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Changeling

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Starsky couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much pleasure booking a perp. Forest had lost his crisp, white palm jacket and apparently his impenetrable cool along with it, and now just looked old and wilted and plain scared.

He should be. He was going into the slams, and with Monk dead, he'd also lost his Number One on the outside. And on the inside would be a bunch of cops guarding him who knew he had abducted and beaten a fellow cop. Forest was in for an uncomfortable stay while awaiting his transfer to Terminal Island.

When Starsky came back upstairs he found Hutch behind his desk, not even pretending to work. He made sitting upright look like a high wire act, the pallor of his face matching the white grip he maintained on the edge of the table. Starsky detoured to the captain's office and poked his head in after a quick knock.

Dobey looked up from a pile of paperwork and gave Starsky a questioning glance.

"Not good, Cap. He looks like crap, in fact."

Dobey shook his head wearily. "You booked that crumb, Forest?"

"Yes, sir. He's all cozy in his new digs." Starsky gave an evil smile. He could barely make it lift his lips, what with his teeth being clenched.

"Good." Dobey made a satisfied sound. "You're off the roster until IA clears you." He paused and ran his fingers into his thick hair, sighing. "Take him home, Starsky. And you get some rest, too, you hear?" The grumble returned to Dobey's voice on that last.

"Yes, sir."

Starsky got his partner up, keeping a firm hand on his suede-covered arm and guiding him toward the door and down the hall. As they passed a cluster of people, Hutch pulled away and walked ahead, leading the way out to the Torino. He stood stiffly, hands in his pockets, waiting for Starsky to unlock the door.

Starsky wasted no time peeling out onto the road and heading toward Hutch's cottage. Hutch seemed wound up, shifting tensely in his seat, unable to sit still. Before long he started rubbing his thighs harshly with his hands.

"Wait," he said. "Where're we going?"

"Your place," Starsky said, surprised, and then he made the connection. "Oh. Shit."

"Never mind. Gonna have to sooner or later," Hutch said, his voice tight.

The place was a mess. The crime lab team had pretty much dusted every available surface, with Starsky egging them on all the way. He had forgotten completely in the aftermath of finding Hutch strung-out in an alleyway and the terrible days that followed.

He helped Hutch through the door. Hutch took one look around and grew even paler, if that were possible, and staggered toward the bathroom. He closed the door in Starsky's face. And then came the harsh sounds of more painful vomiting.

Starsky leaned against the door with his palms against the surface.

Damn you to hell, Forest. Where hopefully your buddy Monk is already getting his nuts fried.

ooOoo

Hutch shivered in the bed, short bursts of trembling followed by periods of lax panting. Starsky sidled in behind him to sit against the headboard and pull Hutch onto his lap again. It seemed like they'd been in this particular pose for days, but Starsky didn't mind. It felt good to have him close. Shaking wreck or not, he was alive and safe.

Hutch moaned a little when the next wave hit him, and Starsky put a hand on the back of his neck, rubbing him as soothingly as he could. His hands felt rough against Hutch's smooth skin, and he wondered if he was any comfort at all, but Hutch clutched his thigh tighter and buried his face against Starsky's leg.

"Just a relapse, babe. It's only temporary," Starsky said quietly, reminding Hutch of what they had learned about the withdrawal period. Hutch shivered, and Starsky touched his forehead, concerned he might be feverish. But the flesh was cool, almost clammy.

Hutch surprised him by grabbing his hand and pulling it under his cheek. Starsky felt Hutch's lips moving against his palm, but couldn't make out what Hutch was saying.

"No! Not that. God, I don't know. It's crawling under my skin," Hutch said, his voice desperate. "It's all over me," he mumbled, and he let go of Starsky's hand to rub his own arm and neck and chest, frantic movements that spoke of unbearable itching. He moaned and rubbed.. Leaving one hand cradling Hutch's cheek, Starsky scratched the tense back in long strokes. He could feel the muscles twitching repeatedly under his hands, tiny spasms that must be making Hutch crazy.

"Good, better," Hutch muttered, and Starsky scratched harder. Eventually, Hutch subsided, falling into a daze, not quite asleep. Starsky eased up and leaned back, thinking evil thoughts. Every so often Hutch would shake to alertness and it would start again. Finally, he struggled to his back, his head still in Starsky's lap. Starsky looked down, but Hutch's swollen eyes were squinted closed, his face pale. His hands were wedged, palm-to-palm, between his drawn-up thighs. They didn't quite successfully hide the furious erection bulging the front of his cords.

During an odd, whispered conversation with Huggy in the cramped room above the bar, Starsky had mentioned the weird thing he'd noticed—even during the worst of the withdrawal, Hutch had a hard-on that wouldn't quit. Huggy had nodded knowingly, and staring into his mournful brown eyes, Starsky had intuited something about his friend he had never realized before.

"If you can, get him to jerk off a lot. It might make him feel better."

"You're kiddin'."

"Ain't no joke, bro. He'll get the itches, and it'll get pretty bad. Sometimes that's the only thing'll help. Believe me."

"Hutch," Starsky said hesitantly, keeping his voice quiet in case Hutch really was asleep for once.

Hutch made a sound and rolled away again, then started rubbing at his arms with the same frantic motion that was well on its way to driving Starsky insane.

"Hutch," he said more firmly. "Huggy said it might help if you-if you...."

Hutch's hands stopped moving for a second. "What?" He sounded exhausted.

"You know...give yourself some relief," Starsky said, his face heating up.

There was silence. Long silence, broken only by the whisper of Hutch's palms against his forearms, rubbing, rubbing.

"You can't be serious," Hutch murmured, sounding disgusted.

"What's it gonna hurt?" Starsky asked, suddenly annoyed. "Look, give it a shot. I'll let you have some privacy." But even as he rolled off of Hutch's bed he wondered how the heck he could. The tiny cottage didn't have any dividing walls, and the best he could do was go to go to the alcove and sit on the piano stool with his back to the bed. He did it anyway, hoping Hutch would take Huggy's advice, wishing there were any-damned-thing he could do to help his partner.

Anything.

There was silence from the bed; even the endless scratching had ceased. Starsky held his breath and listened until he barely heard it: the near-silent whisper of Hutch's zipper.

Starsky's face burned as he picked up a loose magazine, hoping to distract himself from what was going on. This was too close to something else he didn't want to think about—had always tried not to allow himself to. But he couldn't block out the sounds, the light slapping of Hutch's palm on his own flesh, or the labored breathing as he strove to pleasure himself. It went on for a long time, Starsky staring blindly at the page in front of him, his own cock half-erect. He tried to force his mind away from the action, and reached down to squeeze his dick in vicious punishment. And still the sounds went on, and Hutch didn't finish, until finally Starsky heard him give a frustrated groan. The noises stopped.

And the scratching started again.

Starsky sighed and dropped the magazine on top of the piano. He went back over to the bed and sat on the edge.

"No good, huh?"

Hutch snarled something. He was curled up on his side, looking small, somehow, and so damned miserable. Starsky put a hand on his shoulder and Hutch jerked away violently.

Jesus. He's wired for sound.

"How the hell can I, with you in the fucking room? Why don't you just go, Starsk," Hutch said tiredly. "Look, I promise I'll stay right here—"

"Not a chance, big guy," Starsky said.

Hutch rolled to his back to stare at him. His face was red, and he said in a clipped tone, "I'm past it now. You know it." But his hands were still rubbing, and his bruised and shadowed eyes were still gone, back to the alleyway, or maybe even back to that dark room where they'd held him down and pumped him full of the stuff, over and over.

Starsky needed to see Hutch's real eyes back.

The shaking started up again, and Hutch groaned and rolled toward him, pressing his forehead against Starsky's hip. Starsky dropped his hand back onto Hutch's shoulder and rubbed a little. This time Hutch didn't jerk away; in fact, he pressed harder against Starsky and wrapped one big hand around his thigh.

"Maybe I..." Starsky's voice deserted him. His stomach had floated away before he'd even realized he was entertaining the impossible, dangerous notion about to come out of his mouth. He swallowed hard, forcing the words, even though his heart started banging against the walls of his chest in protest. "Maybe I can...help."

"Help w-what?" Hutch said through chattering teeth, sounding like he hadn't even heard.

"Help...you."

Hutch just shook his head, looking confused. He clenched his jaw, and Starsky could see the spasms jittering his cheek muscles as if tugging them by invisible threads.

"Hutch. I want to help."

It must've finally gotten through, because Hutch's eyes widened and he gave a terrible laugh before covering his face with his hands. He moaned, then said, "What, not enough that y-you clean up my puke and my stinking piss?"

"You tell me," Starsky challenged, his back up. "You tell me what's too much when it comes to you and me."

Hutch moaned again, scrubbing at his face. "S-so fucking loyal." But the rejection was put to the lie by the hard-on pressing against the gap in his unfastened pants.

Starsky knew he would have to make the first move. "Come on," he said in a whisper, and he shifted further onto the bed, pulling his legs up. He pushed Hutch more to the middle, and then tugged at the hands still covering Hutch's face.

"Just us chickens here. Nothing to be ashamed of." But Starsky's voice was uneven, and he couldn't quite promise himself there was nothing more to this than his need to help Hutch find relief. The secret he could never tell himself was finally out, shouting itself in his mind, and his hands were shaking as he reached down to lift the tails of Hutch's shirt.

The bruises that had risen to paint the surface of Hutch's abdomen made Starsky hesitate briefly. A voice in his head damned him even as he laid a palm on Hutch's trembling stomach.

"Easy. Easy, babe."

"Oh, God," Hutch moaned, voice hollow, and he turned his head away, hiding his face.

It was enough to stop Starsky dead, and he sat still for a long moment, waiting, until finally he gained control of himself and started to take his hands away.

But Hutch grabbed his wrist. "Please." The word was whisper soft.

This is wrong. Wrong, Starsky thought, but his hand moved in answer, ignoring the damning voice in his head, ignoring the panicked thumping of his heart. He reached down and slipped his fingers under Hutch's shorts and grasped the rigid shaft, pulling it free.

He's in my hand. Hutch is in my hand. He hardly heard Hutch's muffled gasp. Starsky's entire world was focused on the flesh within his fingers. Tender, soft/hard, aching flesh. His own cock gave a muted throb, but he ignored that, too. He squeezed once, hesitantly, and Hutch gasped again, tremors rippling his stomach.

Starsky began to stroke him.

It felt awkward at first, like the first time he had jerked himself off to orgasm, his face hot and his ears burning as if God were watching. A dark pleasure—a little scary. Only it wasn't himself he was jerking, but Hutch. He was hot in Starsky's hand, the big vein springy under his thumb. Starsky squeezed tighter, his face tingling with excitement, and fisted the big cock as if it were his own. He could see the matching heat on the side of Hutch's neck. His elbow covered his face, shame in every angle of his body. Starsky couldn't tell if it was from the act itself, or from needing this, needing and having to beg for it, like he'd begged for a fix.

Both, maybe.

But Hutch's other hand had joined his, guiding him, speeding the tempo of the stroke, and his groans no longer spoke of despair, but desperate pleasure.

Come on, baby blue. Get there. Get there. Starsky could feel the pressure, the need, as badly as if it were his own, and his breath quickened along with Hutch's, craving the release, feeling it rise under the flesh, the shaft hardening further until Hutch let out a sound and came, arm clamped tight against his face. Starsky looked down and trembled on the edge himself, watching the short streams of creamy fluid arcing and spattering from the head of Hutch's cock. A few more strokes, a few more falling spurts dying in the air, and then Hutch sagged.

Hutch's cock was still hard in Starsky's slick hand, and he didn't let go, at first unwilling to let the moment pass. He came back to himself when he heard his own harsh breathing. He started to release his grip, but Hutch's hand tightened around his.

"Please," Hutch whispered again, hoarsely.

"You want me to..." Starsky cleared his throat. "Should I keep going?"

There was a long pause, and then Hutch answered him by squeezing his hand.

Oh, God. It wasn't over. Such sweet torture, touching Hutch this way. Hutch still needing him so badly.

His hand slid more easily now, lubricated by Hutch's come, and Hutch whimpered as Starsky pumped quickly. Hutch's dick had to be tender, but his hand was still tight around Starsky's, the rhythm he set rough and punishing.

"God. Help me," he murmured, sounding broken.

"It's okay," Starsky whispered, his throat dry. His pulse still pounded in his throat, matching the throb in his pants. He shifted on the bed, pausing so he could kneel and use both hands, one reaching below to cup Hutch's balls, sneaking his fingers below the fabric of Hutch's underwear.

Hutch groaned wildly and spread his legs, trapping Starsky's wrist under the elastic.

"Hang on, babe, hang on." He needed more room to maneuver, so he pulled his hands away and tugged down on Hutch's pants.

Hutch tensed.

"Come on, help me out here," Starsky said quietly, afraid Hutch would balk. But instead he raised his hips, letting Starsky pull down his pants until they were past his knees.

Hutch still covered his face. He'd let his other hand fall to the bed and lay with his legs bent. He barely seemed to breathe, but the tremors had begun again.

"That's better," Starsky heard himself say foolishly. And then he reached with both hands, gripping the slick shaft with one while he squeezed Hutch's balls with the other.

Hutch made a begging sound, and Starsky started to stroke him again, the favored rhythm now familiar. The freedom to explore tantalized him, and he let his fingers roam under the plump sac, stroking the incredibly smooth skin with his fingertips until he tore a groan from Hutch's throat.

"Like that?" Starsky asked, barely able to speak. Hutch didn't respond, but his knees spread wider a moment later.

Starsky kept up the steady, slick rhythm, the wet sounds turning his nuts to fire, along with the sharp sex smell of Hutch's come. It was taking longer this time, and Starsky was starting to despair he could get Hutch to come again so soon. And he wanted, so badly, to make him. To force him to feel pleasure.

Sick. I'm sick in the head. But it felt like Hutch had been fighting him for days, and Starsky wanted to feel him give in. He flashed on a memory of two days earlier, when Hutch had tried to get past him to go after a fix, wrestling him at the door. And then came a too-brief moment when Hutch had bent his head, resting it against Starsky's chest.

Starsky lowered his head, drawn by the impulse and his own desire. Oh, man. What am I doing? But the need was irresistible, inevitable. Hutch seemed to sense what was happening, because he stiffened once again. Starsky ignored him and bent lower still, and then took the tip of Hutch's cock into his mouth.

Hutch let out a rough sound of protest, his stomach heaving under Starsky's arm.

"No! Starsk, don't..." But instead of pulling away, Hutch gripped his head convulsively, his fingers painfully tight bands across Starsky's scalp.

So Starsky began to suck.

The taste was familiar to him, of course. He'd always liked tasting himself in a girl's mouth when she'd blown him good. Hutch was oddly both sweeter and more bitter to his tongue. But he'd barely had a chance to appreciate the smooth texture of the head of Hutch's cock and the interesting ridge that ringed it before Hutch yelled hoarsely and pushed his head away.

Reeling, Starsky watched as Hutch took himself in hand and beat his cock frantically until he threw his head back and moaned.

There was little fluid this time, but Hutch's orgasm seemed to go on forever, and even after he stopped ejaculating he continued jerking the reddened flesh as he trembled and groaned.

Finally, he stopped, still gasping. And then he rolled away and frantically pulled at his pants, scraping them over his hips while Starsky knelt uncertainly by his side.

What now, hot shot? Starsky wiped his hands on his jeans, his fear overwhelming in the aftermath. Hutch was curled up, no longer trembling, but somehow looking even more miserable. With a sigh, Starsky straightened and started to back away on his knees.

"Wait," Hutch said.

Wait for what? You wanna go another round? The absurd thought almost made Starsky laugh, but he caught himself just in time.

"What...what about—" Hutch's voice was a harsh rasp.

Hesitantly, Starsky put out his hand, and miraculously Hutch reached back as if to meet him.

"What about what, Hutch?" The last word came out on a squeak.

"What about...you?"

Starsky rocked back in surprise. It was almost funny, Hutch trying to be...what? A considerate lover? When they were anything but. When the situation was so crazy-making that reality had left the building hours before.

Hutch rolled back over, but when Starsky tried to meet his eye, the blue glinted away sorrowfully, just as it had when he first came out of withdrawal. "Such a thing as a mercy killing?" Hutch had asked jokingly back at Huggy's. But Starsky knew at the time that Hutch had almost meant it.

"Don't worry about me," Starsky said evenly.

Hutch's forehead creased even further. "Please, Starsky. I need to—"

Starsky's cock had been patient enough, and even entertaining the thought of taking Hutch up on his offer was threatening to make it jump directly out of his pants. So Starsky hurriedly backed off of the bed, letting his feet drop to the floor.

"What you need, babe, is about ten hours shuteye, uninterrupted," he said firmly.

Hutch's face started to collapse, and he turned away again, pressing it under his pillow. He murmured something low, too low for Starsky to hear.

"It's okay," Starsky said, answering the tone, if not the words. "Everything's gonna be okay. Just try to sleep, huh?"

Hutch's shoulders moved in a defeated shrug, and then he went limp.

Finally. The interlude seemed to have done its job, for Hutch's breathing quieted, and the shakes were gone completely. Starsky sighed softly and crept away, feeling like he had run a marathon in under an hour. He closed the bathroom door behind him and washed his hands carefully. And then he couldn't stand the pressure in his groin for another second, and he unzipped and pulled out his poor, tortured cock.

He had no idea what Hutch had been about to offer him, but Starsky knew what he would've wanted. It was an idea he hadn't allowed himself to entertain for far too long, the image of Hutch on his belly, those long legs opening for him, begging for him to....

It took him under ten seconds, grasping the edge of the sink with one hand and clenching his teeth to hold back the moan of pure relief as he came hard, shooting his load in heavy spurts against the faucet and tile.

When it was over, his legs were so shaky he had to sit down on the toilet seat to recover and think about what the hell to do next. He knew he shouldn't leave—Hutch was past the crisis point for now, but there was no telling with that fucking drug, once it had its claws in you.

But Starsky needed to get out of there, wrap his head around what had just happened. Find a way to live with the memory, even though nothing like it could ever happen again.

Especially since it couldn't.

He cleaned up and left quietly, like a thief.

ooOoo

Starsky was getting awfully tired of staring at the top of Hutch's head.

Ever since that night, as Starsky had dubbed it in his mind, Hutch wouldn't even look at him. Starsky had been expecting maybe a little awkwardness, had anticipated it, and had scripted a few sly jokes to try to ease the tension, but he hadn't had the first opportunity to try out his material.

Because Hutch was obviously so completely fucked up over what had happened during the past few days, there was no room for even a joke. He wouldn't look at Starsky directly and barely spoke to him at all, except for work stuff. And Hutch exited right after sign-out, to disappear wherever the Blintz disappeared to when he didn't want Starsky finding him.

At first Starsky had been worried, just a little, that Hutch was going out after work to score. But days passed and Starsky couldn't see the tiniest sign that Hutch was using. He was even putting some weight back on and regaining his normal color. No, he isn't hooked, just hiding. But where?

Not at the beach. Not at the Pits. Not at the Rose Café, his most recent hideout—or at least it had been, until Starsky had found him there on a sulk a few months earlier.

And certainly not at the cottage.

So, Starsky followed him after work. Hutch might complain about his Coke can on wheels, but it did the job as a stealth vehicle when Starsky was the one doing the tailing. He stayed a careful five cars back at all times, or three hundred yards when there was no one between them. When Hutch turned up Overland, Starsky had a pretty good idea where they were heading, and he let Hutch slip away even further. It was no surprise when Starsky saw the Galaxie turn into the parking lot for Rancho Park.

They used to take Kiko to the Rancho Park Library regularly, and Starsky smiled as he remembered the huge pile of books the kid would haul out of there, a stack taller than his head. For a long time Kiko had insisted on going back every week, since he was only allowed fifteen books at a time. Lately, though, the kid had moved on to less savory pursuits.

Starsky knew Hutch worried about the boy. Hutch worried about everyone. But Starsky only worried about Hutch these days.

There was plenty of parking along the street, and Starsky took a spot then hopped out to jog the rest of the way. He took a glance at the park as he headed toward the library entrance, and suddenly he remembered the other reason Hutch no longer brought Kiko here.

The dealers. No mistaking the type. They'd taken over the little slice of grass by the culvert. With a thread of dismay, Starsky recognized the head of pale hair crowning a figure sitting by the jungle gym.

Hutch. Shit.

Starsky's feet quickened of their own volition until he was almost running toward the bent form. Hutch looked up as he approached, and his face twisted before he looked back down.

He was sitting at the picnic table reading a book. For some reason Starsky found that reassuring, but the pang in his gut wasn't so easily dismissed, and he cast a glance over at the shady figures lounging by the water fountain.

"Hutch," Starsky said in a undertone, "just what the fuck are you doing here?"

Hutch's head jerked up again, and he gave a harsh bark of laughter. "Not what you seem to think, buddy." He lifted his arm, showing Starsky his side, where his piece rested in its holster, exposed. Hutch had removed his outer jacket, and his Magnum was in plain sight.

Starsky's confusion increased. Hutch couldn't possibly score if he were made as a cop. And he seemed to have broken his cover intentionally.

"Nice to know you trust me, though," Hutch said, voice bitter.

"Come on, man, I didn't—" Starsky couldn't finish the lie. He had thought, just for a moment....

"Sure you did." Hutch sighed heavily and closed his book, resting his hand on top of it. "Why shouldn't you? Once a junkie, always a junkie, right? Only, aren't any junkies making a buy here, not right now."

And Starsky got it. Hutch's presence in the park must be putting a small dent in sales. The pushers couldn't be very happy about that. Starsky looked up and caught a few glares aimed in their direction. So he smiled grimly and took off his own jacket, the sure weight of his Beretta shifting under his right arm as he sat down on the bench across from Hutch and rolled his shoulders.

Hutch shot him a grateful look but didn't speak.

Starsky's disloyalty ached like a bruise, though, and he had to say, "I'm sorry, buddy. I didn't really think—"

"Yes, you did. Just like you always will, just a little. Maybe..." Hutch's voice dropped low, and Starsky had to lean forward, tilting his head to catch the halting words coming from Hutch's lips. "Maybe you should think about that—what it means. Maybe I'm not the right partner for you anymore."

Ice froze Starsky's guts. "What the—? Hutch, come on...."

"What good is a partner you can't trust?" Hutch said dully.

Starsky could feel his heart give a deadened beat, as if it were muffled by padding. "I trust you," he said, this throat beyond dry. "You gotta believe me—"

Hutch turned his head away, but not before Starsky picked up a telltale shine at the corner of his eye. Hutch's jaw clenched. "Or maybe I'm the one needs the change."

Starsky hadn't thought his heart could hurt more, but he was dead wrong. "That's a hell of a thing to say."

"Yeah, well, it's been a hell of a week."

"You're telling me." Rage rose, burning out the cold and the hurt. Starsky welcomed it. "After all the shit we've been through—"

"I'm not sure I can live with it."

The shaky voice stopped Starsky cold and squelched his rage along with it. That, and the trembling hand that Hutch lifted to his face.

"I can't live with what you—" Hutch dropped his hand, clenching it into a fist. "I can't take it." The fist rose and slammed down on the book once, then again. "I can't stand myself."

Starsky grabbed his wrist. "Hey. Hey."

Hutch tore his arm away as if branded.

The ice came back, filling Starsky's gut like a cold tide. He suddenly had an idea of just what it was Hutch couldn't live with. Maybe it wasn't just about getting hooked. Maybe it was about that night.

I didn't mean it to hurt you. God, that's the last thing I wanted. But under the defensive thought was the guilt that had been waiting ever since, the wondering—how much of it had been helping Hutch...and how much of it had been Starsky's own need to touch.

"You just have to give it a little time," Starsky said, his own voice weak.

"Time, yeah." Hutch made a sound like a broken cough, or maybe it was a laugh too bitter to escape his throat. He swiped his hand over his face, and when he turned back to Starsky, it was completely expressionless. "You willing to risk it?"

"Ain't no risk." Starsky was almost breathless with relief. "Not ever."

Hutch's face twisted again, and he looked down before pushing his hands down on the picnic table and rising to his feet. Starsky reached over and picked up the book, meaning to hand it to Hutch, but found himself turning it over to look at the title.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. One of Kiko's favorite books. The title gave Starsky a jolt of painful amusement.

"Terrific," he muttered, and followed Hutch out of the park.

Behind them, he could hear the relieved shuffle of the dealers spreading out in the gathering shadows. Getting set to push their goods.

ooOoo

Dobey put them back on the streets the next day. Starsky wasn't sure Hutch was ready for it, but Hutch acted like it was no big deal. In fact, he acted like nothing was any big deal, as if the past week had never happened. The emotionless expression stayed plastered to his face, no matter what was going on, and Starsky's usual teasing just glanced off of him like he was coated in glass.

It was like living with a Stepford Hutch.

The Torino hummed quietly as they stopped at a light. Starsky flicked his eyes around the neighborhood, catching the tail end of some deal happening on the corner as he drove forward once again. He saw Hutch's eyes take in the scene, and then Hutch pulled his sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on. His face was impassive and smooth under the flickers of passing sunlight.

"Catch the game later?" Starsky asked, knowing it was pointless. Hutch's shoulder moved in a dismissive shrug.

Starsky sighed.

"Zebra Three, please respond. 920C reported at thirteen-fifty South Normandie Ave."

"Great. A missing kid." Starsky checked the mirror, then spun the Torino in a quick U-turn. Hutch didn't respond, and one glance showed Starsky the mask was still in place.

The address turned out to be an abandoned print shop. Starsky shot Hutch a look as they picked their way past the garbage at the doorway. Someone had been using the entry as a pit stop, and the stench of old urine rose from the doorstep. The paint had curled away, and underneath the wood was green. Hutch removed his glasses, his face crinkling in a disgust that mirrored Starsky's own.

Starsky pushed through the half-open door. The room was dim, but a frantic rush of movement had him pulling back slightly, bumping shoulders with Hutch.

It was a kid. Fifteen, maybe, scrawny as hell, blue eyes wild under a mop of filthy brown hair.

"You the cops?" the kid asked, bouncing on his toes in worn-out sneakers.

"Yeah," Starsky said when Hutch didn't respond. "That's Hutch. I'm Starsky." Curious, he looked over at his partner. Usually Hutch was the one to step up and talk to the kids. But Hutch was glaring at the boy with a hard expression on his face. Starsky took a closer look at the kid and saw it. The glazed stare, unblinking. The unhealthy grayness of the pale skin.

Great. A junkie.

"What's your name, kid?" Starsky asked, moving forward.

"Cory. I'm Cory. P-please, you gotta help me. My little brother is gone. He's gone."

"You live here?" Starsky looked around at the room's contents with a wince. A grimy mattress sat in the corner, with a dirty yellow blanket lying on top. One broken table, with a bowl and an unopened, bright yellow box of cereal sitting next to it.

"Yeah." Cory ducked his head. "We had to get away from my...we had to leave home. I took Jess with me, couldn't leave him behind." Cory went over to the table. "I was only gone for a little while, he wasn't supposed to go anywhere, he knew that." His hand rose over the box of cereal and then dropped again.

"How long ago?" It was Hutch's voice, clipped and angry.

Cory winced and spun, his ass hitting the table. The glazed look hadn't left, but now he hunched fearfully. "I don't...I don't know...it was a while. I had to...I had to find food."

"And a fix?" Hutch took two steps toward the kid, and Starsky moved fast, putting his shoulder between them. This could get out of hand fast.

"That what happened, Cory?" Hutch asked in a flat voice. "You went out to get a hit, left your little brother all alone in this stinking hole? That the kind of brother you are?" There was contempt there, so deep and cutting that Starsky was momentarily frozen in shock.

Jesus, Hutch. Starsky blocked his partner, moving over to the kid, who was scrubbing his face with his hands, crying pitifully.

"I didn't! I had to get...get the Cheerios. They're his favorite."

"It's okay, kid. It's okay." Starsky put a hand on his shoulder and shot a glare back at Hutch. "Just tell us what Jess looks like. How old is he? Is there anyplace he likes to hang out?"

"He didn't go on his own," Cory said, looking up gratefully. "He wouldn't! He's only eight. And he hates it out there. Look, I found him some stuff to play with..." Cory ducked and pulled a cardboard box from under the table. "See? They're like letter blocks, only they're metal. There were a bunch of these all over this place. He loves these things." Cory looked lost in a memory, his eyes drooping closed again.

We're losing him. Starsky didn't know when the kid had gotten his fix, but he was obviously not going to be much help tracking down the little brother. Starsky looked back at Hutch, who had his hands in his jacket pockets. It looked like they were clenched. In fact, his whole body was bunched up as if he were controlling himself with an effort.

Great. I'm the only sane person here. Starsky pulled the box out of Cory's hands and gently led him over to the bed, sitting him down. He extracted information from the kid in bits. Cory was only thirteen. They'd left home two months earlier. With hardly any money and no place to stay, it had taken Sonny James, Cory's pimp, only two days to snag him and pull him into his ring. Cory didn't say, but Starsky imagined he'd hooked the kid on junk shortly after that.

Little Jess was clean, Cory swore up and down, and said Sonny didn't even know he had a little brother. But Starsky knew that would be the first place they'd have to start looking.

After they got the kid somewhere safe.

"Okay, Cory. We're on the case, now. We'll find Jess, we promise."

The tears had made clean streaks on the kid's dirty face, and for a second, when he looked up at Starsky with a tremulous smile, Starsky felt a shock hit his body at the pathetic gratitude in those eyes. The same look he'd seen, over and over, just weeks ago, on Hutch's face.

Hutch was slouched against the table, arms crossed, the angry glare still hardening his features. He hadn't participated at all in the questioning, probably realizing the kid wouldn't open up to him. Or maybe he just knew that Starsky wouldn't have let him talk to the boy in that state.

"Come on, sport. We're gonna take you to a friend of ours."

"I can't leave without Jess," Cory whispered.

"I told you—we'll find him for you, I promise. Now get your stuff."

Cory moved slowly, getting together a few things—a ragged jacket, a book, the small box of printer type. Last, he picked up the bright box of Cheerios.

"They're his favorite," he said in a broken voice. Starsky put his hand on the kid's head, ignoring the dirty, sticky hair, and gave him a gentle rub.

"It's gonna be okay."

They left, Hutch a silent blank walking behind them.

ooOoo

Starsky dropped Cory at Social Services, handing him over to Perkowitz after giving her a few words in private about the boy's situation. She wrapped a thin arm around the little guy and led him away.

In the car, the silence was like acid. Starsky had about a million things to say and no time to say them. They'd obtained Sonny's address from his parole officer and now headed straight over to the run-down apartment building. The landlady was only too happy to let them into "that riff-raff's" room. Sonny was three months late on the rent and apparently not a big favorite in the building.

In a way, Starsky was glad Sonny wasn't home. He wasn't sure he could've restrained the tightly wound ball of fury walking next to him down the hallway.

They found little Jess curled up on the closet floor, pale and shaky but apparently as yet unused, or using. With a huge sigh, Starsky bent down and gathered him up. The little guy was all spindly legs and arms, with big blue eyes that matched his brother's. He started crying uncontrollably when Starsky told him he was safe. Starsky met Hutch's eyes, saw the pain there just for a moment before it vanished behind them, like a stone dropping into a well.

Back at the station, Hutch didn't go with him when he took the boy to Perkowitz to be reunited with his brother.

ooOoo

No luck hunting down Sonny, who must've caught wind and high-tailed it. Kidnapping, possession, dealing, not to mention pimping a minor...they'd be lucky if he broke cover in the next decade.

They finally gave up around 7:30 p.m., and Hutch clocked them out over the radio.

"APB will bring him in," Starsky said, but without much conviction. Hutch grunted. Starsky had started to turn his head to ask him if he was hungry, but found himself, with that one little sound, suddenly and irrevocably fed up. Tired of the silence or one-word responses, sick to the gills with Hutch's evasive eyes and that mask—that fucking glass-like mask over his usually warm features. It was like working with a ghoul.

Where was his partner?

"I'm taking you home, Hutch," Starsky said, and he heard the crazed frustration ringing in his voice. "And then we're gonna have a little talk. You read me?"

Hutch turned his head and silently looked out the passenger window.

"One grunt for yes," Starsky said. "Or two for...well, there is no fucking or," he muttered, and took the freeway ramp at speed, his pulse pounding in his temple.

He brought them back to the cottage, to where the whole nightmare had begun. Somewhere right here, in this tiny, homey little place, some goons had stolen away his partner and returned this thing, this changeling. This hard-as-nails bastard who'd yell at a little kid crying his heart out.

This...junkie, Starsky's mind whispered darkly before he banished the voice, banished thought, and threw his jacket on the couch to stalk over to the fridge. Midway, he changed his mind and went to the cabinet below the sink, pulling out the dusty bottle of brandy. He poured a couple of fingers for himself, and a couple more for Hutch, and turned.

Hutch was sitting on the couch, where he'd laid his suede jacket. His gun was still on. Starsky tried to remember the last time he'd seen Hutch without it, and failed.

Starsky walked over and held the glass in front of him, but Hutch didn't blink. He appeared to be lost somewhere, winter eyes staring from a cold face.

Have to break him, Starsky realized with a start of dismay. Have to crack him open just like a perp. It hurt thinking of Hutch that way, but there was no choice. Not if Starsky wanted his partner all the way back.

"That was some hard line you took with that thirteen year-old kid," Starsky said, putting the drink down on the chest in front of him. "Used to be I had to scrape your bleeding heart from the pavement."

Hutch's lip lifted in an almost-snarl, and he dropped his eyes to the glass of brandy, then picked it up and carelessly tossed back the shot. "Maybe I've grown up," he said hoarsely.

"You cold son of a bitch...what the fuck has happened to you?" Starsky felt the anger and loss bright and hot in his chest. "Jesus, Hutch. You know the score. You know what they do to those kids, plucking them up at the bus station and then getting 'em hooked to keep them in line, keep them coming back to the stable."

Hutch's face cringed into a deep wince and he shook his head. "Stop it. Just stop it."

Starsky leaned down, pressing. "Just think about it, pal." He grabbed Hutch's shoulder, squeezing hard. "How many times a day did that poor kid have to get down on his knees and suck cock just for a lousy hit? And then do it all over again to make enough money to feed his baby bro—"

Starsky's ranting stopped when he saw Hutch's face suddenly go pale, the blood draining like wine from a glass.

"Hutch?" Starsky said uncertainly.

"Oh, God," Hutch whispered and covered his mouth with one hand. And then he lurched to his feet and made for the bathroom.

"Hutch!" Starsky came up hard against the closed door. Oh, no. No. What did I say? What did I just say? But he knew what he'd said. He just couldn't stand that he knew it. He could've happily died without this new, ugly piece of poison living in his brain.

Oh, babe. Oh, God. "Hutch," Starsky whispered, pressing his cheek against the door. He heard nothing but silence. He stood for a long time, wrestling with his fury and the sickness in the pit of his stomach. Then, with a heavy hand, he reached down and turned the knob.

Hutch didn't lift his head from where he huddled over the toilet. He was holding his guts, apparently just managing to keep them in.

"Get out," he said in a deadly whisper.

"Partner..." Starsky approached carefully, both hands out, wondering if he'd have to share Hutch's spot at the toilet. His own stomach was still roiling so hard that sweat was prickling up on his face.

Hutch moved away and sank to the floor by the bathtub, resting his arms on his knees and hiding his face there. "I said get out. Just go." He lifted his head long enough to shout, "Goddammit, just leave me the fuck alone!"

"Never," Starsky said, grit in his throat. "Jesus Christ, which one of them was it? I'll kill the bastard—"

Hutch squeezed his temples between his palms. "Shut up. Shut up."

"Okay. Okay, Hutch. We don't have to talk about it." Starsky stood for a long moment until Hutch's hands dropped and he wrapped his arms around his legs, forehead still pressed to his knees.

Starsky moved slowly, sat down on the edge of the tub and cautiously rested one palm on the back of Hutch's head, feeling the startled jerk. "Babe, look at me."

"No." Hutch said it like a plea.

"What, never? The rest of our lives?" Starsky moved his hand in a caress, relieved that Hutch didn't pull away. "Let me see you, Hutch."

Hutch shook his head with a moan. He said despairingly, his voice muffled, "I can't."

"Why, huh? What're you afraid of?"

Hutch banged his forehead against his knees, and Starsky stopped the motion with his hand.

"Please."

Hutch mumbled, his voice full of defeat, "I can't. God help me, I can't take what I've done. But worse, what I made you do, and that you know everything. I wish...oh, Christ, I wish it had been anyone but you...anyone but you. Because now I can't stand it...what you see when you look at me."

Starsky sat, his hand still resting lightly on Hutch's hair, the soft strands tangled up in his fingers. He tried to think around his rage and his sorrow and kept coming up blank. The only thing he knew was his own truth, and he didn't think he had a hope in hell of convincing Hutch of it.

He tried anyway. "What I see is what I've always seen. The best friend I got in the whole world." Starsky's throat closed on him, and he swallowed once, heavily. "What I see is a guy got put through hell and is going to come back from it. You ain't changed, Hutch. The way I see you hasn't changed."

Hutch shook his head in denial. "God, how'm I supposed to believe that? You think I've forgotten one minute of the hell I put you through? Think I've forgotten that I shit my pants and begged you for a fix? Puked in your lap and watched you clean it up? And the worst fucking part is I made you...made you...."

Starsky took a quiet breath. "Made me...?"

Hutch shifted restlessly. "You know."

"You didn't make me do anything," Starsky said carefully.

Hutch gave a bitter chuckle, his head shaking under Starsky's hand. "You trying to tell me you did it for kicks—what I made you do? Made you do what I had to...only, for you there was no fucking high at the end of it."

Starsky closed his eyes, his chest heavy. He pushed away his fury, trying to think. Have to tell him the truth, let him off the hook for this, at least. Have to hope it doesn't screw things up even worse. Starsky opened his mouth and made himself say, "Wanna bet?"

Silence greeted his admission. He realized it wasn't enough. Spell it out.

"You didn't make me do anything I didn't want to, already. That clear enough for you?" Defensiveness made his voice rough.

Hutch went absolutely still. Then he laughed again, a sandy sound. "No. No. Nice try, though."

Starsky's fingers closed tight in the blond hair and he hauled upward, bringing Hutch's startled face into view.

"You calling me a liar? I'm here dropping my pants and you're calling me a liar?"

"Starsk?" Hutch's voice shook, his eyes wide around the blue.

"Get this one thing straight: I want you. Maybe I took the stupidest possible time to show you, and it fucked things up even worse in your head. But I did what I wanted to do, what I've been itching to do for way too long. So now tell me it ruins things between us."

Hutch gave a shake of his head, wincing when it pulled his hair. Starsky loosened his hold and said, more quietly, "Tell me it changes how you look at me."

Hutch frowned up at him. "Nothing could do that," he said fiercely. And then his eyes went away, inward. He took a slow breath.

"That's right," Starsky whispered.

"Nothing could..." Hutch said again, and this time there was dawning relief in his voice.

"Nothing I can think of. Nothing so far," Starsky said, agreeing.

Hutch's jaw worked soundlessly.

"Of course, if you're planning a mass murder or something, we'll need to review the question."

But it was too soon for jokes, because Hutch was still staring at him, eyes straining so wide it must've hurt. He blinked finally, and Starsky realized his own eyes were dry from staring too long into the pale blue.

"The worst thing I could think of has already happened," Hutch said slowly, his voice eerily calm. "Is that why I don't feel like dying anymore?"

"Oh, God. Babe." Starsky slumped over so he could press their heads together. His hand clutched hard at Hutch's shoulder, trying to put all his grief in the touch. They stayed that way for a long time until their breathing matched, slow and even.

"Starsk?" Hutch pushed his head away gently.

"Yeah?"

"If you...if you really wanted it, like you said, why didn't you let me—" Hutch stopped, and his eyes shifted away. "But, no, you wouldn't lie to me. You can't be lying."

The edge of the tub was pretty much putting a permanent dent in Starsky's ass, so he dropped his hand and eased himself down onto the floor beside him.

"You were awfully screwed up that night, Hutch," Starsky said evenly. "I didn't want to lay anything more on you right then."

"Oh." Hutch's head dropped.

"Also..." Starsky winced, then said quickly, "I didn't think you...well, you didn't owe me...anything. No matter what you might've thought."

He saw a flush start along the side of Hutch's neck. "I was pretty out of it, but I do remember being...disappointed." Hutch turned to face him, his cheeks pink. "Truth is, I've spent the last three weeks wishing I hadn't fucked everything up so badly that we could never, that I could never...bring it up again."

It answered the question Starsky had been too afraid to ask, and he felt his stomach quiver, the anxiety turning to something else, something warm and loose. He raised his hand slowly, watching carefully as he brought it up to Hutch's face and brushed his knuckles against the warm cheek.

Hutch didn't blink, but the tip of his tongue came out to part his lips before disappearing again.

It was enough of an invitation to Starsky, who leaned forward and glanced his lips against the soft wetness left behind. He pulled back.

One half of Hutch's mouth lifted in a smile of disbelief. But his eyes looked worried.

"Whatever happens, Hutch." Starsky smiled, feeling his lips pull tight with the force of his grin. "Ain't nothing gonna change the way I look at you."

Hutch gave a small sigh, painful sounding, and then he leaned over and took Starsky's mouth hard, as if testing him. But Starsky didn't hesitate, opening his lips and taking Hutch's tongue into his mouth, sucking it, tasting the soft underside.

God, he tastes good. A hint of the brandy, and Hutch. Just like Hutch should taste, like a stiff shot, heady and deep. Hutch groaned, and Starsky could practically smell the lust coming off his own body like fumes. He tried to yank Hutch closer and instead gave his elbow a painful crack against the side of the tub.

That's when Starsky realized they were sitting on the floor of Hutch's bathroom, the tile sucking the heat from his ass.

"Hutch," he mumbled into Hutch's mouth, and Hutch made a protesting noise as he pulled away. "Think we can take this out of the john?"

Hutch was staring at him, looking dumbstruck. Starsky snapped his fingers in front of Hutch's nose.

"Earth to space boy. You read?"

Hutch nodded dumbly, and Starsky hoisted himself up using the edge of the tub. He offered a hand to Hutch, who took it, pulling on him so hard that Starsky had to stagger back in reaction. His foot slipped, and Hutch clutched back at him, holding him upright.

Hutch gave him an uneven smirk. "You know, Starsk, ninety-five percent of all household accidents happen in the bathroom."

It was just the kind of dumb joke the Blintz would come up with, so welcome in that moment that Starsky could've shouted with relief. He was getting his partner back. And maybe he was getting something more in the bargain.

He let Hutch lead the way out of the bathroom, steering him toward the couch with one hand between his shoulder blades.

Hutch spoke to the side, "You don't want to...to go to bed?"

"Nah. Plenty of time for that, Blondie." He didn't miss the way Hutch's shoulders relaxed at his words. "Hey, take this off already," he said, tugging at Hutch's gun harness.

Hutch sat down in the middle of the couch and unstrapped his Magnum while Starsky went to grab some beer out of the fridge. He handed one to Hutch, popping the other and taking a long, thirsty pull. He smiled when Hutch did the same.

Then Starsky sat down, swinging his legs up and over Hutch's and relaxing against the arm of the couch.

Hutch leaned his elbow on Starsky's knees, beer in his hand. Just like he had a thousand times before. It was the shy, uncertain look Hutch shot him that was entirely new.

Hutch cleared his throat. "You having second thoughts?"

Starsky couldn't read anything from his tone, neither disappointment nor relief. "Not a chance," he said. He let his fingers find the back of Hutch's neck, stroking a little. "Just don't wanna push it."

Hutch gave a funny laugh and tilted his head back, his hair brushing over Starsky's knuckles.

Jesus. Such a small thing, but it made Starsky's heart rev like the Torino's V-8.

"I've known you seven years plus, Starsk. You really think I'm gonna paste you one if you get too forward?"

"Maybe I'm more worried you wouldn't," Starsky said softly. A flicker of Hutch's lashes told him he'd hit the mark.

He said carefully, "You haven't told me what happened—" He tugged Hutch's hair when he felt the broad shoulder stiffen under his forearm. "—and you don't have to, Blondie. Not 'til you're ready. But you probably need some time—"

"Is that what this is about?" Hutch asked, sounding almost angry. "Well, you don't have to worry about me."

Starsky held in his sigh of exasperation. "Then what about me, huh? This is new to me, too, you know."

The quiet statement successfully derailed Hutch's defensiveness. He gave Starsky a soft look and said, "Yeah. Yeah, whatever you need, Starsk."

Starsky took away Hutch's beer, setting both on the chest to free his hands. And then he leaned forward, hooking his heels on Hutch's thighs for leverage. "What I need is another one of those lip-stoppers, baby blue. Kissing you is an education."

Hutch smiled and kissed him, lips soft and warm against Starsky's, painful in their tenderness. They took it slow, hands moving carefully over each other like handling a time bomb. One small part of Starsky's mind, the part not throbbing in his pants, was mourning the loss of what he had always fantasized as a cataclysmic first coming together between them. Somehow they'd been robbed of that, along with everything else Hutch had had stolen from him—his pride, his strength, his confidence, even control over his own body.

But another, deeper part of Starsky was secretly relishing the tenderness he had never expected to find. Every motion was a slow discovery, a careful charting of territory that should have been familiar, but was new and strange because it was Hutch he was touching in this way, the pads of his fingertips tracing the vulnerable hollow of Hutch's throat. And those were Hutch's fingers moving in Starsky's hair, scratching delicately at his scalp, the other hand creeping so slyly closer and closer to Starsky's hammering erection.

"God," Hutch said, pulling back. "You taste so good, Starsk."

"So do you, Blintz. And I'm really in a position to know," he said suggestively. "Can't wait to have another shot at it."

Hutch's lips pressed together, and he looked away.

"Hey." Starsky hooked a hand around Hutch's neck, tugging him closer. "Just wanna be with you, any way I can."

Hutch nodded and kissed him again, then surprised Starsky by grabbing his waist and hauling them both to their feet. "No time like right now."

It felt good to be handled that way. Good and weird, because no one but Hutch was ever allowed to do it, and now Hutch was taking advantage of the closeness in a different way, his strong arm leading Starsky over to his bed.

Starsky had his shirt halfway off and was getting rid of his sneakers when he realized Hutch was just watching him, his head tilted, hair catching the light from the porch. Starsky slowed down, shrugging his shirt from his shoulders before flinging it back toward the couch. He took his sweet time unzipping his jeans, because he felt a little nervous exposing his hard-on to his partner, and also because the tight fit and lack of underwear were a recipe for disaster.

Hutch's eyelids dropped until just a sliver of blue gleamed. He was staring at Starsky's crotch.

"This ain't a one-man show," Starsky said, surprised at the roughness in his voice.

Hutch flashed a quick smile and then started taking off his clothes. Starsky crawled onto the bed, suppressing a snicker when he saw Hutch folding his pants carefully before draping them over the chair by his desk. He was in profile, and Starsky's breath caught when he saw Hutch's hands were shaking a little.

Suddenly, Starsky didn't feel like laughing at all. Suddenly, Hutch's movements seemed critically important. Starsky focused on memorizing the images, because this was Hutch, baring himself for him—only for him—for the first time, sliding his shorts off his narrow hips, his hair ruffled from removing his undershirt.

Then the moment was over, and Hutch was joining him on the bed, and the second Hutch reached for him and their bodies touched, naked skin against skin, any thought Starsky had of taking things slow and easy flew straight out of his head.

He rolled his hips, and Hutch's cock was there, rigid against his, like nothing he'd ever felt before. We're both so hard. So hot. No feminine softness anywhere on Hutch's body, with the exception of the cheeks of his ass, which had just enough flesh for Starsky to squeeze with complete satisfaction. All the rest of him was hard planes and warmly sheathed muscle, rippling against Starsky's ribs and chest and under his hands. He could've come just from that first, heated grope and grind, but retained enough control to push Hutch back a little, feeling Hutch's panting protest in his ear.

"Slow down, Trigger," Starsky said, and a laugh threatened to burst from his chest at Hutch's disappointed frown. "Told you, I wanna taste you."

The frown turned into a grimace. "You don't have to do that."

"You saying you won't let me?" Starsky let the challenge hang, watching the gears spin, thinking sad thoughts of his own that had no room there, not if he was going to keep it up. So he kissed Hutch again and didn't wait for the answer, but trailed his mouth down the salty column of Hutch's neck, dragging the inside of his upper lip on the sweaty skin, wetting the path with his tongue every few inches.

The tactic worked, because Hutch started shivering, and his hands rose to Starsky's hair and buried themselves there, pressing him closer. Then he convulsed, his back arching when Starsky's mouth found a hardened nipple.

"Christ!" Hutch's hands dropped to Starsky's shoulders and gripped him tight.

Starsky sucked hard, pulling the tense flesh into his mouth, bringing the heat to the surface, then blowing on it. Hutch shivered again.

God, he's gonna kill me with that. Seeing Hutch shaking—not in pain this time, but in need for him—made Starsky's dick jerk hungrily. His arm rested on Hutch's belly, and he felt the damp kiss of the head of Hutch's cock wetting his skin. Gotta go taste that.

His girlfriends had always complimented him on his skilled mouth. Starsky figured he'd been born to the talent, and he'd used it to his best advantage. But except for the brief opportunity he'd had to taste Hutch the last time, he had no experience with sucking cock.

He didn't intend to let it faze him, though.

He looked up briefly while he slid further down on the bed. The last time he'd done this Hutch had been hiding his face, but this time Hutch's eyes were open, staring down, and the anxious frown was back, creasing his forehead.

Starsky gripped Hutch's erection, squeezing a little, and Hutch's eyes widened.

"Doin' this because I want to, Hutch," Starsky reminded him softly. "Ain't you ever felt that way, wanted to love someone so sweet with your mouth, make 'em go all the way crazy?"

The frown smoothed, and Hutch nodded, his lips parting. He licked them once, as if in anticipation, and Starsky balls tightened at the image.

Then he bent his head and tongued the bubble of pre-come from the head of Hutch's cock. He looked up at Hutch's soft moan, and then kept his eyes on Hutch's face as he sucked him into his mouth.

"Ohhh," Hutch moaned, so low it raised the hairs on Starsky's neck. He kept watching Hutch's face as he took his cock deeper into his mouth, as deep as he could go before the hard flesh butted the back of his throat. Then he pulled away and did it again, going down, and then again, until the angle started to hurt his neck and he had to bend his head. He could no longer see Hutch's face, but his groaning increased in volume, and Hutch's hand was on his shoulder, squeezing in appreciation.

Starsky couldn't figure out how to get the thick cock swallowed all the way. He'd had a girlfriend do that to him once—maybe he should call her and ask her for some tips. He would've smiled, but Hutch's cock filled his mouth, tasting so good, better than hot dogs and chili. Better than pussy. Because it was Hutch throbbing against his tongue, starting to beg now, pleading for Starsky to suck him harder, faster.

Starsky did. He kept trying to get Hutch deep enough, but the hard cock kept hitting the barrier of his soft palate. Apparently, though, it was enough, because Hutch suddenly gasped his name and came, the fluid so far back along Starsky's tongue that he barely tasted it going down. He counted the pulses, still sucking, listening to Hutch's grateful moans. When Hutch shuddered and pushed his shoulder, Starsky pulled away.

"Jesus," Hutch said shakily. "Your mouth...so incredible."

Starsky tried to suppress the smug grin, but saw Hutch roll his eyes.

"Come here," he demanded, tugging Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky crawled upward and then was grabbed and pinned hard by Hutch's arms. Hutch's face pressed into Starsky's hair and then he was kissing his way down to Starsky's mouth. "Can't believe it," Hutch said between kisses. "Can't believe you'd do that for me. You're something else. Something incredible."

"Told you, I wanted to. I liked it, Hutch," Starsky said, feeling strangely free saying it, a thousand insults fading into oblivion in his mind. Nothing that made his partner groan his name that way could be bad. Short of the goddamned heroin, nothing that made Hutch feel that good could be wrong. It was simple mathematics.

He rested his chin on Hutch's collarbone, trying to ignore the persistent ache in his balls, wanting to give Hutch a little breather. But Hutch shifted under him, turning. His teeth closed over Starsky's eyebrow, an odd, nipping caress, but it was okay, everything was okay because his hand had found Starsky's cock, the broad palm covering the head, pushing against it while his fingers forked below, squeezing the shaft.

Starsky groaned and tried to hitch upward, but there was no need. Hutch's hand moved, the heel of his palm pressing, twisting against the head of Starsky cock while the fingers clasped him, riding the skin, making him want to scream. Or bite.

Starsky lifted his head, banging Hutch's jaw upward so he had to shimmy up to capture the swollen lips, suck the lower one, then tease the soft inside with his tongue.

Hutch shuddered and his fingers gripped hard, pulling Starsky closer to the edge of what he wanted so badly.

"No," Hutch whispered, and released him.

Starsky moaned a wordless complaint and tried to recapture the hand that had moved his waist.

"Not enough. Want to give you more, Starsk."

"'S plenty," Starsky protested, wriggling mindlessly on top of Hutch so he could thrust against the smooth thigh.

"Not enough," Hutch repeated. He rolled Starsky to the side, capturing his shoulder to keep him from falling to his back. Hutch stared into his eyes, his own still shadowed by something. Starsky shook his head and tried to think, but his brain was in dick-lock.

"Just bring me off—"

Hutch's lips shut him up, pushing hard against his as if he were desperate. It was too frantic, too forced, and Starsky pulled away, putting a hand on Hutch's chest to keep him off.

Despair flickered across Hutch's face, and then the mask was back, bleak and white. Starsky leaned in and bumped foreheads with him, trying to keep the memories at bay. Hutch's memories, and his own imaginings. He felt his dick start to go soft.

"At least let me try—" Hutch whispered.

Starsky shook his head again and brushed a finger over the muscle twitching in Hutch's jaw. "Don't. You don't have to, ever."

Hutch's breath blew in a frustrated sigh.

"C'mon. C'mon," Starsky said, grabbing Hutch's hand and pulling it toward his groin.

But Hutch seemed to freeze, and then he flipped his hand around, grasping Starsky wrist. He pulled their joined hands deliberately behind him until they rested on his ass, until Starsky's fingers were pressed close to the crack in his buttocks.

"This, then. I can give you this," Hutch said on a whisper.

Starsky's breath caught funny, tightening his chest and his balls along with it. Hutch was staring tentatively into his face. The mask was gone, and all that was left was a painful turn to the corners of Hutch's lips, and the fragile folds of his eyelids. Maybe all that was left to stand between him and the dark.

And me. There's always me.

"We ain't never kept score between us before," Starsky said, even as his dick throbbed in protest of turning down the offer—any offer—of hot, slick accommodations. "We gonna start now, with us like this?"

Hutch squeezed his eyes shut before looking at him dead on. "I need this, Starsk. I need to give this to you. Give you something for once...."

And maybe he did. How fucked up was their world, that taking Starsky's dick up his ass might somehow give Hutch some of his pride back? But it was obvious he needed to prove something to Starsky. And Starsky needed whatever Hutch did.

And Starsky's cock was already in with the game plan. Had been, from the first feel of Hutch's firm ass beneath his fingertips, just inches away from....

"Okay," Starsky said hoarsely.

Hutch's nodded and said, "What do I—?"

Starsky pushed him to his back in answer, and then rolled off the bed. "Be right back."

In the bathroom, all he could find was a quarter-full bottle of baby oil, and he started to have second thoughts. If he hurt Hutch doing this, it could be the end of everything. He didn't think Hutch could take a failure. And Starsky wasn't sure his cock could take it either. He was on fire just thinking about what Hutch was offering him, and that he had the courage to let Starsky do this. That he trusted him this much.

But that wasn't anything new, really.

Starsky went back to the room, trying to ignore the sight of Hutch, nude, lying on his back waiting for him.

"Spread your legs," Starsky said, crawling on his knees between the long thighs when Hutch obeyed. Starsky put the bottle down and lifted Hutch's knees so his heels were flat on the bed. "Gotta get you ready, first," he explained when Hutch gave him a puzzled look. "I've done this with girls," Starsky said, pouring some of the oil onto his fingers, trying not to waste any on the sheets.

He leaned over and rubbed one oily thumb just under Hutch's balls, feeling Hutch twitch in surprise. "That feels...weird," Hutch said, but he spread his legs a little, giving Starsky more room.

Starsky kept his grin to himself, and focused on oiling his fingers some more, then used the pads of three fingers to stroke lower down, dribbling the fluid on Hutch's asshole before teasing it with his fingertips. Hutch twitched, but didn't make a sound, not even when Starsky slipped a finger inside him.

"How does that feel?" Starsky asked, worried.

"Feels like you have your finger up my ass," Hutch responded dryly.

Starsky grunted, a little amazed that Hutch had never experimented this way with his girlfriends. That meant Starsky was first...his heart gave a funny beat, the throb echoing in his cock, as he realized he would be the one to show Hutch how good this could feel.

He dribbled more oil on his fingers without stopping his slow exploration, getting Hutch good and slicked up inside before moving in with two fingers and pressing upward, sliding along the soft passage until he found his goal. He stroked gently, and Hutch gave a startled groan.

That's it. The payoff, right there. Starsky moved his fingers around the area, tracing the perimeter before spiraling in. Hutch's knees fell wide apart and he moaned again, this time reaching down to grasp himself.

Starsky had to bite his lip and focus on the wall above Hutch's bed, unable to take the sight of Hutch playing with himself while Starsky was working his ass with his fingers. He dropped the bottle and grabbed his own cock, giving it a soothing, oily stroke, while he continued to work Hutch looser, now using three fingers, bending them to increase their bulk. Hutch was even more vocal, the groans trailing out before his breath so that each one ended on a sigh.

God. Can't wait any more. Starsky pulled his fingers away and used the last of the oil to thoroughly lube his cock.

Hutch slowly opened his eyes. "How...how do you want me?" he asked, his voice husky.

"Turn over for me." Starsky swallowed and confessed, "It's something I've...been thinking about."

Hutch's eyes widened, but he rolled over promptly, spreading his legs. "Like this?" he said over his shoulder.

Oh, yeah. "Just like that," Starsky whispered, staring down at the golden back, the long, pale legs, and Hutch's creamy cheeks, streaked with oil and spread just wide enough that Starsky could see....

He lowered himself with a groan, matching his chest to Hutch's back, covering him completely, his cock slipping between the crack of Hutch's ass, lodging there. He felt Hutch tense beneath him at the sensation. But the warm pressure was so painfully good that Starsky had to clench his fists in the sheets and try not to shoot his wad like a thirteen year-old.

He groaned in Hutch's ear, "Perfect, this is perfect," and Hutch turned his head to kiss him.

Starsky could take about ten seconds of Hutch's tongue sliding against his before he had to pull away. "Have to do it now, babe. Or I'm gonna lose my mind."

And damn, it must've been the right thing to say, because he felt the low rumble of Hutch's chuckle and sensed him relaxing a little.

Starsky balanced himself on one arm and looked down, taking his cock in hand and pressing it between Hutch's slick buttocks. Then he slid it downward, letting the head find the tender indentation. He held it there for a moment, teasing himself and waiting for Hutch's breathing, which had sped up, to quiet a little. Then Starsky pushed in, closing his eyes when he felt the give of strong muscle letting him in.

"Oh, man," Starsky whispered, his cock unbearably charged at the sensation. He couldn't stop himself from thrusting forward, blindly sinking deeper until Hutch gasped suddenly, and Starsky froze.

He rested on one elbow and stroked one hand soothingly down the taut muscles of Hutch's back, trying not to move. "Okay, it'll be okay. We'll just take it slow," he said guiltily.

"Don't worry about me," Hutch said, his voice muffled by the pillow. "Just go ahead."

"But I have to worry," Starsky said softly, combing through the sweaty hair at the back of Hutch's neck. "I have to, because I...I love you, Hutch."

He heard Hutch sigh, the tight muscle of his ass twitching around Starsky's cock. Starsky groaned quietly. Gradually, he felt a shifting, and the pressure around his cock eased.

Starsky pushed himself up and slid deeper, and Hutch wriggled beneath him, aiding the slow impalement. Oh, don't do that. Don't move your ass like that or I won't be held responsible—

But Hutch didn't seem to hear the silent demand, because he wriggled some more, easing himself deeper onto Starsky's cock before giving a long, low groan.

Starsky's heart pounded. It can be good for him. I can make it good for him. He rocked cautiously, and Hutch groaned again, his hand flying back to clutch at Starsky's hip.

"That's it," Starsky murmured. He rocked some more, sliding in and out more freely, and closed his eyes, losing himself in the heat, in the mounting pleasure. He wished fleetingly he had the leverage to push harder, thrust deeper. Suddenly he felt Hutch squirm beneath him, and cracked open his eyes to see Hutch trying to reach for himself.

"Hang on, babe." Starsky pulled out, grinning at the mournful sound Hutch made when he did so. "Get up on your knees."

Hutch pushed himself up on his hands and knees and widened his legs, arching his back. The look he gave Starsky over his shoulder almost blew Starsky's heart into overdrive. He rushed to position himself and re-entered Hutch with one easy thrust, moving deep and fast to Hutch's soft moan of pleasure.

Hutch balanced himself on one hand and started stroking himself, his arm moving sinuously. "Oh, God, Starsk. Do that again."

"What, this?" Starsky pumped again sharply, and was rewarded by Hutch's grateful moan.

Starsky closed his eyes and thrust harder, his fingers digging into Hutch's hips in his effort not to let it end too soon. He wanted Hutch to come with Starsky's cock deep inside him. He wanted to feel it, every second of it, and know that he'd made Hutch feel that much pleasure.

It was almost more than Starsky could stand when it came to it, because Hutch's panting moans had quickened and his stroking along with it, and Starsky started thrusting hard. The head of his cock was pressed tight against Hutch's prostate when Hutch yelled out his name hoarsely and jerked underneath him, his ass pulling at Starsky's cock in a fluttering rhythm.

Finally, Starsky let himself loose, pounding hard and fast as if his life depended on it; or at least his sanity did, because he ended up losing his mind in the mad rush of pleasure he felt coming inside of Hutch's heat, pouring into him the wave of his love and desire, hearing Hutch's final, exhausted moans as Starsky spilled the last of himself with a quiet sigh.

He couldn't move. He couldn't think, could only feel the sticky, sweat-covered back still heaving beneath his cheek with Hutch's deep breaths. But then Hutch gave a little wriggle, just enough for Starsky's tender cock to slip from his ass. Starsky sighed and hoisted himself up again, giving Hutch's hips a soothing stroke in apology. His fingers had reddened the flesh there. He was printed on Hutch's skin.

They both settled to the mattress, Hutch voicing a complaint about the wetness under his belly. The grumbling tone was familiar, but the content so weird that Starsky laughed a little.

Hutch turned his head to look at him. His eyes looked proud and clear. Washed clean.

"I think you liked that," he said.

"You kidding? My nuts blew a fucking gasket."

Hutch started laughing soundlessly.

"I'm not kidding, Hutch. I think I'm gonna need bionic replacements before we try this again."

A smile blazed across Hutch's face, so bright that Starsky almost winced.

"Again, huh?" Hutch said softly. He put one hand on Starsky's chest, almost tentatively, and Starsky pressed it against his skin, his fingers curling around Hutch's wrist.

"Yeah," was all Starsky said. But it was enough, because Hutch's eyes closed, the smile still on his lips.

Gone was the mask, the stiffness, the awful cold that Starsky had felt every time he'd looked at Hutch since Forest's arrest. Starsky tried hard to keep it out of his thoughts, but he was too tired to fight it, and before he could bite his tongue he found himself asking, "You ever gonna tell me what happened?"

Hutch frowned, but he left his hand where it was, pressed tight against Starsky's heart.

"You know what happened." Hutch said, almost easily, "I betrayed Jeannie. I...whored myself for a hit—"

"You did not!" Starsky had to protest hotly. "Jesus, Hutch, it was torture, pure and simple. You were forced to—"

"I know what I did," Hutch cut him off evenly. "But if you can live with it...that's all that matters to me."

Starsky swallowed hard. "It means that much to you—what I think?"

Hutch eyes opened. "Means everything. Everything." The lashes dipped low. "Because you're everything."

Oh, man. Speechless for once, all Starsky could do was plant a kiss on one lowered lid, and wrap an arm around him, holding him hard.

His Hutch, once again.

Starsky had to test it. "That mean you're gonna listen when I tell you to get rid of that heap of junk you call an automobile?"

"Fuck off, Starsky," Hutch mock growled, batting him with one paw before rolling over with a contented groan.

Now that's the Hutch I know. Starsky grinned and followed him into sleep.


Finis.

October 27, 2006
San Francisco, CA