Hutch glanced in the mirror, noticing that the unaccustomed necktie he had just donned had settled into a crooked lump at his collar. Impatiently, he hooked two fingers into the knot and pulled the silk free.
"Need some help?" came a sleepy voice from the bed a few feet away.
"With what?" Hutch asked, stealing a glance over his shoulder, as he started wrestling with the ends of the necktie again.
"The tie," Starsky told him, burrowing further under the covers. "Crooked?"
Hutch smiled. "How'd you know? Your eyes are still shut."
"Heard the 'tie knot rustle'," Starsky informed him, the fondness evident in his drowsy murmur. "...or in your case, tie NOT rustle...leave off the k...."
Hutch moved over to the side of the bed, leaned down, and kissed his partner on the temple. "Sorry I woke you," he offered.
Starsky's eyes struggled to open, and closed almost immediately against the light wafting in from the bathroom. "'S okay," he said.
"Yeah?" Hutch asked, his lips moving down from the temple and nuzzling Starsky's ear.
Hutch moved his lips softly across Starsky's cheek, and found his partner's, allowing his own to linger there. He raised one eyebrow at Starsky's quick intake of breath.
"Mmmmphhhh...." Overcome by an uncontrollable yawn, Starsky quickly turned his head into Hutch's chest and, draping an arm around the blond's neck, pulled him down closer as he started to chuckle softly.
"The thrill is gone, huh?" Hutch demanded, trying to sound huffy.
"Never, Blintz." Starsky pressed his face into Hutch's chest and yawned again, hard.
"You goof," Hutch gave him a squeeze. "Go back to sleep."
"Not really tired," Starsky assured him, "I'm wide awake now." He rubbed his forehead against Hutch's crisp dress shirt. "Wide awake. Really."
Hutch pushed Starsky back against the pillows and sat down on the edge of the bed, shaking his head at the blinking, watering eyes and sleep-lined cheek. "Wide awake, huh?" he asked. He leaned down and kissed Starsky's forehead lightly. "You've still got a bit of a fever, Starsk."
"Nah, you make me hot."
"Sorry, buddy, I'm not taking credit for this one." Hutch laughed as Starsky pulled the covers over his head to hide a seriously escaping yawn. Hutch leaned down and tugged at the sheet, pulling it down past Starsky's eyes, which, heavy-lidded and tired, still glinted with merriment. "So hot you've gotta yawn in my face, huh?"
"Oxygen deprivation," Starsky explained through the sheet. "You take my breath away." He pulled the sheet down further. "Make you some coffee before you go, huh? What time you have to be in court?"
"Nine," Hutch said, and planted a hand on his partner's chest. "And you stay put. The doc said..."
"...the doc said it was a touch of what everybody else at work has had, including you," Starsky told him firmly, "and it has nothing to do with...."
"I know, I know," Hutch finger-combed his bangs nervously. "But I...."
"I know," Starsky turned on his side and nestled into the pillows. "I'm better than I was, babe, honest." He opened one eye. "Honest."
"I know." Hutch pulled the covers up around him. He bent down and kissed Starsky's cheek. "I shouldn't be gone long." He stroked his fingers through Starsky's curls. "Go back to sleep for a while, and I'll be back before you know it."
"You want some juice or something before I go?"
"Mm mm," Starsky shook his head slightly.
"You want anything?"
"Mm hm." Starsky gave a barely perceptible nod, his eyes drifting shut.
"What?" Hutch fussed with the covers.
"Fix it," Starsky murmured drowsily.
"Oh." Hutch flushed slightly and began flipping the ends of the necktie. Slipping the knot up to his shirt collar, he smiled down at Starsky. "Okay, done. Don't look like a hayseed anymore."
Starsky opened one eye, "Oh, Hutch," he sighed, "come here."
Hutch leaned closer as Starsky reached up with both hands and, although he was blinking sleepily, managed to arrange the accessory perfectly. "Thanks, Starsk."
He gave Hutch a pat. "You're beautiful," Starsky proclaimed, settling back into the bed.
Hutch grinned down at him and pulled the covers up again. "And you're delirious," he offered. "But I love you anyhow." He squeezed Starsky's shoulder through the blanket.
"I'll be home in a couple of hours, and make you some soup, and fuss over you real good, okay?"
"Sounds like heaven," Starsky sighed, closing his eyes.
"Okay. You sleep now." Hutch stood up and moved toward the door, glancing at the mirror, and he grinned at the perfect placement of the necktie, knowing that all morning he'd be able to feel the warmth and love of his partner in that strip of cloth.
"Hey?" Starsky's sleepy voice barely reached him.
"Yeah, babe, what?"
"Know what we just did?"
Hutch paused at the door. "What'd we just do, Starsk?"
"Tied the knot," Starsky smiled softly.
"Yeah? You know what, buddy?"
"I think you're right."
Hutch glanced over at his sleeping partner, who was sprawled across the opposite side of the double bed. Still clad in his dress shirt, pants, and tie, the only concession Hutch had made to arriving home had been to kick off his shoes within moments of having walked through the door.
Hutch smiled as Starsky inched closer, seeming to sense his presence even under layers of sleep, and he turned the page of his book as silently as he could, in order to afford his partner the luxury of restful, healing slumber and, he admitted, to allow himself the unadulterated pleasure of watching Starsky sleep.
Starsky nestled up next to his arm, and within a few seconds, was blinking up at him sleepily. "What're you doin' ho--" he drew a sharp breath and squeezed his eyes shut as a yawn overcame him. "...home?"
Hutch leaned his cheek down on Starsky's curls. "Randolph pled guilty ten minutes before court time," he explained. "Didn't have to testify after all."
"Why aren't you at work, then?"
"Oh," Hutch said nonchalantly, "I told Dobey I was catching your...whatever you've got."
"Are you?" Starsky asked, eyes narrowing.
"Nope," Hutch assured him.
"Yep. Just felt like coming home." He kissed Starsky's head. "Not real effective without you anyhow; he'd have made me do reports or something." Hutch set his book down and scooped an arm under his partner, drawing him even closer.
Starsky settled against the blond, head resting just along the side of his chest, and he nestled deeply against Hutch, even as he felt Hutch's arm tighten into a squeeze. "Meant to be up by now," he offered. "Sorry."
"Don't apologize, huh?" Hutch told him firmly. "This is the first time you've slept in, what? Two days?"
Starsky shrugged slightly. "Lost track," he said.
"Two days." Hutch squeezed him again. "How're you feeling, anyway?"
"Don't know," Starsky answered honestly. "I'm not awake yet." He reached up and tugged at Hutch's collar. "Why d'you still have the tie on? That'd be the first thing I'd've taken off."
"Oh, um..." Hutch flushed. "Forgot."
"Forgot?" Starsky struggled to move up a little higher in the bed, and on his partner. "How could you forget to take off a noose like that? You didn't forget." He rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I'm sick, Hutch," he said pathetically. "Please don't be mysterious. It makes my head hurt."
Hutch chuckled. "Okay," he said, "but it's really dumb."
"Well..." Hutch carded his fingers through Starsky's curls and, with the other hand, pulled self-consciously at his hair. "Like, you...." He shook his head. "Forget it, Starsk, it's dumb."
"Is not," Starsky insisted. "Tell me. You get a hickey from somebody you don't want me to see?"
Hutch shook his head, blond hair falling across his forehead.
"Did I give you one last night and I don't remember?" He rubbed at a sleep-lined cheek.
"Starsk, you were in no condition to do anything to me last night, or have you forgotten? Between the cough and the fact that the fever was making your stomach 'floppy' as you so eloquently put it--"
Starsky rested his hand lightly against Hutch's mouth. "Let's not talk about it," he urged.
Hutch smiled against his partner's palm and quickly darted his tongue against the warm hand.
"Hey," Starsky admonished him. "None o'that, now."
"None of what?" Hutch raised his eyebrows, all innocence. "Your palms sweating again? Fever must be going up."
Starsky leaned up and shook his head, then raked sleep-scattered curls off his forehead. "I'm too tired for this," he said, smiling crookedly, yanking on his partner's tie. "Why?"
"Well, 'cause...well..." Hutch shrugged his shoulders. "I know it's really stupid, but...you knotted it this morning, and I...well...you know...."
Starsky flopped back on his own pillow and started to laugh. "You are too much, Hutchinson," he said, turning away and coughing. "Too much," he repeated when he was able to speak.
Hutch could feel himself blushing furiously. "Told you it was stupid," he mumbled.
Starsky rolled over again, on his side, facing Hutch. He braced his head on his hand, elbow against the pillow. "Not stupid, Hutch," he said softly. "Not stupid at all." He tugged at the knot of the tie. "Okay if I do it?"
Hutch nodded, feeling his throat catch with emotion, but feeling like an idiot. "Okay," he said. "Sure."
Starsky gently undid the tie, and Hutch lifted his head away from the headboard so that he could pull it off, then leaned back and closed his eyes as Starsky unbuttoned the top three buttons of his dress shirt. "You're a big mushball, Blondie, you know that?"
"Sometimes," Hutch sighed. "I...sometimes," he acquiesced.
Starsky leaned over and kissed him gently on the side of the neck. "Got a great idea," he said.
"Oh, yeah? What?"
"Know what I'd like right now?"
"What?" Hutch asked, smiling slightly. "Ready for some soup? Glass of juice?"
"I'd like to show you...don't matter if I tied the tie...no matter where you go, I'm right here." Starsky slipped his hand inside Hutch's shirt, laying it against his partner's heart.
"Show me how?"
"Well...show you how much I love you, and we can break my fever at the same time. Good for both of us," Starsky assured him.
Hutch grinned. "You sure you're up to that?"
"Ab-absolutely," Starsky answered around a yawn.
"Okay," Hutch agreed, "but let me go get you some aspirin first, and your antibiotics, it's time. And then you can do whatever you want with me, okay?"
"Sounds like a great plan to me, Hutch." Starsky turned over on his back, arm across his eyes, smiling in anticipation and glowing with affection.
Hutch unbuttoned the rest of his shirt on the way to the kitchen, yanking it out of the waistband of his pants. Quickly pouring a glass of juice and shaking out the required medications, he moved back to the bedroom.
And stopped dead in the doorway. Starsky was sound asleep, and snoring softly.
Hutch shook his head as an overwhelming tenderness tinged with empathy washed over him like a wave at high tide. "Love you so much," he whispered, and he lay the glass and pills down on the nightstand and crawled back into the bed to nap with his partner.
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