Mirror, Mirror
by Elizabeth Alexander


SHSVS - Episode 504, Part 2

Back to Part 1

Starsky slipped into the passenger seat of Hutch's beaten up Ford without a word, and Hutch stole a quick look at the serene face. Clearly, Starsky didn't want to give away what he was thinking. Oh, right. He was supposed to ask, wasn't he?

"Starsk?"

"What, Hutch?" From the way that sounded, Starsky was ready to laugh his head off.

Hutch found an answering smile creep into his voice. "Tell me what you're thinking?"

Starsky chortled. "Fast learner, aren't you? I was thinking how beautiful your eyes become when you're angry."

Hadn't he heard that somewhere before? When had he said that? Oh—they had been working on that arson case. But he had been joking then, hadn't he?

Hutch reached over to tousle Starsky's hair and was surprised when his partner followed his hand, so the dark head ended up in his lap. Hutch remembered a very drunk Starsky and a pair of black pumps, and smiled. "That's not standard procedure, Detective."

"'S not?"

He felt Starsky rub his cheek against his crotch, and swallowed as his whole body responded to the sensation. "Sit up, Starsky. This isn't safe."

"For whom?"

Looking down at him, Hutch decided there were a few teeth too many in Starsky's smile and didn't answer.

Shrugging, Starsky sat back up.

"Starsk?"

"Mm?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"You know you can. What?"

"Did that turn you on? What Grace did?"

"Did hugging Flores turn you on?"

"I asked first."

"So?"

"No, it didn't. He's just a friend, for heaven's sake. And not even a close one, yet."

"Is he going to become a close friend?"

"What if I said yes?"

"I just wanted to know."

"Okay. Now you know. Wait and see, okay?"

He saw from the corner of his eye that Starsky shrugged. "Okay."

"So, what about Grace?"

"She's just a friend, Hutch. Didn't do a thing for me, and if you'd bothered to look closely, you'd have known that."

"I was just wondering. She's a pretty woman."

Hutch pulled up in front of Venice Place with an uneasy sense of déjà vu.

"Quit wondering." Starsky got out of the car—and Hutch saw with awe how fluent that movement had recently become again—and slammed the door.

"Hey, don't go banging..."

Starsky rested his folded arms on the roof of the car, grinning. "Y'know, Hutch, we're beginning to sound like we've been married for a long, long time."

"Let's get inside, Gordo." Hutch grinned back, thinking once again how well the color of his car matched the color of Starsky's eyes. He still could hear Merle's laughter at his insistence the car had to be painted indigo.

"And then what?"

Hutch didn't bother to answer.

Hutch watched Starsky hang up his jacket and holster and said, "Starsk?"

"What?"

"We are exclusive, aren't we?" He held his breath.

Starsky whirled. "Of course we are. What kinda question is that?" Then his eyes darkened. "That's what you want, isn't it?"

Hutch exhaled. "No, of course not. I'm asking because I want permission to have a fling."

"Can you be serious for a minute? Why the hell did you ask that? I thought we'd discussed this before."

Hutch shrugged. "I guess...seeing you like that with Grace...."

"Seeing me like what, Hutch? I was hugging a friend, and I ain't going to stop doing that, so you better get used to the idea."

Hutch knew he ought to drop the subject, and drop it now, but couldn't bring himself to do that just yet. "C'mon, Starsk. You have to admit...."

Starsky sighed. "You come on, Hutch. What makes you think I'd leave your bed to go home and fuck somebody else?"

"I didn't say...."

"No. But you thought. Loud and clear, partner. I could hear it across the room."

"What are you—psychic?"

"Where you're concerned, yes. I know all there is to know about you, Hutch."

"So, what was I thinking?"

"You thought I was about to take her to bed."

"That's what it looked like. You telling me you're not attracted to women anymore?"

Starsky thought for a moment, and Hutch knew it was because he wanted to give him an honest answer. "I ain't looking, Hutch. I want you, and I don't think I'd keep you if I cheated. And I can't believe you'd even think I'd go from you to her in the space of an hour."

"I didn't even know I could be this jealous," Hutch whispered. "That's scary, you know that?"

"Kinda weird. I never knew you were possessive."

"Neither did I. I never felt like this about Vanessa, or anybody else. What about you?"

"No, I'm cool," Starsky grinned. "Only don't hug Flores again, okay?"

"What's your problem with Arturo, Starsk?"

"There is no problem."

Starsky sounded cold; it made Hutch shiver as if the room temperature had abruptly dropped several degrees. "Yes there is. Otherwise, why are you forever challenging him?"

"I'm not."

"Starsky...you are. The first time was when you insisted on going undercover with Major Lotsoff, and you haven't stopped since."

"Come off it, Hutch. I insisted on going undercover because I was the right choice."

"What about the bust this morning? You didn't agree with his plan."

"Because it was stupid. You and Lizzie decided to go along with it, but I had warned you it would get you trapped behind that dumpster, and I was right. That's exactly what happened, and if I hadn't been faster than Arturo, Sanders would have crept up on you."

"Arturo would have—"

"No, he couldn't have. ‘Cause he thought his plan was brilliant, and he didn't see the flaw. He wasn't even headed your way, he was gonna go around the back to get Sanders and Barrett."

Hutch swallowed a lump of fear. It slipped from his throat into his stomach, tying it into knots. "I thought...I thought you were just competing with him."

"God, Hutch. I'm a grown man, I wish you'd remember that."

"Hey. That's not it, and you know it. I just figured...that you were trying to prove you're the better cop."

Very patiently, Starsky said, "I don't have to try and prove that. I am the better cop, partner."

Hutch smiled. "I know."

"Do you?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Why were you so pissed at me? Thought I couldn't handle two lousy punks anymore? Or did you think I had lost my head, trying to prove something to ya?"

"I was scared, Starsky. I heard that shot and...."

"That's only part of it. You think I've lost it. You think I'm too slow. You think I'm trying too hard."

Damn. Starsky did know him. What had he been thinking earlier—that he wasn't certain Starsky was still faster than the crooks? Double damn. Starsky had warned him about undermining his self-confidence.

"You don't trust me."

The unconcealed pain in the gruff voice reverberated through Hutch as if it were his own, and he realized he had no answer to that accusation.

With a heavy sigh, Starsky went to get something out of the inner pocket of his jacket. He shoved the two pieces of cardboard at Hutch. "Here. That make you feel better?"

Bewildered, Hutch unfolded the cards. Starsky must have been waiting to show him these. Shooting reports, with last week's date on them, from the target and the pop-up range. The results were staggering, even for Starsky who was one of the best shots he knew. He folded them again and handed them back.

Starsky stuffed the cards back into his jacket. "I was using guns in ‘Nam, when you and the other college kids were having sit-ins to protest the violence. I can clean and load weapons blindfolded, and even on a bad day I'm still a damn sight faster than you."

"What are you saying?"

He heard Starsky take a deep breath. "What I'm saying is—when we became lovers, I lost my partner."

"No! That's crazy, Starsk."

"It is?" Starsky smiled, but it was a sad smile, and Hutch was very aware of the color of his eyes. Violet. "You're not using your head, Hutch. You're letting fear rule our working relationship. I'm not gonna be able to cope with that for long."

Hutch crossed the room and pulled Starsky into his arms. He was shaking, and it wasn't because he was cold. "Don't you think I got a right to worry?"

"Worry, yes. Stifle me, no."

"I'm not—"

"Hutch. Accusing me of trying to confirm I'm immortal—that's stifling. I'm doing my job, and the results show I'm doing it as well as I did before Gunther got to me. Are you trying to help him achieve his goal?"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Gunther wanted us off the street. You keep going the way you are, we will be off the street. ‘Cause neither of us can work like that."

Glad that Starsky didn't move out of his arms, Hutch held tight. "I didn't realize I was that bad. I'm sorry, babe."

"You want me to trust you, scars and all. Question is—can you trust me?" Starsky leaned back to look at him. It was a critical look that almost made Hutch fidget.

"Of course I can."

"Don't be so quick about it. Can you really, Hutch? Or are you going to keep thinking that I'm fragile and need your protection?"

"Tell me what you want from me, partner."

"I want you to believe that I know what I'm doing."

"Okay. I'll work on it. I'll try to be more aware of my mother-hen instincts."

Starsky gave him a gentle squeeze. "That's all I'm asking, lover."

They stood quietly for long moments, simply enjoying their closeness. Starsky finally stepped out of the embrace, clearing his throat.

Hutch half expected an announcement that he was starving, and wondered what he could feed him. Pancakes?

"Is that why you didn't...?"

This wasn't about breakfast then. Starsky looked at him, head cocked to one side, with the same analytical expression he had worn before. What the hell? "Why I didn't what?"

Starsky cleared his throat again, indicating to Hutch that his partner was self-conscious about something. Now he bit his lip, and Hutch wished he had caught his drift to spare him the discomfort. Gently, he prompted, "What, Starsk?"

A deep breath, and then it came in a rush. "Is that why you wouldn't make love to me the way I wanted you to?"

Hutch reached for him automatically, but of course, Starsky knew what he was going to do before he himself did and moved out of reach. "No. What makes you think that?"

Starsky shrugged, his face mirroring his embarrassment. "What am I supposed to think, Hutch? After all that flattery, I...." He hesitated, and then added hurriedly, "I didn't expect you to turn me down, you know?"

"I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable," Hutch said, aware the words were inadequate.

"Uncomfortable? Uncomfortable. More like a sucker." Starsky exhaled. "I ain't offering twice; you can beg on bended knee before I go there again."

Thinking about his own awkwardness, Hutch grinned.

Starsky glared at him, irritation obvious. "You think that's funny, Hutch?"

Hutch shook his head. "No, I don't think you're funny. I was laughing at myself."

"Well," Starsky mumbled, "I hope you enjoyed it. Ain't often you can do that."

"Can I please hug you?"

"I guess," Starsky said charitably. "I ain't carrying a grudge."

Hutch wrapped his arms around him and smiled into his eyes. "You gonna blow my head off if I try to kiss you?"

Starsky's eyes twinkled with sudden humor. "You that lousy a kisser, schweetheart?"

"Jerk," Hutch said tenderly, brushing his lips across Starsky's. "You want to know what's funny?"

"I'm not sure. Do I?"

Hutch tightened his hold, his kiss a bit more resolute this time. Starsky sighed and rubbed a stubbly cheek against his shoulder. Hutch could feel the bristles through his shirt. "I wanted to, y'know. But...I didn't know how."

Starsky moved his head back to stare at him, eyes wide with surprise. "What do you mean, you didn't know how? What's there to know?"

"You know," Hutch said uneasily. "The...mechanics, if you will."

Starsky grinned. "You have no idea about mechanics, Hutch, but you still drive a car."

"Funny," Hutch grumbled, ruffling the dark curls affectionately.

"Stay out of my hair," Starsky muttered, pulling his head away. "Tell me more about your problem with...uh, mechanics."

"Well," Hutch said, "I just suddenly realized I had no idea...and anyway, I didn't think we should do this on the spur of the moment. Without preparation."

"Hutch," Starsky said sternly. "You been reading up on this, haven't you?"

Hutch felt the color creep from his neck to his hairline. "Yeah."

"Preparation means...clean sheets, shower, flowers, champagne, enemas, lubricant and all that jazz?"

Starsky obviously considered this entertaining. Hutch tried not to feel provoked, but if he were honest, his partner's attitude did needle him. He didn't deign that with an answer.

Starsky smirked. "Did I forget anything?"

"Yes," Hutch heard himself burst out, and was immediately chagrined. "You better include a drawing in the preparations, because I have absolutely no idea how to go about it, Starsky. Now go ahead, laugh."

"Aw, lover," Starsky murmured soothingly, "I won't. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I already felt like a total twerp."

"And you thought I'd roll out of bed laughing?" Starsky evidently had trouble suppressing his rather wide grin.

"You're making fun of me," Hutch complained.

"No, babe. I just wish you'd said something."

"Right," Hutch said. "When we were watching that flick, you thought it would take lots of practice to make it as easy as it looked. How come you changed your mind?"

Starsky snickered. "I asked somebody who knows."

"You did what?" Hutch was certain he had misunderstood that one.

"Reminds me of something Grace said. I guess she was right about me—I'm a cop. Through and through." Starsky winked at him, infuriating Hutch. "I got myself an eye witness. Uh, maybe not eye witness. More like...."

"Starsky," Hutch warned. "Get to the point. Who did you ask, and what did you ask?"

"Now you sound like a cop."

"Starsky!" Hutch raised his voice a little.

"Okay, okay. Keep your pants on." A lewd grin. "Come to think of it...."

Hutch grunted, tackled Starsky and pushed him down on the couch. He thrust both hands into the tumble of curls, roughly. "Get. To. The. Point."

Starsky smiled and rotated his hips against Hutch's. "I asked. I figured if anybody would know, this guy would." Hutch tried to get his body to ignore the suggestive movement underneath him. His body ignored him and reacted. "Stop teasing me."

"Uh. Is that the verbal teasing you mind, or...?"

For a while, there was no more talk, as Hutch plundered the maddening mouth and invaded his lover's t-shirt and tight jeans. Starsky blissfully rubbed his cheek against Hutch's. "You got these mechanics figured out all right, don't you?"

"Mm."

"I think we can manage to graduate to the big league, y'know?"

"Shut up, Starsk. Tell me who you asked."

Starsky chuckled. "What now—shut up or tell?"

"Tell."

"I don't think you want to know."

"Yes, I do. So tell me already."

"You don't know him. One of John Blaine's friends."

Dumbfounded, Hutch halted his roving hands and stuttered, "Y-you asked one of John's friends? Are you nuts? What if he spreads the word?"

Starsky grinned at him, apparently delighted with his resourcefulness. "He won't. He only knows me as Dave, and he doesn't know I'm a cop. All he knows is that I knew John. So, he already assumed I was gay. I told him I was new to this thing and needed a few tips. He didn't mind."

"I bet he didn't," Hutch said weakly and got to his feet. He perched on the edge of the coffee table. "What...what exactly did you ask him?"

Starsky sat up, grimacing as certain muscles obviously reminded him Hutch was too heavy to lie on top of him. "Well, you know. All that stuff about...the preparations...didn't exactly seem like a big turn-on. I mean, it makes you kind of wonder why anybody would want to go through with it, if it's so much bother. Beforehand, I mean."

Hutch couldn't believe Starsky had actually done that. He was used to his partner being perfectly candid about things that would have turned his ears red if he'd had to discuss them. Not for the first time, he wondered how much of a smoke screen they needed. Did they need a smoke screen?

Reading his mind, Starsky said, "He said he asks ladies out because of his neighborhood, Hutch. He said they were all too observant, and too conservative to be confronted with—now, what did he call it—that kind of lifestyle."

"What about our neighborhoods?" Hutch murmured. "Aren't people going to wonder about us?"

Starsky stared at him. "Has it occurred to you they might have been wondering for years? We've been hanging out at each other's places almost from day one. You think anybody is gonna start wondering now that hasn't before?"

"I feel more...conspicuous," Hutch admitted.

"The new Hutchmobile is conspicuous, but it hasn't gotten you arrested yet. Which continues to surprise me, I might add." Apparently reading the expression Hutch knew was in his eyes, Starsky added, "Look, why don't we worry about that when the time comes?"

"What if we ever decided to live together?"

"Live together? You mean, as in one house, one name plate on the door?"

Hutch nodded, shyly.

"That's a giant leap, partner. Not for mankind maybe, but certainly for two cops. Besides, what would your family say?"

"I've been thinking about that. That's why I called you earlier. When you left, I realized I only care what you think about me. If they don't like it, they can lump it."

Starsky frowned at him. "Does that mean you intend to tell them about us?"

Hutch smiled. "I phoned Cathy and told her."

"You called your sister in the middle of the night to tell her you're suddenly gay? Wow. How did she take it?"

Hutch felt himself blush. "She was already up. She's always up early because of the baby. She said she'd thought I had left Van for you. And you know, in a way, she was right."

"Whoa," Starsky blinked. "Not so fast, pal. You lost me there. What's this about leaving Van for me?"

"I didn't see what was going on at the time, Starsk." Hutch took a deep breath and then plunged ahead. "But being with you was more fun, more gratifying, and more important than spending time with an airhead like Vanessa. All she ever thought about was jewelry, clothes and money, and how to impress our friends. With you, I felt like I was dealing with things that mattered."

"Yeah," Starsky grinned. "Homicides and armed robberies."

"No, seriously. And you know, most women I went out with were a lot like Van."

"Next, he's gonna tell me he's never met a girl like me," Starsky groaned theatrically.

Hutch could tell his lover was torn between being flattered and being embarrassed. He grinned. "I haven't. Most girls don't go all shy when you pay them a compliment."

"That's because I'm a big, tough cop, and I'm not used to having people go all schmaltzy over me."

"Schmaltzy, huh?" Hutch settled on the couch next to Starsky and teasingly ran his hand up his bare arm, spider-fashion. "Does schmaltzy scare you, babe?"

Starsky grinned, playfully swatted at the "spider" and settled into the curve of his arm with a soft sigh and a yawn. "Like I said, I'm tough. I don't get scared."

Hutch grinned back. "So, if I wanted to go all syrupy, you'd let me?"

Starsky yawned again. "If you want to turn up with flowers and chocolates, that's okay by me. Tell you something—forget the flowers, just bring the chocolates. I won't kick ya out."

Hutch chuckled, with the seeds of an idea planted in his mind. "How about you getting some shuteye? You're yawning your head off here."

"I'm getting sleepy," Starsky admitted. "But we haven't finished talking about the mechanics."

"I was afraid you'd say that," Hutch sighed. "So, what about the...uh, preparations?"

"Well, for starters, all that stuff about enemas is crap."

Hutch chuckled, "Did I ever tell you I love your way with words, babe?"

"Right," Starsky scowled at him. "Showers are optional, but as you've been all over me like some teenager, I don't think you can make it that far."

"Thanks!" Hutch said, disgustedly.

An evil twinkle in his eyes, Starsky brushed his lips across his cheek. "You need a shave."

"So do you; worse than I, actually." Hutch tightened his hold and closed in for a quick kiss. "And I'm not complaining."

"Lubricant is optional, too. Any other questions?"

"Wait a sec. What do you mean, that's optional? It's gonna hurt like hell if you don't use any, isn't it?"

"Not that I'm an expert or anything." Starsky grinned devilishly, and for a moment, Hutch seriously considered strangling him. "But he said that if you're careful, it's okay." He rubbed his cheek against Hutch's shoulder, and grew serious. "And I know you'll be careful."

Hutch exhaled. "I think I'm too scared, Starsk. I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't hurt me. I just figured that all the messing around in advance won't be much fun until we got the mechanics down pat."

"If you say mechanics one more time, I'm gonna throttle you," Hutch warned.

"You coined the phrase," Starsky pointed out, in a little boy's voice that always made Hutch smile. "What do you want to call it?"

"Let's not even go there, okay?"

"Come on, Hutch. You can get all squishy, but the facts of life bother you? How about IA?"

"IA?" Hutch echoed, disbelieving. "As in Internal Affairs?"

"No, as in intercourse, anal," Starsky shot back.

"You're an ass."

Starsky stared at him, eyebrows raised, until his words registered, and Hutch felt the heat pour into his face like a bucket of hot water.

"Pretty, Hutch. You match the Torino."

"You ought to match your own car."

"I don't blush that easy."

"That's what you think. Wanna bet I can make you blush?"

"Can't."

"Can."

"Try."

"Wanna know what to call the first time?"

"I'm sure I don't."

"How about—D.S.?"

"Dal segno?" Starsky asked, clearly puzzled.

"Deflowering Starsky."

Starsky colored, violently.

Hutch chuckled. "See, I can, too."

"You know what's so much fun about this relationship?"

"You mean, apart from making each other blush?"

"Things work both ways. I get to deflower you, eventually. You can't have that with a lady."

Hutch hesitated. "So, why don't we...."

"'Cause you're not ready, Hutch."

"But you are?"

"Yeah. Whenever you want, babe." Starsky leaned over to kiss him gently. Hutch could tell he had a hard time trying not to yawn into the kiss, though, and grinned.

"Bed, Curly."

Starsky blinked, and then smiled languidly. "Is that a challenge?"

"No. An order. Off you go, before you fall asleep on the couch."

"You coming with me?"

"How much sleep are you going to get if I do?"

"I'm not that tired."

"Yes, you are. C'mon, I'll tuck you in, but that's as far as it goes."

Yawning, Starsky got up. "I have to admit, bed sounds good right now."

Hutch shook up the pillows while Starsky slipped out of his clothes. Hutch held the cover open invitingly.

Starsky settled down and asked sleepily, "What are you gonna do?"

Hutch smiled, the idea he'd had earlier coming to bloom. "I have a few errands to run."

"We could do that together."

"No, you get your beauty sleep. I'll be back before you know it."

When Hutch came out of the shower, Starsky was fast asleep.

Starsky woke, disoriented for a moment because of the sunlight filtering into the room. Had he overslept? Then he remembered. Saturday, the first day of their long weekend. He stretched, aware his muscles seemed only stiff, but didn't hurt. He sighed contentedly. Listening, he heard Hutch rummaging in the kitchen. He glanced at the clock; he had slept for six hours. Well, he was wide awake now, so he swung his legs out of bed, grabbed a shirt and a pair of cut-offs, and went into the bathroom.

Running a hand across his cheeks, he grinned. "Either grow a beard or shave NOW," he said to the man in the mirror. He grabbed Hutch's razor and went to work, humming. Finally satisfied, he brushed his teeth, and then climbed into the shower stall.

"Nice, Starsky. I like your rendition of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Jim Croce, eat your heart out, huh?"

Starsky chuckled, "What are you doing creeping up on me in the shower? Got any ulterior motives?"

"None that I'm aware of. Disappointed?"

"Yeah." Starsky pushed the shower curtain aside to grab Hutch and kiss him, splattering him with droplets in the process.

Hutch smiled, running a loving hand down his wet back. "Wrong again, love. I like you wet, not me, remember?"

"I like you wet," Starsky murmured. "And I like you hot."

Hutch pulled out of the deepening kiss with a grin. "Oh, no, you don't. Get out of there and dry off."

"And then what?"

He didn't get an answer. Hutch left the bathroom singing his own version of Leroy Brown, making it sound like blues. Starsky rolled his eyes and sniggered.

He closed the shower curtain again to get rid of the last soapsuds and rinse his hair, and then toweled himself vigorously.

He noticed that Hutch had apparently come into the bathroom to dump their used sheets. "You trying to tell me something, partner?" Anticipation was a tiny flame that burned eagerly in his stomach, and he knew it wouldn't take much to fan it into an inferno of passion.

He had pulled on the cut-offs and was about to button up the shirt, when he caught sight of his moving hands in the mirror. Reluctantly, he met his own eyes. "She's right, you know. The scars aren't going anywhere." Sighing, he stopped his hands, quickly ran the brush through his damp hair, and left the bathroom.

"Hutch?"

"Kitchen, Starsk."

"Got any coffee?"

"No."

Starsky raised his eyebrows. "If you give me any of your vivisected liver...."

"Desiccated."

"How come you like me wet, but your liver dehydrated?"

Hutch chortled, and Starsky smiled at the welcome sound. "Would you prefer it the other way around, Starsky?"

"Maybe not. So, if I don't get any coffee, how do you expect me to wake up?"

"Who says I want you to?"

"In that case I'm going back to bed." Grinning, Starsky faked a huge yawn.

Hutch drew closer, wrapping his arms around him from behind. "Brilliant. That's exactly what I hoped to hear."

Starsky felt his smile widen. "Why did you let me get up in the first place?"

"So I could make some...preparations."

Starsky leaned back into the embrace, as Hutch trailed tiny kisses down his cheek, moving his damp hair aside to continue down his neck. He pushed the shirt over his shoulders and drifted down to his shoulder blades. Starsky went rigid, then forced himself to relax again.

Hutch copied Grace's gesture, his arms firmly holding him around the waist, lips sweeping across the scar. "Don't ever, ever let me catch you like that again. With anybody."

"Mh. I won't," Starsky murmured, trying to enjoy the feel of Hutch pressed close without allowing his perception of his mutilated back to intrude.

"Starsk. Do you know that I love these scars?" Maybe, after all these years, he shouldn't be surprised that Hutch could read his mind.

"Now you're taking it a bit far," Starsky smiled, still skeptical.

"I'm not," stated Hutch. Starsky felt him push the shirt back up over his shoulders, and he speculated what his lover had in mind now. Unerringly, Hutch's warm hand covered the scar lowest on his back, and Starsky was aware for the first time that Hutch knew where those marks were as well as he did. Without looking.

"This one here says guts because it's the lowest, and it tells me you were standing tall when they hit you, trying to protect me." Hutch nuzzled against him, and Starsky felt one hand tangle in his hair before it traveled to the second wound.

"This one here says how close a call it was, but you made it because you're tough."

Light fingers traced the third scar. "This is the scariest. So close to your heart that it stopped beating. You came back for me, and it reminds me to be really careful with that heart; mustn't ever hurt you or let you down because your heart now beats for me."

Starsky lowered his head as those words touched some chord within him. For a moment, it felt as if all were silent inside his heart and mind—and then, unexpectedly, the tiny and hard spot of diffidence gave way to a sharp tune that swirled through him hot and bright, and was gone.

Behind him, the soft voice continued, "And this here tells me of your determination, your courage and your love for me. Nothing of that could ever be ugly, Starsk. You're beautiful." Hutch touched his lips to the shirt where it covered the fourth scar.

"Love you. So much." Starsky turned in the embrace, putting both arms around Hutch's neck. "You know, if anybody else said that, I'd think it was just a pep talk. But with you, I know you mean it."

"I meant it before."

"I know." Starsky cleared his throat. "I'm beginning to believe you."

"Finally."

Starsky grinned. "Did you say something about preparations?"

"Come and see."

They wandered into the bedroom. Hutch pulled Starsky to one side, but not before he spied the bedspread. "What's the point in making up the bed, Hutch? Since when are you that house-proud?"

"I'm not. I'm Starsky-proud." Hutch stood behind him again, steering him to the side of the bed.

Starsky caught sight of himself in the large mirror leaning against the wall. He recognized it as the one they had seen in a garage sale. Hutch had taken the Victorian creation home, thinking Van would like it. Van didn't; she wanted a proper make-up mirror, with good lighting. Therefore, the mirror had vanished, and Starsky had forgotten all about it until now. "Where did you keep it?"

He could hear the smile in Hutch's voice. "Closet. I knew you liked it, but you already have enough mirrors to start a shop. So, I kept it. Until now, I didn't know what to do with it."

"And now you do?"

"Yeah."

"What?"

"Turn you on."

Their eyes met in the glass and Starsky smiled. "Doesn't take a mirror. All you need to do is look at me like that."

Hutch smiled back and slipped his arms around his waist again, his chin on Starsky's left shoulder. "I love holding you like this. Makes me feel like you're mine."

"I am. Don't ever doubt that."

"You know something else? You look so hot, babe. That white shirt would just look innocent on anybody else. But the way you wear it...takes my breath away."

Starsky felt the tiny flame of anticipation flicker higher.

Smoothly, Hutch pushed the shirt down to his hips—now his arms were caught, and he knew that was the way Hutch wanted it—and placed a soft kiss where the necklace with the three coins touched his neck.

Starsky caught his breath and moved backwards, when the firm fingers slowly, appreciatively traveled up his back again, massaging his tensing muscles back into suppleness. A moist tongue trailed a throbbing path of delight down his spine, from his nape to his shoulder blades and farther down. Starsky fought for breath.

Hutch lifted his hand to brush the unruly curls back behind his ear; the fingers of his other hand journeyed down his chest to his navel. Starsky closed his eyes and gave himself to the sensation, forgetting to breathe.

Sweet torment as one finger slowly circled the belly button, and damp lips fastened on his earlobe. Then the teasing fingers dipped into his navel and a moist tongue slipped into his ear at the same time. The effect shuddered through Starsky's body, and he heard himself moan.

Hutch whispered, "I so love to hear that sound from you. Don't close your eyes, babe, look in the mirror."

Starsky opened his eyes to look at Hutch's glowing face.

A gentle gibe. "At yourself, not at me."

Reluctantly, Starsky looked. Looked at tousled hair, smoldering eyes and a burning body with a proud erection displayed to perfection by the tight cut-offs. He sighed and closed his eyes again when the determined hand cruised from his navel up his chest to play with one nipple. The tiny bud bloomed under the experienced fingers, and Starsky moaned again.

"I said to look, didn't I?"

Impossible to resist that warm voice, husky and full of need. He opened his eyes again in time to see them widen in reaction when Hutch's teeth fastened on the artery in his neck, the gentle sucking and nipping tingling all the way down to his toes.

"Tell me what you want, Starsky."

"I want you. What do you want?" Starsky was amazed he was still coherent. Hutch's fingers were melting him like snow in the sun, and he was fairly certain that if Hutch let go, he'd just drop to the floor right where he was, his knees unable to support him much longer.

Hutch smiled, and it was a dangerous smile. Starsky loved that—it told him just how much Hutch desired him right now. Someday, it might be fun to pretend he wasn't interested, just to see what Hutch would do. But not here, not now.

Softly, Hutch whispered, "I want you...to want me...to seduce you."

At those words, the small glow of anticipation became inferno. "God, Hutch. Yes."

"My show?"

"Yours."

"Love you, Starsk."

"Love you."

Hutch pulled his lover around for a kiss, his tongue roaming slowly along Starsky's lower lip, taking his time to experience the unique Starsky taste. There was always a hint of sweetness there, as if his character were something that could be sampled when you touched your lips to that exciting body.

Tenderly, Hutch let his tongue travel the quivering upper lip, then made the same aloof journey with his own lips. Delicately, he pulled Starsky's upper lip between his teeth for more tasting. Starsky produced an odd little sound in his throat, almost a purr, and Hutch pushed his tongue between welcoming lips, parting his teeth, eager for more sweetness. It was as though an electric jolt went through Starsky, and he thought he could feel the heat increasing under his roaming hands.

Hutch explored the tempting mouth at a leisurely pace, and his partner's clinging became more and more desperate. Finally, Hutch figured he had better stop there if he wanted any action actually in the sheets. He grinned and ran his tongue over the open lips in farewell, then broke the kiss.

Starsky moaned, and Hutch thought that had to be just about the hottest sound in the whole wide world. Cautiously, he cupped the erection that burned in the cut-offs. "Need some help with that, lover?"

"Mm."

Aw, good. Starsky was always at a loss for words when he got caught up in sensation.

Hutch dropped to his knees in front of him, his face on a level with that tempting sight presented by the cut-offs.

Daringly, and hoping he hadn't read Starsky wrong, he ran his tongue down the incision, his hands holding on to the back of Starsky's legs. Starsky drew in a sharp breath, but when Hutch looked into his face there was no distress there, only desire. He repeated the movement, reflecting briefly how far they had come from that first timid encounter by the fireplace. Starsky's hands gripped his shoulders hard.

Hutch smiled to himself and then fastened his teeth on the catch of the zipper, glad that Starsky had never bothered with the waist button. He pulled it down gently, tiny tooth by tiny tooth, reminding himself that no way was Starsky wearing anything else under these.

Starsky sighed when his cock sprang free, and then moaned when Hutch swirled his tongue around the tip. Hutch smiled and surrounded the rosy head with his hot breath, and followed that by closing his lips around it. Starsky whimpered, his fingers digging deeper into Hutch's shoulders.

Smiling, Hutch tilted his head back to look at Starsky's flushed face. "Hey, babe."

Burning indigo eyes met his, bright and sparkling with desire. It took Starsky only a moment to catch on. "I didn't mean that literally, Hutch."

"So?" Hutch pressed a gentle kiss on Starsky's navel, his tongue dipping into the small indentation teasingly.

"Since you are begging on bended knee..." Starsky smiled. "...I'm not gonna say no to you."

Hutch got to his feet in one swift motion, and whispered, "Don't move. Close your eyes."

Starsky complied, and Hutch quickly got rid of the throw and undressed. Gently, he guided Starsky to the bed. Starsky wanted to take his shirt off first, but Hutch halted the movement, pushing him down.

"Satin sheets, Hutch?" Starsky chuckled. "You must be nuts."

"Mm. Nuts about you. Can you make room for me?"

"Oh, so you're not just here to tuck me in again?"

"Not really." Grinning, Hutch waited for Starsky's next discovery. He had a reason for keeping that shirt on his partner.

Starsky's hand touched something wrapped in paper, and with a small frown he picked the object up. His expression told Hutch he had already guessed about the item.

"Hutch? Can I look?"

"Sure. But only at what you're holding."

"That's too difficult," Starsky muttered, but opened his eyes. His grin widened. "Chocolates. Cute, Hutch."

"Close your eyes again," Hutch murmured and kissed his lover. "No eating them in bed."

"Spoilsport."

Hutch deepened the kiss, and Starsky sighed appreciatively. Tantalizing touches fanned the flames of passion back up, and Starsky clutched the sheet. Hutch sensed the exact moment the impression registered. Clearly puzzled, Starsky turned his head, his eyes widening when he saw the sheets were covered in rose petals.

He hesitated for a moment, then flung his arms around Hutch's neck. Hutch held tight, heard Starsky swallow convulsively, and knew he had gotten it right. For a moment, he feared he'd gone overboard and Starsky would laugh at him.

"Imaginative, aren't you?"

Hutch smiled at the choked whisper. "Gotta keep surprising you. Otherwise you might get bored."

Starsky drew a shaky breath. "You really are nuts."

"I'll drink to that."

Starsky sniggered at the wry statement. "What with?"

"Ah," Hutch grinned. "How about—champagne?"

"I'm not going to burst your bubble by asking how many pay checks you blew on this little escapade," Starsky said, leaning back. Their eyes met, and Starsky smiled. "But I will ask whether you're postponing things."

Hutch smiled back. "I am. Can we do this at my speed, babe? Please?"

"Whatever you're comfortable with."

Leaning over for a kiss, Hutch whispered, "Thanks, Starsk." He retrieved the hidden bottle from its nest of ice and handed Starsky a champagne flute. The cork popped with a satisfying thump, and they passed the first glass back and forth silently, content to be alone together.

Hutch made sure that Starsky drank most of the second glass, and the third. When they were into their fourth glass, Starsky was snuggled into the crook of Hutch's arm, and Hutch waited for a moment when Starsky held the flute to steal an ice cube from the champagne cooler.

He ran the small piece of ice lightly around one of Starsky's nipples, and Starsky's breath hissed against his teeth. "Stop teasing me, Hutch."

"I'm not."

"Does that mean you're getting down to business here?"

"Want me to?"

"Whenever you're ready."

Hutch dropped the ice on the floor and took the glass from Starsky. "Lie down, babe." He dipped his middle finger into the champagne, traced Starsky's mouth and traveled from the lower lip down the chin onto his throat, leaving a thin trail of cool moisture. Starsky's breath quickened.

His finger dived into the champagne again, then pushed Starsky's lips apart and inserted itself into his mouth. Starsky sighed softly and opened his mouth willingly to the questing intruder.

Hutch withdrew his finger and repeated the game. "Suck."

Avidly, Starsky did, his teeth lightly scraping Hutch's skin.

Hutch knew his eyes kindled at the suggestive view. Pulling his finger from between Starsky's lips, he pushed the shirt out of the way and trailed a champagne spoor along the collarbone, down his sternum to the navel. Deliberately, he dripped a little pool of champagne into the small well. Starsky's hands clutched the sheets.

Hutch drew circles of champagne around each nipple, rubbing a none-too-gentle damp nail around and across each nub until it was hard and sensitive to the most delicate touch. Starsky's breath caught.

Hutch bent over his lover and tracked the liquid with his tongue, licking. He closed his champagne-cool mouth around the first hot nipple, sucking. Starsky gasped.

He followed the alcohol traces to the other nipple, running his tongue around it, then locking his teeth on it. Starsky whimpered, his body squirming with pleasure. Hutch placed his spread hand on the flat abdomen, pushing down firmly. Starsky obediently tried to stay still, but Hutch could tell it was difficult. Well, he was determined to make it even harder. He increased his assault on the bruised bump, nipping sharply. Starsky moaned, his fingers tightening on the sheets.

The cool tongue lapped at the champagne down the furry stomach, plunged into the navel before Hutch's mouth fastened on the opening. Starsky drew an urgent breath between clenched teeth, the sound almost one of pain.

Hutch reclaimed his champagne, the moisture of his tongue and the dampness of his mouth scalding Starsky's flesh. One hand moved along strong thighs, venturing farther inward when they parted at his caress. Each move brushed the silky head before the willful hand darted away again. Starsky's desperate fingers crumpled the satin, his breath labored.

Hutch poured some champagne from the glass into his hand and then placed the flute on the floor. He slid confident wet fingers around Starsky's enlarged cock, masturbating with slow, methodical strokes. Starsky pushed into the enclosing warmth, fervor overtook reason.

Hutch put a warning hand on Starsky's stomach, while the left hand moved to cup the velvety scrotum, expertly massaging the tender testicles. Starsky tossed his head, the first drops of desire oozing from the column now milked by Hutch's demanding fingers.

Hutch moved, put his middle finger between Starsky's parted lips, rubbing across his gums. The intrepid invader was accepted, greeted by a loving tongue and a demandingly sucking mouth. Hutch allowed the contact, while the other hand returned to one nipple, renewing ecstasy. Starsky emitted a low cry, lust paramount.

Satisfied, Hutch retracted his moistened finger and swiftly pushed it deep into Starsky's tight rectum, his ring softly scratching at rigid buttocks. Starsky's breath sobbed in his throat and he arched his back to impale himself farther.

"Easy, babe," Hutch cautioned, as he worked his finger even deeper and harder into Starsky's heat, driving him wild, tormenting him with the promise of passion.

"Look at me."

Starsky opened dazed eyes, pupils dilated, clouded with wanton desire.

"You sure, Starsk?"

"I'm sure." Starsky pulled him down for a lingering kiss. "Love you."

Dipping it in the vaseline he'd put ready on the bedside table, Hutch smuggled a second finger into Starsky's body, marveling at how easy this was. Much easier than he had thought. Suddenly, he wanted to bury himself in that tight heat, desire and need almost crushing reason.

Hutch controlled the reaction. He knew he couldn't let his own feelings run rampant this first time, not when Starsky trusted him to be careful. And he was aware how deep that trust was—there was no tension at all in Starsky's muscles, and it wasn't just the alcohol that kept him so relaxed. Cautiously, Hutch scissored his fingers. Starsky exhaled, a sharp sound.

"Starsk?"

"Don't stop."

Hutch slipped a third finger past the tight guard and was rewarded with a small gasp. He bent over to flick his tongue at Starsky's cock, and Starsky bucked violently.

"Hutch. Quit teasing. Please."

For an answer, Hutch closed his mouth over the smooth head and slid down as far as he could. Starsky whimpered.

As always, his body responded to the sounds made by his partner, and Hutch realized he couldn't delay much longer. There was an awkward moment when he considered positions. Then he became aware of Starsky's eyes on him.

"What's the matter, babe—forgot all your anatomy lessons? C'mere, I want to look at you."
Hutch obeyed the gentle voice and the firm guidance of strong hands, and knelt between Starsky's legs. Starsky used the vaseline to coat him, and Hutch felt that those hands knew how to manage him better than he did himself.

"C'mon, babe. Now."

And then, miraculously, all awkwardness was gone when their natural synchronization took over. Hutch moved forward, and Starsky met him, and before Hutch fully appreciated what he was doing, their bodies were joined as firmly as their hearts and minds.

Stunned, Hutch felt for a split second as if their positions were reversed, as if he could feel Starsky inside his body. Their eyes met, and Hutch knew Starsky had shared the sensation.

Hutch inched forward, mindful of Starsky's legs on his shoulders. As always, Starsky knew what he wanted. He reached out and their fingers locked.

He needed a moment to fill his eyes—to drink in the sight of his partner covered in rose petals that had begun to cling to him when he writhed under Hutch's hands. The scent of wine and flowers mingled with the musk and the sweetness that was Starsky. Hutch felt his head swim as if he were drunk. Drowning in desire.

Starsky smiled, a lazy smile, his eyes hot with passion and alive with love. "Time to take off, angel airlines."

But Hutch was already moving; he had known when the moment was there. Slowly, gently at first, then with growing urgency. Somehow, each movement seemed to carry him closer to Starsky, to the very essence of the man. Suddenly, Hutch was impatient to get there. Only dimly he realized Starsky was surging toward him, uniting their thrusts. Flawless teamwork, whatever they did.

Warmth, tightness, scent, sight and sound—the blend was powerful, and Hutch couldn't resist. One, two more nudges against that small nub inside Starsky, and he knew they were falling over the edge together. Was that his scream or Starsky's? Did it matter?

They collapsed on the rutted satin, cuddling closely, arms and legs entwined.

When Hutch regained his senses he pressed a kiss to Starsky's temple. "That was..."

"...overwhelming."

"Yeah."

"So—you wanna try that again sometime?"

"I guess."

"Don't be too enthusiastic now."

"I was scared stiff, you know that?"

"I know about stiff," Starsky sniggered. "But I thought I was turning you on."

"Definitely."

"Not that I was doing much."

"All you need to do is be there."

"I can manage that."

"Starsk?"

"Mm?"

"You here now?"

A soft chuckle. "Oh, yeah. I'm here."

It was all the encouragement Hutch needed.

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