(Sequel to Resurgences)
Bright morning sunlight spilled through the bedroom window. The midnight blue of the sheets was almost iridescent in the onslaught, the dark fabric very warm where the light hit it.
A polished glint in the vicinity of his feet drew Hutch's attention. Finding no threat, he relaxed. It was only the light bouncing off Starsky's wooden ship on the cabinet above the head of the bed. They were, he realized, upside down in Starsky's huge bed. Remembering how they came to that state, Hutch grinned.
It had been seven months, and Hutch was almost willing to admit success. Slow and easy, he mused. Like last night.
"MMMMN." The hot form pressed down his back stirred. The arm surrounding his waist tightened as his partner snuggled closer.
"Have you any idea how golden you look spread across these sheets?" Starsky whispered in his left ear.
"You gonna tell me?" Hutch shivered.
"How 'bout I show ya'?"
His partner's hard cock gave his rump a questioning nudge.
"How 'bout it," Hutch agreed, pushing back.
Starsky slid easily into him, the channel still slick from last night's love play.
Hutch moaned as his partner's left hand settled around his engorged shaft. He felt most complete when Starsky was within him like this.
This morning's ride was nowhere near as wild as they had shared last night, but there was an underlying tenderness to it that Hutch found irresistible. His heart soared as their bodies moved together, the immolating climax forcing reason from his mind for a very long time.
"Morning, Starsk." He sighed with satisfaction as soon as he could speak.
"Happy Birthday, partner."
"Don't tell me you forgot."
"Almost." Hutch turned over to face his companion, unable to withhold a smile at the aggrieved tone. "Hey buddy, hate to break this to you, but it's the celebrant that's supposed to get upset when his partner forgets his birthday."
"I did not forget. Have I ever?"
The tension was back again, threefold. "Starsky, you promised me. No..."
"No fuss, no surprise parties. I remember. But I never promised no surprises. I got something for you."
"Thought you just gave it to me," Hutch drawled, relaxed now that the worst of his worries had been cast aside.
"This is special," Starsky insisted.
Hutch touched the nearby cheek, practically glowing inside with the feelings his friend aroused in him. "So was that. I love ya, partner."
Starsky's face softened. "Me too."
Hutch luxuriated in the unrushed kiss that followed, moaning in protest when Starsky drew away.
"How'd we get down here?" Starsky asked, finally taking stock of their position.
"Don't you remember? I fell when we were trying to..."
"Oh yeah." Starsky cut him off, actually blushing. "How's your back?"
"Fine. Practice makes perfect. Next time we'll manage it."
"And you accuse me of being the optimist." Starsky grinned, scrambling up to the night table. A small velvet box and bulky envelope were withdrawn from the drawer's jumbled contents. "Happy birthday, babe," Starsky declared, handing over the box.
"What's in it?" Hutch asked, self-conscious at being the center of this type of attention.
"Open it and see. If you don't like it I can..."
His gasp as he opened the box intersected his partner's words. "Starsk?"
The ring nestled in the black velvet was nothing short of exquisite. The stone was a perfect oval cut turquoise; set in heavy, obviously high karat gold, the ring glittered like a desert dawn. The size was just right. Any bigger and it would have been ostentatious. As it was the ring was perfect, thoroughly masculine and highly suited to Hutch's particular coloring.
"It's...incredible, Starsk. I've never seen turquoise set in gold before."
"You like it?"
"I love it! Did you think I wouldn't?"
Starsky shrugged, asking with a peculiar intensity. "Will you wear it? I didn't know if you'd want a ring from me."
Abruptly, Hutch understood the cause of his companion's discomfort...the traditional symbolism behind ring giving. Yet, Starsky had still given it to him. "It's the most thoughtful, appropriate gift I've ever received. Will you put it on me?"
Starsky carefully extracted the ring from its velvet bed and grasped Hutch's right hand.
"Not that hand, partner. The left," Hutch gently instructed, so that there would be no misunderstanding.
Starsky's smile wavered as he slipped the heavy band onto Hutch's proffered finger. The fit was exact.
The blond studied his partner, trying to understand the cause of the strange hesitance he was still picking up. Starsky looked as if he wanted to crush the very life out of him at that moment, so strong was the need to touch. Yet he held back, appearing more uncertain than before he'd offered the ring.
"What's wrong, Starsk?"
"There's something else, something I don't think you're gonna go for."
"Something more than this?" Hutch questioned, holding out his hand to admire the ring.
"Yeah. Here." Starsky shoved the over-stuffed envelope at him. "I'm not tryin' to...rush things or pressure you. If you say no, it's no and I'll understand. Only promise you'll think about it first?"
Starsky's hand prevented him from opening the envelope. "Promise."
"I promise already. Now let me...Starsk, this is a deed." Hutch said in astonishment several minutes later.
"Five rooms overlooking the ocean. The beach is rocky, but private. All it needs is your signature and it's ours...after 30 years of mortgage payments. Will you think about it?"
Hutch blinked suddenly stinging eyes. Starsky looked so...scared, like everything of importance to him in the world was riding on Hutch's answer.
"I promised I would," Hutch answered, glad to see some of the tautness leave his lover's face. "Do you think we're ready for this?"
"That's for you to decide."
"I..." Hutch swallowed. "I don't want to disappoint you, partner."
"You couldn't," Starsky promised, leaning forward to place a chaste kiss on his forehead. "If we need more time, there'll be other houses. I just wanted you to know how I feel about you."
A ring and a house, what could be more permanent? All that was lacking was marriage bands.
Hutch found himself shying at the depth of commitment being asked of him, but the larger portion of his senses were humbled that Starsky was willing to take this kind of chance on him again.
Drowning in that hopeful gaze, Hutch felt an uncharacteristic calm settle over him. What precisely was he running from, protecting himself against? Starsky? The man bypassed his defenses as no other lover could, but never once had his partner abused that power.
"I don't think we need more time, Starsk."
Hutch tried to brush the wariness from the familiar face. "I want to live with you. For better or worse, 'til the end of the line." Hutch fumbled with the clasp of the chain that held the moon and star at his throat. "I don't have a ring for you, but wear this."
"Hutch, you sure?" Starsky asked, bowing his head to allow him to secure the chain.
"Positive. If I can't believe in you, what is there?" Hutch hugged his partner close.
"What the...?" Both men jumped as the alarm went off seconds later.
"Damn, I forgot we're working today." Hutch grimaced, wanting nothing more than to spend the day in bed celebrating with his partner.
"We could call in sick," Starsky suggested.
"Uh-huh. We're saving that time for vacation. At our house."
Starsky's contented smile was ample reassurance in the rightness of his decision. "That sounds good, Hutch."
"Yeah. We better get moving."
"Yeah," Starsky agreed, nuzzling Hutch's throat.
"Let's call in late."
As it turned out, they were less than a half hour behind schedule. Captain Dobey didn't even press them for an explanation, which puzzled Hutch until he took an objective look at his partner.
Always enthusiastic, Starsky was positively ebullient this morning, his goodwill flowing through the hectic squad room and rubbing off on those around him like the contagious bonhomie of a new father. Though Hutch alone understood its cause, there were few who failed to respond to Starsky's charm.
"Hey Starsky, you score last night or what?" Willful asked, exasperation plain in his tone as Starsky's laughter obviously interrupted his chain of thought...again.
"What's the matter, Willful, having trouble with that report?" Hutch inquired sweetly.
Too sweetly if the harassed plain-clothed detective's suspicious glance was anything to go by.
"What is it with him this morning?"
Hutch shrugged, uncaring how secretly pleased his smile was as his attention returned to his own report. The distracting glint of the fluorescent lights off his new ring did little to diminish his own rebounding joy.
A familiar thigh insinuated itself in his peripheral vision. He looked up to find his partner perched on the corner of his desk.
"He's right, you know," Starsky said in an unconsciously sensual undertone that would carry no further than his partner. "I'm not fit for duty right now."
"You're not helping me any either," Hutch protested without his usual asperity. "Look, why don't you take a walk around the building...return those files to Minnie. By the time you get back I should be done, then we'll hit the streets."
"I'd rather hit the sheets."
"All right. I'll take a walk. Will you let me take you to dinner tonight?"
Hutch's breath hissed from his lungs. ''You can take me anywhere you've a mind to. After work. Capish?"
Mischief shone brightly in Starsky's gaze. "Anywhere, huh? I'll hold you to that."
"The files, Hutch, the files," Starsky patiently reminded him.
Hutch did not shove the stack at the blue-eyed demon on his desk, but handed them across like a civilized human being.
Wondering if they would spend the remainder of their lives in this euphoric haze, Hutch watched his partner leave the room. With a shake of his head, he returned to his report.
"Thanks for whatever you did." Willful said wholeheartedly from three desks away.
"My pleasure." Hutch said, returning to his task.
The last gunshot was fading as the Torino lurched to a stop.
"I'll take the back," Starsky shouted, scurrying towards a stairwell at the side of the apartment building.
Hutch cautiously made his way in front, gliding from one position of cover to the next. His eyes kept scanning the unwashed hallway for some sign of the two plain-clothed detectives that were stationed in the second floor apartment above. There was no sign of Brocking or Hernandez, nor of Della Nova, the retired crime boss they were safeguarding until he could turn state's evidence.
The silence was ominous.
Reaching the second floor, he slunk down the dim corridor, quiet as a passing shadow. There was a half-open door throwing light into the empty hall at the end of the corridor.
Hutch darted past the open door and plastered himself flat against the wall. Heart pounding in his chest, he looked down at the obstruction holding the door open.
No sense even checking for a pulse, he thought grimly, not with the top of the man's head missing. Hutch stepped over the grisly doorstop and cautiously entered the apartment.
Somewhere in the back of the flat there was a relentless crashing sound--the sort of noise a sturdy door would make resisting forced entry.
Hutch took a fast peek around the wall that was affording him cover before soundlessly hurrying toward the noises of conflict.
He found Brooking's body sprawled across the living room carpet, his cranium no more intact than his unfortunate partner's.
Whoever the intruder was, he wasn't taking any chances. From the damage, Hutch figured they were up against at least another magnum.
A tortured splintering filled the apartment, punctured by another gunshot.
Hutch grimaced. If their shooter was true to form, Della Nova had just lost his head--literally.
Although Hutch made the door bare seconds after it had been smashed, he knew he was already too late. They were dealing with a pro from all indications. One shot was all a man like that would require.
A bullet whizzed by his cheek as Hutch peeked around the door jam. He heard a sound like a window opening, followed by a metallic clattering that could only mean one thing--a fire escape.
Hutch rushed after their suspect, all too conscious of the scant protection afforded by the steel grills and ladders. Twice he had to flatten against the building to avoid shots fired directly up at him. His answering volleys ricocheted uselessly off the stairs.
Luck alone spared him the third time. The bullet actually bit a piece out of the rim of his boot that time. It would make quite an epitaph, Hutch thought morbidly, thirty-three years to the day. And he hadn't even gotten a good look at the son-of-a-bitch yet.
He dropped to the ground barely eight seconds behind the assassin. Yet the man was nowhere in sight.
Tense as a spooked guard dog, Hutch studied his surroundings. The courtyard was a veritable maze of hiding places. In violation of every fire regulation, old furniture was stacked throughout the concrete pit. Hutch felt as though he were stalking a tiger unarmed as he made his way to the dubious cover of a couch precariously balanced upright on its arm.
The stained tan convertible was a sturdy piece of workmanship. At one time it must have been quite beautiful, but all Hutch cared about at that moment was the fact that it was tall enough and thick enough to shield his entire body.
If it were doing that. Feeling incredibly exposed, Hutch realized that he didn't even know in which direction his prey had run. At the moment he could be in clear sight of the assassin. In which case he would have been long dead by now, Hutch decided, taking consolation from the thought that if he couldn't see the hitman, chances were the shooter couldn't see him either. Theoretically.
A quick movement to his right drew the bore of his magnum that way. Every iota of his concentration was directed at locating the source of that motion.
There it was again, beside a chipped enamel kitchen cabinet.
Large, unquestionably feline eyes regarded him with curiosity as he focused on the cat's head.
Hutch lowered his gun in disgust as the startled tom bounded into the gaping cabinet.
Great, now I'm jumping at kittens. Next thing...
The next thing Hutch was aware of was the heavy convertible couch crashing down upon him.
His gun went off as he went down, the bullet going deep into a discarded armchair.
The cement he hit was almost as painful as the weight that landed on the right side of his body. A blinding display of stars obscured his vision, pain lashing through him as his right ankle twisted weirdly beneath the pressure. His forehead banged the broken cement with a resounding thud, the uneven surface scraping his cheek almost clean of skin. The impact of his wrist on the ground sent his gun sliding noisily out of reach.
Dazed, Hutch was just rational enough to realize the couch should have killed him. Although he was in pain, his senses almost totally befogged, nothing appeared to be broken. He turned his head far enough to see the collection of toaster ovens and other household trash that had been high enough to keep the full weight of the couch angled off him. He was trapped, but in no immediate danger of being crushed.
The retort of heavy boots against the cement was the next noise to register on his swimming consciousness. They made alarmingly few steps before the tooled brown leather came into his line of vision.
Irked with his own stupidity, Hutch realized that the gunman must have been on the other side of the couch the whole time.
Craning his neck painfully back, Hutch looked up at his very own angel of death.
It was not an unhandsome face or even a particularly unkind one that gazed back down at him. Rugged was the word that first came to mind. Features chiseled with character, the lines on the wrangler's face seeming more those of laughter than worry. Though the gunman had to be in his mid-fifties, the light brown hair was just beginning to grey. His trim, athletic body bespoke a fitness than men half his age would envy.
A sadness touched the seamed face as their eyes met, an almost profound regret. "This just wasn't your day, goldilocks."
The blond opened his mouth to protest when the sound of running footsteps through the nearby mounds of junk called both their attentions away.
There was only one person that could be. With the towering walls of discarded bric-a-brac and furniture, it would have taken his partner this long to simply make his way across the backyard.
"Starsky! Look out...oooooh." The tip of a heavy boot kicked the side of Hutch's head, effectively silencing him under a wave of agonized nausea.
The gun was pointed at him again, Hutch noticed as he blinked the stars away. At least Starsky was warned.
A slender thumb cocked the hammer.
"Hutch!" The frantic scream was Starsky's, close by, but still outside of his line of vision. Too close. "Hutch, where are...?" Silence and then, "NO, Niko, noooo..."
Amazingly, the expected death shot was not fired. The hammer stayed paused as the rangy assassin looked back behind the pinned detective. "Misha?" The tone and expression of the killer were those of a man confronting a ghost.
"No, it's David, little Davey." Starsky's voice was ragged, fraught with suppressed emotion. "I thought you were retired."
"Della Nova was about to retire us all. This your partner, Davey?" The gunman asked, changing the topic. "Your Mama said you were real tight."
Hutch had the impression that those odd brown eyes were weighing and measuring him.
"Hutch is my partner," Starsky confirmed, fear still reverberating through the harsh tone.
Approval and something calculating entered the assassin's gaze. "You gonna shoot me, Davey-boy?"
"You gonna give yourself up, Niko?" Starsky countered.
"You know that's not possible. How 'bout a trade? Your partner here for a two minute head start."
"I'm a cop, Niko. We don't do deals with criminals."
"Interesting. Word has it that you personally put a shooter named Callandar on a plane to Algiers two years ago, or was that just rumor?"
"I'm a cop, damn it! I can't just let you walk away from a scene like this."
"Davey, you know that I'll do what I must. Don't make me." The plea was genuine.
"You owe me, David. I'm calling that debt in now. Either you give me your word as a Starsky that you'll let me out of this alley or your partner's pretty blond head is gonna be all over it." A pause and then, "Even if you had it in you to shoot me, Davey...you do it now and he's a dead man."
Gathering his courage, Hutch waited to die. He was absurdly grateful that he couldn't see Starsky's face at this minute.
The silence stretched until it was pierced by a deathly quiet sigh. "All right, two minutes, Niko."
"Smart move, son. Your father would be proud of the way you've grown up. Even if you are a cop."
"Get the fuck outa here, Niko, before I change my mind."
"Take care, Davey-boy." The affection in the killer's voice sounded unfeigned, then the man Starsky called Niko turned and scrambled up a twelve-foot fence nimble as a spider monkey.
Hutch's eyes sank closed as he struggled to accept the impossibility he had just witnessed.
"Hutch, you all right?" Starsky whispered as he crouched beside him.
Hutch looked up at his partner, wondering if it were a stranger he saw lurking behind the beloved eyes.
"He blew Hernandez and Brocking's head right off," Hutch said in his coldest tone. A siren was wailing nearby.
Starsky's face whitened, his features blanking of all emotion. "We'll get him."
"You had him cold," Hutch shot back mercilessly.
"And he had you," Starsky said hollowly, his eyes wells of misery.
"Would it have made any difference if he hadn't? You two were awful chummy."
Starsky flinched away from him, refusing to meet his gaze.
"Well?" Hutch prodded.
Ignoring the question, Starsky took hold of the couch edge. With a tremendous effort, Hutch's partner heaved the heavy sofa up and off him.
"Is anything broken?" Starsky asked in a dead tone that sent a shiver through him despite his fury.
"No, I think my ankle's sprained. I fell funny."
"Your face..." Starsky reached for the cheek that had taken the brunt of his fall.
Hutch's hand blocked the move with a ruthless chop. "Never mind my face. What about...?"
Starsky stared at their locked arms, then checked his wrist watch. "In ten seconds it will be two minutes. It sounds like a patrol car's out front. I think he'll head for the docks. When the uniforms arrive, send back up."
"You're going after him alone?" Hutch asked, reason beginning to penetrate his pain-exacerbated ire.
Starsky's scathing gaze darted to his face, its vehemence fading at whatever his friend read there. "Tell them he's armed and dangerous. Have Dobey put out an APB on Nikolai Markkow."
"That his name?"
Starsky looked away. "His real one."
"Starsk..." Hutch began, aware how he had wounded in his anger.
"Yeah?" Still not looking directly at him, the slender body clenched as if to withstand a blow.
Some of the tension left the bow taunt figure. Starsky's haunted gaze at last met his own. "Will you be all right alone here 'til the uniforms arrive?"
The hand reached tentatively for his face again. This time Hutch didn't prevent it from wiping the blood from his throbbing cheek.
"Yeah, I'll be fine."
"I'll get him, Hutch." Solemn vow. Then Starsky spun on his heel and took off for the fence. Hutch watched him go, trying to shake off a sudden sense of foreboding.
Two hours later he still hadn't evaded the feeling. Cursing the ER doctor that had insisted he have a skull x-ray, Hutch waited out the doctor's time worn spiel about the dangers of concussion with hard won patience. He'd heard the damn speech so many times in his career that he could recite it himself. "Yes, yes if there's any problems with double vision I'll come back immediately. Can I go now?"
Two Hours. All he'd heard was that the hitman was dead. No word on Starsky or from Starsky.
The doctor ran a hand through wispy grey hair. "I would prefer you remain over night for observation, but if you insist on leaving...your friend is waiting in the corridor."
Hutch's heart leaped at the mention of his friend. That could only be Starsky--which meant everything had worked itself out.
He smiled at the tired old man before him, displaying the first hint of the graciousness that had charmed so many in its day. "Thank you, doctor. You've been very kind."
"You will return at the first sign of trouble."
Eager as a baby fox, Hutch limped out into the corridor.
"What are you doing here?" Hutch demanded of the gangly black man waiting in the antiseptic hallway.
Huggy Bear started. "Man, you look awful. Who you been tussling with?"
Huggy's lemon yellow suit and lime shirt were painfully bright. Hutch looked away from the sartorial catastrophe and composed himself. "Where's Starsky?"
"Don't know. I was summarily ordered to pick you up here in the Emergency room and deliver you home."
"Who else? Look, what's goin' down? Starsky sounded..."
"What--how did he sound?"
Huggy's bony shoulders gave a helpless shrug. "Weird. No emotion at all. Even when he said you were in emergency."
"How long ago was that?"
"Twenty-five minutes, maybe thirty."
And Huggy had made it across town with time to spare. Realizing that The Pits would have just been beginning to jump, Hutch lightened his attitude. "Did he say where he was, Huggy? It's important."
"No, but I don't think it was the squad room. It was too quiet in the background. What's going on, Hutch?"
"I'm not sure. Will you drop me at headquarters?"
A slow nod.
Hutch only half listened to the anecdote Huggy was obviously relating only to fill the unnerving quiet with sound. He knew that his own remoteness was alarming but he didn't know how to explain half of what was happening. He didn't understand himself.
Hutch had almost come to terms with his partner's actions. Much as the idea of letting a copkiller go enraged him, he knew that had their positions been reversed with Starsky's life in the balance, his decision would have been the same. And yet...
The familiarity that cold-blooded killer had displayed towards his partner rankled. Starsky's behavior was no more reassuring. Everything Hutch knew about his lover told him that Starsky's feelings towards this mysterious Niko ran very deep. Deep enough for Starsky's actions to have been the same without the threat to Hutch's life?
Fortunately, it hadn't come to that. His faith in his friend hadn't been that badly rattled. Still, the doubts lingered.
"We're here, my dented friend."
Hutch jumped at the gentle announcement. "Thanks, Huggy. I'll call later and let you know what's happening."
"Think again. I told him I'd make sure you got home."
"You don't have to..."
"I don't know what's goin' down, but neither of you is operating at par right now. Huggy Bear is staying right where he said he would until he's done as promised and delivered you home safe and sound. That clear?"
Hutch smiled at the atypical show of stubbornness. "As crystal. Come on. I've got to find out what's happening."
The squad room was a buzz with activity, the typical whirlpool of frantic motion that followed the completion of a major operation. Despite the distractions, Captain Dobey all but pounced as they entered the office. "Hutchinson, where the blazes is your partner?"
"He isn't here?" Hutch answered with his usual brilliance.
"Would I be asking if he were? For that matter, what are you doing here? The hospital said you were supposed to be home resting."
"I..." Feeling every curious glance upon him, Hutch gathered himself together. "Could I speak to you privately, Captain?"
Dobey gave a reluctant nod and motioned towards his office. "In there. You too, Huggy."
The restaurateur smiled at the tone of command. "You're goin' to have to be giving me a badge if you keep talking to me like that, Captain-my-man."
"I am not your man and you are not one of mine, thank God. Though for all the difference it makes, you might as well be." The harassed brown gaze pinned Hutch to the chair once they settled. "What's going on? Where is your partner?"
Hutch sighed. "I was hoping you'd be able to tell me. I got word at the hospital that Markow was dead--but no details." A sudden tension gripped his insides. "Starsky went after him. Did Markow...?"
"No, from all reports, Starsky shot him. Your partner chased Markow to a warehouse on Spinnaker Street. Starsky was apparently trying to talk the suspect into giving himself up when a pair of patrolman got involved. The rookie of the team managed to end up with that elephant gun of Markow's pressed to his temple. The kid swears that Markow stepped out of nowhere."
Huggy snorted. "No doubt."
"That's enough from you," Dobey ordered, his tolerance for their associate never overly magnanimous.
"Huggy," Hutch warned. "Go on, Captain."
"There isn't much else to tell. Both uniformed officers' reports state that Markow goaded Starsky into shooting him, which doesn't make any sense. They both also claim that the suspect addressed Detective Starsky familiarly throughout the exchange, his final words being: 'Go on, Davey-boy, this is where you make your choice. Which will it be?' Officer Carver insists that Markow seemed convinced that Starsky was going to help him out of that mess; that Markow insinuated that your partner had already let him go once--which I've discounted as hearsay until I get your written report. What do you have to say to all this?"
Dobey's stare was a weight upon him, heavy and demanding, but Huggy's was even worse. Hutch tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry.
Now he understood why Starsky had temporarily vanished--to make this easier on him. Hutch silently and thoroughly cursed the absent man for his misguided sense of ethics. Starsky could no more break his word, even an oath under such duress, than he could lie to Dobey about what had gone down. By the same token, Starsky no doubt, realized Hutch would not be able to lie either, but his partner had spared him the trauma of having to speak against him in his lover's presence.
Absurdly, he wished he'd had the chance to read the uniform's reports to find out exactly what had been said in that warehouse. Whatever it was, the facts had obviously been exaggerated enough to incriminate his partner to some small degree. That much was plain from Dobey's attitude. But how much of the report had been true? If he said anything now it might get his friend into even deeper trouble.
More then a little ashamed by where his thoughts were leading him, Hutch took a deep breath and met his captain's probing gaze. Dobey had faith in them; whatever went down he owed this man the truth.
"Starsky knew Markow. I don't know how well or where from, but I think they...respected each other."
"What happened this afternoon, Hutch?"
As carefully as he could, Hutch detailed what had happened once he'd entered the building where Della Nova was holed up, pausing at the point where the couch fell on him. "He had me cold, Captain. The hammer was cocked and ready to shoot when I heard Starsky coming and shouted a warning."
"Did you use his name?" Dobey inquired.
"Did you call him Starsky?"
"Ah...yeah, I did," Hutch answered, unsure if he were helping or hurting his friend.
"Then what happened?"
"Starsky came charging in anyway. He recognized Markow at once."
"But he didn't shoot him?"
"He couldn't. Markow hadn't uncocked his gun. It was still leveled at me."
"You're sure of that, Hutch?"
"Being under an assassin's gun isn't an experience I'm likely to forget, Captain," Hutch snapped.
"Starsky tried to talk Markow into giving himself up. He refused. Told Starsky he'd waste me if Starsky didn't give his word that he'd let him out of the alley."
"Did you believe him? Did your partner?"
Hutch's temper flared. "The bastard had just iced two cops. Neither of us was willing to make it three. There's not a doubt in my mind that Markow would have killed me if necessary."
Dobey nodded, seemingly unsurprised by any of this. "What about Starsky? Do you believe Markow would have hurt your partner?"
The question stumped him. So far he had been unrelentingly honest, if understandably biased in the slant of his answers. For the first time his certainty wavered. "I don't know. He seemed almost fond of Starsky. Why do you ask?"
"Because at no time do you mention your partner being threatened. Doesn't that seem peculiar to you?"
There was no hesitation in Hutch's defense this time. "If he knew Starsky to the degree where he knew that his word would bind him, he obviously knew him well enough to understand that holding the gun on me was sufficient. Tell me, Captain, if you were Markow and had me pinned down and defenseless, but knew that Starsky had a gun on you, who would you threaten to get Starsky's cooperation?"
"Point taken," the captain conceded, both of them aware that Starsky had often placed his partner's life before his own. Much as it unnerved Hutch, Vic Bellamy had not been a one-time deal.
"What's all this leading to, Captain?" Hutch demanded, growing weary of the charade. His concern for his partner was growing with each second.
"Della Nova's location was known to very few individuals. There is some indication of a leak from within. Starsky's association with the hitman casts him in a very suspicious light.
"Association?" Hutch was on his feet and leaning across the desk before his mind even registered motion, his finger pointing squarely at Dobey's nose. "This is Starsky were discussing here, not some two-bit punk. If you think I'm going to sit here and listen to you accuse the best cop on this damn force of...selling out, then you've got a lot to learn."
"I want these facts straight, Hutchinson--before IA gets its claws into this. I don't believe Starsky is guilty anymore than you do, but until the nature of his relationship with Markow is revealed, he's under suspicion of complicity. Do you understand?"
"Oh, I understand all right." Hutch stormed for the door.
"Where do you think you're going?" Dobey demanded, his voice a threatening growl.
"To find out the 'nature' of this relationship. It's what you want isn't it?"
Dobey subsided into his chair. "Not what I want, what duty demands."
It wasn't until they reached the car that Hutch calmed enough to talk to Huggy. "You've known Starsky longer than me, Hug. He ever say anything about knowing a hitman named Niko?"
"Hey, I ain't the one he's buying the house on the hill for. How would I know?" Huggy shot back, visibly rattled by the interview.
"He told you about that?" Hutch asked softly.
"Only asked if I thought you'd go for the idea," Huggy answered discretely.
"What did you think?"
Huggy didn't pretend to misunderstand. "That he's happy with you. You're...good for each other. You gonna tell me where we're headin'?"
Hutch smiled. "His place."
"You think he'll be there?"
"Where else would he be?" His confidence was forced. Hutch was secretly relieved to see the Torino in its usual space outside Starsky's when they pulled up.
"You want I should wait?" Huggy offered.
"No, he can't throw me out if I haven't got wheels. Thanks, Huggy. I owe you one."
"You owe me $32.50, last month's tab," Huggy corrected with a smile. "The two of you can drop it by tomorrow. Oh and, Hutch..."
Yeah?" Hutch asked, leaning in the Continental's open window.
"Have a Happy Birthday."
The tired blond gave a sardonic salute and hobbled towards his partner's house.
The sun hadn't fully set yet, but darkness already seemed to hover about the place. No lights spilled through the windows onto the twilit street, no radio, nothing. Hutch didn't even bother with knocking.
As he let himself in he could hear a phone ringing in the living room. Its shrill blare abruptly cut off, as if someone had unplugged the machine.
Hutch found it hard to accept that it was less than twelve hours since he'd left this house the most elated he'd ever felt, all ready to settle down into the proverbial happy ever after with his partner.
Pausing to push the ends of his hair free from his painful, scraped cheek, Hutch caught sight of his new ring. Every time he'd looked at it this morning, he'd experienced that same intoxicating high; now the very sight of it was like a kick in the groin.
He was not the dreamer in this partnership, Starsky was. Kenneth Hutchinson was a realist. Embittered by the break with his family and subsequent divorce, he had learned to doubt most things, except his partner. Starsky was always the single absolute in this disillusioning world. Wasn't it only this morning that he had confessed as much to his partner when he'd agreed to live with him?
Hutch tried to analyze why he suddenly felt uncertain of that decision, and his partner, now. He'd vehemently defended Starsky's actions this evening and would continue to do so, but he was hurt, confused in a way he never thought he could be about Starsky.
Hutch had believed he'd known everything significant about his partner: the people, places and events that mattered and those that didn't. A first name relationship with a hired killer was not the kind of connection a cop like Starsky would casually forget to mention. If Hutch hadn't known about Markow, it was because Starsky wanted it that way.
Who was this killer to his lover? What sort of debt could Starsky possibly owe a low life like that? And most importantly, why had it come as such a shock to Starsky's partner.
Knowing only one way of obtaining the answers he needed, Hutch stepped quietly into the ill lit living room.
He stood in the doorway a long moment before he was noticed. Hutch took the opportunity to study his partner. Starsky was slouched down in the couch. The blue jeans and pale blue shirt were the same as this morning's, but far more rumpled.
The dying light seeping through the window picked out the lines of the familiar face, deepening them, adding shadows to the eyes that Hutch had never seen before. For the first time in memory, Starsky looked old to him, each of the countless losses and hurts he'd endured in his life plainly etched into his features. An air of defeat, of suffering so intense that it surpassed despair, permeated the room.
His partner hadn't even sought the solace of a beer, Hutch noticed. There was nothing on the coffee table adjacent to the couch but an unfamiliar, ancient-looking leather book.
It was at that moment Starsky noticed him, his eyes widening to enormous proportion. "Hutch?"
"Who else?" Hutch answered, the lightness forced and uncomfortable.
"I didn't think you'd want to see me."
Hutch almost wished for a return of the emotionless tone he recalled from after Markow's escape. The utter vulnerability in that subdued statement shook him. "You promised me dinner, remember?" The question was affectionate, nothing at all accusative in the gentle reminder.
"That was a million years ago," Starsky said slowly, diverting his gaze to the bookcase.
The raw pain drew him like metal shavings to a magnet. Hutch limped his way over to the coffee table. Pushing the book aside, he settled on a spot closest to the curly head.
Up close it was obvious that Starsky hadn't been crying. Hutch wished that he had. It was always easier to deal with his partner when Starsky's emotions were close to the surface. These private, hidden wounds were much harder to heal because they ran so much deeper than the others, almost as if the damage went beyond the ability of mere tears to express.
"Sure feels that way, doesn't it?" Hutch agreed, laying his hand on a bare forearm. The skin beneath his palm felt strangely cold in that brief contact.
"Don't," Starsky pleaded, flinching away from him.
"Why not?" Hutch asked, pulling his hand back as if scalded.
"I don't have the right anymore."
Puzzled more than hurt, Hutch tried to breach the distance gaping between them. "Don't have the right? In case you've forgotten, partner, I all but agreed to marry you this morning."
Starsky actually winced at that. "God, Hutch...you're not making this easy."
"That's because I can't understand what THIS is. I don't understand any of this, Starsk."
His confusion seemed to rouse his partner from his inner sufferings, at least temporarily. "No," Starsky said softly, affection coloring each syllable, "how could you?"
Starsky sat up straight on the couch, their knees almost brushing, their shoulders actually doing so when his companion's sinewy arm reached for the book Hutch had displaced moments ago. As his partner flipped through the brittle cellophane pages, he saw that it was a photo album.
"What do you think of this?" Starsky asked, handing over the open album.
Hutch flicked on a nearby lamp and studied the picture in question. The suit and hat were at least a quarter of a century out of date, the shades of grey in the black and white 8X10 making them seem even older than that. But the man wearing those clothes! The jaunty, conspiratorial grin and glittering eyes were intimately familiar, the face itself almost identical. The mole beneath the right eye was missing, his detective's eyes noted, and his partner's body was heavier with muscle, in better shape, but those small details were negligible in view of the overwhelming similarities.
"Your father?" Hutch guessed, perplexed by the significance of this in light of today's events. He was also stunned than Starsky had never shown him this before.
"Spooky, huh? People always said that Nicky and me could be clones. I don't see the resemblance myself, but with papa it would be true."
"The likeness is remarkable, but what has this got to do with...?"
"What do you know about my father, Hutch?" Starsky cut in.
The curious intensity underlining the question kept him from taking offence. Hutch considered carefully before answering. "He died when you were very young. You loved him a lot."
Starsky nodded. "Yeah, I did. You didn't say how he died."
Hutch tensed; he hadn't said because he hadn't wanted to add to his friend's present pain. "Starsk, why bring up old...?"
"He was shot down in the street Hutch, executed gangland style. Didn't you ever wonder why?"
Starsky's containment was completely unnerving. "Of course I wondered, but you told me a long time ago that you were brought up in a rough neighborhood. I always figured that had something to do with it."
"You never asked, babe, even when I told you how he died. I always loved you for that."
He could hear that love in his friend's voice, only it seemed tinged with sorrow now. "It isn't the sort of wound you go casually picking at, Starsk."
"What did my father do for a living, Hutch?" Starsky asked abruptly, the heat of his gaze burning through Hutch's sudden nervousness.
"I..." I don't know. Hutch searched his memory, but nowhere among the encyclopedia of trivia he'd collected over the years about David Michael Starsky and his relatives was that particular piece of information filed. He knew all about Aunt Rosie and her soup, Uncle Al and his used car lot, Mamma and her magazines, Papa and the ballgames he brought Starsky to, but nowhere was that most basic fact about the man who had fathered his lover. In retrospect the omission was glaring.
Hutch considered it a moment longer, then voiced the one assumption he'd always unconsciously made. "Because of the way you are, I always thought that your dad was probably a cop, which might have explained why he died the way he did. But you never said that."
"No, it would have been a lie. You never asked, so I never said. But that don't excuse it."
"And if I had asked?"
Starsky sprang to his feet and paced to the window, as if needing to put some distance between them. "I thought Joe Durniak might have told you that time we were driving him around in the truck, but he never did. Did he?"
"Told me what? What are you trying to say?"
"Papa was a good man, Hutch. He was kind and gentle. People loved him. He could charm the birds out of the trees if he wanted to or make a man want to die for him."
"Sort of like his son, huh?" Hutch smiled, trying desperately to lighten the mood. Instinctively dreading what was coming.
"No, not like me at all. Not where it counts. Mamma...she never knew the man she married, not until after he was dead. Then it almost killed her."
"Starsk?" Even across the room he could feel the turbulent emotions seething through the taut body.
"You haven't asked me how I know...knew Niko Markow either, Hutch. That's what brought you here, isn't it?"
"Starsky, please come over here and sit down." The tension in the isolated figure was beginning to frighten him.
"Niko was like an uncle to me when I was growing up, Hutch. Nicky was even named after him. He and Papa were real close. In fact, Niko used to work for him."
"What?" Hutch gaped, too stunned to keep the shock out of his voice.
"Papa and Joe Durniak, they were in the same business, but different breeds so to speak. My father wasn't a cop, Hutch, he was a bad guy. Just like the Gunthers, Durniaks and Forrests we bust every day."
The ragged whisper seemed to echo through the quiet living room for a very long time before Starsky picked up his narrative. "I don't know the details, never wanted to. There was some kind of dispute with the Syndicate over territory. They put a contract out on Papa. One summer evening when he and Niko were coming home, a big black car rode down our street. I was out playing and when Papa and Niko went past, I started to walk home with them. The car pulled up along side us. I was on the outside by the curb when the window opened and a gun came out. Papa grabbed me and threw me at Niko, telling him to 'look after little Davey'. Then all hell broke loose. When the shooting stopped Papa was dead and Niko had a hole through his arm. He got it protecting me. Niko got me to the house and stayed with us until Joe Durniak arrived. Before Niko left, he promised me he'd get the bastards that killed Papa. He kept his word, Hutch."
"That's why Niko said you owed him?" Hutch asked in a hushed tone. What Starsky was telling him was incredible. He was almost unwilling to believe it, except that it explained so much. Why a man like Callandar would have ever accepted a cop's word, and why Laura-Allison May's father, the beloved Uncle Frank from Starsky's childhood, had seemed even more perturbed when he'd found out who Starsky was. That hadn't been just a protected witness' fear of encountering someone from an abandoned past. It was who Starsky was that had bothered Frank May.
Starsky nodded once in response to Hutch's almost forgotten question, the motion a tight bobbing of curls. The bent head, tight balled fists...his partner looked about eight years old at that moment.
The slender body actually jumped when Hutch laid his palm on a tense shoulder. "Starsk, look at me."
He was reluctantly obeyed. The depth of uncertainty in the gaze that was turned his way ripped pieces of his heart out.
"That was over twenty years ago, partner."
"But I loved him, Hutch. I loved them both." The confession was almost a dare.
"Of course you did." Hutch soothed, taking the troubled man into his arms despite the powerful body's resistance. He could only guess what today's actions had cost his partner.
"You're not mad?"
The lump in his throat tried to choke him. Hutch tightened his hold. "Not at you. I could kill the bastard for putting you through what he did."
A tremor shook the clenched muscles. "I already did that."
"How...how do you feel about what you had to do?" Hutch asked gently, not knowing how he'd feel himself in similar circumstances.
"Feels like I killed the last piece of Papa."
"Markow was a killer, Starsk."
"I know, but he...saved my life, Hutch."
"That was his job, babe."
"Yeah, but it wasn't his job to keep me clean. He did that."
"After Papa died, certain of his associates wanted his heir to take over."
"You were only a kid," Hutch protested.
"I was old enough to learn the ropes. Joe wanted me in. He was always fond of Papa. The day they brought me to Durniak's office to discuss it Niko showed up. He was like an avenging angel, Hutch. I thought he was gonna kill them all. Niko swore if any of them ever so much as spoke to me again, he'd put a bullet through their heads. He meant it, too. Then he brought me home and talked Mamma into sending me out here to L.A. to live with Uncle Al."
The adolescence spent in L.A. while Starsky's mother and brother remained in New York had always puzzled him. "Why?"
"For Papa, I think. My father never wanted us involved. He'd wanted to send me to L.A. the year he died, but I talked him out of it."
"Guess he had some idea how things were going down and wanted me clear of it. But when he told me he wanted to send me away, I thought it was a punishment for something I'd done. Promised him that if he'd let me stay, I'd be good." Starsky shook his head, leaning away to look at Hutch's face. "There were tears in his eyes when he said he wanted to send me away to keep me good. It was the only time I ever saw him cry, Hutch."
"You're right, he sounded like a good man. And I'm sorry about what you had to do today, but you had no other choice, Starsk."
"You believe that?"
"You had to let Markow go or he'd have wasted me. As for the other, I'm sure you did what you had to."
"But in the alley you said...?"
And that more than anything wounded his partner, Hutch realized. "Starsk, I was...out of line. I was furious with that creep for putting you in that position and with myself."
A self-deprecatory smile touched Hutch's bruised lips. "He was standing on the other side of the couch I'd chosen for cover the whole time and I never knew it. He caught me off guard, Starsk, like a green rookie. I even managed to lose my gun. Wouldn't you be mad at yourself?"
"I guess," Starsky conceded uneasily. After a moment he stepped free of the embrace, almost casually. "How do you feel? You got banged up pretty bad. Those bruises must be hurtin'."
Beneath the concern he could feel his partner slipping away from him again. "Starsk?"
"You shouldn't be standing on that ankle."
"Then come back to the damn couch with me. I don't intend to shout at you across the room," he snapped peevishly.
"What do you intend?"
Quiet question, frosty calm, Hutch knew that no one beside himself would ever detect the fear hiding behind it. "Huh?"
The cold front held a moment longer before Starsky gave a small exasperated smile and shook his head. "Hasn't registered yet, has it?"
"How many of our brother cops do you think will be happy with the heir to a crime empire among their ranks?"
Hutch froze. That cold front had lodged itself in his gut, its icy tendrils piercing his limbs. "None of this had anything to do with you," Hutch insisted, his tone as inaccessible as a sheer arctic cliff
But his partner had always been one for tackling the all-but-impossible. "No? If it were anyone but me, how would you feel?" Starsky's gaze wavered, dropping to his tightly clenched hands. "For that matter, how do you feel about me now? A criminal's son, a fraud..."
Hutch wanted to punch him. At that moment the urge to bash that familiar face in was as viscerally intense as his desire had ever been. Instead, Hutch's right hand bunched in his partner's shirtfront. A quick yank and the smaller man was locked in his embrace. The kiss was brutal, even savage, as he plundered the unresisting depths.
Starsky made a small, dismayed sound, his body going very still.
Hutch's hands gripped the well-formed butt. Heedless of the pressure of his probing fingers he crushed their hips together. His fingers dug at the tight denim, hard probes that had nothing to do with pleasure. He wanted to rip the material away, bare those pale cheeks to the light, expose the tight orifice hidden there and...
Hutch thrust his partner away with a groan, gasping as he sought to restore his equilibrium. His body was trembling with the violence of his reaction.
Where did that come from?
Starsky stumbled back from him, sinking blindly down onto the coffee table behind him like a shock victim.
Recalling his partner's utter lack of protest, Hutch's anger flared anew.
"What the hell's wrong with you? Have you any idea how close I just came to raping you? Why didn't you try to stop me? You..."
But it was like attacking a child or some other beautiful defenseless creature. The hopeless misery in the gaze turned his way killed Hutch's ire, leaving only shame in its wake.
"Wouldn't'a been a rape. I had it comin'."
Hutch dropped to his knees before the dejected figure, taking the clasped hands between his own. The far away look to Starsky's face, the sense that his partner felt himself rejected on even the most fundamental level as primal lust, stabbed at Hutch's conscience.
Somewhere down the line he'd failed his lover, and not just through the violence of the last few minutes. That Starsky should have known him better didn't matter right now. All that was important was putting the hope back in his dream-weaver's eyes.
"I've never touched you in anything but love, partner, and I'm not about to change that now." His broken lips caressed the knuckles beneath his hand with a tenderness almost the complete antithesis of the force with which he'd savaged the now swollen mouth. "Listen to me, I love you, the man who's never let me down. I can't say that I don't care what your father was," anticipating the move, Hutch freed a hand and guided Starsky's gaze back to his face, "because it's hurt you. But that doesn't change anything. You're you. That's all that matters to me. You could tell me you were plucked from a cabbage patch or materialized out of the ether on the Academy steps the day we met and it would make no difference. Do you understand?"
Starsky's gulp was very loud in the quiet room. "It doesn't...change what you feel for me?"
Hutch bit back the instant How could it? waiting until the full weight of his partner's attention focused on him. "It's increased my respect for you, I think."
Starsky gave a mirthless chuckle that was as much a choking sound as an expression of disbelief. "How?"
"Ah, Starsk, don't you see how strong you had to be in here," he lightly touched the firm chest, "to become what you are? The easy path was handed to you, you could've gone back to New York, and carved yourself a nice fat piece of the pie, but you made a conscious decision to separate yourself from that. You chose to fight against corruption, not to propagate it."
"You make me sound like Batman." Starsky smiled, a very warming sight.
"The only bats you've got are in the belfry." Hutch laughed, relieved to see the spirit return to those magnificent eyes.
Starsky's hand reached out to cautiously touch his bruised face. "Have I told you recently how very much in love I am with you?"
"Not since this morning," Hutch answered, drowning in the emotion plainly visible in his lover's face.
"Consider yourself told." Starsky bent forward to kiss him, tentatively at first, but with growing enthusiasm.
Hutch reveled in the experience, feeling that everything was once again all right in their world. His pleasured moan turned into one of legitimate pain as he leaned awkwardly backwards, putting too much weight on his sprained ankle. The way he was kneeling, the bulk of the pressure was on the swollen tissue.
"Wha...god, get up from there," Starsky ordered, practically lifting him to his feet. "Think you can make it to the bedroom?"
"If you think you can."
Starsky laughed, a supporting arm encircling Hutch's waist.
Once inside Starsky methodically stripped him, refusing to allow Hutch to return the services.
Sinking his sore body down onto the incredible luxury of the mattress, Hutch watched his partner disrobe, his hunger growing with each economical unveiling. When Starsky returned to the bed all he wore was the moon and star chain Hutch had secured about his neck that morning.
Starsky settled into his arms, his silky curls crushed against Hutch's chest. To his surprise Starsky seemed perfectly content to just rest there absorbing the closeness.
A shaky sigh, much like the aftermath of a cathartic cry, shook the body Hutch held so tightly.
"Starsk, what's wrong?"
"Nothin'. I...don't think I could survive if I lost you now."
"That's a lot of 'nothing', partner." Hutch smiled. "Anyway, it's never goin' to happen."
"It coulda, so easily. If only for not tellin' you. Hutch, I wanted to, tried to a hundred times, only..."
"Sssssh, I understand."
"You do?" Starsky shifted, taking the bulk of his weight on his forearms so that he could peer down into his scraped, discolored face. "How can you, when I don't?"
Hutch gazed up into his friend's perplexed features, realizing that he'd probably never loved his friend more than at this moment. Just looking at Starsky's drawn face he could see how the continued silence had plagued his partner. "You didn't tell me because it wasn't your secret to tell."
"Even though your father disappointed you, you still loved him."
"How did you know?"
"How could you not be hurt? You idolized the man. To be so abruptly disillusioned..." I've been there, hell yes, it hurts.
"I...hated Papa for a long time after he died, Hutch," Starsky confessed. "Or wanted to, but I couldn't keep it up. I missed him. After a while I hated him for dying on me more than anything." From the way Starsky said it, it was almost as if he expected censure for admitting the truth.
"Of course you missed him. He was your father." Hutch gently reassured. "You'll always love him for what he was to you as a child. That's why you couldn't tell me."
"If it were something you'd done yourself and were ashamed of you still would've told me. Wouldn't you?" The last was not really a question. From Starsky's own lips he knew all about the dope in 'Nam and the teenage gang. Just as Starsky knew his own misdeeds.
"But this would have been like being disloyal to your father's memory, wouldn't it?"
Starsky started as if genuinely shocked by his perception. "I never thought of it that way, babe, but I think you're right. Even though I knew Papa was wrong, I still wanted to protect him. Nicky was only little when it happened, but when he got older and started askin' questions, all he got from me was what I gave you. And he was a hell of a lot more persistent. Somehow it just seemed...wrong to color the man by what we'd learned of him only after his death." Starsky's inward gaze slowly cleared, the warmth in it fairly melting Hutch's insides as it finally focused on him. "You're pretty amazin', partner. I never understood any of this until you spelled it out for me."
"You always were a lousy speller." Hutch smiled.
"Still think I'm a lousy kisser?" Starsky teased, leaning tantalizingly close.
Hutch laced his fingers in the dark curls on either side of Starsky's head and sampled the red lips. "You've improved somewhat," Hutch allowed as they parted for air.
"Your tutorin' no doubt."
"Wanna continue your instruction?" Starsky asked.
Although neither of their mouths were really up to it, they continued to kiss. Their lips kneaded against each other, the pressure gentle but active as their tongues lapped and followed each other. Despite their care, Hutch soon became aware of the metallic tang of blood flavoring their kiss.
"Mmmmm..." Starsky pulled back, his left index finger lightly skimming the puffy edge of Hutch's damaged lower lip. "You up to this?"
"Up to anything," Hutch promised, thrusting up against Starsky's thigh to accentuate his point.
With an oddly thoughtful nod, Starsky accepted his word.
The feeling intensified as their bodies rolled back and forth across the oversized bed, all the play vanishing from their touches as raw need asserted itself. They were both charged with their own particular tension, Hutch realized. His partner still reeling from the trauma of the day, and he from his groundless doubts.
Lost in the frenetic drive for release, an unconscious, though not unpleasant struggle was developing. One moment he would be pinned beneath Starsky's weight, his partner doing his best to insert himself between Hutch's thighs or to roll him over, the next, Hutch would be on top trying to do the same to his friend.
As their positions reversed yet again with Hutch supporting his partner's weight once more, Starsky smiled down at him with a peculiar air of finality. The dark haired man freed a hand to awkwardly dig the Vaseline jar out of the nightstand drawer. The room was supercharged with tension as Starsky undid the lid one handed.
Usually, Hutch would have surrendered at this point, aware that Starsky was more comfortable in the dominant role, but tonight he couldn't suspend his own drives. Perhaps it was a holdover from his infuriated attempt to enforce submission earlier when Starsky had dared question his love. Whatever the cause, all Hutch knew was that tonight he needed to feel himself inside his lover.
He waited until the last possible instant. When Starsky was off guard, spreading his legs to apply the gel, Hutch pounced. Grabbing the reaching hands, he locked his knees around the dark haired man's broader torso, gave a strategic lurch off his good ankle and rolled Starsky onto his stomach, securing him there with a wrestling hold that required only one hand and his chest pressed against the firm shoulders to hold his friend in place.
Starsky's body flopped beneath him like a marlin on a boat's deck, the futile, half-hearted struggle increasing Hutch's desire.
As if realizing the uselessness of his efforts, Starsky stilled, his body becoming suspiciously quiescent. Distrusting the calm, Hutch maintained his hold, his prudence rewarding him within seconds as the well-endowed butt bucked up in an attempt to overbalance him. Hutch groaned at the contact, his free hand blindly reaching for the overturned Vaseline jar.
Starsky gasped as Hutch's greasy fingers entered him. Despite his urgency, Hutch was careful to see that the passage was adequately lubricated and his friend sufficiently relaxed to allow easy penetration. Through hardly a rare occurrence, Hutch didn't take his partner this way very frequently, preferring for reasons he'd never closely examined to have Starsky within him. When he did take Starsky this way, it was something very special. For that reason Hutch always took special care to ensure that the experience was equally enjoyed by his love.
It took a few minutes, but at last Starsky's flesh dilated in welcome. He entered with excruciating slowness, allowing his friend to accept his bulk at Starsky's own pace, pausing when he felt resistance, moving again only when the constriction lessened.
The sensation was incredible. Starsky, virgin tight, hugged every throbbing inch of him. No sooner had the head of his cock pierced that tiny opening than the fire in his blood screamed that he claim it all in one smooth thrust, but he held back, letting the anticipation build. It was like being sucked into the center of the earth, hot magma churning all around, transforming his own excited flesh into the same liquid fire.
Starsky gave a quiet sigh when he was at last fully impaled.
"You all right, babe?" Hutch checked, loosening his hold on Starsky's torso and allowing him some movement.
"Mmmmm...let me up on my knees, huh?"
"All right, I'll..." Hutch agreed, beginning to withdraw.
"No, stay put. Just move with me."
He almost came then and there as Starsky thrust back at him, burying him deeper than Hutch would have ever dared penetrate on his own. His groan was ripped from his chest.
"Like that, do you?" Starsky chuckled. "You ain't felt nothin' yet."
Then Starsky was on his knees. Hutch felt his hand guided to Starsky's straining shaft. He clutched the springy flesh like a lifeline, milking pleasure from the hard organ as Starsky rocked against him, finding a rhythm for them.
Usually when taking his partner, Hutch would set the beat to a leisurely, achingly sweet waltz, something that not even a white-haired little old grandma would take alarm at, so fragile did his resurrected partner sometimes seem to him. But with Starsky as maestro the restraint was burned away the first time his lover bucked up at him. No waltz, no serene symphony for two, Starsky drove them like the lead guitarist of a heavy metal band. All rhythm and drums, the beat was all consuming, its drive thrummed through his blood.
Hutch was high on the wild elation, deaf to all but that demanding blood beat, the slap of his balls against Starsky's backside, and the syncopated grunts ripped out between ragged breaths.
They exploded in a dazzling crescendo of sensation, their cries ringing through the room as their minds dissolved with the dying beat.
Hutch's climax destroyed him, limbs turning to rubber as he collapsed onto the body supporting him and they crashed onto the bed.
Almost ten minutes passed before Hutch found the strength to peel himself from his partner. Rolling over, he stared at the ceiling, utterly exhausted.
"God, what did you do to us?"
"Me? Was you," Starsky protested feebly, turning on his side to stare at him.
Hutch weakly opened his arms, smiling at the visible effort it took Starsky to snuggle up to him.
"Know something, though?"
"What?" Hutch asked.
"Think it was just what I needed. Never felt so good. Thanks."
Hutch felt his cheeks warm. "My pleasure."
A long time later. "Hutch?"
"Uh-huh?" He mumbled, only half awake.
"What're we gonna tell the captain? Those cops are sure to have told him that Niko knew me." Instantly alert, Hutch looked down into concerned blue. "We tell Dobey the truth; that you knew Niko from your old neighborhood and that he was a friend of your father's."
"And the rest?"
Starsky's body, tense even after their shattering release, told Hutch how very much his partner wanted to leave certain truths dead and buried.
"The rest is our concern," Hutch decided, taking responsibility upon himself. "If Captain Dobey presses, I think we should tell him in confidence, but otherwise, we let it go."
"Do you think that's...the right thing to do?" Starsky asked hesitantly.
Hutch studied the worried man in his arms, appreciating anew why right and wrong had always been so vitally important to his partner.
"I'm not sure that it's right, but I don't want to see you hurt. Your father worked very hard to keep you out of his business. From what you've told me, so did Markow. But it was you that fought the hardest to separate yourself from it. It might be selfish of me, but I don't want my partner taking the rap for something he had no part of. I think we should handle it the way we do our relationship."
Starsky nodded. "Volunteer nothing, but offer no lies."
"Agreed. I love you, Hutch."
Hutch smiled. "It's mutual. Now go to sleep. We've got a big day tomorrow."
"Not half as important as tonight," Starsky protested, but settled down in his arms again.
"Right. Oh, and Starsk... The house on the hill, I think we're ready for it."
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