There But for The Grace of God by Desmond J
Summary:

The days after his release are not what either of them expected.


Categories: Slash Characters: None
Genre: Episode Related, Series
Warnings: No Warnings Needed
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: Yes Word count: 16204 Read: 541 Published: 03/23/2018 Updated: 04/12/2018
Story Notes:

Cross posted from Ao3.

1. Darwin Can Go Fuck Himself by Desmond J

2. Negotiations by Desmond J

3. Gravity by Desmond J

4. Halloween by Desmond J

Darwin Can Go Fuck Himself by Desmond J
Author's Notes:
This is my first time playing in the Fandom... I hope it's OK.
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DARWIN CAN FUCK HIMSELF

(Late August 1979)

0-0-0

It took three days for Hutch to realize he was in over his head.

The doctors had told him that rest was the best thing for Starsky. Rest, plenty of fluids, balanced diet, regular medication, and supplemental oxygen as needed. Hutch had been assured that everything was OK. Considering the trauma his partner had endured, everything was progressing wonderfully. Few complications, aside from Starsky grumbling hatefully about the ‘supplemental oxygen’, the medications, and shiny new restrictions on his diet. But, Hutch reasoned, he couldn’t blame the man for grumbling. Starsky was a creature of habit, and it would take a while to break a lifetime’s worth of them concerning his body and health.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when Starsky cursed bitterly from the sofa that first evening home, said he wanted a burger and fries and a couple beers, not this cardboard colored bullshit ‘milkshake’ Hutch had foisted off on him.

“You’re on half a dozen medications that say specifically ‘do not consume with alcohol’.”

“One beer isn’t gonna hurt anything!” He dropped his head back against the sofa and rolled his eyes in Hutch’s direction, “We had significantly more than beer when you brought me that veal!”

“That was different,” Hutch motioned at him with a spatula and continued scraping the eggs out of a pan onto a plate.

“How?”

Hutch didn’t want to admit that it had been different because he’d been drunk himself and not thinking clearly about what heavy pain medications and alcohol would do to his partner’s system. “It’s different because you’re my responsibility now, not the nurses.”

Starsky sighed audibly and rolled his eyes in a dramatic fashion, as if he were about to lose consciousness. “Come on, Hutch. One beer.”

“No,” He sat the plate of eggs on the coffee table.

“I’m fine, I can handle it. One beer isn’t gonna kill me! It’s not even gonna give me a buzz.”

“Starsk, one beer might not kill you, but how many ‘just one beer’s is it going to be from now on?” He circled the sofa and leaned over it, hands braced on either side of Starsky’s head; “Your mind is dull as ever. You may feel normal, but your body isn’t the same anymore.”

“Who says I feel normal? Walkin’ up the stairs winded me—I feel like the fat kid in gym class.”

“And you look like a scarecrow.”

“I do not!”

“You kind of do… You lost what, fifteen—sixteen pounds?”

Starsky mumbled; ‘Twenty-four,’ barely loud enough to be called a whisper, and Hutch pretended not to have heard him. Swallowed past a lump in his throat.

“You lost muscle tone. It’ll take some time to get it back. And beer isn’t the way to do it! You need protein, minerals—”

“Ah, jeez.”

“—VITAMINS!” Hutch gave the sofa a hardy shake for emphasis. “Beer is not a vitamin!”

Starsky peered up at him sourly. “Benny.”

“Who?”

“Benny Goldberg… Skinny, bug eyed fink, used to hang out at the Pits every night drowning himself in tequila sunrise. You remember him.”

Hutch rocked back and forth on his feet and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Benny Goldberg only had one kidney and all the booze in the world didn’t hurt him.”

“Yeah, well where is Benny Goldberg now?”

Starsky glanced away innocently; “That ain’t fair, it wasn’t the kidney that killed him!”

“No, it was his liver—Which, I remind you, you only have half of now.”

“Three quarters!” He poked Hutch between the eyes with a rigid finger. “And the doc said it’d grow back!”

Hutch thumped his brow against his partner’s lightly, ignoring how Starsky spluttered when hair fell into his mouth. “Choose… One beer, or the burger. Can’t have both.”

Starsky was shoving at the blonde hair curtaining itself around his face. “That’s just mean! ‘s like askin’ a guy to pick his favorite child!”

“Hurry up or I’ll change my mind.”

“Burger… happy now?” Starsky pushed him away and crossed his arms over his chest.

Hutch retreated and collected the telephone.

“Anyway, what happened to the whole ‘Welcome Home Surprise Party’ you were planning?”

“Scrapped it when I realized there wouldn’t be anything surprising about it. Besides, the doctor said to keep you calm.”

Starsky was quiet for a five count, listening to the blonde speak tiredly to Huggy over the phone. “Tell him extra fries!”

“No fries? I thought you wanted them.”

“Yes, I want them.”

“Okay yes, he wants them.”

“Extra fries, Hutch.”

“Wait, now he says no fries. Yeah, I know. Weird.”

“Damn you, I said EXTRA FRIES.”

“Hold on a minute, Huggy,” He pressed the receiver halfheartedly to his shoulder and ignored the sound of chuckling from the other end, “Look, Starsk, you’ll have to make up your mind. Do you want fries or not?”

“Yes!”

“Then just calm down, and let me make the order,” Hutch could feel an itch on the side of his head. He wondered vaguely if Starsky hadn’t developed some supernatural ability since cheating death. Maybe he could shoot lasers out of his eyeballs now, or make people disappear like that kid from the Star Trek episode. Starsky sure looked angry enough to try it anyway.

Starsky slouched deeper into the cushions; “If I’d known you were gonna be like this I’d’ve stayed in the hospital.”

“If I’d have known you were going to be so difficult I would have let you,” Hutch muttered.

The first evening was pretty much normal, aside from the sidestepping and waltzing Hutch and Huggy did around Starsky’s injuries. Starsky ate, laughed, tried not to choke on his food. Told jokes and fell asleep watching some crummy flick on the TV. And the second day wasn’t much different. Starsky stayed in bed late. Bitched vehemently when Hutch woke him up at about eight AM for his medication and to make him put on the oxygen cannula because he was wheezing in his sleep something terrible. He went back to sleep and was pretty much motionless until afternoon when Hutch woke him again. More medication, two hits from an inhaler and shuffle to the sofa where he sat with his knees drawn up under his chin. He stared blankly at some game show on TV while he slurped noisily at soup.

That evening Starsky took a walk around his apartment, picked at the plants Hutch had lined his window sills with. Sorted through his mail. Blew some dust off a few of his ship models and muttered ‘fuck’ as he waved the now airborne debris away from his face.

Hutch watched him from over the top of his newspaper as he moved around, bouncing a little on his feet. It was good to see him up and moving. Pulled at a knot that still lingered in Hutch’s chest that reminded him with every twinge, that Starsky had almost died. He sat studying the man for a long time; taking in the differences, and signs of illness. The pallor of his skin, and the shadow under his eyes. It was most evident in the deceptive fragility of his wrists and arms, the prominence of his jaw and hip bones. The way his jeans didn’t fit so snugly in the thighs and waist.

He wasn’t wasted, no. The physical therapists at the hospital had made sure Starsky could move about under his own power before they’d cleared him to leave. He wasn’t by any means hollow or emaciated, but he seemed… thin. Diminished somehow. As if the weight of damaged and missing organs visibly took away part of his mass. It was ridiculous, Hutch knew, but his eyes still stole to his partner’s ribs and belly. Lingered on the impression of gauze patches he could just make out beneath a t-shirt.

The doctor had advised that they keep a few of the incision sites covered for a while longer. The flesh still tender and fragile beneath. Some still flecked with scabs. The bullet wounds themselves still looking like they could split open and bleed, despite having been packed, cleaned, and stitched closed weeks ago.

Starsky caught sight of himself in a small mirror hanging near the kitchen. He tilted his head a little and scratched his fingers through his hair. Rubbed the little dark prickles growing on his chin and jaws. Smiled wide like a loon and checked his teeth.

Hutch snorted into his coffee and tried to hide behind his paper.

Starsky entered the kitchen with a swing of his hips and arms. Tugged the fridge open and peered inside. “What’s all this green stuff?”

“Spinach.”

“That’s not spinach. Spinach comes in a can.”

“Thought I’d make pesto.”

“Pesto?” He lifted his brows, “With spinach?”

“There’s basil too.”

Starsky made a sound, impressed and reached for a beer.

“Not a chance, slick.”

“Aw, come on! It’s my fridge!”

“And it’s my beer.”

It wasn’t even that things declined quickly after that, because Hutch didn’t really know anything was wrong until it was suddenly right there in his face.

That second day, Starsky simply seemed restless, even when he was just sitting on the sofa or lying on his bed dozing. Restless like he usually did when he felt healthier than he was. Hutch had known him for more than ten years now, he knew how Starsky functioned when he was sick. Be it a papercut, or a gunshot wound. Hutch knew. There was Antsy Starsky, Whiny Starsky, Bitchy Starsky, Angry Stubborn Starsky, Sneaky Starsky, and Reluctantly Patient Starsky. That was how he worked. That was how it always worked. But, like he’d said that first day. He may feel normal, but his body had undergone a life altering trauma. That wasn’t how things worked anymore, and it took Hutch three days to realize this.

Eight AM on the third morning Hutch pushed open the bedroom door and flicked on the light, medication and a glass of water ready. “Come on, rise and shine, Gordo!”

Starsky pried open gummy eyes and blinked at him slowly. His body was curled a little bit to the right, oxygen hissing in a clogged nostril. He said nothing, just sat up and took his medication. Hutch didn’t even notice the tremor in his hand until the glass slipped and water upended over Starsky’s face.

“Fuck,” Starsky spluttered, dropped the glass all together and yanked the cannula out of his nose. He flung it toward his feet and scrubbed both palms over his face and chest. Swiped quickly at the water pooling at his hips and lap.

Hutch snorted; “Should’ve stayed awake when you got up at six… I told you not to go back to bed.”

Starsky just shifted himself stiffly out of bed and shuffled to his dresser for a dry pair of underpants. “Would you get a towel?”

“Nothin’ like ice water on your lap to start a morning off right,” Hutch went for the bathroom, came back to find Starsky still standing by his dresser, scratching numbly at his hair, clean underpants dangling from his left hand. Hutch ignored him, mopped the water up from the mattress as best as he could and changed the sheets. Cream colored with green and orange stripes. They were somewhat threadbare, but would do for now. He shook out the blankets and squeezed water out of them. Draped the driest over the closet doors to put back on, piled the wettest in the corner. He’d pin them up outside to dry later.

But when he turned to his partner, Starsky was still just standing there. Elbow propped on the dresser, head in his hand, staring vaguely at his navel. “Starsk, are you just gonna stand there and drip?”

Starsky didn’t move, but his breath hitched and came out metered and slow. Went back in carefully.

Hutch’s brows drew together; “You OK?”

“No.”

He moved forward quickly, put a hand on his partner’s hip; “What’s wrong?”

Starsky’s eyes closed slowly, “’s hard to breathe.”

Hutch’s chest ached, “I’ll call—”

“No… no—It’s ok. It’s n-normal.”

“No, it’s not normal—”

And Starsky looked at him evenly. “Yeah it is… Now.”

Hutch’s mouth was dry; “What d’you mean?”

Starsky shifted on his feet, pressed his head into the angle of the blonde’s neck; “I got a bad lung… Didn’t really—really realize it ‘til now.”

Hutch pressed a hand to the nape of his friend’s neck; “Oh, buddy—”

“Bad lung, one kidney… Half a liver—”

“Three quarters.”

He wheezed a little laugh that turned into a cough; “Hutch.”

“It’s ok,” He drew him in, both arms tight and supporting more than a little bit of his partner’s weight. “It’ll be OK, I’m here,” But he didn’t know it would be OK.

Hutch was struck suddenly by the realization that he was in way over his head. He didn’t know what to say to make it better. Didn’t know what to do to comfort, so he just held on, pressed a kiss to the temple near his lips and felt Starsky sag against him. A warm dampness spreading across his shoulder. His stomach juddered and his mind raced. This was new territory, something undiscovered and terrifying. He didn’t know if they could overcome this, or if they would have to admit defeat. He scratched at the walls in his mind and collected every bit of foolhardy hope and every little wish and prayer he’d hidden over the years and propped confidence into his voice like a crutch.

“Hey, it’ll be alright. The doctor said it’d take time… Your body’s still healing. It’ll—it’ll take time for your lungs to learn how to work again, for your body to adapt.”

“This ain’t like my liver. Lungs don’t grow back, Hutch—”

“No, but you’ve got enough left that the doctor thought you’d be OK without oxygen support.”

“Then what’s that can over there!”

“Temporary—O-only when you need it! W-when you’re stressed, or you’ve overdone yourself.”

“I had it on all night and still felt like I was suffocating!” The urgency and fear had drawn his voice tight and thin.

“Take it easy—take it easy, just listen to me. Listen.”

Starsky stilled, breath quick and wheezing through mouth and nose. Hot against Hutch’s shoulder. His hands had tangled in the back of Hutch’s shirt, stronger than they looked, stronger than what Starsky obviously felt.

“Y-you just went from round the clock nursing care, regular pain medication and twice daily check ins from the respiratory therapist to practically nothing… You need time to adjust. Gotta take it easy,” Hutch passed his palm up and down the back of his partner’s head, petting, trying with everything he had to soothe the smaller man. “It’s OK, we’ll get there. It’s just gonna take some time. Some—some things’ve gotta change, but it’ll be alright. I’m here. I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

“W-what if it don’t get any better?” He snuffed wetly.

“It will.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because that’s how the body works… You’re still healing. Not even half-way yet. Humans—we-we adapt. We grow. We heal. That’s how we work. Survival of the fittest remember?”

“Darwin can fuck himself. It’s been three months and I feel like shit!”

Three months, twelve days. “You gotta look at it differently… This—this was big, Stars. Really big. Your body has more to heal now than it ever has before. It’s gonna take a while. You’ve gotta give yourself time, and care enough to do it right… You half-ass this it’s your life we’re talking about.”

“That—that’s too much. It’s too much.”

“We’ll get through it. I’m not—I’m not going anywhere.”

“You promise?”

“Yes.”

Starsky was quiet for a long while, holding and being held. His face hidden in Hutch’s shoulder, breath shuddering and quick. He felt slightly dizzy, either from the fading adrenaline or lack of air he didn’t know, but he held on. Turned his face into the gentle presses of Hutch’s lips and squeezed his eyes shut against everything else.

Hutch kept whispering, soft careful words of encouragement, what exactly he said didn’t matter. Just primal sounds of comfort and offered stability. Breathed slow and deep until he felt the rise and fall of the other’s chest sync with his. The tension leaking away slowly. “You OK? Are you OK now?”

“No.”

“But you will be. You’ll be OK?”

“Yeah,” He took a breath and let it out slowly. “Yeah, I’ll be OK.”

0-0-0

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Negotiations by Desmond J
Author's Notes:
Things get real.

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Negotiations

(Early October 1979)

0-0-0

Once he stopped and thought about it, he couldn’t pinpoint when it started. Not really. Didn’t become uncomfortable with it until he realized how comfortable he was with it, and then the questions and worries and doubts popped up in his head like fireworks; What is this? Why doesn’t it feel weird? Isn’t it supposed to feel weird? What does it mean?

Starsky was tucked up under Hutch’s arm on the couch, spread out in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt with one foot on the far arm rest, the other propped across the back of the couch. There was some western on—He couldn’t remember the name, and he was gnawing halfheartedly on a slice of pizza.

He wasn’t hungry. His stomach had been upset all day, he ached through his chest and middle, and he’d had pins and needles up and down the entirety of his right arm since about four that evening. Hutch had said it was the weather. Storm fronts moving in, something about barometric pressure. Hutch himself hadn’t been feeling well either, stiff back and knee, the blonde was half asleep with his head propped on his fist, feet on the coffee table.

It had been a long few weeks. Settling back in at home, relearning how to sleep for long periods without nurses coming in to poke or prod or just the general noisiness of a hospital keeping him awake. He thought that coming home would mean a fall back into normality, but he’d been very wrong. All being at home did was make him acutely aware of the scheduled pain medication he’d got from the nurses. That two pills a day was very different from what he’d been receiving before. It felt, at first, as if he was becoming ill, an allover ache and weakness in his limbs. Chills and nightmares that ramped up like some freakish picture show straight from Hell. Things Starsky didn’t think it was possible for a healthy mind to think of, let alone dream about repeatedly. He’d asked the doctor about it, at a checkup a week or so after he’d been released, and been assured that it was normal. A type of withdrawl from the level of pain medication his body had become used to.

He hated it.

Felt some sense of new sympathy for every junkie he’d ever arrested—for Hutch who knew the suffering first hand.

The chills and sickness had tapered off toward the last week of September, thankfully. Now he was only plagued by the nightmares, though they had tamed down a little, and this ache that had settled in his muscles and core. He’d taken to keeping his right arm tucked to his chest. Supporting the line of scar tissue that formed a red sickle from below his right nipple to his shoulder blade, and the bold line across his middle. The odd shaped little pucker to the right of center from the second bullet making it clean through his body, unlike its siblings.

He'd peeled the gauze up and stared at it that morning before physical therapy. Thought maybe it looked like Saturn. Mused about the possibility of having the scar decorated with a tattoo of the planet, because he found the sight of it, red, soft, and raised; kind of ugly. Maybe he could turn the smaller marks on his back into flowers, though he’d never see them unless he twisted his neck around to stare in the mirror. Count them like freckles. The scars he could see bothered him a little, though he didn’t let himself think about it much because it made his head feel weird. Thinking about it all made his whole body feel weird. Hyper aware of the fact doctors had put their hands inside him and messed around in there. Picked out shattered pieces of his ribs and carved out pieces of his body he’d been born with.

Starsky tossed the pizza back into the box and slouched lower, arms crossed loosely on his belly. Leaned a little heavier into the solidity alongside him, tilting his head until his ear was pressed into Hutch’s ribs and he could have found the pillow of Hutch’s stomach so easily. Turned himself into the contact and let the press of their mass ease the hurt.

Hutch shifted, inhaled deeply and straightened his spine; rubbed his face and glanced down at his partner; “Alright?”

He got a grunt in return.

And it happened. Hutch’s arm slipped lower and caught him by the elbow, a hug—squeeze really, and Hutch bent forward, pressed his face into Starsky’s hair.

Starsky twitched, eyes not leaving the TV, “Did you just kiss me?”

Hutch yawned. “So?”

“On the hair?” He turned his head and stared up at the underside of Hutch’s unshaven chin as the blonde settled again with his head propped sleepily on his fist.

Hutch grunted but said nothing else, rubbed gently at his partner’s shoulder. Fading back into half consciousness.

Starsky settled down again, nose still crinkled in thought. Since when did Hutch kiss him?

There’d been once or twice over the years, Drunk Hutch had hauled him in with a rough arm around his neck and placed a dry brotherly peck on his cheek. Or they’d made obscene smoochy faces at one another to get a laugh, but this? He’d meant it this time, and he’d meant it a few other times too. Starsky could remember them happening, but couldn’t understand why it hadn’t bothered him.

Should it bother him?

It hadn’t been on the hair all the time either.

There’d been a few to his forehead, temples, cheek—hell even his eyelids a couple times when he’d been breathless, cramped up and hurting in his hospital bed, waiting for some nurse with a syringe. Gentle passes of Hutch’s big hand over his jaw and shoulder, pushing his hair back off his forehead after physical therapy, when he ate too much too fast, or something spicy enough to make his healing liver and stomach wig out. Rubbing his back when Starsky presented the fetal curve of his spine while his body relearned to function without so much pain medication. The warm, comforting pressure of lips to the back of his neck and shoulders.

“Hutch?”

“Hmm?”

“Is this it?”

“Huh?” He pried his eyes open and looked downward curiously.

“I said, ‘Is this it?’”

Hutch blinked tiredly at the pizza; “You want something else? Sandwich?”

“No—This!” He pushed at Hutch’s side with his head and elbow. “This—US!”

“You’re gonna be fine. Should be reinstated in a month or two,” Those blue eyes were drifting shut.

“That’s not what I meant!”

Hutch rubbed his face and blinked rapidly, hoping to make himself more awake to deal with whatever it was Starsky was upset about. “Okay, okay. What is it?”

“You kissed me!”

“What?”

“On the hair!”

“Is that what you’re all worked up about?”

“Well, why did you do it?”

“On your hair, or at all?”

“Both.”

“Because your hair is four inches taller than you, a-and…” And Hutch’s face made a funny dash through about six different emotions, among them panic and self-consciousness. “Are you angry?”

“I don’t know—When did that become something we do anyhow?”

“Does it bother you?”

“I don’t know—What’s it mean? Is this a thing? Are we doing things now?” He still hadn’t moved much, just twisted himself so his head was on Hutch’s stomach and he could hear the soft living noises of his body. Digestion, breath, visceral sounds. “Are we a thing? Is this it? Are we actually going there?”

Hutch took a deep breath, brow wrinkled pensively, and let his right arm curl under Starsky’s, palm warm and heavy on his chest. “Are you askin’ me to the prom, Starsk?”

Starsky’s face registered shock, then a little bit of humor under the brief anger; “Aw, screw you!” He pushed upward against Hutch’s chin and rocked the blonde’s head back.

Hutch’s chest rumbled with soft laughter, and he caught the hand, folding slim fingers in his own. Trapped them under his chin.

“Last time I try to have a meaningful conversation with you—”

“Starsky, just—just calm down a second, will ya?”

He went quiet, staring at the ceiling with his jaw clenched.

“You know I love ya.”

Starsky felt the fire go out of him.

“So, what’s the problem?”

He shifted uncomfortably, either from the conversation or the ache in his body; “I didn’t know it—it was the whole— Love with kissing and stuff.”

Hutch was quiet, took in the fact that Starsky hadn’t moved away, hadn’t pulled his hand back, or made any loud declarations of discontent. Noticed the contemplative, far-away look in his partner’s eyes. “If it makes you feel better, I didn’t really know either.”

Dark blue eyes looked up at him, “That’s not actually making me feel any better.”

“Yeah,” Hutch rubbed his face, “How did this happen?”

“Beats me.”

“I mean, I’ve loved you for years, and that hasn’t changed.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

Hutch was still, he seemed to shrink in on himself slowly, lost in thought, or memories. To Starsky he looked impossibly young, freshly pulled from a nightmare.

“Hutch?”

The blonde didn’t say anything, his breathing was rough.“Hey, Hutch, look—I-I’m not mad… I-I don’t know exactly what I’m feelin’ right now, but I’m not angry.”

“We just realized I’ve been kissing you for months and you’re not angry?” He sounded almost disgusted with himself. Had he been taking advantage? Even unconsciously, it was unforgivable.

“No… I’ve felt like shit. If you hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I’d have done,” He took a breath and reached up to tug at the blonde’s sleeve. “I need you. I—I don’t know when it changed, but something’s changed. Like you said, I love you same as I always have… it’s not different, but it’s—It’s grown a little. Like a new room on a house.”

“Houses don’t grow new rooms—”

“You know what I mean.”

Hutch looked at him, expression pinched; “I thought I’d lose you. For real this time. I—” He hesitated, as if unsure of his next words. “It’s not different, but it’s not the same anymore. It’s not the same and I can’t lose what we’ve got I-I couldn’t live without it—without you,” He cleared his throat; “I let it happen and I didn’t even recognize it…” His voice faded to nothing.

“Do you regret it?”

“Kissing your hair? Well, considering you haven’t showered in two days—”

“Jeez,” He sighed perturbed.

The blonde fidgeted uncomfortably. “I don’t know. This—I don’t know where this is going.”

“Me either,” Starsky seemed at peace at first, comforted by the fact he wasn’t alone in his confusion but then gave himself a little shake. His began shoving thoughts forward like remembering the steps to some arcane recipe, reminding himself of what it took to be a man, and what it didn’t. “But—but what does it mean? Is this it?”

“Are we gay? Is that what you’re asking?”

Starsky looked up at him with a half fearful gleam in his eyes.

“Is that what you’re afraid of?”

“I dunno… Aren’t you?”

“Not really… There’s nothing wrong with it. Love is love—”

“Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with it, but—”

“But?”

“This is usually the part of the evening when the clothes come off, and I’m not even sure how— I mean, who goes where? Do we flip for it? Or what? The guys in films make it seem easy—”

Hutch blinked, then released Starsky’s hand and massaged the bridge of his nose; “How did we get from you being upset that I kissed your hair, to negotiating sex?”

“Well, isn’t that where this is goin? I mean, you’ve been kissing me for months now—”

“Starsky, I didn’t even realize I was doing it until two minutes ago!”

The man in his lap went quiet. “So… you-you don’t want to?”

“Right now, I’m not even sure if I want to believe this conversation is actually happening.”

“Are you angry?”

“No. I’m just shocked, I suppose.”

“I’m the one being seduced and you’re shocked?”

“What? I’m not seducing you! You’re the one who was talking about porno!”

“I’m just tryin’ to figure out what’s going on!”

“Me too, pal. It’s not every day you realize you’ve been putting the moves on your best friend without knowing it. I’m kind of invested in this relationship as it is—”

“Oh, and I’m not?”

Hutch dropped his head back on the couch cushions and let out a groan of frustration. “Jesus, now my head hurts,” He slouched a little lower on the couch and passed his palm down the length of his face. “Can we take this one step at a time, instead of an Olympic sprint to the finish line?”

Starsky folded his hands together and looked up into Hutch’s eyes as if barely controlling a nervous fit.

“Okay,” Hutch stopped, then started again; “Okay.”

“Okay,” Starsky parroted, fingers flexing. If he’d had a pencil or pen or something he’d have been twirling it, or bouncing in his seat. But in deference to his aching body he started picking anxiously at the front of his shirt, pinching and twisting the fabric until it creased.

“Look,” Hutch inhaled slowly; “I care about you… I care for you… I don’t want that to change, and if you’re not sure about any of this other stuff, then forget about it. Nothing is happening unless we’re both absolutely sure.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. This—what we have—regardless of the kissing and stuff; means more to me than anything, and I won’t risk losing it.”

Starsky took a deeper breath and let it out slowly, seeming to solidify this promise within himself.

“You’re my best friend and I love you. You’re my—” But he didn’t have words to finish. They all fluttered away like startled birds, letting a silence stretch between them like cobwebs.

Starsky’s nervousness returned and his mouth opened and closed a few times before he started, rambling almost because the feelings were too raw, too powerful to be ignored a second longer. “I knew something was different. From the moment I woke up and knew I wasn’t gonna die. I knew something was different. But I was just—I was just so glad, and you were—I remember you jumpin’ around. I don’t know what you were sayin’ things were still fuzzy, but I remember your face. How—how happy you were. And I was just so relieved that you wouldn’t have to hurt like that. That I wasn’t going to hurt you like that. You’re more to me than anything… I needed you… I still do. I—I don’t know how to not need you,” His voice faded off to nothing and his hands flexed on his chest, open and closed as if barely restraining himself from reaching out. His eyes were bright, cautious but alight as if from within, hopeful.

Hutch stared at him, felt something tight in his chest melting, something inside him sliding into place. He pushed his hair back out of his face, “I love you.”

Starsky took a shaking breath and let it out. Let the words sink in. “I-uh—I love you too.”

“The whole kissing and stuff type of love?” Hutch smirked, hoping to lighten the mood a little, because Starsky looked half scared to death.

“I-I think so… I mean it-it isn’t bad…” He tightened his jaw, brows pulling down, a brief flare of anger again, like a match being struck.

Hutch worried that the anger would dredge up something else and everything would shift again, like a knife blade coming down. Now that he realized it he didn’t think he could look at the other man and not feel this deep longing to be near him. To touch, and reassure himself of his continued vitality. Now that he’d realized what this new feeling was he didn’t know if he could stand to exist without it. It had become as essential to his existence as breathing, as natural and involuntary as his heartbeat.

But, Starsky let his breath out in a soft whoosh, eyes flicking away and back again; “No. No ‘isn’t bads’. Nothin’ bad about it… ’s nice. Real nice.”

Hutch choked felt his sinuses burning and curled his fingers in Starsky’s hair. He gave a few hiccupping chuckles and felt the shoulders in his lap jump with their own amusement. After a few seconds they fell quiet, just gazing at one another openly.

“Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“Can I try somethin’—curious?”

“What do you have in mind?”

He fidgeted with his shirt a little more, considered making an absurd smoochy face because the mood around them felt heavy and a little to humid and he didn’t know how to maneuver because it was Hutch making him feel this way, not some lady in a bar, or on the street, or in his arms. HUTCH, with untidy blonde hair, day old scruff on his face and that furry line on his upper lip that looked kind of like a starving caterpillar, though he’d never say it aloud. He swallowed, tried to ignore the dry clicking sound in his throat; “J-just not on the hair this time, ‘kay?”

Hutch’s eyes softened and Starsky felt the strange urge to poke him hard in the ribs because he didn’t really know how to express what the naked emotion on Hutch’s face made him feel. Kind of like that time he’d pulled girls’ pigtails in school and made ugly faces at them. Impotent in his rage at their ability to make him feel mushy inside in a way that didn’t always leave him comfortable. He’d learned how to deal with that feeling when it came from women, but this was different. This was Hutch and it felt deeper than his very soul.

His hand lifted, brushed the backs of his fingers across jaw and ear, sank them into the wavy bits of gold hair at the nape of his partner’s neck and pulled a little, urging him to bend forward. At the same time levering himself upward a little with right elbow pressed into the couch cushions.

The angle was awful. Noses bumping cheeks, muscles cramped and aching. Hutch hooking an arm around Starsky’s shoulders and supporting some of his weight because his right arm was shaking as if it may give out.

Starsky kept his eyes shut. Focused more on what he felt than trying to finesse anything into the open. Because if anything about it felt weird, or wrong, he knew it would stop. Hutch would stop and nothing would be said of it ever again. But, it wasn’t weird. It reminded him of those dry smacks of Hutch’s mouth on his cheek when the blonde was drunk and giddy, the only difference being the scrape of rough unshaven skin. A burning tickle of moustache above the warm press of lips.

Hutch grunted and pulled back a little, muttered ‘hold on’, and shifted against the couch. Looked him in the eyes before gently leaning in again.

It started out the same as before. A hesitant brush of lips, but there was something different about it. A quickened flutter of his heart and Hutch’s other hand fitted against the nape of his neck, drawing him into it, tilting his head a little to the side. Warmth blossoming in his chest and a tightness in his throat that took his breath. A tingle rolling down his spine and deep into his belly.

Kissing Hutch was at once exactly like and totally different from kissing a woman. Lips themselves felt pretty much like any other pair of lips. Unless there was scar tissue, or lipstick, or in this case the tickle and burn of that underfed caterpillar—

But it set a flame to burning somewhere in his core. A curl of desire soaring up through him to curl his fingers and tighten his stomach in anticipation.

Starsky drew back quickly scratching at the edges of his lips with his teeth. Eyes wide, the tingle settling deeper.

Hutch was looking at him with a brow lifted, face gone red. His pupils were like drops of ink; “What?”

“I can’t relax,” His voice was shaking.

Hutch let out a huff of air; “You could sit up and spare my aching back. That’d make it better.”

“But I’m comfortable.”

“Of course, you are,” He pressed a heavy, warm hand to Starsky’s chest, rubbed a little. “Don’t worry about it.”

“So, what do we do now?”

“I don’t know, my back hurts,” Hutch sighed.

Starsky scowled. “That ain’t fair! You got me thinkin’ all sorts of things now. I don’t know what I’m doing! This is—Jeez. What’re we supposed to do? What happens next?”

Hutch was petting his hair again; “Well, I’m too tired—You’re too tired. Neither of us can relax enough to even kiss better than teenagers on their first date. I say we just sit here until this movie is over. Then sleep on it and try again tomorrow.”

Starsky swallowed; “Sleep, like together?”

“Probably not a good idea when you’re cramped up. You should take a pain pill and stretch out.”

“So, that’s it?”

“For now.”

“What? But—”

“Starsk, I’ve been in relationships before where we’ve moved too far too fast and by the time we realized it was a mistake we were in up to our eyeballs. I-I don’t want to take that chance with this. If we’re really going to do this I want to do it right.”

“Hutch.”

“Hmm?”

“Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve made it with anybody?”

Another giggle.

“Months, Hutch. Five months!”

“Impressive… And what about me, huh? Looking after you isn’t exactly a daydream.”

“I don’t know what you were doin’ when you weren’t languishing at my bedside. Or who for that matter! Meanwhile I was flat out in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of my date night essentials!”

Hutch felt himself laugh, couldn’t help it. Felt an aching sympathy, but still couldn’t contain it.

“If we’re gonna do this, I wanna do it! I’m ripe for the pickin’!”

“Do you think you could get it up right now—either of us?” He couldn’t stop giggling.

“That’s beside the point, you gotta give me something to look forward to! I mean—Okay, I mean, this is new to me. All of it. It’s kinda—kinda freakin’ me out a little bit.”

“What, the five months?”

“No, the wanting it with you.”

And all the humor was suddenly gone. In its place Hutch felt his ears, face neck, and chest go warmer. Saw a ruddy tinge collecting on Starsky’s cheeks and the tips of his ears.

“Would you stop lookin’ at me like that?” Starsky grinned nervously, tried to swallow it.

“Hey… What freaks you out? The idea of—”

“The idea that I want that with you, and the fact it doesn’t freak me out is kind of freakin’ me out.”

“What?”

“You’re gonna make me say it?”

“I’m not going to make you do anything.”

Starsky nodded, as if reassuring himself; “It freaks me out a little that the next time I… it could be with you. You know me, know me better than anyone I think, and I know you. It-it feels,” He twisted his fingers tighter in the front of his shirt.

“Intimate?”

“Natural… And it’s—It’s new, and weird, but a good weird.”

Hutch felt himself grinning.

“It’s…” He cleared his throat, voice dropping almost to a whisper. “Never thought I’d be an excited virgin twice in my life.”

Hutch bowed his head and met serious eyes in a blushing face, “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Hutch giggled, tried to stifle it but Starsky rolled his eyes.

“What about you, huh? Know anything about dudes who do dudes?”

“More than you apparently… But it’s-uh—pretty much all hypothetical. Unless you count watching films.”

“No.”

Hutch rubbed his cheek; “Didn’t think so. Though, I have kissed a guy before… In college, just experimenting.”

“Yeah?”

“We didn’t get much farther than that. I liked it, he didn’t so much. End of story.”

“That why you’re not freaking out like I am?”

“You’re not freaking out… Not as much as you could.”

Starsky had found something infinitely fascinating on the ceiling. “You know something?”

“I know a lot of somethings.”

“If you’d have asked me six months ago if we’d be having this conversation now—”

“You’d have punched me in the neck. That’s how I know you’re not freaking out.”

“I wouldn’t have punched you in the neck. Maybe yelled, but I wouldn’t have punched you.”

“If I’d asked you if you wanted to have sex six months ago, you wouldn’t have hit me?”

Starsky said nothing, just tried to focus on the fingers still petting his hair, twirling each curl around and around until the mass lay in scattered ringlets. Hutch looked down at him and saw the answer in the look on his face. He could imagine it clearly. The initial bright anger, but the slow realization—the acceptance and barely withheld excitement. How long? How long have we been in denial of this? A year, two? More?

“You were right,” Starsky tilted his head into the gentle petting, “It’s the same now as it was before. Houses don’t grow rooms,” He yawned, “Guess it was always there, we just never looked for it.”

“Maybe we weren’t ready to go in.”

Starsky hummed thoughtfully. “Maybe not.”

Hutch rubbed his face tiredly, stifled a yawn into his hand. “When we are ready… It’ll happen.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh-yeah.” After that it was quiet for a while, just the movie playing on incongruous sounds of soft women’s voices and gruff men, the pop of guns and the sound of horses. Hutch tucked his arm back around Starsky’s ribs, and laced their fingers together.

“How ‘bout now?”

“Go to sleep.”

“What about now?”

“God help me…”

0-0-0

0-0-0

0-0-0

End Notes:
I'm kind of nervous about this one. What do you think?
Gravity by Desmond J
Author's Notes:
Contains m/m, obviously.

Gravity

(Early October 1979)

0-0-0

“Hutch?”

“Hmm?”

“Is it too early to talk about it?”

Hutch craned his neck over the back of the sofa and stared toward the bathroom. “You want to talk about it now?”

The water splashed a little in the tub. “Can’t do much else at this moment, unless you wanna play I Spy.”

“You’re supposed to be soaking.”

“I can do both.”

“Yeah, but if we talk about it what else is going to happen? I don’t want a repeat of last time. And I’ll tell you exactly how I Spy would go,” He cleared his throat and tilted his head back, voice a little louder than usual, a little faster, mimicking Starsky’s accent; “’I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘E’.”

Starsky snorted, played along. “Epsom salt?”

“Nope.”

“Uh—Electrical outlet.”

“Nope.”

“’E’, e-e-e-e-e—” He hummed barely audible, the water splashed a some more as he looked around; “Underpants elastic?”

“No, but warmer.”

“Oh, fuck you!”

“See, I told you! Right to your prick!”

“You were leadin’ me on! That’s all on you!”

Hutch grinned to himself impishly.

It was quiet beyond the bathroom door.

Hutch thought he could hear some tune or another, discordant humming. Starsky trying to amuse himself while the hot water and salts worked at his muscles.

“You know my ma’ soaks her bunions in this stuff.”

“Well, if it’ll work on the little ones, it’s sure to work on the big one,” Hutch turned the page in his book.

Starsky shifted in the tub, stretched his legs out and hitched his ankles on the spigot. Drew little curlicues in the steam on the walls near his head. Little stickmen cops and little stickmen robbers. “Did you just call me a bunion?”

“Yeah, sorry… You’re more of an ingrown nail than a bunion. A little trimming and you’ll come out fine.”

“Don’t be disgusting.”

“I’m not the one fondling himself in the bath.”

Water splashed loudly; “I am not!”

Hutch grinned to himself. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with that or you’ll go blind.”

“Shuddup.”

Hutch turned back to his book. It was quiet for about thirty seconds, and Hutch thought that was probably the full extent of his partner’s attention span.

“I’m startin’ to think you’ve got one of those fetishes, and that’s why you don’t wanna talk about it.”

“You think I’ve got a fetish?”

“Yeah… Like—Okay, I was with this girl a couple years back. She –uh—she liked it all over her chest.”

Hutch hesitated, then closed his book; “What?”

“She liked it when I’d finish on her chest… Like—Her chest and neck.”

“And you think I’ve got a fetish like that?”

“Well, that wasn’t really a fetish— Those are different. Like some people like feet, or getting’ pissed on and stuff.”

“I don’t have a foot fetish, or a piss fetish.”

“But you do have one, don’t you! That’s why you don’t wanna talk.”

“It’s not feet, or pee, it’s not pearl necklaces… And it’s definitely not having hinky conversations with my partner through a door while he’s in the bath.”

Starsky was quiet for a moment; “You could come in, you know. That way we won’t have to worry about the neighbors overhearing.”

“You’re really that eager, aren’t you?”

“What, s’not like you’ve never seen me naked.”

“Same for you.”

“So, what is it? Like… Ropes and whips or something? Women’s underwear?”

Hutch made a noise in his throat, halfway between a giggle and a groan; “You’re not gonna give up are you!”

“I’m like a terrier. Once I get my teeth in somethin’ I don’t let go.”

“You’re definitely like a terrier… Only you’re more the leg humping kind.”

Starsky snorted in amusement. “Five months!”

“Awww.”

Starsky sighed, “What time is it?”

“You’re the one with the waterproof watch.”

“I took it off in the bedroom.”

“Well, how pruned are your fingers?”

“Eh.”

“Then you keep soaking… Maybe it’ll kill that stink you’ve been cultivating.”

“I don’t stink.”

“I don’t know how Lydia stands it. Like a public toilet.”

“You’re full’a shit.”

Hutch pushed himself off the couch and padded over to the bathroom, stood there beside the door and stared at the ceiling. “Is it working?”

“I guess… Water’s gettin’ kinda cold though.”

“Alright, I’m coming in.”

The room smelled of salt, warm skin, and the undertone of Starsky’s cologne. The man in question was squashed down into his tub with the water lapping at his chin, legs propped up in the far corners, all long stretched muscles and wet skin. He looked like a petulant child, lips compressed, eyes on the spigot, fingers drumming on his chest.

Hutch glanced at him, amused. “You’re all pink.”

“Well, the water was hot,” He splashed some in Hutch’s direction, “I think you’re trying to pickle me.”

“Nah, I’m making a limp noodle out of you.”

“Past that, now I’m all mush,” Starsky tried to withhold a giggle.

“Sit up and rinse off will ya?” Hutch grabbed the chain tethering the plug to the tub itself and tugged it from the water. Caught a glimpse of Starsky from the corner of his eye as he sat up and pulled his knees up, readying himself to stand. “Alright?”

A nod, “Not really doing our civic duty with the water conservation though.”

“I think they’d understand given the circumstances,” Hutch loaned a hand and shoulder, pulled his partner up to his feet and got the shower running. “Towels are out here when you’re done.”

“Yes, Warden.”

Hutch gave the toilet a spiteful flush and jumped out of the way as Starsky took an open-handed swipe at him from behind the curtain.

“SHIT! You just wait, Hutchinson! Just wait!”

Hutch ignored the damp handprint on his arm and went back to his book. He got three pages farther before the water shut off and he heard Starsky shake his head like a dog, splattering water everywhere. Could smell shampoo, soap, and steam carrying the warmth of clean skin. He glanced over his shoulder, bewildered at first, to see that he’d accidentally left the door open, but Starsky could be an immodest creature when the mood struck him. Or, oblivious like now, when he was so used to the gaze of doctors and nurses and surgeons. People constantly hovering and taking away any kind of privacy and dignity a man had, all in the name of healing him. Sometimes he just forgot that he could have privacy again.

Hutch watched him warily over the top of his book. The way he scrubbed his hair, face, neck and arms. Then chest, back and abdomen, scratched rigid fingers through the hair on his head, shaking out the excess water while he rubbed the towel over his lower body.

Starsky may look small, when standing beside Hutch, but he wasn’t. He was broad and lean, and normally the thickness of his body was solid muscle carefully disguised under a forgivingly plush layer of hearty meals and one too many candy bars. All poured into denim, sneakers, and threadbare shirts. Softness concealing immeasurable strength, anger, love, and loyalty so sharp it was difficult to look at sometimes. Naked, he was still all these things, just strikingly human. Almost vulnerable. Scars and marks, little freckles here and there. Body hair and stretch marks from growing too much too fast as a teen. A bruise here and there from little things, bumping into this or that, the physical therapist’s firm fingers kneading a spasm. The vermilion lines across his side and stomach. Healed bullet holes on his back, old and new, red, pink, and silver. The hair on his head wet and clinging in inky tendrils nearly to his shoulders, longer than it looked with water pulling the curls down. His eyes however tired, were amused and trained directly on Hutch.

“Like the show? Usually I get dinner first, but, for you I’ll make an exception,” A wink and he wrapped the towel around his waist.

Hutch felt heat flare in his face, neck and ears. Looked away quickly and stuttered out half an apology before he heard Starsky giggling. “Laugh it up. See who helps you out of the bath next time.”

“I ain’t complaining… Look all you want.”

“I’ve seen plenty of jackasses before. Seen one, seen ‘em all.”

“Yeah, but any of ‘em this cute?”

“I’m cute, remember?”

“Well, Cute, would you give me a hand covering these things up?”

Hutch looked up again, found Starsky holding a package of gauze patches and medical tape. “Just leave it. Nobody but us. That tape’s tearing your skin. Hurts just to look at it sometimes.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“What, the scars?”

Starsky turned his gaze inward, still picking at the roll of tape.

“Do they bother you?”

“No… not really.”

“But?”

He shrugged. “It’s stupid,” He put the packages away and escaped to his room. Came out a few moments later in a pair of cutoffs, knuckles white where he was mangling the towel he’d used.

“Come here,” Hutch put his book aside and turned on the couch, tucking his right leg beneath him and patting the cushion in front of him.

Starsky sat, still holding the towel tightly in his fist.

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Nuthin’ much to say.”

Hutch pressed both palms to the other man’s knees, absorbed the heat and softness of newly washed skin. The soft, springy dark hairs on his legs and thighs. “Say it anyway.”

Starsky sighed, strangled the towel in his hands a little more; “It’s stupid.”

“Let me be the judge of that. Come on, out with it, partner.”

“Okay… just—look,” He shifted in his seat, motioned to a faint scar on his upper left chest, barely four inches long, years old. “Know what that one was?”

Hutch studied it, “Knife, right? Kid came at your throat but you managed to lean back?”

“Twenty stitches…” He pulled his leg up and displayed the marks on his right shin and calf. Pink, newer. Then pushed his hair away from his temple and traced a shallow divot in his hair. “All of ‘em… more or less,” Then he hesitated and scratched gently at the fresh lines on his chest and stomach. “I think this is the first time I’ve had someone’s actual hands inside me. Not just surgical instruments, but their whole HANDS.”

Hutch swallowed and felt a lump growing in his throat.

“Those surgeons had me open for hours… It—” His voice broke, “—It smelled like a slaughterhouse in there.”

Hutch’s brows pulled down and he gripped his friend a little tighter. “Just breathe for a minute—”

“I’m alright—” But he took a few seconds to draw deliberate breath before he continued. “I remember the smell of it—taste of it, just salt and metal and dirt—” Hutch’s hands were on his face, he had no idea how that happened, felt gentle little kisses on his brow and cheeks, gripped the blonde’s wrists like a lifeline.

“Did you tell the psychotherapist about this?”

He nodded, “It didn’t scare me until just a few weeks ago… Maybe this is a delayed reaction kind of thing. It’s all just startin’ to hit me. I-I saw myself in the mirror and all I could think was ‘that doctor had his hands in your chest.’ Now that’s all I can think about. Just ugly reminders that people had their hands all over my vital organs.”

Hutch was staring at him, calm, and familiar. “That’s not stupid. Not stupid at all!”

“Feels stupid.”

“Those doctors saved you… They made miracles with those hands. You—you’re a walking miracle, ya’ know that?”

He laughed and coughed and bowed his head against Hutch’s shoulder.

“What brought this on?”

Starsky looked up at him, somewhat guiltily; “I started wondering why you didn’t—didn’t want to talk about it. Thought maybe it was because of… I know they’re gross—”

“What?” Hutch gripped his head a little tighter, gave him a little shake for emphasis, “They’re not gross.”

“Then why do you look like you wanna throw up every time I take my shirt off?”

Hutch breathed in and held it for a three count, finding his words; “Because you won’t look at them. You cover them up even though you don’t need to anymore. I-I knew they upset you, and they upset you enough that you wouldn’t tell me about it,” He combed his fingers through Starsky’s hair, pushing the wet curls this way and that. “I love you. The scars aren’t gross. You aren’t gross.”

Starsky nodded, leaned into the pressure of Hutch’s hands and arms. “So, if it’s not this, then what is it? Did you change your mind or something?”

“No.”

“Then is it a fetish or something?”

“It’s not a fetish. It’s more of a… a concern.”

“What, worried I’ll flake?”

“I’m worried we’ll get too into it and I’ll hurt you.”

“Unless you’re planning to get freaky I think we’ll be fine.”

Hutch bowed his head.

“Uh—That’s not what you’re into is it? The acrobatics? Because it’s one thing with a woman, but I—getting manhandled isn’t exactly my thing.”

“Yeah, only one you let manhandle you is Lydia.”

“That’s what she gets paid the big company green for.”

Hutch snorted in amusement and lifted his head, brushed his thumbs across Starsky’s lashes and eyebrows to clear them of moisture and pushed his hair off his brow. Pressed his lips there instead. Rubbed his palms on the brunet’s rough cheeks; “You going to go finish cleaning up?”

“In a minute.”

“Brush your teeth maybe, so we can see if we’re any better at kissing when we’re not exhausted?”

Starsky pushed up and away and disappeared into the bathroom again without a word. Gagged himself a few times on the toothbrush and Hutch tried to ignore the colorful expletives each one pulled forth.

“Starsky?”

“Hnn?”

“Exactly how do you expect to make love to a man, if your gag reflex is so sensitive you can’t brush your teeth.”

His eyes were round. He spat into the sink, “Who implied I was doin’ the giving of such pleasures?” He started scrubbing again.

“Oh-ho, no-no-no. That isn’t how this works.”

“Then how does it work? I thought you were just as blind in all this as I am?”

Hutch scowled, “If I do it, you have to do it.”

“What if I don’t like it?” He had foam on his chin.

“Have you ever even touched another man’s—”

“Yeah.”

Hutch propped his cheek on his hand, “Oh? Whose?”

“Frisked a guy once who had a Thirty-eight special hidden in his pants. Thought I wouldn’t look there. He was very wrong.”

“That doesn’t count.”

“Had to get the weapon away from him somehow—”

“No dice, try again.”

“Well, what about you?” He scrubbed furiously at his teeth.

Hutch felt his cheeks heating; “Yours for one.”

Starsky choked and bent over the sink coughing. Decided his mouth was clean enough and turned on Hutch with a glare; “That don’t count!”

The blonde started ticking off on his fingers; “I wasn’t frisking anyone in the line of duty. I wasn’t drunk and didn’t fall on anyone’s lap or make a mistake on a dark dance floor. And I certainly didn’t cop a feel while I was being helped out of the bath.”

“I was sick! I was sick, I couldn’t walk or stand up on my own— I almost passed out!”

“You know, you’re kinda cute when you’re blushing.”

“Who’s blushing!”

He chuckled, “Okay, okay, it doesn’t count.”

“Thank you,” He turned back to the sink and began cleaning up the sprayed toothpaste foam. “You can’t call it sexy if a guy’s not healthy enough to take himself to the john.”

Hutch hummed loudly, thoughtfully; “The guy from college.”

“Thought you said that was only kissing.”

“Mostly kissing… and groping through our clothes. Hand jobs.”

“Did you two do it?”

“No. It never got that heated.”

“Then what’s the hold up?”

Hutch hesitated, tried to gage the expression on Starsky’s face. Glanced away as he spoke. “I experimented on my own once or twice. Got real friendly with a girl named Sally, works at a sex shop—no I’m not telling you where— and it-uh—It hurts.”

Starsky blinked a few times but said nothing.

“So, that’s why I haven’t said anything.”

Starsky sat on the closed toilet lid and scratched compulsively at his cheek; “It hurts?”

“Yeah.”

“The films don’t make it look like it hurts.”

“Porno is bogus, you know that,” He rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously; “I’m just trying to be straight with you about it. We tried, it wasn’t any good for me.”

Starsky didn’t say anything for a long while, just sat there with his hands folded between his knees, thinking.

“What?”

“Was it OK on your own?”

“It was alright.”

“How’d you do it? Fingers?”

Hutch rubbed his jaw, gave Starsky a long look. “Is that what you were doing in the tub?”

“Thought about it, but no. I was just soaking.”

“Why don’t you come back in here, huh? Stop acting like I scare you.”

“You don’t scare me.”

“Then why are you hiding in there?”

Starsky rubbed at his hair again. Shook some more wetness out of it. After a moment he stood and let out a deep sigh; “I think I just realized what’s wrong.”

“Oh? Enlighten me?”

“I was expecting fireworks. Earthquakes—”

Hutch rolled his head to the side, grinned; “Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very, frighten—”

“—Hey, cut that out!”

Hutch dissolved into quiet giggles.

“I’m tryin’ to be serious and here you are—” He shook his head and turned to stare into the mirror.

“Aw, come on! I was kidding.”

He got no reply.

“Starsky, come on… Just come here and talk to me. I was kidding!”

Starsky moved out of the room silently, stopped at the couch and loomed over the blonde, staring down at him with an unreadable expression. “That’s the point… Here I was expecting Serious Hutch, with those come-hither baby blues, all machismo and confidence. Direct and to the point. No fuss, just— There to fold me up and knock my socks off—And instead I get this chump cracking wise when I try to get him to talk to me, and making awkward chitchat about how we can’t make love even though I’ve got enough blue in my pants to paint the entire west coast!”

“Is that what you want? Me to fold you up and blow your mind?”

“That’s what I thought I wanted. But that isn’t you, is it… That’s the face you put on for ladies and the rest of the world. This—this is you. Insecure, nervous, silly… Too serious for his own good sometimes. THIS is you. I know that, I’ve known that for years,” He took a slow breath and let it out. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For tryin’ to make you be something you’re not.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I could still fold you up and blow your mind every so often.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Hutch caught him by the back of the neck and pulled him down. The angle was just right and he felt the muscles in Starsky’s neck and back jump in surprise, then melt. Starsky’s blunt, strong fingers pushed into his hair, pulled him closer into a quick clash of teeth on supple lips, pinching and sucking in a quick reminder that there was danger here. Dragons lurked in this ocean. Hutch felt a shudder run through himself, catch where his body touched the other and continue through, like an electrical current.

Starsky shoved at his shoulder and scrambled bodily over the back of the couch onto hands and knees, braced over the blonde as he seemed to flow like molten gold into the pressure of fingers over his waist, neck and chest. Plucking at the buttons of his shirt. A melodic sound bubbled from between them, rapture-ecstasy-torture.

Hutch grabbed him, pulled him down by the back pockets of his cutoffs and wedged his left knee between the brunet’s thighs. Tilted his head back, surrendering to the scrape of teeth down his neck, and tough fingers pulling him up by the hip and nape.

And then Starsky stilled, breathing ragged, body heavy and trembling. Voice thin; “Oooh,” He swallowed audibly, “This was a bad idea.”

Hutch lifted his head, dazed; “What?”

“J-just don’t move.”

“What happened? Are you hurt?”

“No,” He sounded confident, if quiet. “But if you move, I’m gonna come in my pants like a kid.”

Hutch didn’t move. “Five months, huh?”

“I’ve been too drugged up to manage it until now.”

“That why you haven’t been taking your pain meds?”

“How’d you know?”

“I keep count,” Hutch pushed a hand through Starsky’s hair, pressed a gentle kiss to his brow.

“I told you don’t move—”

“I know. Take it easy—Let-let me give you some fireworks, huh?”

“I really am a leg-humping-terrier,” He shuddered almost violently, fingers bruising where he gripped the blonde; “Fuck, this is embarrassing.”

“Uh-uh. No, it’s not—It’s beautiful,” Hutch’s other hand slid carefully from his hip across his stomach, pulled playfully at the soft hairs trailing south and sent shivers coursing up and down. “You’re here, breathing, warm—Alive in my arms. It’s beautiful,” There was just enough room, just enough weight still missing from Starsky’s frame that his hand fit perfectly in between flesh and cotton. “You’re beautiful.”

Starsky groaned loudly, head bowing forward, brow to brow, lashes just sooty crescents on flushed cheeks. Lips plumped from friction and pressure.

Hutch curled his hand carefully around him, pressed gently up against the solid heat he found. “You’ve waited five months for this, huh?”

That hand. Starsky thought maybe the universe had condensed down to that hand. Rough places on his palm from gripping a gun, a pen, a steering wheel. Fingertips firm from guitar strings. His insides felt like jelly, heat pooling down-down-down where Hutch cradled him, careful but surely. “Years… Waited years for you.”

“Yeah?”

He nodded, tried to focus on breathing past the almost painful pumping of his heart. He knew that hand, knew that voice, and the face of the man beneath him almost as well as his own. He thought for a moment that it should be weird that Hutch had hold of him like this—Fingertips pressed into his balls, palm curled gently against his shaft—but it wasn’t. Thank everything that it wasn’t! That hand was warm and almost trembling in withheld want. The tension building in his legs, and the bottom of his pelvis grew, almost itching with the need for release. He bowed his head with a groan, arm snaking beneath the blonde’s neck to pull him closer. Please, closer, because this already felt capable of something world altering.

Hutch held him for a moment, hand splayed at the back of his head, breathing assurances and soft words of love, then he smiled, tilted his lips toward one ear and whispered; “Well, let’s see about those fireworks, yeah?”

Hutch claimed his mouth again, relished in the joyful breathlessness of the man in his arms. Body warm and glowing with a sheen of sweat, muscles trembling from pleasure. Face lax and open. Three strokes and Starsky made a noise, deep in his chest, somewhere between agony and epiphany.

“It’s ok, I’ve got you—Feel it, that’s it, babe. Listen to you!” Hutch groaned himself, rocked down against the thigh pressed between his own. “Come on, I’ve got you—"

A rolling shudder down his spine, like an earthquake, hips following the motion. Starsky muttered a curse, a beseeching soft noise into the blonde’s neck, and his body tensed, trembled; starbursts behind his eyes, explosions along every nerve. Heat and passion and Hutch purring in his ear, kissing him dizzy.

It was over too quickly for his taste, he wanted it to last forever. It had been so long, climax almost felt foreign to him. New and exciting. It left his body utterly spent and heavy, pressing Hutch’s down into the couch with a horrible mess between them, gluing the blonde’s hand to his intimate essentials.

Starsky’s left arm was trapped under Hutch’s head, right arm and leg dangling somewhere over the side of the couch. Cheek to cheek he caught his breath. The position was by no means comfortable for either of them, but they didn’t move. Just fit together like puzzle pieces.

“That was great,” Starsky thought his face was numb, words slurred; “Give me thirty minutes and we’ll do it again.”

Hutch laughed, low and deep. “Thirty minutes?”

“Well, maybe I can push to fifteen, but—”

Another reverberating chuckle.

“What about you?” He shifted gently against the solidity he could feel pressed to his hip. “I-uh—I can’t promise fireworks, but…”

“I’ll be OK,” He breathed deeply, free hand making short passes over fresh numb scars. “Think you need another shower though.”

“Fuck that… After I finish you off, let’s just go down t’the beach, scandalize some old ladies.”

“It’s October. You’ll catch pneumonia.”

“You’re no fun.”

“Come on, at least rinse off, or we’ll smell like sex at your appointment tomorrow.”

He hefted a sigh; “Fine. Can’t scandalize the therapists. Need ‘em to sign my ‘back to work’ papers.”

Hutch grinned, followed him to the bathroom and scrubbed his hands clean, watched as Starsky peeled out of his soiled shorts and stepped back into the tub, immodestly soaped and cleaned himself, then climbed out, chest and lower half dripping. Hutch shook his head and watched as the brunet staggered to his bedroom, rolled into bed and snuggled into the pillow with a deep sigh, back rising and falling without a hitch.

Hutch leaned on the door and looked at him. Taking in the gold light of late afternoon playing across his skin. Body still slightly flushed from activity and excitement, but firm and vital and glowing with returning strength and health.

Starsky grinned wickedly, “Like what you see?” He shifted his hips a little, the line around his waist from a tan still making the contrast between his ass and back, even after months of being on medical leave.

“Always.”

He patted the bed beside him and yawned. “Gimmie five minutes and I’ll return the favor.”

“Five minutes?” Hutch approached, eased himself down beside his partner and turned to him.

Starsky’s eyes were already closed; “Yeah… My stamina isn’t what it used to be.”

“That’s alright, we’ve got time,” Hutch found himself devoting every detail to memory. The sounds the other had made. Breathless and overwhelmed, as if he wasn’t sure he was supposed to ever feel that good. The taste of his mouth beneath the toothpaste. The weight and reality of him pressed so close, so perfectly. How his pulse had played against Hutch’s fingers, every twitch and roll of his hips transferred, written on his skin. The helpless yearning in his voice just seconds before he’d come. Each muscle twitching and contracting and pulling against his grip—

Five minutes came and went and Starsky slept. Hutch found himself eventually sitting up against the headboard and playfully twirling every curl on his partner’s damp head into a ringlet. Leaving the brunet nude and somehow cherubic, curled close as he was in sleep and satisfaction. Hutch would probably get an earful for messing with the other man’s hair, but he couldn’t help it. Felt it somehow suited Starsky, made him look younger, innocent in a way, even with the scars of battle on his skin and soul.

The day wore on into evening, dusk, night, and Hutch settled himself down, unfastened his slacks so they didn’t bind during the night and drew the blankets over Starsky so he didn’t catch chill. Hummed softly to himself, and the night around them. Drifted off gently, fully. Found he didn’t know until that moment how tired he was. How little sleep he’d allowed himself since the incident in the parking garage. Since he’d almost lost everything.

Starsky murmured something unintelligible at close to midnight, threw a heavy arm across Hutch’s chest and drew him close. A dreamy kiss to his jaw and a yawn in his ear and he was asleep again.

Hutch grinned, settled down with his head on Starsky’s pillow and drifted back to sleep.

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Halloween by Desmond J

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HALLOWEEN

(Late October)

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Starsky was in a mood. One of those resentful, wounded animal moods that came upon him from time to time. He’d been like that for days, since he’d sat up abruptly with Hutch beside him in bed and realized the blonde hadn’t woken him after the ‘five minutes’ he’d requested. On top of that they didn’t have time before appointments, and Hutch going in for his shift, to initiate anything else. Since then, Starsky had barely spoken unless to complain. He’d taken to muttering about the food, about his stomach, the sliced tomato and lettuce as he peeled them off his sandwiches, the marinara on his pasta. The salads Hutch tried to pair with everything.

“It’s your fault,” Starsky growled. “You keep tryin’ to feed me rabbit food and it just goes right through like a flash flood! I told you—TOLD YOU!”

“I know, I know,” Hutch muttered. “You’ve told me… Multiple times.”

“No wonder my clothes still don’t fit.”

“Your clothes don’t fit because now you’re more muscle than f—”

“Chose your next words carefully,” Starsky gave him a long, narrowed look.

Hutch let the ‘F’ sound play around in his mouth a little, reshaped it with his lips to a noise like a wet balloon losing air. He thought it better to not push his partner any more, Starsky had a volatile temper, even more so of late.

It wasn’t just the food, Hutch could tell. Maybe it was that they hadn’t had much time together since Hutch’s leave had expired and he’d been back on the streets with a temporary partner. Starsky was usually already asleep when Hutch returned, or Hutch was exhausted and Starsky was left to putter around quietly or risk waking him.

Today, though, it was coming to a head. Sore and recalcitrant from physical therapy, psychotherapy, and ‘dinner therapy’ as Huggy called it, Starsky was still shuffling around the apartment with a half pout on his face and his arm braced across his abdomen, not even halfway dressed.

At least he’s put pants on, Hutch sighed to himself. But where did his shirt go?

Yes, he was sore. Yes, physical therapy had started really kicking his ass on a twice weekly basis. But, more than that, Starsky was stubborn, and on some level wanted to be fussed over, even if he wouldn’t admit it. So, it was Whiny-Juvenile-Mulish-Starsky that Hutch was forced to deal with.

“Look at you,” Hutch growled; “You haven’t even combed your hair—Where are your shoes? Did you even shower?”

A grunt.

“Would you put your shoes on, or comb your hair—brush your teeth—Something?”

Starsky flopped boneless across the bed on his face, limbs stretched out. He moaned.

“Look, I know you don’t give a rat’s ass about what you look like when Lydia sees you. You’ve made that abundantly clear. But I’m not taking you out into the civilized world like this. You look like the wolfman!”

Starsky growled threateningly into the mattress and Hutch threw a shirt over his head.

“That why you’ve been growing that rug on your face? Part of your Halloween costume?”

“Rug? ’s not that bad…”

Hutch could barely understand him. “Says you. You don’t have to look at it all day. I had to tell Dobey I had an allergic reaction to explain this shit you left on my neck,” He scratched at it.

“Fuck you,” The oath sounded far less acidic muffled through the bed.

“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to hide beard burn?”

“’shouldn’t’ve fallen asleep on me.”

“Look. My next day off we’ll just hide in bed all day, alright?”

He lifted his head enough to peer out hopefully.

“November first. It’ll be an easy date to remember. Yearly Anniversary of our first time… I’ll buy you flowers.”

“I have therapy on the first. You know that. I’ll be all cramped up. Worse than I am now,” He dropped his face back into the blankets.

Hutch rubbed his brow, “You insisted you had to go. I switched my day off just so I could take you.”

Starsky turned his face back out of the sheet, apparently unwilling to suffocate himself, no matter how tired he said he was. “I appreciate your sacrifice in my name, but I didn’t know I was gonna feel like this after Lydia finished with me.”

“You’re gonna let a five-foot-two woman beat you up?”

“She’s got muscles like a Russian pit fighter, Hutch. Only blonde… and tiny… and not as hairy. She’s a monster.”

“She’s five-two, a hundred-ten pounds tops, and you’re gonna let her pummel you to the point that you can’t find the energy to go out?”

“She didn’t pummel me.”

“Could have fooled me—”

“Monsters maul people. That’s what she does. She mauled me. Teeth, claws and all.”

“Werewolves again… This is the last time I let you watch Lon Chaney before bed. Did you have nightmares or something?” Hutch rubbed his face tiredly.

“No.”

“Anyway, I thought you said you didn’t need physical therapy—That it would be a waste of your time?”

“I was wrong—and you don’t gotta be so smug about it.”

“You’re just upset because you’re not in as good of shape as you thought you were.”

“Sure. Has nothing to do with the therapist being a monster.”

“The only monster I see here is you.”

Starsky bared his teeth, but it lacked venom, even if he did resemble the wolfman. He rolled onto his back, becoming tangled in the sheets. Scratched at the hair on his face, “Maybe I should do a mummy thing instead… what do you think? It’d certainly itch less.”

“I think that if you don’t get up and put on your shoes, I’ll be left in charge of your holiday shopping. I don’t have another day off between now and Halloween, so you’ll have to give out whatever I decide to bring back for you. Unless you feel like walking or hitching a ride to the market.”

Starsky was quiet, thoughtful.

“And do you know what I’d get for all the little hobgoblins?”

“What?”

“Apples, Starsk.”

“Candy apples?”

“Nope.”

“You can’t give kids plain apples for Halloween! That-That’s just cruel!”

“Watch me,” And he turned away, walking slowly toward the door. He was at the bottom of the stairs when Starsky appeared, one shoe on, one in his hand, shrugging on his red hooded jacket over his bare chest.

“Halloween is for candy—”

“Oh, yeah, sure… The whole country descends into lunacy and it’s all for the candy,” Hutch waited while Starsky eased down the steps and leaned against the railing to pull his shoe on. “I’ll be sure to tell all the criminals that, while I’m stuck on a beat with-with Bluto. I mean, Starsky says it’s all about candy! Right? So, it has to be about the candy! Not about the kidnappings, poisonings, rapes, and murders that happen every year because whackos hide behind masks and costumes to get away with crimes they’re too scared to pull any other day of the year.”

“Bluto?” Starsky grinned; “You mean Bines?”

Hutch rolled his eyes heavenward.

“Hey, that’s great! I told you you’d like him! You already got a real nice nickname for him!” He glanced away and muttered to himself; “Better than the last one you gave him at least.”

“I got a partner, don’t know what Dobey was thinkin—”

“It’s temporary! I’m gonna be back before you know it—Jeez, don’t let the guy think you’re a hardcase. You’ll have half the neighboring precincts thinkin’ you’re dangerous! You already scared that one kid down to Narco, don’t screw this up!”

Hutch continued to grumble as he threw himself behind the wheel of his car, slammed the door harder than necessary. Starsky climbed in much slower, slammed his door from necessity not spite.

Hutch glanced at him, then rolled his eyes; “Why didn’t you put on a shirt?”

“Not like you gave me much time,” He pulled the zip a little higher.

“I’ve been trying to get you ready for an hour!”

Starsky slumped tiredly back in the seat without comment, pulling thoughtfully at the hair on his chin.

“Your hair is a mess.”

Still nothing.

“You look like a psychopath.”

“At least I’m not acting like one.”

“I heard that!”

Starsky grinned, hitched his feet up on the dash and rolled his head into the sunlight.

Hutch watched him from the edge of his vision, “I knew you wanted to come along.”

“Shhh, ’m sleepin’.”

Hutch snorted, but left him alone.

Starsky seemed to rally by the time Hutch parked outside the grocery store. There were women moving in and out, some younger, some older in coats with scarves tied over their heads to protect from the wind. Others still had children with them, whining and bellowing for sweets. Jumping up and down in the back seats of station wagons.

A little boy with a silver cap pistol and a cowboy hat was leaning out of a car window making wet, ‘pew pew pew’ noises while his haggard mother tried to make his younger sibling stop wailing. The boy snarled at them as they passed, rolling his lips back from his missing teeth and flipping his tongue up to touch his nose.

“Cute kid,” Starsky said and gave the boy a wave.

“Thanks,” His mother said, her tone indicating exactly how cute she thought he was. “Joseph, sit down and stop making that face, it’ll freeze that way!”

Hutch glanced over his shoulder, hands shoved into his jacket pockets; “Ah, parenthood… Wouldn’t you like a couple of those? A little Davey? Or a Daisy?”

“You kidding? I can barely take care of myself,” Starsky muttered, bumped playfully into the blonde’s shoulder.

Hutch grinned, bumped their knuckles together and cleared his throat, “I think I had a cowboy outfit like that as a kid. Hat, vest… Pair of cap guns.”

“Yeah?”

“Kind of a thing for most boys of that age. My mother thought so anyway.”

Starsky snapped his fingers, face split in a wide grin. “Gene Autry… Silver with the white grips, right?”

“I don’t remember,” Hutch chuckled; “Used to terrorize my sister with them. Mother got tired of it, took them away.”

“Ah, man, Hutch! I begged my pop for one for weeks. I played with that thing until the springs broke and it was held together with tape!”

Hutch chuckled, gave his partner a fond glance and a pat on the back.

The inside of the store wasn’t too busy. Bag boys helping ladies out with their purchases, a child or two racing around, up and down aisles, the various woman slowly perusing the canned goods and produce. Starsky snatched up a basket but Hutch took it from him, so he had to get another.

“Starsk, where are you going?”

“Candy. You can’t be trusted.”

Hutch rolled his eyes but let him go, selected the essentials that he knew the brunet would ignore. Some oranges, bananas, milk, eggs, and bread. A few items that Starsky could use to throw together a sandwich, or something equally fast and easy. He had a feeling this trip wouldn’t be as thorough as he would like. Not with Starsky in his current mood. Would it be possible to drop him back at his place and come out again once he was occupied? Stock the fridge and pantry with things that didn’t come prepackaged or swimming in unnecessary sugars and fats. It would have to be quick, but Hutch thought he could manage it. It just depended on how tired the brunet really was, and how much of it was obstinacy.

He found Starsky perusing the candy a few minutes later. Basket at his feet with his head bent over a package, turning it over and over in his hand.

Hutch nudged the basket in the floor with his foot, blinking at the contents. “Parents are sure gonna love you… Pushing all that sugar on their kids.”

“You know… there’s a reason my place never gets egged.”

“Usually, because we’re on patrol on Halloween.”

“Besides that.”

Hutch thought back over the years; “Well, year before last you were seeing that girl—What’s-her-name—And she was at your place… She gave out the candy?”

“Hundred-thirty kids. Ran out and had to turn off the light. Neighbors had over two-hundred. I’m going to beat them this year, just watch.”

“All that money wasted on twenty-seconds of a kid’s sugar high.”

“Do you just generally hate fun?”

“No, just the senseless waste of a person’s hard-earned money to fulfil a corporate agenda.”

“Corporate agenda? It’s candy.”

“It’s an excuse to sell bulk goods, and overpriced plastic costumes to spoiled children with haggard, overworked parents.”

“You’re lucky I don’t egg your place.”

Hutch picked up Starsky’s basket and carried it to the front of the store. Eyed the store circular ads while the other made small talk with the checkout girl. She was younger by more than a few years and was eagerly showing off her wedding ring. Starsky called her by name, offered quiet congratulations.

Hutch carried most of the bags, out of a sense of duty, but Starsky insisted on carrying most of his chosen candies. He seemed more upbeat now, maybe he’d managed a second wind.

He talked animatedly on their way back about the checkout girl. That she’d worked there for a year or two now, but the wedding had been a surprise; “Well, maybe not a surprise,” he said. “I haven’t been in there in months. I mean, how much did I miss! They rearranged stuff again, too. I thought I was lost for a bit there. Wound up looking at canned fruit. Why they gotta rearrange things every month? Why can’t they just leave stuff where it is?”

“Because then you would just go and get only what you need. You won’t browse. You won’t wander around like a turkey and see something you don’t need and buy it because it looks interesting. Why do you think they have gum displays and knickknacks near the registers? Impulsive buying. You’re an impulsive shopper.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. You need to keep lists,” He rummaged in his pocket and withdrew his, shook it in the other’s face, “Only buy what’s on the lists. Stay focused!”

“That how you do it?”

“Yes, that’s how I do it. I don’t look around, I don’t shop hungry. I stick to the list.”

When the time came to climb the stairs back to his apartment, Starsky was flagging visibly. Paused halfway up and pretended that he was inspecting one of the treads; “Does that step feel weak to you?”

Hutch checked it, bounced up and down a little just to allow his partner a moment to breathe without guilt, “No, feels fine.”

“Must be my shoe,” He hummed thoughtfully and continued up.

Hutch put away the milk, eggs and other items. Watched as the candy was stashed in a cupboard, but not before Starsky took out a package of Reese’s cups. Tugging the plastic open and licking the chocolate off his fingers.

“You’re gonna ruin your dinner.”

“Has it ever ruined my dinner?”

He didn’t have a reply.

Starsky sauntered off with his candy, sprawled himself out on the couch with the TV Guide and started humming loudly.

So it was that, barely five days later, just as Hutch was coming in from a long shift, Starsky made an excuse to send him to the grocery store; “There’s this new thing I just saw on the TV—I gotta get some for the kids before they’re all out! I made a list, look!”

Hutch paused beside the couch and looked down at the dark curls falling across his partner’s forehead, scanned the scrap of paper in his hands; “You ate all that candy, didn’t you.”

Starsky shrugged innocently; “Not all of it?”

“It’s two days until Halloween. The stores don’t have any candy left. I know, I helped break up a fight in one earlier.”

Starsky looked up guiltily; “Not even wax lips?”

“Not that I saw.”

He looked crestfallen.

“I knew this would happen. Every year you do this.”

Starsky narrowed his eyes, “’s been months since I had candy, what did you expect?”

“I expected you to have enough sense not to eat sixteen pounds of candy in a week!”

“Didn’t eat all of it. Just the Reese’s Cups,” He looked a little green about the gills; “Think I kind of went crazy with it,” He shuddered, “Can you be a candy junky? I felt like I couldn’t stop myself there for a while. I couldn’t get enough. I’ve never felt anything like it!” His eyes were wide, “But, I learned my lesson.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah… Spent the last three days sick as a dog. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at peanut butter the same again.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

Starsky shifted uncomfortably in his seat; “You were working late and upset about Bines. I wasn’t gonna bug you because I had a stomach ache. ‘sides, it was my own fault.”

Hutch rubbed his face, “Five months of a doctor recommended diet, your system isn’t used to all that sugar.”

“You’re telling me,” He wrapped his arms around his middle. “You sure the store’s out? It isn’t fair not giving kids candy on Halloween. They’ll be disappointed.”

“Well, maybe next year you’ll think about that before you eat all the damned candy!”

“Yeah… I guess.”

“Look, I know how much you were looking forward to this. I can still go get some apples and oranges, so you’ll at least have something to give them.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same.”

“At least they’re getting something.”

“You ever seen a kid’s face on Halloween? Not the kids like around here. But the kids who hop the bus, or walk in big groups from their neighborhood to the other side of town? Kids in hand made costumes— The ones who don’t get much good things happening in their lives, yanno? On Halloween it’s not always like that. It doesn’t matter if they’re poor and their parents can’t afford much… It’s not like Christmas. Halloween is different. Nobody knows who you are, or where you came from, nobody cares. Most of the time they’ll give you candy same as the next kid… But you can tell. I can tell. Those kids look at you like you gave ‘em the moon or something.”

And there was the face. All big regretful eyes and pouty lips. Even under that beard it was heartbreaking. Hutch sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair. Damn that sad face. Damn him for the sad kid stories, and damn him for looking so fucking heartbroken.

Hutch tilted his head back and rubbed both palms over his face, beaten. “You owe me,” He pointed sternly toward the far wall; “Move.”

“What?” Starsky looked half scared.

“Get up!”

“I don’t feel like goin— I made a list—”

“No, just—” He pulled Starsky up and muttered about damn Bambi eyes, and lifted the couch with a grunt, kicked a package tightly folded in a paper bag out toward his partner’s feet. He dropped the couch with a loud thump. “There… Don’t say I never did anything for you,” and he sat down heavily in Starsky’s spot.

“What the hell is this?” Starsky pointed to the offending package.

“What do you think it is!”

“I don’t know but I’ve seen dope wrapped up like that before and I—"

“It’s not dope, you moron.”

He bent carefully, eyes on Hutch, and opened the package. He blinked, then gave a soft shake that turned into strangled giggles; “Hutch, you—uh- got something you wanna tell me?”

Hutch just glared at him.

“I mean, YOU, of all people hiding Tootsie Rolls and Twix Cookie Bars? I’m shocked! Where did you get it? None of this was on your lists."

“Not another word.”

“Why are they under the couch? Did you hide ‘em? ‘s like you feel guilty— Do you feel guilty?”

“I hid them so you wouldn’t eat them,” He snarled, “I know you. Every year you say you’re gonna leave candy for the kids, but you go out three and four times to get it because you end up eating it all. You know why your place never gets egged? You end up leaving a bowl of change on your doorstep, or have one of your girls do it—Dammit, it’s not funny!”

“Like hell it’s not funny!” Starsky pulled out one of the half-eaten packages; “Here you are, in my house, puttin’ your stash under my couch!”

“It’s not a stash!”

“If it’s not a stash, why’d you hide it!”

“Will you just get outta here with that before I change my mind and make you give those kids apples? It’d serve you right!”

Starsky took the package away and stuffed it into the cupboard. On his way back through the room he stopped behind the couch and wrapped his arms around Hutch’s shoulders. “Thanks,” And he pressed a kiss to the side of the blonde’s face.

Hutch crossed his arms, still feigning bitterness.

Starsky giggled prodding him playfully in the stomach, “You got a sweet tooth! Come on, admit it!”

Hutch smacked him in the face with a cushion.

“Admit it!” Starsky wrestled the cushion away, rolled across the back of the sofa and landed with his head on the blonde’s thigh. “Admit it! You’ve got a sweet tooth! You like candy just as much as me and were hiding that all for yourself! You’re an impulsive shopper!”

Hutch yanked the cushion up and flattened it over the other man’s face, crossed his arms on it, pinning flailing arms with his legs.

“No.”

He could still hear Starsky laughing.

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