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Under the Big Top

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Starsky looked up at the arena with rapt excitement. Huge banners flapped in the wind, snapping like the sound of a ringmaster's whip. Each pennant bore a single letter, and he could make out a C and an I before the girl on his arm dashed away to an enclosure containing a zebra and a llama decked out in ruffly pink collars.

The sugary-sweet aroma of cotton candy caught his nose, and Starsky sniffed appreciatively, but when Hutch gave him a stern look, he hurried past the enticing confectionery booth. Another vendor hawked programs and intriguing gadgets that shot sparks into the night sky as they spun. This was a total sensory overload, and they hadn't even made it inside the building yet.

The circus. It brought out the child in everyone.

Catching up with his charges at the turnstile, Starsky followed a pretty little girl with long Alice-in-Wonderland hair and a surly boy wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt through, joining the milling crowd waiting to take their seats. Overhead, revolving lights reflecting off glittery disco balls transformed the formerly mundane arena into a fantastical place, and turned Hutch's blond hair purple, and then green. The flaxen haired twins he was shepherding laughed at each other as their hair took on the color of the changing lights, turning weirdly blue and astonishingly red. There was gaiety in the very air, and Starsky took in a big breath, filled up with happiness. No more crime, arrest reports or witnesses to interrogate for one whole night.

Starsky, who could locate his inner child far easier than his partner, found the circus pure delight, and he grasped the hands of the two children on either side of him, leading them down the bank of steps to their seats. Hutch was picking his way through the crowd just in front of them with the twins.

The Police Activities League, which sponsored fun events for underprivileged children, had purchased a block of tickets for the kids from Sanctuary House, and requested chaparones from the local precincts. Starsky had jumped at the chance to attend the circus again, and was surprised when his partner agreed so readily. Hutch always gave the impression that he preferred the highbrow entertainment of the Russian ballet or the symphony, but Starsky caught a glimpse of Hutch's face as he bought fresh roasted peanuts and sticky pink popcorn balls from a cashier in a red striped shirt. He looked as happy as the set of five-year-old twins flanking him, identical smiles on all three Scandinavian faces.

That suited Starsky just fine, as did the fare. It might not be healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the tradition at a circus. The only one who held out on the popcorn was the eldest boy, Aaron, who muttered darkly under his breath about having to spend time with cops and bratty babies. On any other day, Starsky might have had the urge to tell him what for, but he was too darned happy to bother. This was the circus!

"Head count!" Hutch called once they were all seated in a row. "Jason, Joshua, check." He tapped the towheaded twins on the shoulder. They giggled in eerie unison. "Candy and Aaron." He pointed to the two children on either side of Starsky.

"I'm Candace," the little girl retorted, her face covered with pink flecks of popcorn.

Down below, a troupe of clowns came tumbling out into the center ring to great the early arrivals.

"Candace," Starsky agreed, digging into his pocket for a handkerchief. He had nothing to wet it with, but figured if spitting on a rag was good enough for his mother, it was good enough for him. He deftly cleaned up Candace's hands and face just as the lights in the huge building began to dim. The clowns ran around shouting encouragement to the audience until the whole place boomed with hundreds of voices.

"Ringmaster, Ringmaster!" Starsky joined in the chant. Candace was squirming under his arm, impatient to be freed, so he gave up the cleaning effort. On his other side, Aaron sat stonily, as if attending the circus was an ordeal to be endured. Thirteen year olds were like that, Starsky knew, recalling his own adolescence.

Just when the smaller boys started complaining that their butts hurt, and Candace declared that they'd been waiting forever, a tall man strode out, the sequins on his red stovepipe hat and short jacket sparkling like a million rubies.

He bowed to each side of the stadium, flicking a long whip in the air. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, welcome to the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus!" His amplified voice echoed around the coliseum and crowd nearly surged to their feet with enthusiasm. Hutch had to grab the back of Joshua's t-shirt to prevent him from running down the stairs to join in the show.

Performers streamed out around the ringmaster, parading their fantastic costumes and animals in a magical procession. There were lithe maidens in tight spangles atop white horses, and strong, bare-chested men hoisting girls above their heads as if they were lighter than air. Tumblers rolled like balls, their shiny bodysuits flashing like the skin of dolphins. A troupe of tiny dwarfs bounced on trampolines carried by the clowns, and a motorcyclist rode on a curved course inside a globe of steel mesh, defying all laws of gravity.

Candace squealed in fear every time the lions roared in the big cat act, hiding her head in Starsky's shoulder when the tigers leaped from one platform to the next. He chuckled, amazed that he sort of enjoyed playing the father role, and looked over at Hutch who had one twin asleep in his lap and the other sagging against his right arm. Hutch looked back at him, with such a happy smile Starsky had the strong urge to kiss him right then and there. He didn't, because Candace perked up, her interest caught by a troupe of small dogs that jumped over each other and bounded through hoops. At the same time, in the ring on the left, jugglers balanced plates on sticks while ponies performed an intricate waltz.

In the vernacular of the circus, everything was astounding, and stupendous, each act more fantastic than the one before until the audience was exhausted from holding their collective breath. The finale provided enough of an adrenaline rush for the entire show combined as high overhead aerialists seemed to fly without wings from trapeze to trapeze. Then, the show was over, and the performers stepped out to take their well- deserved bows.

Even after gallons of Coke, mounds of popcorn, and peanuts, both twins were sound asleep when the last clown waved goodbye and disappeared behind the curtain. Hutch hoisted one of them onto his shoulder. Starsky took the other, he was never sure whether it was Jason or Joshua, and coaxed Candace to her feet. She looked dazed, her mouth curved in a dreamy smile.

"I loved the lady in the white dress who danced with the horses . . ." She hugged herself as if she could barely contain her fantasies. "I want to do that, too."

"C'mon, Cinderella, we have to get you back to Sanctuary House before you turn into a pumpkin." Starsky gave her hand a gentle pull, burdened by the warm weight of the snoring child in his left arm.

"Cinderella doesn't turn into a pumpkin!" Candace corrected with the confidence of a true expert on princesses. "The coach does."

"Our coach already turned into a tomato," Hutch called over his shoulder, leading the way through the crowd heading for the exit.

"Don't listen to him." Starsky adjusted the child he carried, checking to see if Aaron was still bringing up the rear. "The Torino is a high caliber street machine capable of speeds over 150 miles per hour."

"Where, in the desert?" Hutch skirted a knot of people discussing the relative merits of taking surface streets over the freeway, and gained the freedom of the endless parking lot. "Because in the city, it's a gas guzzler."

"Could you win in a race with that guy on the Harley?" Aaron asked. It was the first time he'd spoken since he'd grunted yes to Starsky's offer of a soda at the intermission. Now, his dark eyes were animated and his long brown fingers traced wide circles in the sky. "Could you believe the way he rode that hog? Upside down, and around that cage? Three of 'em at once, all criss-crossing each other. I was sure they would crash--and it would have been a big explosion, don't you think? Would the whole stadium have gone up if they'd crashed, or was that why they were in that round cage? What if the Harley rode right over your car? Would it smash it flat, or could you chase 'em down after that?"

Starsky privately decided he almost liked Aaron better silent, but he laughed, raising the hood of the candy apple red Torino so Aaron could get a look at the meticulously maintained engine while Hutch stowed the twins in the backseat. The drive across town was punctuated by excited memories of the circus.

They delivered a tired bunch of children to the Sanctuary House. Starsky and Hutch toted the sleeping twins up to their little dormitory, tucking them into bed still wearing newly purchased circus t-shirts and clutching plush elephants. Candace thanked them with a kiss on the cheek for both her escorts, and flounced out waving her fairy wand in the air.

Aaron, ever the thirteen year old, grunted that it had been "okay" before ducking into the house's kitchen for a late night snack.

Starsky climbed back into the Torino, sitting for a few minutes to let his vertebrae resettle into their accustomed places. He wasn't used to carrying forty pounds of child around and wondered how the boys' mother did it on her own. Imagine trying to carry eighty pounds of boys around while homeless, as she must have done for the months before she got into Sanctuary House. It sobered him, and he sighed.

"What?" Hutch pulled the passenger door shut, rubbing his own lower back.

"Just thinking about those kids and what a rough life they have."

"Which is why nights like this are so important."

"Yeah, I guess. It was a lot of fun, huh?" Starsky grinned, remembering the man sliding a flaming sword down his throat. How did he do that?

"You going to drive home now, or are you waiting for the clowns to come tow the car behind their elephant?" Hutch sat back with an indulgent smile.

"What was your favorite part?" Starsky steered out into the empty streets. Sanctuary House sat on the edge of a very poor area where many buildings were being torn down. The city was trying to build better low-income housing but it wasn't fast enough.

"Watching you."

"Really?" Starsky grinned, looking over at his partner. Hutch grinned back, his blue eyes brilliant in the streetlights that flashed by the car.

"You had this look of such wonder on your face. One of the kids would say something, or point something out, and you'd light up, like a sparkler," Hutch said softly, his large warm hand sneaking up to cover Starsky's thigh. Starsky took one hand off the wheel to clasp Hutch's, enjoying the way his own groin suddenly seemed much warmer and fuller.
"I kept thinking, I love you so much, and this is why. You're real, and good when everything else around us sometimes seems like shit, you make it all worthwhile."

Starsky didn't want to admit how good that made him feel. "Love you, too, you big lug." He turned onto the street where their little bungalow stood, pulling the car into the driveway. "Wanna play circus?"

"Starsky, it's after eleven. I'm tired."

"We don't have to go in tomorrow until three. Starting swing shift, remember? Don't you wanna boff the ringmaster?"

"What makes you the ringmaster?" Hutch got out, stretching his lanky frame to get out the last of the kinks, obviously fully aware of what this display would do to his audience of one.

"Cause I thought it up." Starsky dropped his voice down low, with a little rumble like a cat in heat, admiring the view of the Hutchinson jewels packaged so snugly in a pair of pale blue jeans.

"You sound more like a big cat to me." Hutch leaned against the heated metal of the Torino's hood, hitching one long leg up onto the bumper.

"Me? I'm a pussy cat, but you're a lion, all big and gold." Starsky stalked his prey, coming around the car. He leaned forward, over the hood, brushing his groin against the well-muscled thigh propped up on the Torino. "Bet I could tame that beast with a flick of my whip and the back of a chair." He pressed his full length against Hutch's body, feeling their cocks strain against the interfering zippers. "Why'd you think they use a chair turned around backwards, anyway?"

"To keep the predators at bay." Hutch stiff-armed him back, both hands gripping Starsky's shoulders and walked him backwards a few steps until he could turn around and go up to the front door. "All lions are afraid of upside down chairs."

"See? That's what makes me a good ringmaster, then." Starsky ground his butt into the groin directly behind him, with his hand shoved deeply into his back pocket all the while. "I always balance a chair on two legs."

"The keys are usually in your jacket pocket," Hutch said dryly, giving his butt a playful smack.

Starsky groaned with arousal, the slight sting on his backside tantalizing, and located the key. He thrust it into the lock with alacrity. The faster they got inside and naked, the faster he could feel up that smooth Nordic skin. The door was barely shut and locked behind them when Starsky was already pulling off his windbreaker and yellow t-shirt.

"What'd you want to do first?" he asked breathlessly, not looking at his partner because he was sure that the sight of Hutch stripping down would finish him off before they began. He was not usually so horny so fast, but possibly the combination of carbonated caffeine, the chemicals in the pink popcorn, and a healthy dose of good clean family entertainment had put him in a raunchy mood.

"Sword swallowing." Hutch came from behind, wrapping his arms around Starsky and imprisoning his arms against his sides. "Prestidigitation."

"You're a magician now?" Starsky dropped his head back so that it rested on Hutch's shoulder. The rest of him slumped against his lover like a blanket, his back to Hutch's belly.

"Always have been, because I can make you levitate with a wave of my hand." He slicked one broad palm down the flat expanse of Starsky's abdomen to the half zipped fly. Immediately, Starsky's cock jumped skyward, pushing up past the gap in his jeans.

"Abracadabra!" Starsky laughed, pushing to get rid of his pants.

"That was supposed to be my line."

"You can say that again," Starsky drawled waggling his finger on an invisible cigar like Groucho Marx. He danced away from Hutch, hopping on one foot to discard his jeans. "Now that you got it in the air, what're you going to do about it?"

"I suspect you'd object if I tried stuffing it into a box and cutting it in half." Hutch eyed his prize with undisguised lust. "So I'll fall back on the original plan. Sword swallowing."

"I love it when a plan comes together." Starsky tripped over his trailing jeans, falling back onto the living room couch with a grunt. Hutch was on him in a flash, pressing him into the cushions and spreading Starsky's legs to get at the throbbing cock. "Hu-utch!" Starsky gasped when Hutch took him into his mouth. It was so slippery hot in there, tongue sliding over Starsky's glans and up the shaft. Starsky gave into pure sensation, watching with wonder at the blond head buried between his thighs. This performance would never make it to the center ring, but he deemed it worthy of two thumbs way up.

Hutch displayed skills of daring-do never before performed in the Starsky/Hutchinson household. He swallowed powerfully, until Starsky thought his body would be sucked down into Hutch's gullet, and then the suction cut off, making way for the swirling tongue that danced along the thick pulsing vein on the lower side. A hint of teeth caused Starsky to nearly jump out of his skin, but Hutch anchored him firmly to the couch as he opened his mouth, letting in a draft of cold air. Starsky moaned, goosepimples pebbling his arms, and he grabbed at Hutch to push him back down over his cock. Hutch withdrew enough to slather affection on the tense scrotal sac, lovingly sucking on each testicle until Starsky was sure he'd go mad from the wait.

"Get t-to the main act!" Starsky insisted.

Hutch just smiled up at him, his mouth once more filled with Starsky-ness. This time, he played at licking an all day sucker, long strokes of his tongue over each inch until Starsky was so super sensitized he could barely endure the rasp of the couch fabric against his bare butt. The friction of Hutch's arm along the guard hairs on Starsky's inner thigh was causing static sparks, and Starsky had to close his eyes to reduce the overload of stimuli. Sweat dripped along his rib cage, and conversely his mouth was dry as a bone, his breath coming in ragged gasps.

"I gotta come!" Starsky shouted, but Hutch bracketed his fingers around the base of the cock still filling his mouth and squeezed. Starsky screamed in frustration, his whole body taunt as a high wire.

Now Hutch withdrew, leaving the cock alone for a moment. Starsky reached out for him, inarticulate in his need, but Hutch just shook his head, pushing his hands away.

"Bet I can make you come without either one of us touching you."

"How?" Starsky asked weakly.

"Close your eyes, remember that big, black gleaming Harley in the circus, throttle set way high so that the whole chassis rumbles. You throw one leg over the seat and settle in, gunning the motor and the engine catches, 50 horsepower throbbing right up your…"

"HUTCH!" Starsky shouted, half in exasperation, half in exhilaration, sure he could feel the deep vibration of the engine between his thighs.

"I climb on behind you, and slide my arms around your waist, but one drops down, in between your legs." Hutch's voice was high octane pure sex, and it sent Starsky off on a maniacal motorcycle ride. Starsky shuddered, imagining Hutch pressed against him. There was a raw power surging through him, gunning his engine until he felt like he was careening out of control, on a climax that was zooming at around the track at 200 miles per hour. He wasn't sure when the ride ended, but it was oh-so good while it lasted.

"You back yet?" Hutch asked softly, curled around him on the couch.

"That was some trip," Starsky murmured sleepily, turning into his solid chest. "How'd you do that?"

"I told you I was a magician."

"Hmm. Bet I could beat it, though." Starsky wet his lips, kissing Hutch just above the right nipple.

"How so, my boastful friend?"

"I fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young man on his flying trapeze," Starsky warbled.

"No trapeze in this house, Wallenda."

"Ah, but we can make do." Starsky shook himself fully awake, ideas for ravaging Hutch somersaulting across his brain. He jumped up, dashing for the bedroom with Hutch in hot pursuit.

With a flourish Starsky flipped the dark green comforter off the bed and tossed it upward so that it caught on the wide canopy frame. He'd taken out the overhead mirror that once graced his bed when he and Hutch moved in together because Hutch said he didn't enjoy watching himself have sex--or sleep for that matter. Now the heavy mahogany bed was open to the skylight just above, the wooden crossbeams that once held the mirror framing the view of the night sky like a picture. Starsky adjusted the comforter so that it hung down on one side like the flap of a tent, and peered out at his blond friend enticingly. "Gentlemen of all ages, come under the big top for a show that will knock your socks off!"

"My socks are already off." Hutch pointed to his bare toes.

"See how good that worked?" Starsky chuckled, drawing him past the green barrier and into the mysterious dark.

They tumbled around on the pillows for a moment, reacquainting themselves with body parts already known and catalogued, but still so wonderfully fascinating. Starsky loved to the feel of Hutch's skull through his fine, fair hair. He explored every bump and hollow, caressing the silkiness at the back of the neck and bestowing kisses on every inch. There was such a surprising vulnerability to Hutch's head with its delicate layer of hair, giving him a kind of fragility that few would imagine when they encountered the six foot one inch man on the street with his huge Python. Starsky's own springy mane was so completely different in comparison. He knew how Hutch loved the feel of curls tickling across his chest, and once he had finished kissing as much of Hutch's head that he could get to, he went to work on that broad, muscled chest. Hutch sighed with contentment when Starsky brushed his hair over Hutch's torso and onto his abdomen.

"I want you in me, Hutch." Starsky whispered, blowing gently across Hutch's belly button. Hutch gasped and started, his abs rippling with the effort but Starsky stayed put, the tiny vibrations stimulating his cock. "You up for it?"

"I've been up for hours, tiger."

"Then marvel at my aerial act." Starsky rose up on his knees, making sure that Hutch was positioned just below him. He stood on the mattress, grabbing hold of the cross beams above him to steady himself. He was about to ask Hutch to get the lube, but as always, his partner had read his mind and was already fumbling in the nightstand table for the well used tube. After Hutch had coated himself, Starsky took a deep, steadying breath. This was one of the harder ways take another man, straight from above without being able to see the target behind. But he wanted it so badly. He felt like a giant magnet honing in on a metal rod that fit perfectly into his groove. That until he seated himself on that pillar, he was not completely whole.

"Drumbeat, please?" Starsky commanded solemnly.

Hutch beat a tattoo on the mattress with both hands, the reverberation sending shock waves up through the soles of Starsky's feet. The noise matched the fluttering beat of his heart. Using Hutch's bent knees for support, Starsky crouched downward, feeling the thick head of the penis shove into his anus. For just a second it seemed like an impossible mission. There was no way that blunt end would fit into that tiny hole, and move past the tight sphincter that guarded the interior. Except it did. With spreading wonder, Starsky slipped downward, completely impaled on his lover. This was always such a stupendous moment, when he felt himself twinned, completed.

Hutch grabbed Starsky's hands, holding them tightly and pushed upwards, twisting inside of Starsky. Immediately, Starsky shivered as fantastic skitters of joy suffused his entire being and he shifted his weight, feeling Hutch move under him, feeling the warmth of their union. This was what it was like to be made anew. Below him, Hutch rose up slightly, balancing both of them just on his pelvis and the balls of his feet, then dropped back with a groan of arousal. Starsky arched, trying to shove even further down into Hutch, and felt the first sparks of Hutch's oncoming orgasm. Hutch's whole body shuddered and bucked under him like a wild horse, and he flashed on the circus performers balancing on stallions as they circled the ring. He gazed down at his partner as if from a really high place, seeing Hutch's beautiful face thrown back in ecstasy, his lips parted and blue eyes glazed over with lust. Starsky laughed aloud when Hutch came, feeling the flood of semen in his bowels. He squeezed Hutch's hands, riding out the crest of his partner's climax with a joyous smile.

Almost too tired to move, it took extra effort for Starsky to untangle himself from Hutch and curl up next to him on the rumpled sheets. Hutch was stuporous, his eyes closing even as Starsky twitched a blanket over the two of them and fell asleep.

Starsky stirred, the mattress dipping as Hutch sat up and padded his way to the bathroom. He peered at the bedside clock. It was just after twelve. They'd only been asleep a short while. Although he wanted to just stay curled in his warm cocoon of sleepiness, a trip to the john and a quick wash up was probably more than warranted. Besides, just as he thought about moving, his belly chimed in to tell him that soda and popcorn did not a meal make.

Giving Hutch some privacy, Starsky collected a snack of peanut butter and crackers with a milk chaser. Hutch would probably even indulge in this late night meal, since he had a weakness for peanut butter crackers, especially if there was a banana to go along with it.

Predictably, the first thing Hutch said when he came out, toweling off the back of his neck was, "Do we still have any bananas?" He picked up one of the already assembled cracker sandwiches, munching while he rooted through the bureau drawers for a pair of shorts.

"You're still on your feet, you can go get it." Starsky jumped up for his turn with soap and water. It wasn't long before they were both sitting with their feet under the edge of the blanket and getting crumbs in the bed.

"My mother would have thrown a fit if I'd eaten crackers in bed," Hutch said without a drop of remorse. He let the empty peel of his banana flop over his hand before tossing it precisely into the bedside trashcan.

"Sometimes you gotta break the rules." Starsky nodded and licked the remnants of peanut butter off the blunt knife. He dropped it back into the empty peanut butter jar and handed it across to Hutch for disposal. "Oh, d'you have any plans for Saturday?"

"No, why?"

"Want to go to the monster truck rally with me and Aaron?"

"Aaron? As in "circuses are for babies, but that guy on the motorcycle was so cool"?" Hutch chuckled.

"Yeah, that Aaron. He hasn't got anybody, Hutch. His dad died in a gang shootout and his mother's in detox, but he says she's been really sick, and the doctors don't know why." Starsky scooped up some of the larger flakes of cracker, depositing them on the floor to be vacuumed up in the morning. "I just kept thinking, what if that had been me?"

"Your mom wasn't an addict, Starsk."

"No, and Durniak got her a job right away, so we had money and stuff. But that kind of stuff hits you hard. You can't see anything good for a long time." He shrugged, a tiny flare of the pain he'd harbored just after his father's murder welling up with unexpected intensity. After twenty-four years, it still felt like a knife wound to the gut, but faded easily when Hutch pulled him into a loving embrace unlike anything he'd had when he was thirteen. "So, I kinda thought…we don't see Kiko or Molly as much anymore since they're in college, so…"

"Maybe you want a Little Brother all your own this time?"

"I'd need lots of help, you know. You've got much more experience in this kind of thing."

"Yeah, but your instincts are right on the money. What did you have in mind for Aaron on Saturday?"

"Help me wash the Torino, a stop at Burrito Supreme, and then dozens of trucks with enormous wheels driving over each other like Tonka trucks smashing Hot Wheels cars."

"Just what every thirteen year-old boy needs." Hutch smiled and kissed him. "Starsky, I think I'll sit this one out. Give you two a chance to bond over engine blocks and the smell of diesel fuel, but I'm open for the next outing." He hunkered down under the covers, pressing his feet against Starsky's. "How about the rodeo?"

"You just want to play lasso the steer and ride the bronco bareback afterwards!"

"Maybe I do, but that's a lot more fun," Hutch's hand suddenly latched onto Starsky's cock, and he waggled it back and forth, "than Monster trucks squashing it flat."

"You can say that again." Starsky lay back, looking up at the skylight partially obscured by the green comforter over the canopy. He was no longer the least bit sleepy. "I like doin' it under the big top, do you wanna go for a repeat performance, Hutcherino the Great?"

"The show must go on." Hutch flipped the sheet up over both of them.

FIN