When the flood calls,
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash
Don’t be afraid to cry at what you see
The actor’s gone, there’s only you and me
And if we break before the dawn,
They’ll use up what we used to be.
Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again, the seas are silent
In any still alive
It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.
—Peter Gabriel, Here Comes the Flood (1977)
Gravel gritted beneath the tires of the pale blue van as Detective David Starsky pulled into a dimly lit parking lot in Oceanside, California. The town was a mere hour and a half from Bay City, but years apart in atmosphere. What it lacked in modern convenience was mitigated by two things: no one here knew him, and no one he knew would think to find him parked here in the shadows behind this nondescript, drably-painted bar. A bar frequented by men who enjoyed sex with other men.
The risk to his career, his life, and his partnership was too great to indulge in this pleasure often. But once or twice a year, after a bad scene on the job, or another failed relationship, he would head over to Merle's to borrow a junker and hit the road. When he was feeling especially paranoid, he would take the extra half-hour to go down to Encinitas, where the scene was livelier and he was just another anonymous hard-body in the crowd.
But tonight, he couldn't wait. For one thing, the weather forecast was threatening a big storm; for the other, his cock had been threatening the zipper of his jeans all the way down I-5. A blond, this time, he thought, and winced with guilt.
That was another pleasure he allowed himself even more sporadically—to pick up a tall, beautiful blond man; one, maybe, with blue eyes and full lips he could sink into for one lonely night. The next day during the drive back, bleak of spirit, he would berate himself for the slip that would make it even harder to maintain the strict boundaries of friendship with his partner.
Hutch. Hutch knew Starsky liked guys on occasion. Starsky had come clean during their Academy days when a late-night drinking session had loosened his lips....
Bay City Policy Academy, 1967
"Saw you last night at Rocco's with your girl, Hutch."
"Yeah, huh?" Hutch was puzzled, "How come you didn't say 'hello'?"
"I dunno, she's kind of high-falutin' or something. Anyway, you were too busy smooching her up."
Hutch's neck turned brick red, to Starsky's great delight. He decided to ride it.
"Yeah, she a good kisser, Hutch?"
"I don't kiss and tell, you know that, buddy." Hutch frowned at the teasing look.
"Well, you sure seemed to have your technique down." Starsky had been riveted by the display. In the dark corner of the bar, Hutch had nipped, pecked and sucked the girl's lips with absolute focus. "Way you were nibblin' at her, I'd-a thought she was corn-on-the-cob." Starsky smirked.
Hutch sniffed. "What, you don't kiss like that?" he asked, somewhat defensively.
"Depends on what?" Hutch reached down on the floor between them for another beer. They had just finished their finals and were celebrating their upcoming graduation.
"Depends on if I'm kissing a guy or a girl." Starsky stopped abruptly, appalled at his slip.
Hutch choked on his beer. "You...you kiss guys?" His blue eyes were wide with drunken astonishment.
"Sure, why not?" Starsky said airily, going for nonchalant. He lowered his lids and peeked at his friend, trying to gauge Hutch's reaction. His pulse had quickened with alarm when he realized their friendship could be on the line. All depends on the small-town boy. In a way, it was a relief. They'd only known each other half a year or so, but already Starsky felt closer to this big blond lug than any other friend in his life. He had to know sooner or later. Might as well be now.
Hutch was staring at him as if he wanted to be sure Starsky wasn't pulling his leg. Starsky waited for him to say something, but either the booze or the shock had left him speechless.
"Ain't you ever kissed a guy, Hutch?" Starsky asked, finally, although he was pretty sure of the answer.
"Me? No! I, uh, I guess it's not your everyday thing in Duluth." Hutch responded as if embarrassed by his inexperience. "You ever...do anything more? More than kiss, I mean?" He was studiously looking down at the bottle in his hand.
Starsky leaned back against the side of his bed and raised a knee, resting his forearm along the top. "Yeah," he confirmed, carefully watching Hutch's face. "I done...other stuff, too."
Hutch absorbed this new information. "Dangerous," he muttered.
It hadn't been the response Starsky had feared. "'Dangerous'?" he repeated.
"For your career, I mean." Hutch looked worried. "I was hoping, you know, we'd be partners someday. Like we talked about."
Starsky let out a silent breath of relief. He felt dizzy with it, only in that moment realizing how important it was to him that Hutch be okay with this. He gazed admiringly at his friend. Throw him a curve and he still comes out swinging. He almost laughed at the unintentional pun.
"I'm careful," he finally replied, "And it's not like I walk on the wild side all the time. Only a couple of times, actually."
"Good," Hutch said, and looked up. He smiled briefly, tilting his head. "Funny, I never even saw you looking at any guys."
Starsky slid his leg down and crossed his ankles. "Well, takes a special guy to attract my attention."
Hutch took that in, and then opened his mouth before shutting it again. Starsky knew what was coming next.
"You ever...ah." Hutch dropped his head and peered up at Starsky through his pale lashes. "You ever...look at me that way?"
Starsky was ready with the glib lie. “Nah, you ain’t my type, Blondie.”
Something passed over Hutch's face a little too quickly for Starsky to read. Was it relief? Then Hutch raised his head and grinned cheekily.
"What, you don't find me irresistible? I'm shocked; shocked, I tell you." Hutch's tone was playful.
Starsky sighed inwardly, another hurdle safely crossed. Oh, Blondie, if you only knew. From the first day he had met the lanky mid-westerner he’d had it bad. But that Hutch was dead straight had been obvious: Starsky had never caught him looking sideways, and he’d been watching pretty closely. And, even if he hadn’t been straight, Hutch was married, just like Starsky wanted to be, someday. We're gonna be partners. The best. That should be enough for any man, having a great guy like him for a friend and partner.
Starsky sighed with the memory. As the years passed, they had become closer and closer, and he'd had to remind himself of that earlier resolve time and again. He had found an outlet for his desires—a pressure valve of sorts—choosing a bar outside their beat and one known for its discretion. When he had mentioned it to Hutch, his new partner's disapproval had been fierce.
Starsky's Apartment, 1970
"Are you nuts? That place is way too close to home. If anyone saw you, recognized you, it'd be the end of your career! Is doing some guy really worth the risk?"
"Don't knock it if you ain't tried it, Blintz." Starsky had only recently coined that nickname, and he was fond of it for two reasons: first and foremost, it annoyed the heck out of Hutch; and, secondly, it had a vaguely sexual overtone that he could plausibly deny, his fondness for his mom's home-made blintzes being a well-known fact.
Hutch sighed with irritation. "Don't call me that, and don't try to distract me. If you got made, or if one of your..." Hutch halted, obviously lacking the proper word, "...'dates' should find out you're a cop, he could use it against you. Against us."
Starsky blew out a breath. His partner had a point. "You're right. But—"
"'But'—we're late for work," Hutch said, abruptly.
The conversation had ended there. Starsky had cut way back on his activities and had moved them out of town, hitting spots where he was extremely unlikely to be recognized, and never going to the same place more than once a year.
And he never mentioned it to Hutch again.
More time passed, and the job, the partnership, the friendship turned out to be everything Starsky had hoped for. He found the balance, and maintained it with an iron hand.
And then Hutch got sick. The plague that almost took his life took something else, instead. Hutch's vitality and strength disappeared overnight, ravaged by the tiny organism that had infiltrated his system on the deepest level. When Hutch was released from the hospital into Starsky's care, the blond was a pale wraith of himself. For the first time since Starsky had known him, Hutch offered no resistance to being assisted by his partner. There were none of his usual unreasonable denials of his pain or weakness, as there had been after the Forest case. Instead, Hutch accepted his help with embarrassed gratitude.
But Starsky needed it, too. Needed to be close, to feel the reassuring warmth of him near, no longer forcibly isolated from his friend by glass and quarantine protocols. No more rubber gloves and masks, but his hands, touching soft skin. Skin that was oddly translucent, the blue shadows of the veins beneath underlining the unwonted fragility of Hutch's pale flesh. It was a jarring, ever-present reminder of how close Starsky had come to losing Hutch forever.
It was that very fragility that was threatening to become Starsky's undoing.
Venice Place, 1977
"You okay in there?" Starsky yelled anxiously. Hutch had been in the shower a long time. He jumped when he heard a loud thump. "Hutch?"
"M'fine. Just...." The muffled voice came from behind the door.
"What? Just what? And what was that noise?" It was all he could do to keep his fingers from the doorknob. Starsky heard another muffled mumble, and then the door opened.
Hutch exited the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his too-lean hips. "Just got a little dizzy for a sec'," he finally replied, sheepishly.
"Christ, Hutch, why didn't you say somethin'?" Starsky moved to steady his friend and help him to the bedroom. Hutch had only been out of the hospital two days and was still having trouble with his balance.
"Because, by the time I knew I was, I was too dizzy to know I was." Hutch leaned hard against Starsky as they walked slowly toward the bed.
"Okay, now I know you're dizzy, because that makes about as much sense as..." Starsky paused as he eased Hutch down to sit on the bed. "...well, as you usually make, Blintz."
Hutch gave a dry chuckle that turned almost immediately into a cough. Starsky felt a cold pang as he listened to the struggle for breath. It was too reminiscent of Hutch's time under the oxygen tent.
"Not so bad, this time," Hutch finally gasped, and Starsky shook his head.
"No, this time it sounded like you were only losing half a lung. Jesus."
"I am getting stronger, Starsk. I can feel it." Hutch looked up with apologetic eyes. The dark circles beneath them contradicted his hopeful statement.
"Your hair's still wet," Starsky responded gruffly, and went back to the bathroom for another towel. "Coulda hurt yourself," he said under his breath as he returned.
"It was worth it, oh, man. First shower in...well, feels like a year. To be truly clean...." Hutch sighed appreciatively while Starsky rubbed the towel roughly over his head. Hutch's voice continued, distorted by the movement. "Not that I didn't appreciate the sponge bath, Starsk, but that couldn't have been fun for you." Hutch sounded embarrassed.
About as fun as sticking my hand in a fire, Starsky thought privately, then lifted the towel to look down at his friend. The drier hairs were puffed out around his drawn face. Hutch was smiling. Disquieted, Starsky eyed the rigid lines of muscle drawn from cheekbone to temple. Even his skull looked thinner, somehow. Goddamn virus took everything it could short of killing him. Starsky shuddered.
He became aware Hutch's eyes were fixed on him with a too-wise look.
"I'm really okay, Starsk," he said softly.
"Yeah, well, another nap can't hurt. Let's get something on you."
Hutch sighed but didn't seem inclined to argue. He nodded listlessly and Starsky hurried to grab his pajamas and some underwear from the bureau. They had the routine down by now. He knelt and Hutch put his feet through the legs of his briefs, and then raised his arms. Starsky grabbed hold and pulled him upright, hating how easy it was; the big frame was so much lighter. Hutch pulled off his towel and Starsky knelt to pull up Hutch's underwear, virtuously ignoring the genitals swaying mere inches from his face. He drew the briefs over the thin waist, and then helped Hutch back down onto the bed.
"S'warm enough, don't need the pj's, Starsk," Hutch yawned, and Starsky hurriedly yanked back the sheets so Hutch could crawl in. "Mmmm, you changed 'em," he smiled. "Nothing like clean sheets on clean skin. This is the best. Thanks, buddy."
Starsky nodded wordlessly, his eyes glued to the movement of Hutch's ribcage as he turned onto his side and maneuvered his legs under the sheets. Gotta feed him up. No more of his healthy crap. Gonna stuff him full of pizza and steak and burritos and hell if he has any say in it. He shook himself and pulled the covers up, tucking them under Hutch's arm. Hutch was already drifting; exhausted, apparently, from doing nothing more than eating lunch and taking a shower. Starsky sat on the edge of the bed and put his hand on the pale shoulder.
"Hmmm?" Sleepily. His blue eyes were closed. Starsky lifted his hand and brushed it through the still-damp, silky hair.
Hutch made a pleased sound and his eyes opened partially. Starsky continued the unusual caress, helpless to stop. He swallowed. "Should you sleep on wet hair like this?"
Hutch's eyes opened further. "Starsk, I'm okay. I got a little dizzy. No big deal."
"Yeah, huh?" Starsky rubbed gently, his fingertips scratching at Hutch's scalp, and Hutch emitted a deep rumble of appreciation. The sound made Starsky's stomach quiver. "No big deal," he repeated softly, watching as the blond slipped into sleep. His hand still rested on Hutch’s head, but he couldn't remove it. It was already taking every ounce of willpower he possessed not to lean down and.... God! What am I thinking! He pulled his hand back as if burned. But still he sat, shaking with his need to touch, to feel Hutch all over, flesh and bone; to wrap his limbs around him, stroke him intimately, do things to him that Hutch would never allow. It was a deep, primal urge to somehow fuck his own strength into that thin, frail body.
He trembled on the edge of it for a long time, his rough breaths matching Hutch's labored ones, and then he lurched off the bed and backed into the relative safety of the living room. He had never been this close to breaking his resolve, not in ten years of controlling his secret hunger.
So the plague had taken something from Starsky, too—it had knocked down the self-imposed barrier to his desire the way a flash flood might sweep through a levee.
He spent a restless, ugly night tossing on Hutch's couch, arguing with himself and his stubborn cock, which wasn't listening to reason. He didn't understand why, of all the times Hutch had been at risk, this situation in particular should affect him this way. But whenever he thought of his partner sweating out his life on that hospital bed, growing weaker and weaker, Starsky's need rose up anew, swamping him. Finally, exhausted, his balls aching, he rose and slipped into the bathroom to take care of it. He adamantly refused to think of anything but the sensation of his hand on his cock; in a few short strokes he was biting back a scream as his orgasm rushed through him. He sagged with relief, knees wobbly, and leaned over the sink to clean up the splatters, trying not to think, letting the lassitude take him. He finished wiping up and went back to the couch. He was asleep by the time his head hit his makeshift pillow.
The next morning Starsky awoke full of resolve. He had to get Hutch strong and healthy, whatever it took. He was certain that once his friend was back on his feet, this obsession would die back down to its former manageable level, a background hum he could ignore in the face of their day-to-day partnership. Once Hutch is better, things will go back to normal. He clung to that certainty with a desperate grip.
By the time Hutch stirred, Starsky had prepared eggs, toast, sausage, coffee and juice. He’d sliced up a plate of bananas and strawberries, and was reading the side of a box of biscuit mix when Hutch, clad in his pajamas, emerged from the bedroom in a slow shuffle. Hutch stopped dead, staring at the kitchen table in obvious dismay.
"Starsk," he began, his tone doubtful.
"Don’t say a word, Blintz. Just park your ass and chow down." Starsky set the box back onto the counter.
"Buddy," Hutch tilted him an exasperated smile, "You know I love you, but there is no way in hell I'm gonna eat sausage."
Oh, if only… Starsky chopped the dirty thought off at the knees and waved his hand pointedly at the chair by the table. "Sit. Eat."
Hutch sat and contemplated the spread before dishing a small portion of eggs and some banana on his plate. He jumped a little when Starsky dumped two slices of toast on top. "Starsky, I don't think I can eat all this."
"You can and you will. You're a stick, Hutch," Starsky said roughly, oddly angry at his partner's tentativeness. Hutch looked up in surprise and, again, Starsky's eye was drawn to the hollows at his temples. He softened his tone, "Please, babe. For me, huh? I need my partner back." It was a low move; Starsky knew it as guilt flashed across Hutch's face. But his partner did start to eat—at first slowly, then more eagerly as his appetite seemed to kick in. Starsky sighed with relief and ate his own breakfast silently, pausing to refill their juice glasses. When Hutch's plate was clean, Starsky reached over and plopped a sausage down on it.
Hutch stared at it for a moment before looking at Starsky, a decided crinkle in his brow. Starsky stared back challengingly.
Hutch put down his fork and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. Starsky felt his own face come together in a frown, but before he could speak, the soft voice stopped him cold.
"You gonna tell me what this is about?" Hutch’s tone was mild, but there was some steel under it. "Come on, Starsk. You know I don't eat sausage or bacon or anything else that exists solely to keep cardiac surgeons fat and happy."
Starsky retrenched. "I told you, Hutch. You're a rail. Besides, one sausage is not gonna give you a heart attack."
Hutch shook his head at the explanation. "You weren't acting this way yesterday. What's going on?" He sounded puzzled.
Starsky settled on a partial truth, "It just hit me last night, when I saw your…you look…" Gaunt. Skeletal. "You got dizzy," Starsky finished weakly, frustrated. Can't very well tell the guy he looks like death warmed over.
Hutch shook his head again and set his jaw. "You're overreacting, for Pete's sake. I told you, I'm fine. Just give me a couple of weeks."
Inexplicable anger rose in Starsky's chest, making it swell like a balloon. He stood abruptly and took Hutch by the arm, grimacing at the wasted feel. It only fueled his ire. "Come with me, Blondie." He tugged Hutch out of his chair and directed him toward the bathroom. Hutch followed unwillingly, apparently caught in Starsky's forceful wake.
Starsky stood Hutch in front of the mirror. "Take off your shirt." Hutch just stared at him in the reflection and shook his head slightly. "Do it," Starsky hissed. Hutch must have noted the fierce glint in his eyes. Reluctantly, he unbuttoned the top of his pajamas and drew it off his shoulders, letting it fall down one arm to collect in his hand. He didn't take his eyes from Starsky's until it was done. Then they both looked down at Hutch's thin chest, at the too-evident ribs that jutted like spokes from his sternum.
"Why are you doing this?" Hutch whispered shakily, and Starsky came back to himself with an almost audible snap, suddenly appalled and ashamed.
What the hell am I doing? "I…" He dropped his eyes from the pain-filled gaze. "…I just need you to take this seriously," he said at last. "You-you almost died on me, Hutch. Just.…" He blew out his breath and stepped away. "Just eat the damned sausage," he muttered, walking away. Starsky winced when he heard the bathroom door shut behind him firmly in well-deserved rejection.
Idiot. Way to make the sick guy feel real good. You fuck-up. He sat down at the table, eyeing the congealing mass of food, feeling too weary to begin cleaning it all up. He heard the bathroom door open and looked over to see Hutch move slowly back to the bedroom, his pajama top back on.
"Hutch?" Starsky stood and took a few steps toward his friend, following him.
"I'm going to take a nap," Hutch said in a dispirited tone. Starsky's stomach roiled with guilt as he watched him ease himself under the sheet. Then Hutch turned on his side, away from Starsky, shutting him out, leaving him alone with his remorse.
Conscious of his sleeping patient, Starsky had just completed a quiet clean up and was sitting down with the Sunday paper when he heard a murmur coming from the bedroom. He walked to the entryway to check on his charge.
Hutch was lying on his back, the sheet tangled around him. The curtains were drawn but the day was still bright enough to light the room with a soft glow. Starsky could see that Hutch was sweating. Concerned he might be feverish again, Starsky drew closer and noted uneasily that Hutch was breathing irregularly in deep, intermittent gasps. Then he noticed the rapid movement of the eyes under the lids and realized Hutch must be dreaming. From the troubled expression, it wasn't a happy dream.
Should I wake him? Starsky didn't like the sound of the uneven breaths. He strode over to the bed and sat on the edge to shake Hutch's arm gently. Hutch awoke slowly. Starsky heard him murmur, "Cold." But the arm below Starsky's hand felt warm.
"Hutch, buddy. Wake up. You hear me?" Starsky jiggled his arm again.
Hutch's eyes fluttered open, and he looked up foggily, eyes reddened. "Starsk?" His voice was sleep-husky.
"Yeah, babe. Who else?" Starsky smiled reassuringly. "I think you were dreaming." He patted Hutch's arm lightly.
"Dreaming," Hutch repeated. "God."
"Not a good dream, then?" Starsky was glad he'd disrupted the nightmare. "Wanna tell me about it?" He raised his brows encouragingly.
Hutch made a sound like a half-sigh, half-moan.
"You said, ‘cold’,” Starsky prodded.
Hutch drew an uneven breath. "Cold. Snow. A huge, unbroken field of white. And I was this tiny, insignificant dot in the middle of it. Alone. I think I was…dead," he said unsteadily, giving Starsky a lost look.
Starsky felt an almost unbearable urge to wrap every available limb around his partner. He shook with it, and then realized that the arm he was touching was trembling, too. No, no, no. Too dangerous. Too close. The surge of desire was pounding at the gate of his control. It would drown them both; drown everything. He sat up, ignoring the silent plea for comfort. Hutch wouldn't ask aloud, but his eyes pulled at Starsky.
"You're not alone, Hutch," Starsky attempted to fill the gap with barren words. They were all he could offer. He tried again, "I'm with you, buddy. The cold won't get you."
Hutch stared at him, then nodded and broke eye contact, turning his head slightly.
"Think you can go back to sleep?" Starsky asked, hopefully.
Hutch rolled onto his side in answer, pulling his arm away from Starsky's grip. Starsky stood and walked toward the living room. He took one quick look backward before leaving. Hutch was still, his body curled tight and his face hidden under a corner of the sheet.
Can't give him what he wants. Starsky felt a helpless despair. Only once before had he felt so inadequate in providing for his partner's needs—when Hutch had been sweating out a heroin addiction. This time, too, what Hutch craved was a danger to him. Starsky, himself, was the danger.
I'm so sorry, babe. But I have to protect us both.
Over the next couple of weeks, Hutch regained his strength rapidly. With gritty determination he ate, rested and slowly began exercising, improving daily. Starsky visited after shift and cooked and cleaned, offering as much support as he could. But something was broken between them. They didn't talk, much, and touched even less.
Hutch went back to work, on desk-duty. Things were back to normal. But, in spite of Hutch's apparent return to health, Starsky's yearnings did not dissipate. His control continued to be tenuous, at best. Desperate, he decided to return to his tried-and-true release valve. It had been a year since he had last used it, but he had never needed it more.
So here he was behind the bar, contemplating a quick, hard fuck to discharge some of the pressure of the flood that threatened to escape him almost daily. The beams of the dam were cracking, the fine old wood silvered and weakened with age.
Starsky opened the door of the van and dropped out onto the gravel of the parking lot, his rarely-worn boots scattering the fine, gray pebbles as he strutted toward the front door.
Inside, he found nothing had changed, as if this place inhabited a time-bubble. The decor, the worn stools, and the seedy booths were exactly the same. The same bodies pressed together on the dance floor with the same heated, frantic need. His eyes roamed them casually as he moved toward the bar to order a drink.
Suddenly, a flash of gold. There, on the other side of a river of bodies, a blond head bent over a lower, darker one. Starsky felt a quickening in his belly. The hair color and cut were an uncanny match for his partner's and, although he saw no more than the back of that head and an occasional glimpse of body between the twist of dancers between them, something about the set of shoulders also struck a chord. But Hutch would never be caught dead in a red silk shirt such as that one, its soft, supple material clinging to the thin, elegant frame….
Shock struck him hard, and he felt his stomach tighten defensively when the head turned a little, revealing just the edge of a stern profile and pale lashes that brushed a smooth cheek.
It was Hutch.
For an eternal moment Starsky stood stock-still, oblivious of the occasional body that bumped by him as he obstructed the path to the bar. His eyes were trapped by the pale head. And then they broke free and moved to the object of Hutch's attention, and heat bloomed and rose through his body in a rush of red rage until his temples fairly pounded with it. Mine. That was his only coherent thought as he banged his way rudely through the crush of bodies until he was a mere two feet from his objective.
Sensing something, Hutch turned, and froze. They regarded each other, and then his paralysis broke and Starsky spoke, his voice deep and abrasive. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
Hutch didn't respond for a moment, his body tense with surprise, but then he seemed to relax and, with a challenging tilt to his head, replied, almost carelessly, "What does it look like I'm doing?" There was a pause as Starsky's shell-shocked brain tried to process the audacious question, and Hutch continued, "I'm looking to get laid, is what I'm doing."
Hutch's companion laughed, and Starsky shot the guy a look that would have made a mob button man wet himself. The dark-haired man suddenly thought of other places he wanted to be, and scurried away.
Starsky returned his attention to Hutch with a look almost as fierce. "Oh, no, you're not," he bit out, and he grabbed his partner by the arm and started dragging him to the door.
"But, Dad, I just got here," Hutch quipped recklessly, and Starsky's grip tightened painfully on his arm.
Outside, he pulled Hutch around to the back where he’d left the van. Calming somewhat in the cool sea air, Starsky released him and dug his keys out of his pocket. "Get in," he commanded, yanking open the sliding door.
Hutch crossed his arms, and Starsky moved toward him, glaring at him in the half-shadow of the parking lot. Hutch shrugged and climbed in, and Starsky followed close to sit beside him.
"Okay, partner, you want to tell me what the hell you were doing back there?" Starsky jabbed over his shoulder with his thumb.
"I should think that was pretty obvious, Starsky. You sure you're not getting dim in your old age?" Hutch's brow lifted over a pale blue eye.
Starsky made a growling grunt, "You're playing with fire here, pal. You're practically dancing on the edge of a volcano. What are you doing here? You're straight, goddammit!"
Sitting back on the seat, Hutch took his sweet time answering, stretching out his long legs before saying, with a shrug, "Maybe I'm not."
Starsky's jaw worked as myriad furious questions shuffled through his mind. He settled on, "Since when?" He couldn’t keep the shocked anger from his voice.
"For a while now, I guess." Hutch looked down and picked at his sleeve, avoiding his eye.
"Don't tell me you...you've been here before?" Starsky couldn't think for the storm of thoughts brewing in his head.
Hutch looked at him calmly, then nodded slowly. "Yeah."
Before he was aware of it, Starsky's hand went back and he lunged forward, popping Hutch in the mouth with his fist. Shocked silence congealed around them as they stared at each other. Starsky watched as Hutch tongued the inside of his lip; then, with the back of his hand, casually swiped at the blood pooling in the corner of his mouth.
"Interesting," Hutch said, his voice toneless.
Starsky made an angry sound and exited the van, trying to get a hold of his temper. He paced rigidly back and forth next to the vehicle, cursing under his breath. All these years, all these fucking years of playing hands-off, Mr. Cool. And then he goes and gives it up to some goddamn stranger. His jealousy twisted in his gut like a live thing.
Starsky jumped when he sensed Hutch close behind him, and he spun quickly and backed away. Hutch raised his hands, looking irked.
"You know, buddy, I could ask you why you're being such a hypocrite. I mean, what the hell are you doing here? I thought you gave up walking on the wild side years ago." Hutch put his hands on his hips.
"No, I didn't, just cut it way, way down—Hang on, you are not turning this on me. You've always known I like to swing this way."
Hutch probed his rapidly swelling lip with his fingertips. "I know. I just didn't think you still...."
"It's not something that just goes away, Hutch. It's part of who I am," Starsky said heatedly, his jaw clenched. Somehow, he resented Hutch at that moment for all the years of self-denial, even though Hutch had never asked him to stop seeing men. He just disapproved of the risk. And I couldn't handle his disapproval. He looked back at the years behind him and saw them for the farce they were, his self-deception now readily apparent. He could have gone up to ’Frisco, could have taken weekends, if it were what he really wanted. I was holding out for him, even though I knew I never could have him.
Starsky's anger deflated, and his pacing feet came to a halt. He suddenly realized he had walked away from Hutch, and was standing at the far edge of the deserted parking lot, overlooking the beach. The full moon above him was half-hidden by gathering clouds. He felt Hutch come up beside him, but this time he kept a discreet distance.
Starsky spoke to the shore, "I don't get it, Hutch. You came down here to...what, satisfy some curiosity? Some itch? It's wrong."
Hutch said levelly, "Pot to kettle, Starsk." His voice sounded oddly pained and angry in spite of the even tone.
Why is he mad? He has no right to be mad. "It's not the same." Starsky gestured futilely with his hands.
"Why the hell not, huh?" Hutch said through clenched teeth, "I can sleep with whomever I damned well please, just like you."
"No! You can't. Not when...." Starsky shut his mouth on the words. Thankfully, Hutch didn't seem to notice.
"That's pretty dog-in-the-manger of you, Starsk," he said roughly.
Starsky rounded on him, his fury rising anew, "You got no right to say that, none at all." His voice was ugly even to himself; it was so filled with ancient hurt.
"I've got every right!" Hutch met his fury dead on, his face shining almost white in the moonlight. "Sometimes we're so close it's like we share the same skin. Maybe that makes you think you can dictate who I sleep with. But it doesn't."
"That's not why. You think I don't want you to be happy, no matter what?" Starsky swallowed heavily, "Only, if you needed that, why…." Why didn't you come to me? He teetered on the brink, wanting to ask it so badly, but uncertain if the rules had changed or not. Everything was shifting beneath him. Hutch was bi, or claimed to be. But he was still his best friend and his partner; and he still, apparently, didn't want Starsky.
But Hutch had heard the unspoken question. He asked, cuttingly, "Why what, Starsky? Why didn't I come to you for a little lesson in love?"
Starsky couldn't believe the unintentional cruelty of the question, but before he could catch his wind, Hutch continued, "You made it pretty clear to me, years ago, that I'm not your type. You think I'd ask for some kind of pity fuck, just because you're my best friend? You think I'd want to do that to us?" Hutch raised his chin.
Starsky closed his eyes, tuning out the last part of Hutch's diatribe. He didn't have brain cells for anything but the first sentence. 'I'm not your type.' Not my type. God!
Hutch seemed to be waiting for a response to his questions, but Starsky's shoulders dropped and he stood emptied of all his hot rage and jealousy, undone by his one untruth. His careful deception of ten years ago had hauled up and bitten him righteously on the ass.
Starsky looked up at Hutch's angry face and said, quietly, "Not true, what I said back then. I didn't want to scare you away. So…I lied."
"Lied." Hutch frowned in disbelief. "Lying now, more like."
Words were useless. Starsky moved forward and yanked the surprised blond toward him; catching a cheek with one hand, he zeroed in for a kiss. Their lips met on Hutch's startled gasp.
Starsky put it all in there, with his lips, his tongue, his breath; all the desire he'd pent up, battened down and hidden away for all those long years.
And Hutch responded. First, by opening to him, and then by aggressively kissing back, offering his tongue, and pressing his swollen mouth tight against Starsky's. His hand came up and pushed through the curls by Starsky's temple to lock them close, closer still.
Oh. God. Starsky's mind floated above the sensations, memorizing and cataloging every brush of their lips, every gasp and shudder. He tasted Hutch, tasted him again, noticing with regret a trace of blood from the cut lip and licking apologetically at the small wound before moving his tongue deep into Hutch's mouth. He felt Hutch's hand drift down his back and rest on his ass, and Starsky went from zero to raging hard in an instant, feeling the proof of Hutch's arousal pressing eagerly against him in return.
Suddenly, Starsky felt Hutch pull away, and he mourned the loss of those lips. No...don't. Don't ever.... He opened his eyes to see Hutch sway a little, his lids flickering, and he cursed himself. Lungs still not a hundred percent. He put an arm around him and led him back to the van, neither of them speaking.
Hutch climbed in the back to settle on the bench seat, still panting a little, and Starsky clambered in after, locking the door behind him. The pause gave him the time to cool down, and his big brain started working again, to the annoyance of his little one. Foremost was his concern that Hutch didn't know what the hell he was asking for. They had both been shaken by Hutch's illness, had been desperate for the contact they had been robbed of by glass walls and isolation protocols. Hutch had been feeling depressed and lonely these past weeks; Starsky knew that, and had blamed himself for not being able to console his friend. But he could no longer respond with hugs and touches that were strictly platonic, and his abrupt withdrawal had left Hutch still wanting.
Hutch could easily be confusing that need for contact with desire. In spite of the kiss they’d just shared, Starsky was afraid to let himself believe otherwise.
He sat beside Hutch, whose breath was now easing. Starsky asked, hesitantly, "Hutch, when did you...when were you here, last?" There was just enough light cast on the pale features for Starsky to read his puzzled expression.
Hutch looked at him, and said, "Only been here once before. Came last weekend while you were working that night."
It was as Starsky feared. Hutch's interest didn't pre-date his illness. "What did you...do?" He tried not to betray his uneasiness.
Hutch looked annoyed at the question. "I drank some whiskey and talked to this guy, and then we went back to his car and I let him blow me," he replied curtly.
Starsky suppressed a flash of jealously with difficulty. "Hutch," he began, "Just because you let some guy suck your dick doesn't mean you're bi."
"No," Hutch agreed, his eyes storm dark, "but I figure the fact I want to suck yours does."
Starsky's heart thudded.
Hutch leaned forward, his eyes intent as he whispered hoarsely, the low, silky rasp of his voice licking roughly along Starsky's skin, which flushed deeper with each word. "Yeah, that's what really tipped me off. The fact I keep wanting to touch you, feel you all over; to peel off those tight jeans of yours and take your cock in my mouth, wrap my tongue all over it, taste it, and then suck it hard until you can't take it anymore and you come in my—"
He was prevented from continuing at that moment because Starsky had rocketed himself mindlessly across the space between them to latch onto Hutch's mouth. He forced his tongue in, holding Hutch's head between his hands to kiss the breath out of him once again. He pulled away long enough to growl fiercely in Hutch's ear, "Me, first."
Then he was yanking open the silk shirt to put his mouth on that smooth, pale skin and those small, bronze nipples. He sucked and lapped while Hutch squirmed beneath his hands. Silently, he mourned the feel of Hutch's bones still riding so close beneath his flesh. He pushed the thought aside and continued his voracious caresses.
"Hey, hey, slow down," Hutch panted, but Starsky was having none of it. He would make Hutch insane. He would make him come so hard he'd see stars. He finally had his shot, and he was taking it.
Starsky slid to the floor and undid Hutch's pants hurriedly, half-afraid this was a dream, half-fearing his partner would call a halt before he could get started. Hutch moaned as Starsky eased him out of his briefs. Hutch's cock was already almost fully erect.
"Starsky, wait...I wanna...." Hutch gasped and raised his hands toward Starsky.
"No. No waiting," Starsky grunted, "Lift your ass."
Hutch obeyed the command and Starsky knelt back and tugged his pants down, stopping to pull off his shoes before removing them altogether. He paused for just a moment to take in the sight of Hutch; the ruddy column rising thick from the thatch of golden hairs, and the strong groin muscles arrowing to the generous, pink balls. He leaned down quickly and ran his tongue up the shaft to flick it into the tempting slit, smiling when Hutch cried out in pleasure. He wended his way back down, tongue moving sensuously along the big vein until he reached the full sac. He tongued the sac and took the left ball into his mouth, and Hutch groaned. Starsky tugged at it gently, then released it to give the same treatment to the right. He felt Hutch's hands bury themselves in his hair as he let the second one escape his mouth. He wet his tongue and nosed underneath, stroking the slick perineum, and Hutch spread his legs wide. Starsky braced his forearms underneath Hutch's thighs, lifting them and pushing up and out to spread him even wider, giving Starsky access to the puckered flesh hiding below.
"God!" Hutch cried as Starsky tongued him, stroking him repeatedly before slipping the tip into his opening. Hutch moaned again, and Starsky heard him take panting breaths. Starsky decided to up the ante, and sucked on his finger to wet it thoroughly before sliding it unexpectedly into Hutch's body.
"Ahhh, Christ!" Hutch sobbed and his hips jerked convulsively. Starsky moved his finger deeper, penetrating until he located Hutch's prostate. Hutch's breath left him in a shocked gasp, and his anal muscles convulsed around Starsky's finger as he cried out again. "Starsky, please!" Hutch begged, sounding lost.
Starsky kept the rhythm of his finger, sliding it out and in to press the small gland while he raised his other hand and, with the heel, applied a massaging counter-pressure just below Hutch's balls.
Hutch shouted, his voice harsh and almost unrecognizable. Starsky looked up to see him, face red and chest heaving as he begged, "Please, GOD, please!" The veins in his neck were standing out in sharp relief. Starsky smiled and leaned over; careful to keep his hands in motion, he maneuvered himself over Hutch's cock and slowly, so slowly, engulfed the engorged, weeping crown with his mouth. Hutch made a sound like a man in deep pain. Starsky sucked him in, inch by inch, until the thick cock threatened the back of his throat. Then he pressed with both his finger and his hand at once, and Hutch screamed. His cock swelled further, and Starsky swallowed him in, deep-throating him.
"OH GOD." Hutch groaned long and deep, then his breath caught, his abdomen tightening to steel against Starsky's forehead. Hutch came hard, emptying himself powerfully into Starsky's waiting throat. Starsky kept swallowing, massaging the pulsing cock with his throat muscles while Hutch bucked helplessly, caught between Starsky's hands and his mouth. Starsky's own cock, long since strangled in his tight jeans, surprised him by jerking in response, and Starsky came in his pants, still milking the quivering shaft while Hutch moaned again and again, his voice almost raw with it.
Finally, Starsky released him and Hutch collapsed back against the seat, his chest working like bellows as he tried to draw in enough air. Starsky felt a momentary alarm that he had taxed Hutch too far. The blond's breathing hitched, and his body was shaking in the aftermath. "God. God." He moaned, his neck and chest flushed red within the trembling edges of his silk shirt. He shuddered and pulled away from Starsky, who sat back on his heels to dig in his pocket for a scrap of tissue. He still tasted Hutch in his mouth. Mine, he thought, with satisfaction.
He lifted his hands to place them on Hutch's thighs, but Hutch moved away, tugging on his pants and pulling his legs to the side. He rested his arms on the back of the seat and laid his head there, and repeated, softly, "God."
"Hutch?" Starsky cleared his throat and tried again. "Hutch, you okay?" His reaction was puzzling.
"What did you do to me?" Hutch whispered hoarsely, and his head rolled back and forth on his arms. The long body was still trembling.
"Wasn't it...good, Hutch?" Starsky was growing alarmed.
"'Good'!" Hutch repeated, almost bitterly, and turned to fix Starsky with a strange glance.
"Yeah, good." Starsky started feeling defensive, "I don't get it; you can't tell me that wasn't the most incredible—"
"No, you don't get it," Hutch interrupted, his voice still shaky. "I didn't...this wasn't wh-what...." Hutch took another breath and started again. "I didn't want this so I could learn how great it is to be sucked by a guy. I wanted to learn how amazing it would be to m-make...to be with you." Hutch shut his mouth, then, and ran one palm over his face, which was still beaded with sweat.
Starsky was speechless. Fucked it up, I fucked it up. He lowered his head, and almost missed Hutch's next, low words.
"I'm not some hot conquest of yours…."
Starsky's head snapped back up. "Con-conquest?" He stammered, his face flushing, "No, you're not some 'conquest.' You're the guy I've been in love with for ten lousy years. Ten years, Hutch."
He halted his crazed tongue just a little too late. Hutch's eyes were shocked as he stared at him. Starsky found himself rushing on, the dam of silence broken at long last, "So, forgive me if I went a little bit crazy on you; I've only been wanting to make love to you since I met you. Been dreaming about it this whole time, fantasizing what I would do to you, how to make it good for you so that you would never want anyone else, ever again...." His voice petered out on the bald admission, his anger dissipating at the look of wonder on Hutch's face.
"In love with me?" Hutch repeated, his voice soft and disbelieving, "You didn't...you didn't mention that."
"Of course I'm in love with you, you big dummy!" Starsky exploded, exasperated.
"Well, you never said. How could I know?" Hutch asked in a too-reasonable tone, and the two sat staring at each other for a ridiculous amount of time.
"So, that's okay, then," Starsky said, confused. But then he watched in awe as Hutch’s face changed, his eyes deepening as the full impact of Starsky’s angry confession hit him.
"Okay," Hutch agreed, and a ghost of a grin played at the corner of his mouth. "I'm in love with you too, you know. Have been for the longest time. I just couldn’t recognize it. But it’s been there, like a thought I couldn’t quite finish, or a sound too low to hear: always you, Starsk. Since forever. ‘Big dummy’ is right."
Starsky's ears couldn't believe what they were hearing, but his heart was having no problem thundering its joy. He reached out a hand, and Hutch took it, gripping it tightly before continuing.
"But you said I wasn't your type. So long ago, but it stuck with me. I remember how even back then, I was somehow…disappointed, even if I couldn’t admit it to myself. So when I finally understood how I felt…I tried to forget it. But after I was...sick, it got so bad that I...I decided I was going to...s-seduce you." Hutch stuttered a little, looking embarrassed, and ran his other hand through his hair. "Make you want me, somehow. Only, I figured if I was going to do that, I would have to...bone up, first."
"'Bone up,'" Starsky repeated, smiling involuntarily.
"Yeah, so to speak," Hutch said sheepishly. "Didn't get very far, though."
"Guess I'll have to learn you, then," Starsky offered huskily, and grinned to see the flush that stole up Hutch's cheeks.
"I'm a good student, I swear," Hutch deadpanned earnestly, and then spoiled it with a grin. He winced as the motion pulled his swollen lip, and raised a hand to it once again.
"Sorry about clocking you, buddy." Starsky said, ashamed.
"Hey, it's what made me start to think...well, at first I thought you were just pissed because I hadn't told you what I was up to, but when you punched me, I began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t more...interesting than that."
"'Interesting'! I'll give you 'interesting'!" Starsky threatened, and joyfully pounced on the blond for more kissing.
"Hey, the lip! Watch the lip!" Hutch laughed.
"Gonna have to kiss it better, Hutch. It's the only way." Starsky said earnestly, and did as promised, raining further abuse on the poor lip while Hutch smiled under the barrage.
Outside, the first droplets hit the dusty windshield of the old van. The deluge had come at last.
San Francisco, California