Notes:  I worship at the feet of the incomparable CC, who held my hand and patted me on the head, and took the first brave look. 

 

------------------------

 

Night Vision

 

 

Come sit beside me

That’ll do from now on

The night has come and left me

Just the light that you allow

                        -Joe Henry

 

Starsky bombed through the squall line of reporters on the courthouse steps at almost his old breakneck pace.  He pushed through his own reflection in the glass doors and dodged past cameras and lights down the long hallway, following the familiar pull till he found its source.  His partner stood, torn and bloody, next to a watchful Dobey.  His pale head was bowed over a tiny woman who sobbed and clung to one bruised hand as if he were the only thing keeping her afloat.

 

Starsky stopped a little distance from the group, still breathing hard, and quickly surveyed the damage; the pristine white of gauze gleaming through a jagged tear in a bloody sleeve, the slight tremor in the hand clumsily patting the grieving mother's shoulder, the thinness of the hunched frame. 

 

Hutch murmured something unheard into the woman's ear, and she finally turned and stumbled away, leaning on a uniformed police woman.  Starsky swallowed. “You all done here, Hutch?"

 

Hutch turned color-leached eyes on him, "Yeah, I'm done." 

 

Starsky's mouth thinned at the bleak finality in Hutch’s words, and he shot a narrow glare at his captain.  Dobey drew himself up to his full height and barked back, "Get him out of here."

 

"Come on, Partner, I'll take you home."

 

Hutch trailed after his partner, letting Starsky cut a path through the swirling eddies of people and equipment still littering the hallway.  He moved forward blindly, seeing instead a broken little girl with dark curls, files of seven other dead children and their short histories.  Starsky, lying curled in his own blood and shattered reflected sky. 

 

Hutch didn’t want to go home.

 

Someone on deadline brushed against the knife slash on his arm, and he surfaced briefly from the muddy, cycling thoughts, but he didn’t really feel anything.  Starsky glanced at him through the dark lenses he’d donned and moved closer as they started down the steps, but he didn’t touch him.  Hutch was grateful in a vague sort of way.  If his partner had touched him, he might have ended up falling apart right there for the enjoyment of everyone watching the six o’clock news.  It was better not to feel, better to just keep moving, do what had to be done.  He doggedly minded his feet as they finished navigating their way down to the Torino parked haphazardly at the sidewalk. 

 

Starsky had only recently gotten the Torino back from Merle’s, bullet holes and blood finally erased, and already it was dinged where he had scraped the door against the curb in his haste to get to his partner.  Starsky didn’t seem to care.  He unlocked the passenger door and stood silently as Hutch eased himself painfully into the car.

 

“Ok, you don’t want to go home. So where do you want to go?”  Starsky busied himself with starting the car and carefully didn’t look at Hutch, who was shifting to roll down the window.

 

Hutch realized it then.  Starsky had been there and he’d seen.  Starsky knew.  He didn’t know why he was surprised.  Starsky always knew.  Starsky knew him better than himself, most days.  He dropped his head back against the seat and rubbed at his eyes.  God, he was tired. 

 

“I don’t care, Starsk.  Just…just drive.”

 

“I can do that,” Starsky pulled off the curb with a lurch, cutting off a TV station van.  Hutch turned still closed eyes to the open window and let the wind blow his thoughts away.

 

 

--------------------------

 

The Torino slid easily through the winter evening light, streetlights fitfully waking as it passed.  Around them the city was settling in, car lights transmuting to home light, families gathering around bluish TV flickers to hear of a monster’s end. 

 

They would be shown the images of a posturing Mayor as he touted his skill.  How he’d demanded that the detective responsible for the great and terrible Gunther’s fall save his city’s children.  Those same flickers would show the faint light that was Hutch swaying slightly behind him, flanked by a scowling Dobey and the resentful Lieutenant, whom Hutch had replaced as head of the task force only three weeks ago.  Three weeks and one child later the horror was finally over for the Mayor’s city.  Parents gathered their living children close, and the families of the dead began the process of mourning. 

 

The Torino fled for the coast.

 

Once they were headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway, Starsky took a deep breath and glanced at his own narrowed eyes in the mirror. They were cops eyes, watchful and shrewd, as the evidence catalogued itself in his mind.  Three weeks.  

 

Yeah, and in those three weeks how many times have you actually seen him eat something, Davey, or sleep, for that matter. 

 

Other images came to him then:  concerned looks from Dobey, focused for once not on him, but his partner, seeing Hutch in the same shapeless clothes for days at a time, and the way that pale lashes had perpetually hidden eyes that might give too much away.  Then there was Hutch’s apartment. 

 

Starsky’d stopped by after the call from Dobey to grab some fresh clothes for his partner and he’d seen, all right. Pictures of dead children had looked back at him from almost every surface, clustered among half-drunk cups of coffee and crime scene reports scattered in some kind of pattern only Hutch knew.  

 

It had always been an unspoken rule between them that you never brought the job home with you.  You had to have some kind of distance to keep sane. Sure there had been times when their jobs had come to them, but that had been out of their control.  They’d always made the effort to keep work at work, so that their homes would be a refuge.  Now, Hutch had not only broken the rule, he’d smashed it to little bits and then hidden it from his partner.

 

That’s why he never wanted to go to his place lately, not that he’s been around that much, period, since he got assigned to this case.  Dammit!  His hands wrung themselves tighter around the wheel.    Damn the Mayor and the horse he rode in on. Damn that incompetent toady, Smalls.  Excuse me, Lieutenant Smalls.  And damn me for not figuring out sooner what was goin’ on.  Starsky squelched the urge to beat the steering wheel to a pulp, and instead silently questioned the man in the mirror.

 

Ok, one step at a time.  We know he ain’t done shit about taking care of himself, but what can we fix now, and how do we do it so he won’t get all defensive and high and mighty on us?

 

Sleep, ya big dummy, the man in the mirror seemed to say.  Nothing seems possible when you’re tired and Hutch’s way past just bein’ tired.  Starsky glanced at his partner. 

 

Hutch lay limp and boneless against the seat back, so far gone that he never twitched at the snapping of his wind-slung hair.  Starsky suddenly wanted to put his lips against that so pale skin and kiss the small flicking hurt away.  To drag his mouth slowly, slower, over the bruised shadows under his partner’s eyes, feel the flutter of the blond lashes against his lips.  The waiting something within him shifted and clenched.  Not yet. Not yet. 

 

Starsky dragged his eyes back to the road and drove. 

 

It was late when he finally stopped.  He pulled into the gravel lot of some no-tell-motel and rubbed the grit of night and thought from his eyes as he eased quietly out of the car and trudged to the office to get a room. The greasy man behind the counter didn’t look up from his tabloid.  “We only got one double left.” 

 

Starsky signed in as the tenth John Smith of the night, slapped some crumpled bills on the counter, grabbed the key and left.  Hutch never woke up as he bumped the Torino across the lot to park as close as possible to their door.

 

“Hutch?  Come on partner, we’re here.”  Starsky’s hand was reluctant to leave the shoulder he clasped.  It was solid and warm, alive.  “Come on buddy, let’s get you to bed.”

 

Hutch grunted as he crawled out of the car and leaned against a grimy wall, silent under the humming fluorescents, listlessly watching as Starsky struggled with the key.  The door finally opened with a sticky sound, and they stumbled into the stale room.  By the time Starsky had gone back out to the car to haul in their gym bags, Hutch had collapsed across the one bed like a dead thing.

 

Starsky sighed and began the laborious process of stripping his partner down to his underwear.  He carefully surveyed the skin he uncovered and sighed again when no new injuries appeared from under the tattered shirt.  Hutch was thin though, thinner than just three weeks of junk food, or no food, would cause.  He seemed to be all ropey muscle under tightly stretched skin.

 

“Huh.  This has been going on for awhile, hasn’t it?  I wanna know what’s going on in that head of yours, partner.”   Hutch’s only reply was a kind of snort as he started to snore.

 

Starsky put a tight lid on his frustration and focused on rolling Hutch to one side of the bed without hurting the bandaged arm and then pulling the covers out from under him.  It took far less time to strip himself, and flicking off the light, he crawled in behind his partner, pulling the thin blanket and sheet over them.  The almost plastic bedspread he left on the floor with their piled clothes.

 

He lay there for awhile, watching the afterimages of white lines and headlights play behind his eyes, till his control finally broke and his body fell into Hutch’s gravity.  He wrapped all of himself around the other man, dug his forehead in between the too sharp shoulder blades and finally slept.

 

--------------------------

 

 

It had taken longer than Starsky had thought it would for the nightmares to start. 

 

Hutch clawed his way up out of the deep dreaming places to a doubtful reality, comprised of a torn throat, a salt scored face and the smell of Starsky’s skin, a living, breathing Starsky’s skin.  And it was everywhere against his own skin, furred and warm and hard, a living anchor.  He grabbed and held on, tried to burrow his way in.  And then a hand grabbed his hair and pulled his head back and a mouth covered his and…Oh, God.  This…this was life!  He remembered it now, this scent and this heartbeat racing beneath muscle and scars.  It was this mouth against his, moisture that slaked his parched thirst, a strong tongue forcing its way past cracked lips to curl around him.  His cock lurched to life as his blood remembered how to run through his veins.  It hurt, this living, it was pain and scalding pleasure and clumsy jerking motion.  It was this cock rubbing against his.  God, it was Starsky’s cock, and it was hard and hot enough to burn through two layers of boxers, and it wanted him.  Starsky’s cock wanted him.  Starsky wanted him…him, Hutch. 

 

It was too much. He swung wildly between sensation and epiphany as Starsky pulled him closer, rubbed against him entreatingly, kissed him again and again, till he was dizzy and panting.  It was too much feeling after too long a drought and he completely lost it, shuddering and jerking his way to agonizing climax.  He soaked his boxers and Starsky’s skin, and clung, panting to the strong arms still holding him.

 

“Sorry…I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  He kept repeating it, though he wasn’t sure what he was apologizing for.

 

“Shhh, Hutch.  It’s alright.  I’ve got you, partner.  Go back to sleep, now.  I’ve got you, Hutch.  It’s ok. Go to sleep.”  It was Starsky’s voice telling him to sleep, so Hutch sighed and did. 

 

Shaking his head, Starsky curled himself once more around the man in his arms, shifting to find as much skin contact as possible.  He kept watch for monsters till morning.

 

--------------------------

 

When Hutch woke next, the sun was shining, filling the room with dusty light.  Starsky was on the phone, probably with Dobey.  Hutch rolled his head and watched the light shift across Starsky’s face.  He was looking for traces of…something.  He wasn’t sure what.  He listened to the sound of Starsky’s voice play against the ebb and flow of traffic, but he couldn’t understand the words.  He understood nothing.

 

As Starsky hung up the phone, Hutch finally crawled out of bed and headed for the john, snagging a towel off the small pile on the counter.  He carefully separated himself from crusty fabric and just as carefully didn’t think about the night before as he emptied his bladder and climbed awkwardly into the shower.  The hot water felt good, so he stood there awhile, bandaged arm hung outside the curtain.

 

Starsky was looking out the window when Hutch came back, barely wrapped in the towel.  He didn’t move, but Hutch could feel the reflected eyes on him. He snagged another small towel for his hair and walked past the counter to sit on the bed.  The gleam of blue in the window followed him. 

 

“Tell me.”  Starsky’s voice was low and determined, the same voice that had demanded, and gotten, total honesty after Forest.

 

Hutch slumped over his knees and scrubbed at his face with the towel, then peered over the wadded fabric up at his backlit partner.  He opened his mouth and wondered what would come out.

 

“She had hair like yours.”

 

The world took a sudden right turn and Hutch fell, ending up on his knees beside her again.  Her dark curls clung to him, twining themselves around his hands as he tried to breathe life back into her.  He remembered carefully detangling himself from the fine strands, so as not to hurt her more, but she was already dead.  He remembered the sweet little girl smell of her.  He remembered the taste of her blood.

 

He looked up then and Starsky shivered at the look in his eyes.  “There was so much blood, Starsk.” 

 

It was everywhere; in their hair, soaking their clothes, bubbling on Starsky’s lips.  Hutch could taste it as he breathed for his partner’s life

 

“I never gave up, Starsk.  I swear.  I never gave up, but it didn’t matter.  She died anyway.  You died anyway, and there wasn’t anything I could do about any of it.  I can’t do anything about it, now either.  I can’t protect you, hell, I can’t protect anyone, but I can’t stop trying and I’m tired, Starsk. I’m so tired of the taste of blood.”  Hutch trailed off and blinked at the Styrofoam cup of coffee that suddenly hovered in front of him.  He reached for it and looked bewilderedly up at his partner. 

 

“Here. Taste this, instead,” Starsky wearily wiped at his eyes and pulled a chair forward a bit.  He sat and started to look for a way to undo the bandage, moving the untouched coffee from Hutch’s right hand to his left.  “Drink some coffee, Hutch.” 

 

He did.  It was strong and hot and felt good on his throat. He sipped at it some more and let Starsky futz with his arm.

 

“Dobey’s not gonna let you back on the streets till you talk to somebody.”

 

“What!”  The coffee sloshed as Hutch started to come up off the bed, “What gives him the right to….”

 

“I agreed with him, Hutch.”  Hutch came to a shuddering stop and stared, shocked by his partner.  He sat back down while Starsky shook his head and bent over the row of stitches again, “You don’t see it, do you?”

 

“What?” Hutch looked over to see what was wrong with his arm and found himself pinned instead by Starsky’s eyes.  They were dark and intent, as serious as he ever got. 

 

“I was dead for what, three minutes?”  Hutch shuddered and tried to look away, couldn’t do it.  “You’ve been dead for six months.” 

 

Starsky stood suddenly and strode angrily over to grab a paper sack out of his bag and toss the contents on the table.  He rifled through and grabbed what he needed to re-bandage the arm. 

 

“Ok, so I died.  I died, but I also came back.  I came back for you, ya big dummy, and you should know that.  And all this time I’ve been waiting for you to figure it out, and all this time you just keep…disappearing on me.”  Starsky ripped at the medical tape. “And it scares me, Hutch.  It scares me because you should understand all this and you don’t act like you do and…Don’t you understand?”   Starsky looked up from his work finally, turned bewildered, hurt, eyes on him.  “Can’t you figure it out, Hutch?”

 

Hutch swallowed, but there were no words.  He didn’t understand.  Figure out what?  What was he supposed to understand?   How could he have any answers when he didn’t understand the question?  He didn’t understand anything.  The silence stretched uncomfortably till his stomach suddenly growled, and he watched grudging amusement replace the hurt and fear in Starsky’s eyes as his partner let him off the hook.

 

“You’re hungry, huh?  Well that’s good.  That’s a start anyway,” he said and tossed Hutch his gym bag.  “Go ahead and get dressed and I’ll buy you breakfast. We can talk some more later.”

 

So...not completely off the hook, then. It was just a reprieve.  Hutch nodded to himself and started pulling clothes out of his bag.

 

They had almost gone out the door, when Starsky suddenly snapped his fingers.  Turning, he ducked back in the room and snagged a baseball cap and Hutch’s sunglasses.  “Here.”  He handed them to Hutch and shrugged, trying to stay casual.  “Just in case.  They probably get the BC papers here.”

 

Hutch paled a little but he didn’t say anything.  He put on the hat and glasses and followed his partner out to the car to store the bags and then across the lot to the restaurant.  Starsky waited for him at the door and turned to usher Hutch through with a pat on the back.  They both ignored the paper machine that had been hidden by the move.

 

--------------------------

 

It had actually been a pretty good day.  Hutch had succumbed to the bacon and coffee smell of the tiny diner and had almost cleaned his plate.  Starsky hadn’t expected him to talk much, and instead had flirted with the waitresses for Hutch’s entertainment, throwing him sly looks and easy grins, acting like he was on vacation.

 

Actually, Hutch might have been on suspension for all he knew, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to care enough to ask.  Once they’d eaten he’d quietly followed his partner out to the car, content to rest in their easy silence and let Starsky drive where he wanted.

 

They’d gone on up the coast to an artist’s community and had spent the afternoon wandering through small galleries and sidewalks crowded with easels and tourists.  It had been fun to look at the pictures, and Hutch had found enough energy to spar with Starsky over styles and techniques.

 

“Now see, this is what I mean.”  Starsky stopped now by an abstract piece, all swirls of red and black, like fire in the night.  “See?  Now how are you supposed to know what the hell the artist has painted here?  If you ask me, he took a bad trip one night and stumbled through his paint cans.  But with realism, or even better yet, photography, you know exactly what it is you’re seeing, and can tell what the artist was trying to say.  Or mostly anyway, but this…”  He turned to his non-responsive partner.  “I don’t know, Hutch.  What do you think it means?”

 

“Loss.” 

 

Hutch stood, stunned by the sound of his own voice.  He hadn’t meant to say that at all, didn’t know where the hell it had come from.  He looked at Starsky for a moment, watched his eyes make the slow change from shock to compassion, and then bolted for the door.  It was hard to breathe.  He had to get out, now. 

 

He slumped on a bench just outside the door and fought down the familiar images and the nausea they brought.  It took awhile and a lot of hard swallowing, but he finally came back to himself enough to know that  Starsky was leaning on the brick wall next to him in full street mode, arms and ankles negligently crossed, face set, watchful eyes hidden behind dark lenses.

 

Hutch sighed, and scrubbed at his face, tired of his own drama.  He leaned his head back against the store window and incuriously surveyed the passing lobsters, mid-westerners and northerners unused to California winters and California sun.

 

“I think I might try to look up Jerry when we get back.”  Jerry was a shrink that had helped them on a couple of cases.

 

Starsky didn’t say anything, but one of his hands found Hutch’s shoulder and rested there a little, squeezed gently.

 

They gave up on the artwork after that and wandered instead down to the town’s half-moon of beach.  They poked at piles of kelp with their shoes, releasing some clinging shells and a strong sea smell.  Hutch remembered hating that smell when he had first moved to the coast.  Now it just smelled like home.

 

It didn’t take long to traverse the small curve of sand, but once the sun started to go down, a breeze picked up, bringing in the chill from the ocean.  Suddenly the beach didn’t seem so much like a place that welcomed people anymore, and they turned to climb back up the hill to their motel.

 

Starsky stopped by the propped open door of the tavern attached to their building.  “I’m hungry.  You hungry, Hutch?” 

 

He must have taken Hutch’s shrug for the affirmative, because he went on in.  It wasn’t too crowded, and he quickly found a booth under a lit Coors sign.  It was one of those diorama kinds that simulated running water and Starsky stood watching it for awhile, before sliding into the booth after Hutch, so that they were sitting on the same side.  Hutch looked around at the place, avoiding the too knowing eyes next to him. 

 

The tavern was dark, relying on numerous beer signs for most of its light, and it was smoky despite the open door.  It was warm though, familiar and comforting in the way that bars are, and the beer, when it came, was ice cold.  Hutch began to relax as he watched a three piece band attempt to cram themselves and their equipment into a small corner.  Actually they were pretty good at it, and they set up quickly and slipped outside for that one last drag before first set. 

 

“Hey, cool!  Live music.  I wonder what they play.”

 

This was from Starsky, who’d just looked up from his menu.  The waitress came and he ordered steaks and baked potatoes for both of them, plus a salad for Hutch.  Hutch started to protest that he was capable of ordering his own meal, but it was too much trouble.  He sipped some more at his beer and fought off a sudden craving for a cigarette.  He hadn’t smoked in years.  Starsky’s leg kept brushing casually against him.  It burned.

 

Hutch cleared his throat, “So…Uh…Star…”

 

The band came back in and climbed on the tiny platform the club owner called a stage.  They started playing blues, and their tone matched the smoke in the room.

 

Hutch slumped lower in his seat and began to pick at the label on his bottle.  “I don’t know, Starsk.  Maybe I am losing it.”  He huffed a short laugh through his mustache.  “I can’t even be sure what’s real anymore.”

 

“Ask me.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“When you’re not sure if something is real or not, ask me.  I’ll tell you.”  Starsky shrugged, took a sip from his beer.

 

Once again Hutch’s mouth took flight without his brain, “Starsk…I think I remember, I mean, last night…” 

 

“Yeah Hutch, that was real.”  Starsky spoke the words as casually as if Hutch had asked if self-serve gas pumps were real, but his eyes had darkened past blue. Then Hutch saw a look cross his partner’s face that he didn’t quite recognize, and Starsky turned his head toward the salad-toting waitress.

 

Hutch picked at his salad while Starsky made ring patterns on the table.  “I remember it, you know.  Dying, I mean.  I remember dying.” 

 

Hutch shoved his salad away and signaled the waitress while he downed what was left of his beer. “Can we have a couple of shots of bourbon, please?  Thanks.”  He turned sideways in the booth to face his partner’s raised eyebrows.  “If we’re really going to talk about this, then I need a drink.”

 

When the shots came Hutch downed them both, one after another, and held up two fingers toward the waitress.  She looked uncertainly at Starsky, but his smile and nod reassured her, and she headed back to the bar.

 

Hutch picked up another shot as soon as it hit the table, but he only sipped at this one.  He pushed his back into the corner between booth and wall and looked at his partner square on.  “Ok, tell me.”

 

Starsky went back to playing with his beer bottle, his face remote.  “I remember pain.  God it hurt.  Never felt pain like that.  Then suddenly it didn’t hurt anymore and I was looking down at myself, looking at all the people working on me.  It was like I finally understood somehow and I tried to tell them that it was ok.  It didn’t matter anymore, to let me go.”

 

Hutch downed the rest of the shot in his hand and reached for the other one, but Starsky stopped him, held his wrist, turned midnight eyes on him.

 

“Then I heard a heartbeat, and I knew it was yours.  You were running, breathing hard. I turned to find you and there was a kind of click and suddenly I…I knew you, Hutch.  I remember understanding every separate way that we fit together. The connection was…God, it was just so…”  Starsky stopped and cleared his throat, rubbed soothingly at the frantic pulse beneath his thumb.

 

“I can’t really describe it, but I finally really understood, probably for the first time in my life.”  He shrugged, “So I came back.  Seemed kinda stupid not to, you know?”

 

“Yeah.”  Hutch tried to choke out a laugh.  His hand twitched and Starsky let him reach for the final shot.  It went down much easier this time.  “I um, lied before.”

 

Starsky turned to face him fully, back to the room. “What did you lie about?”

 

“When I said I never gave up.  I lied.  I mean, I didn’t give up on finding out who shot you, but I…I believed it Starsk, believed you were gonna die.”  Hutch’s eyes looked through the table, and he nodded slightly.  “I believed it.  And now I know.  I know what it’s going to be like to live without you and…”  He shifted, and Starsky could feel him retreating behind silence.

 

Starsky bumped the bandaged arm as he reached to hold Hutch in the now, and Hutch winced.  Starsky was suddenly, totally pissed.  “How do you think I feel, huh?  You think I’ve never been afraid, been terrified of something happening to you?  When Dobey called and said you’d gone into that sicko’s apartment alone, without backup, I’ve never been so scared.  Anything coulda happened and I wouldn’t have been there.  I wasn’t there, Hutch.”  Hutch flinched at the plaintive hurt in his voice. 

 

“I’m gonna take that test next month.” The hurt became determination.

 

“I know.”  Hutch wouldn’t look up.

 

“I’m gonna take that test and I’m gonna get my badge back.”

 

“I know.”

 

“That way Gunther will know that he didn’t take anything away from me, from us.  He’ll know that he didn’t win.”  He shifted back to face the table and its newly arrived load of plates.  “After that, I don’t know.”

 

Hutch did look up at that.  “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, there’re all kinds of things that I want to do with my life.  Maybe we should be thinking about doing something different, but we don’t have to decide that now.  Maybe we’ll let Jerry chew on it for awhile.  Right now we’ve got other stuff to hash out, important stuff.  Eat your steak, Hutch.  Soak up some of that alcohol.”

 

Hutch turned stunned eyes to his plate, but made no move to pick up his silverware, till Starsky nudged him again.  “Stop thinking for a minute and eat.”

 

Hutch started cutting into his steak, but he couldn’t turn his brain off.  “You’ve changed somehow.”

 

Starsky struggled to talk around the large piece of meat he’d crammed in his mouth, “How?”

 

“I’m not sure.  But it’s…you seem more settled somehow, centered.”

 

Starsky shrugged, “I guess dying does that for you.  Clarifies things.  I know who I am and I know who I love.”  Starsky looked at him then, and the absolute certainty in his eyes took Hutch’s breath away. 

 

“Now, shut up and eat.  You’re gonna need your strength.”  Starsky waggled an outrageous eyebrow and crammed another hunk of steak in his mouth.

 

Hutch turned back to his plate and tried to cut his steak with shaking hands.  He couldn’t catch his breath.

 

“Hey.” Starsky’s voice now held only concerned warmth.  “What’s the matter, Hutch?  Your arm hurting?”

 

“N-no.  It’s fine.”

 

“Come on, Babe, slow down here.  You’re hyperventilating.  What happened, another flashback?  Come on, look at me Hutch.”  Starsky’s hand cupped Hutch’s cheek to turn him, and Hutch couldn’t not look at him.  “What is it?”  Starsky studied his partner’s eyes, read the confusion and panic there, and sighed.   “Aw, Hutch.  What’re you worried about?  It’s just us, and we always muddle through somehow.  That’s another thing you should know by now.”

 

Hutch nodded shakily, and his breathing slowed.  His face reddened with embarrassment.  “S-sorry.”

 

“You’re entitled.  You’ve had a couple of rough months.”

 

“Yeah, a couple.”  Hutch’s snort of laughter was suspiciously watery, and his head fell forward onto Starsky’s shoulder, where it decided it was very happy thank-you.

 

“Come on, Hutch.  Sit up so you can finish your steak.”

 

“No.”

 

“No?”

 

“Comfortable.”   He rubbed his forehead back and forth across Starsky’s shirt.

 

“Well, looks like the booze kicked in.  Ok, look, how about sitting up so I can finish my steak.”

 

Hutch looked up at him and Starsky froze at what he saw.

 

“…Ok, I’m done.  You done, Hutch?  I’m done.”  Starsky threw a handful of bills on the table, tore a bite out of a roll, and scooted out of the booth, holding a hand out to help his tipsy partner.

 

They stumbled out of the bar; Starsky’s supporting arm burning through Hutch’s clothes.  Their room was only a few doors away, but they were both giggling insanely by the time they made it.  Starsky dumped Hutch on the bed and went back out to get their bags out of the car. 

 

Hutch stumbled over to the window and managed to get it partly open.  The curtain moved with the rhythm of the blues drifting in with the breeze. The air outside smelled of sage, and Hutch breathed deeply, trying to clear his head a little. 

 

He stayed there, a dark shadow against the parking lot lights when Starsky came back into the unlit room.  Starsky turned from dumping the bags and began to move toward him, slowly, inexorably.

 

“Dance with me, Hutch.”

 

“What?”

 

“I want to dance with you. Dance with me.”

 

“I don’t know, Starsk…”  Starsky was right in front of him now, eyes lit with mercury vapor and some other light of their own making.  He found it impossible to look away.

 

Hutch moved forward slowly, stumbling a little on a fold in the carpet. Starsky reached out to him, steadied him and slowly drew him in till their bodies brushed.  Hutch gulped and tried to wipe suddenly sweaty hands on his pants, before gingerly starting to place them on his partner’s shoulders, only to stop at a sudden thought.

 

“No dipping, right?”

 

Starsky smiled a gentle smile, “No dipping…this time.  I promise.” 

 

Hutch grunted suspiciously, but went ahead and moved a little closer, finally putting his hands on Starsky’s shoulders.  Starsky smiled again and began an easy swaying motion.  Hutch moved stiffly for awhile, but their bodies had spent too many years in tune with each other, and his own body refused to feel any threat.  Starsky’s heat drew him in, contrasting pleasantly with the layers of cool air and music drifting through the window, and he found himself chest to chest with Starsky, as their feet moved them in small circles, round and round.  Something unclenched a little, and he relaxed, head falling towards his partner’s shoulder once again.  Starsky just gathered him close, circling him tight within his arms and danced. 

 

They were molded together now, chest to thigh, groins brushing against each other.  Hutch found himself breathing in Starsky’s scent and nuzzled for more, more scent, more…yes, there. Taste. His mouth opened against Starsky’s neck and his tongue flicked out to find the salt.  Starsky gasped and Hutch smiled against the pulse racing through the vein he was kissing. 

 

It was good. So good to know that he wasn’t the only one affected.  Starsky’s new certainty made him feel unbalanced.  His own mind was so fucked up and it was good to know that he could still at least surprise his partner.  It made him feel a little more in control and he grew bolder, looking for other reactions he could cause.  His nose moved Starsky’s shirt aside as he found and nibbled on a clavicle.  That made Starsky shiver, so he did it again, running his tongue across the bone down to the hollow in his throat.  Starsky threw his head back, panting and Hutch found his Adam’s apple, sucking on it like it was an over-ripe peach.  Starsky groaned and Hutch felt both their cocks begin to stir against each other. 

 

Then there was a hand in his hair and he flashed on the night before as a hungry mouth claimed him, and he realized that he had no control, none at all.

 

“God, Hutch.”  Starsky spoke in between sloppy kisses, his words traveling directly from mouth to mouth.  “I’m sorry.  I know we should wait.  You’re still getting used to the idea along with everything else you’ve been dealing with, and…  I tried to wait, really, but it’s been so long and you, God, you feel so good and taste so good and I’ve been wanting you so bad, so bad.”

 

The world tilted and Hutch found himself on the bed with a squirming Starsky on top of him and Starsky’s tongue tickling the ridges in the roof of his mouth. There were hot hands fumbling with the buttons on his shirt, and his own hands moved to rid his partner of his clothing in turn.  They panted and twisted and pulled till they were both naked and wrapped so tightly together that breathing was a bit problematic.

 

They rolled and groped, fighting each other’s hands for purchase on slick skin.  Starsky finally made a noise of frustration and Hutch felt his wrists grabbed and pulled up over his head.  “Leave them there.” Starsky used his command voice and Hutch’s body responded instinctively, obeying

 

Hutch’s mind spun, as Starsky surveyed his body hungrily.  He panted and twitched as his partner’s head dipped to him, mouth just brushing his lips before moving softly up his face.  His eyes fluttered closed as lush lips lingered over them, stayed closed as the lips wandered to his temple and over to an ear. “Gonna show you, Hutch.  Show you everything we are, everything we can be.”

 

The hot breath of Starsky’s words traveled straight to Hutch’s brain and shut it down.  He could only move from sensation to sensation as Starsky chose.  Starsky’s mouth was moving lower now, nibbling at his jugular, setting fire to his blood.  He could feel his chest heaving, could feel Starsky’s hands sweeping over him, losing themselves amongst his ribs. He gasped when a finger snagged on an already tense nipple, and Starsky’s mouth made a questioning noise and pounced, giving the raised flesh a slurpy lick.  Hutch moaned, and helplessly arched, needing more.

 

“You like that, huh?  Never got much from nipple stimulation, myself.”  Starsky’s words were contemplative and Hutch shivered. He was being mapped, every reaction catalogued and filed away in that too knowing mind.  It was too much.  He didn’t want to be so known.  His mind tried to take back control, get some distance, but it was impossible.  His body was in complete collusion with Starsky and there wasn’t anything he could do but writhe as that knowing mouth devoured him and those hands wandered lower still, finding his twitching stomach muscles and lazily tracing the up and down of them.  His own word-bound hands twitched feebly and his hips arched again, needy cock searching empty air.   Starsky chuckled around the stinging nipple in his mouth before trailing wet, biting kisses across to the other one.

 

“Love this, Hutch.  Love that I can do this to you. Gonna show you, show you how we fit.  Miss you…want you…” Starsky’s words vibrated though the flesh in his mouth and traveled straight to Hutch’s cock, hardening it even more and sending a shivering bubble of pre-come out to slither down the head.  Starsky’s lips and teeth continued to work him till the slightest touch to the beleaguered nipple sent screaming sensation tearing through him and he could only groan, caught between pleasure and pain.  And then it became only pain as his arm cramped, and Starsky stopped dead.

 

“Shit, Hutch.  I’m sorry, maybe we should…”

 

“Don’t you dare stop. Don’t you dare…” Hutch didn’t know which hurt worse, his arm or his cock.

 

“Shhh, Hutch. Ok. Come on.  Let’s try this instead.”

 

The world turned again and Hutch found himself on his side.  Starsky eased his arm down to rest atop his body and then curled around him.  They lay quietly for awhile, and Hutch sighed as his partner’s lips trailed slowly across his shoulder.  Then Hutch felt teeth nibbling at him and he started to catch fire again.  Starsky shifted to slide an arm under him, and the hard length of Starsky’s cock settled into the divide of Hutch’s ass like it belonged there.  They both gasped, and stilled a moment, and then Hutch tried rocking against it.  It slid deliciously and worked its way deeper, spreading his cheeks.

 

“God, Hutch!”  Starsky thrust helplessly against him and Hutch smiled, rocked back again, loving the harsh panting breath against his neck.  Starsky shuddered and Hutch felt it echo in his own spine.  Then the arm under him shifted and a hot hand enclosed his cock and he cried out, senses narrowing till the whole world became Starsky:  Starsky’s hands everywhere on his skin, Starsky’s scent drawn in with every harsh breath, Starsky’s voice, whispering filthy, loving words, egging him on.

 

 “Want to fuck you Hutch. God, want to fuck you all night; fill you up with me, find that empty place inside you and crawl into it.  Then maybe you’ll know, you’ll understand.”

 

Starsky’s hand on his cock tightened, started moving faster and Hutch keened, arching his back.  Starsky’s other hand was on his throat now, stroking the stubbly skin, and tilting his head so the panted words sent moist heat directly into his ear.

 

“Go on, Hutch let it go. Give it to me. I want it, want you.  God, love you so much, so much.”

 

Hutch shuddered and Starsky’s cock shifted and caught against the tight hole, pushed in just a little, wetting its way with Starsky’s pre-come.  Hutch gasped, opened unseeing eyes wide and exploded, stifled cries harsh and lost.  His cock and ass both pulsed, pulling Starsky over the edge right behind him into warm, sticky darkness. 

 

There was nothing but breath for a long while.  Then other sounds; one word, like a lone note of music and the brush and slide of heavy limbs tangling together in sleep

 

 

--------------------------

 

 

 Somewhere near dawn Hutch had another nightmare.

 

When daylight finally came, Starsky got up and stumbled to the bathroom.  Then he came back, closed the drapes against the light and crawled back into Hutch’s arms, and breath, and body. 

 

Hutch swam in and out of sleep, surfacing once, to find his cock in Starsky’s mouth.  He came, instantly, was dragged back under.  When he surfaced again he was caught between Starsky’s mouth and hands.  There were soft, wet sounds and spit slick fingers. He felt strange, loose and open.  The bottoms of his feet burned.  Then Starsky’s fingers brushed his prostate and his hunger found a new home, became insatiable.  “More. God, Starsk, more.”  The fingers inside him wriggled and twisted and Hutch writhed.  Then the fingers were gone and Starsky’s cock rose within him like the tide and everything foamed up in him and out of him and something finally, finally let go.

 

Sleep this time, was deeper than dreams.

 

--------------------------

 

 

 

Afternoon had slipped into long shadows before the door to their room opened again, rather emphatically.

 

Hutch strode out, mid-rant, “Starsk, if you know so much, how come you didn’t pack more than one day’s worth of clean underwear?” He stopped under the small overhang and turned back to raise a finger at Starsky’s attempt to answer.  “Uh, huh.  I was just the kidnapee.  You were the kidnapper, and as such, responsible for all the planning.”

 

Starsky smiled a secret smile, watching as Hutch turned and stalked toward the car.

 

“Quit staring at my ass.” 

 

Starsky pulled the door closed and tossed the key up in the air before catching and pocketing it.  He pushed his sunglasses up his nose and started to follow with a definite swagger in his step.

 

“And another thing, you’re not feeding me any more diner food.  We’re going some place decent for once.  You eat any more of that junk and you’ll never pass the physical next month.”

 

The car doors slammed and Starsky peeled out of the parking lot spitting gravel, the faint sound of Hutch’s continuing complaints drifting back with the dust.

 

-End-

 

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