Richard Carstairs the Third wasn't the most likable guy in the world. Burt as popularity wasn't the most important trait for an Assistant District Attorney to possess, Carstairs's career had never been affected by his personal shortcomings. All the DA cared about was results, and Carstairs got more convictions than any of his peers.
Still, in Kenneth Hutchinson's admittedly prejudiced opinion, it still seemed that Carstairs might have been a little less abrasive with his co-workers. The snobbish prosecutor had a habit of grilling police witnesses as hostilely as he did those of the defense. Often Carstairs was heard disclaiming how he'd lose no case because of police bungling, and God help the poor patrolman who got on the stand for Carstairs and was caught up in a procedural error.
Although Hutch had never had any personal problems with the guy, he's just as soon avoid dealing with him. Which was why their current case was such a burden. Twenty-four hour, round the clock guard duty on a guy you detested was enough to drive a person out of law enforcement.
The Assistant DA had made few friends on either side of the law. That was why no one from the DA on down was surprised when the ornery prosecutor began receiving death threats. Unfortunately, those types of threats were so common in Carstairs' line of work that little real attention was paid to them - until a bullet from a long-range rifle put Mrs. Richard Carstairs the Third in her grave. By then, of course, the protection came too late to do the devastated attorney any good.
Hutch had barely credited Carstairs with a single emotion. To see him so broken up was strangely disarming. He didn't know how to deal with the guy.
So here the tall, blond detective sat, brooding as he shivered under a blanket before a roaring fire in what would have been his dream cottage under any other circumstances.
They were holed up in Carstairs's summer place, a two-story fairy tale stone cottage, situated up in the mountains on a lakefront, so far off the beaten track that the nearest town wasn't even on the map. Dobey had two guys down on the end of the drive, or rather, down where the rutted deer path that passed for a drive intercepted an equally impassable dirt road. No one was getting in here without four-wheel drive. Certainly no one was getting in on the sly.
Officially, both Starsky and he were off duty for the next eight hours. Carstairs was now the night shift's responsibility, but Hutch just felt better in this type of situation if either he or his partner were on duty all the time.
It wasn't that he didn't trust his co-workers. But ever since Gunther's hit men had tried to take Starsky out right in Metro headquarters garage, Hutch had been somewhat over-cautious.
"Care for some company?"
Startled, Hutch glanced over towards the shadowed doorway.
His partner stood on the threshold, his eyes gleaming bright in the gloom. From the looks of his barefoot friend, Starsky had dressed hurriedly, pulling on whatever was closest to hand. The jeans were Starsky's own, but the deep red corduroy shirt was the one Hutch had worn yesterday and forgotten to put away. The color suited his partner, contrasting well with his dark curls and winter pale flesh. It also accented the livid, red patchwork of scars mottling Starsky's well-developed chest, but Hutch was so used to their presence by now that he hardly noticed them for themselves anymore. Like the moles on his partner's cheeks and his springy curls, the incision marks were just a part of Starsky now.
"Yeah, sure. I thought you were grabbing some shut eye," Hutch commented, his pulse racing at Starsky's unconscious appeal.
The reaction had been there so long that the constant ache was second nature to the blond now. Normally, he never even acknowledged the gaping void he carried where his heart used to be, but times like this, when he was lonely and depressed, his guards at their weakest, there was no ignoring the ache.
Starsky shrugged, coming closer. "Couldn't sleep." At Hutch's enquiring glance, he went on to explain, "I could hear Carstairs in the next room, crying his heart out. I knocked and asked if he wanted some company, but he didn't answer."
It was so like his partner to want to reach out and touch, to take another's pain away by sharing the misery. Hutch remembered how he'd lain in that same bed for hours last night listening to the sounds of grief coming through the whitewashed wall.
"There wasn't anything you could've done for him, Starsk," Hutch said softly. "I remember how Huggy was doing headstands last year trying to make me feel better when you were in that coma. Only one thing made it better. Seeing you open your eyes. We can't give that to Carstairs."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Starsky agreed, standing beside the couch Hutch was leaning his back against, his troubled gaze on the dancing flames. "It's weird, you know. I've always hated the guy, but . . ."
"It's hard to stand by while someone's in pain," Hutch finished.
"Yeah. Damn, it's cold." Starsky pulled the folds of his borrowed shirt across his bare chest, his crossed arms hugging the material tight to him.
"Come on down and grab a corner." Hutch lifted his right arm in invitation, offering half his blanket.
"Thanks." With a gamin grin, Starsky settled on the thick, white shag rug beside Hutch. Shoulder to shoulder, the old blue blanket sharing their body heat between them, they leaned their backs against the classic country styled couch and watched the crackling flames shift and sway.
The flickering firelight embraced Starsky, casting a strange orange tint over the familiar features, transforming the LA street cop's tired visage into something truly breath-taking. Hutch, who'd fallen thrall to that intriguing blend of mischief, sensuality and raw strength over a decade ago, could only stare in wonder.
After his partner's second gargantuan yawn interrupted the comfortable quiet between them, the blond asked, "Tired?"
"Dead." Starsky gave a weary smile.
"So grab some Z's," Hutch suggested. The couch wasn't the most comfortable, but it beat listening to Carstairs upstairs.
"Here?" Starsky questioned uncertainly.
"Why not? We're off duty. I'll call you when we're on."
After a moment's consideration, Starsky nodded. "All right. Thanks."
Hutch had expected his partner to commandeer their blanket and stretch out on the sofa. Instead, Starsky shifted beside him, squiggling until he ended up on his side with his head pillowed on Hutch's right thigh.
"You mind?" he belatedly asked, sounding almost half asleep already.
Not trusting his voice, Hutch shook his head and confined his response to the single, carefully controlled, "No."
Unable to stop himself, Hutch allowed his hand to settle on that warm head. His fingers slowly carded through the baby-soft curls as his partner drifted off to sleep, his touch as tender as it was hopeless. In his heart the lonely blond knew that nothing ever could or would happen with Starsky to appease his longing, but it felt good to share moments like this with his partner, to know that he was the only man Starsky trusted enough to let his emotional guards down around.
For a long time, Hutch simply sat there with his partner's head resting in his lap, absently petting Starsky's hair as though the man were a sleeping kitten. On one such foray, his hand slipped further down, coming to rest on the side of his friend's face.
Hutch temporarily froze at the feel of that slumber-warmed flesh. Starsky's skin was so unbelievably soft, just like in his most treasured late night fantasies. Like a blind man reading Braille, the feather-light brush of Hutch's careful fingertips sought out the secrets of each separate feature turned up to him: the slope of the satiny forehead and arched right eyebrow, the hidden softness of the small mole riding high on Starsky's right cheekbone, the elegantly chiseled nose, the thin yet sensuous mouth that Hutch didn't dare do more than brush over once . . .
The blond closed his eyes, memorizing the tactile map of those beloved features for future reference.
It seemed as though every autonomic function in Hutch's body froze up in guilty fear as Starsky rolled over from his side onto his back. Panicked, Hutch's eyes snapped open to stare down at his partner's face, anticipating an outraged glare and angry countenance. But Starsky still slept peacefully, his eyes closed, his breathing deep and even.
Quit now while you're ahead, Hutchinson, his saner side cautioned. But, try as he would, Hutch couldn't force his hand from the smooth cheek. With another whole side of his friend's face offered up for exploration, his touch-starved fingers couldn't hold back.
Was it so much to ask, really? All he wanted to do was touch his friend's face. Twelve endless years of wanting, of loving from afar, of guarding his every word and gesture, lest he betray himself and destroy what they had . . . a little innocent touching wasn't too much to ask in exchange, was it?
Although his heart cried out in longing, Hutch's conscience was quite firm in its reply.
Yes, it was too much to ask. Anything that jeopardized their partnership, anything that would make Starsky the least bit uncomfortable or self-conscious in his presence was too great a price to pay for the gamble to be worth taking, but Hutch's hunger ran so deep that he couldn't stop.
So he brushed his fingers across the new territory until its planes became as familiar to him as those of the right side.
Starsky's strong, stubbled jaw felt perfectly shaped beneath his exploring fingers, each side an exact mirror of its mate.
Maybe he should have ended it there, but his roving touch chanced onto the incredible texture of his partner's neck and here there was no holding back.
The long, endless stretch of peach-smooth throat was the most exquisite thing he'd ever felt. His eyes still closed to give the action his full attention, Hutch followed the long, furrowed throat down, halting only when a tangled batch of chest hair brought him to his senses.
What the hell was he doing, taking a risk like this?
His hand paused, then Hutch felt his blood turn to ice in his veins as a damp palm settled over his trespassing hand, binding the offender in place.
The hoarse, sleep-thick whisper shuddered through the blond's nervous system. Hutch hid beneath his closed eyes as long as he could before he finally gathered the strength to face the music. He'd stared down assassin's bullets with less terror than he did those sapphire eyes.
Beneath his trapped palm, Hutch could feel his partner's heart pounding hard enough to shake Starsky's entire body.
Those probing eyes seemed to read straight through to Hutch's very soul.
Frozen in his guilt, the blond awaited the inevitable explosion. What worried him most was the fact that he couldn't read a single thing his friend was feeling behind that watchful gaze.
"Starsk, I . . ." How the hell was he going to explain such a blatant breech of trust?
"You've been waiting to do that a long time, haven't you?" Starsky questioned in a breathy tone, those eyes as ever demanding only truth from him.
The nervous whisper was more than he could handle. Hutch opened his mouth to make some form of reply, but not a single sound emerged. Everything he was feeling, all the fear, longing and confusion was trapped in a tight knot in his throat.
The only thing he could do was nod his condemning affirmation.
Inexplicably, it was compassion, rather than fury, which washed across the features he'd spent so much time exploring.
Still uncertain, Hutch watched his partner's free hand approach his face.
Starsky stroked his cheek, his touch endearingly tentative, as though Hutch were a will-of-the-wisp that might fade to mist at too forward a contact.
"You knew?" the blond asked in disbelief, doing his best to ignore the quiver that tender touch sent through him. As delightful as the sensation was, his stunned mind simply couldn't accept that Starsky intended the gesture as anything other than reassurance.
Starsky gave a negative shake of his head, the head that was still pillowed so intimately in the taller man's lap. "Not for sure. After Kira, I got to thinking that that might be the reason . . . so I waited for you to give me some kinda sign, only Gunther came along and changed everything . . ."
"You've known since Kira . . .?" That had to be a good two and a half years ago. A part of Hutch wanted to crawl under the rug and die, but there was no trace of accusation in that level gaze.
"Not know. Hoped," Starsky corrected, the thumb of the hand still resting on the blond's cheek flicking out to outline part of Hutch's mustache. There was a smoky heat in those blue eyes that Hutchinson had never had directed his way before. Its presence made clear thinking next to impossible.
"Hoped . . ." Hutch repeated, so distracted by the sensations even that thumb sent through him that he wasn't sure what he was hearing.
"I never thought that I'd want . . . to be close to another guy that way. But it was you, and once I started thinking about us that way, I couldn't get the idea out of my head. Tried to keep the playing field open in case you wanted to make a move . . . but you never did, babe . . . Waited so long that I started to worry I was wrong, after all."
"You weren't wrong," Hutch choked out. Spellbound, he watched his partner rise to his knees.
The blanket fell from his shoulders as Starsky's beautifully formed, square hands gripped through the brown and yellow plaid flannel shirt covering his biceps to draw him closer. Hutch's entire body was shaking at the open desire in his partner's face. Never had he expected to see that there . . . not for him.
In Hutch's most optimistic daydreams, those in which he was able to convince himself that Starsky might be persuaded to actually allow him to touch him, Hutch had always imagined that he'd have to woo every response, that he'd have to work hard to win out over his friend's inhibitions.
Never had he dared dream he'd find open acceptance . . . let alone the passion of the mouth that claimed his stunned lips.
The first kiss was like nothing Hutch had known. The searing heat of it scorched him, melting right through his shock-numbed flesh. It found the long-denied fire hidden deep in Hutch's lonely heart and sparked the embers to a roaring inferno that threatened to consume everything he was.
As his own mouth fastened hungrily on its counterpart, Hutch felt as he'd never experienced a kiss before . . . or perhaps more accurately, that he'd never passionately kissed another man before. Starsky's barely restrained aggression, the sheer, primal power behind those moving lips was like nothing Hutch had ever known. Unique in its masculinity, sure and comfortable in its arousal. The branding heat of that first contact assured the blond that his companion wanted this as badly as he did.
Then, as Starsky's body pressed frantically against his front, Hutch found unmistakable confirmation in the iron-hard erection that pushed against his own hardness.
They broke for air with a strangled gasp, Starsky's grip on him almost painful as he clutched the blond tight to his chest. The wild mass of dark curls tickled Hutch's left cheek as Starsky rested his brow on his partner's broad shoulder.
"You're so beautiful, Hutch . . . So damned beautiful."
Those arms clutched him in a tight bear hug, forcing the air from his lungs.
"Me?" He smiled in bemused wonder. He was the one who'd ached and pined for this for what felt like centuries, yet Starsky was behaving as though he were the one who'd suffered the agonies of the damned.
Hutch returned the hug, rubbing over the corduroy-covered back in broad circles, sensing that for some reason Starsky seemed to need that kind of basic, tactile reassurance.
"Yeah, you. Never met anyone as beautiful inside as you, Hutch. So good and true . . ." Starsky murmured, his fingers carding slowly through Hutch's over-long hair.
Then their mouths found each other again and there was no room for talk.
Locked in an endless kiss, his tongue charting the secret recesses of his partner's juicy mouth, Hutch eased himself back onto the thick, white shag rug, drawing his partner down on top of him. Starsky was a solid weight, not uncomfortably heavy, but a definite change from the light-boned women Hutch was accustomed to dating. Every inch of his body rejoiced at the increased contact.
The blazing hearth fire crackling and dancing a bare two feet away, the partners concentrated on raising some heat of their own.
Hutch's busy hands eased the already open rich red corduroy shirt from his friend's shoulders. Unable to hold back, he rolled them over so that Starsky was below him for the moment.
The blond's heated gaze surveyed the territory, the familiar patchwork of scars that couldn't begin to detract from the appeal of that perfectly developed chest.
Free to touch for the very first time what he'd previously only furtively admired from a distance, Hutch lightly ran his fingertips down the center of his friend's torso, spanning the harder scar tissue, over the baby-soft down of chest hair, to the artistically sculpted musculature of the lower rib area, finally stopping at the jeans band. He smiled at the extended, pleasure-filled hiss his action inspired.
"God, Hutch, the way you look at me . . ."
"Huh?" The blond questioningly glanced up at his partner's face.
Starsky's eyes seemed strangely bright, more than an effect of the shifting firelight. "Nothin', babe."
Not understanding the odd intensity, the barely masked vulnerability he sensed in his friend, Hutch lowered his head, his lips reverently caressing Gunther's handiwork. Concentrating on the left side, he homed in on the pert little pink nub of nipple rising up from a mass of suture trails and scattered chest hair, the fingers of his left hand searching out its counterpart on the right side. Flicking his tongue back and forth across the bud of flesh, Hutch felt it harden almost immediately. Starsky's groan as he began a gentle sucking filled the quiet night.
"Ah, Hutch . . . Let me get at you . . ." Starsky begged, his distracted fingers fumbling at the buttons of the blond's flannel shirt.
Hutch lifted his head long enough to help his friend remove the shirt and cotton undershirt. He felt his hair fluff out around his head as he emerged from the tight neck of his t-shirt, but Starsky's fingers were there immediately to soothe it back into place.
The burning sapphire gaze flicked from the blond's hair to his chest, as if unable to decide which to concentrate on. "You're like spilt honey, Hutch, so gold and perfectly smooth . . ."
Normally, he was the one who did the sweet-talking in this kind of intimate encounter. Being complimented so openly felt strange, like some weird role reversal. Still, Hutch couldn't deny how much it pleased him to know Starsky liked what he saw. "You're not so bad yourself, babe. Like velvet . . ."
"Velvet that some deranged seamstress did a number on," Starsky joked, but there was a shadow in his eyes that belied the light tone.
Hutch thought back on the past year. Starsky had said that he was keeping the field open for Hutch and the blond was sure that was true to some extent. But he couldn't help but recall that his partner hadn't had so much as a casual affair since he'd been released from the hospital. Perhaps there was another reason . . .
"You're exquisite - with or without the seams," Hutch corrected, caressing the extensive surgical scars with hands and mouth, making sure that his flesh proved the truth of his assertion in feelings so unchallengeable that not even the worst case of insecurity could doubt his veracity.
When he had his new and most cherished lover panting and moaning, he lay back onto Starsky's body, pressing every inch of their forms together, reeling from the sensations resulting from the holt melding of their bare chests.
Starsky's body hair was soft and slightly ticklish against his own smooth skin. The sensation was very different from holding a naked woman close to him, but one that Hutch thought he could get used to real fast if given the opportunity.
Taking nothing for granted, Hutch paid homage to the person he held closest to his heart. He was amazed at how open Starsky was to him. In the past, whenever he'd considered the possibility of making love to Starsky anywhere other than his fantasies, he'd always feared the reality would be plagued by endless awkwardness. His friend prided himself so much on his machismo, on his strength, that he couldn't imagine his partner trusting himself so openly to such an unorthodox situation. Starsky's uneasiness where same sex relationships were concerned was an old adversary, perhaps the major factor in Hutchinson's continued silence. To feel that longed-for form melt against him with no outward resistance was incredible in itself; to feel how eagerly Starsky returned each of his caresses was almost more than his shaking body could withstand.
Starsky's hands were all over him, charting his naked back, straying down over his jeans to his butt, then further down to rake over the backs of his thighs. "Ahhh, Starsk . . ." His sigh was breathed into the sweaty hollow of his partner's neck. Hutch's tongue peeked out to greedily lap at the beaded moisture, Starsky's salty sweet flavor filling his entire being.
"Can we get rid of these, babe?" Starsky asked, giving the waistband of Hutch's baggy jeans an enquiring tug.
They separated for long enough to scramble free of binding denim.
Completely naked, they sat back to nervously appraise the new territory.
Starsky was just as Hutch remembered him from past stolen glimpses. The circumcised cock rising out of its dark-furred base was wide and powerful, but delicately sculpted for all its impressive strength. The flesh there was a deep wine color, the sensual hue that had colored many of Hutch's dreams.
"Ah, you're like an angel, Hutch," Starsky breathed, surprising Hutch by reaching out to gather up the blond's erection. "Rose petals and gold dust."
Hutch felt that tentative touch cleave through him in a cutting blaze of delight, the pleasure shooting from his groin straight down to his toes.
His hand quaking as though he were reaching for the Holy Grail, Hutch took hold of his partner's shaft. The springy tissue was a perfect fit in his palm, firm and endearingly moist.
Their eyes meeting, Hutch couldn't have held back from kissing his partner at that moment if their lives depended upon it. His hands still cradling their new treasure, he luxuriated in the deep, open-mouthed kiss, feeling its effects ripple down to his erection.
When they parted for air a couple of centuries later, Starsky gave him a nervous smile and asked, ""Where do we go from here, babe?"
Hutch considered. They had a good hour or two of complete privacy left before their shift started. Time enough for most encounters, but not enough time for what he wanted to give his partner.
"I wanta love you from head to foot, Starsk, but . . ."
"But time, tide and Captain Dobey wait for no man." The former New Yorker grinned. "Come on. I got an idea."
Hutch allowed himself to be guided back down onto the rug, more than happy to accept the loving weight on top of him.
"Oh, God . . ." he groaned as he felt Starsky carefully press them groin to groin. The intimate feel of the rock hard cock pushing against his own and nudging at his balls was indescribably erotic, more of a turn on than anything Hutch could have imagined. When that hungry mouth took his own again and Starsky's hips began an insistent rocking, Hutch was sure he'd died and gone to heaven.
They slid over into a rhythm that seemed to have been waiting there for them forever, a steady undulating that was as powerful and ancient as the tide. Each thrust seemed to meld their flesh that much closer together, until in the steamy closeness it seemed that there was no delineating between where Hutch's body stopped and Starsky's began. Each breath, each burst of ecstatic delight was a shared experience.
Clutching his partner so tight that his close-clipped nails actually breached the flesh of Starsky's shoulders, Hutch clung to his partner as sanity, reason and all the higher brain functions deserted him as he gave his body up to the all-consuming, primal pleasure. The sensation swirled through him like a raging tornado, increasing in intensity until his senses were spinning as fast as the room. Then the heat of the friction became too much and a single spark ignited the pent up pleasures into a starburst of volcanic proportions.
Crying out as he toppled over that final peak of ecstasy, Hutch clung to the man on top of him, feeling the sweaty, muscular body give one final stroke and a hoarse, ragged groan as a similar, cathartic stillness came over Starsky. Stunned, Hutch lay motionless, concentrating on the sensation as the sticky fruit of their love dance mingled between their tight-pressed bellies.
"Oh, God, Hutch." Starsky's sigh was one of pure satisfaction as the spinning room slowly righted itself around them.
"Yeah," Hutch agreed, kissing the sweat-beaded brow.
"I really love you, babe," Starsky murmured, lifting his head up far enough to peer into the sated blond's features.
"I - I've loved you forever, Starsk," Hutch whispered, lightly touching the riot of dark curls.
"I know. Once we get back to L.A., partner, I'm gonna make up for all the waiting. I promise."
Touched, Hutch caressed that quirky, beautiful face. "If there was nothing more than what we shared tonight, it would be worth the wait, Starsk," he softly admitted.
"There's a hell of a lot more than just this, Hutch. But right now . . ."
"I know. We got a job to do." Hutch sighed. He realized they were lying here where anyone could come across them, the other cops, Carstairs . . .
"Meet you in the middle of my bed tonight?" Starsky grinned.
"You got a date," Hutch smiled.
Chuckling like a couple of kids, the pair set about sorting out their clothing and getting cleaned up before their tour of duty started.
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