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

SHSVS, Episode 615, Part 2

Back to Part 1

"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.

615-1.jpg 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. /p>

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."

615-4.jpg 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." 615-2.jpg

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."

On to Part 3