The Time for Easy is Over
-- Starsky, Rosey Malone
by Blue Starsky

SHSVS, Episode 615

**********

"Those're some good-looking balls you got there," Hutch said, as he watched his partner put another red glass sphere onto their tree.

"Thought you'd never notice," Starsky said with a wink. "It's nice to have Christmas in a house this year, even if we are just house-sitting, at least we're living together."

"Right," Hutch said, as he sat down on the couch and looked around the room. "You do look good in a house, gotta admit that."

"Thanks. That's a real compliment after we moved all those boxes over--" Starsky slapped his forehead. Why did he bring that up?

"I almost forgot about the boxes!" Hutch said, straightening in his seat. "Chris said we could use her decorations. I don't know why we had to bring more of our own."

"Because they're ours, how's that, Mr. Bah Humbug?" He put a candy cane on a branch just over his head. "And why did we have to bring pots and pans over here when they have a kitchen twice as big as either of ours?"

"Okay, okay." Hutch waved his hands in front of him. "Truce."

"A whole month in someone else's house." Starsky leered at his partner between the branches. "Sounded pretty sexy to me. How could I say no to your offer?"

"I didn't think they'd ever get out of here, though. Kept coming back with more things to tell us. You'd think they were leaving the baby for us to take care of instead of just the house and the dogs."

Hutch got up and walked around the room. "Chris is stressed out. Sick grandfather, new baby. She looked frazzled, and Verducci looked like he hadn't had any sleep in weeks."

"He's lucky Dobey was able to give him that much time off." Starsky thought for a second. " Someday we should take off like that."

"Someday we will. Count on it." Hutch was now standing by the tree. "I like the way the menorah looks over there." The partners had recently celebrated their second Hanukkah together as a couple.

"After that Passover Seder, Ma thinks you're ready to convert." He laughed.

"It's not like I cooked and orchestrated the whole thing. I just did some research and went along to New York to participate and help the two of you."

"Well, she was impressed." As they kissed, he reached to put a handful of tinsel on top of Hutch's head, but his partner knew what Starsky was thinking and caught his hand. While their tongues wrestled, their fists wrestled, too, the mass of tinsel strands crinkling by their ears.

When Starsky tossed the tinsel on the tree, a familiar pain struck, and he frowned as he brought his arm back to his side. "Damn."

"What's up?" Hutch asked, poking through a box of candy canes.

"Still got this kinda ache in my stomach. Been a few days now." He looked at Hutch. "Remember me tellin' you about it before?"

"Starsky, that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't had the eight-course enchilada extravaganza at Tomatillo's yesterday."

"You didn't do much better, askin' if they had beef that was less fatty. 'Sides, we're in the neighborhood now. What do you expect me to do? Gotta support my special places. 'Specially if I know the chef there personally."

"Used to know him," Hutch corrected.

"Used to," he agreed. "How was I supposed to know that Norberto wasn't workin' there anymore?"

"I don't mean that." Hutch pointed the business end of a candy cane at Starsky. "But we were on dinner break and you spent twenty minutes trying to impress the waiter because you knew the chef."

"Twenty minutes. Right," Starsky answered sarcastically. Hutch was exaggerating wildly, and it was clear that he was trying to appear aloof. Starsky knew better. Hutch was looking forward to this Christmas as much as he was. Did Hutch know how well Starsky read him? How well he could see through his partner's façade of indifference? Starsky saw Hutch's hidden smiles, and to have his partner's true acceptance and admiration energized him all the more.

He went over to the counter where the ornament boxes were and picked up the note Chris had left for them about caring for the house, the plants, and the dogs. "She should be a novelist." He laughed as he turned to page three. "Says the third Saturday of every month a whole bunch of people bring their dogs to a neighborhood park at eleven." He stopped and flipped the page. "There's a map. Told their friends that their house-sitters may or may not bring the dogs this month."

Hutch, who was eating a carrot, walked over and started to read over his shoulder. He smiled and read from the paper. "You don't have to talk to anybody. The dogs like to run and play together. We usually pack a snack, and sometimes we just sit by ourselves at a picnic table. Nobody cares or thinks twice." He threw the greens from the carrot in the trashcan. "Want to go with me and watch a bunch of dogs run around?"

"You askin' me for a date?"

"Yeah, and if it's a cool day, you can wear the sweater someone gave you for a Hanukkah present," Hutch said.

"Who gave me a sweater?" Starsky asked with a smirk. Hutch had given him a beautiful dark blue sweater and a pair of blue jeans. Hutch was always giving him new blue jeans. The thought made him smile.

**********

Starsky walked into the bedroom to join his partner, just as the light of dusk was fading into the dark of nighttime. Hutch's hair was still wet from the shower, and the belt to his robe trailed behind him like a tail, attached to one loop by only a couple inches of fabric. Starsky pulled off his shirt and set it on the back of a chair. Two arms opened and he was enveloped by warm, damp skin. He inhaled the aroma of his Hutch.

"You want to turn off that hall light?" Hutch asked him.

Shaking his head, Starsky pulled the robe off his partner before taking a long taste from that luxurious mouth. Finally able to pull his face away, he saw the slight liquid remnants of their kiss that remained on Hutch's lips. "Damn," he said, placing a hand on either side of that face. "That mouth of yours is gonna be the death of me someday."

"It's our first night here," Hutch said. "This house, our house for the holidays." For a second, he glanced toward the window, looking over Starsky's shoulder. The moonlight caught his face, illuminating him and brightening the blue of his eyes, which gave them an ethereal glow like a cat's.

Starsky's thumbs smoothed along his partner's cheekbones. An animal's gonna screw me tonight. An animal that walks by night.

"Our first night here," Hutch continued, "and we've got tomorrow off. Got our stuff moved in, finally. You, uh, feel like something off the special menu?" He stretched as he spoke, and as his body lengthened; Starsky, in his arms, felt his back sensuously elongated as he was brought along for the ride. The men shared this simple sensation--so ordinary yet so seductive.

"I don't care, blue eyes. Just so long as I'm the main course off that menu." He could feel a familiar tingle disperse in that small area behind his balls and kissed his partner, sucking in Hutch's tongue to illustrate his offer. The flavor of Hutch, so subtle, so refined.

The hands that grabbed him during their kiss were the hands of a man who'd been given a free pass out of this world--a man who was eager and ready.

Starsky jiggled his ass in the best pre-horizontal mambo move he could, deliberately playing the tease. He could hear Hutch's nails scratching against the denim that kept him from the flesh. That flesh was becoming as needy as his partner's hands. "Ya can't get in there 'til you get the cover off, babe," Starsky said, leaning back. The cheeks of his ass fit so perfectly into those hands.

The head of Hutch's cock bumped above the waistband of Starsky's jeans, rubbing his skin, and he felt the hair there growing moist. When they separated, the air struck that dampened area, feeling like the fingers of a cool hand scattering across his belly.

Hutch walked to the center of the room and motioned for his lover to stand before him. Starsky hadn't removed his jeans, because he knew Hutch would find pleasure in doing so for him.

All at once, Hutch's hands were like the speeding tires of the Torino, screeching fingers raced along Starsky's chest with such vehemence that Starsky feared the hair might catch fire. When they slid over areolas and flew past a couple of speed bumps, he worried that his brain was the thing that would catch fire.

In the dim light from the hall, he watched as experienced fingers undid the top button of his jeans. He heard a low sound emanate from deep within his partner. The sound landed somewhere around Starsky's inner thighs, making the flesh there tremble. Oh, shit. It's getting bad. I could come just from seeing those fingers pry open my pants to get to my cock.

"I'm taking these off of you." It was said matter-of-factly. "And putting something even better on top of you." Hutch was in one of his precision down-to-business modes, and his fingers were shaking. Clearly, he was trying to ease down the zipper carefully because Starsky was going commando that evening. It seemed to take all the self-control Hutch had not to yank down the zipper quickly to get to his favorite source of high-impact protein.

One of these days, Starsky knew if he kept skipping the underwear, Hutch was going to lose that self-control, and his cock would get zipper burn. He lifted his hips as though that would help get the jeans off faster.

"I've been waiting all day for this," his lover said, as he looked up at him before taking Starsky's cock in his hands.

Again, Starsky was eager to get started, his hips gyrating even faster than Hutch was moving his hand as he knelt down.

Hutch flashed a Pepsodent smile, which hardened into seriousness as his tongue snaked out to lick away the first drop of excitement that had percolated to the tip. "Hey, this is the kind of candy cane I like best. Yeah, we'll still get all sticky, but you're my favorite."

There was no time to get used to the sensation of suddenly being swallowed into that slippery, private heat. Hutch's tongue-tip was flitting around inside, slapping and slathering against his cock, warm and wet. And then it felt as though Hutch had multiple tongues. Starsky's sensitive, aching cock was in the miniature carwash--or--cock wash of his dreams. Adding to the stimulation was the fact that Starsky could never predict where the slithery muscle--reminiscent of those soaking elongated fabric flaps--would strike next. Half whip, half liquid-silk caress.

The suction was exquisite; he was sucked long and deep into velvety warmth--wet, satiny heat. Hutch's fingers dug into the pubic hair, light skin contrasting the dark hairs of his groin. Curls swamped his face as full lips moved close. When Hutch's nose hit the pubes, Starsky got a momentary glance at how his partner would look with a wiry, bushy, dark mustache and beard.

He almost started to laugh as he sometimes did when he saw it, more out of astonishment than the literal humor of it, but his partner wasn't about to let sight be the sense Starsky focused on. When Hutch took a big whiff, Starsky was a goner; it was completely erotic. The beautiful chiseled features, his Mister Blond America face, grinding his nose into the sweaty pubes with Starsky's cock down his throat. And still Starsky knew that his incredible partner wanted more.

Hutch let go of Starsky's balls and reached around, smacking his butt cheeks, a familiar signal between them to spread their legs.

At once, Starsky was startled as if by a bright light. Someone must have ripped away the fabric of the darkness, and the unadulterated light from the stars had rushed into the room. "What're you boys doin' in there?" He heard the imaginary cop say as he looked in on them, aiming his flashlight.

Shit, he hadn't even come yet, and already Hutch was making lights go on behind his eyelids. Then his mind tried to get in touch with the real world again. He opened his eyes, and the reality of the light hit him.

"What the--?!" Leaning forward, he expected to find the strong shoulders, but they were no longer there. Was Verducci home again?

Hutch was standing, facing the door. "Who's there?" he asked with a booming voice.

"What the hell's going on? You turn on the lights?" Starsky tried to step forward but couldn't because his jeans were pooled around his ankles.

Hutch looked around suspiciously, that giant cat trying to sniff out danger. Protectively, he had a hand wrapped around Starsky's arm.

"Quit messin' around, Blondie." Starsky laughed. No response. "Hutch." His partner didn't hear him. To get his attention, Starsky clapped his hands together by his partner's ears. Darkness. The lights had gone off. After a second of surprise, it dawned on Starsky that their friends must have had the Clapper light switch mechanism installed in their bedroom. He laughed so hard, he had to lean forward against Hutch for fear of falling over, especially with the faded denim shackles at his feet.

Then his lover was again illuminated only by the dim light from the hall. Here was Hutch, standing tall, his body still holding the sheen from sex-kindled sweat, cock at half-mast. At the same time, he was in heavy cop mode. A naked, sexy man who was also this serious authority figure.

"Don't have your Magnum, but you're still packin' heat, babe." Starsky laughed.

Hutch let out a deep breath and looked at Starsky. "Why do I get the impression the lights are going to be going on and off a lot in this room for the next month?" He smiled.

"What if they'd walked in right then?" He cracked up again. "Hey." Starsky pulled Hutch to him and kissed him. "Whad'ya say you pick up where you left off?"

Hutch's fingers wove through Starsky's hair in a brief, loving massage before he chuckled and returned to his knees, his hands stroking the sides of Starsky's thighs.

Unable to resist, Starsky clapped his hands and the lights came back on. This was too easy.

Hutch looked up at him. Eyes like iridescent sea glass began to close. They were covered slowly behind narrowing lids, lash-tufted bivalve shells. He wondered when the blue glass would hatch and show themselves once more.

"Just thought I'd watch ya," was all Starsky said.

Warm fingers wrapped around Starsky's cock. "You do that, partner." Hutch opened his mouth as if to take in the erection, but stopped just before. "And take notes, too. I wanna be on the receiving end next, so hang on and I'll show you how it's done. Oh," Hutch added as though it was an afterthought, "I really don't think we ought to have any spankings while we're staying here."

Starsky laughed at the thought of the lights flashing on and off--illicit Morse code for the neighbors to see.

"Now, watch the master at work." Hutch mimed the act of unzipping Starsky's jeans, which were long gone and purely invisible. A thumbnail brushed against the shaft of his cock, offering a sensation so erotic that Starsky felt as though he was being cut in two. Hutch reached inside the imaginary fly and pulled out the fervent cock, which was impatient to be devoured.

Hutch grabbed it, sucking it back to being fully engorged very quickly. How could he do this to him so fast? There was something added, wicked, about being in someone else's bedroom.

Hutch reached around and, gently this time, took hold of Starsky's ass, pulling his body closer until Starsky's entire hard cock was in his mouth. The visual heightened the tactile once more when he noticed Hutch was wearing that otherwise impossible dark mustache and beard. As Hutch sucked Starsky, he began to separate his buttocks, then swirled a finger around the small opening, making it pucker.

Grabbing Hutch's hair, he moved his hips, his cock going in and out of that beautiful mouth. A growl ripped from him as he emptied himself into Hutch's throat. Hutch greedily swallowed all he had to offer. Starsky was floating in the ether, vaguely aware of Hutch pulling him onto the bed and holding him tight, whispering love words, while Starsky struggled to come back to earth as his body struggled to stop shuddering.

Hutch's kissing was hard and passionate. The kiss became more demanding, sensual. Their tongues twisted together.

Starsky opened his mouth farther, making his offering clear.

"You're amazing, Starsk. Thought you might be too tired--"

He didn't let him finish. "Lay it on me, blue eyes," Starsky said, as he pulled his partner on top of him. "Show this ass the best you got to give. Kiss me again--but not on the lips."

Hutch licked an inner thigh and grinned, and Starsky was already trembling. He pulled his knees back until they were near his nose. It was almost funny to Starsky that had he and Hutch not gotten together like this, he probably never would've been anywhere near this well acquainted with his own knees as he had become. He was ready for Hutch quickly, his body relaxing to welcome his partner's hefty member and enjoy it voraciously.

Hutch was the white dragon moving down to consume him, grinding and heaving and pumping until the release of white hot fire. And the dragon was a huge, crumpled, wilted, trembling blond comforter draped on top of Starsky.

Starsky rubbed Hutch's light hair, the ends of which rested on his chest. And there was that contrast again, dark hair, light hair, so perfect together.

I took your fire, Starsky thought, and you've shown strength by claiming me. I also showed my strength as I endured. Endured and asked for more. Maybe I'm the one who conquered you, this big, strong Nordic man lying in a wasted heap across my naked body. He stoked my furnace and then collapsed from the effort.

**********

"This is weird. It's like having them over to our place, but it's not our place."

"I know," Starsky said, as he wrapped foil around the potatoes. "We've only been here a week, and already it feels like our place."

"We've got some of our stuff around. Our stuff in the closets and drawers." Hutch tore lettuce leaves as he spoke. "Too bad Cal can't make it. Pretty soon Dobey'll only have one kid at home." He added the garlic he'd chopped to the salad dressing.

When Starsky walked by, Hutch dipped a slice of cucumber into the thick, white dressing and held it up to his partner's lips. Starsky opened his mouth, and Hutch fed him the moist disc, leaving only a small drop of the dressing on his lip. Starsky chewed slowly and as lasciviously as he could, performing for his blond. Ahhh, the enjoyment of cucumbers in their lives.

"You've got… Uh…" Hutch said.

Starsky nodded before they kissed. By the time the kiss was over, the drop of dressing was no more, and both men had garlic breath. The doorbell rang. "Damn," Starsky said. "Just when it was gettin' good!"

"Smells good in here," Dobey said, a high compliment, indeed.

"Well, you don't exactly invite your boss over and feed him something you don't think he'd like," Hutch said.

"Feel free to admire the decorations," Starsky said with a laugh, as he took their coats.

"This room is beautiful! Look! A giant reindeer; that's the biggest one I've ever seen!" Rosie exclaimed, running to the four-foot stuffed red reindeer in the corner of the room.

When Edith was about to say something, Hutch motioned that it was all right.

"I can see one reason the station is as decorated as it is," Edith said, looking at all the decorations in the living room. "Are these things you brought over or--?"

"Both," Starsky said enthusiastically, as they sat at the table and served the meal. "Chris said we could use some of their things to decorate. She left boxes out for us." He took a bite of meat. "I like to decorate the station. In our job we see so many terrible things, so much unhappiness, so much cruelty. It's fun to just throw garlands and candy canes around instead of throwing punches."

"He nearly took my ear off with one of the candy canes he threw around this morning," Hutch said.

"Aw, bah humbug." Starsky laughed.

"Well, Starsky," Captain Dobey said, "you're a better cook than I thought you would be."

"Harold!" his wife snapped.

Starsky laughed. "It's okay, Edith. We're used to it." He sat up straight and looked at his captain. "Ya see, Cap'n, we don't do as much take-out as we used to 'cause we haven't had a raise in forever."

"Right," Hutch agreed. "That's one reason we agreed to house-sit for Verducci. Make a little extra cash. Starsky can get that personality transplant he's needed for so long."

"That might've been funny, partner. Might've. If you only had a brain," Starsky said in a sing-song voice, which made Rosie laugh.

"I swear you boys are just like Cal and his friends when they're together." Edith laughed. "Don't men ever grow up?" As she spoke, they heard a series of small dinging sounds.

"Of course we do," the captain said. He was turning the top of the Swedish brass angel candle chimes that had been placed at the far end of the table while they were eating. The candles were lit, but apparently it wasn't going around quickly enough for him. What they'd heard was little angels' wands striking the chimes more and more quickly as they passed by. "We have careers and support our families just like women do. I don't know why women always ask questions like that." Rosie leaned against her dad and watched the little angels go around in circles.

"Don't burn your fingers doing that," his wife told him.

Starsky laughed, and Hutch gave him a quick glance.

The conversation continued during dinner.

"I don't want to forget to congratulate you two," Edith said. "Harold tells me you're being awarded the Silver Star."

"I always thought a medal was just what my leather jacket needed," Starsky said with a smile.

"It isn't just a medal; you also get a ribbon and a citation. You should be proud. It's 'for displaying extreme courage while consciously facing imminent peril.' I think that's how it's worded," the captain said with a big smile on his face. "Belanger and Tinker. No one's ever brought down the heads of two houses in one swoop before. This sent a lot of underworld figures scurrying--undercurrents felt here, LA, San Diego. The chief knows the LAPD's been looking at the two of you since then."

Starsky was touched. When Dobey spoke, he seemed to show the same amount of pride he might have had if he himself had been the recipient.

"Word is we have to go to a press conference, too," Hutch said, a look of mild distaste on his face.

"Don't scoff. It's the BCPD's highest honor." Dobey wiped his mouth with his napkin before continuing. "Your pictures will be taken at the news conference. Then taken again at the ceremony."

"I'll practice my smile." Hutch laughed.

With Hutch sitting on his left side, Starsky and his partner sometimes bumped elbows as they ate--Starsky with his fork in his left hand, Hutch with his in his right.

"Who'd've imagined Chief Ryan would be handing us medals?" Starsky said. "Just goes to show ya. He may not like our style, but our record speaks for itself." He pushed some vegetables around on his plate. "It'll be a great way to start off 1981."

"You bet it will. The Department can really use this kind of recognition. Publicity."

"Must look pretty impressive to Captain Robb over at the Sixteenth Precinct, too," Starsky said, cocking his head. Dobey and Robb had a friendly rivalry going, though neither would ever admit it.

"Robb will get his turn some year. It's about time the Ninth got singled out." The captain smiled as he poured more dressing on his salad.

Mrs. Dobey set down her glass. "How big is this house?"

"Not that big, really. The two bedrooms. A yard for the dogs to run around." Hutch pointed out the back window, and Rosie looked so she could see the dogs there.

"It's working out really well. Good sized fridge, hot tub; the dogs are fun to run with--"

The captain interrupted. "Retrievers?"

"They're Dalmatians," Starsky continued. "Have to thank Verducci for not having pit bulls. I'm not that much of a dog person." He took another bite of his steak, then continued talking about their public living arrangements. "There's a bedroom for each of us. Just the right fit."

Hutch was walking to the kitchen to get more coffee. "Nice neighborhood for jogging. I made sure I got the bedroom where the window faces east, so I'd get the morning sun." He pointed to the bedroom door before refilling Dobey's cup then sitting down. "Wakes me up."

"An' we can just head out to work. I don't have to drive 'cross town and wait while my partner takes twenty extra minutes to comb his hair and throw a bunch of garbage into the blender."

Hutch nudged him with his elbow, but it didn't silence Starsky.

"Before I agreed to stay here, too, I asked Verducci if they had a blender. He said he didn't think they did, so I said, 'Then I'm there'."

"Hey, come on!" Hutch chided.

"Well," the captain said, "we don't like to say anything, but Hutchinson's eating habits are well known down at the station."

"Those mashed up health drinks smell worse than they look!" Starsky said.

They'd chatted a little more before Edith started looking side to side, a worried expression on her face. "Rosie. Where's Rosie?"

Everyone stood up. "She can't have gone far. She was just here," Dobey said.

"Okay, let's fan out an' find her," Starsky said. "I'll check my room." He went into the far bedroom, even checking the closet. No Rosie.

"Here she is!" Hutch said, his head out the door of the other bedroom. Starsky went back into the hall, leaving the door to what was really his and Hutch's bedroom wide open. Everyone crowded outside the door, looking in to find Rosie asleep on the bed. It was a bare mattress, with a few jackets laid on it. She was using a small pile of folded towels for a pillow. The room was packed with boxes. The partners had planned to move them into the garage, as Verducci had encouraged them to do, so that the room was useable as a bedroom. It certainly wasn't in its present condition.

The closet was open. It contained nothing but a few coats, some of Chris's dresses and more boxes. Since the baby still slept in a crib in the master bedroom, they hadn't even begun to make it into a nursery yet. Starsky worried that it was clear this room was used more for storage, and that neither of the partners slept in here. The door to the first bedroom was still wide open and everyone could see the large bed, pillows, sheets, and covers in a jumble. The shirts they'd worn yesterday and a pair of jeans were draped on nearby chairs. Another pair of jeans was hung on the bedpost.

Edith went in and woke her daughter, while Starsky, Hutch, and Dobey stood in the hall. What can I say to explain this one? Starsky thought. The only other information to go through his mind was a series of swear words. Hutch put his hand on Dobey's back and they walked back past the spare bedroom out to the living room. Starsky closed their bedroom door and followed them.

They had planned to have the room cleared out and looking like a used bedroom well before Verducci and Chris got home.

With Rosie now half-asleep and eager to get home to her own bed, the Dobeys didn't stay much longer. After they left, the partners hung out for a while in silence. Starsky sat. Hutch paced.

**********

"Didn't help that the closet door was open."

"It sure as hell was," Starsky said before thinking back to the other bedroom the Dobeys had seen. "They saw all our clothes except the underwear. At least I hope they didn't see the underwear. Hope they weren't looking that high up." His laugh was forced.

"One of us should've worn the same jeans today as yesterday, then there wouldn't've been two pairs on the floor in there. As though that would've solved it," Hutch said sarcastically.

Starsky closed his eyes. They'd arrived home late and left early that morning. It wasn't like they always left their clothes strewn about. "Could've both belonged to just one of us, but no chance they'd think that after seeing the other room crammed with stuff."

"Could'a, should'a. Instead of wasting time with that, we should be focusing on the real issue. What the hell do we do now?"

They rinsed off the dishes, leaving the washing until the next day.

**********

"My heart's still racing. Can't remember the last time we chased a suspect that far." Starsky pulled a blank report from the filing cabinet then handed the form to his partner. He took off one of his shoes and turned it upside down. "I knew there was a rock in there!"

"Thank goodness she was wearing high heels, or we might still be running after her," Hutch laughed as he slid the paper into the typewriter. "So when do we get computers for these reports like they have over at the Tenth?"

Starsky shook his head. "Hey."

Hutch looked up to find Starsky's hand extended over the top of the typewriter. He took it and they shook hands.

"Another job well done, partner. This one was a monster. Everyone thought she was the secretary, the girlfriend, something, and it was her all the time."

"I can still hear her screaming in my ear," Hutch said. "She's screaming down in holding now, you can count on that. Both of them, probably." He began to type.

"Think of it. Maybe I'll go into business with my mother. What should we do? Bake cookies? Sew dresses? Care for wayward youth?"

"Scream at rock concerts?" Hutch suggested before the bell on the machine went off and he shifted to the next line.

"Naaaaaaah. We wanna make some real money. Let's mom and me be contract killers. Sound good?"

"Hear you guys caught the Bloody Christmas killers."

Starsky looked up. It was Pete Babcock, another detective in their precinct.

"Yep." Starsky wheeled his chair over and poured himself a cup of coffee. "Still can't believe it's all over."

"Well, congratulations." He started to walk away but then came back. "Sure you didn't time it this way so you'd solve the case right before you got your medals?" He slapped Hutch on the back before walking out of the room.

"Long day," Hutch said, after pulling the completed report out of the machine.

"Tell me the last one that wasn't," Starsky said.

They put the form on Dobey's desk, grabbed their jackets, and clocked out.

**********

"Hmmmm," Hutch mimicked the sound his partner made. "That feel good?"

"You know damn well it does," Starsky retorted, his breathing becoming shallow.

Hutch applied pressure, squeezing randomly, his fingertips pulsing on and off, and Starsky felt his balls rise and tighten. Shit, he's good at this. Hutch's thumb found the crease of skin on the underside of Starsky's scrotum and he played Starsky's balls like a manic pianist going like fire over the keys. Starsky bit his lip and spread his legs more, pressing into that thrilling hand. As soon as he closed his eyes, the tempo suddenly changed. This was something new.

Starsky looked up to see his partner holding his scrotum in the palm of one hand, adjusting a small bedside lamp with the other. Oh, God, he thought. What's he gonna do now? Hutch's touch was light, fingertips drawn slowly over the surface of Starsky's skin. "They're all yours, babe," Starsky said, smiling as he watched Hutch examine his balls. He wanted to lie back and just absorb the sensations, but if Hutch was going to put on such an erotic performance, no way was he not going to watch as well.

"Starsk, what is this?"

Starsky laughed. "All your doing, babe."

Hutch reached up and took Starsky's hand, then wrapped both their fingers around his scrotum. Hutch put his hand behind Starsky's and squeezed lightly.

"You wanna see me rub myself?" he asked slyly. "Always knew I could get you off just watchin' me."

"Starsky, wait a second. I want you to feel this and tell me what it is."

He took a few breaths before responding. Hutch seemed serious. "What? Feel what?"

"What is this?" Hutch pressed Starsky's fingers round and round over one particular spot. When he took his hand away, Starsky continued feeling the area.

"That little bump? I don't know what it is. Probably nothing."

Hutch sat up straight, one knee bent in front of him, and the other leg extended, looking him in the eye. "Starsk, it may be nothing, but it also may be something. How long has it been there?"

Starsky stopped rubbing the spot and sat up. "How should I know? You're the one who takes care of that area for me." He smiled but Hutch didn't smile back.

"Buddy, you like a certain kind of, um, attention." He rested his head on Starsky's shoulder, his voice softening. "I don't usually spend much time in that exact area." He smiled briefly and raised his head. "This little bump wasn't here the last time I was."

Starsky felt the spot on his scrotum again, trying to rub the little lump between his thumb and forefinger. "I don't know. Doesn't hurt. Maybe it'll go away."

"I think it's something you should get checked out. Make an appointment with Dr. Boyce."

"Boyce?"

"He's the urologist," Hutch said. "Remember I saw him two years ago? He'll be able to tell you what it is."

Starsky sighed. "All right, all right. But I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. Probably just some kinda pimple." The smile Hutch gave him wasn't very big. He patted the spot again, trying to figure out what it was.

Hutch put his hand under Starsky's chin. Starsky raised his head and they faced one another. "It's probably nothing. Could be an infection. Something the doctor could clear up in no time. Might not even be that. No reason to think it's anything serious." Starsky could feel each individual finger as it rubbed the back of his neck. Hutch's voice softened once more. "It's your body, your call. If I were you, I'd get it checked out. I-I'm asking you to do that. I love you and I'd like to see you make sure it's really nothing."

"Okay, I'll have it checked out," he said without hesitation. No question. If his partner felt that strongly about it, he'd let the doctor look at his pimple. Only he wished it were on his nose, like when he was fourteen, instead of on his testicle.

Hutch reached behind him and turned off the lamp. He came in close to Starsky until their bodies were clasped together on the bed, where they rolled until finding a comfortable position--this time, Hutch on his back, Starsky on top of him. Starsky felt the cool air on his back, and, as he unsuccessfully reached behind him blindly trying to capture the covers, Hutch tilted his head up and was able to grab them and pull them up over the both of them. He wrapped his arms around his lover, massaging Starsky's back under the covers.

"This mean you're on Mother Hen duty this week?" Starsky said. Dobey had teased them through the years about mother-henning each other now and then. He rubbed Hutch's temples.

"Depends on how you look at--"

He couldn't finish the sentence, because Starsky had moved his fingers down to play with his partner's lips. Hutch startled him when his tongue suddenly darted out and licked him.

"Delicious!" he said before they shared a kiss.

**********

Fewer than two days later, Starsky gave his partner a bit of news, almost as an inconsequential aside. "Oh, got an appointment with Boyce for Monday."

"Starsk, you want to talk about?"

"There's nothing to say. We got this Dobey thing goin' on. At least that's something we can sink our teeth into, something we know enough about to plan for. What're we gonna do about that? Other stuff, I'm doing just fine." Why was he lying to Hutch? Why was he lying to the one person to whom lying was futile, the one person who always knew if he was lying? He could tell Hutch still wanted to try and get him to talk about it, talk about his thoughts and worries, but thankfully, he let it be.

**********

They'd skirted around the issue with Dobey for almost a full week. Several times, they started to discuss it but then abandoned the subject. There was an uneasiness in the air at work, and for the past few days, they'd found themselves avoiding contact with their captain altogether. It was time to decide what they were going to do.

Hutch sat on the couch beside Starsky. " Okay, let's see what we've got. Why do we tell him? Why don't we tell him?"

"We don't tell him and we're implying that he's more our boss than our friend. We're implying that we're more afraid of what he'd do as the captain. We don't respect him enough to be honest with him." This was frustrating and Starsky was starting to confuse himself, but he continued, trying to formulate his thoughts. "If we don't tell him, there'll be a wedge driven down the middle of our relationship. It was inevitable that he'd find out." He rubbed his neck. "But why do I feel like I don't want to tell him this?"

"And we're supposed to be the ones on a mission to make things better. We've never treated him like a stranger, Mr. Boss. " Hutch saluted to emphasize his point. "Are we gonna start doing that now?"

"So what happens when we tell him?"

Hutch scratched his head. "You're asking me? There must be a million different things that could happen." He shrugged, a look of disgust on his face.

"A million, huh? I can think of two or three. If he goes by the book, he does what? Splits us up. They give us different partners." Starsky's stomach tensed as he said it.

"Somebody'd have to explain that to Ryan who's got our medals warming and ready." Hutch was looking off into the distance. "Our cooperation working as a team is part of why we're getting those things." He rested the beer bottle on his thigh.

"Right. Now we know there's no way Dobey's gonna tell anybody. We've all been through too much together." Starsky got up and got a glass of water. He poured a little bit of it into the African violet that sat on the shelf in the kitchen before returning. "He's told us to disappear, told us to get out there and do whatever we had to do to break a case. Probably won't even tell Edith, though something tells me she figured it out before he did."

Hutch stood up and stretched. "You thinking he might not go by the book?"

"You know that's what I'm thinking." Starsky walked over to stand directly in front of his partner. "Puts him in a really bad place. He should split us up. Could even put some other reason for it on the books, but that's what he should do according to the brass."

Hutch reached forward, wrapping his fingers around Starsky's forearm. "It's late. We've been over and over this. How 'bout we put it, and us, to bed for the night? Otherwise, Dobey'll see two half-asleep zombies wearing our clothes tomorrow."

Starsky nodded. It's all serious now, he thought. Consequences. Loving someone has consequences where you might lose your job, lose some friends. He shook his head as they walked into the bedroom.

"You want to shower first...before me?" Hutch asked, clearly so in tune with Starsky's emotions to know that some alone time might be appreciated.

Starsky looked at him for a second before responding. Then for some reason, a smile came to his face. A smile. Where'd that come from? It didn't take long to figure out the answer. In one quick and well-practiced motion, he had his partner in his arms and was giving him one of those kisses they'd called "tonsil diving." It was as if inhaling Hutch's breath empowered and grounded him. When he pulled back, Hutch's lips were as wet as his were, and a smile was on his face, too. Starsky unbuttoned the remaining buttons on his lover's shirt and pulled his own t-shirt over his head. "How 'bout we both shower first?"

Hutch was now in just the black bikini briefs Starsky had given him for his birthday, having set his pants over the back of a chair.

"I think you and I need to, um…." Starsky grabbed hold of the waistband of Hutch's underwear. "We need to connect somehow. Remind each other what the hell this is really all about." One good downward yank had the briefs around Hutch's knees. "Tell the rest of the world to fuck off. Whad'ya think of that?" Now Starsky was free to touch his partner's bare skin, and he did just that.

"What do I think of that?" Hutch used one hand to unsnap Starsky's jeans and pull down the zipper. He could do it left-handed, too; Starsky had witnessed it happen several times. After quickly pulling down the jeans, warm fingers eased down the blue Speedos. He watched the removal of his clothing while maintaining a sexy leer on his face.

This is what Starsky loved--having Hutch look at him as though he were the most delicious dessert imaginable. The Speedos now completely off of him, the two men stood facing each other. Hutch reached to cup the balls, rolling them in his hand, squeezing lightly. "You tell me if anything hurts you," Hutch whispered, his eyes locked onto Starsky's. "If anything makes you uncomfortable, tell me. Otherwise..." That was all that needed to be said. Hutch loved him, loved his body, no matter what.

**********

They didn't talk much as they shared the shower, enjoying letting their soapy hands talk to each other's bodies. Hutch lathered up his friend's skin, rubbing, caressing, and working the muscles as Starsky's own personal masseur.

Starsky held out a hand to his partner. "Let me wash your cock."

Hutch smiled and put his hands on his hips. "You bat those lashes at me, Mister, you get to do anything you please." His erection seemed to battle with the washcloth, its hardness and growing size more difficult to get a hand around. Also it didn't want to move along, getting stuck as if he were trying to slide the cloth over the trunk of a tree. It was Starsky's favorite thing to wrestle with. "I think you're clean now." He leaned against the shower wall. "You better get me clean, too."

Hutch did so joyously, lathering up Starsky's dark pubic hair before rinsing him over and over. He then squatted down and brought the erection into his mouth.

"Suck it for me, partner." Starsky knew he was doing something with his hands, and could see that his fingers were ransacking Hutch's hair. He just wasn't conscious enough to predict his movements or control them. "You know what I want. Yeah, that's it, that's right." He leaned against the shower wall.

Hutch moved lower and began to lick Starsky's balls, which were heavy between his legs. Placing small kisses along Starsky's sac, the tongue slid across his skin. Hutch managed to pull them both into his mouth, loving each one, rolling it around in his mouth. He was a little more gentle than usual, but it set Starsky off just the same. Starsky squatted, flaring his thighs outward to give his partner greater access.

"Don't stop, don't..." His cock rolled around Hutch's face. "Please, don't stop." What Hutch did with his mouth was shooting Starsky's mind and entire body out of this world. He looked down. Hutch was smiling. Shit, he's smiling with my friggin' balls in his mouth. Starsky wanted to howl, but the best he could manage was a staccato moan. The lascivious smile, complete with bulging, X-rated Dizzy Gillespie cheeks, was his partner's latest superhuman, supersexual feat, and one that caused him to cry out and grip the strong shoulders that much tighter.

Hutch's tongue moved back to his cock, pulling it into the wet furnace just as Starsky's vision blurred and his body shook. These were the small tremors that he knew preceded the final blastoff. He was consumed by a fiery white light. The sense of touch ruled his universe, and he had tunnel vision, seeing only the blond head--hair darkened slightly by the water--taking his cock to task, giving it a famous Hutchinson tongue-lashing. The mouth was on his cock, Hutch's two-day growth of beard now rubbing against his balls, Hutch's fingers squeezing his ass.

The pleasure Starsky was enduring came close to devouring him; soon he would be shattered into a million sparks. The warm water drenched his back, keeping the fire at bay for a second more, but seeming to tease him into giving it up to Hutch that much quicker. His body arched, and it felt as though he were sending a geyser into Hutch's hungry mouth.

Soon, Starsky reached down to take Hutch's arms, pulling him up. And when they stood face to face, Starsky wrapped himself around his partner, taking his mouth in a deep, long and loving kiss. God, he'd needed that, and, God, he needed Hutch.

Hutch stepped back and spread his legs. Hutch turned, handed him the dripping wet cloth, and whispered. "Your turn."

When Starsky squatted in the corner, where they were all but out of the spray of the water, Hutch's hard cock stood straight and sturdy, just inches from his lips. Starsky closed his eyes and licked gently across the swollen crown. Hutch's gasp nearly knocked him over.

Each time, the first touch of his tongue to the smooth tip of his lover's erection seemed to send a drum roll pulsing through his veins. He was running the pyrotechnics show, and he could tell by the sounds and squirms of his audience what was especially appreciated. These things were done more often. The goal was to pull off the most spectacular fireworks display behind his partner's eyelids.

He put all thoughts out of his mind, focusing only on the swelling creature in his mouth. His tongue traced the ridges, followed familiar paths. He could not believe how much he loved this man's body--its flavor and appearance. Letting his tongue wash up and down the shaft, Hutch's broken whimper went to Starsky's heart and groin, and he was determined that in moments he'd have to carry the boneless, spent carcass of Ken Hutchinson to bed.

Moving up onto his toes, he plunged farther down on the hot, engorged cock, fingers applying wet pressure between Hutch's balls and asshole as his partner squirmed above him. The moment of climax came, and Starsky was ecstatic as he felt Hutch's warm, thick essence spurting down his throat. Starsky smiled up at Hutch, and when the now soft penis fell out of his mouth, he caught it in his hand.

Hutch laughed and leaned forward against him.

Starsky stood up happily, kissing him and supporting his weight.

They took their sweet time drying one another off. Starsky glanced out in the hall as they wandered to the bed. He noticed the other bedroom, filled with only boxes, while this, their bedroom, was full of love and support for whatever was in the future.

Still, sleep didn't come easily tonight. Starsky stared at the ceiling, feeling as though he was about to fall off to sleep, but still awake nonetheless.

Hutch, whom he thought had fallen asleep an hour ago, was either still awake or had reawakened, rolled onto his side and began rubbing Starsky's chest. "Hey. We always knew this was bound to happen sometime."

Starsky rolled on top of him and kissed him before he could say any more. "Yeah, I know. And, no, I don't have any regrets about us. Don't even bother askin'. I regret the way we have to stay so secret, regret the fact that we'd run the risk of getting our heads blown off by some brother cop who found out--no doubt a young punk cop with half our experience and nowhere near our brains or arrest record..." He pressed the side of his face against Hutch's warm body, and they were quiet for a while. " Don't married people have some kinda rule about not bein' angry in bed--even if they're not angry at each other?"

"Married people?" Hutch asked before raising his head to kiss his partner's forehead. "Yeah, let's have that rule. We'll only be angry in the living room." Hutch was using that low, soft tone of voice that could dissolve Starsky completely, even in the beginning of one of his mightiest tempers. "Dobey's kind of the last one to know, the last of the people who really matter."

Starsky looked up at him and said quietly, "He'd have to split up a couple'a married people who were partners."

"Starsk." Hutch rubbed his hand down his arm. "Don't say something like that, and then go hiding behind those eyelashes." He laughed a little, and Starsky opened his eyes. "Captain Dobey will do whatever he thinks is right. Do we respect him enough to tell him? I think it would be dishonorable not to be honest. It would dishonor what we've been through, the times he's helped us out of jams, the respect we have for him."

"He's gotta know, gotta be told." Starsky nodded. "When?"

"This weekend? Have him over for lunch or something? On our territory."

"Okay." He laughed.

"What's so funny?" Hutch's eyes looked so crystal blue in the moonlight.

"I was just thinkin'. If we tell him here on a Saturday, maybe he'd come over in something besides a jacket and tie. Then our chances would be better. Like he'd be less official." He sighed. "So, you wanna plan how we'd handle different partners?"

"Be careful there," Hutch said with a wink. "Don't even know if we're going to be split up, and already you're talking about handling this new partner of yours."

Starsky smiled.

"Whad'ya say we wait 'til we have to deal with that. We're young, capable, got money in the bank. We've got options."

Hutch's lips were so slick and supple beneath his tongue. He lay back down beside his partner. It wasn't just the sex or anything as superficial as that. They were supposed to be together. Starsky grinned and rolled his eyes a little at the melodrama they were suddenly embroiled in. He was starting to feel better.

Hutch hovered over him and began rubbing his thighs and stomach in a repeated pattern like arches--stomach to thighs, down almost to knees, back up to thighs, over to stomach, back down the thighs. And finally venturing beneath his stomach, fingers following Starsky's dark treasure trail, one hand took hold of his cock, and the fingers of the other found their way to his scrotum.

Probably noticing the look on his face, Hutch wrapped his arms around Starsky's body, pulling him up, hands rubbing down his back. "Hey, up there. Going over and over this in your mind won't get us anywhere, right?"

Starsky inhaled and exhaled, pushing a lot of the worry out with the breath. Hutch had taught him how to do that. He'd always thought it was a lot of hogwash, but those California cleansing breaths, accompanied by those warm Hutchinson hands, were really working tonight. He smiled. "You planning on us getting somewhere tonight, partner? We already had a pretty good time in the shower for a couple of old coppers."

They shifted positions so they were both sitting up, facing each other. Hutch caressed the side of Starsky's face, five fingers wandering back into his hair. The other hand wandered once more to his genitals. "Oh, yeah, I think we better take one of our trips here in bed tonight, babe. Only question is, who's gonna drive?"

"Shit, Hutch. Aren't you ever satisfied?"

"You aren't just a one-course meal, partner," he said, dropping kisses from his jaw down his neck to his shoulder.

**********

"Well," the doctor said, after flipping back to the first and most recent page in the report. "That's quite a medical history." He was still reading as he spoke.

"Right," Starsky said, wondering if he even heard his response.

"Right," the doctor echoed, looking up at him again.

This was his first prostate exam since he and Hutch had become a couple. It seemed even more unpleasant and uncomfortable than before, though he'd always hated them. Starsky put on a robe and Dr. Boyce felt his testicles. Starsky tried to tell himself that he wasn't really there, while wishing it would be over soon.

When the examination was over, Starsky got dressed and they sat down and talked some more. The doctor showed him a plastic model of the male reproductive system, pointing out all the parts. The ache in his stomach, the fact that the lump itself didn't hurt, both could signal either an infection or something more serious.

"There's one thing I didn't tell you in my medical history. It's... This is all confidential, right?"

The doctor nodded. "Absolutely confidential."

"See, I'm in the best relationship ever, the first stable one in my life." Self-conscious of his squirming, he took a second to catch his breath and reassure the doctor, whom he knew probably didn't need reassurance. "This really does have something to do with it, I promise." He smiled nervously, not knowing how to say what he wanted to. "Thing is, Doc, this perfect person in my life... I've been with a man for the past two years. Guess I'm trying to ask if there's anything I could'a done, I mean anything he and I could've--"

Mercifully, the doctor interrupted him. "Mr. Starsky...David, I think you can rest assured that your sex life has nothing to do with it. I see symptoms like these all the time, and they appear in men with all kinds of sex lives. Regardless of what it is, there's no way your being gay could have caused it."

Starsky bit his lip before smiling and thanking the doctor.

"Before I say for sure that this is an infection, I'd like you to come back for some tests in our lab. I don't want to give you antibiotics before we're sure they're necessary. I'll schedule you for blood and urine tests and a chest x-ray. Any questions?"

Starsky's mind had gone blank. He shook his head.

"There's every chance that this little lump is just an infection, but to be sure, I want to run some tests. The location is slightly unusual, so close to the testicle itself, and we want to be sure what we're dealing with. My nurse keeps my appointment book. She can schedule a time when you can come back and we'll run some tests. Let's go see what's available."

Starsky got up and the followed the doctor out of the office. When they got to the counter at the nurses' station, the doctor addressed a nurse there.

"Rita, didn't I just have a lab cancellation in the next week or two? Maybe we can fit Mr. Starsky in for some tests sooner than later."

"That's right," she said and opened the book, checking through the doctor's calendar.

"We'll see if we can speed this up for you, David," the doctor said. "With luck, we can have the tests run and the results back before the holidays, but we'll have to hurry."

The nurse stood up, and she and the doctor looked at the large appointment book privately. Then Dr. Boyce turned back to Starsky. "Can you be back here this Friday at three in the afternoon? I know it's short notice."

His palms were sweating. "Yeah. Yes, I'll be here. Thanks for getting me in so soon, Doctor." The doctor said goodbye and asked Starsky to wait while his nurse filled out an appointment card and gave him some instructions for the day of the tests that were printed on a mimeographed sheet. He folded the paper and put it in his wallet with the appointment card.

**********

He knew Hutch was probably waiting for him at the house, but Starsky needed some time alone and went back to his apartment. He was desperate to take a shower after so many tests, so much of his personal life revealed, this time to a stranger. He and Hutch had talked about it ahead of time. He had to tell the doctor, and he felt better that he had, but…

Everything about the apartment seemed small. Even the furniture, which was the same size as that in the house, seemed small. He and Hutch were outgrowing these apartments, he thought as he turned on the shower and got out some towels. They were outgrowing this childish hiding, dating lifestyle. They woke up in separate beds too many mornings. There shouldn't be any mornings at this point in their relationship that they woke up in separate apartments, separate beds. How could anyplace be his home if his partner lived somewhere else?

He set the towels down by the sink and something caught his eye. It was a picture of Hutch--a candid photo he'd taken and framed--something he'd kept in his nightstand for years, long before they'd become lovers. He couldn't remember why he'd had it out recently. Starsky looked at the photo as he undressed and the steam from the shower entered the room. He picked up the picture.

We deserve better, he wanted to tell his partner. We deserve everything any other couple gets. Here they were, worried that something might be wrong with him. Also, they'd most likely have to level with their captain and tell him entirely about their relationship. What the hell was happening? He set the photo upright then got in the shower, scrubbing himself as though he was coming off of a brutal day at work. Not only were the physical tests invasive, but the questions, the subject area, the possible ramifications were as well. When his fingers hit the spot with the lump, he washed quickly then moved on.

When he got out of the shower, he grabbed a towel and went back out to the sink where the photo sat. "I'm not alone," he said aloud. Hutch had always been completely by his side, ever since they'd become partners, but especially since they'd become lovers, since they'd become a couple. He had someone to come home to, someone, as the cliché went, to grow old with. Not just someone, anyone off the rack. Not just someone he happened to meet, someone whose ass he happened to pinch as it walked by. This was the one who mattered--the only one.

As he pulled the towel over his body, it warmed him, and the realization of his bond with Hutch seemed to reassure him all the more. Partners in every way. He'd go home and tell Hutch how he felt, what he thought, how the appointment had gone, what his worries were. But then he'd tell him, and at the same time remind himself, how lucky he was to be in that relationship, and how the relationship would help him stay strong no matter what happened.

**********

The television news was on in the background. They were still talking about Reagan's landslide victory, a month after the election.

"I know I could'a asked you if anything we did…"

Hutch squeezed his partner's hand. "Starsk, I understand your asking the doctor. He could tell you for sure, he could tell you unemotionally. I understand. And I'm impressed that you had the balls, no pun intended, to ask."

Starsky laughed. How the hell Hutch got him to laugh tonight, and at a dumb comment about balls, he had no clue. He didn't feel like talking at all for a while after that. And then he shook his head. "Felt like a piece of meat, y'know? Bein' prodded and poked at. Gotta go back in a few days for more tests."

"I know," Hutch said softly.

"Why can't any of this be easy?"

"Well," Hutch said, "maybe the easy stuff isn't what you appreciate. Maybe it's the stuff you're willing to work for, that you have to work for that's the most valuable."

"Yeah," he answered, looking out the window. It was all very aggravating, the waiting and the loss of control. My body, my job, he thought, both out of my hands. He shook his head. He was thirsty, but didn't know what he wanted to drink; hungry, but didn't know what he wanted to eat. There was so much he wanted to say to his partner, but he couldn't find the words. It wasn't as though they needed words to communicate anyway. He got up, and as he walked by the TV, flicked it off. "Hey, Blondie."

Hutch stood up, too. "You talkin' to me?"

"Well, I ain't talkin' to the Dalmatians." As they kissed, Starsky closed his eyes and wedged a leg between those of his partner and ground his crotch against Hutch's hip. "I need you tonight, Hutch," he said.

"Then I'm there. However you want me." They walked into the bedroom and removed the remainder of their clothes.

He knows just what I need, Starsky thought. And he'll see to it that I get it.

It wasn't going to take long that night. Starsky laid Hutch down on his back, lifting his legs so his ass was exposed, and then wasted no time arranging his limbs the way he wanted them. Squirting a liberal amount of K-Y into Hutch's palm, he leaned forward as his partner applied the glistening substance to Starsky's cock and balls. He knew how Hutch loved to be eaten, and Starsky so enjoyed taking his time loving and tormenting him that way, but tonight there was no time. It was understood. "You know what I want, babe," was all Starsky had to say.

Hutch lay sprawled on the bed, offering himself to his partner, completely vulnerable, ready for anything. A gleam in his eye begged Starsky for more.

He took his lover's hands and, in doing so, coated his own. Starsky pried apart the cleft of the cheeks, and Hutch's mouth opened immediately, panting. It was a precursor of his body's willingness to open and accept his lover inside. Starsky growled into Hutch's mouth. When his partner's tongue entered his mouth, his right hand grabbed handfuls of the light hair, while the slick fingers of his left hand twisted back and forth between the long legs. His fingers met little resistance, and when he looked into those intense blue eyes, he nearly lost it right there. Damn, he was actually urging Starsky to hurry.

When the head of his cock first encountered the relaxed entrance to Hutch's body, Starsky let out a shout that echoed through his body and his heart. The sensation of how quickly Hutch was ready for him was amazing. They were so good at this, their bodies so in tune. One of these days, he knew he'd only have to lube his thumb and middle finger then one, two, snap his fingers and his big blond partner would be all set. No one else would give this to him; no one else could possibly know why or how or when to do so.

Starsky's hips went into sudden overdrive, producing hard, fast and deep thrusts into Hutch's ass. He paid attention to Hutch's every response, using his partner's expressions and vocalizations as fuel for his fire. He lit into Hutch with everything he had.

"That's right, partner. Fuck the shit out of me, man!" The words were rough, and they cut into Starsky's psyche, ripping open some sort of private vault, and things were starting to escape.

Hutch's face was red, his muscled body shining, wet with perspiration. Looking at his partner, Starsky could feel his own emotion, the anger, the fear, the negative energy being pulled from him in one great sexual rush. While Starsky was in the driver's seat it was his partner that was making it possible, allowing it to be released.

He thrust his tongue into Hutch's mouth, reached between them, and took hold of Hutch's cock. All the while, pushing to go deeper, harder and faster, but he never once let go of his partner. Shoving tightly against Hutch's body, he began to growl through clenched teeth, ramming himself into that tight tunnel. And when Hutch came against his belly, he could feel it start to rush through him--a liquid roar that transferred from his own to his lover's body. He exploded with a scream in an intense orgasm. For long moments afterward, he shook from the intensity, and strong arms held him tight, kept him on this earth, in their world, in their bed.

**********

Declining his partner's offer to accompany him, Starsky left work early and went to his appointment to get the lab work done.

It went more quickly than he'd expected. Urine, then blood, then chest x-ray. The whole time he zoned out as much as he could. The white-coated technicians talked to him much less than the doctors had, and he felt even more like a piece of meat today than he had earlier in the week.

When he returned home and opened the front door, the first thing he smelled was pepperoni. An aromatic embrace from his best friend.

"I got us a couple pizzas," Hutch said when he saw that Starsky was back.

"I love you, too," Starsky said with a smile of understanding, giving Hutch a quick hug before taking off his jacket and washing his hands.

Once the first pizza was three-quarters gone, he started to tell his partner about the appointment. "Before the x-ray, the nurse told me, 'This doesn't taste good and it doesn't taste bad'."

"How'd it look?"

"Hey." Starsky laughed. "It's hard enough to talk about how it tasted while I'm eating!" He took another bite of pizza. "And she tells me to just drink it all down quick." He took another drink of Coke, but could still taste it lingering around his gum line. "So, I drink it." He stuck out his tongue and crinkled his lips. "That foul-smelling stuff we scoop out for the dogs every day would taste a thousand percent better than this stuff. The nurse knew I couldn't say how rotten it really tastes with a mouthful of it." He folded the crust in half and slipped it into his mouth. "If I didn't know they would've just made me drink another glass of it for that damn x-ray, I would've spit it out."

Though he loved the crust himself, Hutch fed the last bite of his to his partner. Today marked the beginning of their two weeks of waiting. The doctor had told Starsky it would take two weeks for all the test results to come back. The next couple of weeks wouldn't be easy.

**********

A few days later the stress was already getting to them.

"I am not dwelling on it. I can handle it just fine," Starsky told him.

The look Hutch gave him said, Yeah. Right. "Do you want to go down to the public library, see what kind of books they have? Do some research? Decide what's the worst possible thing it could be, and research that. How would we handle it?"

Starsky agreed and they ended up spending three hours there, getting a lot of information, bringing some things home on Xeroxed sheets of paper. As they drove, Hutch talked back to the news on the radio.

When they got home, Starsky sat working on his homework when his partner started to yell at the newspaper.

"Hutch, I don't want to hear any more about Ronald Reagan. He won. We have to just accept that and move on. Isn't there anything else in the paper?"

Hutch read through the pages silently for a while. "Here's something unrelated to our new Hollywood president."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Anita Bryant has gotten a divorce. Imagine that. Says the mother of family values is going back home to Tulsa."

"Good riddance," Starsky said.

"Amen," Hutch agreed.

"Interesting, isn't it?" He reached over and took a drink of Hutch's beer. "Miss Orange Juice is divorced, but we've gotten together and are happy as clams."

"Maybe it's hard to keep a marriage together when you spend so much time doling out words of hate rather than living in love."

**********

"He said his office would call when they had the results. It'd be about two weeks." Starsky sat on the couch, looking out the window, watching some kids riding their bikes on the street.

"And you gave him this number. You told me that before."

Starsky nodded. "And our work numbers."

"So you're going to stay by the phone just in case he calls, just in case the tests are back this soon?" Hutch rubbed his shoulder as he asked the question.

Starsky was all mixed up inside. "Naaah, guess not. It's like I wish I had a phone I could carry around with me like we do our walkie-talkies, so whenever he calls, I could answer even if we're away from home."

"We don't have anything like that. Someday, maybe we'll be like Maxwell Smart, carrying our telephones around with us in our shoes. For now, we have answering machines." Hutch sat beside him and pulled him close. "Starsk, whatever the news is, whenever we get it, it's not going to rule our lives. We'll deal with it. It's our lives. The people who love you will continue to love you and be here for you if you have cancer or if you have anything else or nothing at all. If this thing with Dobey falls apart and we need to find other jobs, we'll find other jobs."

Starsky took a sip of his wine. It was no good trying to pretend to be nonchalant. His chin started to tremble. Why was this happening? Why couldn't he deal with this? Too much at once. His life was finally turning out like it should be; he finally was with the person he loved, and all this crap seemed to be rising to the surface at the same time. There was so much really good stuff, alongside the bad. "Y'know those times I've told ya to bite the bullet?" he asked quietly.

Hutch nodded.

"Well, ya got one handy for me?" Starsky closed his eyes and rested his head on Hutch's shoulder. His partner had laid it all out there. It was true that they'd handle whatever was to come. Starsky himself had been saying so and knowing it, avoiding the topic, making jokes about it for days. But for the next few minutes, he wanted to let Hutch be the strong one. The arm around his shoulder tightened; he felt Hutch's lips soft on the top of his head. Starsky just cuddled closer and let himself be cherished.

**********

Hutch was trying to figure out how to assemble the Cuisinart, clicking plastic parts on and off. "Where does this, this thing go?" He looked over the instructions, which had been tucked inside the unit. "I don't even know what the parts are called, how can I assemble them? These instructions are no help."

Starsky walked up to him and pointed to a random section. "And here's the epididymis."

"Whaa--?" Hutch said before laughing.

"Aaaaaah," Starsky waved a hand. "Doc gave me Pecker 101, complete with a scale model that had removable parts." He picked up part of the Cuisinart. "This is the epididymis." Then he prodded the gray plastic bowl on the top. "And this is the Hopp-a-pittamus."

Hutch held up a long, slender shaft-shaped item that was probably used for pushing food into the unit. "This has got to be the episodical." He fingered it suggestively then handed it to his partner.

"The most important part." He winked. "In layman's terms, it's the epidurgical," Starsky responded.

"The famous, or should I say in famous acidophilus," Hutch said, as the blade fell out onto the counter with a clang.

"We don't usually tell little boys what that part actually does," Starsky laughed. "Save that information for the grown men."

Hutch picked up what looked like a metal shredder. "The male body is made up of some very specialized parts."

"That one's kept only for S&M," Starsky whispered out of the corner of his mouth. "Sadness and madness," in his Bogart gumshoe voice. They were both laughing and it was entirely ridiculous, but he really needed this bit of madness right then. When he was able to stop laughing, he finally thought to ask his partner, "You gettin' nervous about receiving your Silver Star?"

"Nah, but we have to decide who's going to pin them on us, though. Probably Dobey. Wouldn't it be nice if--?"

Starsky kissed him before he could finish the sentence. "It would be more than nice, but we can recreate the ceremony right here that night. Take off the medals, then I'll pin you and you pin me, and then we can pin each other in a different way in the bedroom after that."

"Sounds good to me. That way I'll get my Silver Starsky, too!"

**********

Agitated. He was agitated and hot, and he needed to get out of there--get himself and his partner out of there. His legs weren't moving. The room seemed to be on fire. His voice wouldn't work, throat seemed to be closing up.

"Starsky!" Hutch was shaking him.

"What? What the--?" He dropped back onto the pillows, exhausted, feeling as though he'd just chased some fleeing suspect down four city blocks.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Man, I was having a terrible nightmare." He took a little while to get his breathing back to normal, get the shakes under control.

Hutch rubbed his arm. "Want a glass of water?"

Starsky nodded, and when his partner returned with the water, he began with the description of his dream. "Yeah. It's all comin' back to me." The memory was so vivid, he felt cold down the center of his back. "We're talking to Dobey, sitting in his house. We're telling him there for some reason. We're not gettin' anywhere with it. It's like Simon Says or Charades or something. He can't figure out what we're talking about. I'm gettin' ready to pull that big ol' dildo out of our room to give him a clue. And it's like the floor turns into some kind of volcano or something, and piles up with red-hot coals. Flames are gettin' closer and closer to my feet. Your feet are already half drowned by the sizzling embers, but you don't even notice it because we're too damned nervous tryin' to think of what we're saying to Dobey."

He looked up at the ceiling and caught his breath. "Oh, man, Hutch. What's happenin' here? There's just so many things that could go wrong." He took a long drink of water. "I shouldn't've gone off like that. I'm sorry."

Hutch put his arm around Starsky's shoulders. "Com'ere," he whispered, leaning closer. "We've got so much going on right now, so many what-ifs."

"I'm used to bein' in control. Don't like this wait-and-see-what-happens stuff." He rubbed his fingers into the warm flesh on Hutch's upper arm. "Maybe if we planned or rehearsed…" He didn't even finish the sentence. It was the night before they were going to tell him. They intentionally didn't rehearse anything. That was the right way to go. "It's just...I'd rather it be us making the decisions. To know what's gonna happen."

"So would I." Hutch eased his partner down onto the pillows, leaning over him. "Whatever happens, whatever the doctor says or Dobey or anybody says, I'm here, and we're gonna deal with it together. Our future is going to be the best it can be." His fingertips, callused partly from all the guitar playing he'd been doing the past several months, traveled slowly along Starsky's arm, leaving a trail of shivers in their wake. "And don't forget, there's always that retirement villa in Rio."

Starsky lay still, letting this warm wave of Hutchinson flesh smooth over him, cover and warm him. He scanned their intertwined nude bodies, thinking of all the times over the past couple of decades that he'd said, "Cover me," to his partner. Now Hutch was doing just that, literally. He was right. They'd handle whatever was to come. Starsky leaned back a little and relaxed, as his lover's hand massaged his scalp. This was good; it was worth it. Everything would work out. What mattered at the moment was now. Thank heaven they were together.

He couldn't replicate nor postpone his union with Hutch, and especially under the circumstances, he couldn't lie to a friend who'd both led and backed them up in the past just because that friend happened to also be their boss.

**********

Sitting in the living room, they heard the captain drive up, and watched out the window as he got out of his car. "He's alone."

"Starsk, even though we invited Edith, neither of us thought she'd come. More of this is between him and us."

Starsky frowned. "Why do I get the feeling if she'd been here it would'a been easier?"

"She's a beautiful person, but she isn't our boss," Hutch said simply. "And I have a feeling she'll have an easier time with all this. When people first find out, they have a tendency to look at us and see the act, see these two guys who have sex, instead of just seeing these two guys, seeing us. I think she'll make it easier for all of us." Hutch took Starsky's wrist and looked at his partner's watch. "Right on time."

"Great," Starsky said sarcastically. "He's wearing that red sweater. Just like in my dream." Hutch rubbed his back, and Starsky couldn't help notice that his partner was shaking a little as well. As they walked to the door, Starsky asked, "How do I look?"

"Don't think you'd make more of an impression in basic black and pearls."

Starsky knew his partner's humor was an attempt to lighten the mood, but he couldn't bring himself to smile. The doorbell rang.

Hutch gave Starsky's hand a final squeeze before they opened the door.

**********

Conversation was pretty standard during lunch. As they ate their pasta, they talked about the case they were working on. It was finally breaking, going their way. It had been a long and complicated assignment, and it was especially good that it was getting cracked just as the medal ceremony was coming up next month.

"Captain, we had a reason for asking you to lunch. And I think you at least had an inkling, or I'll bet Edith's headache would've been better and she would've been here, too." Hutch looked a little sheepish.

The captain set down his fork. "It's your party. I'm here to listen."

"Right," Starsky found himself saying. Was it time? Was this the right time to start? What was this feeling rushing through him, making his heart beat fast? It was a feeling of the conquering hero about to dash into downtown and greet his waiting fans. His shoulders sagged a little. Somehow, simultaneously, he was also beset by a mild sense of impending doom accompanied by a serious need to go to the bathroom.

He had made a conscious decision to do this, David Starsky, the man, was choosing his partner and their future over Detective Sergeant Starsky, the career cop, choosing to place his job above all else. It didn't matter that their future was uncertain, it was their future. That was it. Thank God, he thought, finally. Finally there was something bigger, more important than his job; his future consisted of so much more. How could he think he'd be successful serving anyone as a cop if he'd been false to his core, denied the most important thing? He could serve his community in other ways; he could get another job if it came to that. They could both get other jobs. They could. He took a deep breath.

Hutch must have noticed Starsky's dilemma--his emotions--because he cut in. "Captain, we respect you too much and value our friendship with you too much to play around here. Starsky and I need to be open and let you know what's going on. We've thought about this and talked about it 'til the cows came home, and finally decided to be open to you."

Dobey poured more coffee into his cup, added two cubes of sugar, and stirred. "And this is something I ought to know?"

"We think so." There was a force climbing up from Starsky's stomach trying to take away his voice, but a stronger force was fortifying him, and he continued. This was one performance he and Hutch hadn't rehearsed. It was too important to risk it coming out phony. They'd planned less for this than they would have for an undercover assignment. They weren't going to hem and haw for a long time. While the ramifications of what they were going to tell their captain were potentially damaging, the information they were about to pass on was not something awful, and they didn't want to give the impression that they were ashamed.

"See, Hutch and I..." He glanced at his partner as he took a drink of coffee. Was this easier or harder than saying it to the doctor? Hutch would let him continue at his own pace, in his own way, until he needed some help or wanted to pass the ball for a while. "Hutch and I are a couple, and we have been for almost two years now." He hoped that was clear. Neither of them had wanted to say, "Captain, we're lovers." That sounded too intimate. "Captain, we're partners," would've been ridiculous. Partners, lovers, Starsky thought. There isn't a word fit to describe us. They all sounded too casual, even some that were too intimate to say to Dobey. Married was the word that seemed most truthful, but it held legal and religious connotations that weren't accurate.

Dobey didn't appear entirely surprised. "I have to tell you, I wish I didn't know this." He bit his lip as though he regretted having said that, then turned and took a deep breath and shifted in his seat. "And at the same time, I know I always told you that we didn't allow private parties." There was a pause. "As your captain, there are things I should do--according to the book, or... Just things I should do, you know that. The two of you could come to work Monday morning and find yourselves suddenly assigned to new partners. And the reasons cited don't have to be because of..." He waved an arm, motioning to nothing in particular in the room. "Because of all this. Just like what happened at the Eighth with..." Turning his head, he pulled a hand over his face, and Starsky could hear a muffled, "Shit."

They just sat for a little while. The partners were letting Dobey react without saying anything to interfere and possibly muddy the waters that much more.

"You remember John Blaine?" The captain faced them again. They both nodded. "After he was killed, I was in on a small, unofficial meeting. We were dealing with pressure on the Department to hire, uh, gays, and at the same time, pressure from above not to have it get out that John might have been gay. They didn't want an example of a hard working, successful, gay cop for those they called 'the opposition' to use. So John's situation was hushed up. If you think that's crazy, if you think that's hypocritical, you're right."

Hutch shook his head slightly, but they both just sat there, letting the captain speak his peace.

"Your relationship can make you targets, in and out of the Department." A pained expression flickered across his face. He took a moment, looked up at the ceiling, and then looked back at them. "All right. I've known both of you a lot of years, you're two of my best men, and I believe this won't interfere with your work. I don't have a problem letting you stay partnered. Other people don't know what I know." He laughed. It was a sickly laugh. He stood up.

"Other people don't know what I know," shaking his head, he repeated what he'd said, then turned to them. "And just what the hell do the two of you think you can do so people don't find out?!" He took a couple of deep breaths. Before they could respond, he continued, "I don't like to say this, but there've already been jokes made here and there about the two of you through the years." He looked at the ceiling again. His face was tight as he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead. "I gotta sit down."

They walked into the living room. Dobey sat in the La-Z-Boy recliner, and Starsky sat on the couch. "Can I get you something to drink?" Hutch asked.

The captain nodded. "Something cold. With ice."

"You want a Coke, some--?" Hutch began.

"Got any bourbon? This is a bourbon conversation if I ever had one."

Hutch got the captain a bourbon and brought in beers for himself and Starsky.

"All right, brass tacks." He leaned forward. "I'm not going to split you up, not for this or any other created reason. But I have to hear from the two of you that this isn't going to come back to bite me on the ass."

"We'll do everything we can, Captain," Starsky said. "We've been living like this for almost two years and no one's the wiser. You found out under really unusual circumstances, found out here. We'd only been here a while--"

Dobey interrupted him. "It can't happen again, that's the first thing."

Hutch sat on the arm of the couch and settled in to listen to the final verdict and their sentence.

"I don't think it will, and I don't have to tell you this, but there's no way this can interfere with your work. If this comes out..." Dobey took a drink. "If this is made public, my ass is in a sling just like yours are."

"That won't happen, Captain. We'd leave the Department before we'd let anything like that happen." Hutch was adamant. Starsky nodded his agreement.

"Does Verducci--? Does anyone else know?"

"No, no," Hutch assured him. "No one at the station. No one at work. You're the only one."

"There's really nothing I can tell you that you don't already know. I just need to hear that you'll recognize the seriousness of this and how it could affect more than just your own careers. It's going to be a long while before I can walk through the Department and not wonder if anyone else knows, or if someone's going to call me into his office and ask what's going on, why you're still working together."

"We understand, Cap'n." Starsky looked down.

"All right then. No reason to prolong this." He looked from one man to the other then seemed to focus his gaze over Hutch's shoulder, out the front window. "It's almost easier to talk about this in terms of work," he said, his voice much quieter than it had been. "This has got to be something you're serious about, or you wouldn't be willing to risk your jobs, your personal safety over it."

"Yeah," Starsky said, moving to sit beside Hutch. He wanted to show the captain that they weren't afraid to show the same closeness they always had. "I'd say we're both pretty serious about it."

"See, where I come from, in my time, this didn't happen."

Starsky noticed the brief sympathetic smile on Hutch's face. "Probably happened more than you think, Captain," he said.

"I suppose you're right. The good Lord knows that I've had to face my share of prejudice in my day. When I was coming up, it wasn't always very popular to be a black cop. You were suspect, worried about whether or not you'd really get that back-up you called for, got called all kinds of names."

Starsky felt bad for what the captain had gone through in his life, but pleased that he had been able to see a similarity in his and their situations. Years ago, when he heard the word queer, the first thing he thought of was counterfeit money. Now he knew there could come a day that people would use that word to describe him.

Dobey grimaced. "I'm trying to think of what I'd say if Cal came to me with this news. Two years already?" He looked away for a moment. "You've already shown that you can't be talked out of it, it's not just a passing fad."

"Well, I tried the Hula Hoop once. Thought I'd stick with it, but deep down, I knew it wasn't for me." Hutch stood up. He seemed embarrassed. "Anyone want another drink?"

Dobey was the only one who said no.

After watching Hutch walk to the kitchen, Starsky said, "We're really sorry this had to come out, and that we had to tell you like this."

The captain just looked at him. He seemed to be searching Starsky's face for some punch line, some explanation that made sense.

Starsky could hear Hutch in the kitchen and wondered what was taking so long. He wished he'd come back now. The wish was granted. His lover sat down beside him and handed him a beer. Dobey shifted his focus to Hutch.

After several seconds, Hutch spoke. "It's still us, Captain. We haven't grown tentacles or anything." He opened the can and took a drink. "Look at it this way, we're settling down." He smiled and Dobey tried to smile. "One less pair of reckless bachelors on your hands."

"I look at the two of you, and I don't see it," he said quietly.

"Captain, there's really nothing to see. What would we see if we looked at you and Edith sitting next to each other?" Starsky smiled. "No one'll see anything unless we show it to them."

"Thirty years I've been on the force. I don't have that much longer to retirement. The two of you have the potential for a lot longer. Are you sure you want to keep up this charade for thirty more years?"

"We're beyond the point of asking if it's right, if it's worth it. It just is." Starsky sighed. "We're not requiring you to understand or to live your life like we do. We're just asking that you accept us as you always have. Nothing's changed in our relationship with you. This'll even help out on the job 'cause Hutch won't be goin' out getting mixed up with shady women anymore." He laughed and Hutch pretended to glare at him.

"One thing at least. You're still in separate apartments--" Their expressions made him stop. "You mean you're thinking of...?" The captain set down his drink and wiped his brow again.

"Think of us like a married couple, Cap'n," Starsky said. This elicited a low and uncomfortable sounding grumble from Dobey, but he didn't really regret having said it. "Someday, we very well may move in together. Could be sooner than later. The cost of housing in this area's high, especially on a cop's salary. We won't be the first guys to buy a house together. We had that fixer-upper a while back, probably nobody'd bat an eyelash if we'd both moved in somewhere actually to fix it up." It was then that he noticed the way Hutch was looking at him. He was sort of beaming, definitely happy. It was one of those looks that said, if we were alone I'd give you a big bear hug. When he glanced at Dobey, it was clear he either hadn't noticed Hutch's expression, or simply wasn't fazed by it.

Dobey set the palms of his hands on his lap. "Well," he exhaled. "The world is changing. You can't stand still or it'll move right past you. If I didn't know it before, my kids sure have taught me that." He started to pick up his glass but decided not to. "This is something you're sure about." Though it sounded like a statement, it was a question.

"Oh, just that I've never been more sure of anything in my life," Hutch said, stretching. "Sometime, I really ought to ask Starsky if he feels that way, too."

Starsky laughed and slapped Hutch on the thigh. It was something he'd done many times in many different locales, including the station. But there was a split second of emotional turbulence in the room. Dobey shifted in his seat. Starsky wondered if he should've touched his partner at all. At the same time, he knew there was nothing wrong with what he'd done. Especially at home, they were going to be at ease at home.

**********

"Well, Mr. McKay, how do you think that event went?" Starsky asked, as they stood at the window watching their captain drive away.

"You asking what I'd give it out of ten?" He laughed. "Well, Detective Starkey…"

"That's Starsky."

"Sorry. As I was saying, Detective Starsssky, the United States may have boycotted the Olympics, but I have a feeling that a certain pair of detectives are going to bring home their medals after all."

Starsky gave him a swat on the ass, and they returned to the living room where they sat on the couch. He moved in close, and they just enjoyed the quiet for several minutes.

"He's a good man, a good cop. We're lucky he's our boss." Hutch set his two empty beer cans side by side on an end table. "That was a lot to throw at him."

"I almost flipped when he mentioned John."

"I know. You kept it hidden, though. Been thinking about him these days?" Hutch asked.

"I guess so. Partly because we saw Maggie last month. I sometimes wonder if we could've ended up like John." Starsky grimaced as he said it.

"How do you mean?"

"Not like renting a room in some dive motel, not… I just mean what if we'd gotten married?" He let his head tilt back. "I don't know what the hell I mean. I'm just glad we came to our senses before we caused anyone any misery by trying to live average lives and then suddenly being truthful about our feelings for each other." He felt Hutch's hand grasp his.

"I think we did the right thing, talking to him. Think he felt he could be honest with us. He'd rather not know. But he's willing to go out on that limb with us. He understands why we had to tell him."

They talked for several more minutes, conversation interspersed with times of silence.

Starsky felt something flash through him. It was a feeling of frantic energy. Round one had ended successfully. He wanted to grab his partner's hand and suggest that the two of them run naked down the street or throw pies at passing cars. He wanted to do something purely physical, no thinking or analyzing involved, only feeling, only doing. Neither of those ideas would do, but, of course, there was something they could do. Hutch's mention of the Olympics had reminded Starsky of one of their most private jokes. He was in the mood to go for the gold, as they called it. Hutch was the one packing the gold.

Silently, Starsky knelt down on the carpet, got in between his partner's legs, and as the zipper on Hutch's jeans got lower, the smile on his face got wider.

"Lemme see if I can earn my medal early," Starsky said.

His partner lifted his ass so his pants and underwear could be pulled down. The Hutchinson gold shone unashamed in the middle of the living room. Starsky made a grand gesture of removing his shirt so that his upper body would be completely able to love his partner in the freest way possible. Soon, Hutch would see how Starsky looked with a gold beard.

**********

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, made even more beautiful by the fact that they had the day off. They'd decided to bring the dogs to the park, according to Chris's letter, and they'd agreed to stay for at least thirty minutes.

"Starsk, don't tell me you're going to wear shorts. It's just barely sixty degrees out there."

"Who cares what I wear?" Starsky said, but quickly he grabbed the sweater his partner had given him for Hanukkah and pulled it on over his t-shirt. He strutted around the room, letting Hutch drink in the sexy sight of him.

"Y'know, they didn't say we had to bring the dogs…."

"Come on, Nature Boy, you grab a leash and I'll grab a leash. Let's strap on some black and white dogs and hike on over to that park. Let the pups see their pals before Christmas." Though he was urging Hutch to get going, he was pleased that it was so easy to get him to forget about their plans for the morning.

**********

Getting to the park took about fifteen minutes, plus a little more time getting to the spot where the dogs ran. During their walk, there was a period of time where it felt as though they had the day to themselves. No one else was around. It was a crisp December morning. So quiet. The dogs were trotting along happily, and once in a while, Hutch would nudge him as if by accident, then just smile. Even with all that was going on, Starsky felt so at peace.

"Good morning!" Hutch said to him for what must have been the third time.

On this winter morning, Starsky was enveloped by a tremendous warm feeling, like he was half of some great old married couple. He spoke to his partner quietly. It didn't matter if the dogs heard him. They already knew the score.

"You know, a thousand years ago, I used to believe that I'd find some damsel in distress and rescue her. We'd get married, have a kid, and live happily ever after. It just wasn't happening. Finally, I woke up a while back and discovered that if I was going to live happily ever after, it wouldn't be with a lady at all, but it'd be with my partner." He looked over at Hutch, loving that gorgeous smile. Then he continued, "I don't need to save you; you're no damsel in distress. You're my best friend. I need you as much as you need me. So, it turned out my life wasn't going to be like anything on the Late Show. That's fine for Doris Day and Rock Hudson. I'm no Rock Hudson, I guess."

They stopped walking. "You made me see that there's something in the real world that's a hell of a lot better than any fairy tale. You helped me find and live my fairy tale by making it real, redefining it."

Hutch shook his head and put his hand on Starsky's arm. "What am I gonna do with you?" He sort of chuckled. "That's the most beautiful thing anyone's ever said to me."

The day was perfect. The sun was shining, birds singing, the atmosphere romantic. Starsky looked into his partner's eyes, and then... "Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!"

"Oh, hi! You must be Chris and Phil's house-sitters." Two women, accompanied by a pair of matching basset hounds, smiled and held out their hands.

Phil? Starsky wondered, then smiled. They operated so much by last names in their line of work. He'd nearly forgotten Verducci even had a first name. "Dave Starsky." He shook their hands.

"Ken Hutchinson."

"I'm Elena Tranchant, and this is my friend, Margaret Anderson. And they're Butch and Sundance. They already know your dogs."

"Pretty well, apparently," Hutch said, as the dogs were all licking each other's faces.

"It's so nice you were able to bring the Dalmatians out to play with their friends," Margaret said. "The dog run's right up here around the corner. Picnic tables are right over there." She pointed.

There were some other people there with dogs, big and small. Some were sitting in groups, some at tables by themselves.

"So what're the rules?" Hutch asked.

"Not many. They just ask that you clean up after your dogs. Do you have any…?"

Starsky pulled some plastic bags from his pocket.

"Good," Elena continued. "They rarely get into scuffles, but if they do, we have to intervene. Stuff like that."

"Any word on how Chris's grandfather's doing?" Margaret asked, after Elena had gone off and set some things on an empty picnic table.

"Not yet, but I'll tell her you asked," Hutch said.

"Thanks. You can just take them off their leads and they'll know what to do." She smiled.

The partners watched the Dalmatians and their basset hound pals walk off to where the rest of the dogs were milling around. Margaret and Elena sat at a picnic table, where they poured a couple mugs of some steaming liquid. Starsky put his hand behind Hutch and pretended to clip the leash onto the belt loop on his jeans.

"Later, later," Hutch laughed. He must've known that was more of an encouraging reaction than Starsky expected.

"Somebody's having a barbecue nearby," Hutch said as they found an empty picnic table apart from the rest.

Starsky breathed in. "Let's do that for supper. I love the smell of mesquite."

"Remember, we agreed to stay and let the dogs play for at least a half hour." Hutch was opening the paper bag they'd brought. In it was a smaller bag of mandarin oranges, a bottle of water, and a bowl for the dogs. "They really like running around together," he said, as he watched the Dalmatians run around with the other dogs on the grass. "Smell that fresh air!"

"Don't call you Nature Boy for nothin'," Starsky joked, then declined the offer of an orange.

They watched the dogs for a while. Starsky imagined their being a part of this community, having nice neighbors, walking their dogs, barbecuing on weekends, unwinding from their crazy jobs.

"Cold?" Hutch asked as he rolled his orange along the table under the palm of his hand.

Starsky shook his head. In truth, he was. The bench was cold under his bare thighs, and he was glad he'd worn his sweater, but he wasn't going to tell his partner that. "Will you quit doin' that and eat it already!" he said between clenched teeth. Just about any time Hutch got hold of anything that size and shape, he could get Starsky going by just manipulating it in his hands.

Hutch laughed and peeled the orange. "You are sooooo easy." After popping a section into his mouth, he asked again, "Sure you don't want some? They're supposed to be seedless."

"Okay, if it'll make you happy." Starsky wanted some of that barbecue. Citrus fruit wasn't really going to take the place of steak for him.

Hutch pulled a segment loose and, before handing it to him, brought his hand to cover his mouth, palm facing in so that only he and Starsky could see what he was doing. He kissed one end of the piece of fruit then sucked it halfway into his mouth languidly before passing it to his partner, who promptly put it in his mouth.

"See how it's sweet and it explodes in your mouth? Feeding you my kisses, in public, no less. The fruit can go where my tongue can't." Hutch laughed quietly. "Right now anyway."

"Can't think of anywhere your tongue hasn't visited when we were alone, blue eyes. Can still feel it all over me now if I try hard enough," Starsky said quietly as he rolled the slice around in his mouth, maneuvering it with his tongue.

"Nice, huh? The flavor going from my lips to yours."

Starsky felt his throat start to constrict and it was hard to swallow. "You're gonna make me choke." He laughed before taking a drink of water out of the bottle they'd brought. "Anyway, I think the orange is getting the better part of this deal." He pulled the sweater away from his hot stomach so the cool air could get in.

Starsky took a segment of orange, manipulating it inside his mouth, flipping it around with his tongue before inconspicuously removing it from between his lips and passing it to his partner. The dirty-secret play of this game made it even more fun. After Hutch put the piece into his mouth, it was Starsky's opportunity to torment him this time.

"The pulp's the best part, huh?" Starsky asked, all the while smiling and waving to a woman who was pointing to the dogs at play, how good a time they were having together. When Hutch coughed, Starsky laughed. "Ha! Now you know what it feels like!"

After thirty minutes, their fingers were sticky, the wind had kicked up, and one of the Dalmatians was obviously through socializing, as he was sitting on the sidelines licking his private parts.

They rinsed off their hands with the water they'd brought to drink, then told Margaret and Elena that they'd forgotten the dogs' bowl and were going back home. Had to go back on duty. Cops' schedules are rough and all that.

**********

When they got home, Hutch filled the dogs' water bowls while Starsky threw away the orange peels, then hung around in the living room checking out what was on the bookshelf. The books were in order by author, and when he came to Raymond Chandler, a couple of titles caught his notice. "Hey," he said as his partner came into the room and walked over to him. "They've got 'The Big Sleep' and 'The Long Goodbye.' Think Verducci's partner gave those to him while they were undercover?"

Hutch's smile assured Starsky that he remembered the circumstances under which Hutch had given him those very paperbacks, when they were working undercover at Cabrillo State.

Starsky went to the dining room table, pulled a chair out, and sat down. "Hey."

"Yeah?" Hutch asked, as he was checking out another of Chandler's books.

"I said, Hey." This time he spoke slightly louder.

Hutch put the book down and moved toward him slowly.

Starsky folded his arms across his chest. "I got an itch on my right leg."

"That's--that's too bad. Need some help?" Hutch dutifully went about scratching the outside of his partner's thigh.

"The itch," Starsky whispered sexily, "is on the inside."

Hutch nearly broke into laughter, but recovered quickly as he squatted in front of his partner. As soon as Hutch's hand began to arch over the top of his thigh toward the inside, Starsky let his legs fall as wide apart as he could, like car doors opening. This time, unlike on the basketball court at Cabrillo State, when Hutch went to scratch the inside of Starsky's thigh, he didn't have to stop before he got a handful of the good stuff. A few tugs and squeezes brought the marzipan to rock candy consistency, and Starsky took his partner's wrist and stood up.

"What's going on? My hands are all ready to hold onto a couple of mandarin oranges right now." He made a lewd grasping gesture that went right to Starsky's already primed groin.

"I'm gonna wag my tail in the other room. Wanna come watch?" He didn't have to wait for an answer. "Follow me," Starsky said, unzipping his cut-offs as he walked toward the bedroom. "I got some special Brooklyn oranges for ya." He laughed. "And then I'll show ya my special technique with a pair'a those giant Minnesota-brand globes later on."

**********

They had Wednesday off, and Hutch was just returning from errands including visits to both their apartments to pick up mail and water plants. He walked in with groceries, which Starsky helped him put away.

"What's that bag over there on the couch?" Starsky asked him.

"Which?" Hutch looked around the corner. "Oh, presents. We both had presents waiting. I took the liberty of unpacking the shipping boxes. We can put them under the tree." He set a pile of holiday cards on the coffee table. "Pick a card, any card," he said, handing Starsky a stack of greeting cards.

His partner was more interested in what was in the big bag and reached in to pull out the packages. The first one Starsky pulled out of the bag made him smile. "Love, Mom." He shook it next to his ear. "Which Mom?"

Hutch sat down next to him. "Good question. I just put them all in there together. Guess if it was from my folks, it'd say Mom and Dad." He cringed a little after saying that. "Not so sure about the Love, Dad part."

"Hey," Starsky rubbed his arm. "It's Christmas. He'll come around. He loves you. Don't borrow trouble." Sure enough, the next package out of the box read, Love Mom and Dad. "Look, from Mom and Dad for David." He showed it to Hutch. There were more from Hutch's family. "This one's for me, too, from Cathy and Craig--wrapped in silver and blue. Hanukkah colors."

"Oh, yeah?" Hutch asked with a little laugh, as he took the package to look at it. Hutch reached into the bag and pulled out another. "It's for the two of us from your mom." His face was turning pink and Starsky, who knew he was embarrassed by his display of emotion, rested his head on Hutch's shoulder.

"We've got good families, babe. They love us, love us together." He looked up at Hutch and rubbed the back of his partner's neck.

Hutch leaned forward and gave Starsky the lightest kiss imaginable. If he hadn't been sitting down, it would've brought him to his knees. Leaving Starsky legless, Hutch went into the closet and retrieved a wrapped box, placing it under the tree.

"What's that? A present that doesn't come out of a mailbag?"

"When I was putting my jacket away this afternoon, I found it sitting there, so thought I might as well put it under the tree," Hutch said.

When he went over and picked up the package, Starsky found it interesting that its size and shape was identical to that of the pizza box he'd used for Hutch's Hanukkah gift last year. This was heavier than a Buddy Holly album, though.

"Who's it for?" Hutch asked from across the room. "Anybody we know?"

Starsky laughed. "I'll just set it back down next to this one in the shiny gold paper." He knew Hutch hadn't seen that present there before.

"Who's that one for?" Suddenly, his partner was standing beside him at the tree.

"Somebody we know," Starsky said with a smirk.

Hutch didn't pick it up, but nudged the package so he could read the tag. He smiled. "Blue eyes?"

"Oh, good," Starsky said. "Another one for me!"

Hutch grabbed him and gave him a hug, then looked around the room. "Look at this place. What does Chris do for a living? Doubt that she makes any more than we do. Verducci's a Detective Second Class, makes less than we do. They have a new house, a kid. There's no reason, especially with that passbook account, that you and I can't have the house we've been talking about for over a year. The interest has just been growing this past year. Think it's time we contacted a realtor?"

"What do you think I think?" Starsky said with a kiss filled with laughter. "But no more of Huggy's cousins. Agreed?"

Hutch nodded.

**********

"Hey, Starsky."

Starsky looked behind him as he was walking through the squadroom. It was Len Segal, a lieutenant in their department. "My kid is crazy about you these days."

Starsky looked at him quizzically. "Huh?"

"'Member a couple years ago? That guinea pig you gave me to give my daughter? Louise? Well now we've got Louise's daughter. She just had a litter of little guinea pigs over the weekend.

"Oh, congratulations," he said.

"You know anybody who--?" Segal began.

"Hey, I gave her to you to begin with," Starsky laughed.

"Don't look at me," Hutch said before he was even asked. "I'm living with two large dogs at the moment. They try to kill the vacuum cleaner and that's bigger than they are."

The partners went to their desks and sorted through some of the pile of paperwork there. Hutch picked up a stack of folders--files on some suspects they'd been researching--and put it into a bin to go back to Records. He let out a big deep breath when he returned to his desk. "Done! One hell of a case!"

"They were so sure their lawyer was going to get them out before Christmas. Hate to admit it, but with all we've seen over the years and the influence of the mighty dollar, I half expected they'd get sprung, too. Can hardly believe we really got 'em. Mother and daughter hit women. Lady killers so close to Christmas."

"Think of it this way, Starsk. Maybe they were going to use the money they earned on the hits to buy Grandma a new Rolls."

"Very funny," Starsky said sarcastically.

"I was so sick of seeing that Bloody Christmas headline in the paper. Onto the next case. There's always a next case."

"You won't ever admit it, will ya?" Starsky said, knowing full well that the detectives at an adjacent desk were listening.

"Admit what?"

"You really do like Christmas. You just act like you don't because you know I like it so much."

"No, I don't. That doesn't make any sense, Starsk. Why would I do that? I like Christmas well enough."

"What do you like about it?"

"Let's see..." He slid his pencil behind his ear and looked up at the ceiling from which paper angels and Santa Clauses hung. "I can appreciate the traditions, the time families spend together. I like some of the music. They play that dogs barking "Jingle Bells" a little too often for my taste, though."

"The music, huh? Bet you still can't even name three of Santa's reindeer."

"Let's see…" Hutch pushed aside a large coil of garland that had found its way into his in-box. "Donner, Blitzkrieg, Spritzen." He pulled out a small stack of papers and looked through them.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Donner, like the Donner Party? You're a sick man, Hutch."

"Donner's one of them, isn't it?" Hutch was serious.

"Don-der," Starsky said. "Donder, Donder," he repeated the iambs mantra-style, realizing that it was going to take a lot more years to get his partner to appreciate the little things about Christmas that he enjoyed so much. "It's okay. Lotsa people leave out that second 'd'." He shut his drawer and stood up, grabbing his jacket.

Hutch got up and they went to the door. "I'm surprised Santa doesn't have a female reindeer these days. I'm sure he's hired female elves." He winked at a policewoman who passed the desk.

"What about Vixen?"

"Okay, I forgot about her. Didn't we arrest her one night a few months ago over by the Mellow Yellow?"

Starsky laughed. "Panties down around 'er hooves!"

Hutch snickered. "I remember it was hell getting the cuffs on her, and getting her into the back of the Torino took an hour." He shook his head as they walked toward their car. "She's not my favorite reindeer anyway."

"You've got a favorite one of Santa's reindeer? This I gotta hear," Starsky said as they got into the Torino.

"Cupid, of course," he smiled and rubbed Starsky's thigh. "Gave me the best Christmas present ever, one I get all year long, year after year after year."

Deliberately, Starsky dropped the keys on the floor. When he bent over to retrieve them, he looked up at Hutch. "You bastard." He laughed. "Saying something so romantic while we're working, in the car, in the middle of the street, and I can't do anything about it."

Hutch just smiled back at him.

He gave Hutch's calf a squeeze before straightening up in the driver's seat. "And you always said you didn't know the names of the reindeer." Starsky put the key in the ignition.

"Let's put it on hold. We can revisit this horny reindeer discussion when we get home." Hutch laughed and patted his own chest.

While Starsky thought the pun was a real moaner, he still laughed. Even with all the problems they were facing, this was going to be the best Christmas he'd ever had.

**********

When Hutch was ready for bed, Starsky had said he wanted to stay up and catch the Late Show. It was a lie, and when Hutch came out to get a glass of water around eleven and found the TV off and his partner sitting in the dark living room, it was clear that something was up. He went over and sat next to him.

"Something you want to talk about?"

"Didn't mean to wake you," Starsky said.

"Oh, yeah. Well, you sitting out here in the dark with all this silence going on around you, no way I could sleep." He yawned and put an arm around his partner's shoulders. "What's happening, babe?"

Starsky shook his head. "Stupid. Nothing."

"Let's hear it then. Maybe I can lure you into my bed that much faster."

The belt from Hutch's robe was hanging loose and Starsky picked it up, needing something mindless to do with his hands as he talked. "That book I looked at about testicular cancer. I could…I could lose a part of me."

"I know," Hutch said, pulling him close. "It's scary. But losing that part of you could save your life."

He felt his partner's lips gentle on his temple. "Hutch, I don't know what happens to a man after something like that." It was easier to talk with his eyes focused on the terrycloth of the bathrobe. "I don't know what our life would be like…"

"You mean so much to me, Starsk. Our love and friendship has grown over all the years we've known each other. What's different about the partners we were early in '79 and late '79? Mostly that we're lovers now, too, but that word means so much. It's not just built on sex. We're best friends who love each other in more ways now. We're going to live together, have a future together. We're the most important people in each other's lives. You said it yourself. We're married.

"And if you want to talk about sex, which I think you're alluding to, I think that over the past couple years, you and I have shown each other that there are a million ways to make love, and they're not all limited to any one body part. The sparks will fly between us no matter what, babe. Always have. We don't even have to touch each other. The love will be there no matter what. No person, no problem big or small is going to break us up." He smiled and looked away, a little sheepishly. "Uh, I know I don't have to tell you things like that."

"Yeah." Starsky knew his face was red, and Hutch could tell even in the dark room. He also knew he didn't have to worry about such things, but it was nice to hear his partner say them out loud. "Yeah, but thanks for not tellin' me."

**********

Finally, the waiting was over and Starsky received the phone call telling him that his test results were in. When his partner offered, Starsky was very happy to have him accompany him to the appointment.

It had been a hell of a long two weeks waiting for those test results. Driving to the doctor's office with Hutch, Starsky was feeling more and more anxious. He noticed all the holiday decorations in the store windows along the way. "Oh, yeah, great Christmas. We don't know if we'll be workin' next year, but that doesn't matter because instead'a thinking about that, we can always turn our attention to the fact that I could very well have a life-threatening disease."

When they stopped at a light, he reached up and batted at the reindeer and Star of David that hung from the rearview mirror. They were blocking his view. Stupid idea to put them there in the first place. "An' if you ask me why I always look on the dark side of things, I swear I'm gonna drop you off and you can catch a cab home!"

As he pressed his foot down on the accelerator, he felt a warm hand come to rest lightly on his thigh. Hutch didn't say a word but just left his hand there offering support.

**********

They were alone in the elevator from the third to the seventh floors. Hutch said nothing, but brought his partner into a hard and somewhat rough hug, that essentially said he felt the same way--he was there for Starsky, didn't have the answers either but would stand by Starsky and together they'd make it through. It was their relationship in a nutshell. Words that didn't need to be spoken. Physical closeness of so many kinds, reassurance, love. I'd give my life for you.

**********

"Dr. Boyce, this is Ken Hutchinson, my partner."

Hutch shook the doctor's hand. "I don't know if you remember. We met a few years ago; I was a patient of yours."

"Oh, of course," Boyce said, before motioning them to have a seat in the chairs before his desk.

Hutch pulled his chair closer to Starsky's before he sat down.

The doctor took a file folder from the top of a cabinet before sitting down.

He seems relaxed, Starsky thought, but then nearly jumped through the roof before realizing that Hutch had just given him a small pat on the arm.

Hutch's eyes said he was sorry, and Starsky felt terrible for having jumped at his touch.

The doctor seemed to be oblivious to all of this, as he looked over a piece of paper in the folder before leaning back. It seemed as though he was taking an eternity to start talking. It started to feel like Starsky's balls were in a vice. Starsky looked at his watch, but for some reason was unable to tell what time it was. The doctor cleared his throat and Starsky looked up again.

"Well, I appreciate your being so prompt, David." He was about to say something else when the door opened and his nurse came in carrying another file folder. She whispered something to him. "I'm so sorry. Will you excuse us for just a moment?" he asked before picking up the folder he'd been looking at on his desk. He and the nurse appeared to be comparing the two folders.

Hutch reached over and gave his knee a quick squeeze. Starsky looked at him. He was able to draw strength from the solid support he saw in those eyes. Whatever the news was, whatever this last-minute complication was, they were going to be able to handle it. He was even actually able to uncross his legs.

"Thank you for your patience." Boyce handed the nurse one of the folders and she walked away, closing the door as she exited the room. "You know, when I thanked you for your patience just then, I was thanking you for sitting here while I chatted with Rita, but I also realize that these two weeks you've had to wait for the results of your blood work couldn't have been easy."

"I can think of easier times I've been through," Starsky said honestly.

"So, no reason to make you wait any longer." He reached into the folder and took out two pieces of paper, handing one to Starsky. "I've got a copy for you as well."

Starsky scooted his chair even closer to Hutch's, and each partner took one corner of the paper. He scanned the paper. Lots of numbers, some in the form of small tables. "Doc, I don't get what this says." The information on the paper, being essentially undecipherable beyond his name and address which was along the top, was just adding to his frustration. The doctor started to explain, but Starsky found himself trying to calm down before he could pay attention to what was being said.

But then he saw it, out of the corner of his eye at first. It was the thing that made all the difference in the world and answered all of his questions. He saw the biggest, most dazzling Pepsodent smile Hutch had ever displayed. The man was literally shining.

The doctor said that few of his patients understand the coding on the reports and went over it all with them. There was a small rattle. Boyce was setting a bottle of antibiotics on his desk. It was only an infection, one that should be cleared up quickly.

Goddamned little pimple. He squeezed Hutch's hand.

**********

Hutch was bringing something out to the table, and it turned out to be an ice bucket containing a bottle of champagne. "Thought you might feel like a little celebration, partner. You're in the pink; it seems to be same as always at work. Looks like you and I have gotten through this latest round of crises smelling, as usual, like roses."

"I'll get the glasses," Starsky said without hesitation, as he went to the kitchen and, after a little foraging, found some glasses that would work well for their celebration. He rinsed them out quickly before returning to the dining room.

"Okay, are you ready?" Hutch asked in a tone like he was asking if Starsky was ready for the two of them to parachute out of a plane.

"I'm ready!" No one opened a bottle of champagne like Hutch did. It was a very long process and very suggestive as well. He smiled, remembering a time Hutch had squirted him in the face with champagne foam in the middle of The Pits from a champagne bottle that was wedged firmly between his thighs.

"We're in someone else's living room," Starsky said, but immediately realized there was no use in saying anything. The fountain was inevitable, and it was too long in coming.

The bottle was between those beautiful, muscular thighs now. "Come on. What's a little champagne among friends?" And then that crazy Hutch laugh. It was the laugh that said he'd be heaven in the bedroom, but Starsky didn't want to take him out in public beforehand. God, Starsky was happy that Hutch was his now. They were no longer saying good-bye at the end of the evening and going off with whatever forgettable dates they happened to have.

His partner's body shook, his face contorted, it was getting close to a champagne-shaking orgasm, and there was nothing Starsky could do to stop it. What the hell. Bring it on, he thought and, on a whim, pulled off his shirt. If I'm gonna get drenched by this man, I wanna get drenched.

He'd shucked his shirt just in time, because right then Hutch popped the cork, and Starsky stood still in that spot, opening his arms wide, letting his crazy, laughing partner spray him with cold champagne as though it came from a fire hose. Starsky was laughing, too. It really reminded him of that time in The Pits, but it was so much better.

Finally, the white foam lost its momentum, lost the energy to fly across the room, and simply gurgled over the rim of the bottle, dripping sensually over Hutch's fingers. He filled the two glasses and handed one to Starsky, who took a quick drink before pulling Hutch into a tight, wet, fizzy champagne embrace.

"Damn it, Hutch. I love you so much." They kissed.

Hutch picked up Starsky's glass and drank from it. "Damn it, Starsk. I love you, too." His shirt was wet, and he unbuttoned it and slipped it off before returning to the embrace.

When they separated, Starsky couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Hutch's wet flesh. "Ummmm, wonder if you could help me find something."

"Anything," Hutch said, as he passed the glass of champagne back to Starsky.

"Where'd we put those classifieds? I got the worst urge to come in through some big front door and yell, 'Honey, I'm hoooome!'"

**********

Starsky found a long white satin ribbon in with the Christmas things they'd brought over. He pulled it out of the box and found himself stroking it as he walked around the room, looking for the scotch tape. Suddenly, he stopped. There was something about this ribbon. What was it? It was long and golden white, smooth and shiny. Soft and pliable, he knew he could get it to bend into many unusual and entertaining shapes. Aaaaah, he thought, and his cut-offs suddenly felt a little tighter. The ribbon reminded him of Hutch.

He unzipped his shorts and went about preparing a spur-of-the-moment gift for his partner, first bringing the ribbon under his scrotum. When his fingers touched that spot on his testicle, he was surprised and pleased to find that the antibiotics had already started to work. The lump that had been there, that had scared them both so much, had already shrunk in size.

**********

Hutch came into the room wearing the white robe Starsky had given him for Hanukkah. It wasn't tied at the waist and when Hutch turned to look at the thermostat, Starsky noticed that his partner was also wearing the white silk boxer shorts he'd given him last Christmas. Though he was the only one wearing clothes, per se, Starsky started to feel a little underdressed.

"It's a little warm in here," Hutch said removing the robe and draping it over the La-Z-Boy.

Eye candy to be sure. Starsky didn't know which view he liked better, front or back. But side was nice, too, displaying both front and back bulges. There was a lot of Hutchinson covered by a little bit of white silk. "Oh, yeah, that's nice," Starsky couldn't help but say.

Hutch, who'd been trying to act nonchalant, turned to smile at him. Something caught his eye. There was more in those shorts than just his partner. Just as he started to come closer to figure out what it was, Hutch burst out laughing and Starsky stopped in his tracks. "What?"

Hutch came over to him, held the back of his head in his hands, and kissed him. He looked down between their bodies, fingers going for the zipper on Starsky's shorts. Instead of unzipping them right away, though, he seized a small piece of the light-colored ribbon between his thumb and forefinger. "What's this?" he asked, and before Starsky could answer, the cut-offs were unsnapped, unzipped, and pulled down.

The perfect bow Starsky had tied was completely askew, and his erection hadn't been this formidable when he'd tied it, so his lassoed cock had taken on a reddish, angry look with an extra white satin stripe around its middle.

"Don't tell me." Hutch laughed. "A red and white tomato for me to ride in the bedroom!"

Starsky couldn't remember the last time they'd laughed this much. They rubbed up against each other--Hutch enclosed in a thin layer of silk, Starsky wearing nothing but a ribbon. He reached down and took a two-handed handful of Hutch through the boxers. "Oh, man." Something unusual greeted his fingers. This certainly wasn't the first time he'd gathered the Hutchinson jewels through that white silk, but this time they felt different. He stepped back a little and looked.

Hutch had a devilish smile on his face. "I've got a surprise inside, too, Starsk. Want me to get the belt to my robe and pull it back and forth between my legs 'til you figure it out?"

While that sounded great, he was too titillated by what he saw to answer. Hutch's surprise showed hazily through the translucent silk that was all but opaque. It was as though his partner had dipped his cock in chocolate for him. The idea made his mouth water. But this was more like strawberry than chocolate. He's chocolate, I'm strawberry. There was a definite crimson hue behind the white.

"Give up?" Hutch asked. He pulled down the boxers to reveal that the like-minded partners had had the same idea once again. Tied around that massive cock was a brilliant red satin ribbon. Hutch hadn't just tied it on, once around with one big bow like Starsky had, though.

As he gawked, Starsky remembered Hutch's experience with knots. Hutch was the one who had rewoven the caning in that old chair in Starsky's living room. But this--this was a masterpiece. And this piece of ephemeral artwork was only for Starsky's eyes. For Starsky's eyes and hands. The ribbon was woven, sort of braided, with him in the center of it.

The first time his hand wrapped around his lover's erection he was surprised by the difference in size. The fabric was obviously holding it down, like the mighty cock was a may pole or housed in a giant Chinese finger-trap like you get at a carnival, this one made not from woven rushes but a simple red ribbon. But, Starsky wondered, if I pulled it, would it react the same way as the toy, tightening around him even more?

One thing he knew immediately, that cock was on fire beneath his fingers, hotter than he'd ever felt it, and his partner's balls had a very Christmassy hue hanging, but not so loosely by this time, behind. He tried to insert a finger beneath one of the folds and discovered that there was no way his finger or anything else could have fit. Hutch had bound himself without enough thought to that impressive expansion that was unique to the Hutchinson clan.

His brainy partner had clearly been more focused on presentation value. It was Hutch, the artist, where appearance was so important. But as Hutch, the chef, knew, presentation wasn't everything. In a meal, flavor, temperature, texture, other things must also be considered. And tonight, blood circulation should have been considered, but… Starsky was too stunned, his eyes too riveted to the spot, his mouth too set agape to laugh or take advantage of the situation in any roguish way.

Finally, Starsky smiled. "You did this for me?" Silly question. He knew the answer. "Didn't mean to get it so tight, did you?" That question wasn't silly. It was wicked.

Hutch's hands went for the ends of the ribbon, but Starsky pushed them out of the way.

"Forgot how big you grow when you're around your partner?" He took the loose ends himself. "All mine, blue eyes." Starsky could've taken advantage of the situation for a lot longer, but why should he? He knew what would happen. He squatted down, knees on either side of his partner's calves, nose at balls level, and took one last look. He could see the ribbon undulating, percolating as it struggled to encase the massive organ.

Starsky's own cock jumped at the sight, and he felt the long ends of his white ribbon slide down between his buttocks, tickling him. "Think I got time to get the camera?" He took a second to run the tip of his tongue over it. There was no way he couldn't do that--taste the tiny folds of flesh that made their way out from between the beautiful pattern pleats of the ribbon.

Hutch reacted as though he'd been jolted with electricity. "Starsky!" The fingers that clenched in his hair were losing patience.

He leaned forward and planted a kiss on Hutch's right thigh before pulling one of the ends of the ribbon. It cascaded off, rippling open, dismantling itself quickly and smoothly. Silently, the red ribbon fluttered from his partner's cock and, just when Starsky was starting to get caught up in the look of the pattern that was left on the reddened, puckered flesh, Hutch lurched forward slightly and Starsky caught that bulging cock, that special Christmas gift, and brought it to his mouth just in time to savor the final facet of the gift Hutch kept only for Starsky.

It had been a while since he'd swallowed that much, since he'd felt the come barrel through Hutch's member with such force. The hands in his hair were going crazy, and Hutch's hips were pistoning wildly. It was all Starsky could do to keep up, keep swallowing, and keep the two of them upright.

When he began to hum, the howl Hutch had been letting out intensified and somehow that hit the ears of the dogs just right and they, who were in the next room, began to wail along, too! He could feel the ribbon fluttering between his legs, and luckily the sound and sensations were winding down, because all Starsky wanted to do was laugh and embrace his partner, as he was already in awe of their experience.

He wasn't really sure if Hutch had pulled him to his feet or if it was he who rose so Hutch wouldn't topple over, but somehow they were both standing. When they grabbed each other, Starsky realized, almost as an afterthought, here was his cock standing tall between them. It wasn't tied anywhere near as fancily as Hutch's had been, but still enough so his body hadn't joined in Hutch's orgasm and was still held stiff and longing. They shared one long and luxurious kiss, during which their tongues made love and Hutch's hands made promises to Starsky's needy cock. When the kiss subsided, Hutch looked into his partner's eyes and said so many things without speaking a word, before he sank to his knees.

In the spirit of equal play, Starsky tried to grab the ends of the ribbon that now seemed clamped around his aching cock, knowing full well that Hutch would bat his hands away. That's what happened. It was only fair. But it was getting bad. He needed to come. The pressure was making him dizzy.

Hutch managed to pull the long ends of the ribbon through his fingers several times as though he was pulling them open, as though he was untying them, but not doing anything but letting the long white fabric slither through his long fingers. "Ford should put out this red and white cherry, partner," Hutch said, manhandling Starsky's cock and the ribbon that surrounded it. "They'd make a mint." Hutch wound one of the ends of the ribbon around a finger. "On second thought, this one's all mine."

With that, he gave a dramatic magician's yank and the ribbon flew off, sailing across the room. This time it was Hutch's turn to capture his lover's cock and take it into his mouth. He sucked and hummed, and without even thinking or trying, Starsky's vocalizing got the dogs going again.

Eventually, there was silence. No more howling. Hutch stood halfway up and was helping Starsky down to the carpet with him, rubbing his back. They lay against one another trying to restart their breathing. Hutch rolled over onto his stomach, and Starsky smiled to see the impression the shag carpet had left on his back. The ribbons, which had fallen a few feet from where they were now, lay tangled in a little red and white satin heap. How long did they just lie there together absorbing one another's sensations, coming down from their sexual high?

Starsky stretched out alongside his lover. "Sometime, I want you to do me like that." He whispered it, even though there was no reason to whisper. "Like you were tonight. Only…"

Hutch smiled and turned his head. "Only maybe not quite that tight?" They kissed. "I'd love to…" Hutch's lips and tongue crept along that special spot on Starsky's neck. "Love to do you like that, anytime."

"And, um..." Another idea had popped into his mind. "How about doin' that thing where you look at my balls with the lamp on again. Don't find anything there, just--"

Hutch nodded before seizing the rest of the sentence in a kiss.

**********

"What'd he say?"

"Well, Grandpa came through the surgery okay, but they want to stay another week. They asked if we'd be willing to stay here through the first week in January," Starsky said after ending a phone conversation with Verducci.

"I think we can handle that," Hutch said with a smile.

Starsky's attentions were soon drawn elsewhere. "It's beautiful, babe," Starsky said as he looked at the image Hutch had painted for him, touching the canvas lightly.

"I remember when you showed me that picture. You said it was your favorite photo of your whole family--before the trouble started," Hutch said.

Starsky nodded, just looking at the painting. It looked so much like the photograph. How did Hutch capture just the right colors from a thirty-year-old black-and-white photo?

"And it fit in the pizza box."

"I can't believe you kept that pizza box." It was the same box Starsky had given Hutch the replacement Buddy Holly album in last year.

"Well, really I didn't mean to. I just found that I'd kept it in with some other things and when I came across it, well… It never got tossed out. Then it turned out to be just the right size for this."

Starsky held the photo next to the painting. "Look how innocent Nicky looks."

"You know," Hutch said softly, "he was only one, there. I don't think he had crime on his mind at the time that photo was taken." They both laughed. "And, I don't think your little brother's going to have crime on his mind for the rest of his life, either, tell you the truth."

Starsky nodded.

"And speaking of photos," Hutch said a little loudly, obviously to regain his partner's attention. "This is some photo you gave me."

"I'm just glad you were able to see what I saw in it."

"Not posed." Hutch was just staring at the photograph.

"No way, babe." Starsky rubbed his thigh. It was an image Starsky had shot of Hutch and his mother. He hadn't realized that Hutch's father was standing in the background watching. The prize, the special thing about the photo was the way his father was looking at Hutch. It gave his partner hope that the two would be able to make peace in the future, that his father hadn't closed his whole heart off to his son. Starsky had enlarged and framed the picture and made a couple of copies for safe-keeping. He'd even included one in their Christmas card to Hutch's family.

"So who knew that we were both working on presents for each other that involved photos?"

"Not only photos," Starsky said.

"Oh, you mean my new pair of blue silk boxers?"

Starsky grabbed the boxers and threw them at him.

"Sorry." Hutch picked up his new guitar and strummed it gently, as though he were handling a fragile antique. "I can't believe you made me a guitar!"

He could feel his face turning red. "It's called a travel guitar. Little thing. And I made it from a kit," Starsky said.

Hutch leaned over the instrument and kissed him. "It's absolutely beautiful. We ought to use some of that vacation time we've got stored up and go somewhere--just you, me, and the guitar."

"Sounds good." Starsky laughed.

"What is it?"

"There's one present I thought about getting you, but didn't. Thought about it in one of my weaker, sappy, romantic moments."

Hutch set the guitar down gently and moved closer to his partner. He laughed a cackling laugh. "You have to tell me what it is. Sounds like something I could use to torment you forty years from now. What were you going to give me?"

"Oh, that really makes me want to tell you!" Starsky got up and went into the kitchen. He ate some turkey. "Really tastes good off the barbecue, huh?"

"All right, partner. What's the game? What do you want for the info?" Hutch had him pinned against the refrigerator. He bent slowly, kissing his way down Starsky's body. "Is this mystery present in my future?" he asked.

Starsky laughed. "No! And… Damn it, Hutch, you know how ticklish I am."

"You bet I do!"

By the time Hutch had his face pushed up against Starsky's crotch and was mumbling filthy phrases into his sweat pants, Starsky couldn't take it anymore. "All right, I'll tell you!"

Hutch looked up at him and batted his eyelashes.

"But I expect you to come through with those dirty promises tonight."

Hutch crossed his heart and stood up. He leaned against the fridge, one arm over Starsky's shoulder.

"I was going to get a copy of my chest x-ray for you." When he saw Hutch smile and drop his head back, he knew he didn't have to explain any further.

"Your heart?" he asked softly before laying a kiss on his partner's lips.

"Something like that," Starsky answered, before pulling Hutch's head back for a second taste. "So what're we gonna do next year, then?"

"Meaning?"

"Meaning, when we're livin' together all year long, how do we find time away from each other to create these masterpieces to give each other for presents?" Starsky pointed to the classifieds that were on the counter.

"I'll say, 'Partner, I'm going to be in the conservatory with the candlestick for the next hour, and you'd better not come in there if you want me to be good to you in the bedroom with the dildo later on'." Hutch laughed.

"Oh, man. When do the house hunting games begin?"

Hutch walked over and picked up the newspaper. He handed his partner a pen. "Follow me. We've got another week living here. Let's see what we can accomplish."

**********

The next morning after breakfast, they were surrounded by the smells of bacon and eggs and coffee. Each man had dots of red marker on his fingers from taking his turn circling house ads in the paper.

Hutch walked into the living room, a serious expression on his face. "Starsk, would you consider that a man who spends ninety-nine percent of his time with another man has got certain tendencies?" He sat down beside Starsky.

"Ninety-nine percent? I sure as hell hope so." He gave his partner the most innocent look he could, before a big smile came to his face. "I mean, um, I'd say that's probably true. Got any particular two men in mind?" As he spoke, he looked him in the eye, but his hand traveled between Hutch's legs from his knees to his crotch.

"Just recently, it dawned on me that that's the case between you and me."

"No way. You're out of your mind!"

Hutch was staying remarkably serious. "Well, figure it out. In a seven-day week, there are about a hundred and twenty waking hours, right?"

"Sure."

"We work, eat, and drink about twelve of those hours, right? Imagine if we lived together, too. All the time, I mean." He took a drink of coffee.

"You're so good at math, babe. How many hours a week do we, uh…?"

"Let's stay on script here. Now since we've been house-sitting, we've been spending ninety-nine percent of our time with each other."

"You lucky devil!"

He cracked a smile. "But wait. That's not my point, not what I'm getting at. In our entire partnership, we've spent eleven Christmases together. This is our second one as…" The dam broke and he let out one hell of a dirty laugh.

"Uh, virtually married?" Starsky offered.

"As good as married, right." He was back on track. "You virtually proposed to me last year. And virtually is the perfect word."

"Thank you."

"No, thank you. Anyway, as I was saying, here we are, eleven Christmases under our belts, two of them we're virtually married, and you have yet to once kiss me under the mistletoe."

"Come over here." He immediately stood up, grabbed Hutch's wrist, hauled him to his feet, and dragged him across the room. "I'm gonna give you the best mistletoe kiss you ever had, heavy on the missile." He pulled Hutch's head forward, and just before contact inserted a disclaimer: "The best one until next year, I mean."

**********

Send your comments to :
ZebraThree Productions: z3prod@yahoogroups.com
Author: blue_skystar@hotmail.com

Happy Holidays everyone!

Season 7? Stay tuned for future info.

SHSVS Home || Zebra3 Productions || Episode Main Page