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

SHSVS, Episode 615, Part 3

Back to Part 2

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.

615-3.jpg 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, 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?"


"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."

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