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Starsky had magic.

Hutch didn't know about it, of course. It wasn't the flashy kind, anyway, no sorcerer's apprentice-type deal. Just a quiet, careful kind of magic. Some people might call it luck, but it was more complicated than that, because it was based on a point system.

Starsky got the points when he did something that kept the universe spinning right. Some of it was small stuff—a tough shot into the trash can with the wadded-up aluminum foil from his burrito (a measly half point), or closing the door with his foot in one smooth motion on his way out (one point.)

Some things he did were a little more subtle, like the two rings he always wore on his pinky. Or when he surprised his partner into a laugh right in the middle of his rant about the atrocious condition of the produce at Metro's cafeteria (good for five, at least.)

The action that earned him the biggest score, of course, was putting the bad guys right where they belonged.

He needed every one of his points, because there were plenty of things that happened during the day to subtract them. Like when they didn't have his favorite donut at the coffee shop in the morning, or when the garage lottery had him parking the Torino at the farthest possible slot from the door.

Of course, his total took some big hits out on the streets. That was what he was storing up for: to keep Hutch and him safe. Sometimes Starsky was scared he hadn't saved up enough, like the time he was sure a hit man had gotten to Hutch, and it was only by the barest margin that Starsky followed the razor-thin leads from Bobby to Sonny to his partner, pinned beneath his car at the bottom of a canyon.

Sometimes Starsky felt guilty that he didn't have more luck to spread around. When they lost an important witness and friend to an assassin, it was Hutch that Starsky threw his points at, hurling them down the stairs to where Hutch lay flattened by a cleverly planned explosion.

Hutch didn't seem to understand how the magic worked, because no matter how many points they'd been picking up, his face just got more and more drawn with weariness and dissatisfaction. Losing their witness was the last straw.

Starsky joined him on the beach, and together the two of them stood facing the ocean. Always very strong magic in two. So he wasn't surprised to find himself throwing his badge in with Hutch. Starsky's badge symbolized his ability to make the really big points. But if he couldn't make them to protect Hutch, then why bother, really? Somehow the whole purpose of earning them had gotten turned around into using them just to earn more. So what did he need the badge for?

Still, they managed to score high even without the badges. And that shocked Starsky just a little. Maybe he'd already known it, but it was the first time he had actual proof—he didn't need his badge to make high points.

All he needed was Hutch.

"They challenged a powerful enemy and emerged victorious."

Yeah. And what the mayor didn't say was victory is never a permanent thing—it's always just a little stage you go through.

Starsky found that out the hard way soon afterward. The flying bullets were minus signs, ticking down every point he had, like seconds bleeding off the shot clock, and as the slugs hit him and he fell, curling around the wounds, hearing the shocked roar of his blood, his only thought was, is it enough?

The crooked judge and the ping-pong game and the jokes and the perfect shot: had they earned him those final, necessary points?

When he came back to himself for a short time, staring up into Hutch's wild, terrified eyes, seeing the perfect, untouched whole of him, Starsky knew he'd saved up just enough magic. Hutch was safe.

Starsky thought he said as much, sometime in the ambulance, but his eyes were closed and all he heard was Hutch's tortured begging in response.

Later—much, much later—he opened his eyes again to see Hutch waving what looked like bulleted lists of points, pages and pages of them. Starsky was surprised enough to be opening his eyes again. Hutch must've come up with some magic on his own when Starsky wasn't looking.

It sure seemed that way, because Starsky had been pretty sure he was deep in the red. He thought maybe he should ask Hutch where he'd found the magic, but his mouth wasn't working right then.

And he forgot about it for a while, in the face of his injuries and the surgeries and a hundred personal indignities that had him cringing and frustrated and furious most of the time. He was in so much pain he wasn't even counting anymore, just existing, and he was sure he would never make it out of the damned hospital and back to his apartment, let alone back to the streets.

But he made it out, at least, and a couple of months later he woke up from a nap on Hutch's couch to find his partner sitting on a chair next to him and pretending to read a two month-old newspaper. Hutch's baby blues were on Starsky, though, moving over him restlessly.

Starsky opened his eyes the rest of the way and Hutch jerked, looking down at his paper.

Where'd you find it, Hutch? Starsky realized he wanted to ask. Where'd you finally find the magic? Because Starsky couldn't imagine what else would've pulled him back from where he'd been, in the red and moving deeper into the permanent black. But he couldn't ask. He wasn't supposed to know, because that was part of how it worked. It was one reason why he'd never told Hutch about his own magic. The other reason was Starsky was afraid it would die under the scornful pale blue Hutch always trained on anything that smacked him of the irrational.

Just then, Hutch looked up at him, and the blue wasn't cold, but so warm it felt like a blanket, heating Starsky's chest, easing the constant ache there.

And suddenly Starsky thought he knew where Hutch had found it. Not a couple of measly points, but gallon bins of it, enough to jumpstart the flatlines of a hundred cardiac patients. If Starsky's heart weren't already pounding, he would've felt the jolt.

Then Hutch put out his hand and clasped Starsky's forearm where it lay on the armrest. Starsky could almost feel it, as if his luck was being filled right up, filled by Hutch. But that was a little too strange. So Starsky just smiled and looked down again, and Hutch dropped his hand and went back to his paper.

It wasn't until three months later, after Starsky had passed the physicals and returned to partial duty, that he realized he hadn't ever again really doubted he would get back on the force. Not once, after that moment on the couch.

He put down a case he was reviewing and gave a good long stretch, feeling nothing but a momentary tightness pulling his chest. He smiled in satisfaction and caught Hutch's eyes on him once again.

"What's that?" Starsky asked quickly, before Hutch could look away like always.

Hutch didn't seem to appreciate getting caught out, because he got up, muttering something about going to the can.

Starsky waited until he'd pushed out the swinging doors, and then he followed. But Hutch didn't stop at the john. He strode down the long hallway, and Starsky just had to follow.

He hadn't used any of his points lately. Had a whole trove of 'em, really, because the two of them had been doing nothing for weeks but hanging out and helping other detectives with the slow stuff: making canvassing calls and poring over case data to look for fresh angles.

Hutch went into the commissary, so it was possible he wasn't avoiding him, just hungry. But he only gave a nod to Daphne, the lady behind the counter, and kept walking out to the back hallway.

Starsky caught up with him just as Hutch was about to enter the seldom-used rear stairwell, the one that led down to the parking lot entrance.

"Where're you going?"

Hutch stopped dead in his tracks, but didn't turn around.

"Just down to my car."

Bad liar. Always was, when it came to him.

"Be a neat trick, considering I drove us today, dummy. And you might've noticed we park out front these days."

Hutch shoulders went tight, stretching the fabric of his shirt. "I know." He reached down and turned the knob, stepping into the stairwell.

It echoed crazily in there, and it was dim. That was why everyone always used the front stairs and then crossed through the lobby. But Hutch hadn't told him to buzz off, so Starsky pushed aside his unease and followed him down, their footsteps a deep, noisy clatter. They reached the bottom, and Hutch paused just for a second before pushing outside.

The exit let them out in the garage where the cars got worked on, just inside the big rolling door. Hutch stepped out into the parking lot. Starsky hesitated.

It wasn't that he'd been avoiding it. Or even really thought about it. He just felt more comfortable going in the front these days. At least, that's what he told himself, because Hutch was still walking, and Starsky knew where the fuck he was going, and he was trying to talk himself out of the sudden shakes that hit his legs, making them feel just a little too loose as he followed finally, a good ten steps behind.

Starsky couldn't—could not—look at the asphalt, so he kept his eyes on Hutch's broad back and the swing of the long hair against his collar as he strode forward as if on a mission. Then Hutch stopped. Starsky still didn't look down, just stood, his breathing a little too heavy, a high sound in his ears. He wanted Hutch to say something, anything, to stop the echoes he knew he'd soon be hearing.

Instead, he heard a scuffle of footsteps to the side and saw Jerry, the head mechanic of the police garage, approaching with his telltale limping stride. He was wiping his hands with a greasy rag.

"Hey, Sarge. I thought you was all done here."

"I think I am, Jer," Hutch responded quietly. "Just taking a look-see."

"Nothing left to see, and that's for damned sure."

So, of course, Starsky had to look.

Jerry was right: there was nothing. Just a blameless patch of too-clean macadam. Almost bleached—the large, square area was shades lighter than the surrounding asphalt. Starsky's heart slowed its crazy beat, and he bent low, examining the surface more closely, unable to believe it. There wasn't a fleck of red anywhere. Not a nook, crack or bump of the irregular surface retained any color at all.

Starsky raised his eyes to find Hutch staring at him intently.

"Didn't 'speck to see you, Detective Starsky." Jerry sounded surprised as all get out.

"Yeah." Starsky cleared his throat. "How you doin', Jerry?"

"Doin' fine. Mighty good to see you back on your feet."

"Thanks, Jer."

"We did good, didn't we?" Jerry said nervously. "Three different kinds of brushes and solvent we tried. Took a couple of weeks to find the right—"

"Thanks, Jerry," Hutch said a little pointedly.

"Oh! Yeah. Yeah. Okay, well, I'll be seeing you guys, maybe next time you crunch up that old Torino of yours."

Jerry left, waving his rag to their echoed goodbyes.

This where you got it, Hutch? At least some of it, for sure. It must've taken some backbreaking and heart-wrenching work to lift every last possible speck of Starsky's blood from the asphalt. Starsky could see Hutch at it, pushing the scrub brush, ignoring the curious stares of arriving and departing officers. It would have earned him some major points.

"Is it okay?"

Starsky lifted his eyes, realizing he'd still been anxiously searching, looking for the tiniest traces. But there were none. He should've known there wouldn't be.

"Yeah, it's fine," Starsky said roughly. "It's good, Hutch."

Hutch sighed heavily. He sounded like Atlas taking a breather.

"Come on," Starsky said, and he turned and walked toward the lobby entrance.

On his way back up the stairs he took two at a time, palm glancing on the banister on the off-beat, the tune in his head "Shadow Dancing." It wasn't until he hit the top of the second flight that he realized he'd done it—taken the stairs two at a time without thinking.

Twos. Two twos, and two points. And the two of them. Only, the shadows were gone, and he was tired of dancing.

And he had a pocket full of magic.

He cracked wise at Hutch the rest of the afternoon, startling him into laughter more than once, a funny little half-laugh that sounded almost like a cough. Hutch kept looking at him like he was crazy, but the blue eyes were smiling, too.

"Come on," Starsky said again at the end of the day, and again Hutch followed without a word, slinging his leather jacket on over his shirt and gun.

Starsky drove them north instead of west, and Hutch made a restless motion with his legs, but still didn't ask. About ten miles up, Starsky took the exit by the reservoir, edging them into the empty parking lot by the Mulholland Dam.

He'd always been fond of the dam. He could care less about most buildings, but there was something about the functionality of the dam that gave all those arches and hollows and stretches of smooth concrete a special significance. It was orderly and kind of beautiful because of it.

Not that you'd hear him saying that to Hutch, who was staring out at the structure, his face fascinated.

The power and the symmetry of the place made the dam a good spot. He'd brought Hutch here for that reason, and even though Hutch had shown no impatience—surprising for him, really—it was time to lay it out.

Only, at the last second Starsky's mouth veered away, and he found himself saying, "It was the only empty space in the parking lot." He laughed a little, uneasily. "I guess they think it's bad luck, huh?"

Hutch shook his head slowly. "I think it's a show of respect. I think they're waiting for you to...take it back. Put things right again."

Put things right. That was why they were here, really. Why they were even on the planet to begin with.

Hutch broke into the thought. "After that, though," he said, smiling slyly, "I'm guessing all bets are off. "

Starsky grinned at the challenge. "I think I'm almost there, you know? I'm almost ready, Hutch."

"I know," Hutch said softly.

"Before I do go back, though, there's something else I need to...something that has to-has to happen. With us." As Starsky stumbled through the words, he saw Hutch turn his head just a fraction, his pale lashes dropping down, shuttering the quick flash of blue. Starsky looked down at the big hand resting on Hutch's leg and saw the hard tendons in stark relief, the fingers flexed and tense.

The sight was reassuring. He hadn't been wrong, then. Not about the feeling of Hutch's hand on his forearm, or the occasional searching looks.

Starsky felt his chest expand, and realized he'd taken a deep breath, the kind that usually caught him with a thread of pain most days. But not today; today the magic made it deep and easy, warm and good—the feeling in his chest, and the fronts of his thighs, and the back of his throat.

His voice came out easier this time. "I know it's not your usual thing. So, if you want to take it slow—"

Hutch fingers were on Starsky's lips, stopping him. Starsky realized, of all the places Hutch had touched him, he'd never touched him there. His breath left him, and he could feel the heat of it trapping against Hutch's fingertips. Then the hand moved, brushing gently downward to capture his jaw and turn his head into Hutch's kiss.

Starsky should've been expecting that. And he should've expected that the soft, tender pressure would make his blood pressure shoot the mercury past the safe zone. But he hadn't. For some reason he thought he'd have to go slow with Hutch, ease him into the idea.

Hutch's tongue pressing into his mouth told him differently. Starsky couldn't help a shocked moan, and Hutch pulled away in a hurry.

"Sorry," he muttered, his face flushed. "You said you wanted to go slow—"

"Not if you don't," Starsky said quickly. He shifted in his seat, getting his hip turned under the steering wheel so he could move over. Hutch was moving too, knocking against his knees in his haste to pull Starsky closer, and then they were tangled up in a clutching sprawl, Starsky half on top of Hutch, his hard-on pressed against Hutch's thigh.

"Oh," he said into Hutch's mouth, then kissed him harder so that Hutch's head fell back against the window with a muffled thump.

"Ow," Hutch said back, but he didn't stop kissing him, and Starsky felt this weird cha-ching in his head, like the granddaddy of all scores had just come down—the jackpot of points. He pressed harder, slipping his tongue deep into Hutch's mouth. Hutch groaned and reached down to adjust himself, his hand bumping into Starsky's.

It was too much. Dizzy with the sudden sense of rightness, Starsky pulled away and laughed.

"What?" Hutch sounded irritated.

"Us. Babe, we are gonna be unstoppable."

It didn't seem to clear Hutch's confusion, but he gave Starsky a small smile and pulled him back into his arms.

Hutch whispered in his ear, "Weren't we always?" and then took his mouth again.

ooOoo

A car pulling into the lot broke them apart just when things were getting a little too interesting, and Hutch automatically tried to push his shirt back into his pants. At that exact moment, though, Starsky's hand was trapped underneath it, stroking Hutch's smooth belly.

"Quit it," Hutch said hoarsely, but the creases were deep on either side of his mouth, his lips stretched in a broad smile.

Starsky had mercy and took his hand away, then started up the Torino.

He took Hutch to his own apartment. He wanted the mirror, so he could look up and see the two of them, two sets of arms and two sets of legs twisted tight around each other like fishing line, never to be untangled again. He wouldn't allow it, because it was so powerful—the hard, heated press of Hutch's cock against his—that Starsky might never have to worry about stepping on the monkey square ever again. He could live on the monkey square, build a tiny house there, and Hutch could obliterate the bad luck with one swipe of his tongue at the base of Starsky's neck, or two thrusts of those powerful hips that sent Starsky over, both of his hands pulling on Hutch to make sure there was nothing between the two of them but hot skin and his slick come.

Starsky had to close his eyes then, so he could only hear Hutch's orgasm, and feel it like an earthquake between his legs.

Afterward, Hutch tried to pull away, but Starsky was having none of it, and only let him slide a little to the side so Starsky could breathe easier.

"Didn't hurt you?" Hutch asked anxiously, his fingers restless on Starsky's chest.

"Not a chance." Starsky felt inside himself for that spot where he kept the magic, but it was so full it had flowed out over everything, so he couldn't even find the edges of it. After a while he heard Hutch sigh, a big one, his chest moving against Starsky's ribs, and then Hutch pushed himself up to kiss him again.

Incredibly, Starsky's cock, which had been more than a little sluggish since he'd been in the hospital, responded with a twitch and a tingle, and he laughed, making Hutch lift his head with a questioning smile.

"Nothing," Starsky said. "It's just...I guess your lips are magic."

Hutch gave a snort of mock exasperation. "Starsk. You know there's no such thing as magic."

But his eyes said the opposite.

Fin.

November 30, 2006
San Francisco, CA