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It’s half past the middle of the night when they finally give up, pulling over at the first seedy roadside motel that has its open sign illuminated. Starsky’s fingers have been curled in Hutch’s hand on their quiet ride back, his opposite hand pressed against his mouth as he looks out thoughtfully over the passing landscape.

Night changes the desert, though he’s still been breathing dust and the faint scent of cactus flowers and every so often the stinging pods rush out from a bloomed agave, thudding against the glass of the windshield in low rattling clicks. 

Starsky calls Hutch out on his road hypnotism when they drift over the center line, and they find themselves in the unlikely town of Halloran Springs, beneath an illuminated sign that directs them where to get gas, where to eat. The hotel is trucker fare, with long, boxlike rooms that run front to back and only have one window. 

“Good thing you stopped,” the sleepy looking proprietor tells him. “You boys look beat. Lotsa folks kill themselves out there in the desert after a weekend in Vegas. Gets worse on Sunday nights, too. Here’s a key, you’ve got thirty five cable channels, but looks like all you could use is some sleep.”

Starsky agrees, grabbing Hutch’s sleeve and the key complete with its giant wooden toggle proclaiming their room number to be 13. As he unlocks the door, he shows the number to Hutch. “Hey. Is this lucky or unlucky, do you think?”

“Maybe our bad luck came on the front end,” Hutch says, a bit zombielike and unfocused. He uses exhaustion as an excuse, but it's not that.

Hutch tries to shake himself from his funk, realizing belatedly that Starsky has grabbed all their bags without asking for help. “Thanks.”

He considers the week they've had, and it's much easier to not think at all about Jack. “You gonna call Vicky? I bet you could rearrange your schedule to get down here every other weekend.”

Starsky shakes his head, reaches out to put his hand on Hutch’s arm. “I don’t wanna make it weird, and to be honest, I couldn’t do this Vegas thing that often. I’m worn out, and she should get somebody who can be here all the time, right? Better for her and her kid.”

“You could transfer,” Hutch suggests, almost teasing, but it's a little too wistful for that. He only ever tries to get rid of Starsky when he really needs him. “I think she really liked you. And cute kid.”

“I don’t wanna work Vegas,” Starsky says, because it’s easier to say than ‘I don’t want to get serious with anybody that isn’t you.’ 

Hutch doesn't push it, and a mighty yawn unhinges Starsky’s jaw as he steps into the double room, pushing the door closed behind them and immediately stepping out of his shoes, finding a place for the luggage, dropping himself face-first on the pretty hard mattress. It doesn’t creak, it barely budges. Starsky groans a little in protest. 

“Anyway, how are you doing?” he wonders, looking up at Hutch. His partner is still standing in the doorway, looking lost. “You gonna be alright, after all that? After, uh…”

They’ve never really had to talk about exes like this before. Sure they had a lot of them, but Starsky hadn’t known Jack before this weekend. The prince and the pauper, they’d said.  

“Yeah, sure. I mean, hadn't seen him in what, ten years? Fifteen? And he was...basically gone already. A different person.” 

Hutch doesn't like talking about this, so it stirs him to move away from the door, to remove shoulder holster and shirt, the motions of getting ready for bed, though he's not sure he'll sleep.

“Tell me if you think your mattress is made out of plywood like mine,” Starsky says, shifting, working to unsling his holster, which he plops onto the nightstand. “And don’t set any alarm, okay partner? Just sleep.”

“Got it,” Hutch says, going to the small bathroom. There's soap at least, and hot water, and he cleans himself like he can wash that man right out of his hair, or however the song goes. He remembers wanting to kiss Jack, once or twice, before it got really bad, before it got obvious something was wrong with him, though Jack was acting there was never anything between them in high school except being good friends. At first Hutch had been offended, and hurt, a little. Maybe, he had hoped, Jack just wasn't sure if he was out to Starsky, and so was being careful and considerate. But after Hutch found out about the tumor, all he was was sad. 

The darkness isn’t kind to Starsky, either. He’s thinking about Vickie, about how his life might be different, if things weren’t the way they were. He might find a family, settle down. Instead, he’s got his job, his dedication to his partner, and… whatever nebulous thing the world was willing to give them around the moments when they had girls in their life. Or, he guesses in Hutch’s case, other men.

Hutch returns to the darkened room to hear Starsky shifting on the bed: still awake. But Hutch doesn't care enough to turn on the light or get dressed, so he crawls under starchy sheets to lay down with the towel still around his waist. 

“Starsk?” he says after a second. He waits before continuing, wondering if this is a good idea for either of them. “My bed’s not so bad. You want to come over here?”

Starsky doesn’t hesitate. After all, they’re a good team, and when they feel bad no matter what the cause, they’re around for each other. He leaves his own bed behind and joins Hutch, still warm and wet from the shower, and he leans in to kiss him without hesitating. Because they could talk about it, but he’s not sure that’s what they need, at least any more than to exhaust themselves and get a chance to sleep.

Hutch kisses him like he’s welcoming him back. Maybe, for a little while at least, Vickie and Jack don’t matter, and he wraps his long limbs around Starsky. Everyone’s the same height in bed, they say, but Hutch has always liked how he can wind himself around any partner. Him and Jack in bed was just miles of leg…

“I…” Hutch stops, draws back a little. He finds Starsky’s cheek in the dark and pats it, running his fingers back into his hair. He doesn’t want to, but maybe they need to talk a little. “I was lying about the bed. Just wanted you here.” 

At least Starsky should know how much Hutch wants and needs him. 

Starsky actually laughs, but it’s not as cheerful a sound as it might have been otherwise. He winds his body up with Hutch’s in the artificial cool of the air conditioner, and strokes his thumbs over Hutch’s cheeks, cups his hands against his neck, and just keeps touching him gently, with reassurance. 

“Yeah that’s a hell of a thing, isn’t it?” Starsky says. “Normally you check into a hotel the mattresses are all broken down already.”

He leans in to kiss Hutch, and it’s as much an apology as it is impassioned. Hutch is distinctly Hutch and Starsky likes that, most days. Sure he’s prickly and difficult and frequently seems to think that because he eats chicken feed he’s got some kind of superiority, but Starsky loves him anyway. “Guess that means we’re gonna have to do our part to break this one in, huh?”

“Yeah,” Hutch laughs, pulling Starsky on top of him, appreciating his weight, his warmth, his hair, his smell, his presence. Maybe they didn’t need to talk about this. Maybe they can just ignore it and that little sad ache will just go away. “Guess so.”

Hutch slides Starsky’s underwear down his legs, leaning in to kiss his neck, but Starsky can tell his heart isn’t in it. 

A hand between them stops Hutch up, and Starsky tilts Hutch's head back to kiss him, soothing. “Just what you need right now partner. If it's just for me to listen, that's okay. But I'm here. Gonna always be here, right? Me and Thee.”

“Right, I just—right,” Hutch says, closing his eyes. Even if it’s dark in here, it still helps to close his eyes. He doesn’t instantly know what he wants, so he tries to focus. He hugs Starsky tight, like he’s worried he might move away. “I’m just so angry , Starsk. At—at Cameron, at Pruitt, at the tumor. I’m mad at Jack, I guess, too. And I miss him.”  

“Of course you’re mad,” Starsky says. “They all thought the worst of him, and none of them even knew him. How could they?”

Starsky rubs Hutch’s shoulders, gently, his back and arms, just touching him to ground him and comfort him. “I”m sorry. It stinks, the whole thing. I’m sorry they put you in that situation for it to end the way it did.”

Hutch just lets himself absorb Starsky, his attention, his touch, his love. It moves him from feeling sorry for himself to just feeling sorry, and towards feeling grateful. “You’d’ve liked Jack, before. He—he wasn’t a crazy party animal, normally. Just, I dunno. More like you. Loved life, but not manic, like you saw. Like he knew everything he needed would come back to him.”

“I saw parts of that,” Starsky says, which is true. “I mean, when my eyes would stay open for more than ten minutes.”

Hutch chuckles, buries his face against Starsky’s shoulder apologetically. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet the real Jack.” 

“I did,” Starsky says. “I saw him in the way you looked at him, the way he still remembered you. I mean, not perfectly of course, but I can kinda get the shape of it from the way you talk about him.” 

Hutch nods, feeling a little better already. “I’m glad you’re here, Starsk. And not just because he isn’t. There’s no way this doesn’t look bad right now…” 

Hutch hadn’t slept with Jack, again, though there really wasn’t time. He wonders if Starsky slept with Vickie. Maybe Hutch would feel less guilty if they were both rebounding.

“What’s so bad about it?” Starsky wonders, pushing Hutch over on his back at last, leaning down to kiss his chest, and over his sternum, sitting up over him. He wants Hutch to feel good, he wants to feel good. The two things can go together. “I thought that was how all this worked, right?”

Maybe it’s not supposed to be exactly this way, but sometimes it’s going to be. He kisses lower, over Hutch’s belly. “Just let me take care of you, huh?”

Hutch laughs, but it’s half to stave off a sob. “Starsky, that’s all I ever do. You’re always taking care of me.” 

“We take care of each other,” Starsky reminds.

Not just with sex. Starsky is always there for him, that’s the thing, and Hutch can’t settle down, can’t commit, except in the moment, like he is now. He’s distantly guilty about that: like apologizing for something you’re about to do wrong. “I am glad you’re here, Starsky. I love you.” 

Now he kisses him like he means it. 

Starsky is just as glad Hutch is here, and if he gets a little thrill when Hutch says those words, it’s not that he ever doubts , or that he doesn’t ever believe it’s not true, but sometimes he thinks maybe Hutch gets so distracted by things that it’s less true. Then again, sometimes he gets distracted, too. It’s just the way things are. Constants remain. 

Starsky kisses his way down Hutch’s bare body, running his hands appreciatively over Hutch’s side, then over his thighs, kissing his hips, running his thumbs through the still-damp thatch of pubic hair. “This okay? I figure if we fall asleep in the middle it’s almost a relief.”

“I'm not going to fall asleep in the middle,” Hutch says, and wrestles Starsky off of him. “But just in case…”

Hutch doesn't want to just lie back and watch: he loves Starsky just as much as Starsky loves him. He flips himself over and kisses Starsky’s furry thighs. He laughs as they arrange each other: Starsky gets a hand beneath his balls, Hutch pulls Starsky’s knee up to support his head. Hutch giggles, over-tired and over-stimulated. “Now I might fall asleep after, with your cock in my mouth…”

“Hang on a second,” Starsky groans, pressing a kiss against Hutch’s thigh. He rolls back halfway, groping around on the floor for his jeans and fishing two little condom packets out of the pocket before he drops them back on the floor, offering one first to Hutch before he tears open the other one and rolls it onto Hutch’s cock before he applies his mouth to it, slow and considerate. It’s like he doesn’t have to think about anything else, just this, and right now that’s a blessing. He doesn’t have to think about Jack and Hutch knowing each other for so long and eventually breaking up no matter how good it had been between them. He doesn’t have to think about the woman and her daughter that he could almost love. 

Just the way Hutch, in this moment, reaches for Starsky with the same enthusiasm and they both know each other well enough that even exhausted, Starsky knows how much pressure to use, how to work his tongue (upside-down like this is a little different than he’s used to, though), how to keep Hutch right on the edge for as long as he wants. 

Hutch loves Starsky’s cock, honestly, the thickness, the tufts of hair surrounding it on all sides, the smell of him. He gets a hand around his ass and just pulls him in, teasing only a little before he's swallowing him down. If he can make Starsky half as happy as he makes Hutch, he'll count that a win.

The pleasure of Starsky’s mouth on his dick blends seamlessly with the delight of having Starsky in his mouth, and Hutch groans, squeezing him with his arms in a big hug. Thank you. I don't deserve you. Thank you

There’s an edge of desperation to the whole thing that leaves them both hanging onto each other tightly, and it’s good , somehow. Electrifying to Starsky, like cold air before a storm. Before they started, he was sure he was exhausted, but now he can take his time with it and pay attention, work his mouth over the head of Hutch’s cock, and then down, not teasing but making sure every part of his cock gets some attention.

When he finally cums, it onrushes like a train, intense, complete. Starsky has to draw off Hutch long enough to make a surprised noise, body tense and shaking before he dives back in, determined not to leave Hutch behind.  

Hutch likes Starsky coming apart for him so much that he makes a little noise of surprise, and Starsky’s enthusiastic release alone nearly pulls him along with him. Hutch shudders and folds around Starsky, and groans, and it’s all natural, all automatic, instinctive, when he flips back around and kisses Starsky lazily, gratefully, sleepily. 

“You...you’re…” 

He doesn’t finish the sentence. Maybe he doesn’t need to. Starsky is , and that matters more than anything to Hutch. Maybe that’s the problem: he’s too wrapped up in Starsky already, Starsky is so important to every sphere of his life already, and Hutch is afraid to get any further obsessed. It’s better if there are girls, occasionally, and boys, sometimes, too, at least, if nothing else, to make them coming together like this all the sweeter.

On the other hand, it’s easy in the afterglow to see this lasting forever like this, with a lot less heartache. But in the morning Hutch knows he won’t believe that. Hutch slides over the top of Starsky, smothering him, too tired to clean up. He sighs, “Starsky.”

“Mm-hmm?” Starsky is drifting, relaxed, but not so gone he doesn’t get his arms around Hutch’s neck in a loose hang-on, to keep him close like he might actually go somewhere otherwise. He cracks one eye open, and looks at Hutch, though they’re really close anyway and it takes his eyes a second to focus. “Hutch?”

Hutch doesn't quite know what to say. What comes to mind is too much or not enough, and either way a lie. 

The easier things get between them, the more complicated they feel. 

“Hold me,” he says, because that is safe, and honest. 

“You got it,” Starsky says, pulling the blanket over them comfortably, and kissing Hutch’s cheek. “Any time you want.”

Chapter Text

“That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.”  

The rest of the picnic was something of a blur. Starsky and Andrea join Hutch on the picnic and make overly-loud, overly-friendly smalltalk to try to distract him. But Hutch is still staring at the parking spot where Abigail’s brother’s car had been parked. There’s a hatchback in it now, and kids are spilling out with a mom and dad. It’s a beautiful day, it’s no wonder the place is packed. 

A beautiful day…

Starsky makes sure to pass Hutch a few extra beers over the course of things, to drag him up off his butt and force him to play a little frisbee. Get him moving. Abigail is really the first girl Starsky’s seen him be serious with, at least as serious as Hutch ever gets. 

Hutch drinks automatically, and plays frisbee one-handed as well as he can—but where it would have been a matter of pride before, showing off for the girls, now his heart isn’t in it. 

By the third time he hits Hutch with the frisbee instead of having Hutch catch it, Starsky figures this is more than just a beers-and-frisbee job and Starsky figures he’s gonna really have to see this one through. 

“Alright, partner, come on back to earth, huh? You wanna get some dinner?” Starsky gives him a winning grin, hoping that maybe he can defuse this before it gets too bad. 

“Sure, I—” Hutch says, because everything is automatic, but that wakes him up a bit. “Ah, no, you two have fun, I think I’ll go on…” 

Hutch looks around, realizes that Andrea has gone, and he’s alone with Starsky. “—home?” 

Starsky slings his arm around Hutch’s shoulders companionably. “Andrea had that evening shift, remember? So she took the picnic basket and all that stuff we didn’t eat to share with the folks at work. I figure you and I should put some calories in, right?”

He gives Hutch’s belly a pat. “Nothing’s broken that you can’t fix with food.”

Hutch gives Starsky an entreating look. “Starsk, please…”

But it strikes him that Starsky is trying so hard to cheer him up, if he leaves now he'll ruin Starsky’s night, too. “She really had to go to work?”

“Yeah, she did,” Starsky tells Hutch. “It’s after five, I guess time just passed too fast, huh?”

At least when Hutch is a little lost and emotional, Starsky finds it pretty easy to guide him into the car and get him to sit down in the passenger seat, giving him a pat on the shoulder, nothing over the line. “C’mon buddy, it’s not so bad, huh?”

“Except that Abigail was nearly raped and murdered because of me,” Hutch bit out. “So, yeah, it's bad. You know, it's no wonder she doesn't want to see me?”

“Hutch,” Starsky says, leaning on the roof to trap Hutch between himself and the door. “What is it we tell people all the time; you know, the innocent victims of things like this? I can hear your voice pretty clearly in my head. You know the bit, ‘you can’t blame yourself for the illegal actions of others.’”

Hutch hates his own logic being used against him, and Starsky’s a master of it. But he is right, of course. Still, he just shakes his head and looks away. 

He reaches out, takes Hutch’s bandaged up hand, gently, to make a point, and holds it up in front of Hutch’s eyes. “You were nearly murdered, too. And it wasn’t because a’you, it was because that hyped up whackjob sent that space case kid after you instead of getting him someplace that could help him. None of that is your fault.”

“I know, but—I just feel like—I should have been able to protect her!” Hutch says. Anger doesn’t feel much better than the numbness from before. “Damn it, Starsky, we’re cops, we protect the public! If we can’t protect our own girlfriends, our own families, then why are we doing any of this?” 

He slams his hand down on his knee, and pain spikes up his arm, and he winces, quieting his own tirade. 

“Because the ones we do protect still get protected,” Starsky says, shifting his weight, leaning in place like the weight’s landed on his shoulders just as much. “Besides, what would you do if you weren’t a cop, huh? Male escort?”

Hutch glares up at Starsky, but Starsky’s got a goofy, hopeful grin on his face that makes Hutch crack up, in spite of himself. 

“Starsk…” he tries sternly, and then sighs. “Well, since you seem to need a male escort, I’ll go with you to dinner.” 

“That sounds promising,” Starsky says, stepping back and closing the door at last before he slips in behind the wheel. “As long as you’re not suggesting you’re gonna be my chaperone. I plan on eating a lot of ice cream to get over all this. You know, when that bomb went off, all I could hear was ringing in my ears and I’m pretty sure my heart stopped, partner.”

“It was just a shotgun shell, partner. I’m fine,” Hutch says. Starsky’s concern does touch him, and helps him feel a bit less sorry for himself. 

He remembers how Starsky was right there with him, after the shell in his car, after Abby was hurt, and after Abby dumped him. He reaches across the seat to pat Starsky’s thigh. “I’m sorry I worried you.” 

“Of course I was worried, you don’t have to be sorry about it,” Starsky says, covering Hutch’s hand with his own. He puts the car in gear and pulls out from the parking lot, guiding the car back toward Hutch’s new place. He’s still getting used to that, but if Starsky takes them to a different corner of the Venice district this time, it’s not because he’s on autopilot to Hutch’s old bungalo. “So I figure we get some of those fish tacos, right? They made me feel so much better after my hospital stay, I figure they gotta be some kind of cure-all. That sound OK, buddy?” 

“Yeah. Kinda does, actually,” Hutch says, and then frowns. “You know I—I kind of want, ah. I haven’t had a double-cheeseburger since—”

Abby had even weirder food rules than he did, so he had been basically vegan while dating her, except for when necessity demanded he refuel with less than perfectly healthy fare. Maybe something like a double-cheeseburger would be a good way to...miss her less. But now they weren’t even dating and she was still influencing what he ate. “No, you know what, I’m not hungry, Starsk. Wherever you want to go is fine.” 

“Hey, the man wants a double cheeseburger,” Starsky says. “The man’s gonna get one. What do I look like, a stingy partner? I just so happen to know a place right near here that’ll knock your socks off.”

He takes an adept left, and they find themselves at a little hole in the wall place, but it has a flat top grill and the man at the counter doesn’t speak any English, but he and Starsky work something out based on prior understanding and the man puts four burgers and a hefty order of very fresh rustic fries into a paper bag for them, which Starsky passes over before they return to the Torino. “So. Your place, my place, or some other place?”

“I don’t...Starsky, you don’t have to do all this to cheer me up. You should just let me mope. I’m not going to be much fun,” Hutch says, trying to hold onto the bags with one hand. It smells both amazing and nauseating. 

“You’re never fun,” Starsky reminds him. “I’m the fun one, you’re the pretty one.”

“Ha,” Hutch says, but he does blush a little.

Starsky couldn’t just let Hutch mope his way through this alone, what kind of person would he be? Besides, maybe he’s hoping, and this is selfish and a little unhealthy, but after months of  losing most of Hutch’s attention to Abby, they might get a little time together at last that’s just them. So he heads to his place, because that’s probably less full of memories for Hutch, and because Starsky likes his waterbed better, if Hutch is going to be miserable, anyway. 

Hutch is a little surprised to find that they’ve arrived at Starsky’s house, but then he’s not actually surprised: Starsky knows Hutch can’t kick him out of his own house. 

He lets Starsky guide him up the stairs, and by then, smelling all the food has changed his mind about eating. He tries to be helpful, going to the fridge for beers. He drinks one in front of the fridge, and brings one back for each of them, sits, and goes straight for the fries. 

“Oh, God,” he moans, when he bites into them, still hot, “these are better than sex.” 

“Just the right level of hot,” Starsky agrees, dipping one in ketchup and popping it in his mouth as he settles down on the couch. “Wait until you try the burger.”

It’s just as good as the fries, and Starsky nudges a second one toward Hutch as he finishes the first, eating his own with a knowing expression that says he knows just how good they are. Maybe they’re greasy and likely to kill you quicker than all that vegan fare, but Starsky thinks everybody should indulge now and again. Besides, there were worse vices, after a bad breakup. 

“Okay,” Starsky says, popping open his own beer. “We got tomorrow off, so you are now free to drown your sorrows and we can watch terrible movies here on the couch until we fall asleep. Or, if you don’t wanna think about things, we can play a board game. I got Dungeon!, Stratego, Cluedo…”

Hutch laughs, since he’s two beers in and working on a third. “What is ‘Dungeon!’? That sounds kinky. Any chance you got any chocolate ice cream?” 

“I mean, it’s not really that kinky,” Starsky says, getting up to get the box down, and pass it to Hutch to let him have a look at it. “And of course I got chocolate ice cream. What kind of degenerate do you think I’ve become? Two big bowls of chocolate ice cream coming right up.”

If Starsky pours a little chocolate syrup and a little bit of irish cream on top, too, well, they’re not going anywhere. “I figure that dungeon game is right up your alley. You know, the whole Lord of the Rings thing, I guess. They told me they had a game based on that, but there were five armies and it looked really complicated. In this you just smash monsters and explore stuff.”

Hutch laughs almost boyishly, and does his best to set up the game one-handed. He’s struggling to read the directions, though, and hopes Starsky knows how to play this game. 

“I want to be...I want to be this guy,” he says, picking a piece that looks like a wizard, in a long, mysterious cloak. He puts away the girl in a skimpy chain mail bikini. “No girls.” 

(He’s drunk and sad, he’s allowed to be a little juvenile.)

“You’re the big guy with all the muscles,” Hutch informs Starsky earnestly as he joins him again. He’s only slurring a very little bit. He giggles, “And the big sword.” 

“A superhero, okay,” Starsky says. “So, we gotta get uh, you gotta get thirty thousand treasure, and I gotta get twenty thousand treasure, by fighting monsters, see? And when we beat them, we get to take the treasure that’s under them. Easy peasy. Except if the monster wins, and then you roll snake eyes, you die and gotta start all over.”

Starsky winks at him, handing over the bowl of ice cream and balancing his own in his lap as he plops down next to Hutch and helps him set up the rest of the board. 

“I already rolled snake eyes today,” Hutch says, as if this means his luck is watertight. 

It isn’t, but Starsky lets him cheat, or at least lets his new character keep his previous character’s treasure when he does, of course, die. They laugh until they’re almost in tears, and eat their ice cream and drink more beer late into the night. Hutch ends up with his head in Starsky’s lap at the end of a laughing fit, and then gazes up at him adoringly. “Starsky, tell me. Are you just naturally such a good person, or did you learn it somewhere?” 

It’s an absurd question, but Hutch is utterly serious. 

“Hmm,” Starsky says, a little drunk himself by now and definitely feeling warm and comfortable, and he runs his fingertips lightly over Hutch’s skin, over his cheek, under his chin, leans down and kisses his forehead, even though it makes him dizzy and he has to lean back on the couch, after, both of them in a pile on it now. “Well I got, uh, I got good inspiration. But no, I wasn’t always. I guess I gotta thank my aunt and uncle out here, because as a kid I was bad news, right? Then I guess I just realized how much more the world opens up if you open up to the world.”

“Yeah,” Hutch says, a little misty-eyed. It’s sweet. Just like Starsky. Maybe Hutch should try opening up to the world a little more. 

Or, maybe, a little less. 

Starsky runs his fingers absently through Hutch’s hair, just soothing him. He knows it hasn’t exactly been a good day, and then, suddenly, he remembers something and yelps, surging up off the couch a little. From his back pocket he produces a now slightly bent stack of baseball cards, and sighs, tossing them onto the board game. “Ain’t that just the luck.”

Hutch is confused, then slowly realizes what’s wrong. “Oh! Oh no. Ohhh nooo. Hang on, hang on. You got a heavy book? Put it them under the book. Like pressing flowers. They’re still good, right? As long as you get enjoyment out of them. You’re not gonna sell ‘em, are you?” 

Sell them?” Starsky asks, scandalized. “Those are treasured childhood memories.”

He finds a dictionary to press them under, though, digging it out from under the coffee table where it’s been sitting dusty and unused, and sets it up on top of the cards before he slumps back on the couch, tangling up with Hutch. “And yeah they’re still good, I just probably shouldn’t lay around on ‘em anymore, right?”

“Right,” Hutch says brightly. “You should lay on me.”

He starfishes his arms out in an attempt to look sexy, and grins invitingly.

“Boy, you are drunk,” Starsky says, as if he hasn’t matched Hutch drink for drink, but he settles down on top of his partner anyway, fitting their bodies together like puzzle pieces so he can kiss the last tastes of chocolate and liquor out of Hutch’s mouth, and they can maybe rub on each other a little like teenagers. 

It's quick and sloppy, and when Hutch gets his hands down Starsky’s insanely tight pants he does consider, briefly, asking if this is okay and will it be okay with Andrea, but then he decides Starsky is a big boy and will stop things when he needs to. 

Then Hutch laser focuses on Starsky, on his cock, his ass, his chest and hair eyes and neck, his sweet nose and square jaw, his beauty marks and grin and tan lines, his biceps and Aphrodite’s saddle that is so well defined no matter how many burgers he eats. Hutch gets his hands all over him, greedy, hungry, starving, admitting to himself now how only Starsky can fill that void in his soul where the ‘mate’ part goes, and the more people he tries to fill it with the more Starsky-shaped that hole is going to get. 

If only he could admit this sober. 

They don’t have to slow down for this, and Starsky lets Hutch set the pace, though it means they both just get hands on each other and mostly through clothing, rubbing and shifting against each other until Starsky can almost feel the weave of Hutch’s jeans impressed on his skin and then it doesn’t matter anymore because they’re both finding release, drunk and sloppy and moaning into each other’s mouth and leaving wet spots on their jeans. Starsky doesn’t care.

He smiles at Hutch, sleepy and soft. “It’s good to have you back, huh? Not to make light of a heavy situation.”

“I know,” Hutch says, catching his breath. “I know what you mean.” 

He does know what Starsky means. It always feels good to be back with him, a relief somehow, no matter how much he loves whoever came before. He tells himself he’ll remember this the next time, but there always will be the next time. 

“Starsky, you’ve always got me, never mind ‘back.’” He rubs Starsky’s back gently, like he’s trying to comfort him, or relax him. “You’re my best friend. We spend, what, seventy-five, ninety percent of our time together?” 

“Well, yeah,” Starsky says, already utterly relaxed against Hutch’s chest. He sounds sleepy. “If I leave you alone too long with nothing but kale smoothies, you get indigestion of the personality.”

Hutch cups his cheeks and kisses him. “And I love you for it.” 

“Love you too, partner.”

Chapter Text

When Hutch cries, it’s a long time coming. 

Gillian’s death is horrific, unfair, but all deaths are in his line of work, it seems. He loved her, was serious about loving her, was committed to her—and Starsky had his thing with Nancy that was working out great, so Hutch didn’t even feel a niggling potential for distraction in the back of his mind. And Gillian loved him in return, and the more he learned about her, after her death, the more it hurt to know how dangerous loving him was for her. 

“I really love you,” she had said. “No matter what happens, I love you.” 

He had stupidly replied, “Nothing’s going to happen.” 

He hadn’t started dating her that long after Abby left him—and left him for a thousand good reasons—how soon he started dating Gillian after her being one of them. He’d maybe never really grieved that loss, either. Like he never really grieved for Jack, his high school fling who was a walking dead man before they were ever reunited. 

And finding out about her real job after her death, when he’s raw and devastated already, doesn’t help. He’ll realize later that he doesn’t care, that he shouldn’t care, that many of his friends are sex workers, but in the moment he lets it get to him, and he just feels sad and betrayed and alone. 

Alone, except for Starsky. 

Starsky doesn’t know what to do about it; about the tears, about the whole rotten situation, so he does the best he can. Maybe Hutch would rather anyone else be holding him right now, especially given that Starsky had been the one with the bad news, which…now that he was bruising up from tangling with Hutch earlier, he wonders if he should have let it sit until a better time. Then again, better Hutch hear it from Starsky than anybody else. He pulls Hutch into his arms anyway, stiff and careful, to give him someplace to put his tears. It’s not fair, it’s all too much too fast, Starsky thinks. 

He holds onto Hutch like he could shield him from the world, even beyond when the coroner’s team comes in, and he can usher Hutch out into the hall, someplace safe, where he doesn’t have to look at anything for a little while. 

Hutch has mostly cried himself out, though he starts up again, bawling like a baby when they bring her body through. He wants them to wait, wants to hold her again, like her body mattered now she wasn’t in it anymore. He hangs onto Starsky again, fists seized up in his jacket, and cries until he feels empty. 

They bring out her personal effects, give Hutch her purse in a plastic bag. Hutch manages to let go of Starsky enough to take it. But opening the bag wafts the smell of her perfume at him, and Hutch shuts it again, feeling sick. He can’t do this now. He sits up a little, wipes his eyes. “We’ve got some work to do,” Starsky had said. 

He turns to Starsky now. “Where is Grossman?” 

When Grossman is lying at the bottom of the stairs with what looks like a broken arm, Hutch considers breaking his other arm, at least. Part of him wishes the fight weren't over, that Grossman would leave him no choice but to kill him. Maybe a part of Hutch even wants a chance to have been shot himself, put out of his misery. 

A long way away from the guy who froze up in the alleyway and almost got himself and his partner killed. 

He doesn't trust himself to cuff Grossman, so Starsky does it. And then his adrenaline crashes, leaving him shaky and empty and with time to think. Hutch is almost crying again before the uniforms get to the theatre to take care of Grossman and his thugs.

“Hey,” Starsky says, knowing they’re both in for it for real, now. This is too close, too soon after Abby, and the whole thing is gonna scab over bad, like an infected wound. He touches Hutch at the elbow, as they both watch the uniforms scoop Grossman up over his protestations. At least the damn skinflick had stopped running sometime in the interim, and Starsky wants nothing more than to go upstairs and unspool the whole film, but he doubts that it's the only copy. “Hey, come on, partner. Where do you need to go? What do you need?”

Hutch makes a manic sound halfway between a sob and a laugh. What does he need? 

“What do I need?! I need my girlfriend to not be dead, Starsk! I need her to not have been working for this slimeball! I need to not be the last person to know about these things, Starsky!” Starsky is only trying to help, of course, but Hutch can’t make himself see it from that side. Instead he gets half-hysterical before Starsky drags him out, and by then he’s sobbing, again , but it doesn’t last long this time. 

“I need—” he tries again, more calmly, and he touches Starsky’s cheek gingerly, hurting for a new reason this time, as he maps the bruise forming on Starsky’s jaw. He laughs wetly: “I need to work on my right hook, apparently.” 

“Well, I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Starsky grumbles. 

It’s a joke, if a lame one, and they both put in an effort to laugh that sounds like they’re just breathing out in unison. Hutch finally speaks: “I’m sorry.” 

“You don’t have to be,” Starsky says, feeling sorry enough for both of them. He’d liked Gillian. Liked the way she was devoted, liked all the things she seemed to be and probably really was, around being stuck in that terrible position. “I’da hit you too, if you tried to tell me what I told you. I should have kept my big mouth shut, huh?”

Hutch just shakes his head. 

Starsky sits Hutch down against the back fender of his car, and then sits down next to him, putting his hands on it. “I’m sorry, too, partner.” 

They sit like that for what could have been a few minutes or a few hours, and Hutch finds himself wanting to list against Starsky, to bury his face in that leather jacket and—not cry, he’s done crying, probably—but just process this. Turns out he can’t do anything without Starsky, apparently, and he wonders vaguely when Starsky will be done with him, decide he’s too much work. Lately Hutch feels like a snot-nosed kid brother to Starsky, who keeps trying to prove he’s something and keeps getting slapped back for it. 

“Can...can we take care of this all—all this—tomorrow?” he ventures. “I want to go home.” 

After he thinks about it, Hutch amends, “Can we go to your place?” 

“I thought you’d never ask,” Starsky says, in his best Humphrey Bogart impression, which is as terrible as it’s always been. He pops the passenger door open for Hutch, letting him sit down while he goes and has a chat with the uniforms about where they’ll be, and how they’ll come in and give statements tomorrow, though the rest of the evidence is so strong it’s not like they’re in any danger of not having enough to convict this guy on. 

With all that set up, Starsky settles back in, drops himself into the driver’s seat and maybe does a little meditation for a couple seconds. This time, he doesn’t think even he wants dinner, but probably they should have something to eat. As he drives to the pizza place, Starsky reaches out, puts his hand in Hutch’s. 

Hutch actually has to take a steadying breath to keep from crying again, just at that gentle display of affection. He’s embarrassed that he’s so fragile, but he squeezes Starsky’s hand in return, like it’s a lifeline. 

When they pull up to the pizza place, Hutch has managed to get control of his voice, and get a ten out of his wallet. “Get whatever you like, and I’m buying, but I’m gonna wait in the car, okay?” 

“Yeah, that’s okay, partner,” Starsky says, giving Hutch’s fingers a squeeze. Hutch’s eyes are red and his whole face looks puffy, and Starsky doesn’t blame him for wanting a little privacy. “I won’t be more than fifteen minutes, alright?”

“Alright,” Hutch confirms, instinctively, like they’re at work, still. It’s funny how hard it is to go from a working relationship to a friendly one. Hutch doesn’t think they separate it out. Sure, they’ll be mad at each other sometimes, and still manage to work together. But they love and trust each other the same on and off duty. 

It’s that, oddly, that strengthens Hutch to reach under the seat and pull out the bag with Gillian’s purse in it. He’ll have to go through it tomorrow, cold and detached, with an officer’s eye, and he doesn’t think he can do it without a practice run. 

The usual feminine items greet him: lipstick, powder, a small comb and a tampon. He braces himself to go through her wallet, but survives seeing her picture in her ID—and his picture, tucked safely behind it—with only a few silent tears that he pinches away. There are a few credit cards in Grossman’s name that will be useful for the case, and an awful lot of cash. At the bottom of the purse there’s an envelope that feels equally full, but Hutch stops when he sees the handwriting. 

Starsky is back by the promised time, with a pizza so hot it’s almost uncomfortable to hold through the box, in the basic pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom configuration that they usually compromise on. 

Hutch can’t take the pizza, as he normally does, because his hand is holding an envelope. A plain brown envelope that Starsky recognizes. 

Starsky puts his eyes on it, and looks immediately regretful, then sighs. He puts the pizza carefully on the back seat, and braces himself. Maybe Hutch will understand, maybe he won’t. “I brought it to her so she could start up her shop. You know, the one she was always talking about. I thought, uh. I thought if she got a fresh start, maybe somewhere else, then when you found out she’d be away from it, and it wouldn’t be so bad.”

He keeps his expression guarded, apologetic. “It was stupid of me. You know, she said she knew just how I felt about you. Like she saw straight through me.”

“Starsky,” Hutch says, unsure where to start. “There’s over fifteen-hundred dollars here.”

“Yeah,” Starsky  puts his head down on the steering wheel between his hands. He has to close his eyes to hold back a few tears himself. He’d liked her, and maybe she’d only known Starsky a few weeks but she’d seen right through him. “It was dumb, Hutch, I’m sorry.”

“You were trying to—buy her out, right? Help her get out from under Grossman?” Hutch says. It’s a reasonable guess. Maybe, if he’d been angrier, he might have assumed Starsky had been trying to buy her , but that’s a lot of money for any prostitute. “Instead of—telling me—instead of betraying her trust, you—you trusted her with— Starsky .”

Now Hutch is in tears again, amazed. “You really did like her.” 

“Of course I liked her,” Starsky says. “I thought if she could get out of all this, and she… went someplace and was happy, you could be happy, and maybe, I don’t know. It would all work out. Nobody’d have to deal with any consequences. And you know what she said to me when I told her she had to tell you, instead of cussing me out like she had a full right to do? She said that we both loved you so much, it was amazing.”

Now Starsky leans over, and for a moment they both just grip each other, creaking leather jackets and bending their heads together for strength. 

Hutch is still crying, though it’s just tears now: he’s too tired to sob. “You...you asked her to tell me?” 

Hutch pieces things together: Starsky saw her in the massage parlor, but if Huggy was in on it, Starsky had certainly done his homework before going to see her . He let it be her decision, while still being there for him. 

Neither of them deserved Starsky. 

“How’d I get so lucky, Starsk? To have two people love me so much? What’d I do to deserve that, huh?”  

Starsky actually laughs a little, a low, wry chuckle. “She said the same thing, almost the same exact words. I don’t know that it’s luck , partner. Maybe just that there’s too much of you for any one person to handle, right?”

Hutch isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at that, so he grabs Starsky’s face and kisses him, a desperate, needy kiss, holding his bruised cheek gingerly. He draws back almost as abruptly.

Starsky just gives Hutch a solid thump between the shoulder blades, and then sits back into his seat, rubs his hands over his face. “Anyway, the pizza’s getting cold. We’d better go drink something before we both shrivel up like prunes from dehydration.”

Hutch can’t manage more than a smile at that, but he does smile. 

The drive to Starsky’s is quiet and relaxing. Hutch is more resigned and tired now than sad, and he leaves Gillian’s purse under the seat, but takes the envelope full of money up to Starsky’s apartment. It’s his, after all. 

Starsky puts the pizza on the counter, then stretches out, rubbing his eyes again. He’s not sure he’s hungry, yet, but it’s there when one of them wants it. He tosses his coat on top of Hutch’s on the couch, and then just hugs him tight, hangs on for a while. He doesn’t know what to say, anyway. 

Hutch holds Starsky, trying not to think, but of course his brain won’t shut off and he imagines what losing Starsky like he’s just lost Gillian would do to him, and he squeezes tighter, nearly crushing him. They’re just standing there, in the middle of the house, holding each other, and neither of them wants to move. 

They don’t move, for long minutes, like too much feeling is slowing them down. Finally, Hutch takes a breath and loosens his grip. “You—you know, you should eat something.” 

“I will if you will,” Starsky says, but he lets go of Hutch anyway, and goes to fish a piece of now-cooling pizza out of the box. 

Hutch isn’t hungry, but he does get himself a glass of water. He doesn’t even want a beer. He’s numb enough. He drains the glass in one go, like he really had dehydrated himself crying, and then refills it. “And—and then maybe we could go to bed?” 

Starsky, chewing his pizza, thinks that’s a good option. Maybe it’s not the best or the healthiest or anything like that, but it felt good when they were together, when they could have each other close and make each other feel good at least the easy way. “Yeah, partner, I’d like that.”

Hutch, feeling better once this is decided, even picks up a slice of pizza, and even eats most of it, though he leaves the crust. He doesn’t even mean to bed, like sex, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Except that maybe he wants it to hurt, on some level he’s maybe just tired enough to admit. 

Hutch knows that tonight Starsky would agree to anything, and it makes him both worried he'll take advantage of his kindness and perfectly happy to do so. Hutch wants to be used, though he knows he'll be using Starsky to chase that feeling. Hutch begins to see the appeal of a hooker: for when you want something you can't ask your wife for. 

When they finish their pizza in more or less companionable silence, Starsky washes his hands in the sink, pours them each a neat whiskey, tosses back his own and then kisses the taste out of Hutch’s mouth as he backs Hutch toward the bedroom, step by step. “Whatever you need, okay?”

The whiskey was a good idea, as it immediately goes to Hutch's head and makes him brave enough to curl his fingers loosely in Starsky’s lapels and tell him, almost beg him, “I need to stop thinking.” 

His fingers curl a little tighter, and he can't quite look Starsky in the eye. “Don't be gentle, please .”

Gentle reminded him too much of her.

There’s a vulnerability in the request that makes Starsky glad Hutch had come to him with it, instead of going out and trying to find someone else, because Starsky both understands it, and knows he’s not going to go overboard. He shoves Hutch backward, hands tangled up in his shirt until he can drop Hutch on the waterbed hard enough to slosh the whole thing around. “You got it.”

He gives Hutch a toothy grin, digging in one of the drawers under his bedside table to come up with a length of rope. “I learned a couple tricks from Nancy, you wanna see?”

Hutch actually splutters with laughter, the intensity of the mood stalling out. 

Nancy? ” She was nice and all, and Starsky seemed happy with her, but, “No offense, but she didn't strike me as—” having half the brain for rope tricks even I couldn't figure out, Hutch thinks, but doesn’t say, “type.”

“Yeah, you’d think that,” Starsky says, with a half shrug. He pulls Hutch’s button up shirt off first, then his shoes, then takes his time peeling Hutch’s jeans off, because it’ll make this all easier if he’s naked.

Starsky starts at Hutch’s wrists, as one might any old day, casually leaving another loop at the foot of the bed as he gets everything arranged. When Hutch’s wrists are tied, comfortably enough that they won’t lose circulation, Starsky gives Hutch a little shrug. “She’s got creativity where it counts.”

“That’s—” Hutch starts to say, then “Whoa!” 

Hutch yelps as Starsky yanks the loop forward, entangling Hutch’s ankles expertly and then securing them to his wrists so his body’s curled up and these two points are tied together. Starsky grins at him, bright, victorious. “Like roping a calf, right?”

In spite of himself and how ridiculous and vulnerable he feels, Hutch laughs, a real laugh this time, and can even respond in kind: “Knew there was a country boy under there.” 

Hutch begins to relax, almost shutting down, in a way, as Starsky takes over. “Nancy teach you this? You tie her up, too?” 

He chuckles softly, but his mind is wandering. Starsky pushes him onto his side, cinching the end of the rope up around a solid anchor point on the headboard, and then curling in behind Hutch, after a brief pause to rummage around in the night stand. “No, dummy, what do I look like?”

Starsky rubs roughly down over Hutch’s sides, massaging his ass for a moment in his tough hands and feeling how smooth Hutch is there, and then down along the tension in his thighs, tickling just enough to tense him up before he works slick fingers down the well-presented crease of his ass and quits teasing, pressing for entry. “She ties me up.”

Hutch blushes, both at the admission and at Starsky’s rough manhandling of him. He’s always surprised by Starsky’s strength, though he shouldn’t be anymore. “Yeah? You like it that way?” 

Fixed to the headboard like this, Hutch can’t do much more than squirm, and he grunts softly as Starsky begins to finger him. His brain ramps up on the thinking it was trying not to do, and he wonders again if this is a good idea. Maybe Starsky doesn’t get anything out of this, he thinks (despite a long sexual history with his partner to the contrary), if Nancy does the tying up? Maybe he is just using Starsky, again, as usual. For that matter, for how many films or how many people did Gillian put on a leather corset and boots and tie people up—how many people used her?... 

Starsky can almost feel Hutch thinking too much, and he rakes the nails of his free hand up Hutch’s back hard enough to leave marks. He decides he’s going to make tomorrow a turtleneck day for Hutch, sinking his teeth into Hutch’s neck. “ She likes it that way, and usually letting people get what they’re enthusiastic for really works for me, huh?”

He hooks his fingers forward, stretching and rubbing the pads of them over Hutch’s prostate after a couple of near misses, and then sinks his teeth in Hutch’s other shoulder just to feel him tense up and bear down (and distract him, too, which is what Starsky is supposed to be doing). 

Whatever Starsky is doing works : at first Hutch feels bad and stupid for even thinking that, but the sudden sting of pain distracts as much as it punishes—and being punished feels good right now. The jolt his prostate sends to the tip of his cock is enough to chase any further thinking from his head, and Hutch tries to clamp down on the cry that almost escapes. He doesn’t want Starsky to think this is hurting him, he wants more

“Starsk—” he gasps, and leans into the bite, opening up his shoulder and baring his neck for it. His limbs jerk, but the knots are good, and he doesn’t feel so ridiculous or pathetic or stupid anymore, even like this. It’s kind of hard to think of himself as much of anything that doesn’t begin and end with Starsky, right now. “ Yeah .”  

And Starsky has enough of a sense for when Hutch drops down under, lets himself get wrapped up, and Starsky does his best to keep him there, between his teeth and the moments it takes Starsky to get a condom on before he eases his hips in behind Hutch’s. He pushes in while Hutch is still only half stretched, but takes his time with it, hands firm on Hutch’s hips. It’s almost tighter than expected, with Hutch’s ankles tied together and while he’s on his side, and Starsky groans, digs his nails into skin. Normally, he’d ask a question, but that’d require Hutch to think enough to answer, to be aware enough to answer, so instead he assumes control and pays attention; keeps himself sharp to what Hutch’s body is doing.

When Hutch moans and rounds himself into it and tries to push back, Starsky lets him have it. Rough and deep, though being on their sides doesn’t do him a lot of favors in leverage, it’s enough. Enough that every time Hutch starts to relax, Starsky leaves a new line of pink marks somewhere on his skin with his nails, or finds a different place to put his teeth. 

At some point Starsky works noises out of him, the last thing he lets go of, and then Starsky can play him like an instrument with a range of groans, cries, and yelps. It hurts, yes, it’s rough, and Hutch isn’t sure he’s going to be able to walk straight tomorrow, but this is exactly what he needs right now. Why he needs it, he can’t quite remember, which is exactly why. Muscles strain and sweaty hair clings to his neck, and Hutch goes red and sweaty with exertion, his cock, as yet untouched, even redder against his belly. His brain is anchored to his body, unable to wander, too focused on each burst of pain and pleasure, indiscriminately, and everything just ratchets up and up and up. He’s mostly past the use of words, but “Starsky,” and “please,” and “yes,” “fuck,” “harder,” “I love you,” make their way out of him. 

When Hutch comes, just from Starsky’s heavy cock wrecking his prostate, the pleasure blooms into comfortable numbness. He almost—if he had use of his mind, or memory—remembers what heroin feels like. That sensation of floating through a world that he’s above, knowing nothing matters, and it’s okay, is familiar. He’s a kite, and if there’s one thin string tethering Hutch to the ground, its name is David Starsky. 

Starsky has to catch his breath, to let go all his tensed muscles before he finally gets to release but it’s just as sweet to reach it pushed as deep as he can go and feeling Hutch catching his breath, before he gets one arm under Hutch’s head to pillow his cheek, and wraps the other around his chest, now soft and easy, kissing over the forming marks on the back of Hutch’s neck. 

“Love you too, buddy,” Starsky says, and he means it. “You wanna clean up or should I leave you tied in case we wanna play rodeo again?”

Hutch laughs a little, a tired, easy sound, and shakes his head. His breaths have gone slow and shallow, into perfect, meditative calm. Words are still too much, and he makes a noncommittal noise as he buries his face against Starsky’s arm. Preferences are still too much; as long as Starsky stays with him, he doesn’t care. And ‘not caring’ is right where he wants to be.  

Starsky reaches out to pull the loop on the tie, and the elaborate setup around Hutch’s wrists and ankles unravels slowly, releasing him at last into Starsky’s warm grip. He pat’s Hutch’s hip, thinking now about how unfair the last few months have been to his partner. To everyone, really. He pulls a blanket over both of them, and while Hutch sleeps deep, breathing even, Starsky thinks about how to keep Hutch above the water line until all this plays out.

They both sleep like the dead, and Hutch wakes to the sounds of birds and traffic and sizzling bacon. He pulls Starsky’s arm tighter around him, and wonders idly who is cooking breakfast. 

He sits up suddenly, and shakes Starsky, who is still dead asleep. “Starsk. Starsky! Someone’s in your kitchen!” 

“Oh,” Starsky says, unconcerned and not fully awake. He drags himself up because Hutch’s tone is urgent enough to suggest he should do that, and he has the forethought to pull on some boxer shorts before he heads out into the kitchen to investigate the good smells of breakfast. “Nancy, good morning.”

“Davey!” she greets, enthusiastically, maybe politely ignoring how Hutch follows with a gun and the sheets gathered at his hips for modesty. She just looks happy to see them.  “Ken! I just thought I’d come by and do breakfast, after all that yesterday. You guys had a good round of Parcheesi, huh?” 

Hutch chokes, mainly because his mouth had been gaping open collecting saliva in surprise. “Puh-parcheesi?” 

Nancy giggles, glancing down, and Hutch realizes he’s not wearing anything. He’s also sore as hell, and covered in bite and scratch marks—there’s no question what last night had entailed, but Nancy doesn’t bat an eye. 

She’s a nice girl, Hutch decides, when he has retreated into the bedroom to put something on. A little odd, but very sweet. He doesn’t feel he deserves it, but he’s happy to accept it. 

“Dave,” Nancy says, putting an arm around Starsky as she fries turkey bacon—she does like to keep Kosher, anyway, even if Starsky doesn’t care—and kissing his jaw. “Is Hutch gonna be okay?” 

Starsky frowns down at it, clearly wishing it was real bacon, but he’ll accept the substitute if he has to, especially if he doesn’t have to cook it. He slings his arm around Nancy’s middle, companionably. “I think so. Especially if he’s got you and me keeping an eye on him, right?”

“You bet!” she grins. “Do we want waffles or pancakes?”

“Pancakes; thanks, kid.” Starsky leaves Nancy with a kiss on the cheek and goes to get at least a pair of pants on, before he slips past Hutch in the bathroom to brush his teeth. 

Hutch has decided his clothes from yesterday still smell too much like Gillian, so after rinsing off in the shower, he dresses in Starsky’s bathrobe. 

“So, Nancy. She’s...she does know we…?” Hutch coughs. 

“Yeah she figured it out pretty quick,” Starsky tells Hutch, giving him a companionable pat on the ass that says he appreciates the way his bathrobe looks on Hutch. “But if she didn’t, she would now, huh?”

Starsky prods lightly at a bruise low on Hutch’s neck, in the shape of his own teeth. “That okay, partner? She’s fine with this, since she’s not fixing for a serious relationship until she finds a Capricorn with ascending Jupiter.”

“She is something. Sweet, though.” Hutch huffs, leaning into Starsky. “A ditz in the streets, a freak in the sheets, right?” 

“Gee, it’s like I have a type or something,” Starsky says, deadpan, until Hutch’s eyes flash, and then Starsky gives him a brilliant grin, all mischief. “I can think of at least one other person in my life who fits that description.”

Chapter Text

It’s a going away party, but in relatively good spirits. They’ve talked things over, all admitted it was for the best for their futures, and Starsky at least, has promised to keep in touch with Laura while she studies in Paris. 

“So, Hutch tells me you’ve got a whole new assignment, Paco,” Starsky calls, as he watches Hutch and Paco move in the kitchen, and thinks they are a good set together. Starsky can appreciate that without even a little jealousy. Of course it helps that Laura is gorgeous, and Paco’s about to exit their lives for the foreseeable future. “I hope it treats you well, you’re a damn fine detective.”

“Ohh,” Paco says, with great feeling. He puts his hand over his heart, which is a sweet gesture except he's holding the chile spoon and chile splatters everywhere. “Starsky, you are too good to me. Gracias. I hope your are going to look after this gringo for me, huh?”

“Hey, who you calling gringo, cabrón?” Hutch replies, bumping Paco with his hip as he brings a cutting board full of sliced limes to the table. 

“You, since it’s accurate,” Starsky laughs at Hutch, one arm slung companionably over Laura’s shoulders.

“Ooh, are we doing shots?” Laura asks,  already pouring herself a shot of tequila. 

Hutch and Starsky exchange a look. Yeah, she probably needs some place more exciting than Bay City. 

Then Paco shouts something in Spanish, and Hutch answers rapidly before going back to the kitchen to work the oven. Paco has been living here for over a month, but still makes Hutch handle the oven. It’s one of those things that Hutch finds adorable only because they'd only been sleeping together for a few weeks. Probably good that he's leaving, on some level, as much as Hutch likes the guy. 

When they all settle down for dinner, Starsky enjoys the feeling of family that it brings, even though they’re about to all part ways. It’s just the sort of amicable parting that he treasures, anyway. The sort that doesn’t really end anything, just changes the way things are. 

“Alright, a toast,” he says, though Laura’s already two shots down. “To the future, to the past, and to us, right?”

“Oh, I like it,” Laura says. “Salud!”

Starsky digs in, hoping Paco is leaving his recipes behind. 

“Starsky,” Laura says, all of a sudden. “Are you wearing those sneakers again?”

“Sure,” he says, grinning. “What if I need to chase somebody?”

“That’s why we need you to stick around, Laura,” Hutch says, letting Paco prop his recovering leg up on his lap. “Until your fashion advice sinks in.” 

Laura sighs, running a hand through Starsky’s hair. “I think he’ll always be a work in progress. That’s part of his charm, isn’t it? And yours, too.”

If she looks accusingly at Hutch’s slightly worn out shirt, Starsky laughs. “That’s not even his worst one.”

“Hey!” Hutch cries indignantly, but they ignore him, and Paco, in his designer polo, laughs.

“I know,” she says, because she does. “Anyway, I wish I could stay, but I start my apprenticeship with Yves next week, and while I’ve loved the slow, lackadaisical way you do things here in Bay City, it doesn’t do to be late to opportunity, now does it?”

“‘Course not,” Starsky says. “I’m proud of you.”

“Slow?!” Paco laughs. “I'm hoping for a more relaxing time in the FBI!” 

Hutch squeezes his shoulder. Though he's sad he'll be shipped off to Langley for training, then who knows where for reassignment, he's proud of Paco. 

After the cheese melts and grills on the plate of enchiladas, Hutch gets up to bring the hot dish to the table. By then they're all several margaritas and a whole dish of guacamole in, but everyone is still hungry. 

“Oh,” Laura moans, “If I don't fit into my clothes when I get to France, I'm sending you a bill.”

“Send it to Paco,” Starsky says. “Hutch isn’t normally this good of a cook.”

Starsky honestly thinks this is probably the best double-date they’ve had in a while. Since Nancy found her Capricorn, and Hutch had that whole mess of bad happenstance earlier in the year, this feels good. Level. He’s sorry it’s over, but glad at least that it’s over for good reasons. 

At the end of the night, Starsky says goodbye to Laura with a chaste kiss on the cheek, and a long hug, wishing her a good flight to Paris, and seeing her into the cab to get her safely home.  “Have a safe flight, and think of me whenever you see ugly sneakers.”

She laughs, and Starsky is charmed all over again, and then she’s gone with a flight in the morning. 

Paco’s cab comes a little bit later for him: he has an overnight flight to Langley. 

“Hey, Starsky,” Paco says, squeezing Starsky in a big bear hug and kissing his cheek. “You look after Hutch for me, and take care of yourself , too, muchacho.”  

Starsky returns the hug earnestly, with a hearty thump to Paco’s shoulders. “Thanks for fixing him up for me, amigo. Break a leg at Langley, man. You’re gonna make the whole Bureau more respectable.”

He’s going to miss Paco, and not only because he was so good for Hutch. It was hard not to like the guy.

“I already broke the leg,” Paco laughs, “or got shot, anyway. Surely this counts?” 

A honk from below summons him, and Paco goes to the door and picks up his bags. There’s a moment of hesitation when Hutch stands in front of him, and then Paco drops his bags and cups Hutch’s face with his hands. He kisses him sweetly, once, and whispers something to him in Spanish. 

Hutch is left with a dopey smile on his face as Paco limps out to the cab. 

Starsky slides a sidelong look at him, smiling too, arms crossed over his chest. “He was one to take home to your mama, huh?”

When Hutch looks at him to answer, Starsky uncrosses his arms and swings his free hand to swat Hutch on the butt enough to sting. He doesn’t really want an answer to that question, but he does intend to see to the request Paco made and take care of Hutch. 

“Ow!” Hutch yelps, hand covering the offended area. “Actually, he said the same thing about you.” 

He’d said a bit more than that, actually, but it made Hutch blush to think about it; it hit a little too close to home. 

“If you help me with the dishes, I’ll let you have enchiladas for breakfast,” Hutch offers, not quite able to meet Starsky’s eye. 

“I was gonna help you anyway, but now that you sweetened the deal I can hardly say no,” Starsky says, bumping Hutch hip to hip. “Wash or dry?”

“I’ll dry,” Hutch says. “You put my dishes weird places.” 

They talk about cleanup and work until they settle into a routine of quiet work. They’ve always been able to spend time together not even talking, just being there, but tonight Hutch feels the need to fill the silence. “So...you doing okay?” 

“Well, how about you?” Starsky turns the question around back to Hutch, scrubbing the dishes gamely like he’d promised he would. He even takes the extra time to scrub all the cheese off the enchilada plates before rinsing them and passing them to Hutch. “You need cheering up?”

“No, I don't need —” Hutch begins, and then realizes that comes across as insulting either way. “I mean…”

He doesn't know what he means, and loses himself in thought, drying dishes and putting them away in the wrong places. “Do you ever think we...ah, forget about it.”

Starsky looks at him with a twinkle in his eye, rolling one shoulder up in a shrug. “Partner, no matter what you’re about to say, I’m sure we’ve done it at least once. I mean, I’d be hard pressed to come up with something we haven’t at least tried .”

He passes Hutch the last dish, and then takes the dish towel from Hutch when he’s done drying it to dry his own hands after draining and rinsing the sink. 

Hutch sighs, a bit relieved at Starsky's assumption. Sex is easy for them. 

Paco had hit too near the mark without knowing it, and Hutch at least wasn't ready to deal with it. 

“You're right,” Hutch laughs, on the edge of teasing, but at the same time very serious. “It's convenient when our partners leave us on the very same night. Need me to comfort you?”

“If you’re offering,” Starsky says, with a grin. “I think we can call it mutual comforting, right?”

Starsky pulls Hutch into his arms, pushing him back against his own counter with a smile that suggests he’s glad to have Hutch at least partially back to himself. Honestly it’s starting to seem like longer and longer, every time they date other people, even though the actual amount of time they usually date them for is about the same. He kisses Hutch with the relief that he can again, slow and sweet and long, like a welcome home. 

Hutch finds his mind wandering through the kiss as Paco’s words of goodbye come back to him: 

“¿Usted y él?”

“Por despecho,” Hutch said, with a bit of a laugh, and Paco’s eyes darkened. 

“No, no, mi amigo. Yo soy de segundo plato. Él es el primer plato.

Hutch blinks when Starsky pulls back from the kiss, and he realizes he wasn't giving it his all. Whatever else Starsky was, he was here now. He smiles. “Yeah, I could go for some mutual comfort.”

Hutch lifts Starsky up, palming his ass, and carries him off to the bedroom, laughing. Starsky is so dense, surprisingly heavy, and always surprisingly strong, so it's a fun challenge to wrestle his clothes off in between kisses and teasing tickles and pinches. 

Starsky could make it easy for him, but he doesn’t, instead wrestling Hutch, not for control but just to mess around. Until they’re both laughing and half undressed, with their clothes gone inside-out in every which way direction, and Starsky has his legs wrapped around Hutch’s waist, squeezing to hang on. 

He loves it when Hutch takes control, loves it when Hutch gives it up. Today, Starsky eventually lets Hutch have his way, but not before they’re both sweating a little, all warm from wrestling around and Starsky’s already pretty hard from just the contact. “I feel better already.”

“Me, too,” Hutch agrees, grinning, and in this moment, utterly content. He finally works Starsky out of his underwear and gets a hand on his cock, leaning down to kiss-bite his lips. 

“I like when I get you all to myself,” he hums, “after someone’s had their hands all over you. You smell like another woman’s perfume.”

Hutch laughs. “Is that a kink?” 

Starsky laughs, too, running his hands over Hutch’s back, and just watching his face, the way it changes when he gets a hand on Hutch in kind, loving how he feels when he’s so close, and how he looks when he’s happy and just starting to give himself over to pleasure. “I guess it could be. I never took you for the kinky type, but I guess I know better now.”

“If you didn’t know by now, boy...” Hutch says, pressing a hand flat on Starsky’s chest and leaning over him to grab lube and condoms—they’re already out, just sitting on the nightstand—and getting them both rubbered up. 

Starsky rolls his hips up so their cocks slide together in a smooth, slow rhythm that leaves both of them breathing a little faster. “I guess I got the good end of the deal, in that case. He had better taste in cologne than you do.”

“Ha,” Hutch says, leaving a love-bite on Starsky’s neck. He lubes his fingers and begins teasing his way toward Starsky’s hole, kissing him sloppily all across his face and neck. “You smell like—a lady . Gives a man certain urges, you know.” 

“Urges?” Starsky asks, mock innocent, and a little breathless. He hikes his hips up a little, making things easier for both of them, as he keeps his fist pumping lazily over Hutch’s cock, feeling the way the latex catches under his fingers until he can get his turn with the bottle of lube and start slicking Hutch up in return. “What kinda urges? The real dark sort, I hope. Primal.”

“Very. The kind of things you can’t do to a lady,” Hutch growls, trying to sound intense, though he makes himself giggle. “Or a—foreign dignitary…” 

He works a second finger into Starsky even as he spreads his legs for Starsky to keep going. He’s talking big, but he’s not sure they’ll get further than just fingering each other open, especially when he finds Starsky’s prostate, swallowing his cry with another kiss. 

Starsky groans into Hutch’s mouth, giving him a squeeze and rocking his hips up into it, helping to keep Hutch right where he wants him, so they can hurry each other along. Starsky lets his eyes close and just surrenders to the sensations, to how good it feels just to have Hutch right there with him. Maybe it’s part of a pattern, but when things came around and felt good like this, how could Starsky really care?

“Maybe,” he grunts, rocking into the motion with a low groan. “If you tried this with more foreign dignitaries, international relations would really improve.”

Hutch laughs, his whole face crinkling up in delight and bliss. “Yeah. They should put us in charge.” 

He moves to pin Starsky’s hands, gentle but irresistible. “If you don’t stop, I won’t last long enough to fuck you, Starsk. How do you want it, baby?”

“Like it’s you and me and nobody else in the world,” Starsky says, lifting his hands over his head permissively and opening his eyes again, with a slow grin. “But you could hurry it up a little.”

“That’s right,” Hutch agrees, settling over the top of him, heavy and protective, still opening him up with insistent fingers. “Just us.” 

It feels a little dishonest, but certainly in the moment it’s just them, and it’s really so easy, almost too easy. He decides to hurry it up by way of apology, or perhaps just so he doesn’t have to think any more. Three fingers deep in Starsky, he bites one nipple, then the other, and when he’s got Starsky moaning and shivering beneath him, he slicks up his cock and pushes against him. “How’s this for fast?” 

“Yeah,” Starsky pants, encouraging, pressing his hands flat to the bed and pushing up to help Hutch ease in even faster, his whole body relaxed and open for it. He sighs out when Hutch is fully inside, like he’s got everything he wants and his life is complete. Perhaps, for the moment, it is. “Oh, that’s good Hutch. Keep it up?”

Quirking an eyebrow at him, Starsky wraps his arm around Hutch’s neck so they can move together, so that they don’t have to go very far apart from each other and Hutch can take him as deep as he wants while Starsky moans encouragement in his ear, and maybe for a moment Starsky wonders why either of them ever stray from this when it’s so right and good and perfect. Maybe because they’re both afraid of losing the part where it’s easy, too. 

“Starsky,” Hutch groans, throwing all of himself into this, into this moment, like it’s their first and last time, except that they know each other so well from past experience, and know this won’t be the last time they seek comfort in each others’ arms. Hutch tries to turn his brain off, fucking into Starsky harder, faster, and it works at least until they come apart for each other, moaning the other’s name. 

“That’s my boy, Starsk,” Hutch gasps, pulling out once Starsky has come, too, and kissing him more gently. Tomorrow might be a turtleneck day for Starsky. “You alright?” 

Instead of answering, Starsky pulls Hutch’s mouth to his, and kissing him around his need for air. He runs his hands through Hutch’s hair, over his broad shoulders, down to the taper of his waist and smiles at him. “Yeah, I’m alright. Why, you think you could do that again if I wasn’t?”

“I think, for you, I could,” Hutch says with a bit of a laugh. “After a quick nap.”