch had the soap again, and he rubbed the tight curls in Starsky's
groin to foam before clasping his balls gently and then sliding
his hand under water to feel between his cheeks. Starsky relaxed
to the swirling water and the soft touch. He felt one finger
penetrate, and then, with a little discomfort, two. Even with
his eyes closed, he could feel Hutch watching his face, and he
deliberately tightened and relaxed around the motionless fingers
without changing expression.
"You doing anything yet?" he asked.
Hutch began to move his hand, spreading his fingers, forcing
the strong ring of muscle back while his other hand did delightful,
distracting things to Starsky's cock and balls. Starsky thrust
up against the penetration, testing his limits, and Hutch let
him set the rhythm until they could both feel the muscle relax
a little. Hutch added a third finger, easing in, just letting
Starsky hold him.
Hutch's hand, thought Starsky. Nobody touched me there before
Hutch. Doesn't hurt much. Three fingers ain't a cock either.
Yeah, but it'll be Hutch, right to the hilt. Right to the heart.
"What are you thinking?" Hutch's voice was soft, almost
Slowly Starsky opened his eyes. By his expression, Hutch could
have been watching a miracle instead of plain Dave Starsky with
his knobby knees against his chest and his partner's fingers
up his ass.
"You," Starsky said, seeing a miracle too. He didn't
think Hutch's eyes could get brighter, but he was wrong.
"Yeah," Hutch said, pulling free. "Let's go to
Getting patted dry with a lush towel was a luxury Starsky thought
he could get used to-although hardly a necessity. The way he
felt, the water ought to disappear in a puff of steam, and Hutch,
his hard-on clumsily poking Starsky's belly and hip, totally
forgot to dry himself. Starsky let himself be led to the king-sized
bed, but he was the one with enough foresight to toss back the
blanket and spread. Hutch was too busy stroking and kissing whatever
portion of Starsky's anatomy he could reach. Starsky pulled the
excited blond after him into the sheets, and for a moment they
rolled and wrestled with so much intensity that Starsky thought
Hutch would come right then and spoil it all. He gripped the
broad shoulders and pushed Hutch back.
"You forget what we came for?"
"I remember who I came for. God, Starsk, you're so sexy-feel
good, taste good-"
"Fuck good," insisted Starsky with a little more bravado
than he actually felt. He ran his hand down the lightly tanned
chest to Hutch's white belly and the golden curls around his
cock. He watched Hutch's eyes brighten again, his lips part.
Heat swirled through Starsky, with an icy excitement that would
have been fear with anyone but Hutch, feeling the length and
hardness of that monster cock, wondering what it would feel like
Hutch nodded and reached for the KY on the stand. He squeezed
clear jelly onto the first two fingers of his right hand. He
gave the tube to Starsky and said, "Put it on me,"
as he urged his partner's knees up and began to spread the coolness
between his buttocks and around and into his anus. Starsky bent
almost double to reach Hutch's cock and polish it 'til it shone.
He shivered, contrasting the probing fingers and the hot shaft
in his hand.
Hutch was starting to shake too, and he pulled back, hands on
Starsky's thighs, eyes intent. "I can stop any time, Starsk.
Promise you'll tell me if you want me to."
You could do it, Starsky thought. Not sure I could. "Promise,"
he said, and rolled over. Hutch guided him into the new position,
spreading his knees apart, pulling his ass up and back against
the stiff rod behind him. Starsky's heart was thundering, and
a core of excitement speared through him, constricting his vitals.
Hutch's hands parted him, squeezed his ass, and then his paired
thumbs slipped inside, rubbing, stretching, making room for his
cock. Starsky felt the head of it press against him and tightened
reflexively. Hutch froze, and Starsky made himself relax, open.
Come on, Hutch, he thought stupidly, door's open. And somewhere
Hutch was pleading, Let me in, Babe, please let me in, and the
slow slide in and in was like falling back together from two
mountain peaks, two prison sentences, two separate lives. This
is where we really live.
"God, Hutch, move, do it again!"
He did. Six billion newborn nerve endings reported withdrawal,
re-entry, withdrawal in a speeding rhythm beyond control or endurance
until the whole universe was flooded with one white flash that
broke up into glittering confetti and vanished into the dark.
Dark of reality in a firelit room, sheets
tangled and damp around them. Hutch was heavy on Starsky's back,
slipping wetly out of him. The edge of a tooth grazed Starsky's
shoulder, panting breath scorched him. His whole body was so
consumed with sensation he was afraid to move-gray curl of newsprint
after a bonfire-one touch and he would crumble to ash.
It seemed open for debate. Starsky had enjoyed sex since he was
fourteen, alone or with a partner, but he had never, never felt
anything that intense. Hell, being shot wasn't that intense.
Hutch slid off, keeping one leg over his, wrapping one arm around
his ribs. Starsky felt a kiss against his shoulder and seriously
considered returning it. Sometime next year.
"Thank you," Hutch said softly.
Thank him? The universe had just exploded and Hutch hadn't noticed.
"Put your hand under me," Starsky said, raising his
hips just enough. Hutch's hand slid into the sticky wetness there,
and Starsky settled down again. "If you don't notice anything
else, that's because it exploded like a rocket. Probably never
Starsky rolled over. "My God, Hutch, you don't have any
idea. I fainted." Hutch reached for him in concern.
"From sex," Starsky said with emphasis.
"I didn't hurt you?"
"I guess. Doesn't matter. No kidding," he said, his
voice softening. "Nothing was ever like that. S'pose I've
been gay all along?"
Hutch pushed the curls back from his forehead, petting, but a
frown was furrowing his own brow. "Doesn't it bother you?"
Starsky could see it bothered Hutch, but he couldn't summon the
guilt he should. "If I started groping little kids it would-but
I ain't expecting to get charged up over any guy but you."
"What if they get charged up over you?"
"Who but you would?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, just that you're the beauty-contest candidate
around here. How can you blame 'em, Hutch, when you go around
looking like that?"
The blue eyes hardened. "Like what?"
"Beautiful." Starsky clamped a hand over Hutch's mouth
before he could deny the compliment. He repeated it. "You're
beautiful, Hutch. You look like the Fourth of July with flags
flying and blue sky and a brass band-and then you look like something
to put on top of a Christmas tree all full of candles and snow.
Everybody notices you. It ain't no comment on your personality.
The mustache tickled his palm as Hutch kissed the silencing hand,
but his frown only abated; it didn't disappear.
"What bothers you, Babe," Starsky removed his, "don't
you want to love me?"
"God, yes. It's not that. If we were the only ones in the
world it would be fine, but I don't want to have to hide how
I feel. Hell, I don't know if I can. This way-- The department,
our friends, every punk on the street is going to have something
to say, and I'll feel like I'm bringing it all down on you-"
Starsky gathered the lanky blond close and cuddled him. Shit.
People were trying to kill them five days out of seven, and Hutch
was worried about what they would say? How could he get
through the endlessly recycled guilt that was a Hutchinson specialty?
So useless to worry about tomorrow. They might never have one.
As far as Starsky was concerned, people could keep their opinions
to themselves-with their teeth-or send out for dentures.
"You're not," was all he could say. "Don't worry
so much. We can handle it." He settled more comfortably
against the moist body, enjoying the newly familiar textures-silky
skin, round velvety balls, soft, spent cock in its wiry curls.
"One day at a time, Hutch."
The blond relaxed a little at the familiar reminder. "Hell
of a day," he said, his chin resting on the top of Starsky's
Starsky's jaws cracked in a gigantic yawn, and he grunted agreement.
"It'll be okay," he said again, as if repetition were
some kind of guarantee. "See you in the morning."
"Mmmmm" was all the answer he got.
It really will, Hutch, Starsky reiterated mentally. Because if
the world ain't the way you want it, I'll start taking it apart
Starsky woke still wondering about that shadow
on Hutch's happiness. Enough, he thought. There's better things
to think about. The sunlight stretched across one white wall
in thin stripes from the louvered windows. Birds in the garden
outside were challenging anyone to trespass in their domain.
Hutch had burrowed down during the night. His face was pressed
against Starsky's waist and his arms were loosely curled around
his hips. A welling warmth gathered in Starsky's groin. He wasn't
about to disturb that grip, but he had to reach down and stroke
the tangled wheat-pale hair where it tried to curl on Hutch's
His partner. His lover. A thrill went through his body at the
memory of that explosive ecstasy. Starsky's side was alternately
warm and cool as Hutch exhaled and inhaled. The regular alternation
was stirring some very good feelings not far south. Starsky's
resolution about not waking Hutch wavered, and his hands tightened
in the shining hair. He let go guiltily as Hutch sighed and lifted
The azure eyes blinked open and focused on the darker stare bent
down on him. He realized his position, Starsky's arousal, and
what had gone before all at once, and a tide of crimson burned
up his face clear to his hairline.
Starsky was fascinated by the display. What was so different
about daylight, he wondered. But then Hutch ran a hand up his
side and onto his chest, pulling the hair softly, rimming one
nipple with his thumb. Starsky gasped and arched up, his cock
throbbing. Hutch scooted up and glanced down at the result of
his caress, then repeated it, only this time he pinched both
nipples hard, and Starsky almost bucked him off the bed, thrusting
helplessly upwards, his cock jabbing the air.
It was obvious that Starsky was almost out of control at that
first touch, and it took Hutch a moment to capture the straining
erection and start a rhythmic sucking and stroking to channel
its release into his mouth. He sucked the last drop and quiver
out of his partner's body and then moved up to kiss the dazed
face. Starsky's whole body was misted with a sudden dew of perspiration,
and his eyes were bewildered.
"We met last night," Hutch reminded him.
"You, I know," Starsky gasped. "Me, I'm not so
sure about. Hutch? How did you do that?"
Hutch shook his head, toying with the springy hair on Starsky's
chest again, this time with merely pleasant results, not electricity.
"I hate to tell you this, buddy, but I didn't do much at
all. You always wake up that hot?"
Starsky blinked back a tear or two and sat up shakily. He was
still staring at Hutch as if he didn't quite believe him. "Well,
I will if you will," he said after a moment. "'Least,
until my heart gives out. How you doing?"
"I don't think I've recovered from last night," Hutch
said. "You were-" He shook his head. "I don't
know enough words, Starsk. You're strong and brave and beautiful-"
embarrassment at so much sentiment was bringing the blush back
"-and you've got a world-class ass!" He pasted a sudden
sloppy kiss on Starsky's smiling mouth and bounced off the bed.
"Haul it out so we can go get breakfast."
Starsky hauled it and managed to shower, shave and brush his
teeth with only a few collisions with the tall white-and-gold
body getting ready around him, but he hesitated as he picked
up his jeans.
"I hate to get dressed again."
"You'd be a little conspicuous if you didn't."
Conspicuous. He zipped his jeans and shrugged into his shirt.
The whole hot, gritty, opinionated world was waiting outside
their door, and they weren't the only ones in it. He couldn't
really change how other people felt.
"What's the matter?" Hutch asked, acutely sensitive
to his mood.
"Kiss me again," Starsky said. "I just realized
I'm gonna have to wait a while."
Hutch obliged, and Starsky leaned into him, cherishing the strength
of the arms around him, the solidity of the warm body, the way
they struck the right balance with a single center of gravity
between them, new but familiar. Could that shared center really
make up for the other things that had cut Hutch so deep?
" I'll try to make you happy, he promised.
Hutch opened the door and a new, cool breeze blew in. There was
no scorpion sting to the light. The air was fresh with flower
scents, not overburdened with hydrocarbons.
"Hey, Starsk, air worth breathing." Hutch lifted his
shining head and took a deep breath. "Heatwave's over."
Hutch's face was as bright and rested as the morning. I'm good
for him, Starsky thought with a lifting heart. He pulled in a
lungful of coolness.
"The air's fine," he said. "But, Babe--the heatwave's