"Did you know it rains more than 255 days a year in Seattle?" Starsky asked his partner, momentarily taking his head out of the book that was fascinating him.
Hutch smiled before answering, enjoying the look of pleasure on Starsky's face and the relaxation of his prone form, spread out comfortably on top of the bed's comforter. He tossed a sweater inside the open suitcase he was packing. "That sounds about right."
"Bet you don't know Seattle's nickname, though." Starsky continued to read as he spoke, brutally manhandling the pages of the travel guide.
"Is that a challenge?"
"Nope. Just a question. Do you?"
Hutch paused in the inventory of items in his shaving kit. "Um, something with a jewel, I think. Ruby? Sapphire? Something like that." He picked up the kit from the dresser and started for the bathroom. "I forgot deodorant."
"Better go get it. You don't wanna have stinky pits on your visit to the Emerald City," Starsky said with a smile that was positively triumphant.
"You know, Starsk, you are reading from a guide book. You don't have to look quite so smug."
"Ha! That's what you think. I'll have you know I knew it was the Emerald City before I read it." Starsky crawled off the bed and straightened the covers, before joining Hutch in the bathroom. "Did you pack your eye-drops?" he asked, while glancing through the shaving kit himself.
"Oh, shoot, I think I forgot those, too."
"You also forgot a razor." Starsky shook his head a little, as he added the missing items to the kit. "You're not a real good packer, are you?"
"I wasn't finished yet," Hutch mumbled indignantly.
"Sure you weren't. I bet you think Seattle is the capital of Washington, too."
"Starsky? What on earth does one have to do with the other?" He spoke with a hint of irritation in his voice, distracted by what else he might be forgetting.
"Answer the question," Starsky demanded, while adding a bottle of aspirin to the rapidly filling leather container.
"Seattle is not the capital of Washington; Olympia is." The kit's zipper was stiff from lack of use and required several firm tugs before Hutch had it closed. "Satisfied now? Do I know enough about Seattle to make the trip?"
"Do you know the capital of Kansas?" Pure mischief danced in the dark blue eyes, which caused Hutch to burst out laughing.
"You want to explain to me what made you think of Kansas when we were talking about Washington?" Hutch asked, once he had the giggles under control.
"The Emerald City, of course. Now what's the capital of Kansas?"
Hutch stared as he tried to make the connection, knowing Starsky would pester him to death if he missed an easy one.
"Come on, don't tell me you college boys didn't have to know all our state capitals before you got your degrees? I knew them all in the sixth grade."
"I know them all! That's not what I'm thinking of."
"What are you thinking of, then?"
"Oz!" Hutch shouted out. "Ah, ha! 'The Wizard of Oz.' You were thinking of that movie."
"That's right, I was, and the other answer is Topeka. I don't want you to short-circuit something in your blond head while you try and remember it." Starsky tried to skip out of the way of the large palm sailing in his direction, but it caught him smartly on his pajama-clad rump. "Ouch!"
"Serves you right. Now, are you planning on getting dressed this morning, or do you want to drive us to Metro wearing only these?" Hutch grabbed the elastic on Starsky's waistband, snapping it playfully. "Arturo is expecting you to drive him to the airport, too, remember? He's going to be waiting for us."
"If you'd quit trying to bruise me, I'd get in the shower. Why don't you finish packing?" Starsky grabbed a quick kiss before he shoved Hutch out of the bathroom and started the water.
Fifteen minutes later, showered, shaved and wearing his favorite cotton work-shirt tucked into his next-to-favorite pair of jeans, Starsky joined Hutch at the front door, where he was waiting with his small suitcase. Hutch closed the travel guide he was browsing through and tucked it under his arm. "All set?" he asked, after watching Starsky palm the car keys.
The two men made their way to the Torino, neither speaking. Hutch noticed a change in Starsky's mood since his earlier playful behavior. Now he was wearing a thoughtful, serious expression.
Hutch waited while Starsky got the trunk open and then swung his bag inside. "I'm gonna miss ya, you know." Starsky spoke without looking at his partner, and quickly slammed the trunk closed. His hand was enveloped in a quick squeeze before they got inside the car and started off. "I mean, who knows how long you're gonna be gone?" Starsky continued.
"It shouldn't be more than five days, maybe even four. I'm not happy about having to escort this slime-bag all the way to Seattle, and then be stuck in a courtroom testifying and hanging around. Neither is Arturo."
"I know all that," Starsky interrupted. "I just wish it was me goin' with you. That this was one of our cases and we were closin' it together."
"Arturo and I didn't work that many cases when we were temporary partners," Hutch said softly, while brushing his knuckles against Starsky's cheek. That earned him a half-smile, and he settled his hand in a light grip behind Starsky's neck. "Believe me, if we'd known this guy was working for the syndicate, we might have avoided arresting him altogether." He sighed when Starsky didn't laugh at his attempt to lighten the mood. "Come on, buddy. You know we don't have any other choice. It makes sense to have Arturo and me escort Leonard to Seattle and deliver him to their jail. We testify about what we uncovered in the sting, Leonard sings, and about fifteen hoods take a fall from here to the great northwest. The courts will decide if his permanent, life-long address will be Washington or California. He broke enough laws in both states that they can pretty much play eennie-meenie-miney-moe."
"Catch a hoodlum by the toe?" This time Starsky smiled full out, and Hutch was relieved to see it.
"I think we've got him by the neck, Starsk."
"Yeah, I guess so. Leave it to my partner to stumble into a multi-state crime operation, while working what was supposed to be a simple drug bust."
"'Simple' never seems to be the operative word, does it?"
"Really. Well, Lizzie and I will sure have a swell time doing paperwork, while our partners are off touring the Space Needle."
"I'll bring you back a glow-in-the-dark miniature, okay?"
The rest of the drive to work was filled with brief attempts at small talk, but both men were too distracted by thoughts of the coming days apart to really complete any conversation.
Lizzie Thorpe smiled a greeting from the filing cabinet she stood at, as the detectives entered the squadroom. "Good morning."
"'Mornin', Lizzie," Starsky called out on his way to the coffeepot. He poured two cups and carried them back to their desks where Hutch was already sitting.
"Where's your partner?" Hutch asked, before taking a tentative sip of the hot, nearly thick coffee.
"Good question. He's normally here before the night shift is off duty." She glanced at the wall clock as she spoke. "Something must have held him up at home."
The door to their captain's office opened, and Dobey caught the eyes of his three detectives, then beckoned them inside. "We've got a problem. Get in here."
Starsky and Hutch hurried into the office, with Lizzie right behind them. The three didn't bother finding chairs, as Dobey was unseated and walking around the small room.
"What's the problem, Captain?" Hutch asked for the group.
"Where's your partner, Thorpe?" Dobey directed the question at his female officer without answering Hutch's question.
"I don't know, sir. He should have been here already--"
"Did you call his house?" Dobey interrupted her.
Lizzie shifted her weight minutely from foot to foot. "Not yet. I was looking for a file, and I--"
"Call him, just as soon as I'm done here," Dobey broke in. "This concerns him, too, but I'll let you bring him up to speed when he gets his lazy butt to work."
"What's the problem?" Hutch repeated.
"The problem is yours and Arturo's transportation to Seattle."
"Did the airline cancel the flight?" Starsky asked, wondering why their captain seemed so flustered.
"No. Leonard's attorney did that."
"Come again, Cap'n?" Starsky asked incredulously. "How the hell did he pull that off? He own American Airlines or something?"
"It seems that Leonard has a psychological disorder." The captain raised both hands to silence the laughter that followed his words. "Quiet down!"
"Oh, come on, Captain. What criminal doesn't have a psychological disorder or two?" Hutch said derisively. "How did that get the flight canceled?"
"Because, Hutchinson, Leonard suffers from aviophobia, and he has a signed doctor's release form to back up his claim."
"What the hell is aviophobia?" Starsky asked, stumbling a little over the word's pronunciation.
"It's fear of flying," Lizzie supplied before Dobey could. "How come this never came up during his extradition hearing?"
"I don't know, but it's come up now, and it's rock solid. They even have the ACLU backing them up. We put Leonard on a plane with a known psychological disorder, and we're violating his civil rights."
"Well, golly-gee, we sure wouldn't want to distress the young man, would we? It could scar him for life." Hutch shook his head in obvious irritation, tenting his hands across the bridge of his nose. "So, what now? We take him by car? What about the court date set for day after tomorrow?"
"His lawyer got that postponed until Friday, which should give you and Flores plenty of time to get there by train."
"Train?!" Starsky and Hutch both cried out at the same time.
"Yes, train. We don't have a choice." Dobey raised his hand again warningly. "A car wouldn't be safe. Too many places to have to stop for gas, bathroom breaks, and food. Too many chances for Leonard to get away, or be helped to get away."
"Yeah, but, Captain, it's going to take us longer to get there by train than if we drove straight through," Hutch stated emphatically, clearly displeased by the added travel time.
"Not by much. You leave tonight at seven, and you'll arrive in Seattle thirty-six hours later. You couldn't do too much better by car, and this is safer." Dobey's tone was brooking no argument. "I already have your reservations arranged."
"Oh, boy, Hutch, you get to ride on a choo-choo train!" Starsky said with a smile, wanting to deflect his partner's obvious annoyance before it escalated.
"That's not funny, Starsky." Hutch favored him with a withering frown. "Think of the logistics. We're going to have to keep Leonard guarded and give him breaks from the cuffs, or I'll just bet we'll have his lawyer chewing our asses out for police brutality. It's going to be a long trip."
"Welcome to the fun-filled world of law enforcement, Sergeant Hutchinson. How are you enjoying it so far?" Dobey's grin was expansive, and Starsky placed a calming hand on Hutch's arm.
"Cap'n, Hutch does make some good points. It's one thing to guard a cuffed man on a three-hour plane ride, and it's something else to guard him on an almost two-day train trip." Starsky zeroed in for the kill. "I think I better go along with them. They're going to need help, and I don't want my partner coming up short."
"Excuse me, Starsky," Lizzie spoke up. "My partner is going to be on that train, too, and I want his back watched as much as you want your partner's back watched. I'd like to go as well as you. Or instead of you," she finished determinedly.
"Wait a second, Lizzie, I think…" Starsky looked up mid-word at Dobey's again flying hands.
"Neither of you are going," Dobey said authoritatively. "The budget only allows for two. Even if I could find the funds, I can't have another one of my detectives out of service for a week, and that's final. Hutch and Arturo are going, as originally planned. They're just going to be gone a little longer, and I have every confidence in them. They'll be able to handle anything that comes up. Now everyone get back to work, and, Lizzie--find your partner."
Starsky and Hutch returned to their desks, watching as Lizzie headed for the phone. Since they'd been scheduled to be on their way to the airport, neither had any case folders opened to work on. Hutch plopped into his chair heavily, then sighed. "Okay, I definitely didn't pack enough clothes."
Starsky grinned at his friend, knowing Hutch's distaste for wearing the same thing more than once without its being laundered. "Well, we've got the whole day now, since you don't leave until tonight. We can swing back over to Venice Place, and you can find a few more things to dazzle Seattle with."
"Very funny, Starsk. I just want clean clothes to wear, and now I'll be gone at least three more days." Hutch glanced up as Lizzie approached. "Did you reach Arturo?" he asked.
"No," she responded, rubbing a kink in her neck. "I did reach his wife, though. Arturo left the house ninety minutes ago. It's a twenty-minute drive from his house to here, and if there was traffic or his car broke down, he would have called in. Something's happened," she said with a slight catch to her voice.
Hutch locked eyes with Starsky briefly before turning his full attention to Lizzie. "Take it easy. We don't know that anything has happened, yet. He could've been working a lead, or gotten a call from a snitch. You two been working anything hot recently?"
"No, nothing. We cleaned up our last case five days ago, and if Arturo had received a lead on something new, he would have called me."
Starsky placed a steady hand on the woman's arm. "You're right. He would've called you. I know I'd ream Blondie here a new one if he didn't call me if something was goin' down."
Hutch coughed lightly before speaking. "I still say it's probably nothing, and Arturo is going to walk in here any second, but we do need to let Dobey know and get some cars out on his route." Hutch got to his feet, but before he and the others could go back to Dobey's office, the door opened again and the captain came out, walking fast. The small group met in the middle of the squadroom.
"Captain," Lizzie began, "I called Arturo's house, and--"
"Hold on, Thorpe." Dobey turned steady eyes on his nervous detective. "I just got a call from Memorial Hospital. Arturo was brought in by ambulance nearly thirty minutes ago. He was attacked in a coffee shop in his neighborhood by a couple of punks robbing the place." Shocked faces met the news.
"How badly was he hurt?" Lizzie cried out, not noticing the hands gripping both of her elbows.
"The hospital said he's conscious, but he was beaten and sustained a blow to the head. You get on over there and check on him. I'll be there myself, as soon as I call his wife and get briefed from the officers on the scene. They're not from this division, but their captain is sending them over to talk to me personally, since it was one of my men injured. They're on their way in now."
All three turned heel and headed toward the door briskly, barely hearing Dobey's last words: "Call me as soon as you know how he is!"
Memorial Hospital was staffed with some of the best medical personnel in the state, but like any hospital any of the three had ever waited in, its emergency waiting room had chairs guaranteed to insure that no one would wait comfortably. Starsky wasn't even attempting to sit. He was pacing nervously in between runs to the vending machines to bring back unwanted packages of nuts and candy, and wanted cups of truly awful coffee.
Hutch looked up in annoyance as a pack of gum landed in his lap. He was sitting next to Thorpe and had one arm wrapped loosely around her shoulders, but he used his free hand to snag Starsky's sleeve. "Would you light somewhere, please?"
Before Starsky could respond, a doctor holding a clipboard approached them. "Are you the people waiting for Detective Flores?"
Lizzie and Hutch jumped to their feet and joined Starsky in a semi-circle around the doctor. Hutch spoke for the group. "We are. How is he?"
"He's going to be fine. Mild concussion, but no fracture."
Hutch opened his mouth to speak again, but closed it quickly when he saw Dobey moving with great speed down the hall. He had a hand on Carolyn Flores' arm, but whether he was guiding her, or she was pulling him, was impossible to determine.
"My husband?" Carolyn asked in a calm but shaky voice, once the pair skidded to a halt. Her tear-streaked face betrayed her state of mind.
The doctor reached for her elbow, smoothly taking her from Dobey's grip. "Mrs. Flores?" he asked to be certain, but didn't wait for an answering nod. "I've just been telling your friends that your husband is going to be fine. He took a bad beating, but there won't be any permanent damage. We're going to keep him overnight for observation, then with a few days' bed rest at home, he'll be as good as new."
"Thank God." The tears began to flow freely as Carolyn whispered her prayerful thanks, then burst out with a radiant smile. "Can I see him, Doctor?"
"Certainly," the man said with a kind expression. "I'll escort you back myself. We'll be transferring him upstairs shortly, but you can spend a few minutes with him now."
The doctor began to lead the way, but turned back, confused, as four voices assaulted him. "I'm afraid you'll need to speak one at a time."
Dobey and his three detectives all nodded understandably, then all started speaking again at the same time. The doctor turned quizzical eyes on Carolyn. "Do you know what they're asking, Mrs. Flores?"
Carolyn was nearly weak with relief, which was causing her stomach to bounce and her knees to shake, but she answered with laughter in her voice. "Yes, sir. These good people are all police officers, too, and they want to talk to my husband, but they're going to have to wait their turns. I'm going in first, but I'll be fast." With a gentle pat to Hutch's arm, Carolyn left with the doctor to see her husband.
"What do we know from the uniforms, Cap'n?" Starsky asked as the pair hurried off. Hutch and Lizzie reseated themselves to continue waiting.
Dobey lowered himself carefully into the snug plastic chair next to Hutch before he answered. "One witness. A girl about eighteen, working behind the counter. Flores was the only customer, and she'd just finished ringing him up when two men burst in, wearing ski masks and dark clothing. One went to the register and one went to Arturo. The girl said he announced he was a police officer, and that's when the perp started beating on him."
"Armed?" Starsky asked quietly, taking a seat himself.
"Both of them--small handguns," Dobey said, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "They didn't touch the girl, and they were in and out in no time."
"Well, they took enough time to pound Arturo," Hutch said bitterly, before standing back up and pacing the length of the chairs. "He tells the punks he's a cop and then they lay into him. Why? They had their guns drawn when they came in, right?"
"Right," Dobey confirmed. "That's what the girl told the investigating officers."
"Cap'n," Starsky started, then interrupted himself to watch his partner increase the speed of his pacing for a few seconds. "Hutch? Ya wanna sit back down before you make all of us dizzy?"
Hutch looked daggers at his partner. "Oh, you're a fine one to talk. How much money did you give the vending machines?"
"That was before we knew Arturo was okay." Starsky left his chair to join Hutch and lightly patted his stomach. "Now we know he is, so you can relax, buddy."
Hutch peered into the warm orbs focusing on him and felt some of the tension drain away. His mouth quirked into a half-smile as he barely nodded.
"I'll feel better when I--when we--can see him for ourselves," Lizzie said in a strained voice.
"It shouldn't be too much longer," Starsky spoke confidently, and with a patience often absent from his nature. He was well aware that if it were his partner in that treatment room, nothing would be keeping him outside.
As if on cue, Carolyn and the doctor returned to the waiting room. The doctor motioned to the tense group. "You can go in now, but just five minutes, so have your questions ready. My patient needs to get some rest."
On Dobey's orders, Starsky and Hutch drove Carolyn home, while he and Lizzie headed back to Metro. The brief visit with Arturo had yielded no further information, and for now, the case would be turned over to Robbery for investigation.
After telling her friends of her plans to get her daughter settled for the day with a neighbor before returning to the hospital, Carolyn asked both of them about the upcoming trip to Seattle. "What will happen, now? Arturo won't be able to travel for who knows how long. Will they postpone the trial?"
"I don't know, Carolyn," Hutch answered from the back seat. "This is a pretty hot case for the Seattle district attorney. They want Leonard in their jail and in their courtroom. Arturo and I both witnessed the same thing during that drug sting, but honestly, we're small potatoes compared to the rest of the evidence they have against the guy. They may go with just my testimony, as long as we can get Leonard delivered."
"One thing's for sure..." Starsky stared straight ahead, eyes on the traffic as he spoke. "...Dobey isn't sending you alone."
"Thinking about a visit to the Space Needle, Starsk?"
"I'm thinking about your back." Starsky looked away from the road for a moment to peer over the seat. "I intend to make sure it's covered."
Hutch's answering smile was both sweet and hopeful. "I guess we'll have to see what Dobey has in store for us. I'd bet the rent he's burning up the phone lines right now."
"No doubt." After a few more minutes of driving, Starsky slid the Torino to a stop outside the Flores' home. "Can we see you inside, Carolyn? Is there anything you need?"
"No, I'm fine now that I know my husband will be all right. I don't need anything, and you two need to get back to Metro. I've been a police officer's wife for a long time, now. I understand how things work." Carolyn added a pat to Starsky's cheek as she exited the car, then bent down to address them both through the open window. "Please, both of you promise to be careful. I don't like this case. I don't like it at all." With a final nod and a brief smile, she left them to hurry inside her house.
Hutch climbed over the back seat to take his normal place beside Starsky. The car was started again before he was completely seated, but his balance was good, and long years of practice kept him from bouncing around. Once he was settled, he placed a hand on his partner's thigh. "I know what you're thinking."
"Yeah? Well, it isn't a number."
"I know. It isn't a color, either."
"No, it isn't, and Arturo could've been set up."
"You're thinking if Arturo was set up, I could be next?"
"That's what I'm thinking."
"That's what I thought. Starsk--"
"And I'm not letting that happen. No way. No how. If you're still going to Seattle tonight, and Dobey assigns someone other than me to go with you, I'll buy a goddamned passenger ticket if I have to, but you're not going without me watching your back."
Hutch stroked along the tense thigh, wanting to ease his partner's stress, while knowing if the situation were reversed, he'd feel the same way. "Let's see what Dobey says, babe." The stroking hand moved up to tangle itself in the dark curls. "I love you that much, too."
"I know. Now help me think of some good arguments while I get us there."
It was late morning when the detectives entered the squadroom for the second time that day. They went straight to the captain's office without stopping to remove their jackets or check their desks for messages. Starsky rapped twice then entered without invitation. "We're back, Cap'n," he stated, making room for Hutch to enter behind him.
Dobey looked up from his desk with a tired expression. "Sit down, both of you. I've been on the phone since I got back here from the hospital."
The partners exchanged a knowing glance before focusing their attention back on Dobey. Starsky spoke first. "Is Leonard's transfer to Seattle still planned for tonight?"
"Yes. The commissioner has been working with our DA, who has been working with the Seattle DA since I called him about what happened to Arturo. Seattle says no delay. The trial will go on with Hutch's testimony, and, if they need to, they'll bring Arturo in later. Our directive is to get Leonard to Seattle tonight."
"I'm going with him, Cap'n." Starsky spoke steadily and with the ultimate confidence of a determined man.
"Do I look like a stupid person, Starsky?!" Dobey bellowed. "Just who the hell else do you think I'd assign to go with your partner now that Arturo is out?"
Hutch watched the two dark heads as they bobbed in heated conversation.
"Never said you were stupid, Cap'n; in fact, both me and Hutch think you're pretty smart. I just wanted to put my cards on the table."
"Well, Detective, you can just pick up your cards and move your flashy behind right on out of here. Go clean up whatever you need to on your desk, then go home and pack a bag. You're both meeting the county guards at five-thirty tonight at the train station. You'll be escorting William Leonard to the Seattle jail, and I expect it to go smoothly."
Starsky nodded as he bounced from his chair. He was halfway to the door, when Dobey called him back. "Starsky, for now, plan on staying until Hutch is done testifying. Until we know more about Arturo and when--or if--he'll be going...well, I just want it that way. You'll hear from me if I want you back early. You'll be sharing a double room with your partner at the motel, just like Arturo was going to do, so there's no need to get a reservation in your name, but the train reservations have to be switched. We'll take care of that from here."
Starsky's eyes flicked briefly in Hutch's direction, but he checked it, nodded again and left the office. Hutch rose more slowly and gave his superior a grateful smile, as he followed his friend back out to their desks. Starsky was already seated and scribbling something on a yellow legal pad. Hutch perched on the desk itself, scooting back far enough to let his legs dangle.
"What are you writing down?" he asked, then picked up the long since cold cup of coffee he'd left earlier.
"Even I wouldn't drink that," Starsky commented without glancing up.
"I'm not going to drink it; I was thinking about refilling it if you're going to be a while. What are you writing?" he repeated.
"Just some notes for Minnie. I owe her some files, and I was going to take care of them while you were gone. Now that I'm gonna be gone, too, maybe she can sweet-talk one of the junior guys into doin' 'em for me."
"Oh, dream on, Starsk. Not even Minnie thinks you're that cute." Hutch folded his arms across his waist and enjoyed the smirk offered as a response.
"I'll have you know, Minnie thinks I'm adorable. However, you may be right in this instance, but if I leave the notes and run…"
"I'll be strolling right behind you. Can we go now?"
"You got the notes on Leonard?"
Hutch was beginning to feel antsy and it showed. "Of course I do, I packed them this morning, remember? I was supposed to be on a plane right now."
"Sorry," Starsky said, slightly chagrined. "I'll just be two more minutes." He finished his notes, then glanced around the squadroom once, before grabbing his jacket and jerking his chin in Hutch's direction. "We're outta here."
It was a short drive to Starsky's place, and just like the earlier morning's ride had been, this one was also spent mainly in silence. Once inside, Hutch headed straight for the phone.
"Gonna check on Arturo."
"Okay, I'm gonna get packed." Starsky headed for his bedroom closet and pulled a small duffle bag down from the top shelf. The early afternoon sun was flooding the room, causing the wine-colored bedspread to glow with warmth. He stuffed shirts and sweaters inside while listening to Hutch's brief, one-sided conversation, then smiled when his partner entered the room and flopped unceremoniously atop the wide bed.
"Nope. He's resting comfortably."
"That's real good."
"I know. It could've been a lot worse." Hutch grabbed a pillow and jammed it under his head, then flipped to his side so he could watch Starsky more comfortably. "Can you grab a couple of my shirts and stick them in, too?"
"Sure." Starsky hurried through the hangers with nimble fingers, finding two of Hutch's cotton shirts hanging together between his own. He held them up for inspection. "These okay?"
"Yeah, fine," Hutch answered with a lazy smile. "Are you about done?"
"I just need to grab some stuff from the bathroom." Starsky paused to gaze fondly at the relaxed form. "What's the rush? We have close to three hours before we have to be at the train station."
"I just thought we could stretch out together for a while. It was a pretty tense morning, and it's going to be a tense trip tonight--sleeping in shifts, having Leonard cuffed to one of us, keeping the other passengers away, and watching for …well, whatever. I just thought it'd be nice to do some relaxing now."
Starsky grinned and dove for the bed playfully. He scrunched up close to Hutch's side from behind and gave him a brief squeeze, then left his arms in a loose hug. "Sounds good to me."
"I saw that little look on your face in Dobey's office before," Hutch said without turning around. "Do we need to talk about it?"
"What little look?"
"Starsk, come on."
"You know I'm past all that."
"Then why the look?"
Starsky tightened his hold a little, while his fingers played with the buttons on Hutch's shirt. "I was just surprised you hadn't said anything about sharing a room is all."
"I honestly didn't give it a second thought." Hutch captured one of the roving digits and entwined it with his own. "You and I always shared rooms when we traveled on a case. It's just budget stuff."
"Yeah, but with us, we wanted it that way, even before… I mean, always."
Hutch laughed throatily and brought two fingers to his mouth to kiss. Then he released them and shoved Starsky back a little so he could roll over and lie face to face. "I know what you mean, Starsk, but even if we hadn't wanted it that way, we would have had it that way, regardless. That's all I'm saying."
"Guess I just prefer being your only roommate." Starsky reached over to push some hair out of Hutch's eyes, letting his hand linger to smooth the broad forehead. "You know I'm sorry as hell about what happened to Arturo, and maybe I'm feelin' a little guilty that I'm…well, that…"
"I know all that," Hutch said, following with a slow grin. "I know every single little thing about you."
"I'd like to think I have some mystery about me." Starsky spoke in a mock-indignant tone, causing his partner to laugh out loud.
"Not an ounce. Don't even bother arguing with me."
"You're upset about Arturo getting hurt. You're concerned whether it was really a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if it was a deliberate attack to keep him from testifying. You're worried about me, and happy as hell that you're the one going with me." Hutch's grin was toothy, as he accepted the wide-eyed, open-mouthed stare being leveled at him. "I think that sums it all up."
"You really think you've got my number, don't ya?"
"Oh, yeah. I'll tell you something else."
"Do I wanna hear it?"
"Definitely." Hutch scooted closer until he pressed against his partner's length. One leg was thrown over Starsky's thigh, and Starsky could feel the warmth of his partner's breath on his face. "I know what you want to do with our three free hours."
"Sure do." Short, nipping kisses accompanied the words, and Starsky arched his neck to accommodate the full lips traveling over his throat and face. "Let me tell you what it is."
"I'm listenin'." Starsky was trying to anchor the roving blond head as it made its way toward his ear. Electric quivers ran up and down his spine when Hutch curled his tongue and drilled it wetly inside the tiny cavern. "Oh, babe, talk to me."
One hand found its way to the buttons on Starsky's shirt, opening them quickly, while the other hand swirled through his hair, massaging his scalp at the same time the sweet mouth was staking its claim. "Well, first of all, you want to get this shirt all the way off." The one-handed unbuttoning was now complete, and the hem was being drawn from Starsky's jeans.
"You're right, I do." Starsky lifted up a little to help the removal of the long-sleeved garment from his arms, then he tossed it to the floor and lay back down on his side. Hutch began awakening each of Starsky's nipples to the delight that long fingers could bring, while he traced slightly reddened lips. "Tell me more."
"Hm," Hutch whispered before scooting lower in the bed. "I need to get these a little wet, first." He indicated the pulsing nubs under his fingertips with a few gentle twisting tugs, then moistened each one with the tip of his tongue. The stroke was feather light and darting. Guaranteed to make a man's knees weak, and Starsky was grateful he was lying down.
The flushed face looked up with a grin. "You know those really big sponges? The soft kind?"
"Sponges?" Starsky was beginning to get distracted, while wishing Hutch would go back to doing that thing with his tongue. He arched his chest, hoping to get Hutch back to business. "What about sponges?"
"You want to get some."
"Of course you do, what else would you use? Those nice big sponges, all dripping and making the lather get into all those little hard to reach places." Hutch flattened his palms and began to rub lazy circles on Starsky's chest and taut belly. "You'd want to use a circular motion like this, wouldn't you?"
"A bath?" Starsky thought he was catching on now. "You want us to take a bath?" he exclaimed, while reaching around to stroke an upraised hip. "I can get into all of your hard to reach places and you know it."
Hutch's hand was circling just above Starsky's groin, now, not making purchase with anything but air, and still Starsky gasped the same way he would if Hutch were actually stroking him…bare…handling him. "Hutch?"
"You ready now, babe?" Hutch whispered, letting his hand begin to skim across the straining denim. "You want to get started?"
"Thought we were," Starsky answered, trying to push against the maddeningly light touch that was teasing him to distraction.
"We can't do it here, Starsk."
"The bed? We can't do it in the bed? Since when?" Starsky was speaking far too quickly, and he was also blinking rapidly. "Oh, wait, the sponge. Bath. We're doin' it, there."
"Now, how can we do it there? We have to do it outside."
"Outside? In broad daylight?!"
"Of course, that's where the car is."
"The car? Okay, you've lost your mind, right?"
"You said just this morning, how dirty your car was, and how the first thing you were going to do when you had some free time was wash and wax it." Hutch delivered his words calmly, but he was nibbling on his own lips as soon as he was done. Starsky saw the laughter in the light blue eyes, though, and in two seconds, Hutch was pushed roughly to his back with his partner's weight pinning him to the mattress.
"Oh, you're gonna get it!" Starsky used one hand to pin both of Hutch's wrists over his head. The other hand was occupied with providing a firm massage to Hutch's groin. "You're gonna get it but good!"
"Show, don't tell," Hutch rasped out, then added almost primly. "They say physical exertion is a very good stress reliever."
"Just watch me exert you." Starsky hadn't released Hutch's wrists yet, but he managed to wiggle liquidly anyway, allowing his chest hair to tickle the finely shaped nose on his partner's expectant face. At the first feel of a wet tongue dampening the crisp hair, Starsky whistled through clenched teeth, then rested a hungry nipple against the parted lips.
Hutch didn't seem to need any further encouragement, and Starsky released a sigh of pure contentment as he felt the protrusion's capture between sharp teeth. Then, the real toying began, and the sigh turned into something deeper. Momentarily caught as a very willing prisoner, Starsky held his upper body rigid, but worked a knee up to continue tormenting the now bulging crotch his hand had abandoned. "Gonna make you sweat, ya know."
Hutch raised his own knees high and let them fall open as widely as he could, in order to enjoy the full benefit of this unorthodox massage. One that was making him murmur feline noises deep in his throat, as he lavished tongue and lips over the pulsing nub, while fingering the other just as lovingly. The strong knee found his balls, and Hutch released the nipple with a groan. "Oh, Starsk…good…that's so good."
"Bet your ass it is." Starsky grinned wickedly and released Hutch's wrists with a warning. "Keep 'em over your head. I'm going to get you naked now."
The commanding voice added to Hutch's arousal, as he began to imagine how this was going to play out. Starsky in control was fine with him; in fact, he loved it when his innovative partner got a little pushy in bed. Demanding fingers began exploring his rigidly encased cock, and his eyes squeezed shut, sensation starting there but traveling through him like liquid fire. The next groan of pleasure was silenced by a warm mouth doing more than kissing him. It was joining them, merging their souls again in preparation to the merging of their bodies.
Hutch locked his fingers over his head, feeling so lucky; so wanted. When Starsky raised his mouth from his own, the tender wetness illuminated the smile he loved so much. Normally, they made love at night, or in the gray dawn of morning. To be able to see the sun-bathed face so clearly, ripe with passion and longing--longing for him, made Hutch's heart soar. Then Starsky pushed Hutch's knees down and straddled him, and Hutch felt his zipper being released. Jeans and briefs were tugged low, as his cock was engulfed in two hands. One squeezing its base, as the other thumbed the slick ridge and found the pulsing vein running the underside's length with pure fuel.
It was music. It was the "Prokofieff Third," and Starsky was playing him like a master pianist at a beloved Steinway. The heat in the room was cool in comparison to the inferno building inside him, as Starsky found every pleasure point and made it hum.
Hutch's eyes had closed languidly when the fondling began, but the sound of Starsky drawing his own zipper down caused Hutch's lids to fly open, for he could never get enough of seeing his partner undress in preparation for this act. Each time was the first time, and each time was poetry.
Starsky's cock was as beautiful as the man himself--its thickness bold with color in this bright light. Hutch craved to handle it, but he waited for his partner's next move, filled with as much romantic tenderness as he was with anticipatory need.
Hutch watched as Starsky drew his jeans all the way to his ankles, then chuckled deeply, as Starsky cursed when the material refused to pass over the sneaker-clad feet.
"You're really beautiful, babe, but you need to lose the shoes."
Starsky grinned and hopped off the bed in order to remove the offending footwear. In short order, he returned naked and resplendent, causing that feeling again in Hutch. The feeling that had nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with love and completion.
With hands still resting above his head, Hutch enjoyed the motion of his shirt being opened and his chest smoothed and stroked, as Starsky re-straddled him. The verse of a long ago learned poem played in Hutch's head, and he whispered part of it out loud.
He was my north, my south, my east and west
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song…
Starsky looked up from his exploration of quivering muscle under sleek skin. "You know it makes me even hotter when you start spouting off like that, Blondie. That's real pretty, finish it."
Hutch thought of the remaining verses, and a tiny chill combated his body's heat. He shook his head simply before he answered. "We have better things to do than talk, don't we?"
"Yeah, I guess we do." Starsky abandoned Hutch's chest in order to finish undressing him. When Hutch's lower body was completely nude and the last of the open shirt pulled free and tossed to the floor, he nestled on his side, tight against Hutch. He used his index finger to smooth the line between the gold-colored brows, as he smiled sweetly. The other hand possessively lodged in Hutch's groin. "So, babe?"
Hutch reached up to stroke the uncovered cheek; his own smile was just as sweet. "I'm going to roll over."
Starsky didn't even nod. He just made the necessary room, then stretched to reach inside the nightstand drawer to retrieve the lubricant. Preparation was practiced and skilled. The long legs beneath him only needed the briefest nudge to widen. The tight hole needed only moments of swirling attention before it opened to welcome him. Starsky slid in smoothly, then leaned forward across Hutch's back to clasp his hands in his own before he moved, listening to Hutch's sigh of contentment.
Hutch was right, he realized. No words were needed.
Ten minutes early for their rendezvous, the detectives waited inside the comfortably appointed train station, each with a small bag at his feet. The large area was crowded both with people waiting for trains to take them to their destinations, and those who were there to pick up arriving passengers. A crowded public place was not an ideal venue for a prisoner transfer, and both men felt the tension in their muscles and tendons as they watched the doors for the arrival of the county guards and William Leonard.
"Did Dobey say if Leonard's attorney was riding along?" Starsky asked, watching as Hutch cracked and popped a wad of gum in his mouth. "How many pieces are you chewing?"
"Two, and he didn't say. Even if he is, he knows he can't sit with us or try and approach Leonard en route. We're in the last car, in the last row. The seats are arranged two on one side of the aisle, and two on the other. Remember what Dobey said? The budget allowed for one extra ticket, so no one sits with us. It just didn't allow for that seat to have an officer in it."
"I wish we could'a checked out the train ourselves, before we board it with Leonard," Starsky said, his tone worried. "I don't like not knowing what's around us or where the exits are."
"Yeah, I know, me, too, but considering how fast they had to book us and change the arrangements, I think we probably have the best set-up possible. At least with our being in the last car, we'll have some kind of privacy. The other passengers won't pass by us on their way to the dining car or the lounges." A few additional gum-cracks followed the thought.
"Guess we'll make the best of it. Would've been nice to be in a sleeping car, though, wouldn't it?" Starsky mentioned longingly. "You don't have to remind me of the budget either. Never thought I'd get so sick of a single word in just one day."
"Nothing we haven't heard a million times before, especially during salary talks." Hutch glanced at the doors again, before turning his attention back to his partner. "You're the train lover and expert. Do you know how many passengers one car holds?"
"About fifty or sixty, I think." Starsky was about to elaborate further, when he spotted a large group of men entering the station with their prisoner in the middle. Leonard was wearing a leather belt around his waist, with wrist cuffs attached to it. Although he was dressed in normal street clothes and not prison issue, the cuffs combined with the armed guards surrounding him had already caused attention in the waiting room. "Okay, it's show time," Starsky whispered softly. He and Hutch quickly walked over to the group. Both had their identification badges out and open when they approached.
"Here's your man," the guard holding Leonard by an elbow said, once the detectives' badges had been thoroughly inspected. "We have transfer paperwork for you to sign."
"Got a pen?" Starsky asked, reaching for the clipboard. Starsky signed all the forms while Hutch removed his set of handcuffs, clicking his left wrist inside one half, while the other remained open. "You're takin' first shift?" Starsky clarified while handing the paperwork back to the guard.
"That's right," Hutch answered before moving toward the prisoner. He took a moment to size him up before speaking. Hutch hadn't seen him since the night he'd arrested him, but he remembered the temper and disgust William Leonard had displayed that evening. That same temper was barely being restrained now, as Leonard glared with unblinking, cold eyes. He was thirty years old, tall, and carried a large, heavily muscled frame. His complexion was pale and pasty, the result of months spent residing in the county jail awaiting his transfer and trial.
Hutch ignored the look of contempt and hatred being transmitted by thin lips and knitted eyebrows, instead speaking to the guard holding the prisoner's arm. "Let me cuff him first, and then you can take the gear off." He reached for Leonard's right wrist, but the man pulled back as much as he could and held himself stiff, arm tight against his hip, refusing to cooperate. The guard shook his head in disgust, and forcibly lifted Leonard's wrist the few inches his restraints would allow.
"I can't say I envy you two." The man was helping Hutch secure the wrist cuff as he spoke. "Mr. Leonard hasn't been one of our all time favorite guests at the Hotel Shangri La, have you, William?"
Leonard's lips curled dangerously. "Whats'a matter? You still upset 'cause I wouldn't give you any on the side?"
The guard paled slightly, but retained his composure. "That's it, Billy. It was your ass I was after all the time. Too bad for me, but I'm sure you'll meet plenty of nice fellas just fighting for it for the rest of your natural life."
Starsky stepped forward quickly. "Okay, let's put an end to these heartfelt good-byes, shall we? We've got a train to catch." He checked the wrist cuff himself, then looked Leonard in the eye. "Now, we're all gonna have a peaceful trip, is that understood? You're gonna sit quietly and enjoy the view. If you try and give either my partner or myself any trouble…well, you'll wish you hadn't." Starsky widened his smile enough to show teeth. "Got it?"
|SHSVS Home||||||Zebra3 Productions||||||Episode Main Page|