"Starsky?" Hutch blinked blearily at the clock, watching the numbers flip from 3:59 am to 4:00 with an audible click. He tucked the phone between his ear and the pillow, getting comfortable. This was likely to take a while. It usually did. "It's four o'clock. In the morning."
"I know." A throaty rumble like the purring of an exhausted lion. "I know you gotta get up in two hours, but . . ."
"You couldn't sleep so you were trying to remember."
The only response was a breathy sigh.
"Don't try so hard, Starsk."
"I don't try," Starsky insisted. "I dream. Creepy stuff . . . Flashes that I can't remember when I wake up."
Retrograde Amnesia was the term all the doctors used. Starsky not only had no memory of the shooting that nearly ended his life, but he had no memory of the entire twenty-four hours previous to the shooting. A whole day of life blotted out, like a reel missing from the middle of a film. A whole period of time that started from the evening of May fourteenth before the shooting the next morning and continued until May twenty-first. Which included five days of coma followed by two more of only minimal wakeful periods when he was drugged to the gills. Even after that, he'd been woozy with the effects of morphine, lorazepam and dilaudid for several weeks. It was no wonder that Starsky didn't have a single clear thought from the shooting. The problem was that his subconscious was dredging up terrifying events that he could remember, in particular, the hellish night of when he'd been injected by a deadly drug.
At four a.m.
Hutch rubbed his gritty eyes. This was the second time this week that Starsky had waked him. Four times the week before. Fifty-five days since the shooting, and they'd both missed a lot of sleep.
The fact that a nurse wielding a syringe was more than likely to come into Starsky's hospital room and wake him up in the middle of the night hadn't helped matters.
"You want me to come down there, Starsk?" he asked, sitting up. He shoved the pillow in the small of his back, balancing the phone on his shoulder.
"Nah, Big Bertha's on tonight. Ever since you set off the overhead sprinklers, she's enforcing the no-visitors-after-eleven-pm rule to with an iron hand." Starsky yawned; Hutch could hear the hitched intake of breath and the stifled moan afterward. Any exaggerated movement of his chest wall left Starsky in agony.
"Define okay," Starsky ground out. "Go back t'sleep, Hutch. I shouldn't have called."
"You can always call."
"It just hurts . . ."
He didn't mean the healing wounds slashed across his chest. He meant not remembering. That Starsky didn't remember the events of May fourteenth left a lingering ache in Hutch's belly, too. That he was substituting the blank spaces from the shooting with memories of Bellamy left Hutch disturbed and frustrated. There had to be a way to give Starsky something upbeat to hold onto instead of memories of an agonizing twenty-four hours of hell.
"I can't . . ." Hutch closed his eyes as flashes assailed him; Starsky nude, no surgical incisions marring his furred chest, boogying across the floor. Starsky had flipped the covers back on the bed, and crooked his finger at Hutch, his blue eyes bright with possibilities.
Hutch flexed the fingers holding the telephone receiver, wishing he was holding something of similar length only much warmer, thicker and attached to Starsky, and then shook his head to dispel the recollection. It was one of his favorites, but fantasizing about what could no longer happen didn't do any good at all.
"I can't put my memories in place of yours." It was the same old argument they'd had for over a month. Hutch didn't want to force Starsky to remember things better left buried—even if that meant throwing out the good with the very bad.
"I've read the newspapers," Starsky insisted. "Minnie, Dobey, Huggy, they all told me their versions. I know what happened after. . ."
He stopped, and Hutch again heard the sounds that had invaded his dreams for the last two months. The unmistakable grind of metal against metal and the staccato cacophony of gunfire. The discordant hammering of bullets peppering the Torino—and Starsky, all in under a minute. One minute that irrevocably altered their lives forever. The pain in Hutch's chest was a gaping wound that dripped Starsky's blood.
"We had that night all planned out, huh?" Starsky broke into Hutch's reverie, silencing the horrible screech as the stolen cruiser roared out of the police parking lot, leaving chaos in its wake. "We were finally done with the aftermath from Rigger and the judge, and we were going to have a night to really celebrate."
He always started the reminiscing this way—reconstructing the days beforehand as if he could stack the memories up one on top of the other like blocks in a tower. As if, miraculously, the next block would just appear at the right moment. Starsky's hope was inspiring, almost spiritual.
Hutch, on the other hand, worried that once Starsky achieved the next section of memories that eluded him, he'd uncover something he didn't expect. Their first night off in weeks hadn't been perfect. It hadn't been bad. No, far from that. Just not perfect—nor had it gone as planned.
After the previous November, and the devastation of Hurricane Kira, Starsky and Hutch had made a concerted effort to restore a balance to their lives. In rediscovering their friendship, they'd found a real happiness. They hadn't done anything drastic, just paid more attention to each other and found out why they truly enjoyed hanging out together.
Sometimes, transformation doesn't come from some huge dramatic event, but in the simplest of gestures. They'd arrested a rapist and rescued his latest victim. Coming off the adrenaline high, Hutch had laid his hand on his partner's flat abdomen. He did that so very often; to reconnect, to reassure himself that Starsky was still there, and whole and warm.
Starsky had turned to him, eyes bright as stars, lips moist and stretched wide in a grin of triumph.
He'd kissed Hutch.
Two hours later, they were naked and laughing, rubbing each other off in a giddy high of newly recognized love. Exploration of their new favorite pastime had taken most of the spring of 1979. Everything old was new again. Each sexual encounter was savored, each brush of a cock against an equally interested cock was magic.
Anal penetration had been a goal to accomplish in the future.
The date was set for May fourteenth.
"I made your favorite." Hutch roused himself and offered the small tidbit reluctantly.
"A Paul Muni Special." Starsky grabbed the speck with enthusiasm, sounding suddenly charged with energy.
Hutch sent up a little prayer for his night nurse's patience and fortitude.
"Monday, May fourteenth," Starsky prompted.
"Our day off," Hutch added, settling the phone more securely between shoulder and jaw.
"My place?" Starsky speculated aloud. "No, yours, since you were cooking. And I brought . . . wine." Hutch could almost see the delighted smile, the way Starsky's blue eyes crinkled with genuine happiness at this extra detail for his mental photo album. "We drank some of it, too."
"Starsk . . ."
"And we kissed." He said this with the confidence of a known truth. "Like that night when the sprinklers went off."
Hutch laughed, pulling his pillow across his chest to keep the pain at bay. So much treasure found only to be, not lost, but put on hold for the duration. "And we kissed."
"I miss that." Said softly, with such wistfulness that for a moment Hutch couldn't breathe. "I miss bein' alone with you, babe. Being able to . . ." He coughed and groaned, the suppressed whimper coming across the phone line loud and clear. Then nothing for far, far too long, and finally a rasp of ragged breathing without words.
"Starsk?" Hutch was up and reaching for the clothes he kept at the end of the bed for just such middle of the night emergencies. "Starsk?"
""M okay," Starsky managed, the hard consonants nearly gone in his breathy whisper. "Don' . . ." He swallowed. "Go back t'sleep, Hutch. Tha's all I want to do. I jus' want to dream about you—us."
"I've already got my jeans and shoes on."
Starsky heaved a breath, and there was distinct amusement peeking through the pain. "No socks? Whadd'm I gonna do with you?"
"I can only find one." Hutch sat on the bed, rubbing his ribcage, one white sports sock draped across his knee.
Oh, God, it hurt.
"They're still a pair," Starsky said. "Just got separated. You'll find the mate."
"I already did." Hutch closed his eyes, picturing Starsky linked to him through plastic, miles of electrical wires and telephone poles marching the length of the city. "I found my mate."
"Yeah," Starsky wheezed. "Yeah. Go to sleep, Hutch."
"You, too." He was partially clothed and too tired to undress again. Might as well sleep this way. "Don't hang up, yet." Hutch lay back on the pillow, looking up at the dark shadowed ceiling. "Close your eyes. What do you want to remember about that Monday night?"
Starsky shifted and must have pulled up the covers. Hutch could hear muffled rustling and a small thud. "Dropped the phone, sorry," Starsky said belatedly.
"Got your eyes closed?" Hutch prompted, pushing down against his groin with the palm of his hand. The pressure felt fantastic, draining away some of the ache in his heart.
"Yeah. And you’re right beside me, got your hand on my chest—no, over my bellybutton."
Hutch saw that so clearly—this had happened. He'd stretched out alongside Starsky on the cool sheets and finger-walked down from his broad collarbone down to the flat muscled plane of his abdomen. Starsky had giggled, too ticklish to tolerate much contact
Hutch had dabbled his fingers along his partner's sides, eliciting more laughter and a mock punch in the jaw.
"Stop it," Starsky chuckled, his penis bobbing up and down with the glee. "I can't concentrate when you tickle me."
"Concentrate?" Hutch teased. "Seems to me you know how to do this . . ." He'd kissed Starsky deeply, fondling his balls. "In your sleep."
"Who wants to be asleep during sex?" Starsky grimaced. "Ain't that some kind of kinky shit? You're not gonna turn out to have all sorts of weird fetishes, are you?"
"I was attracted to you, wasn't I?" Hutch nuzzled Starsky's mouth, aroused by the vibration of his lips when he laughed. "And you're pretty weird in my book."
"Weird is . . ." Starsky chortled, rolling away from his tormenter. "Weird is . . . you . . .uh . . ." He couldn't complete his sentence because his mouth was otherwise occupied and Hutch was determined to keep it that way for quite a long time.
Starsky's chest was heaving when he lay back on the pillow, lips swollen, cheeks roughened by Hutch's stubble. Hutch suspected he had equally blotchy marks on his own cheeks. The drawback of necking with another guy.
It was a very small price to pay.
"You never let me finish a thought!" Starsky ran tickly fingers from Hutch's inner elbow to his wrist.
It was like being plugged into a weak current. Hutch could feel the tingling even after Starsky took his fingers away. A wonderful, alive, turned-on sensation.
"So shutting your mouth makes you stop thinking?" Hutch watched Starsky try to squirm out of his own declaration. "I should kiss you more often."
"You make a Paul Muni Special just the way you did tonight, and I'll let you kiss me as often as you want."
"You'll let me?" Hutch sat back on his heels, something he found far easier now that he was going back to yoga classes again. "You've got the whole trade/barter concept backwards, lumphead."
"Weird is us, here, in bed, thinking about . . ." Starsky tapped the end of Hutch's prominent erection. "Putting that where the sun don't shine, and not doing it."
"I was giving you time to relax. To get ready." Hutch eyed the preparations laid out on the bedside table; lube, a towel, and a washrag, and felt a thrum of excitement swirl up from his groin.
"So was I," Starsky confessed, his laughing eyes gone dark and sensual. He licked his lips, the tip of his tongue lingering as it slid along the upper one. "You ready?"
"If you don't want . . ." Hutch hedged, his cock about ready to take over the process by itself and burrow into Starsky unaided. His head, on the other hand, was stalling, concern for hurting Starsky utmost. Hutch always got too wrapped up in weighing the consequences for every situation.
Starsky, as usual, favored charging ahead.
"I do! Hutch, we been thinking way too much about this and not doing anything." Starsky flopped over, his cock smacking Hutch in the leg with the abrupt movement. "Let's get going." He went up on his knees, the round globes of his buttocks offered like a prize.
"Tell me . . " Hutch started, slicking his hand with the lube and slipping a tentative finger inside Starsky's anus. "H-how this feels. . ."
"Gonna have to do more than that, fer Christ's sake," Starsky said. "My doctor does that much every year in the exam room, and I'm not interested in having sex with a sixty year old guy with hair coming out of his nose. Shove the damn thing where it belongs, big boy, or I'll hafta take matters into my own hands!"
"You mean we won't be doing this when I'm fifty-five, or even when I'm sixty-four?" Hutch chuckled, coming up onto his knees so he was in line with the right orifice. In true Starsky style, he'd gotten Hutch out of his head and into his need which was now bordering on rampant. His cock throbbed, pulsing along with his heart—with Starsky's heart. With his fingers pressed into Starsky's thighs to keep him steady, Hutch could feel his heartbeat race down the inside of his legs.
"Don't know 'till you try, Grandpa," Starsky snarked, wiggling his butt. He peered over his right shoulder at Hutch with a wink and a leer.
Hutch moved then, opening Starsky up with a forward thrust. The pressure was incredible, sucking him into a place he'd never been but always wanted to visit—inside Starsky.
"Damn." Choked out as if someone had a stranglehold on Starsky and was wringing the life out of him.
Hutch forced himself back from purely hedonistic indulgence, feeling like he was swimming miles upward through thick, silky bonds that tried to pull him under. "Starsky?"
Starsky panted without saying a word, his face hidden against a pillow. Hutch would have had to be blind to miss the signs of agony. Starsky was clutching the sheets with bloodless fists, his body as rigid as a corpse and sweat slicking his corded back.
Hutch eased out carefully, his heart pounding with distress. "How bad was that?" he asked. They never should have tried something so stupid. He'd read all the manuals, that some people never got past the pain. That not everyone could handle anal. "I hurt you!"
"Oh, hey," Starsky turned awkwardly, shame written all over him. "I didn't—you didn't have to stop."
"I did." Hutch sat against the brass bed head, the knobby dowels digging into his back. He didn't deserve a pillow when Starsky was in pain. His hand hovered inches above Starsky's curls until Starsky ducked his face against Hutch's hip, intentionally bringing his head into contact with Hutch's hand, but still hiding his face.
"It wasn't . . .bad."
Starsky was trying to spare his feelings because it obviously had been bad. Painful, disgusting, all the things Hutch had feared all along. That he'd been transported to another dimension didn't matter if Starsky was miserable.
"Hutch," Starsky's breath fluttered the hairs on Hutch's thigh, sending exciting tingles through his body again. "Maybe—another time?"
Hutch played with Starsky's hair, watching the way the curls resisted his efforts to straighten them out. Pure Starsky, strong, resilient and yet surprisingly soft. Relief buoyed the tingly spikes of arousal. "You can do me, next time."
"Yeah." Starsky had kissed his leg, his right hand suddenly doing remarkable things to Hutch's cock. Starsky was amazingly dexterous with his non-dominant hand—and taught Hutch a few magic tricks. They managed to turn the whole debacle around into something fantastic—a grand slam night. No penetration, but the mutual frottage had generated enough friction to light a campfire.
That night had kept Hutch sane for fifty-five days.
The next morning, Starsky was shot.
Leaning into the pillows behind him, Hutch attempted to keep the phone in place while wrapping his fingers around his swollen cock. The trick was to do everything without letting Starsky know what was going on.
"I got you off that night, huh?" Starsky asked in a low husky voice, born more chronic of shortness of breath than erotic intent. "Got that big blond body to relax into a puddle of goo?"
The sound of Starsky's voice did what the memory hadn't quite accomplished. Hutch clamped his mouth shut, his throat spasming as he orgasmed weakly.
Not a record breaker by a long shot, but the first in seven weeks.
"I just did it again, huh?" Starsky gloated, exhaustion weighing down his glee.
"You still got it, Starsk," Hutch agreed, half-embarrassed and more than pleased at the results. He was very nearly a puddle of goo. Good thing he was reclined in his own bed and not in full view of a hospital full of nurses and doctors.
Starsky chuckled. "Give me a raincheck for—uh— a recepticle handjob?"
"You mean reciprocal?" Hutch smiled, loving him fiercely. "You okay, Starsk?"
"'M okay." A big yawn, and a hitched breath without obvious sounds of pain. "An' I wanna try anal again, Hutch, even when you're sixty-four."
His heart seized up, the ocean roaring in his ears. If Starsky said anything else, Hutch didn't hear him. All he could see was that long muscled body curved against his, curly head resting on his hip, and one bent knee draped on top of his ankle possessively; Starsky marking his territory.
"You remembered?" He had to swallow twice to get past the tears clogging in throat.
"Yeah. Think so." Starsky must have plumped his pillows and turned. Hutch listened to the harsh scratch of the fabric over the inadequate telephone. He wanted to be there, wanted to run his hand down the slender ribcage, straighten the coverlet, and protect his partner from all the terrors of the night. "I remembered more than I ever had before. Enough for a good dream."
"Sunday's nearly here, Starsk. Sun will be up in an hour."
"Do som'thin' for me?" Starsky asked drowsily. Another yawn, this time with a grunt when he exhaled.
Ready to pull the moon out of the sky for him, Hutch nodded, and then remembered that he had to speak. Damn phone. He rotated his aching neck, his vertebrae cracking, and shifted the receiver to the other ear. "What do you want, Starsk?"
"Go down to Sepulveda, y'know that little place on the corner near the alley?"
He did. A rat-infested hovel the health inspector should have closed down years ago. "I got ptomaine poisoning there the last time."
"Then don't buy anything for yourself!"
Hutch could just see the completely irresistible little grin laced with wicked mischievousness and the look of exasperation for Hutch's utter lack of appreciation for the finer things in life.
"One carne burrito grande with lotsa red beans, sour cream and a side of guacamole. Tell him to go light on the chiles."
"Your doctor won't allow that. You'll throw up less than an hour after you eat that crap."
"The hospital's breakfast is shit on a shingle like the slop we got when I was in the Army, and I throw up, anyway," Starsky complained. "At least this way, it'll taste good going down."
"See you in an hour, Starsky," Hutch promised. Pepito's Burrito Cantina didn't open until noon on Sundays.