Heartfelt Thanks
by pepcidDC

SHSVS, Episode 614

**********

Wednesday Afternoon:

Headquarters had gone insane.

The first clue was the extraordinary number of police vehicles parked out front.

"Something's up," Starsky commented as he circled the lot again, looking for a space.

Hutch nodded. "We were only gone, what, two hours?" On a fruitless interview that had yielded nothing on a case going nowhere. Hutch sighed and let his head drop back on the seat, as Starsky circled again, found a spot, and slid in before a black-and-white could grab it.

A space in the outside lot.

They still avoided the garage whenever possible--a mutual decision they never really discussed. Hutch closed his eyes, remembering when he had brought Starsky home from the hospital.

"How'd you know--?" Hutch frowned, obviously puzzled how Starsky could know where the bullets had lodged since he'd never seen the car in its damaged state.

"I know one went through the window, and there were two in the side." Starsky squinted at the car. "I figure, the two that hit me here," he pointed to a spot on his stomach, "and here," then to another spot a bit higher, "must'a gone in right about there. The one that nailed my lung had to be the one that shattered the window."

"How did you know the window was broken?"

"Shattering glass," Starsky said, more to himself than Hutch, his fingertips resting lightly against the bottom of the restored window on the driver's side. "I...I remember shattering glass." He swallowed. "In dreams sometimes. It's not very clear. Good to know I was right, though. Now I know I'm not nuts."

"Not about that, anyway," Hutch quipped, trying to lighten the mood a little. "Ready to go now?"(1)

Hutch opened his eyes and rubbed his head, banishing the images from his mind. He ignored his partner's worried glance as they headed for the station.

The next clue came when they walked through the doors of the squadroom and into an utter madhouse. The halls were filled with people--all shapes, colors, and sizes--all in handcuffs. They were handcuffed to the railings on the stairs, to benches and chairs, to file cabinets. There was even a long chain stretched between desks, with people chained along its length. From what Hutch could see, they were spilling out of the interrogation rooms. The noise level was intense, with everyone talking and complaining, some at the top of their lungs.

"What the hell?" Starsky stopped dead, his sneakers squeaking on the floor. There was a chain wrapped around the vending machine and a couple of guys chained there as well.

"Hutch! Starsky!" Dobey's voice called. "Get your butts in here."

They moved farther down the hall and into the squadroom to see that every available table and desk was filled with officers processing perps. Lizzie and Arturo were there, with a handcuffed prisoner in a chair by each of their desks. Through the door, they could see Dobey standing at his desk, apparently taking a guy's fingerprints. Starsky stopped dead in his tracks for a second time. "Captain? Booking?" He clutched at his breast and staggered, bumping into the desk.

"Wise ass. Get to work." Dobey took his prisoner's hand and rolled it on the inkpad.

Hutch grabbed his chair. "What the hell's going on?"

"We was framed." A fat, sweaty man in the chair next to Hutch's desk squirmed in his handcuffs.

Arturo snorted as he pulled a report from his machine. "B & E decided to run a sting operation in our neck of the woods. They set up a pawnshop, used cops from another precinct to man the thing, and started doing business. Let it be known that they weren't choosy as to where the merchandise came from." He signed off at the bottom. "In a fit of creative stupidity, they invited their 'customers' to a pre-Thanksgiving party. A 'thanks-for-your-support' kind of thing. Passed along the story about having a big spread. Open bar. Women. They went so far as to hire a hall."

Starsky snickered. "A great big hall, with a band and all."

Everyone, including the perps, rolled their eyes.

Arturo stood, gesturing for his guy to stand. "All their customers showed up, eager for a party."
He pulled the guy into Dobey's office and seated him in a chair. "This one's ready for prints, Cap'n."

Dobey snarled as he pressed his current "customer's" fingers on a print sheet. "Worked even better than they thought it would. As a result, booking is overwhelmed and we're taking the overflow."

"This is the overflow?" Hutch looked a little dazed and pitied the guys in booking. "I didn't think we had this many cells."

"I didn't know we had this many handcuffs," Starsky commented.

"Yeah," Dobey growled. "Unless these guys are all processed by tonight, it blows the hell out of the holiday sche--"

"Hey, man! I gotta go!" one of the guests out in the hall called out, and he was joined by hoots and hollers of some of the others.

"Damn," Dobey snorted. "I better see if I can get a uniform for escort duty. If one needs to go, they'll all have to go."

"Nah," Starsky said. "I'll do it." He moved back to the hallway. "All right, you bums, who's first?"

Lizzie shot a glance at Dobey's back.

"Problem?" Hutch asked quietly, as he got ready for his first customer.

She puffed out a breath of exasperated air. "No, just that I had asked to get off early tonight and for tomorrow off. Now, thanks to these idiots--"

Arturo chimed in, "We'll get it done, Lizzie."

Lizzie glared at the hapless man sitting cuffed in the chair next to her. "What's your name?"

The guy scowled at her and stayed quiet.

Lizzie narrowed her eyes.

The guy swallowed hard and complied with the demand.

**********

Sadly, eighty-five percent of police work is paperwork. Neat, accurate, and done right the first time. Once they got into a routine, the detectives really started cranking out the work. It was just a matter of getting it all done.

"Hey, Hutch."

Hutch never looked up as he typed. "Yeah, Arturo?"

"You got plans for Thanksgiving?" The younger man was banging away at his typewriter. "Carolyn says you should come over to our place."

Starsky waltzed in with a fresh suspect for Lizzie. Hutch couldn't help notice the grace of his movements, as he almost seemed to dance. He caught the vague sound of Starsky humming under his breath. "Hey, Starsk."

The dark curls danced as the head swiveled in his direction, eyebrows raised in a silent "what?"

"Arturo's inviting us for Thanksgiving."

Starsky shook his head. "We got plans."

"We do?"

"We do." Starsky made his way through the press of bodies into Dobey's office. "Captain, got any ready to go?"

Hutch shrugged. "Guess we got plans, Arturo."

Arturo laughed. "Guess you do." He cleared his throat a bit. "How about you, Lizzie?"

Lizzie looked up from her desk. "Huh?"

"Carolyn wanted me to invite you and your daughter for Thanksgiving." He looked abashed. "I know it's kinda late notice, but it'd be nice to get together."

Hutch held his breath. Lizzie stopped what she was doing and looked at her partner. "Well, we were gonna get together with my mom."

"Bring her, too."

Lizzie looked back down at her paperwork. "I'll talk to her tonight and give you a call."

Verducci spoke up. "Hey, Arturo, did I hear Carolyn's expecting?"

Arturo smiled proudly. "Yeah." He pounded on his typewriter. "How old is yours now, Verducci?"

The pride in Verducci's voice was obvious. "Seven months." He pulled his report from the typewriter and started signing. "We really wanted to take the baby to see my in-laws this year. My wife's dad's not so good and can't travel. I've got the time, but with a house, three dogs, plants, and goldfish, no way we can leave the house empty. You know how much they charge at the kennel?"

Lizzie looked up. "Bad?"

"Bad." Verducci sighed. "And you can't kennel goldfish."

Everyone looked at him.

He shrugged. "My wife, she's real attached to the fish. And no way in hell the goldfish are going with us."

Dobey stood in the doorway to his office. "I'm caught up. Anybody ready for fingerprints?"

Verducci stood. "Here ya go. This guy's ready." He got his guy up and moving, then returned to his desk. "Hey, Hutch, you guys still thinking about buying a house?"

Hutch shrugged. "Yeah. Been too busy to do anything about it besides talk." Internally he winced. Yeah, they'd been busy, but there were other considerations.

"Starsky, I've been thinking."

"Oh, God. Why do those words always strike terror in my heart?" Starsky kidded.

"Oh, be quiet." Hutch smacked Starsky's forearm where it lay on the tabletop. "I'm serious. I've been thinking more about us buying a house."

"Yeah?" Starsky was wary but willing to let his partner have his say.

"Yeah, I think we should cool it for a while on that."

"Why? I thought you liked the idea of us moving in together." Starsky wasn't sure if he should be hurt or not. Hutch's next words let him know he needn't worry.

"Finney." Hutch almost spat out the IA man's name. "He's watching us; he as much as said so. I don't think he can do much about us being at each other's places, not unless he bugged our apartments or something, but us buying a house and moving in together would send up a red flag even he couldn't ignore." Starsky's hand was still lying on the table, and Hutch placed his on top. "I want to live with you more than anything, but I don't want us risking our jobs after we fought--you fought--so hard to make it back." Starsky turned his hand under Hutch's until their palms were against each other and they could entwine fingers.(2)

Verducci's voice brought Hutch back to the present. "Well, ya got plans for Christmas? I was kinda thinking, what with you thinking about buying a house, maybe I could get you to housesit. Kinda try it out for a week, maybe ten days." He smirked. "I got a hot tub out back. Chicks really dig a hot tub."

Lizzie laughed. "How would you know, Mr. Been-Married-Forever?"

Verducci drew himself up. "My wife is a chick."

Arturo grinned. "I feel the same away about mine, mi amigo."

Hutch grinned, too, but he was thinking about getting a certain curly-haired lover sprawled in a hot tub. "Don't know yet, Verducci. Let me think about it."

Lizzie was rubbing her forehead. "Anyone got an aspirin?"

Starsky walked in. "Got one for you, Verducci." He escorted a tiny, elderly black woman to the chair. She was dressed as if for church, in a pink two-piece suit with matching hat, purse, and shoes. Starsky smiled as he settled her into the chair. "Here you go. Comfortable?"

"Yes, thank you, Detective." Starsky left with a smile as she turned to Verducci, who stood with a stunned look on his face.

Verducci called after the departing detective, "Starsky, you sure there isn't a mistake?"

"Young man." The little old lady sat straight up in her chair. "I have been in the business since you were in diapers."

Hutch turned his head and laughed. "Hey, Mrs. Dobsen."

She turned, pink hat perched on her small head. "Detective Hutchinson, how nice to see you." Her eyes widened. "You shaved your moustache!"

"Yes, ma'am." Hutch grinned at Verducci's face. "Meet Mrs. Dobsen. She supplements her Social Security with the occasional theft. Her priors would fill a book. It's not a mistake."

Mrs. Dobsen settled back in the chair. "It was a very clever bust. I just wish they'd served dinner before they arrested us. The food smelled good."

Hutch grinned. "Not to mention the open bar."

Mrs. Dobsen smiled back, a twinkle in her eye. "Well, I do like a good snort once in a while." She patted her hat to make sure it was in place. The silver handcuffs made an odd counter-point to her thin, dark wrists. "Now, young man." She turned to look at Verducci. "I'll give you my name and address, but I am not telling you my age."

Hutch turned back to his own desk, chuckling. Starsky came back into the room, with a coffeepot of clear water. He moved to the coffee maker and poured the water into the back. He was singing that tune again, under his breath. Hutch could barely make out the words. "If I knew you were comin', I'd'a baked a cake. Baked a cake, baked a big fat--"

Dobey was standing in his doorway again. "Anybody?"

"Give me a minute, sir," Lizzie responded. "Almost done here."

Dobey leaned against the doorjamb. "Hey, Hutch. You and Starsky got plans for Thanksgiving? Edith wanted me to invite you over."

Starsky responded, "We got plans."

Dobey frowned. "Plans?"

Hutch shrugged. "Apparently."

Dobey's voice was tinged with worry. "You two aren't going out of town are you?"

There was a pause as every head swiveled to look at Starsky. "Nope."

"It's just that things happen when you guys go out of town," Dobey said.

Now the sun was starting to set, and they had decided on a change of clothing for the evening and to get a nice dinner on the main gambling strip. Hutch knew Starsky had his hopes set on finding a large buffet somewhere. The rest of the night could unfold as it would.

Hutch jerked awake as the car came to a stop and Starsky turned off the engine. He hadn't realized they were that close to the hotel, nor that it was almost sunset.

"Time to get cleaned up for dinner!" Starsky announced happily, reaching into the back seat for his camera bag. "After we get changed and our stuff is stowed away, we'll ask the hotel manager where the best buffet is. I bet he knows where the best slots are, too."

"Sounds good. We can--" Hutch broke off, as he saw movement from a car several spaces down to their right. Something made his hair stand on end. "Starsk...."

Keeping his eyes on the occupants in the car, Hutch could feel that he had Starsky's attention.

"I see 'em, Hutch. Looks like they're interested in us, too."

There were three men who were getting out of a car and were heading their way. The men were too well dressed to be travelers or at the hotel on vacation, and they had been watching him and Starsky as they drove in. The men didn't look concerned that he and Starsky obviously knew they were on their way over.

"They're packing." Hutch sighed to himself as he moved to get out of the car. Their own guns would have to be in the trunk.

Getting out, Hutch shut his door and leaned back against the car, waiting for Starsky who was walking around the car. As they came within speaking distance, the man in the lead nodded politely at him. Hutch nodded back just as Starsky settled next to him against the car.

"Gentlemen, I'm looking for Detectives Hutchinson and Starsky, from the Bay City PD." The tall, gray-haired man reached into his jacket pocket and revealed a detective's badge. "I assume you two are the ones I'm looking for?"

Hutch gave Starsky a guarded look, which was returned.

Why do I feel that the smart answer would be no?

"That's us," Starsky answered without emotion, holding out a hand to receive the badge that the other detective surrendered reluctantly. After glancing at it, he handed it to Hutch. "What can we do for you, gentlemen?"

Hutch glanced at the badge and the ID card that accompanied it. It was authentic.

"I'm Detective First Class Abner Reighter. These are Detectives Frost and Williamson. If you don't mind, we'd like to have a word with you two."

"Voluntarily or involuntarily?" Hutch asked, wondering how important this was and how pushy the detectives would be.

Reighter raised his hands, palms up. "Really, it could go either way. We can discuss it here, or downtown. You gentlemen know the drill."

"Great," Starsky murmured unhappily. "There goes one nice day down the toilet. You might as well come in."

"Okay," Starsky said impatiently. "Let's get this over with. Why are you here?"
The three men exchanged glances.

"Look, gentlemen," Reighter began, sounding as if he were trying to control his anger. "We know that you're cops, but you're poaching on our territory. And, frankly, we don't need any help, haven't asked for any, and resent the fact that you feel you can just walk in and do whatever you want."

"Wait, wait!" Hutch snapped, glancing at Starsky to see that he was just as confused. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about! My partner and I have a few days off and are on vacation. A spur-of-the-moment vacation that we didn't even know we were taking until late yesterday afternoon."

"So if you want to start making some sense," Starsky continued, irritation radiating from him, "then you'd better start at the beginning of this fantasy of yours."

"You want us to believe that you're not here on a case? Or here for a personal vendetta?" Frost asked.

Hutch shrugged helplessly at Starsky before replying. "What do you want? A lie detector test? We told you why we're here. How about telling us why you're here?"(3)

"Hell, things happen when they stay in town," Verducci observed.

"Hutch! Freeze!" Starsky hissed. "Don't move!"

"What?" Hutch looked up at him in surprise but held himself still.

It moved again, slick and smooth in the darkness, just under the hem of Hutch's pant leg. As Hutch started to open his mouth to say something he stopped, the fair features going pale in the dim light, eyes wide as they met Starsky's.

It was moving again, this time under the hem of Hutch's bellbottoms, moving around his ankle.

"There's...something..." Hutch gulped audibly, bloody hands gripping the back of the seat tightly.

"Yeah, I know. Just don't move, okay? Let me get some help."

"Hold still, Hutch. Just. Don't. Move."

"Wasn't planning on it," Hutch said softly, looking and sounding brittle. "I can feel it moving around. It's moving up my calf and has a good grip on my leg. Starsk, it's big!"

"Lookit, Hutch, this is what we're going to do." Starsky signaled to the fireman who was half in the window on the other side of Hutch, fire extinguisher ready. "You lean as far over toward Fireman...uh..."

"Joe," the fireman volunteered quickly.

"You lean toward Joe as far as you can, so he can aim the extinguisher over your front and toward your knee. It's going to be really cold, and as he moves it down your leg the snake will feel winter comin' and decide to leave. When he does, I'm going to pin him down with the flat end of the tire iron. Joe is then going to drop the extinguisher, grab you and pull you out'a the window, and patrolman--"

"Jack."

"Yeah, Jack here is going to shoot it. Got it?"

"Sounds like fun," Hutch muttered as he began to lean away from Starsky. "Let's hurry this up, okay? This guy can't wait around anymore."

On the count of three, Joe the Fireman switched on the extinguisher and aimed it at Hutch's knee. By the surprised look on his partner's face, Starsky knew it must have been really cold. The spray was moved farther down his leg, and as it moved, Starsky could see the snake move as well. After a moment, the broad, flat head of the snake appeared near the toe of Hutch's boot.

Jamming the flat end of the tire iron down on the back of the snake's neck, Starsky yelled for them to move. Before Hutch was halfway out window on the other side, Jack was over Starsky's shoulder with the gun. Starsky kept up the pressure on the twisting reptile, could feel it lose its struggle to hang on to Hutch. But as soon as it lost its hold and Hutch was out the window, Jack shot three times at the writhing reptile.

It stopped moving after a moment, but Starsky, not being one to trust a snake any further than he had to, used the tire iron to roll the carcass into a plastic sack someone had handed them. The next thing Starsky knew, he had pulled the heavy sack through the window and had dumped it several feet behind the wreck.

Almost shaking with relief, it was all Starsky could do not to pull a shell-shocked Hutch into his arms. Instead, he settled for thumping him soundly on the back, earning a glare instead. "Just our luck, huh?"

"And how's that?" Hutch asked, looking tired and a bit jumpy.

"Well, what are the odds that we would run into a snake? Is that freaky or what?"

"Par for the course, I guess."(4)

Starsky straightened, the coffee machine making its familiar chortling sounds behind him. "After last year, we have plans. Him. Me. A turkey. Capice?"

Everyone nodded and returned to their work. All except Dobey, who gave Starsky a long look, leaning in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Starsky turned back to the pot, but he could feel Dobey's eyes on his back.

The phone rang and Hutch picked it up. "Hutchinson."

"Hutch, my man."

"Huggy. What's going on?"

"Wanted to see if you and Starsky had plans for Turkey-day. I'm getting together with my cousins, and you're invited."

Hutch tried to picture a Thanksgiving dinner that would feed all of Huggy's cousins, and his mind boggled. "Nope, sorry. We got plans."

"That's okay, my friend, glad to hear it." Huggy cleared his throat. Hutch could hear the familiar sounds of the bar in the background. "Listen, need to ask a favor."

"Name it."

"Need you here at the bar, Saturday, four o'clock."

Hutch frowned slightly at the worry in Huggy's voice. "Something wrong?"

"Nah, just need you here. Okay?"

"Hang on." Hutch cradled the phone on his shoulder. "Starsk. Huggy wants us to come to The Pits Saturday afternoon. Anything in our plans prevent that?"

"Nah. That's good." Starsky had grabbed the coffeepot and was filling cups. When he turned, he could see Dobey was back in his office, fingerprinting another suspect.

"We'll be there," Hutch spoke into the phone.

"Good. Thanks, my man."

Hutch put the phone down, concerned about Huggy, but too busy to give it much thought.

"Anybody else want coffee?" Starsky held up the pot.

There was a ruckus in the hall, with someone shouting obscenities at someone else. Starsky headed for the door, but Lizzie beat him to it.

"ALL RIGHT!"

The hall went still.

Lizzie stood in the doorway, her eyes on fire. "Listen up, assholes. My daughter is in her school play at eight tonight. You stand between me and hearing her say, 'You are welcome to share our food.' You or anyone else slows me down, and I swear my vengeance will be cold, merciless, and painful."

There was complete silence. Everyone in the squadroom exchanged wide-eyed looks.

"There's less paperwork if I shoot you. Understand?"

There was some muttering from the hall.

"I can't hear you." Lizzie's voice cut like a knife.

There was a soft chorus of "yes, ma'am's."

"Fine." Lizzie stomped back over to her chair, sat down, and scowled at the room. "What are you all looking at?"

Everyone got very busy doing something else.

Mrs. Dobsen leaned over and touched Lizzie's arm. "You poor dear. Is it that time of the month?"

**********

"Down to the last ten, guys." Starsky made the announcement as he brought in another one for Lizzie. He was still humming that damned song under his breath, as he took a finished suspect from Dobey's office and headed for the hall.

It was down to the wire, now. Hutch took a quick glance at the clock and realized Lizzie would make it to the school play with some time to spare.

But there had been too many hours, too many bodies, too many forms, and everyone was getting numb. A mistake was bound to happen.

And happen it did.

There was no real warning, just an odd scuffing sound from out in the hall. But Hutch's head jerked up, and he was out of his chair in the next heartbeat, before the shouting started. He managed to beat Arturo and Lizzie out the door.

There was a uniformed officer down on the floor. Loose prisoners were scrambling for cover, diving into doorways and under benches. There were shouts and screams, but one thing blazed right into Hutch's brain causing him to brace and bring his gun to bear.

There was a large Hispanic man standing in the middle of the hall, his cuffs flopping on one wrist. One arm was wrapped around Starsky's throat, and the other hand had a gun pressed into his dark curls. Starsky was having trouble breathing and stood on tiptoe, his sneakers dragging on the linoleum.

Hutch snarled.

"Sergeant! Sergeant Hutchinson, get back away from those bars, or I'll have you escorted right the hell out of here!" Miller hissed angrily.

Hutch didn't spare him a glance, but the angry threat did penetrate his concentration. Reluctantly he stepped back a few feet, but remained close enough that his view of the hallway was unimpeded.

A skidding sound reached the men's ears before they saw anything, and then the inmate was in front of them. Arrogant stature, no visible fear, and he held Starsky tightly around the neck.

Hutch bit his bottom lip hard, to prevent the moan lodged deep in his throat from reaching his lips. Frantically, he scanned Starsky's face, but his partner hadn't seen him yet. To Hutch's view, it looked like Starsky was being held too tightly to move his head at all. Hutch heard a harsh gasp and recognized the sound. It was Starsky. The bastard was holding him so tightly that he was choking him.

Then Hutch saw the gun. The muzzle buried in the dark curls. The grip held firm by the convict who stood so still and silent.

At that moment, Hutch knew he could kill the inmate with his bare hands if he ever got the chance. He could feel the white-hot surge through his veins, making his blood run too fast. Making him hot and flushed and then cold and numb. Causing his breathing to accelerate until he was almost panting. His mind reeled with terror and helplessness.(5)

Not so helpless this time. Hutch drew a bead on the bastard's head.

"Hey, mi amigo. What is happening? Why you want to do something like this?" Arturo's voice came from behind Hutch and continued in a low soothing tone, but Hutch could only hear the roaring in his ears.

Hutch watched with burning eyes as the man loosened his grip on Starsky's neck enough to allow the detective to turn his head and breathe freely, but the gun remained, pressing so deep that Hutch knew it had to be painful against Starsky's scalp.

Look up, babe. I'm here, I'm right here. I'll get you out, Starsk; I swear to God I'll have you back safe. Look at me, please.

He did. Hutch felt it before he saw it and, despite the gripping fear, his heart soared when once again his partner's eyes locked on his.

It's going to be okay, it is. It's going to be okay. Hutch whispered the words internally to both of them. He'd bargain with the devil himself to make it be true.(6)

Starsky's eyes were focused on his partner as he held onto his captor's arm, trying to relieve the pressure. Something was wrong, very wrong. Hutch's eyes held a glazed look, as if he weren't really here. Yet the gun's aim never wavered, and those blue eyes that could hold such love seemed focused with such hate.

His captor was talking to Arturo, shouting actually, in a half-English/half-Spanish patter Starsky couldn't follow. Lizzie had appeared briefly in the hallway then darted back. When he heard a slight sound behind him, Starsky wasn't surprised. The door to Dobey's office was behind them, and Starsky suspected Lizzie and Dobey were waiting for their chance.

For brief moments, the shouting continued, with Arturo trying to talk the guy down. Starsky concentrated on breathing and on his partner. Beads of sweat were forming on Hutch's forehead, but the gun in his hand never wavered.

His captor gasped, and a soft voice cut through the noise. "That's my gun at the base of your skull." Lizzie's voice was sharp and deadly and gave even Starsky pause. "You shoot, I shoot."

"Let him go, amigo. She's not in the best of moods, eh?" Arturo's voice was serious.

"Yeah," snarled Lizzie. "It's that time of the month."

The arm around Starsky's throat lowered, and Starsky took a step forward. From the sounds, Dobey and Lizzie were securing the gun and handcuffing the suspect, but Starsky's eyes remained on his partner. "Hey, partner."

Hutch was frozen, his eyes distant, the gun still pointed at the suspect.

Arturo looked over at Hutch and reached for his shoulder, but stopped when Starsky jerked his head. "Hutch, it's over."

At that moment, Hutch knew he could kill the inmate with his bare hands if he ever got the chance. He could feel the white-hot surge through his veins, making his blood run too fast. Making him hot and flushed and then cold and numb. Causing his breathing to accelerate until he was almost panting. His mind reeled with terror and helplessness.(7)

"Come on, Hutch. Let it go. No harm done." Starsky moved closer into Hutch's space, raising a hand to push the gun down.

Hutch turned his head slightly, as if seeing Starsky for the first time. "You...you okay?"

"Never better," was the soft reply.

Hutch grabbed him in a hard hug. "I got you back," Hutch whispered into Starsky's neck. "I got you back."

"Yeah." Starsky pulled back, considering the audience. "Lizzie is dangerous when she's on the rag."

The hall filled with laughter as the crowd started to break up. Dobey jerked the officer up from the floor and handed him his gun. "In my office. Now." He turned to look in their direction. "Lizzie. Give that idiot to your partner and get the hell out of here.

Arturo hustled up and grabbed the suspect. "Oh, man, I think you just tripled the paperwork on your ass."

"Starsky." Dobey was standing there, considering them.

"Yeah." Starsky was still standing close to Hutch, who staggered a bit as he holstered his weapon.

"Take your partner home and take care of him. I don't want to see either one of your scrawny asses back here until Monday morning."

They had turned to go, but Starsky looked back at that statement. "Captain?"

"You heard me." Dobey had an odd look on his face.

Starsky studied him for a moment, then flashed a smile. "Who am I to argue with my superior?" He turned and headed off with his arm around Hutch's shoulders.

But he could feel Dobey's eyes on his back long after they were out of sight.

**********

As the car pulled to a stop, Hutch looked around and realized they were at his place. He turned to see that the street light gave just enough light to see dark curls, a flash of white teeth, and his partner's eyes glittering at him.

Those lovely eyes.

"Come on, partner."

Starsky was out of the car and moving before Hutch could say a word. The door opened, and warm hands tugged at Hutch's sleeve.

"I don't know what's wrong with me," Hutch spoke quietly, as Starsky wormed under his arm and helped him up the stairs.

"I do. Too much work, too much pressure, too many people, not enough 'us'," Starsky muttered as they entered the apartment. Hutch heaved a sigh and leaned against the door, just watching as Starsky passed him toward the fridge and opened the freezer. There was a "thunk" of something going into the sink. Hutch's curiosity was killed by a yawn that almost split open his head. He blinked bleary eyes to see Starsky reach for his hands. "Come on, lover."

He allowed himself to be pulled into the bedroom. Starsky turned on the small lamp by the bedside, and then returned to tug Hutch's shirt out of his jeans. "We're gonna cuddle, Blondie. Cuddle and kiss and sleep." Starsky's voice was low and soft, and he drew out the word "sleep."

Hutch wrapped his arms around him and gave him a quick hug. "Should shower. Stinky."

"You're not stinky. You just smell like you." Starsky pulled the shirt up and over Hutch's head. "Shower in the morning. When we can do something besides get clean."

Hutch had to chuckle at that. He gave in and helped Starsky remove their clothing. In moments, Starsky had them under the covers, wrapped in each other's arms. Muscles he hadn't known were tense seemed to ease as the bed warmed.

Starsky smiled as he felt his tall lover relaxing into his arms. "We have four days off. Four days of 'us'. We're gonna concentrate on each other. Okay?"

A soft "'kay" let Starsky know Hutch was almost asleep. Pressing lips to Hutch's forehead, Starsky couldn't help contrasting this moment with another.

Hutch just nodded and let Starsky take control, following after his partner toward the bedroom. Once they reached the huge bed, Starsky pulled down the covers and fluffed a few of the front pillows before reaching for Hutch's robe and removing it. He reached a tender hand back to Hutch's temple.

"I never did bandage this."

"It's fine." Hutch sighed a little.

Starsky narrowed his eyes slightly but refrained from commenting further, as he took Hutch by the elbow. "Come on, partner, hop on in. You're gonna feel better all stretched out."

Hutch acquiesced, lowering himself to the bed slowly as Starsky drew the covers farther down to make room for his legs. He leaned back into the nest of pillows, and then laid an arm over his eyes. Starsky just looked for a moment. Taking in the tense features and the quick rise and fall of the smooth chest. "Ya gotta relax a little for me, okay?" A slight response came in the tilt of Hutch's chin.

One smooth motion had the sheet and blankets drawn to Hutch's waist, then Starsky went to the other side of the bed, shed his own robe, and hurried in himself. In an instant, he had the blond on his side and cuddled close against him. Starsky took a moment to kiss behind the long damp neck and to stroke the arms his partner held so rigidly. Then he kissed an ear and whispered, "Now, finish telling me."

Hutch took a deep breath. "When we were at that door, you were in the front, then Carlson, then me. You saw the convicts first."

"Uh huh."

"You were at the front, Starsk," Hutch repeated, turning over and looking at Starsky directly. The dark-haired cop knew he was missing something important.

"Okay, I was at the front. I don't understand where you're going with this."

"The problem is," Hutch sat up angrily as he spoke, "that I changed your position. Once I saw the convicts heading toward us, I panicked and shoved you behind me."

"You were trying to protect me, like you always do." Starsky sat up, too.

"That fucked-up protection of mine nearly cost you your life." Starsky just listened, letting Hutch get it all out. "Don't you see? If I hadn't done that, if I hadn't pushed you behind me, then you would've been in the front and they would've pulled you out of that room, not me. You went through hell because of that. It should've been me they held hostage all day. It should've been me they threatened and shot at.... It should've been me, don't you see?"

"Aw, babe. Aw, Hutch." Starsky got up on his knees and captured the stricken face between his two hands. "Is this what's been eating at you? You're somehow blaming yourself? Babe, that's just stupid. None of it was your fault, not one thing. And you did save my life today."

Hutch pulled back, refusing to be placated. "Of course, I'm blaming myself. God, Starsk, how many times have you been hurt when I've come away unscathed? How many? How many times when I should've been there to protect you?" He clutched desperately at Starsky's shoulders. "I'll tell you how many, Bellamy, Simon Marcus, Lockley and that punk Joey, Bagley, Gunther." A shiver passed through his frame. "Gunther. I still have fucking nightmares about that damn garage."

"Hutch, stop." Starsky grabbed his face again. "Just stop. None of those things were your fault and if you want to run down a catalog of times we've been hurt on the job, well, you've got an impressive list yourself."

"Today was different." Hutch tried to make his voice steadier. "Today, my bad decision, my need to try and protect you is what put you in danger. It was my fault. Oh, God, Starsk, I wanted you out of there so much I couldn't think straight, and if I could have, I would have begged the cons to take me and let you go."

"You think I don't know that? You think I don't know what worrying about me all day was like for you? I've been on that side, Hutch, don't forget that. I know that if you could've traded yourself for me you would've, because that's what I'd want to do for you, but...I'm glad there was no way you coulda done that. Knowing you were safe was the only thing that gave me any peace and made it bearable at all." Starsky stroked a finger around Hutch's mouth. "There's one more thing. If our positions at that door had been reversed, I would've done the same thing. I'd've pushed you behind me. Don't you see? It's what we do, what we've always done. We protect each other the best way we can."

Starsky's words were having an impact, finally. The blond recognized the logic but still his fear and guilt lingered. "Starsk," he started softly. "Getting you back today was a miracle. How many more of those can we possibly get?"

"We can't think like that, Hutch, or we'll both go crazy. All we can do is love each other and appreciate those miracles." (8)

Starsky drew a slow breath and settled down in the arms of his lover, giving silent thanks for his miracle. All of his miracles.

**********

Thursday Morning:

Hutch woke slowly, drawn by the light pouring into the apartment. There was an odd sort of thunking noise coming from the kitchen. Since Starsky wasn't in bed, Hutch made the deduction that his partner was in the kitchen, and probably causing the noise. He rose, threw on some sweats, and wandered into the kitchen, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Only to find his partner assaulting a turkey with an ice pick.

"What are you doing?"

Starsky looked up. "'Morning!" He returned to the hapless bird and jammed the ice pick into the cavity, peering into its depths. "Got home so late the bird ain't defrosted all the way. Gotta get the gizzards out." He jammed the ice pick in a few more times.

"I think I'm gonna be ill." Hutch clutched his stomach, trying not to burst out laughing.

Starsky gave him a mock frown, waving the ice pick at him. "You just wait. I got all the fixin's. Gonna feed you good, Blondie."

Hutch held his arms up. "I'm gonna go for my run."

"Okay." Starsky returned to contemplating the turkey, as Hutch let himself out the door, chortling all the way.

**********

When Hutch returned, the kitchen was immaculate. All evidence of turkey mutilations had been erased, except for the heat coming off the stove. Starsky was wrapped in a robe and sitting at the kitchen table with breakfast spread out and ready. "How was your run?"

"Good." Hutch pulled up a chair. "Muffins?"

"Yeah. Figured we'd leave room for the good stuff."

"You sure we aren't gonna have to call for pizza?" Hutch picked up a muffin and broke it open.

Starsky grinned. "You just wait. You're gonna be begging my forgiveness when you taste my turkey." He shot a glance at Hutch and licked some of the crumbs from his thumb. "Gotta admit, cooking gets me all sticky."

Hutch grinned right back. "Well, isn't that a coincidence? Running gets me all sweaty."

"Hmmm." Dark eyes danced. "Sweaty. Sticky. Sounds like we need a shower. A long, hot shower."

Hutch laughed and crammed the rest of the muffin in his mouth.

**********

The phone rang as Starsky cleared the table. Hutch already had the water running, but those cop instincts are hard to kill. "Starsky."

"David! Happy Thanksgiving!"

"Hi, Ma. Whatcha got planned for the day?" Starsky leaned against the counter and listened, as his mom rambled on about the family get-together. It was good to hear her voice, sounding well and happy.

"Oh, Ken, you're kidding yourself if you think that." Rachel smiled. "I can't say that this is what I wished for my son--I hoped for a wife, children for--"

"Ma, don't--"

"Starsk, it's okay, just let her finish," Hutch interrupted, holding up a forestalling hand toward his partner.

"What I started to say was that I realize the depth of what's between you two--I knew it when I visited you in the hospital, David. Because when Ken came to pick me up at the airport, I looked right past him. The man who came to get me was so tired, so...so much older than the handsome young man I'd just seen a couple years before...I knew something had almost destroyed him, and he wasn't recovered yet. I didn't even recognize him until he came up and spoke to me." She looked at Hutch. "But looking at him now, I see that handsome young man again, and I know it's because you lived and you're all right. That kind of depth...it doesn't just happen overnight. Can you honestly say you never had...different feelings for David before he was hurt?"

"No," Hutch responded softly, the word barely audible as he shook his head slightly.(9)

"Enjoy the day, David. Give Ken my love."

"Okay, Ma. Love you."

"Love you, too." The dial tone filled Starsky's ear, but he stood there with the phone in his hand, staring at it like it was an alien. The shower was still running, but Starsky there was something he had to do first. He reached over and dialed a number he hadn't called in quite some time. Pressing the buttons and hearing the familiar tones brought back a painful memory.

"There's something else I need to tell you the truth about, and you might not like to hear it, but you gotta know. You're too important to me not to know."

"Sounds serious."

"It is, Uncle Al." Starsky took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. "Remember before I went to New York, you thought I was seeing somebody special because I hadn't been around too much?"

"I knew it!" Rose said triumphantly, smiling brightly. "I just knew there was someone--tell us about her! Don't keep us in suspense."

"Uh, well, it's someone you already know real well." Starsky swallowed, glancing at Hutch a little uneasily. "And it's not a 'her'."

"What do you mean, dear?" Rose asked, taking a drink of her coffee. "I thought you said there was someone in your life?"

"Rose, let him talk, honey," Al chided with a smile.

"Hutch and I are...together."

"You're partners, of course you're together. What does that have to do with--?" All of a sudden reality dawned, and Rose's eyes widened. She looked at Al, who was more or less frozen in his chair, shock plain on his face.

"We've always been best friends, more like family to each other, you know that. After I got shot, we spent a lotta time together, and we started realizing that...that we didn't want anybody else. So, um, we...."

"Deepened our relationship," Hutch added, saving Starsky the struggle for words. There was a long ensuing silence.

"Say something," Starsky finally pleaded, unable to take the blank faces and unreadable silence any longer.

"Does your mother know?" Rose asked finally.

"She knows. I told her a while ago."

"But all the women you've dated. You were so in love with Terry, and you felt so bad when she died...how could that have been a lie?" Rose asked, tears threatening her voice.

"I'm not gay." Starsky paused, looking at Hutch, who shrugged. "Maybe people would call me that because I'm in love with another man. I don't know. I never got together with men, or even looked at 'em, before I...before Hutch and I...before we...."

"Got together," Hutch supplied calmly, knowing Starsky had backed himself into an embarrassing corner.

"Yeah. I love Hutch and it doesn't matter to me that he's a guy. I mean, I don't want him to not be a guy, but it's not a bad thing that he is--I'm not sayin' this right."

"I think what David's trying to say is that we love each other, we want to have a life together, and the outside packaging just isn't the most important thing." Hutch paused. "I love your nephew with all my heart, and I'd love him no matter what form he came in. I can't love anybody else that much, and I'd be living a lie if I tried."
"You're awful quiet, Uncle Al," Starsky said, looking over at the heavy-set man as he remained situated in the overstuffed chair he occupied.

"I'm tryin' to understand how you could go from a healthy, normal, red-blooded man to...to bein' some kind of--"

"Al, don't," Rose interrupted. "Don't say something hateful. Better to say nothing at all."

"Maybe we should leave and talk about this when we've all had time to calm down a little." Hutch stood up now, too, feeling like Starsky's and his welcome was definitely close to wearing out.

"There's nothin' to talk about. I don't wanna hear about this," Al said, storming out of the room and up the stairs. A door slammed hard somewhere on the second floor.

"Rose, you haven't said much about how you feel about this," Hutch said carefully, not sure he should say anything at all, but feeling like Starsky shouldn't be going through this completely alone.

"Shocked, I suppose. I don't know how I feel. It's a sin, David. My God, it's a sin, how you're living."

"It's a sin to love somebody? Just because they're put together differently than somebody else?"

"Oh, David." Rose pulled him in for a hug. "Honey, I'd love you no matter what you did. You're like my own son. How could I stop loving you because of this?"

"I hope you can't." Starsky returned the pressure, swallowing hard to keep his composure.(10)

The sound of the phone connecting brought Starsky back to reality. "Hi, Aunt Rose. Wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. How you doing?"

Hutch paused, then leaned on the doorjamb as he listened to the conversation. While it sounded stilted and awkward for both, still it was a beginning. He waited until the conversation ended, then smiled as his lover came into view.

Starsky sighed. "I wanted to wash your back, but--"

Hutch interrupted. "You needed to talk to your mom, and you called Rose and Al." He quirked his head to the side. "Have I told you recently how much I love you?" He reached for Starsky's hand. "I may be clean, but I sure as hell am not finished." With that, he pulled Starsky into the bathroom and closed the door.

**********

The scent of roasting turkey filled the air, along with other good smells. Starsky closed his eyes and breathed deeply, enjoying the tingling in his nose. Sweet potatoes, rolls, salad, and pumpkin pie. He settled a little deeper on the bed, and turned to admire the view. It took a bit of doing, but with his head down by the foot of the bed, propped up on pillows on his side, he could see Hutch through the windows.

Hutch was puttering in the greenhouse, something he hadn't had a chance to do in a long time. The sun filtered through the glass gently, displaying the blond in all his glory. Starsky never got tired of the way Hutch seemed to glow in the light. Even his photographs never seemed to do him justice. His face looked relaxed as he worked his way through the mass of greenery, pruning, clipping, watering, and talking to his babies softly under his breath. The dark t-shirt emphasized his lover's features.

A warm contrast to Starsky's worst nightmare.

Starsky reached the bluff's plateau and stopped dead in his tracks. His last breath left him in a whoosh, and he was completely unable to draw in another. There on the ground, Hutch lay face down, unmoving with a slowly spreading red stain on the back of his tan jacket. "Oh, my God."(11)

God, what a horrible moment that had been. Made that much worse by his absolute conviction he had shot Hutch through his own carelessness. His stomach clenched at the memory, and he closed his eyes.

Swallowing again to try to speak past the lump in his throat he was sure would suffocate him, Starsky looked slowly from one man to the other. "I…didn't…do it," he grated out the words.

"Didn't do what?" Arturo pressed.

"It wasn't…my gun." Starsky closed his eyes tightly, tears he hadn't shed since the shooting, unstoppable now, flooded past his lashes.

"Starsky--" Hutch tried to turn Starsky's rigid body toward him.

"That was Dobey. He called to give me the forensics report on the blast pattern and the ballistic report on the few pellets they retrieved during surgery. They didn't match my gun…" Starsky's voice broke with a sob, and he let Hutch turn him completely--only then risking a look into his lover's face. "It wasn't my gun…" he whispered, lips trembling as the tears fell. "I…didn't…do…it."(12)

He sucked in a deep breath, then let it out, and opened his eyes to focus on Hutch--his Hutch--with such a look of peace on his face. Slowly, his stomach relaxed and he breathed in again, relishing the aroma of turkey and of home. A slow smile stole over his face as he contemplated the best thing in his life.

"Stop that." Hutch's voice came through the windows, sounding amused.

"Stop what?" Starsky chuckled.

"Stop checking me out. You're supposed to be picking your sonnet."

Starsky sighed and picked the book off the bed. At least they didn't have a paper due. All the prof wanted was for each of them to pick a sonnet and explain what it meant to them in their own words. Harder than it looked. Starsky frowned at the book. Shakespeare's plays were a hell of a lot easier to read than his poetry. "Hey, Hutch?"

"Hmm?"

"What's a 'bark'?"

"Give me the context."

Starsky cocked an eyebrow and waited. Finally, a chuckle came from the other room. "Read me the line."

"'It is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken'."

There was a rustle of greenery. "I don't have a clue."

Starsky snorted, leafing through the book. "You know, not all of these are really love poems. Some of them are downright depressing." He studied the pages a bit longer, then dropped the book and flopped on the bed, staring at the ceiling. "I like the plays better. They make more sense."

"You're making it harder than it is."

"I suppose you already got one picked out." Starsky put a pout in his voice.

There was a silence for a moment, then Starsky looked up and over. Hutch was standing in the door of the greenhouse, leaning against the jamb, looking at him intently and smiling his sweet, slow smile. Starsky's heart leaped at the sight.

"Yeah."

"Really?"

"Yeah." Hutch tilted his head and closed his eyes. "'When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state'." He opened his eyes to gaze at Starsky, the blue glittering in the light.

Starsky swallowed hard. "That means when you're sad, 'cause it seems everyone is against you. You wanna crawl into a hole and hide from the world."

Hutch nodded and continued, "'And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, and look upon myself and curse my fate'."

"Mad at God and everybody and yourself, and no one listens."

Hutch straightened and walked over to the bed. "'Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd, desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least'."

Starsky sat up, never taking his eyes off his blond lover. "Wishing you had tons of money. Wishing you were handsome and popular, maybe an artist or a scientist."

Hutch looked surprised. "Scientist?"

Starsky grinned. "Using a microscope."

Hutch roared--a full-throated, relaxed laugh. He lifted his hand to stroke Starsky's cheek and continued, "'Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, haply I think on thee, and then my state, like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate'."

Starsky reached up, grabbed Hutch, and pulled him down on the bed. "Just when you're as sad as you can be, you think about me, and you're as happy as a lark."

Hutch lowered his head, putting his forehead against Starsky's. "'For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings'."

Starsky looked up, his dark eyes glittering. "When you think about loving me, you wouldn't change places with anyone in the whole world."

Hutch kissed him, wrapping his arms under the other man and taking his time. A long, slow exploration. They broke for air, and Starsky chuckled. "You should work on the plants."

"You should pick a sonnet."

Starsky flipped them and pressed down, rocking Hutch's hips. Hutch gasped, arching up. "To hell with the plants." His voice was rough with passion.

"To hell with the homework."

**********

The phone rang while Starsky was taking the turkey out of the oven, refusing to let Hutch help. Hutch was laughing as he picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Happy Thanksgiving, Ken."

"Mom?" Hutch froze, images running through his head.

"Well," Richard began coldly, and not once did his eyes return to Hutch and Starsky. "I guess there's little left to say to either you or your...partner." He made the word sound like something distasteful and toxic.

Hutch waited for the cowed adolescent to emerge, for shame and fear to wash over him and bring with it that desperate desire to earn his father's approval, no matter what it took. But all he felt was warmth pulsing between him and Starsky--the warmth of his partner's skin, of the love and support they had exchanged and that had sustained them, one way or another, for nearly a decade.

Quietly, he said, "I guess not."

"Well, then," Richard repeated, with a breath that told Hutch he was about to be dismissed. "I will ask your mother and your sister to pack your things and bring them here. I would...appreciate it if you...neither of you...returned to the house."

Ever again hung in the air.

"If that's what you want," Hutch said softly, his voice tinged with regret.

"Yes." His voice firm, with no trace of emotion, Richard stepped back from the bed, brushed his hands together as if dusting off something dirty, then strode to the door and pulled it open. "Miranda," he said. The word was an order.

Miranda did not look at him. "You go ahead," she instructed him calmly. "I'll be right there."
He opened his mouth, then snapped it shut and left the room.

Suddenly, the oxygen seemed to return, and Hutch breathed for what felt like the first time in an hour. He felt the side of Starsky's head press against his, a tender gesture that abruptly filled his eyes with tears.

His mother moved gracefully to the side of the bed and brushed the hair from his forehead. "I'll make sure everything makes it to the hospital," she promised him gently. "You boys be careful going home."

She turned to go, but Hutch stopped her, catching her hand in his. "Mom," he said hesitantly. "How do you...what do you--?"

She gave him an uncertain smile, then patted his hand with the one he wasn't holding. "I don't really know yet," she admitted. "But I know I love you, and I've always liked David. I guess we'll just have to go from there."

"Okay," Hutch whispered, feeling foolish as the tears threatened to spill over. Miranda kissed his forehead, reached across the bed to briefly squeeze Starsky's arm, then slipped out of the room.(13)

Starsky poked his head around the corner and looked at Hutch with a question in his eyes. Hutch managed a smile, which was answered with a blazing smile, a quick shake of curls, and Starsky popped back into the kitchen.

"Hey, Mom. Great to hear from you. How're you doing?"

**********

"Just sit there and keep your eyes shut." Starsky was moving around the kitchen, rattling pans and dishing up their feast.

Hutch had been made to sit at the table, with orders to keep his eyes closed. But that didn't stop him from sniffing the air. "Sure smells good."

"Oh, yeah." Starsky chuckled. "Almost ready."

"I'm gonna peek," Hutch teased.

"No you aren't," Starsky responded. Hutch heard him settle a dish on the table and then sit on one of the kitchen chairs. "'Cause its ready. Open your eyes."

"Wow." Hutch breathed deeply, appreciating the smells as well as the sight of a fully roasted turkey, fresh salad, rolls, and sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows.

Starsky had a smug look on his face. "Pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert."

Hutch gave his lover an awed look. "You are a genius."

"Damn straight." Starsky placed his palms together and arched an eyebrow at Hutch, who did the same. "Thank you, Lord, for each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends. Amen."

Hutch's mouth went dry as he stared at Starsky, his eyes filling. "It's just that I..." He couldn't finish.

Starsky grinned at him, his own eyes filling. He leaned forward. "Me, too, Hutch. Me, too." He kissed him--a slow soft kiss. "Now, let's not let this go to waste. We gotta eat and clean up before the game starts."

**********

They ate the pumpkin pie and ice cream on the sofa as they watched the game. Neither team was a favorite, so they poked fun at the bad plays and yelled for all the good ones. Half-time found them on the sofa, stuffed and relaxed. Starsky was watching the tube, but Hutch decided to indulge in a favorite hobby. Starsky watching.

There was just something about the look of the man.

"That's right," Starsky whispered, reaching his other hand around Hutch's waist. "We both survived."

Neither spoke again. They walked as one into the bedroom, then Starsky lit the few candles in the room before pulling off his shirt. Shoes and socks were removed before he sat on the bed and held a hand out to Hutch, beckoning him closer. "Come 'ere."

Hutch never took his eyes from his partner's face as he crossed the floor to join him. Once seated, he turned bright eyes on Starsky, his expression thoughtful and tender.

"Whatcha thinking about?" Starsky asked, lacing his fingers through Hutch's fine hair.

"About how good you look in candlelight," Hutch answered in a whisper. "Or moonlight or sunlight…about how good it's going to feel to make love to you."(14)

Something about his touch.

A soft touch to his shoulder brought Hutch out of the endless loop. He turned slightly in the straight-backed chair and wrapped his arms around Starsky, rubbing his cheek against Starsky's belly like a big cat. Starsky's arms engulfed him eagerly, and Hutch couldn't help but relax into the embrace--feeling loved, feeling safe. Starsky bent down to place a kiss on top of Hutch's head. Strong, long fingers rubbed up and down Hutch's back, loosening tensed muscles and pulling him tighter into an embrace.(15)

"Aren't ya gonna watch the game?" Starsky's voice brought him back to the here and now.

"Like watching you better." Hutch settled back in the corner of the sofa.

Starsky turned, fixing his dark, warm eyes on Hutch's. "Maybe you'd rather talk."

"Talk?" Hutch looked at him, puzzled.

"Talk." Starsky moved, putting his feet on the other arm of the sofa and his head in Hutch's lap. Hutch automatically reached to stroke the dark curls. "Talk about yesterday."

Hutch tensed.

Starsky lay there, silently. Waiting.

"Guess I was just overtired," Hutch finally spoke up. "All I could see was that prison riot and you being held, and I guess--"

"Know what I think of when I remember that day?" Starsky whispered. "I think of seeing you with that head wound...and that night...the best damn hotel in the city...and being in you for the first time."

"Ah, God, Starsky." Hutch leaned over, his eyes bright.

Starsky sat up, then stood, extending his hand to Hutch. "Come to bed."

Hutch took his hand, allowing himself to be pulled up and led to the bedroom.

Starsky took his time undressing them, offering soft kisses to every part of Hutch's skin as it was uncovered. Hutch returned the favor, kiss for kiss and stroke for stroke. Once they were nude, they came together again and kissed.

"You taste like stuffing," Hutch whispered.

Starsky muttered something about stuffing that had nothing to do with food. Hutch laughed, and Starsky tumbled him onto the bed, covering him with his body. Their erections came together, and they both gasped at the contact. Hutch pushed up, wanting to move to his hands and knees, but Starsky denied him that movement, pushing him to the bed. "Not so fast."

They lay entangled, skin on skin, nothing coming between them but their breath. Starsky used his entire body to touch and stroke, letting the fire within grow gradually. Only when Hutch's moans were continuous, only when he felt like one more touch and he would explode, did he reach for the lube and start to prepare him. Even then, lube-slicked fingers moved slowly, pushing past the ring of muscle to explore Hutch's depths with an agonizing patience. Starsky found the nub and rubbed it carefully, slowly, over and over. Hutch was a quivering mass by the time he moved, putting Hutch's legs over his shoulders. Starsky cupped Hutch's buttocks in his hands. "Breathe, lover."

Hutch breathed, and Starsky sank the tip of his cock into that hole.

Hutch threw his head back, reveling in the feeling. "More. More!"

"Breathe, lover." Starsky trembled with the strain, but didn't move.

Hutch took a deep breath, and Starsky sank in a little farther.

"Starsky, please."

"Breathe, lover."

Hutch did, and Starsky sank in until his balls pressed against Hutch's cheeks. He froze there, feeling the heat and the pressure, and took his own deep breath. "God, you feel so tight, Hutch. So damn--"

Hutch opened dazed blue eyes. "If you don't move now, I swear I'll get my gun and shoo--"

Starsky flexed his hips. Hutch opened his eyes wider and moaned. Starsky did it again and again, setting up a rhythm that set the bed to rocking. Hutch threw his arms out, steadying himself on the bed as Starsky moved. Movement that Hutch craved as he concentrated on some internal movement of his own, trying to clench around Starsky's cock on every thrust. But sensation soon overcame both of them, and the pleasure took them as they cried each other's names.

Starsky collapsed to the side, sliding out from under Hutch's legs and out of his ass. Hutch managed to pull him in close before sleep claimed them. Neither had the energy to do more than pull up the sheet and exchange a kiss before falling into the warmth of slumber.

**********

Something woke Hutch.

He listened carefully to the sounds of the night. After a few minutes, he relaxed, certain there was no threat. Instead, he studied the face near his, slightly mashed into its pillow. They were entangled, close together on their sides, sort of wrapped around one another, yet having space to breathe. It was such a simple comfort. Hutch breathed their scents in deeply. His body stirred, a slight tingle at the base of his spine.

Hutch smiled slightly. Very slowly he pulled Starsky over, arranging their bodies so Starsky covered him like a warm, living blanket. His lover muttered a bit, but didn't really awaken, just settled his head under Hutch's chin and sighed. A moment frozen in time--the beat of his lover's heart, the scent of his skin, the pressure of his body. Hutch tried so hard to commit it all to memory.

Like so many perfect things do, it changed. Starsky shifted slightly, bringing his thigh between Hutch's. Without really thinking, Hutch arched at the pressure, moaning slightly as the tingle grew. Starsky responded, his thigh shifting slightly, his hands coming up to stroke Hutch's sides. Hutch closed his eyes and lifted his arms to wrap around, stroking that broad back as the pleasure swept over him.

Hands threaded into his hair, and he opened his eyes to see Starsky's glittering above him. Starsky placed his lips against his and kissed him softly. Hutch returned the kiss with gentle passion, running his hands down to the gentle lift of Starsky's ass. He pressed down, trying to get Starsky closer.

But his lover was having none of that. Starsky's body shifted, using only the softest movement to assert pressure. It was a long, slow climb, filled with soft moans and gentle touches, each moving to the beat of their hearts. Hutch hit the peak first and fell, throwing his head back against the pillows. Starsky leaned down and nipped Hutch's collarbone, causing the blond to surge up. The move sent Starsky spiraling out and down. They both landed where they had begun--entangled, close together on their sides, sort of wrapped around one another, yet having space to breathe. A last soft kiss, and they both drifted off to sleep.

**********

Friday:

Hutch woke, blinking his eyes at the light. He didn't usually sleep in this late. He got up and stumbled to the bathroom. After taking care of business, he opened the door to discover Starsky, stark naked, standing in front of the sofa with his hands on his hips. He scowled at Hutch and gestured at the room with one hand. "Look at this."

Hutch grinned. "I'm looking."

Starsky scowled again. "Not at me. At this place!"

Hutch looked around, taking in his apartment, a fear growing in his gut. "Looks okay to me."

"It's disgusting." Starsky stood there, glowering.

"Hey." Hutch moved in close and drew Starsky into his arms. "We've got the day off. I've got a great idea of how to spend the day." He kissed Starsky, who leaned into the embrace, then pulled back with a smile on his lips.

"So do I. We are cleaning this place." With that he kissed Hutch again, pulled loose, and headed for the bathroom.

Hutch groaned.

**********

David Starsky was on a rampage.

Hutch considered his alternatives. Hiding in the greenhouse. Faking appendicitis. Fleeing the country. But before he could marshal his resources, he found himself in the bathroom, cleanser in one hand, toilet brush in the other.

As he worked, he could hear Starsky moving about like a whirlwind. Hutch considered for a brief moment staging a rebellion. It was, after all, his apartment. He stared at the bristles of the toilet brush and contemplated the potential consequences. Discretion was the better part of valor. He shrugged and got to work.

Only after every surface in the bathroom gleamed, did Hutch dare to emerge. The living room was spotless, the carpet having been vacuumed into submission. Hutch gave it a sympathetic look as he cautiously approached the kitchen.

The refrigerator door was wide open. Starsky was sitting on a chair, staring into its depths.

"Starsky?"

Starsky kept his unwavering gaze on the helpless contents of the fridge. "When was the last time this was cleaned out?" He leaned forward slightly, as if to interrogate a suspect, and Hutch felt slightly sorry for the poor appliance.

"Last year?"

Starsky pulled his head back and glared at his partner. "That explains a few things." His gaze sharpened. "Go do laundry."

Hutch glanced over by the bed and saw the mounds of dirty clothes and bed linens. He cast one last look at his partner, heaved a sigh, and went to face his doom.

**********

"I'm begging here."

"Big baby," Starsky scoffed at his partner.

"No, seriously." Hutch looked at him with pleading eyes. "Everything's spotless, Starsk. Everything's been cleaned right down to the nubbin, I am begging you to--"

"Down to the nubbin?" Starsky pulled his head out of the closet and looked puzzled. "What the hell does that mean?"

Hutch shrugged. "Something my mom used to say. You're missing the point. I'm begging for mercy. Can we please stop cleaning?"

Starsky snorted and dove back into the closet. "Hutch, you got clothes in here that you haven't worn in--"

"A foot rub."

Starsky stopped digging through the stuff in the bottom of Hutch's closet. "A foot rub?"

"And a back rub. With some of that new sesame-scented oil you bought last week." Hutch lowered his voice and moved in for the kill. "You've worked so hard; let me pamper you for a while."

Starsky pulled back and looked deeply into his lover's soulful, pleading eyes. He grinned like a school kid, his white teeth flashing. "You are so pathetic."

Hutch grinned back. "Is it gonna work?"

Starsky pulled him in for a fast, hard kiss. "Nope." He turned, and drew an armload of clothing out of the closet. "Three piles. Goodwill. Repair. Pitch. Start sorting."

Hutch groaned.

**********

Saturday Morning:

Hutch was halfway through his run before he woke completely. The Cleaning Rampage had petered out in the wee hours of the morning, when he and Starsky had finally collapsed onto a freshly made bed with very clean sheets. Too clean, he grumbled to himself. As he neared the apartment he grinned. They wouldn't be clean for long. He had definite plans for his lover and they did not include cleaning.

Except with his tongue.

"It's going to be okay. I really have a feeling that Cynthia will come through for us. It's going to be all right," Starsky encouraged, as he drew large circles over Hutch's bare back. Starsky kissed against the side of Hutch's head and nudged it upward so he could nuzzle the side of Hutch's face, and eventually mapped his way to press his lips against Hutch's. Their tongues dueled with increasing enthusiasm until both men were caressing and kissing aggressively, all thoughts of the fatigue that had seemed so oppressive earlier, apparently gone.

Starsky rolled Hutch farther on top of him, locking his legs around Hutch's waist to press them close together. Hands and mouths caressed and inflamed, leaving both men panting. "Love me, Hutch. Make me feel you this time tomorrow. I want you so bad."

Hutch groaned his appreciation of Starsky's words, answering by reaching to the bedside table for the tube of K-Y resting there. Hutch squirted some out and tossed the tube out of the way. He quickly slid a wet finger inside Starsky's body, joining it with a second, probing and gently stretching and preparing.

"I'm ready, babe. Come on, do it, do it now. God, I need you so much." Starsky arched up to press his rock-hard erection against Hutch's body, then pressed down to further impale himself on Hutch's long fingers. Hutch's gentle insistence caused a level of frustration that made Starsky thrash about wildly, trying to get purchase on Hutch's body to line him up for the penetration Starsky so desperately wanted. "Please, babe. Let me feel you inside. I want you."

Hutch slicked his cock, then positioned it at Starsky's entrance, sliding slowly forward. They locked eyes as Hutch entered him, as they often did. Hutch acutely aware and vigilant for any discomfort; Starsky lost in the intense feeling of being loved and taken.

"Thank you," Hutch whispered, "for everything you give me."

"There is nothing in my body or my soul that isn't yours already. Let me feel you, let go. Give me everything you've got." Starsky tightened his muscles around the full length of Hutch as he was fully sheathed. Hutch moaned and shuddered at the sensation and began picking up his force and speed, each stroke taking Starsky harder; each withdrawal dragging the head of Hutch's cock over Starsky's sensitive prostate. Starsky fought to ward off his climax wanting to make it last--not only for himself, but to keep the world at bay for his precious lover a bit longer as well. But he couldn't hold back, and his own cock spurted his completion between their bodies, and he howled Hutch's name. Feeling Starsky's rectal muscles milking his cock during his orgasm was evidently too much for Hutch to withstand, and Starsky soon felt the hot wash of Hutch's ejaculate shoot forcefully inside him. Both men collapsed in a limp heap of arms and legs entwined together, falling asleep almost immediately.(16)

Hutch ran into the apartment, his cock twitching in anticipation.

Only to find his fully dressed partner, cutting fruit for breakfast. "Hurry up and shower so we can go clean my place."

**********

Thankfully, Starsky's place was not in need of a major overhaul. They tackled the chores fast, and Hutch managed to get Starsky busy with laundry before he could investigate the refrigerator. Hutch tackled the bathroom and kitchen in a frenzy, hoping his lover could be distracted before he found more "projects" to do.

Starsky was making the bed with the new wine-colored sheets when Hutch emerged from the bathroom. He caught his breath at the image, as Starsky leaned forward to tuck in the sheet. Hutch moved quickly, tumbled Starsky down onto the bed, and covered him with his own body. Starsky lay there, smiling. "You smell like 'scrubbing bubbles'."

Hutch just stared for a moment, looking at those dark eyes. "My gypsy prince."

"Huh?" Starsky looked puzzled.

Hutch smiled, and lifted his hand to run it through those dark curls. "My gypsy prince. Remember that bed in Major Lotsoff's guest room?" He smiled at the memory.

Hutch softly opened the guestroom door and looked in. Starsky lay sprawled across the bed at an angle, with the corner of the bedspread pulled up over his shoulder. He looked for all the world to Hutch, at that moment, like a gypsy prince. Dark curls surrounded by dark maroon and gold brocade.(17)

A slow blush covered Starsky's cheeks, and he looked away. "You think that about me?"

Hutch chuckled and stole a kiss. "Oh, yes, my dark-eyed gypsy prince."

The blush grew brighter, and Starsky's voice grew hoarse. "Well, just remember what they say about gypsies." Starsky smiled up into those blue eyes. "They'll steal anything that ain't nailed down."

Hutch leaned down and nuzzled him behind the ear. "How about a little exercise before we go to Huggy's?"

Starsky half-closed his eyes. "Oh, yeah. Sounds great."

"Good." Hutch sat up so fast the bed bounced. "I'll get the basketball; you grab your sweats."

"Huh?"

"Gonna run your ass all over the court." Hutch laughed as he stood and pulled Starsky from the bed. "Let's play some ball."

Starsky grumbled as he pulled sweats from the drawer. "Not the kind of one-on-one I was looking for, Blintz."

**********

There was an empty court when they arrived at the park, and they started playing hard immediately, each trying to outscore the other. While Hutch had reach, Starsky had moves, and they were fairly evenly matched. Soon they were both wringing wet.

What pleased Hutch was when Starsky stripped off his shirt.

"Hutch...." Starsky moved away, breaking the intense and delicious kissing that had kept them joined for long minutes. "Don't."

"Don't what, babe? Touch you?"

"Just...leave the shirt alone, okay?"

"No, it's not okay." Hutch took Starsky's troubled face in both hands. "I want to make love to you. All of you. You don't have a mark on you I haven't seen. Haven't touched, for that matter. Don't shut me out, babe. Let me love you," Hutch pleaded softly, kissing Starsky again, pulling him in close, keeping his touches on the outside of the shirt, forcing himself not to return to that soft, warm skin beneath until Starsky gave his consent.

"Your skin's like silk," Starsky said a little breathlessly, his hand skimming the part of Hutch's chest exposed by the open buttons of his shirt. "The scars...they feel...funny. And they're so damned ugly, Hutch. I hate 'em. I know I'm s'posed t'be grateful I'm not dead, and I am, but I hate lookin' in the mirror and seein' this monster lookin' back at me," Starsky admitted brokenly, his eyes focused on Hutch's chest until they closed at the painful words. "I hate 'em and I want 'em to go away."(18)

Hutch was careful not to draw attention to Starsky's action. He was sure that it was unconscious, but it was a sign that Starsky was letting go of those old fears. Instead, Hutch took the ball and drove hard to the basket, forcing Starsky to think of nothing but defense. The sight of those intense eyes focused on him, body moving in anticipation of his opponent's next move, was almost enough to make Hutch shout with joy.

Instead, he concentrated on making his shot.

**********

They ran into the apartment, laughing as Hutch bounced the ball off the wall by Starsky's head. Starsky headed for the kitchen. "Want something to drink? Think there's some root beer left." He opened the fridge and looked in.

Hutch's voice brought him up short. "Nah. Not thirsty. Hungry." The low growl brought Starsky's head up fast, and he turned to find his golden lover moving toward him with an intent look in his eyes. In a heartbeat, Starsky found himself sitting on the counter, with the dish drainer pushed to the side to make room. Hutch had spread his partner's legs and was standing between them, pressed against him, his warm hands under Starsky's shirt. "Very hungry." With that, Hutch claimed his lips

Starsky moaned, opening his mouth to Hutch's demands. Warm fingers moved down under his waistband to tease the base of his spine with soft touches. Starsky squirmed, putting his arms over Hutch's shoulders to draw him in tighter. The kiss grew hotter as they worked at each other's clothing. Starsky tilted his pelvis, letting his legs drop until his ass barely sat on the counter, trying to rub his aching cock against Hutch. Hutch clung to him, putting his hands under Starsky's ass, trying to maintain the pressure. They both moved together, and in a hot sweaty tangle, they exploded against one another, panting for breath as they rode the wave of pleasure.

They stood frozen, locked in each other's arms, breathing hard. Starsky spoke first, his voice rough. "Shower. Huggy's expecting us."

Hutch nodded, and they stumbled to the bathroom in a daze.

**********

"Wear this." Starsky got out a white button-down shirt for Hutch, and a pair of blue jeans.

Hutch looked at his partner with a questioning gaze, but Starsky just smiled that innocent smile that didn't fool Hutch for a second. "We coming back here after Huggy's?"

"Yeah." Starsky was humming under his breath, pulling on his sneakers. "What did you do with those leather bootlaces that were too long. Did you pitch them?"

"Noooo." Hutch gave his lover a long look. "They're in the junk drawer in the kitchen."

Starsky stood and swaggered, yes, swaggered into the kitchen. Hutch could hear him rattling around in there, then heard a soft sound of triumph as the laces were apparently located. Hutch shook his head as he buttoned up his shirt. The man was up to something, that was certain.

Hutch thought for a moment, then made a slight change in his wardrobe. Might as well be prepared.

"You coming?" Starsky was at the door, waiting to leave.

Hutch snagged his jacket. "Coming."

**********

"Oh, my God." Hutch paused in the doorway and looked around in astonishment.

"Wow," Starsky echoed from behind.

They were about fifteen minutes early, and there wasn't that much of a crowd yet. But what hit both of them was how the place looked. It was immaculate--scrubbed and polished. The usual odor of beer and smoke had been replaced with bleach and soap. Hutch and Starsky moved to a booth and sat, looking around in wonder.

Hutch glared at his partner. "You snuck out and cleaned this place, didn't you?"

Starsky shook his head. "No, but I'm impressed. I think they even scrubbed down some of the regulars."

Huggy appeared, beers in hand. "My cousin gave me the word. A surprise health inspection." He put the beaded bottles down in front of them. "Been cleaning ever since. The kitchen would like to blind ya."

Hutch tilted his head. "You wanted us to come clean the place?"

"Nah. Got the name of the lady doing the inspection." Huggy smirked. "Figured it couldn't hurt to have ya here and eating, seeing as you dated the lady."

Starsky took a swig of beer. Hutch just looked puzzled. "What's her name?"

"Kathleen Donovan." Huggy had a smug look. "You dated her a few years ago."

Starsky coughed, spilling his beer.

"Figured you could put in a good word." Huggy looked around nervously. "She's due any minute."

"Oh, man. " Hutch started to slide out of the booth. "Huggy, you should have asked before--"

Starsky looked up at Huggy. "That one didn't end well, Hug."

"Mr. Bear?"

They all turned to see a woman standing there, clipboard in hand. Her eyes rested on Hutch, and one lip curled as if she had found a dead mouse on the table. "Detective Hutchinson."

Hutch smiled weakly. "Kathleen. How've you been?"

The woman's face seemed to almost snarl, then smoothed over into a killer professional look. She turned slightly. "Mr. Bear, I am here to inspect your restaurant. Let's start with your coolers, shall we?"

Huggy went gray as she turned and marched into the kitchen. He shot them a desperate look as he followed her past the swinging door.

"Chinese?" Starsky asked.

"Sounds good," Hutch replied, as they slid out of the booth and headed for the door.

**********

Hutch was still laughing when they entered Starsky's dark apartment.

Starsky followed him inside and moved in on him, capturing that laughing mouth in a kiss. Hutch made a soft sound of surprise, but welcomed those lips, opening his mouth to Starsky's explorations. He allowed himself to be maneuvered, pushed through the apartment, running into doorjambs, and finally falling onto the bed with his lover on top. Starsky pinned him there, grabbing his hands and kissing him hard, claiming him, bringing their groins together. Hutch moaned, whispering his lover's name, allowing those lips to claim his complete attention. It was only when Starsky broke off the kiss that Hutch discovered what Starsky was going to use the leather bootlaces for.

He was tied to the bed.

"Starsky!"

Hutch squirmed around to see that the leather was wrapped around his shirt cuffs, binding his wrists together and then trailing off to bind him to the bed. Astonished, he looked back to find Starsky tying his knees together with the other lace.

"Warned ya." The husky voice floated in the night. "Told ya gypsies steal everything they can."

Hutch struggled, pulling at the leather, but there was no give to his bonds.

"Stealing horses, food, jewels." Starsky was up and moving, taking off his jacket. "Hearts." Hutch looked over to see him by the bed. There was an evil gleam in those glittering dark eyes. "Souls."

Hutch relaxed and flexed his body slightly, pleased Starsky was raking him with those dark eyes. "You already own my heart and soul."

Starsky climbed onto the bed and moved over his bound lover. "Then I'll just have to take something else."

Hutch caught his breath, trying to keep his voice nonchalant. "Such as?"

He had a brief glimpse of a smile as Starsky's head lowered. "My time."

Hutch's mouth was claimed then, claimed hard. Starsky was relentless, exploring every inch of his mouth. Hutch gasped when his mouth was finally released, only to have those lips caress his jaw, moving down to his throat. A moan escaped the blond, as Starsky opened his collar slightly to get at the junction of shoulder and neck. He writhed as a small nip was taken of his skin. "God, Starsky. Please--"

"Gonna steal it all, love. Gonna take and take and take." Hutch drew a sharp breath as his shirt was unbuttoned. Hovering on all fours, Starsky used his nose to move the fabric and nuzzle one of Hutch's nipples. He ran his tongue over it in one quick stroke, pleased at the way it hardened and puckered slightly. Warm breath followed, and the tip seemed to quiver under his tongue. Hutch lay panting under him, squirming slightly at the touch. Starsky smiled and nuzzled the shirt over to expose the other nipple, giving it the same treatment. Only this time, he caught the nub in his teeth and pulled ever so gently.

***

The sounds from Hutch weren't really words, but carried a wealth of meaning for Starsky. He eased back onto his knees and unbuttoned the shirt a little farther, to reveal Hutch's stomach and navel. Reaching with his hands, he stroked both nipples with his thumbs, then trailed his fingers down to circle that delightful belly button. Moving lower, he used his mouth to follow the trail, letting his fingers tease Hutch's ribs and flanks. Not a tickle, just a soft, barely there touch.

Hutch trembled under his hands, moaning softly as Starsky continued his assault for long, slow minutes. The words had long fled Hutch's mouth, but Starsky heard the pleading in his voice. He chuckled. "Since when does a gypsy prince listen to the pleadings of his prisoner?" He moved back, kneeling over Hutch's knees, and slowly lowered the zipper on Hutch's jeans. "Ah." Starsky chuckled to find Hutch hadn't worn underwear. He pulled carefully, to avoid pulling any pubic hair, and was well rewarded when Hutch's cock arose from the confines of the denim. Starsky pulled the zipper back just far enough to make sure the teeth wouldn't catch, then sat back to admire his work.

Hutch looked like a debauched angel, lying in the moonlight, his clothes in disarray. Starsky moved forward and kissed his angel for a long time, fingering his length, tickling his balls. Sensing the edge fast approaching, Starsky shifted quickly and swallowed Hutch's cock to the root. Hutch exploded, fast and furious, then lay panting as Starsky cleaned him with his tongue.

***

Hutch lay quietly, coming down from the heights slowly. He turned his head to see Starsky was standing by the bed now, getting undressed. Dark eyes smiled into his. "Okay?"

Hutch nodded, smiling dreamily. "Oh, yeah."

Starsky leaned down. "Back in a minute." He headed for the bathroom.

Hutch sighed and floated in that deep, relaxed feeling good sex gives. He was just starting to realize he was still tied, when Starsky entered the room and came back to the bed. Glowing in the moonlight, just like the gypsy prince of his fantasies. Hutch smiled into those serious dark eyes. "Gonna untie me now?"

Starsky crawled onto the bed. Hutch caught his breath as Starsky moved in to cover Hutch's body with his own. Starsky growled low and soft. "Not done taking yet." He claimed Hutch's lips again, and within moments, Hutch was hot and hard, thrusting his hips up against Starsky and begging into his mouth. Starsky broke the kiss first, panting. "You know, most gypsy princes, they hoard their gold in jewelry--necklaces and earrings and nipple rings." He bent down and licked Hutch's nipples. Hutch arched up, writhing under his lover. "Me, I keep all my gold in one place."

With that, Starsky grabbed Hutch's cock in a firm grip and with strong strokes, brought him to the brink, seeming to demand Hutch's response. Just when Hutch thought he was going to explode, Starsky moved back and impaled himself on Hutch's cock.

They froze, both inhaling at the sensations, so familiar and yet so new.

"You look so innocent, like a golden angel that flew too close to Earth and got caught in my net." Starsky settled down a bit more and swiveled his hips slightly. Hutch knew exactly when he hit that sweet spot, because Starsky threw his head back and groaned, a low deep sound. Hutch watched as Starsky played with his own nipples, watched that healthy firm body flex as he clamped down on Hutch's cock. He jerked at his bonds again, wanting to touch, wanting to feel. Denied that outlet, he tried to push up against the weight that held him down.

But Starsky remained in control, and he flexed his thighs to rise up slightly and settle down slowly. Now it was Hutch's turn to thrash and groan at the sensation in his groin. Starsky looked down, his eyes so dark, so serious. "Sometimes, I see you move so graceful, so quiet, and I expect to see a wing flicker out from behind you, all gold and glowing like your hair." Starsky sat without moving, breathing hard. "Or to find soft feathers in my bed when I wake up."

Starsky watched as a blush stole over Hutch's cheeks, and his golden lover tried to change the subject. "Want to touch you, want your cock." Hutch pulled at the leather.

Starsky squeezed and Hutch groaned. "Want this?" He lowered his hands to his cock, its tip shining in the light, so hard, so lovely.

"Yes." Hutch wanted to stroke it, to feel that velvet skin.

"No." The voice was dark and commanding. "You're mine now, and I'm taking what I want." Starsky moved, setting a hard, punishing pace, pumping himself up and down on Hutch's cock. He fell forward slightly, using his hands for balance, and pushed down and back, driving Hutch deeper and deeper into his depths. Hutch groaned, then shouted, as his cock was used for Starsky's pleasure. Starsky laughed and moved his right hand to cover Hutch's mouth gently, continuing the rhythm, moving his hips in a circular pattern, as if to drive Hutch deeper and deeper, and deeper still.

Hutch lost control first, arching his back and feeling his cock spurt deep into his lover. Starsky reared back at that and used his hands to grab his own length, exploding into his own orgasm, pulsing out onto Hutch's skin and clothes. He slowly lowered himself, groaning as Hutch slid from his body, and they both drifted off to sleep.

Hutch awoke to find Starsky cleaning his cock with a warm washcloth. "Starsky."

Starsky looked up and smiled. "Hutch. Thirsty?"

"Yeah." Hutch watched as Starsky headed for the fridge. He stretched a bit, only to discover he was still bound to the bed. Before he could ask the question, Starsky was back and a straw was between his lips. He drank greedily, then leaned back with a sigh. Starsky put the glass aside and climbed back into the bed. He curled up next to Hutch, lying on his side. One hand slid under Hutch's shirt and began to caress his stomach. Hutch had to smile at that. "Not sure there's anything left in this body, partner."

Starsky leaned in. "You forget. I know this body, Hutch. Know all your secrets. Nothing can be hidden from the gypsies." Starsky moved his hand lower, using his nails to lightly scratch the skin below Hutch's belly button. "Especially from their prince." He moved in and gently nuzzled behind Hutch's ear.

It was like electricity coursing down his body and straight to his cock. "Jesus!" Hutch breathed. "God, Starsky, I still have my clothes on!"

That drew an evil laugh from Starsky, who started slowly licking and kissing the side of his neck, and moved his hands down to assault his nipples yet again. Hutch moved his head to give Starsky better access, and Starsky took full advantage of the opportunity. Once again, hands and lips moved over his body, and his cock responded to the sensations.

Starsky moved, straddling Hutch in the classic position, and lowered his own cock to Hutch's lips. Hutch sucked eagerly, working his mouth and tongue along the length as Starsky fed it to him slowly. "Oh, yes, that's so sweet, Hutch. Get me hard and wet, so that I can take my pleasure again."

Hutch was hard and panting when Starsky moved off and rolled him over onto his side. Those warm hands slid his jeans down to where ass met thigh, and spread his buttocks to breathe warm air over the pucker. "You want this, don't you?" Starsky stroked the edges of the opening with his finger. "Such a lovely, needy angel."

"God, Starsky, please!"

Starsky moved up to kiss Hutch as he stretched him, going slow, taking his time. Hutch tried to thrust back, but Starsky remained in control, especially since Hutch's legs were still bound at the knees. Even after Starsky had three fingers in, he left them there, stroking Hutch's ass and flank, murmuring soft sounds until Hutch was ready to kill him. He strained, pushing back against the intrusion. "Goddamn it, fuck me, Starsky. NOW!"

"Such a demanding angel." The voice was low, but Hutch could hear the strain in it. "Lucky for you..." The fingers were removed "...that's just what I planned to do."

Hutch drew a deep breath of satisfaction, as Starsky slid deep within. It felt so damned good, as did the hand that cupped his cock. Starsky was using his fingers to stroke his balls as he settled in tight against his ass. A long, slow stroke out and a long, slow stroke in, and it seemed as if Starsky was even deeper than before. "Taking my time. Taking my pleasure." Hutch shuddered slightly as Starsky repeated the slow stroke. Over and over, building the pressure and pleasure to one blinding explosion of pure white joy.

Sunday Morning:

The day was simply gorgeous. Bright blue sky, a few white clouds, a chill in the air made filling lungs a pleasure. Hutch seemed to find a zone as he moved, running with a grace and ease he rarely felt. Each step seemed easy, his body tight, his breathing deep and regular. Down familiar streets, over well-known sidewalks, stopping at the park to grab a drink of water at a fountain--it all seemed commonplace and ordinary, yet tinged somehow with a newness he cherished.

Hutch smiled. He had slept all night, only waking when sunlight filled the room. Untied, half-dressed, covered in drying fluids, and sore as hell in all the right places. Starsky had been dead to the world, never even stirring when Hutch had crawled out of bed, changed into sweats, and left for his run. Now, feet pounding on the pavement, Hutch had to admit he felt better than he had in a long time. Amazing how stress could get you all tied up in knots without you even noticing.

With every step he took, he breathed a silent prayer of thanks. During the hard times, the tough times, it was so easy to ask for things. For miracles. Hutch wanted to remember to give thanks as well, in the good times. Thanks for his partner. For their love. For their lives together.

Up the steps, into the apartment, Hutch didn't even feel winded. Until he stopped at the foot of the bed and got a look at his partner. Then his breath seemed to flee his body in an instant.

There, on the wine-colored sheets in a patch of sunlight that streamed through the windows, lay his lover. Healthy pink flesh flushed from the warmth. Dark curls a riot against the pillows. Starsky was sprawled, having managed to spread out over the entire bed and wrapped himself around both their pillows. His back could be clearly seen, as well as his ass. Hutch let his eyes roam over the bed, taking in the strong arms, the tight buttocks, the long muscular legs. The shadows between hinted at even more interesting sights. He smiled as he felt the intimate tingle, the first rush of blood to his cock, the feeling only this man could give him.

"So." Starsky's voice was rough and sleepy. "We gonna clean some more?"

Hutch pulled his sweaty t-shirt over his head. "Nope."

Starsky yawned and blinked sleepily. "Wanna go to the park and play some more ball?"

Hutch toed off his sneakers and pulled off his socks. "Nope."

His dark-haired gypsy prince stretched a little, letting his muscles ripple. Sun and shadow danced on his skin as he moved. "Read the paper? Make some breakfast?"

Hutch pushed his sweats down, taking his underwear with it. "Nope."

"Finish our homework?"

"I'm done." Hutch smirked slightly as he crawled up and over Starsky.

There was a slight smile on the face below him. "What are we gonna do?"

Hutch moved into position, on all fours, hovering over Starsky. "I am gonna hold my lover, tell him how much I love him, and then I'm gonna taste every inch of his sun-warmed skin."

The slight smile blossomed into a full grin. "Sounds like a plan." Starsky rolled onto his back, looking up at a Hutch haloed in light.

Hutch smiled at him. "Then we can clean your fridge."

Starsky started laughing and pulled him down into a kiss.

**********

Flashback references

**********

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In two weeks on Starsky & Hutch:
The Time for Easy is Over, by Blue Starsky

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