Curve Balls

Written with love for Tabby, in hopes that she's enjoying that big con in the sky where the slash scenes are filmed in every ep, the fun's non-stop, and there's a purring kitty on every chair.


The party was finally breaking up.

There were still about eight or nine people in Hutch's living room and kitchen, but most of the wall to wall crowd had left. It was just Hutch, Huggy, Cathy and three of her stewardess friends, Anita, and a couple of other detectives. And the two cops were making their way to the door even as Starsky watched.

"Bye, Starsky, Hutch! Happy Birthday, man," the handsome black cop Morris said as he and his partner made their exit.

"Thanks for coming, guys," Starsky said.

"See you guys on Monday," Hutch called from the other side of the room.

Starsky took a deep breath and surreptitiously rubbed at his aching ribs. He'd been on his feet longer today than he had in five months since James Gunther's hitmen had tried to take his life. His still-healing body was protesting his lack of a nap. Still, tired as he was, it was a good kind of tired.

A few months ago, he hadn't even thought he'd make it to his birthday. Hutch had really outdone himself today. The new train set Hutch had gotten him and that steak dinner at that fancy restaurant had been more than enough to make Starsky's day, but when they'd come back to Hutch's, everybody he knew seemed to be crammed into the apartment, shouting "Surprise!" and showering him with presents. It had been the best party ever, a true celebration of life.

Hutch had his guitar out now and was playing Beatles, Eagles, and John Denver songs. Anita and the three stewardesses that had come with Cathy were singing along, but Starsky still heard Hutch's sweet voice over all the others. His partner's hair was glowing so gold as he sat there on the couch's back with the girls gathered at his feet on the cushions that Hutch looked like he was under a spotlight.

"Hey, there," Cathy said, coming up beside him where he was leaning against the wall near Hutch's upright piano. The shapely brunette was looking especially pretty tonight in the brightly patterned aquamarine pants suit she was wearing.

"Hi, yourself," he said with a grin.

"Great party, huh?" she asked.

"The best," Starsky agreed. Time was when he would have used her line as an overture for taking the party someplace private. He could tell by the light in her eyes that she was waiting for him to make his move.

When the silence started to become awkward, Cathy said, "Hutch said you were feeling better these days."

"I am," he agreed. "With any luck, I'll pass the review next month with flying colors and be back on the job before you know it."

"I sure hope so, Dave," Cathy said.


"Do you, um, want to go back to your place? I don't have to be back at the airport until eleven tomorrow morning," Cathy said.

He'd always loved how uninhibited she was. There was never going to be anything serious between them, but for more than five years now, every time she flew into LA, they ended up in the sack. She was beautiful, fun, and carefree. She never blinked when Starsky wanted to bring Hutch along on their dates, and she'd even fielded that psycho Diane Harmon with gracious ease. She was exactly what the doctor had ordered for Starsky to get back into the swing of things, only for the first time in forever, when a beautiful woman was coming on to him, he found himself . . . disinterested. And he couldn't even say why. All he knew was that it just didn't feel right to go home with her tonight.

"I,er, would love to, honey," Starsky said. "I just don't think I'm up to it yet. The spirit's willing, but the body's not quite there yet. Can I take a rain check?"

He gave her his sexiest grin.

Any other woman would have been insulted, but Cathy smiled her open smile and answered, "Sure, Dave. I should be back in town next month. I'll call you, then. Think I'm gonna get Cindy and the gang and head back to the hotel now. It's getting late."

She leaned up and gave him a friendly kiss, then passed him to hit the bathroom.

Huggy had just left the bathroom. His purple suit and orange shirt hadn't gotten any dimmer as the night progressed.

Looking at where he was standing, Starsky realized that Huggy had probably overheard his conversation with Cathy. The concerned expression on his old friend's mismatched features seemed to suggest as much.

"You feelin' okay, man?" Huggy asked, coming close enough to be heard over the singing on the other side of the room.

"Feelin' great," Starsky said with a smile.

"I couldn't help but notice that you just turned down a mighty fetching lady there, my friend. That's not my man Starsky's usual MO, if you don't mind my sayin'. You sure everything's all right?" Huggy questioned.

"Yeah. I just . . . didn't feel like pushin' it," Starsky answered.

"Uh-huh." Huggy didn't seem all that convinced.

"It ain't a crime, is it?" Starsky asked, beginning to feel cornered. He knew how anxious both Huggy and Hutch were for him to be his old self again. He just didn't know how to tell them that that mightn't ever happen. Gunther's almost killing him had changed him, in ways he didn't understand himself yet.

"Nope. Just so long as nothin's wrong," Huggy said.

"No, nothing's wrong. I just . . . ." His words faded. He just what? Wanted to stay here and help Hutch clean up instead of go to bed with a beautiful woman? That was just too weird for words, and it freaked him out a bit.

But it was true. He'd rather stay here and pack up garbage with his partner than get laid. That was just so wrong; he couldn't even begin to process it.

Confused and more than a little worried, he looked over to where Hutch was still serenading the ladies.

The idea of someone taking another person's breath away had always struck Starsky as being one of those synonyms – or was it metaphors? – that you saw in hokey romance novels. He'd found many a woman he'd dated stunning, but their beauty had always hit him way south of his lungs. But tonight, he became viscerally acquainted with the concept of having his breath stolen. There was a radiance, a purity about Hutch as he sat there playing his heart out that transcended any beauty Starsky had seen. His partner looked like an angel sitting there in his white tunic shirt with his hair glowing around him like a halo.

Hutch was happy and laughing. Starsky couldn't remember the last time he'd looked this relaxed.

Hutch glanced up from the chords he was playing. Almost as if he'd sensed Starsky's gaze on him, Hutch's eyes sought him out.

As their eyes met, it was like a jolt of raw electricity crackled between them. It seemed like the floor dropped out from under Starsky as all oxygen escaped the room. A burst of sheer, agonizing longing crashed through him. He hadn't felt anything like this since the day he'd watched Rosie Mallone walk away. The yearning hit him like a Mack truck, leaving him the emotional equivalent of road kill.

Confusion seemed to touch Hutch's face, and then something like worry. Starsky half-expected Hutch to jump up from the couch and rush over to ask what was wrong with him, like Hutch did a dozen times a day when his ribs caught him up, but Hutch seemed almost shaken by the exchange. A hint of color flushed through Hutch's cheeks as he returned his attention to his music.

Starsky felt as if he'd been released from some kind of spell as Hutch looked back down at his guitar strings.

His guts clenched up and his heart started pounding as he finally acknowledged what he was feeling. This was wrong, wrong, wrong. That was Hutch. He shouldn't be wanting . . . .

"Starsk, what's wrong?" Huggy's concerned voice called him out of his panic.

"I . . . ." He looked from Huggy to Hutch, not knowing how to explain, and saw Huggy do the same.

When he finally focused on Huggy's face again, he was startled to see something like understanding there. Huggy reached out to give his shoulder a reassuring pat.

"Sometimes life just throws us these curve balls that we never see comin'," Huggy said into the silence that was so tense Starsky thought he would shatter from it. Huggy's calm was so complete that it told Starsky that he understood exactly what was going on and that this wasn't a new idea to Huggy. Huggy continued in that soft, philosophical tone, "The question we have to ask ourselves when that happens is are we man enough to step up to the plate and catch that curve ball or are we gonna just let it sail off into the outfield."

It took him a moment to interpret what Huggy was saying. Finally, Starsky managed to deny, "You can't catch somethin' that ain't in the same ballpark, Hug. Hutch isn't . . . he doesn't . . . ."

Anyone just had to look over at the couch where Hutch had those four gorgeous women eating out of his hand to know how impossible the concept was, despite what Starsky's thundering pulse was reminding him had just happened when Hutch looked at him.

"You got a blind spot when it comes to that partner of yours. Always have," Huggy said, holding his gaze.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Starsky asked.

"It means he stepped up to that particular plate a long time ago. The ball just never flew his way, is all," Huggy said.

Starsky couldn't imagine why Huggy would lie about something like that. Searching those dark eyes, he could find no hint of deceit. Huggy really looked like he believed what he was saying; only, how could it be true?

"Look at him, Hug. He's been a ladies man all his life."

"Has he, really?" Huggy challenged. "You think he's plannin' on asking any of those pretty ladies to spend the night?"

"I . . . ." Starsky looked at his partner. He knew Hutch well enough to know the signs of when his partner was attracted to a woman, and, although Hutch was smiling and joking with the women between songs, it wasn't serious flirtation. "Er, no, but that don't mean anything,"

"When's the last time you saw the White Knight try to win a fair maiden?" Huggy asked

"He's been a little busy playing nurse lately," Starsky reminded.

"And before that? When you first introduced Hutch to me, he was out with a different girl every weekend. He always had something cooking, but now . . . seems to me the man hasn't been near a stove in years now."

Starsky raked his mind, trying to dispute Huggy's claim. But . . . Huggy was right. It had been years since Hutch had been serious about a woman. He knew Hutch had the occasional one night stand, but Abby was the last woman Hutch had let close, and she'd been out of the picture for nearly three years now. Since Abby left, there was the occasional romantic hiccup like that Russian ballerina, but, on the whole, Hutch had been going it solo lately. Not lately, Starsky mentally corrected himself. For years.

Starsky didn't know why he felt compelled to poke holes in what felt like the truth, but he heard himself say, "That still don't mean that he's looking to catch a curve ball."

"You sure about that?" Huggy asked, holding his gaze.

"Hutch is the bravest man I know. If he wanted me to pitch him a curve ball, he'd've said something," Starsky insisted.

"I'd've said the same about you, but you're standin' here frettin' over the idea. You think it'd be any different for him?"

Starsky opened his mouth to protest, but before he could say a word, Huggy added, "It ain't like he's ever had any indication that you'd be open to that kinda change in the game plan, is there?"

"I . . . ."

Sudden, noisy laughter from the other side of the room interrupted his reply. The quartet on the couch was obviously breaking up. Huggy and he turned their attention that way.

Starsky watched Hutch climb off the couch back to carefully store his guitar in its case, then all four women took turns complimenting his playing and hugging him.

Starsky didn't like the way he felt when he saw the drop-dead-gorgeous blonde, Kim, in Hutch's arms. But she didn't stay there long. Hutch gave her an almost brotherly peck on the cheek and gracefully extracted himself from the embrace.

Cathy came out of the bathroom to join her friends as Huggy and he were moving towards the couch.

The next five minutes passed in a spree of more happy birthday salutations, promises to get together again soon, hugs, and goodbyes.

As Huggy and Anita were moving towards the door, Huggy paused to give Starsky's shoulder a squeeze. "Think about it, okay?"

"Yeah," Starsky said, hoping his smile looked normal. Hutch was watching them with a fond, slightly inebriated light in his eyes as Starsky said, "Thanks."

"My pleasure," Huggy said as the lovely Anita and he walked out of Hutch's door arm in arm.

"Think about what?" Hutch asked as he shut the door behind them.

"Nothin'. It was a great party, Hutch."

"Yeah, it was," Hutch said, running his hand through his longish blond hair.

Starsky's fingers clenched at his sides as he was hit with a nearly irrepressible urge to do the same thing. He'd touched Hutch's hair before. He knew how soft it was. He could nearly feel his fingers carding through those silky locks. Hutch looked sleepy, slightly drunk, and all too kissable.

Kissable? Since when did he think of his partner in those terms? But it was true. He could barely take his eyes off Hutch's full mouth.

Gulping, Starsky forced himself to act normal as he said, "Thanks for everything, partner. This was the best."

"I'm glad you had fun. There hasn't been too much of that in your life lately," Hutch said. Hutch gave him another of those charmingly befogged smiles and crossed the room to pick up the empty dip bowl and half-filled chip bowls from the coffee table.

From the way Hutch was acting, it was almost like that shockingly electric connection hadn't happened. He didn't seem freaked out or out of sorts. Of course, Hutch had had a few more beers than usual, but he wasn't drunk enough to have blanked out on the startlingly erotic moment. Starsky had to wonder if Hutch had felt something like it before if he were that good at ignoring it.

Starsky collected an armful of dirty glasses and beer cans, following his partner into the kitchen.

Hutch's place was so different from his own. It was very much a reflection of his partner's character. Hutch's paintings stacked by the greenhouse door, the plants crowding every available surface, to the lack of barriers, they all spoke of his partner's creative, nurturing character. Everything here was wide open, just like Hutch. The only doors were the one on the bathroom and the one leading out to the greenhouse. Even the blond wood cupboards in the kitchen lacked doors.

His conversation with Huggy heavy on his mind, Starsky found himself speculatively watching Hutch as Hutch ran water into the dirty glasses and stacked them in the sink. He was looking for some hint that Huggy could be right, but there weren't any burning revelations to be found in that handsome, tired profile. It was the same sweet Hutch he'd always known.

The fresh scent of lemons filled the humid air as Hutch squirted lemon-scented Joy into the sink.

"Looked like you were a big hit with Cathy's friend Kim," Starsky commented, deciding to test the waters, but carefully. There was too much at stake here for a blunt approach, and he knew that subtlety wasn't exactly his strong suit. For all his honesty and lack of borders, Hutch was actually better at playing it cool.

"Katie," Hutch absently corrected as Starsky handed over a pile of dirty dishes that someone had left on the table. "Her name was Katie."

"Whatever it was, she was real cute. They weren't flying out until tomorrow. You coulda asked her to stay," Starsky said.

"It was your birthday, buddy. I wasn't about to cut the party short," Hutch said, paying way too much attention to soaping the avocado and white Corelle dish in his hands.

"I wouldn't've minded," Starsky said.

His eyes fixed on the now totally clean plate he was scrubbing, Hutch said, "It wasn't a big deal. It's not like Cathy and some other pretty stewardess won't be flying back into our lives again next month."

Starsky couldn't be sure without seeing Hutch's eyes, but that last part had sounded almost resentful. Since Hutch had attacked a dip splattered saucer with renewed fervor, Starsky couldn't see those baby blues.

"It's just . . . you've been so busy takin' care of me these last months that I'm startin' to feel guilty about monopolizing your time this way. You haven't been out on a date in months, Hutch."

Hutch put the soapy dish down in the sink, shut off the water, and turned to meet his eyes. "What's going on, partner? What are we talking about here?"

Hutch hadn't looked this stiff and guarded since those first foggy days in the hospital when it still wasn't certain he was going to live. Knowing he'd been busted, Starsky took a deep breath and said, "Nothin'. I was just makin' conversation."

"No, you were fishing," Hutch countered into the lemon-scented silence. Those honest blue eyes held Starsky's until Starsky had to lower his gaze.

Not knowing how to explain why he'd been asking without making an even bigger mess of things, Starsky practically stammered, "I . . . ."

"What's up, Starsk?" Hutch asked in the gentle tone that had gotten him through every agonizing day of his recovery.

After a panicked moment, Starsky tried to explain, "I was watching you singing to those women tonight, and . . . well, it just occurred to me . . . how long it's been since you seemed interested in anyone."

The skin around Hutch's mouth and at the corners of his eyes seemed to tighten. Indecision flashed through Hutch's no longer inebriated gaze. Hutch seemed to internally debate something before finally answering, "For a detective, you're not awful observant, partner."

The words could have been an accusation or even a put down, but Hutch voiced them in such a mild, affectionate tone that Starsky couldn't take offence at the comment. He could see how guarded Hutch suddenly was, like maybe he knew he'd said something momentous and irreversible.

"Looks like," Starsky agreed with a rueful chuckle and then forced himself to ask, "What else have I been missin' here?"

"You sure you want that answer?" Hutch questioned, the tension in his jaw seeming to spread through his entire body.

Starsky couldn't have loved him more than at that moment. He abruptly realized how incredibly unfair he was being, challenging Hutch's honesty like this. If Huggy was right, he was forcing Hutch to go out on a limb and give him the truth, while he hid behind his own comfortable evasions. Hutch could have done what Starsky had tried to do and attempted to divert him from the topic, but Hutch was tackling the issue with the courage and strength that had characterized the quiet man from the day Starsky first met him. He knew Hutch had to be just as terrified as he'd been when he'd looked over at Hutch playing his guitar tonight and felt this new pull, but instead of wriggling away, his partner was offering him a warning and a chance to choose the course they'd take. Hutch was trapped out there in the open now, vulnerable, waiting for him to make the decision that could alter their lives forever.

Starsky knew that he could leave things as they were, comfortable and easy, leave Hutch dangling out there in the open on his own on that shaky branch. All it would take was a laugh and a joke, and they'd be back to status quo.

Truth was, Starsky wasn't sure he wanted the answer to that particular question. He hadn't thought any of this through, hadn't considered where acting upon this sudden impulse would take them. He wasn't sure of anything, except that hurting Hutch was out of the question. Their status quo might be comfortable and non-threatening, but if what Starsky now suspected were true, it had to be painful as hell on his partner.

Hutch's eyes were guarded now, with none of the electricity and fire Starsky had seen in them earlier tonight when they'd had that shocking connection. Hutch looked like he was waiting for disaster to strike.

Starsky searched for the words that would make this okay, and couldn't find a single one. Meanwhile, Hutch was watching him as though he were his executioner.

What did either of them know about words? It wasn't anything they'd said that had forged their partnership, it was what they'd done, all the times they'd come through for each other when the odds were against them and they should have ended up dead, but hadn't because of the grace of each other's courage. In a world of smooth talkers and players, it was their actions that had proven who and what they were to each other.

A strange peace settled over Starsky as he remembered that. Action, he could handle. He just hoped he was making the right move, 'cause a mistake here could finish them.

Instead of answering Hutch's warning question, Starsky slowly reached for Hutch's hair. His fingers had been aching to touch it since they'd made that connection earlier, and, well, it seemed a safe enough place to start. He'd stroked Hutch's hair like this in the past. If he were all wrong about this, they could still recover from this action.

Hutch's eyes widened in surprise, but he didn't pull back. He didn't even seem to be breathing; he was holding so still as Starsky's fingers settled in his hair.

The fine, gold hair was even softer than it looked. As Starsky carded through the longish length, it felt cool and sensuous as raw silk as it glided between his fingers.

Hutch's breath emerged in a shocked huff. A stunned air replaced Hutch's guarded expression.

Holding those uncertain eyes, Starsky slipped his hand around to cup the back of Hutch's skull. He exerted the gentlest of pressure, giving his partner every opportunity to pull back and put an end to this insanity. But Hutch allowed himself to be drawn forward, and, the next thing Starsky knew, their lips were brushing.

Hutch was a dry warmth, his moustache a startling novelty against Starsky's nervous mouth. The kiss should have felt wrong, and weird, and a million other negative things, but at that first, tentative slide of his lips over Hutch's, that electric connection jolted through him again.

Starsky realized he was shaking as bad as he had the first time he'd tried to make it to the bathroom on his own after Gunther's hit. Only, his legs weren't weak from disuse and convalescing tonight. Hutch had turned every bone he had to rubber with that kiss that had barely connected.

Worried that his legs might actually give out on him, Starsky made a frantic grab for those sturdy shoulders.

Hutch's hands settled on his elbows, offering even more support as Hutch's mouth deepened the contact.

Starsky opened his lips at the first sweep of Hutch's tongue, and then he was drowning in the sweetness that was Hutch's mouth. Wet, hot, and wonderful were Starsky's first impressions as he tried to suck out Hutch's tonsils. Hutch seemed equally intent on exploring Starsky's own. They continued that way for what felt like an eternity.

When the kiss finally broke, Hutch's hand rose to stroke over the moles on Starsky's cheek, his expression one of open wonder.

Starsky shivered as those calloused fingertips caressed him. He was usually smooth and confident when he was kissing, in control, and running the show. A simple kiss wasn't supposed to undo him like this. But he felt like he was ready to melt, and they'd barely done anything yet.

He could tell from Hutch's attitude that he was equally shaky. He'd seen his partner in action enough to know how smooth Hutch's style was, yet, Hutch seemed as blown away as him.

The moment felt like something needed to be said.

"Umm," Hutch began and faltered.

Rallying what little brain he had left, Starsky tried for coherency. "Bed?"

That was good. The word was actually in English and relevant to the issue.

His suggestion seemed to throw Hutch. The hand left Starsky's cheek to curl into a tight ball at Hutch's side. A sober expression stole some of the heat from Hutch's gaze as he asked, "Starsk, are you sure? I mean . . . ."

He could see how much Hutch wanted him. But it was just like his partner to think about him first, to give him the opportunity to bail, even though it would probably kill Hutch if he walked away now.

Since walking was the furthest thing from his mind, Starsky stepped back into Hutch's personal space. Thinking that they both needed something familiar to guide them through this new and scary territory, Starsky slipped is arms around Hutch's chest and hugged him.

At first, Hutch was stiff in his arms. Slowly, some of the tension faded. Hutch tentatively laid his hands on Starsky's back. Starsky stepped nearer, and suddenly Hutch was hugging him so tight he could barely breathe.

There was a rightness to this that couldn't be denied. Holding Hutch like this, Starsky realized that he'd spent his whole life searching for the person who fit into his empty arms like this. But with every one of the dozens of women he'd dated, there had always been something off. There was nothing wrong about Hutch. His partner's sturdy length filled all his empty places, and then some.

As Hutch snuggled closer, Starsky was treated to the unique sensation of another man's erection nudging his own. He'd known Hutch was a guy, of course. That was what all the weirdness had been about earlier, but knowing something and feeling it were two different things.

Intellectually, or as intellectual as he could get with a raging hard-on, Starsky thought that he should feel threatened by this. Hutch was bigger than him, and Starsky knew that his still-healing body wasn't anything close to peak condition, but . . . this was Hutch. Starsky knew that this gentle spirit would die before he did anything to harm him. Even now, Hutch's face was wincing with guilt as he loosened his hold on Starsky's newly healed ribs.

Starsky hooked the back of Hutch head and guided him into another kiss. This one was even better than the first, deeper and more intense.

This time when they parted and Starsky slipped his arm around Hutch's waist to start walking them towards the bedroom, Hutch didn't hesitate or question him.

The sight of that big brass bed with its pristine white chenille spread on it, made everything feel more serious. If they crawled into that bed and went where this was headed, nothing would ever be the same.

Starsky could see the same knowledge reflected in Hutch's face.

Although no questions were voiced, they hung heavy in the air.

His insides tightened up as the enormity of what they were doing hit him. Reading that same uncertainty in his partner's features, Starsky took a deep breath and stamped down hard on the panic.

Feeling oddly shy, Starsky caught Hutch's worried blue eyes and gave a shaky smile.

"Nothing will be the same," Hutch voiced the fear that was in both their hearts, that they'd somehow lose what they already had.

Starsky nodded, accepting it, because to deny it would be to deny Hutch, and he just wasn't doing that. "We'll make it better."

"You think?" Hutch questioned.

Holding that worried gaze, Starsky said, "I promise."

And then they were kissing again and it didn't matter that things would change. They'd changed already, and nothing had ever felt this good.

Their hands moved hungrily over each other as they fed on each other's mouths.

Since he'd gotten out of the hospital, Starsky had been wearing shirts that buttoned in front because they were easier to get on and off. Hutch's nimble fingers had those little white buttons undone in moments. Then that big, capable hand was sliding between the folds of blue cotton and slipping beneath his undershirt. When Hutch's other hand eased his shirt from his shoulders and then moved to take hold of his undershirt to pull it up and off, Starsky found himself moving to help.

If this were anyone else, Starsky would have been self-conscious about the state of his chest. He knew how ugly the damn scars were. But Hutch was the one person who knew those scars as well as he did, and there was nothing in Hutch's passion-flushed face to indicate that he was fazed or turned off by the gruesome reminders of mortality.

Five months had passed since the shooting, but his chest was still a war zone of stitches and healing bullet wounds. He didn't need a bandage anymore, but that area was still awful sensitive, except for the spots where the surgeon's blade had ripped through nerves and he could feel nothing at all. As Hutch's warm palm moved across the area, even the dead zones seemed to quiver. Hutch was so gentle, his face so tender and intense . . . it shook Starsky. That this would be the first place Hutch would touch him sexually, and that his partner could look so damn happy about touching those horrible scars, was more than he'd hoped possible.

When he'd first gotten a look at the patchwork of red bullet holes and Frankensteinesque grid lines of stitches, it had been hard to take. These last few months of feeling better, Starsky had hoped he'd meet someone who wouldn't care that he wasn't so handsome anymore. But the way Hutch was touching him and looking at him, it made him feel attractive and wanted in a way he hadn't felt on his best day before the hit.

Hutch moved in for another kiss. The white cotton tunic he was wearing felt warm and comfortable against Starsky's chest as they pressed close. Thinking that bare skin would feel even better, Starsky took hold of the bottom of the flowey tunic and pulled it up over Hutch's head. Unlike himself, Hutch wasn't wearing an undershirt. His creamy white chest with its artfully restrained dusting of hair seemed to glow golden under the lamp light seeping in from the living room as it was revealed. Starsky tossed the shirt down with his own on the floor at their feet.

Although the mementos of violence Hutch carried on his body weren't nearly as pronounced as Starsky's, he had his fair share of battle wounds. The knife slash that psycho Diane Harmon had left on Hutch's upper arm was still vivid. Then, there was the more recent bullet hole Hutch had gotten when that teenaged home invader had shot him last year.

For a moment as they stood there regarding each other, the air felt strained between them, as the strangeness and newness of what they were doing registered.

But then Hutch reached out to stroke his chest again and sensation blasted the oddness away. Starsky returned the favor, his fingertips moving to greedily explore that pale expanse of mostly smooth chest.

Hutch's bronze nipples were an irresistible lure. Starsky took the right one between his thumb and index finger, giving a gentle squeeze. He wasn't expecting either Hutch's shocked gasp or the way his partner's hips bucked at him.

Pleased by the sensitivity, Starsky lowered his head to sample the flavor of that per bud of flesh. Hutch's familiar scent rushed through him like a potent aphrodisiac. As he sucked that nub of flesh into his mouth and sucked, Hutch groaned and grabbled hold of his arms, his whole body wavering as if his knees had just gone out on him.

Thinking that they'd do better horizontal, Starsky guided them over to the bed.

The grace with which they melted onto the mattress together seemed to speak of a long term affair rather than a fumbling first time. Hutch could be adorably klutzy at times, but he moved sleek as a martial artist as they settled close to each other on the bed.

Kissing was a lot easier when they didn't have to worry about toppling to the floor like felled trees, Starsky decided as he lost himself in that luscious mouth.

They spent a long time just getting to know each other by taste and feel. Hutch's fingers seemed as fascinated by his loose curls as Starsky's were by the silken gold. Then Hutch seemed compelled to sample the flavor of every inch of his neck and chest. That moustache was a strange addition to the familiar feel of kisses. When Hutch finally completed his often-ticklish attentions, Starsky found himself hungering for that same level of experience, so he kissed, sucked, and nuzzled his way over every inch of Hutch's neck, arms, and chest.

Following the nearly invisible trail of hair down the center of Hutch's flat stomach, Starsky hit the inevitable obstacle of Hutch's waistband.

Before he could even raise his head to ask permission, Hutch's hands scrambled between them to open the fastening of his jeans. A moment later, he was shucking off his jeans and briefs.

Starsky could only stare as all that naked flesh was revealed. Hutch was masculine as hell. With that impressive cock, how could he not be? But he was beautiful as well, all gold and pale and strangely vulnerable in his nudity.

As he surveyed the new territory, Starsky heard his partner gulp.

"You okay, partner?" Starsky checked.

Hutch seemed to rally under his gaze, for he gave a sheepish smile and answered, "Depends on if you like what you see. I know you're not exactly used to this model."

He could see how genuinely nervous Hutch was about pleasing him. Starsky's throat seemed to tighten up as he read Hutch's worry. He could understand it. This might have been a brand new idea to him, but there was still a part of Starsky that couldn't believe that his handsome partner could be turned on by his scarred up body. He figured with how long it had taken him to realize what he really wanted from Hutch, Hutch had to have doubts.

Wanting to dispel those worries without making a big production out of it, Starsky gulped past the obstruction in his throat and said as calmly as he could manage, "You know I'm a connoisseur of the finer things in life. It don't get any finer than this." Starsky ran his finger down the center of Hutch's chest, following that same trail of hair, only this time, he could reach its source.

Hutch's body jolted up off the bed at the playful stroke as he made contact with those moist, wiry curls.

Watching as that flushed cock increased in size, Starsky's heart began to pound. He'd always known that Hutch was beautiful, but until tonight it had never moved him on a visceral level. Now, Hutch was so damned attractive, it hurt.

That last wasn't simply figurative, Starsky realized. His own jeans were beginning to feel like a vise around his erection. Holding Hutch's gaze, he slowly moved his hands to his waist to undo his button.

Hutch's eyes were hot and hungry as they followed his every move. The sound of his zipper sliding down was weirdly loud in the breathy silence. Then Starsky was wriggling out of his jeans and boxers. Self-conscious, he settled back against the bed. As his bare butt and back were pricked by the hundreds of tiny chenille balls on the bedspread, Hutch looked at him like he was Farrah Fawcett, Daisy Dukes, and Linda Lovelace all rolled up in one.

It made him feel like a king instead of the monster those scars could so easily have made him were he getting naked with someone else.

Their gazes met, mutual heat and mutual indecision. It was clear that now that they were ready to get down to business, that neither one of them had a clue as to how to proceed.

"I was kinda hoping that one of us knew what we were doing here," Starsky said, smiling because this was just so typically them.

Hutch blushed and shook his head. "I was holding out for the real thing."

Heat rushed through him. He was Hutch's real thing.

Those crystal blue eyes were telling him just how long Hutch had hungered for him, and how scared he was of making a mistake.

Starsky felt the same way. There was just so much at stake here. It wasn't like this was some stranger he'd picked up to experiment with. But dangerous as this was, it was something they'd both needed for a long, long time. No matter how scary, they had to move forward, because there was no way back to the people they'd been at dinner tonight.

Recognizing that he was going to have to make the first move, Starsky gave his most reassuring smile and asked, "How different can it be?" Then he reached out to draw Hutch on top of him.

As they quickly shifted to prevent a painful crush of their genitals, Starsky was vividly reminded how different this was. But that hardness felt incredible as Hutch settled carefully against him.

Their mouths found each other. The resulting kisses went a long way in easing the strangeness.

Starsky let his hands roam that silky back. Feeling daring, he let his palms skim over those pert cheeks. Hutch groaned into the kiss as he touched his ass.

Encouraged, Starsky took hold of Hutch's buttocks. There wasn't a lot to them, but what there was was choice and it fit his palms like Hutch had been built to specification. Starsky gave a tentative squeeze, and was delighted by the pleading sound that inspired.

Gaining confidence, he squeezed again.

Hutch shifted against him in reaction, setting off an explosion of sensation through Starsky.

Instinct took over, then. Starsky used his hold on Hutch's butt to guide them into a rhythm. As Hutch humped down at him and he humped up at Hutch, the pleasure skyrocketed through Starsky. Simple frottage wasn't supposed to feel this exquisite, but Starsky felt as if he were coming alive against Hutch. Every breath was shared, every sensation doubled by the knowledge that it was his partner he was doing this with.

Rocking, kissing, and stroking, Starsky lost himself in the incredible joy that was Hutch. His partner was a blazing heat on top of him. Starsky felt as if his skin were melting, and Hutch was sinking right into him. But . . . that was okay, because there was no way to be too close to Hutch.

All too soon, their bodies reached melt down. Starsky felt Hutch freeze on top of him, then the cock crushed against his pelvis shuddered and a hot, sticky wetness bathed their groins. When Starsky felt that hot spray, his own shaft pulsed and added to the mess between them.

They broke the kiss with a gasp, and just hung on to each other while ecstasy shook them.

When his heart stopped trying to beat its way out of his chest and he could breathe at near normal again, Starsky opened his eyes.

Hutch was still lying on top of him. His partner had his head up and was watching Starsky's face with a blown away expression.

Wariness seemed to enter Hutch's gaze when he realized Starsky was looking at him.

That reaction telling him how Hutch feared this might go; Starsky gave a soft smile and reached up to run his hands through that baby-fine silk again. "I'm made of sterner stuff than that, babe."

Hutch blushed, but he held his gaze as he quietly admitted, "I've just wanted this for so long, I can't believe you're really here. You're, um, not here just because you . . . saw how I felt earlier, are you?"

The idea might have been laughable if Hutch hadn't appeared so terribly uncertain. That that was Hutch's worst fear was abundantly clear.

It took him almost a minute to realize that Hutch had good reason to worry. He hadn't told Hutch anything about how his feelings had ambushed him tonight, and, truth be told, he didn't know that if Hutch had asked him yesterday before he'd had his epiphany, if he'd've been able to say no. There was just too much between them for that kind of casual rejection. Hutch knew that as well as he did.

"If I wanted to humor you, I might go to a museum with you, but not to bed," Starsky said.

Hutch still wasn't convinced. "This happened kind of sudden. I mean, it just seems like too big a coincidence that after I slipped up like I did earlier tonight, you would suddenly want . . . . "

"I didn't even know you'd slipped up. I thought it was all me," Starsky softly admitted.


"Cathy asked me to spend the night with her, and I didn't . . . feel like it. Huggy saw me turn her down and got all kinds of worried. I was trying to convince him I was all right, when I looked over at you and . . . it was like the floor fell out from under me or I was struck by lightning. You were just so god damned beautiful that it hurt."

Hutch was blushing again, but this time it was a good kind of blush. "For real?"

"Yeah," Starsky answered, making sure the truth showed. "That's okay, isn't it?"

Hutch gave a slow nod. He still appeared totally overwhelmed by what was happening between them.

After a long time of regarding each other, with soft caresses on both sides, Hutch asked, "You're okay with this?"

That was another question Starsky couldn't blame him for. Like Huggy had said earlier, it wasn't like he'd ever given Hutch any indication that he'd be open to this kind of change.

"Yeah," Starsky said. "It freaked me out a little bit at first, but . . . ."

"But?" Hutch encouraged.

"I, ah, can't explain it good. You just fit right. No one ever did before." Wondering if he was saying too much, Starsky decided to give Hutch the whole truth. "I think I must have loved you for a long, long time and just couldn't see it." Hutch was looking at him like he couldn't accept any of this was happening. Realizing that he wasn't the only one here with cause to freak out, Starsky asked, "What about you? You handling this okay?"

Hutch's breath huffed out of his nose in something like a snort. "I'm just not used to having my dreams handed to me on a silver platter like this."

It was like Hutch knew exactly what to say to make him happy. Grinning, because they really were a couple of saps, Starsky warned, "Get used to it, babe. Your wish is my command. Just say the word. Go on, say the word."

Delighted, he watched Hutch break into laughter. It might have been months since Starsky had felt like himself, but it seemed like years since Hutch had really been relaxed enough to laugh like this without a few beers under his belt.

"God, Starsk, tell me I'm not dreaming here?"

Increasingly aware of the sticky mess that was solidifying into an itchy coating on each of them, Starsky looked for a tissue box on Hutch's night table. Not seeing one, he peeled back the bedspread, grabbed hold of the sheet, wiped the mess off Hutch, then cleaned himself up, and said, "Dreams don't mess up your sheets, partner."

Hutch melted into laughter again.

Thinking he was going to love making Hutch laugh at night like this, Starsky took hold of his shaking partner's shoulders and guided him back to rest against the pillows. Since the covers were already down, he pulled them on top of them. Deciding to be a gentleman, he made sure the messy part of the sheet ended up on him.

They'd shared a bed often enough in the past that it didn't feel weird to be in bed with Hutch. What did seem strange was having Hutch cuddle up to him and put an arm and leg over him as he settled onto the same pillow.

They watched each other across the scant inches of pillow separating them.

After a long quiet, Hutch said, "Did I tell you how much I love you, partner?"

A glorious warmth spreading through him, Starsky answered, "You've been showing me every day since I got outta the hospital. Get some sleep now. When we wake up, I'm plannin' on some major sheet messin'. Love ya, babe."

As he closed his eyes and settled down safe in his partner's embrace, Starsky decided that it might be worth his while to work at putting that blown away expression on Hutch's face every single night for the rest of their lives.

The End

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