No Quarter
(AKA Tira Nog)


Sometimes Hutch couldn't help but wonder what he did in his last life to deserve this, his own private hell. Or maybe it was Purgatory. It had been decades since his Catechism lessons, and he was a little fuzzy on the distinction. All he knew was that it hurt, hurt so bad.

The insufferable L.A. heat wasn't helping any. At least in winter, there were jackets and heavy sweaters to keep temptation at bay. But in these sticky, summer months when necessity forced them to wear as little clothing as propriety would allow, his life was a misery. Everything was out there in the open, just screaming to be touched.

Shifting in the Torino's slimy leather seat, his gaze trailed to where his very own private torturer stood chatting with the Good Humor man in the blazing sun on the Venice street. Those cheap sunglasses made Starsky look hotter than hell, like some movie star going out in public incognito. There certainly wasn't an actor in all of Hollywood who wouldn't have killed to have Starsky's ass. Hutch's gaze lingered on those delectable curves, showcased perfectly in worn blue denim that looked like it had been spray painted on.<lj-cut>

The windows were down since the engine was off. Hutch was too far away to hear what his friend was saying to the ice cream seller, but he could see the expressions playing across Starsky's quirky handsome features and his gaze was riveted by the range of emotion displayed there.

Starsky radiated life. No matter what emotion circumstances forced upon them, his partner seemed to experience it at a level Hutch could only envy. So much of his own formative years had been spent learning how not to feel, how not to react, how to hide who and what he was, that Starsky's emotional honesty dazzled him.

Dozens of tourists and beachgoers passed in a steady stream between the car and the ice cream truck, many of them bikini-clad beauties who once would have caught his eye, but today all he could see was his curly-haired partner.

Even now, Hutch didn't understand how things had changed so radically. When had scruffy sneakers, old blue jeans, and an old white button-down cotton shirt become more of a turn-on than slinky summer dresses and soft, feminine curves?

But, as his heart pounded and his jeans grew uncomfortably tight in the front as his eyes scanned the trim line of Starsky's body, there was no denying what was happening to him.

He was losing his mind. That was what was happening.

This wasn't some Venice beach boy he was lusting over. This was David Michael Starsky, quite possibly the most dangerous man he'd ever met. This lunacy was sheer suicide.

Although you'd never guess it while looking at the smiling, laughing man who was charming the hell out of Tony, the ice cream guy, Hutch knew the killer that lived within his friend. Starsky hid it well, but he had a gift for killing that Hutch had only ever seen on the other side of the badge. And, God help him, even that dark, predatory side of Starsky turned him on. He loved both the child in Starsky and the ruthless protector. He just loved him, which was the tragedy of it.

His partner didn't go this route; he knew that, and, yet, his heart kept hoping.

The problem was that it was his heart and not simply his gonads that were involved here. If he'd just had a hankering for a night or two of hot sex, he thought he might have a chance. Starsk didn't do guys, but if he ever were to take a walk on the wild side, Hutch thought he might be the man to take his partner down that road. But there was a hell of a difference between asking for a weekend fling and the kind of things he was hungering for. He didn't want a weekend or two. He wanted the moon, or that white picket fence dream that was equally unobtainable.

There were times he considered simply coming clean to his partner, telling Starsk exactly what was going on with him. He didn't think Starsky would walk away from him. He knew how deeply his partner cared for him. If Starsky loved anyone, it was him, only . . . he didn't love him <i>that</i> way.

There was absolutely no getting over that particular hurdle. He couldn't change his partner's sexual orientation. All he could hope for was that one day this longing would disappear as suddenly as it arrived. As if.

"Get the door. Would ya?"

Hutch jumped at the request. He'd been so out of it, that he'd missed Starsky walking back to the car, which only proved how dangerous this distraction was, because he never missed watching Starsky walk anywhere these days. The man was poetry in motion.

Praying that the bowling shirt he was wearing over his blue tee shirt would cover the tightness in his jeans, he reached across the driver's bucket seat to open the door.

Starsky slid in.

The fresh scents of sunshine and his partner's sweat assailed Hutch, adding to his control problem.

Although Hutch had said he didn't want any ice cream, Starsky held two paper wrapped ice cream sticks in his hand.

"I got you a chocolate éclair," Starsky said, handing over the ice cream in his right hand. Once his hand was free, he pulled off the sunglasses and laid them on the dash. The blue of his eyes was so deep Hutch knew he'd drown in it.

"I said I didn't want any," Hutch groused.

"You always say that, then you eat mine. So I got you your own," Starsky said.

He watched as Starsky eagerly ripped the paper off his own purchase. A bright red ice pop was revealed.

"What is that?" Hutch asked, staring askance at the phallic shaped ice as he undid his own ice cream's wrappings. He did everything in his power not to gape as Starsky's tongue poked out to slowly lick its way down the glistening red ice.

"It's a cherry whammie. You want a taste?" Starsky asked, thrusting the thing into Hutch's face.

Left with no choice, he stuck his tongue out to sample the ice, shivering a little as he realized his own tongue was now moving over the same spot Starsky's had a moment ago. He was so obsessed with that knowledge that he barely noticed the sickeningly sweet cherry flavour that shot trough him.

"You like it?"

His eyes fixed on a large bead of sweat that dripped from Starsky's stubbled jaw, running swiftly down the length of his tanned throat.

"Yeah," he grated out, praying that he didn't sound as rough as he felt. He absently licked the remains of the sticky ice off the bottom of his moustache, watching as Starsky withdrew to his own side of the car.

Seemingly oblivious to the crisis he was causing, Starsky turned his attention to his whammie. The long red shaft of ice slid between those parted, slender lips the way Hutch's cock did in his midnight fantasies.

Feeling like some kind of sick voyeur, Hutch watched his partner make love to his ice cream. It was truly obscene the way Starsky was sucking the damn thing.

Part of him couldn't help but wonder if the teasing were intentional. Maybe Starsky knew how he felt about him. Maybe this was all his partner's way of forcing the issue out into the open. But, no, Starsk wasn't subtle like this. If he'd wanted to address the situation, Hutch knew he'd be spilling his guts about now instead of sitting here dying of frustration in the sweltering striped tomato, where the only thing he could smell on every breath was Starsky.

Finally, Starsky finished the damn thing.

"Hey, watch the seats," Starsky scolded, reaching out to catch Hutch's melting ice cream as the chocolate mess dripped off the stick.

Starsky stared at the blob in his palm, then gave a madcap grin, shrugged, and lifted the ice cream to his mouth. The breath hitched to a stop in Hutch's chest as Starsky ate the ice cream and then licked his hand clean.

"You know, we've got napkins," Hutch snapped, reaching down to the paper bag that held the remnants of this morning's bagel breakfast to extract a white paper napkin.

"Just eat the damn thing, would ya?"

Knowing that he'd start an argument if he didn't comply, Hutch nibbled at the frozen chocolate that was all that was left on the stick he held. It was all he could do not to squirm as those perceptive eyes settled on him.

"You gonna tell me what's wrong?" Starsky asked in a soft voice after a few minutes of that nerve-racking observation.

This was the chance he'd been waiting for. Hutch stared into those worried eyes, looking for a way to explain, and coming up short of inspiration, as he always did. What the hell could he possibly say?

Running scared, he stonewalled with, "What makes you think something's wrong?"

"You been quiet as a grave all week. What's up?"

"It's the heat," Hutch finally answered, offering a partial truth, unwilling to specify what kind of heat.

Almost as if he'd scented the lie, Starsky challenged with, "The heat, huh?"

"Yeah, the heat." Hutch held that searching gaze, practically daring Starsky to make an issue of it.

As happened a hundred times a day, their gazes locked.

Hutch never understood exactly what passed between them during those moments. All he knew was that he always felt completely exposed, as if his very soul had been read. At such times, Starsky's being seemed to connect to his own, claiming him, taking everything he was, giving no quarter, allowing him no place to hide.

It was no different this time. Those eyes that knew him so well scoured him, baring everything he was.

Never in the past had he had anything he needed to hide. But he had the granddaddy of all secrets ripping him apart now, and, if their friendship were to survive, this was one part of him he could never let Starsky know.

Panicking, Hutch broke the stare. His shaky hand reached for the cheap plastic sunglasses on the dash. Putting them on, he consciously slammed the door to his soul shut in Starsky's face.

He could feel the hurt confusion emoting from the other side of the car.

They sat in the horribly awkward silence that followed for what felt like an eternity.

Finally, Starsky released a slow, drawn-out breath and asked in a low tone that sent shivers through him, "You'd tell me if something big were botherin' you, wouldn't you?"

"Yeah," Hutch answered, hating the hurt he'd knowingly inflicted.

He'd hoped the subject would drop there, but Starsky continued with, "You know you can tell me anything. You know I love you."

It was like Starsk read his mind, only his problem was so alien, so beyond Starsky's frame of reference that it was like his partner couldn't apprehend more than the scope of the pain.

Hutch met Starsk's gaze through the dark screen of those cheap sunglasses and answered, "I love you, too. That's the God's truth."

As confessions went, that one was pretty pathetic. So much so that Starsky missed it completely.

"Then why can't you tell me what's wrong, and don't say 'nothing', 'cause I know something's hurting you. It usually helps when we talk things out."

"It's not a talking kind of thing, Starsk," Hutch explained.

"Then what kind of thing is it?"

The urge to just lean across the seat, press his mouth against those cherry-ice stained lips, and show Starsky what kind of thing it was was nearly irresistible. Only . . . a crowded street wasn't the place to make that type of explosive statement, even if they were in the relative privacy of Starsky's parked car. They were on their lunch break. There were at least four more hours to get through before they could deal with this issue. Bringing this out into the open now could get them both killed.

Taking a deep breath, Hutch answered, "It's a 'gotta think about it a while' kinda thing."

"I don't like there being secrets between us," Starsky said, with his usual upfront, in-your-face honesty.

"It's not exactly a secret," Hutch said, knowing that anyone with eyes could probably see what he was feeling. For all that his partner could read his soul, Starsky had this amazing blind spot when it came to him, like Starsk had pigeon-holed him into the trusted partner slot and couldn't see anything that jeopardized that role.

"No?" Starsky challenged.


Starsky attempted to stare him down, but with him hiding behind the shield of those sunglasses that just wasn't going to happen.

"Sure feels like one from this end," Starsky said, clearly still hurt.

"I'm sorry," Hutch said, knowing there was no way to make this right.

Starsky's eyes returned to his face. Even with the sunglasses on, Starsky seemed to read him, though Hutch supposed he was feeling so awful that even that gorilla mask of Ezra Beam's wouldn't have hidden how hard this was.

To his astonishment, Starsky's face gentled. "Okay. When you're done thinking about it, you'll tell me?"

Knowing that he'd never spoken truer words, he promised, "Believe me, partner, you'll be the first to know."

Seemingly satisfied, Starsky flashed him a smile and said, "Great. Guess we better get back to work."

Hutch nodded.

Disaster postponed, Starsky started the car and pulled back into traffic.

Taking a deep breath, Hutch settled back into the seat. He could feel Starsky's gaze settling on him every time there was a lull in the traffic. Blanking his features, he hid behind the sunglasses, thinking that he was going to have to wear them every damn day at this rate. He had no idea what shield he'd use once darkness fell and he no longer had an excuse to hide his eyes.

A sick sense of foreboding filled him as he saw his future unfold before him, saw these almost daily tests of his controls coming to their inevitable, disastrous conclusion. Feeling like he was living on borrowed time, he surreptitiously studied his partner's profile, a million horrible scenarios of how wrong everything was going to go playing through his mind.

"Hutch?" Starsky said in a low voice, not taking his eyes off the road even though they were stopped at a light.

"Yeah?" he asked around the lump that always seemed to be stuck in his throat these days.

"Whatever it is, it'll be okay."

Irritated by that idiotic optimism that was the bedrock of his partner's character, Hutch snapped, "How can you possibly say that when you don't know what the goddamned problem is?"

"Whatever it is, I'll make it okay. I promise. Just . . . don't worry about it, okay?"

The sincerity shattered him. He felt like the lowest of the low. Totally unworthy.

Recognizing just how much he stood to lose here, Hutch swallowed hard and said, "Thanks, partner."

"Nothin' to thank me for." Starsky's arm settled across the back of Hutch's seat, his hand coming to rest casually in his hair.

Somehow, though nothing had changed, that touch made him feel better. As long as he had this man at his side, he could face anything. Even this. He might be living on borrowed time. His world was most probably going to come crashing down around him as soon as his secret was out, but right now, Starsky was beside him, promising to make everything all right. That was worth the whole world.

Maybe some day he'd find the courage to tell Starsky how he felt. Till then, it would be cheap sunglasses and baggy clothes, hiding in deep cover as he did everything he could to put off the inevitable.

The End

On to Sequel: Haunted Hearts

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