The dark head was bent over the typewriter. The normally dexterous fingers picked out their last report with agonizing slowness. Watching his partner work, Hutch couldn't help but remember how those fingers used to touch him once upon a time, long before his own insecurities and Gunther's bullets had ruined their happy ever after.

Over a year since the shooting. Only now was life just beginning to fall back into place. Starsky was back on the streets with him again, their daily routine resumed after the prolonged hiatus with nary a ripple. At times like this when they were busy working it almost seemed to Hutch that the last year hadn't happened at all, then he'd wake up screaming as a heart monitor leveled out with an ominous buzz, and that brush with death would be the only real thing in Hutch's universe again. But that was his secret.

Starsky was doing fine. That was all that mattered. His friend had repossessed his life and job with characteristic gusto. Looking at Starsky now, Hutch, the most critical of observers, defied anyone to find any difference in his partner's present performance of his job to that previous to Gunther. If anything, Starsky was better, more enthusiastic, well rested and alert. Even in repose the man was vibrant, the very air around him seeming to crackle with the raw energy of life. Hutch found himself drawn to that vitality like a plant to the sun's light.

"You could help, you know. Beats starin'. You're burnin' a hole in the back of my head." Starsky complained with good humor.

"How'd you know I was...?"

Starsky glanced over his shoulder at him. "Weren't you?"

Hutch gulped. Without even trying, in the middle of the hectic squad room, Starsky managed to steal his breath. His own gaze dropped to the plastic piggy bank balanced between their two facing desks. For some reason he felt guilty. "Yes." He reluctantly admitted, wondering how much of the truth Starsky had read.

"You okay, partner?"

Nothing would ever be okay again, his weary soul wanted to shout. He opted instead for the easy lie. "Fine."

Hutch saw the evasion register before a blindingly bright grin distracted him.

"In that case you won't mind helping."

"No way, José. I did my half."

"Yeah, but..."

"But nothing. Just finish that. I'm tired and hungry and..."

"Cranky," Starsky completed, using his two fingers to punch out another work. "Okay, let's go.

"Starsk, we promised Dobey these would be on his desk first thing tomorrow."

"I know. I'm done." Starsky rose, arching into a long and thorough stretch.

Hutch diverted his gaze. "Then why did you ask me to help you?"

"To see if you'd let me get away with it. Thanks."

"What for?" Hutch shouldered his way into his jacket, resisting the impulse to help Starsky into his. Old habits.

"For letting me carry my own weight," Starsky answered.

Hutch smiled into the serious face. "My back couldn't handle that load, Starsk."

Starsky smiled and headed for the door.

Outside the afternoon's overcast had given way to a miserable rain. Hutch shivered as the Torino pulled out of the police garage into the wet night. No amount of snow could be worse that the dismal damp chill that made up L.A.'s winter. The rain-drenched asphalt was slick as slate, decorated with spreading rainbows of dispersing oil spills.

The car pulled to a stop in front of Venice Place. Hutch lingered, reluctant to abandon the cozy warmth of the Torino. "It's a mess out there."

"Yeah." Starsky agreed, apparently in no hurry to leave.

"Well, I'd better get moving. 'Night, Starsk."

"Hutch." The contained urgency stopped his exit.


"You doing anything tonight?" Starsky asked with deceptive casualness, his gaze fixed on the flickering windshield wipers.

Hutch's heart leaped in his chest, almost in fear. His nerves heightened to a fine tuned tension, like the high E string on his guitar tuned too tight. A single mis-fingering and he'd snap. It was that important a breakthrough.

For two years now they'd wandered through limbo, or maybe it was hell. In retrospect the last twelve months hadn't been that difficult. Starsky's convalescence had put all concerns other than recovery on hold, the trauma stabilizing them to the point where Hutch had been able to spend three months living in his recuperating partners apartment without once slipping.

But the year before Gunther--even now the blond cringed at the memory of that living hell. The shattering of their sexual relationship had all but institutionalized him. That the break was entirely his own doing made it no easier to accept. He'd been lost, often distraught, desperately trying to rediscover the inner strength that had characterized his early years on the force. But that surety was gone. Nothing seemed certain any longer--even his friendship with Starsky had been jeopardized.

It had been many painful months before their situation had stabilized, livable borders being gruelingly established where none had existed before. At work they were nearly unchanged: Starsky was perhaps a bit more distanced, but not nearly as much as any other man in his position would have been; as for Hutch himself, he knew the radical shift from his customary neat, clean-cut appearance was a physical manifestation of his ravaged mind. Still, rarely did his personal problems affect his performance. Off-duty was another matter. Both instinctively understood that a prolonged estrangement would destroy whatever bonds remained between them. Sometimes even now he could hear Starsky saying how he might let his lover walk away from him, but there was no way in hell he'd lose his partner. That was the first instance that Hutch had ever been grateful for an ex-lover not sharing his 'once it's over, it's over' philosophy. They both needed to go back to those earlier, uncomplicated days, but doing so had proven far more difficult than either of them had imagined. Finally, they'd established some basic guidelines to off-duty interaction: double dating was fine, sports, even daytime visits to each other's territory, but never after dark. Never did either venture to the other's home in the hours when the flesh's demands and their still potent mutual attraction might breed disastrous results. Never that was, until now. If that was even what Starsky was asking, Hutch corrected himself, realizing that the inquiry could be no more than a simple question.

"Nothing special. Why?" Hutch replied, proud that he managed to keep his tone as carefully nonchalant as his partner's

The wipers squealed across the windshield as irritatingly regular as a metronome.

"Would you like some company?" Any pretence of insouciance was dispelled by the open gaze turned his way.

Hutch winced, reading the vulnerability his partner made no effort to disguise. But then, Starsky had never hidden from him, Hutch reminded himself.

This could be no more than another attempt to heal the breech between them, common sense cautioned, Starsky's way of tossing aside that final barrier and reestablishing the easy, unselfconscious familiarity they'd all but lost. Reading anything more into the innocent question would only open old wounds.

But damn it, if it's an innocent question, why do you look like a man twice burnt?

Because you're important to him, dummy. Hutch's conscience chastised. And you've just given me another opportunity to hurt you again.

Hutch managed a weak smile. "Sure, any time. You know you're always welcome, partner." It was the right approach. At his use of the word 'partner', Starsky relaxed visibly.

"There are a couple of steaks in the fridge if you're hungry," Hutch offered, voicing the first thing that came to mind to cover his disappointment.

"If? You've got to be kidding. Race you to the stairs!" Starsky grinned, snapping off the ignition and wipers. With a challenging tilt of his brows, the dark haired man took off from the car's dry interior to run through the downpour like a schoolboy. Hutch followed at a more sedate and far less dry pace.

"That was good," Starsky declared almost an hour later, pushing away from the table.

"It's a wonder your taste buds even registered its passing, the food disappeared so fast," Hutch remarked.

"Can I help it if you're a sensational cook?"

"Sensational, huh? Hey, put those down. I'll get them later."

Starsky shook his head and gathered the remaining dishes. "No way. You cooked. Go relax. I'll be out in a few minutes."

Recognizing the steely determination, Hutch withdrew to the living room. There was, however, no relaxing, not while Starsky was here, his motives still undeclared.

Poised uneasily on the couch, Hutch sipped his beer and listened to the domestic noise of rattling crockery and rushing water.

All too soon the activity in the kitchen ceased. Starsky joined him on the couch. The denim clad figure smelt faintly of the tangy lemon dish liquid and chocolate chip cookies. The unlikely combination was startlingly provocative.

"Do you want one?" Starsky offered a cookie.

"Not with this." Hutch lifted his beer can. "There's milk in the kitchen." Hutch grimaced. "Enjoy."

Another time, the silence between them might have been companionable. Hutch waited it out in tense anticipation, listening to the dash of the wind tossed rain against the patio doors and the ridiculously comforting cookie crunches. Nervousness aside, it felt good to have his partner here with him.

Deciding to take a few risks himself, Hutch admitted as much. "I'm glad you came up."

"Are you? You've been awful quiet."

Hutch shrugged. "I didn't have much to say."

"Ahh," Starsky commented in an unconvinced tone.

Licking the chocolate traces from his fingers, Starsky should have appeared anything but mysterious, yet Hutch found himself shifting under the force of that impenetrable gaze. Not since the earliest days had Hutch been fooled by Starsky's surface representations. He'd learned the hard way that his partner had more levels and convolutions than Daedelus' maze

"Do you want to watch TV?" Hutch asked, grasping for a means of removing Starsky's attention from himself, or at least muting it a little.

"No. Hutch, I think we need to talk."

Hutch didn't pretend to misunderstand, although part of him dreaded the on-coming conversation. "Yeah, I guess it's time."

He was encouraged to see Starsky relax at his lack of evasion. A troubled frown still pulled at the beguiling features, but his partner no longer seemed so unreadable.

"When I was hurt things were...easy between us for a long time, comfortable."

"We were scared," Hutch said softly.

"Yeah." A long pause followed in which Starsky appeared to be searching for just the right words.

And not finding them, Hutch helped. "And now that we're not so scared anymore the problem's back. Is that what you're trying to tell me?"

"Yeah." Dark and low, the word sounded as if it had been ripped from the depths of Starsky's soul.

Hutch sympathized with his partner's predicament. After this past year it would be hell for Starsky to tell him to back off. His mouth ran dry, a terrible tightening gripping his gut. "I--I'm sorry, babe."

Inadequate. The apology hadn't been made that could cover the pain he'd caused his partner. Seduced and abandoned, it was a wonder Starsky still cared about him at all.

Hutch swore that the lean body beside him actually flinched at his ungainly attempt at apology, Starsky going very still for a long moment. The dark eyes closed tight, an almost spasmodic denial. At last his partner nodded, as if consigning himself to the unacceptable, and opened his eyes. "No need to apologize. I promised you time. Let's forget I ever mentioned it, all right?" Without waiting for reply. "I'll pick you up at seven. Thanks for dinner."

"Starsky, wait!" Hutch all but shouted before his partner could make good his escape. "What're you..."

He planted himself between Starsky and the door, totally bewildered by the trapped expression in the overly bright eyes. In the tight straight-legged jeans that Hutch still wasn't accustomed to seeing on his partner and the plain white button down shirt, Starsky looked incredibly young. The emotional pain on the drawn face was like an open wound.

"Starsk, what is it?" he asked, approaching slowly. "I don't understand."

"All the time you needed, I promised you that. Never meant to push you, but..."

Hutch froze, wanting what he thought he was hearing to be true so badly that he was afraid to believe it was possible. "What are you saying, Starsk?"

"Almost makes you realize how little time we have to waste, you know?" The explanation was voiced reluctantly, as if his friend didn't consider it sufficient grounds for his action.

Hutch's heart twisted for his partner. They were both so careful of each other these days that more often than not they ended up hurting themselves. "You mean like when I told you I needed you after Callandar's plague?"

"Yeah, it makes you impetuous, a little crazy," Starsky agreed, a fragile untruth.

"You mean honest, don't you?"

Starsky nodded, permitting the truth to show clearly in his unfaltering gaze. "It won't happen again. I'll be more careful."

"When I told you that I was sorry before, I thought you were going to read me the riot act, Starsk."


"Like you said, things have been comfortable."

Even from across the room, Hutch could hear the whoosh of in drawn breath. "It isn't just me then."


It was Starsky who closed the distance between them, Hutch still unwilling to take that liberty.

He drew a shaky breath as the his partner drew close enough for him to feel the heat pouring off the solid body, but not quite close enough that there was actual physical contact made. The warmth tingled teasingly along Hutch's nerves. From his mouth to his toes, his flesh yearned for that touch.

"You never said."

For all that the words stung, the accusation was gently, almost tenderly voiced.

Hutch gulped, watching as Starsky's hand rose to finger a lock of his over-long blond hair.

"How could I after what I'd done to you?" Hutch demanded, taking a desperate step back. Starsky was too close for clear thinking. He'd felt like this once before, acted upon his impulse and brought them to the very brink of destruction.

"You had your reasons." Starsky defended.

The calm of that declaration was absolute, as devoid of resentment or doubt as the pronouncement of a wizened Tibetan Llama.

"Maybe you can explain it to me then, because I still don't understand." Brows puckered as he composed his thoughts with his usual care, Starsky wandered back towards the couch. He didn't sit down, leaning his butt back against the support of the high couch arm.

Hutch had the unnerving impression that his partner was trying to decide just how much of the truth to tell him. Unsettling as the experience was, he had long ago recognized the fact that Starsky sometimes understood aspects of his character that he himself failed to grasp, just as there were things he knew about his friend that Starsky was too close to see.

"We needed each other then, Hutch, too much, maybe."

"That doesn't explain anything," Hutch protested.

"No, but anything that...powerful is frightening."

"It didn't scare you."

"Yeah it did, babe. Every hour, every day. I think I just knew what I wanted a little better."

"I wanted you, Starsk. Even when things got too heavy for me to handle, I always wanted you." Right to the minute I walked out the door on you and after. It was a plea for belief, one Hutch had little expectation of being accepted.

"Do you think I don't know that?" Starsky soothed.

"How could you? You gave me more than I ever hoped for and I threw it back in your face. If I were you..." He couldn't complete the thought.

"You wouldn't have screwed up the way I did if you were me," Starsky said very softly before his tone firmed into a command. "Come over here and sit down, Hutch. You feel a million miles away from me and I need you close right now."

Almost against his will he found himself approaching the couch. He sank down on the farthest end, trying to maintain that essential distance. But Starsky dropped to the empty cushion beside him, his broad back pressed to the couch arm he'd perched upon, squarely facing Hutch's profile.

"That was the problem, partner. I gave you more than you could handle and asked for more than you were ready to give."


"Please, let me finish. I knew how hard it was for you. Too much, too fast, and all the time you were trying to pull it off. It wasn't until the end that I saw what I was doing to you."

Hutch barely resisted the near-hysterical impulse to laugh. Only Starsky could find a way to blame himself for his partner's short-comings. "You never pressured me to change for you, Starsk," Hutch insisted. "Not once."

"Maybe not in the way you were used to being pressured, but it was there."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hutch demanded, feeling his facial muscles harden in the instinctive stone wall response. Regardless of their problems. He'd always believed Starsky to be the one person who had loved him as he was, for himself alone. To discover that his partner had practiced some subtle form of manipulation as Starsky now seemed to be suggesting, shattered all his preconceptions of his friend's character. "What did you want different: my job? my attitude? or my bank book?" Whatever it was, Hutch thought with sinking hope, for you I would have changed it. But he didn't say that, his question instead held the crack of a whiplash.

"Don't." The absolute control of the vocalization bespoke the fury beneath the warning. "You know that's not what I meant."

"Then what the hell are you trying to say?"

Starsky took a deep breath, obviously letting go of his anger with a conscious effort. When he spoke again a measure of gentleness had returned to his attitude. "What did you want for us that first night together, Hutch?"

"Huh?" Wary of a trap, lie hesitated, not understanding what Starsky's question had to do with their previous volatile topic.

"You were the one who had the courage to open the door for us. Where did you see it leading before we made love?"

"What is this? HOW TO--ANALYSIS?" Hutch demanded.

"Answer me."

"All right, Herr Doktor, I never saw it leading anywhere. I never thought you'd go for the idea."

"But you still asked." Starsky sounded as confused as Hutch felt.

"You had a right to know I felt that way about you, and there was always the chance..." his voice faded away.

"And when it worked between us, what did you want then?"

He tried to hold that steady gaze, but found his own dropping at the memory of that bitter failure. "Just to hold on to you, to keep the good feeling alive between us. But it all got so complicated, Starsk. I felt like I was being pulled apart a hundred different ways."

"I never meant to do that to you."

The remorse was enough to break a heart. The last thing he had ever wanted was for Starsky to regret their loving. Hutch, conscience already over burdened by the weight of his pain, could bear it no longer. "You didn't. I did it to us. All of it. I'm sorry."

"There's nothing to be sorry for, partner." Starsky denied, reaching for his hand with both of his own. Hutch let it rest within the warm clasp, concentrating on his friend's words. "We needed the time...the space."

The temptation to simply accept Starsky's certainty was strong, but he was unwilling to risk their friendship again. "I don't feel very different now, Starsk. I'm still the same."

A fond smile suffused his partner's features as subtly as a morning mist would claim a field. "My one constant, huh?"

"That's not what I meant." But Hutch found himself relaxing. He gave the hand beneath his a light squeeze before withdrawing it to push the hair back from his eyes.

Starsky's eyes followed the gesture with something like hunger. "Never thought I'd hear that again." Starsky remarked with satisfaction.

"Hear what again?" Hutch asked, aware that the irrelevant statement was meant solely for the purpose of arousing his curiosity.

"Your bedroom voice."

"My what?" Hutch laughed.

"Your voice. It changes."

"How?" Hutch demanded, stifling a grin.

Starsky's seriousness communicated itself through his almost reverent attitude. "It gets...gentler, somehow shy."

"You're making that up," he accused.

"No, 's true."

"Am I doing it now?" Hutch asked, trying to hear the difference.

Starsky nodded. "Yeah. These past few weeks you've been using it more and more. That's how I knew for sure what was bothering us."

Hutch looked away, aghast at the idea of being so transparent. He could feel his cheeks flaming hot with shame.

"Hey, what is it?" Starsky's whisper shivered through him.

"You always said you could read me like a book." Although he strove for coldness, Hutch suspected he sounded as wounded as he felt.

"That works both ways, man."

"No it doesn't. You never give yourself away like that. Your voice has been the same since the day we met."

"Doesn't that tell you something, partner?"

"What? That you were affected" Hutch asked, knowing the idea for the absurdity it was even as he spoke. In his entire life he had never encountered the equal of the loyalty and single-minded devotion Starsky bore him.

"Or maybe I was 'affected' by you from the start, maybe that feeling was always waiting there for you and nobody else."

When he thought about it, hadn't Starsky always had a special tone for addressing him? Now that he considered the possibility, Hutch could see his partner's point. From the start, Starsky had a more melodic, playful, oft-times teasing, but ultimately affectionate modulation when dealing with him, as if Hutch were the only person he trusted enough to expose the sensitive side of his nature to. Over the years Starsky's abrasive attitude towards the rest of the world had mellowed considerably, but that voice had always remained Hutch's exclusively.

"You're not trying to tell me that you've always been in love with me, are you?" Hutch asked, distrusting.

"Not consciously, no. But it didn't come as too much of a shock, did it?"

"Only to me." Hutch smiled reminiscently, relinquishing the memory with great reluctance. "What happens now?"

The broad shoulders shrugged. "That's up to you."

He didn't have to ask what his companion wanted. The longing was as clear as the mole under Starsky's right eye. The unnatural stillness tautening the wiry muscled form sprawled with such deceptive abandon beside him, told how very important this was to his friend. "I don't want to screw things up between us again, babe, but..."

"But?" Starsky prompted with admirable restraint.

"But I want you so badly I can taste you." The betraying warmth was in his cheeks again, only this time it wasn't embarrassment.

"You can do that anytime you want, partner," Starsky breathed, coming up to his knees on the couch cushion and leaning over him until all there was in Hutch's universe was Starsky and the fire in his own blood.

Every sense was alive to the man looming over him, swimming under the impact of the moment, yet everything was still so piercingly vivid. Hutch tried to speak, but found himself strangely mute. He could only stare at Starsky's mouth lowered to his own for that first exquisite joining.

The kiss was not as he expected or remembered it. Their urgency tonight, born of long denial, had led Hutch to anticipate frantic fumbling. But the sweet, cookie-flavored mouth that covered his did so with near reverence. Always in the past there had been tenderness, but this was so much more.

He moaned low in his throat as Starsky finally withdrew, gazing up at his lover in breathless wonder.

Starsky's blue eyes were bright with arousal, the determined set of the firm jaw told him that it was Starsky's will alone which had enforced the restraint.

"Starsk?" he croaked, thinking he saw reluctance in that fierce blaze of passion.

"I shouldn't touch you now, not when I'm burning like this," Starsky raggedly confessed, the fingers digging through his shirt into the muscles of his upper arm an uncomfortable accent. "Can't go slow like I promised you."

"We never went slow here," Hutch dismissed, trying to draw the resisting form down on top of him. He had always been aware of the capacity for violence between them, even if Starsky were not. Two aggressive males bound by the almost terrifying fire they shared, it was nearly inevitable that they'd be burned or consumed whole. Hutch had always embraced that risk, trusting in their love to keep them safe. It had never failed them yet.

When Starsky spoke again, it was in the form of a warning. "I want you tonight, Hutch."

Hutch swallowed convulsively, shivering in anticipation at the possessive tone.

"If it's too much, too heavy, we better stop now."

"Stop?" Hutch shook his head, sending his hair tumbling into his face. "Are you crazy?"

His reply seemed to soak up some of the terrible tension tightening Starsky's body. His partner's hand, which seemed to Hutch to be quivering oh so slightly, reached out to clear the hair from his eyes.

"Only when it comes to you." Starsky fell into his arms, burying his face in the hollow of Hutch's neck and shoulder. "Oh god, babe, need you so bad. Let me get at you."

He nodded again, sitting still as anxious fingers unbuttoned his shirt, baring his chest to the cool night air. Starsky's hand caught his own as he reached to reciprocate. "Not yet. One touch and I'll lose it. It's been so long, Hutch, please...let me..."

His fingers on Starsky's lips stilled the desperate entreaty. "Anything. Whatever you want, no holds barred." He smiled shakily.

"And if I want it all?"

All or nothing, always it had come down to that. Hutch wondered if he could chance it, if he could measure up this time. He understood that at the moment all Starsky was doing was checking the boundaries of what he'd allow sexually, but he also realized that any decision he made now would be reflected in their daily relationship. Earlier Starsky had claimed that they had floundered because of needing too much, moderation the unvoiced suggestion. How can I be moderate when it comes to Starsky?

"That's all right, too," Hutch decided, offering himself up on the alter of their love, aware even as he spoke that he would never survive a second failure.

Their next kiss was more demanding than the first, Starsky's need communicating itself even from the awkward leaning position.

Once they separated, Hutch's partner scooted down to the floor in front of him, stretching up to caress his face and neck with feather light fingertips.

Hutch thrilled to every touch, those magical fingers bringing his flesh to life as no other lover. He gasped as warm lips fixed on his neck, nuzzling their way down his Adam's apple to the smooth expanse of chest. Starsky's intensity was intoxicating. There was nothing perfunctory or casual in his partner's ministrations, all of Starsky's attention and the considerable force of his character seemingly focused solely of the skin beneath his mouth.

Hutch remembered the first time he had witnessed his partner do this to someone. It had happened in the center of the office, of all places, over four years ago in the middle of what would later turn out to be the Alex Drew investigation. Police officer Sally Hogan had just given them a batch of files when his friend had taken hold of her arm and begun to nuzzle his way from wrist to her bare elbow. Hutch had found himself mesmerized by Starsky's single-minded absorption, unable to help but speculate what it would be like to be the recipient of that sensual attention.

Now he knew, intimately. It felt like dying of ecstasy, as if Starsky would pleasure every nerve he possessed until he could take no more. His partner was doing it now. Already Hutch found himself panting and Starsky had yet to even touch his chest. His mind spinning with sensation, Hutch reflected that his partner gave new meaning to the vow 'with my body I thee worship'. Ancient words, of almost pagan content, but unquestionably suitable to the homage Starsky was paying him.

His insides seemed to melt as Starsky's tongue at last fastened on his left nipple. The twirling tongue tip drove him higher, lightening bolts of raw pleasure, flashing out of that wet contact.

His mouth occupied, Starsky's hands blindly sought the fastening of Hutch's baggy brown cords, opening them with deft skill. Hutch blinked the passion daze away as those powerful hands settled on his hips, urging his weight off the cushion. "Don't you want to move into the bedroom?"

"Not yet." The low, thick voice reverberated through Hutch's bones.

He lifted his hips, allowing Starsky to pull down his pants before he resettled on the quilt-covered cushion. The prickly yarn scratched against his buttocks. He felt vaguely ridiculous sitting with his pants down around his knees and his fully clothed partner kneeling at his feet.

"Oh Hutch, you're so damn beautiful," Starsky murmured.

The hot gaze on his erection made him blush and harden at the same time. "Starsk, you..."

"Ssssh," Starsky quieted him, bending to kiss the pale flat stomach just below his naval. Then the dark head moved lower.

The sudden suction galvanized his system. Wave upon wave of dizzying delight splashed through him.

His fingers clutched at the soft black curls, locking the head in place. So long since he'd last felt Starsky's tongue on him there...

The reality was all consuming. He tried to stay still and make it easier on his partner but his body blatantly refused to cooperate, writhing and bucking like a creature possessed. To Hutch's great disappointment, Starsky pulled away the moment he's managed to assert some measure of control over himself.

"Don't, Hutch. Don't hold back. I want it all." And then the beloved mouth was back, urging his pleasure.

There was no possibility of withholding anything from his partner after that. Starsky demanded his all, the talented tongue all but driving him insane. His back arched up from the couch as the passion became too intense to withstand, the point of torment thrust deep back into his partner's throat. Hutch cried out as his pleasure was ripped from his loins, falling back onto the sofa afterwards, limp as the proverbial rag doll.

He gazed down at the dark head pillowed on his naked thighs, sensibility slowly returning. Starsky's hands were uncomfortably snaked behind his back in a loose hug.

"I thought I was going to do the tasting, partner," Hutch whispered, almost in awe.

Starsky raised his head, his expression absurdly solemn. "It's been so long, Hutch."

"I know it has; too long. What about you? That was fantastic, but a little one sided."

"Not as far as I'm concerned it wasn't," Starsky denied. "Been waiting to do that for two years now."

"What else have you been waiting to do, Starsk?" Hutch inquired, hearing for the first time the gentleness in his own voice of which Starsky had spoken.

A pronounced gulp met his question.

Gazing down at the man kneeling at his feet, Hutch was reminded anew of the dichotomy that was his partner. The most tender of lovers, there was another side to his friend, much more primal. At that moment there was an almost feral cast to the familiar features, a compelling intensity that could be as frightening as attractive. Steel hard muscles poised on a knife's edge of control, Starsky was coiled, waiting. A savage light burned in the sapphire eyes, the vivid blue of a ravenous Siberian tiger about to pounce.

Hutch knew that this was not a face that many of Starsky's lovers had seen, for only rarely had he encountered it himself. Even Teri and Rosie, those who had come closest to winning his partner's heart, would have balked at the first hint of this contained menace. But this was his Starsky, the most basic essence of his partner, as dear to him as even the gentle lover.

Mouth unaccountably dry, Hutch relaxed, removing even the most innocuous semblance of resistance from his body. Totally without fear, his attitude bordering on anticipation, Hutch reached for his partner. "Body and soul if you want it, Starsk. Body and soul."

Starsky groaned, pressing himself into Hutch's sated body in frenzied desperation.

Hutch gasped at the sensation, his hips arching up instinctively. Bare, tender skin met rough denim. Sere wood to fire, the contact stoked the flames, Starsky thrusting wildly against him.

Hutch slunk down a little on the couch, pushing up with his feet to increase the point of contact...and yelped in dismay as he felt the support behind his shoulders give way.

The next few seconds were a blur of crashing sound and motion as the couch tipped over backwards. Starsky fell heavily against him. Then they were both tumbling over to roll clear of the couch's wreckage.

Crouched low as if in battle, they stared disbelievingly first at the upended couch and then at each other.

His partner's eyes were huge, alight with frustration. As they met Hutch's shocked expression, the emotion flared, erupting in delighted, irrepressible laughter.

"It's not funny," Hutch insisted, he own mouth betraying him in a wide grin.


The laughter bubbled through Hutch's aching heart, convulsing his body until his stomach hurt and his eyes were streaming.

When at last they calmed, Starsky regarded him, wonder shining in his eyes. "Nobody's ever done the things you do to me, Hutch. Nobody."

Hutch felt a smile soften his features. "No, I don't suppose many of your lovers manage to send you flying over the back of a couch."


"I know. That wasn't what you meant." He gripped the solid shoulders and gave them a firm push. "Now that we're down here, lie back and let me love you."

There was no resistance as Starsky allowed himself to be guided onto the displaced cushions, his clothing peeled away piece by piece. Hutch was intoxicated by the scent, feel and taste of the revealed flesh.

"Pretty gruesome, huh?" Starsky commented as the open shirt disclosed his scarred chest.

Hutch tried to survey the damage objectively, but failed. He couldn't even muster any real resentment for the discolored patches. Those remnants of horror hadn't the power to repulse him, viewing them as he did as payment for a miracle. "Not to me," he dismissed, swooping down to kiss the most vivid of the lot.

"They don't turn you off then?" Starsky pressed, his fingers carding through fine blond hair.

"You've got to be kidding." Hutch lifted his head long enough for his partner to see heated eyes before returning to his playful licking.

"Sometimes...ahh...sometimes I still shudder when I look at them, Hutch," Starsky confessed.

The troubled tone brought his head back up. "Then look at me instead. There's not an inch of you that doesn't make me shudder all over, Starsk, but it's not a turn off. You got that?"

Starsky drank in his expression for a long moment before finally nodding his acceptance. "Oh yeah, I get it. Keep lookin' at me that way, blondie and you're gonna get it, too."

"That's what I'm hoping, Starsk."

The white shirt was dispensed without further protest. Hutch took his time exploring the wide, well-muscled chest. Even with the pink scar tissue his partner was magnificent. Highly defined pectorals, just the right dusting of body hair, hard, flat stomach, Hutch with his boyishly smooth, underdeveloped chest couldn't help but admire the blatant masculinity of the other's form.

"Hutch, you're killin' me," Starsky groaned as Hutch's tongue reconnoitered his belly-button. The slender hips butted up at him, the pronounced bulge beneath the zipper crying his partner's urgency. Abruptly reminded that he was the only one who'd achieved completion earlier, Hutch left off his tortuous exploration. There would be time for rediscovery later.

He unfastened the jeans button, undoing the strained zipper with a single economical motion.

Starsky sighed with relief as he was released from confinement, his cock springing to life in a tacit, imperious demand.

Hutch was hard pressed not to take the organ immediately into his mouth as he'd hungered to for so long. But his partner was too close. A single touch and he'd probably explode.

Hutch tugged the snug jeans down Starsky's slightly curved legs. Inevitable, they got caught on the sneakers he'd forgotten to remove. Two minutes of breathy tussle later, jeans, shoes, underwear and socks were spread across the floor like concert litter.

Turning back to Starsky, Hutch licked across his dry upper lip, transfixed by the sight of his naked friend. So much raw power, barely leashed. The cerulean gaze was fierce enough to pierce armor.

"You know what I want, Hutch," Starsky said quietly.

A shiver pricked his skin, his stomach fluttering nervously with dark longing. He swallowed once, or tried to. His throat was unaccountably constricted. Although it hadn't been a question, Hutch confirmed Starsky's statement. "Yeah, I know what you want."

Starsky gave an enigmatic, oddly knowing nod, a gesture Hutch had come to associate exclusively with his partner, and then reached for him.

There was nothing on earth to match the absolute security of Starsky's embrace. No experience in his lonely childhood had prepared him for it, nor had the abrupt popularity of adolescence. Bereft, Hutch had never known what it was he lacked until the first time his partner had enfolded him in one of his enthusiastic hugs. That innocent gesture back in their academy days had been enough to make him question the constraint instilled in him from birth. It was Starsky who had made him see the much-vaulted Hutchinson aloofness for the foolishness it was, just as it was Starsky who had given him something solid with which to fill that empty facade. What his partner felt for him, like the man himself, was real and uninhibited. A hug, a shoulder clasp, hand grasp or any of the other myriad of casual touches lavished upon him were unstintingly delivered from the first, regardless of witnesses who might misinterpret the nature of the gesture. Those lapses of propriety that would have...and had, scandalized Hutch's relatives were the bulwark of his very existence.

Hutch snuggled into the fiercely protective hold, glorying in its stability. The world might dissolve around them, but the emotion here would never be shattered. Not even Kenneth Hutchinson could manage that, or so he prayed.

"Hey, you scared?" Starsky asked, pulling back far enough to see his face.


"You're shakin', babe, all over," Starsky pointed out with concern, rubbing his left index finger down Hutch's cheek.

"Not scared," he managed.

"Oh." The dark head bent for a kiss.

Hutch opened his mouth at the first tentative tongue swipe, welcoming the deep reaching probe.

Starsky withdrew a long time later, breathless, his eyes glistened like polished jewels. "Gonna have ya', Hutch."

Warning? Proclamation? It didn't matter.

Hutch turned over as his partner nudged his hips. He shimmied his way up the uneven cushions, stopping when the slant of the pile left his backside elevated much higher than his head and arms.

Starsky's drawn breath sounded in a sharp hiss behind him.

"What's wrong?"

"Huh?" came the vague response.

"You sounded like someone just knifed you."

Starsky's throaty chuckle filled the air. "You sure are the soul of romance, partner." A hand gave his bare buttock a soft, almost tentative stroke. "Nothin's wrong. Just forgot how beautiful you are."

"Oh." Hutch hid his hot face in his clasped hands. Despite the pleasant caresses being absent mindedly bestowed, he felt uncomfortable exposed like this, highly vulnerable. "Are you going to keep me waiting all night?"

"You complaining?" Starsky drawled languidly, an index finger insinuating itself between his cheeks, lightly skimming the tight, ultra-sensitive pucker of muscle.

Hutch gasped at the uncertain contact, groaning as he felt the finger retract. "No...complaints," he grated out.

"Good. Hold that pose. Be right back."

"What? Starsky, where are you...?" Hutch demanded as he was deprived of the tantalizing body heat so close to him. He craned his neck around, just catching sight of Starsky entering the bathroom.

"Of all the times to make a damn pit stop. I swear, Starsky, sometimes you're worse than a four-year-old on a car trip. Couldn't you think of that before..." His jaw snapped shut as Starsky reappeared almost immediately with a small opaque plastic jar in his hand.

"You were saying?" his partner asked sweetly, kneeling behind him.

Chastened, Hutch shrugged. With growing anticipation, he listened to the sounds of fumbling with the Vaseline jar.

An endless moment later his cheeks were parted and held open. A goo-covered finger touched him lightly, almost teasingly, before gently inserting itself within him.

"You're tight babe, tighter than the first time even."

"Feels it," Hutch grunted, attempting to accustom himself to the unusual sensation. Though not precisely an intrusion, Starsky's slippery finger within him didn't feel as comfortable as he remembered. He concentrated on relaxing.

"Am I hurting you?"

"No," he denied too fast. Then amended. "Two years is...oof..." The finger moved within the vise of muscle, "...a long time."

"You haven't...?" The question trailed away, as if Starsky had realized it inappropriateness.

"Not this." The tension gripping him eased a fraction. "Did you think I would? With a stranger?"

Silence, then an honest, "I wasn't sure. It wasn't the sex we had trouble handling."

Hutch was glad his position concealed his disappointment. He tried to focus on the pleasure Starsky was giving him, but the doubts kept nagging at him. Belatedly he asked, "Have you?"

The pause that followed was perhaps the longest the he could recall suffering through. He told himself that he didn't have the right to feel offended if Starsky had taken another man to his bed once Hutch had turned away from him, but the idea still burned.

When Starsky spoke it was with great reluctance. "No. I...there's been no one since...long before Gunther, Hutch." Another pause, then, "Kira was the last."

Even now the name nearly choked him. "Why her?"

The finger inadvertently penetrated him deeper as Starsky leaned forward to nuzzle his neck. "That was never about a woman, Hutch." The pressure lessened as Starsky drew back.

"That's a long time to go without, Starsk. Must be, what? 17 months?"

"Nineteen," Starsky corrected softly.

"Nineteen." He contemplated that in silence, until the finger pulling out of him brought a whoosh of surprise. It returned seconds later with a thicker coat of Vaseline and a companion. He stretched easier this time as both fingers carefully entered him. Squeezing and relaxing the stressed muscle helped. Starsky probed deeper, the farthest touch shooting a bolt of pure ecstasy through him.

He could hear the smile in Starsky's voice at his reaction. "That better?"

"Oh yeah."

The fingers pleasured him a while longer before withdrawing.

Hutch's breath caught in his chest as he waited for that ultimate union.

He felt himself parted again, this time more purposefully. An initial nudge from the bulkier, much harder organ, and then slowly he was being filled. In his present state of heightened sensitivity, it seemed to Hutch very much like the first time. The experience of the prolonged penetration was exquisite, though whether it was delight or agony in those first few minutes he could never decide.

Starsky's patience was astounding. There were no sudden movements, no frantic plunges, no forced rush to pleasure. It was like one of the wilder positions of tantric yoga that he had only heard about but never experienced himself. The entry was maddeningly gradual. Hutch's possession all the more complete for that very slowness. He felt himself stretched to his limit and beyond, bound on all levels to his partner's claiming touch.

He grunted as Starsky's hips touched his buttocks, clear indication that his partner was almost all the way in. A last deliberate push and his impalement was complete. All movement ceased then, all thought as well. His mind amazingly clear, Hutch's only awareness was the suspension of the experience. He was conscious of that part of his body as he'd rarely been before. The uncomfortable expansion of the narrow passageway, his strained anal muscle, and above all, the living bulk of his partner within him. He squeezed the hard shaft, claiming Starsky as he himself was claimed.

That action seemed to release Starsky from his stasis. With a cry of "Hutchhh..." his partner finally moved within him.

The thrusts were as intense as the stillness had been, direct, clean strokes that pierced him to the core.

On his knees, the position of total subjugation, he should have felt subordinate to the other's desire, but Hutch had never felt power such as this in his entire life. They were flying, soaring high above everything, the totality of this union making every other sexual experience seem mundane in retrospect. Every wild thrust, every time he bucked back to take Starsky further into him sent them swirling to new heights, like windblown leaves over a canyon edge.

Starsky stiffened, that final, consuming spasm drawing him along. They hung suspended at that peak of reality for what seemed an eternity, so enmeshed in delight that they were as one entity, one entity forever caught in the throes of life-death.

Gradually they were released.

Hutch slowly became aware of Starsky softening within him and his own desperate need for air. Gasping for breath, he nonetheless felt a brief pang of regret as Starsky slipped free of him.


He turned at the thready whisper, trying not to wince as he stretched out cramped muscles.

"I feel like we were hit by lightening," Starsky confessed, looking as awestruck as Hutch felt.

It took a moment to recover enough for speech. "Maybe we were."

"Are you all right?"

"I don't know." He pulled Starsky closer, snuggling into obliging arms. "You?"

His chin was tilted up, the warmth of Starsky's sated gaze caressed his face. "Never better, not with anyone, Hutch, ever."

His partner's glowing contentment assailed the last of his fetters. "That was...devastating."

"Is that good or bad, babe?"

"Good...with you. I never wanted to share that with anyone else, Starsk," Hutch admitted. As if he could share that experience with anyone other than Starsky.

"I'm glad you didn't. Do ya know how you make me feel, Hutch?"

He shook his head, the emotion shinning in those sapphire eyes robbing him of speech.

"You make me feel reborn, like there's nothing I can't do with you at my side."

Hutch placed a kiss on the nearby mouth, his attentions almost worshipful. "You've always made me feel that way, even years before we made love. You' hope."

"Your hope?"

The quizzical tone made Hutch wonder if he'd revealed too much. He doubted his partner even suspected how deeply his cynicism ran. In speaking he would showcase that unattractive trait. "Proof positive for humanity, if you like."

Starsky's brow crinkled at his explanation. "Huh?"

"You've never let me down. No matter what, you always come through."

"You do the same for me."

Hutch smiled at the staunch declaration. "It wasn't loyalty I was talking about, Starsk. You've got...integrity."

Starsky's cheek flushed a bright red. "So do you."

"Yeah, but..."

"There ain't no buts about it. Who's always kept me from breaking the bad guys heads? Huh? Do you think I'd be half the cop I am if anyone else was riding with me?"

"Yes," Hutch answered instantly with absolute conviction.

"Well, think again partner. Hutch, neither of us is...complete without the other. We balance one another like the black and white halves of the Chinese circle you were yapping about when you were on that yoga kick."

Hutch started. He shouldn't be surprised. This was hardly the first time Starsky had absorbed the heart of one of his fads while he himself seemed to get lost in the superficial trappings. "The yin and the yang...light and shadow. Is that how you see us?"

Starsky nodded once, his expression oddly solemn. "Don't you think it fits? When one of us is weak, the other's strong. It even suits us physically."

"You're not shadow, Starsk. You're brighter than any star."

"And you love me so much you can't see straight." Starsky laughed, but there was something uneasy in his eyes.

"I do, you know."

That disturbing shade vanished, Starsky suddenly tranquil. "I know. 'S mutual. Never forget that, Hutch."

He let his fingers play with the soft chest hair feathering his partner's sternum. "Where do we go from here, Starsk?"

"We take it slow and careful."

"And if it gets...complicated again?" Hutch voiced his deepest fear.

"We deal with it as it happens. I don't intend to push you into anything you're not ready for this time, but if you feel...pressured, tell me. Then and there, and we'll work it out."

"That works both ways."

Hutch looked up to catch the familiar crooked grin. "Always. You about ready to call it a night?"

"Yeah." Hutch started to rise, staring in dismay at the state of his never too-orderly living room. "Place looks like a bomb hit it. Should we fix the couch or wait 'til morning?

"Morning's soon enough." Starsky decided, turning towards the bedroom.

Hutch took a step almost landing on his face. Glancing down, he began to chuckle.

"What's up?"

"Down's more like it. Take a look." Hutch gestured at his lower half. His brown cords and briefs were still bagged around his ankles. For that matter his shirt was still half on.

"I couldn't get them off over your boots," Starsky explained, chuckling. "You know, you look..."

"Don't say it," Hutch warned, hitching up his pants and dignity.



"Okay, babe." Starsky leaned closer to him for a quick kiss. "Your eyes are still beautiful when you're angry." With that his partner hurried into the bedroom's comparative safety.

"When I get my hands on you..."

"Promises, promises," came the muffled reply.

The End

On to Sequel After Resurgences

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