Summary: Hutch will find out why Starsky has shut him out completely.
Hutch twisted and turned on his partner’s couch, unable to fall asleep. It wasn’t the couch’s fault. As a matter of fact, the cushions had molded themselves to his size and shape after two weeks of sleeping there, and Hutch considered it now the warmest nest for his more and more exhausted body.
He knew the reason for his restlessness. Starsky was just as restless, twisting and turning in his bed. He only had to close his eyes to feel his partner’s discomfort. He could feel even the beginnings of the pain that had been his friend’s constant companion for three months.
Just a couple weeks ago, doctors had eased up on the pain meds Starsky was taking. At first, the pain had seemed unbearable, but little by little, it had lessened. Still, at night, especially at night, after a whole day of moving around and forcing his body to its physical limit, Starsky paid the price for his courage and determination to beat the odds.
With a soft sigh, Hutch turned on his back and stared at the ceiling.
Two weeks. Two weeks since it had happened.
Instinctively, the blond man looked down at his hands as they gripped the light blanket that covered his body.
This was the proof that demonstrated how a person’s strength lay in his mind, not his body.
For two months he had been Starsky’s nurse and he hadn’t wavered an instant. He had been strong, supportive, a rock for his ravaged partner to lean on. Every single day he performed chores that he never thought he’d have to perform. And it had been his greatest honor, for he knew Starsky wouldn’t have allowed anyone else near him or his body.
He had bathed, dressed and changed his partner. He had tended his surgical incisions and bullet wounds with the utmost reverence, the deepest part of him wishing to cover them with the kisses and love that cried out to be bestowed on their only recipient. But he held that love back.
It was easy now. Starsky’s shooting had killed every erotic dream and sexual thought. It had been hell for months because Starsky was healthy... and unreachable. Now, even if Starsky was willing, any physical activity was out of the question.
So, he completely supressed his every need. He touched Starsky all over, and not once he had thought about it.
Starsky had gloried in every tiny victory, and the most celebrated to date had been the day he was capable of taking his first shower and taking care of all his needs unaided.
Of course, pain meds were kicking then.
But his first shower out of them was a nightmare. Far worse than the worst times.
Starsky had insisted on doing it all by himself, and Hutch had relented.
The water had been running only a couple minutes when Hutch heard a soft noise. Applying his ear to the door, he heard Starsky swearing weakly. Next, he heard a moan so full of pain he bit his lower lip, almost drawing blood.
Starsky didn’t ask for help then. But every following moan cut through Hutch’s heart like a knife.
Finally, when Hutch already had his hand on the doorknob, he heard a whimper and a little groan.
Bracing himself, thinking of what it must have cost his partner admit defeat and ask for help, Hutch entered the bathroom.
Starsky was curled up in the bathtub, arms crossed around his middle, holding himself, tears streaming down his face, but bravely refusing to acknowledge them.
Hutch got down on his knees beside the tub and settled his hand on the hunched back, rubbing loving caresses all over it. He felt Starsky’s tensed body unknotting a little, and the bent head sought his shoulder shyly.
Hutch brought up his other hand and hugged the beloved head to him, his fingers entwining in the curls sprinkled with water. He began an unconscious rocking motion that Starsky followed blindly.
No words were needed. They were far beyond them. They stayed like that, drinking in each other’s presence, until Hutch took the sponge from Starsky’s fingers and began raining water on the back of his partner’s neck. He repeatedly introduced the sponge in the water and then squeezed it over the hurting back and chest. Time and time again. Grabbing the bottle of shower gel, he poured a generous amount on the sponge and washed away the pain in the trembling frame.
"Can you stand up?" He whispered into Starsky’s ear.
Nodding and holding on to Hutch’s soaked sleeve, Starsky rose unsteadily to his feet. His heart bursting with pride and love, Hutch sponged the thin body, lingering on every spot where he felt Starsky needed it.
They had long stopped wondering at the calming effect of one another’s touch. They simply accepted it and fed from it.
Hutch lost himself in the soothing movement of his hands that were easing a pain as deep as the one racking the body of the man he loved.
Minutes passed and they lost track of time. Starsky closed his eyes, apparently forgetting about his surroundings, his pruney skin and their cramped position. Hutch couldn’t care less about where they were, as long as they were together. He could feel Starsky’s pain ebbing away under the power of his love and he sighed in contentment.
Kneeling down again, Hutch concentrated his caresses on the lower part of Starsky’s body. He forgot about what parts he was bathing. He was only thinking about easing any lingering pain. Occasionally, he filled the sponge with water and poured it on knotted muscles and aching flesh. His left hand roamed soothing caresses everywhere his right couldn’t reach.
All of a sudden, a loud gasp brought him out of his reverie. The sound seemed more of pain than pleasure, so he immediately halted all movement and looked up.
What he saw in the drawn face wasn’t anything he had expected to see. Horror. Shame. Disbelief. Denial.
Very upset about his partner’s sudden and inexplicable frame of mind, Hutch searched Starsky’s body, trying to find out what was wrong, what had horrified his friend so.
And there, only a few inches away from his face, Hutch contemplated the erection rising from the plastered pubic hair.
An all-encompassing thrill spread all over his body. All of Hutch pulsed in a delightful shiver of boundless joy.
Right before him was the reward for his efforts. Now that no medication could prevent Starsky’s body from responding physically, it had blossomed before his eyes. He had turned Starsky’s pain into pleasure. He had taken his beloved’s pain away and given him what his body so much deserved.
The most selfless feeling of accomplishment enveloped him. Love and tenderness as he had never known, swept him away. Not *that* kind of love. That was the furthest thing from his mind. Just happiness and euphoria at the heartbreakingly vulnerable, and yet glorious affirmation of life.
Grinning joyfully, Hutch looked up at the devastated face. "Oh, Starsk," he exclaimed ecstatically. "It’s wonderful!"
"Get me out of here," Starsky snapped then, shaking himself out of his stupor. "I said get me outta here!"
Bewildered by the exaggerated reaction, Hutch sobered promptly, swallowing hard and trying to reassure his distraught friend. "It’s okay, buddy. It was about time your body knew the other side of pain. Don’t be ashamed. It’s just me. I don’t..."
"Hutch, please. Please, get me out of here. I wanna lie down now. Please!"
Starsky seemed about to burst out crying. He avoided meeting his gaze and squirmed helplessly, in a state of agitation so alarming that Hutch hurriedly complied with his request, unable to understand what had come over his friend. Ten minutes later, Starsky was in his pj’s and tucked up in his bed, a barrier stronger that the Iron Curtain already standing between them.
Hutch didn’t know what to do. Starsky had shut him out since that evening. He barely seemed to tolerate any physical contact now. Every time Hutch touched him, he ground his teeth, set his jaw and looked away, lost a million light-years in the distance.
Everything was awkward and forced between them. They weren’t communicating anymore. It was so much like their bad times he couldn’t stand it. They had vowed that they wouldn’t keep anything from each other. Whatever they felt was beginning to go wrong between them, they’d talk it over and sort it out. But now he was getting the silent treatment. And the worst thing of all was that he didn’t know what had he done to deserve this. Not this time.
He had apologized to Starsky over and over if he had said or done something to offend him. And Starsky said he hadn’t done anything, before returning to whatever inner world he retreated into.
It was two weeks later and he couldn’t take it anymore. They had been fighting this as a team and survived. Nothing could stand against them both, together. But without Starsky, Hutch was falling apart. He didn’t want to go on living, if his friend didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore.
Blinking when his eyesight got blurry, he smiled sadly at the feel of the tears running down his cheeks. Feeling like a dog begging his master for a few crumbs of affection, Hutch found himself on his feet, walking towards Starsky’s bedroom.
Something was drawing him inexorably there. Not only his own pain and unbearable need of some human touch, but Starsky’s equally unbearable pain and need. The closer he got to the room the stronger those emanations were. Starsky was hurting beyond reason, beyond his very sanity. And Hutch had no pride left, not where Starsky was concerned.
He reached the partially open door and slowly pushed it open all the way.
Starsky was turned onto his right side, facing away from him, curled up in the farthest side of the bed. The bedcovers shuddered endlessly, revealing the searing pain of the body beneath. Starsky’s suffering came out of him in waves that slashed through Hutch’s soul.
Answering the silent call, Hutch padded barefoot to the bedside and carefully slipped into the bed. He moved over and pressed up his front against the trembling frame, wrapping his arms around it.
Only then was he truly aware of how very much Starsky was hurting. His body was feverish, but some parts of it were deadly cold, like his hands and feet. Hutch had the feeling that Starsky’s nose and ears would be cold too, but he refrained from touching them.
Despite his agony, Starsky still found the strength to try and fight him off.
Wounded to every corner of his being by the feeble attempts at shaking him off, Hutch managed to plead, his voice and face full of tears. "Starsk, don’t," he begged. "Why are you doing this to us? What have I done? Please, tell me. Don’t withdraw from me. You’re killing me and you know it." He placed his left palm on the strong chest, reassuring himself with the wildly beating heart. "I need you." He pressed his face against the curls on the back of Starsky’s neck, inhaling the oh-so-loved scent. "I almost lost you forever. We both learned this lesson the hard way. Forgive me if I’ve done something to upset you. But I can’t fix it if you won’t tell me what it is."
His only answer was a deafening silence and a renewed attempt to shake him off that made him want to scream in helplessness. He bit his lips, trying to control his impending crying. Starsky was so stiff in his arms that it was scary. There was no communication between their bodies, only an unyielding resolve to fight him that hurt more than anything he had ever known. "Okay, babe. If that’s the way you want it." Hutch felt his soul had just died. "Just know that I love you more than I ever loved anyone. You’re my only reason to live." He nuzzled his way in between the curls and pressed his lips to the side of the warm neck, kissing it tenderly in farewell. "I’ll always love you, Starsk. Until the day I die and beyond." He hugged the beloved body to him one last time and began withdrawing.
A tiny whimper froze him on the spot. He strained to hear. Starsky was crying, but trying desperately to hide it from him.
Why? Why wasn’t Starsky turning to him anymore? Why this cruel rejection?
"Oh, God!" Hutch exclaimed. "Why are you doing this?" He wrapped his arms around the shaking body again. "Whatever it is, we’ll sort it out together. Together, like we always do. Why are you punishing me like this? What did I do? Please, don’t shut me out. Neither of us can stand this separation. I need you so much! I can’t make it without you. Please, Starsk, talk to me!" He implored, not bothering to hide his own crying any longer.
Then, on an impulse, Starsky turned about in his arms and buried his face in his chest, clinging to his T-shirt like a drowning man to a life preserver.
‘Oh, my love!’ Hutch cried out in his mind, crushing the madly loved man to him.
After so many days of forced estrangement, this embrace felt like a glass of water in the desert. They couldn’t get enough of grabbing each other everywhere. They roamed their bodies, caressing and rubbing their faces all over one another. Even their legs got tied up in knots. They were frantic, sighing and moaning, becoming reacquainted with the bond they had been depending on for years, that was blossoming and encompassing them now like a blanket. They belonged there, they were orphan without it. They cradled it close to their hearts, right where it would always be. Embedded deep inside them.
Hutch kissed the top of the curly head non-stop, holding it to his chest with one hand, while the other stroked the long back all over, rubbing circles on it, comfortingly.
Starsky seemed to want to lose himself in Hutch’s chest. He pressed his face against it with such need that the blond felt like dying with his own overwhelming need to protect this treasure, who lay so trustingly in his arms.
They released all the tears they had been holding back, wiping them away in one another. They hugged so tight that no pain had ever felt so good. They breathed in each other’s scent, feeling inebriated with the joy and peace it gave them. Home. This was where they belonged.
When the frenzied need of touch eased up just a little, Hutch resumed his familiar, leisurely caresses all over the body he loved, as he had been doing the couple weeks they had shared that bed. How much he had missed sleeping here! Wherever that precious man was, there was home. For the rest of his life.
Starsky let out a long sigh and seemed to relax for the first time in two weeks. He rested on the body that molded so perfectly to his own, providing him with all the soft and hard spots his battered body so needed.
"Are we okay now?" asked Hutch, his voice muffled in the thick hair.
After a couple seconds of hesitation, Starsky nodded, and Hutch knew they were far from being okay. He closed his eyes, trying to calm down the dreadful heartbeat in his chest. "Is it something I did?" He asked softly, desperate to understand what this useless agony had been about.
Starsky shook his head immediately, leaving Hutch more confused than ever. "I don’t understand then, babe," he murmured, easing up the pressure of his arms a little.
Starsky turned his head to the side, his left cheek lying on Hutch’s heart, as if trying to find a semblance of peace in the lulling sound.
"Is it something *you* did?" Hutch ventured to guess, even though it made no sense. His fingers splayed on the lovely head and the hurting back, giving all he had, massaging his devotion into the loved flesh.
Hutch blinked stupidly, totally baffled. "Is it because of your erection?" It suddenly dawned on him.
He could feel Starsky’s shame as he nodded reluctantly.
If it hadn’t brought them both so much suffering, Hutch would have laughed at that. "Starsky, for Christ’s sake. I told you a million times. It was an involuntary reaction to my touching you. You were out of medication and when my caresses eased your pain, your body reacted instinctively. It was a reflex, just like when they hit our knee with those little hammers to check our reflexes and our leg moves, whether we want it or not. My caresses coaxed that reaction from you, even though you weren’t thinking about it. It wasn’t your fault or anything."
With a sob, Starsky buried his face in his chest again, desperate for some cuddling. Hutch enveloped him in his arms once more, his heart bursting with love... and his fair share of quiet resignation. "What am I gonna do with you?" he asked, in pretended exasperation. "Did you think I’d read something different in your reaction?"
Hutch shook his head, slipping one hand below the T-shirt and sliding his fingertips over the warm back, lingering on the scars, as he had been dreaming of doing for so many days. He bent his head and kissed the soft forehead reassuringly, as Starsky rubbed his face against him like a sorry puppy. "You dummy. As if you were reacting like that because you felt any physical attraction for me. I’m not that..."
The brutal tension in the suddenly stiffened body froze Hutch in the middle of his sentence. Even the air around them seemed to have stilled, as if time itself had stopped, waiting for him to make the final connection.
And Hutch made it, especially when a warm throbbing pressed up against his hip awakened him to the unmistakable erection Starsky was subtly trying to move away from him.
At that moment, it was as if the sun had burst into a room that had been cast in the darkness forever. The blinders came off, and Hutch felt as if Truth had punched him on the face.
It... it couldn’t be! Starsky couldn’t possibly be in love with him! The idea was so preposterous he had never given it a single thought, so ridiculous it looked. His tough, macho partner, whose list of women he had bedded could paper the precinct, in love with someone with a flat chest and a dick below the belt?
True, the same could be said about him, but the fact that it had happened to him didn’t necessarily mean it had to happen to Starsky as well.
Hutch’s heart almost beat out of his chest when the realization of his requited love entered his brain.
He didn’t know what to think, what to say. It was the most unexpected thing. Everything felt so weird and unreal all of a sudden...
Starsky’s fearful attempt to move away the evidence of his passion from his hip brought Hutch back with a start. "No!" he cried out, more forcefully than he intended. His right arm hugged his beloved to him, keeping Starsky firmly anchored, and his left hand moved up to his own chest. He held the sweaty hand grabbing his T-shirt and slowly slid it down his body. "If you think that what’s pressing up against my thigh is gonna shock me, wait till you feel this," he whispered sensually, molding the trembling hand round the hardness in his groin. Now that his dream had come true, his body was totally out of control.
Hutch felt Starsky’s body stiffening again, this time in surprise at the completely unpredicted turn of events. He felt the confusion, the disbelief, even the denial that Hutch’s erection could be for him.
"Yes, it is for you, Starsky. It’s been only for you for so long, my love..." Hutch couldn’t hold back the poignant longing in his voice.
"Hutch..." the hoarse voice spoke for the first time, as Starsky struggled to raise on his elbows, unwillingly moving his hand away from the impressive package filling it up. He looked down at his partner, desperate to see the truth in those baby blues. And despite the dim street light filtering through the window, Starsky saw the truth beating out of those eyes, that reached out and worshipped him. Yes, worship was the only word that could describe what Hutch’s eyes said. "Oh, my baby," the words were out of his lips before he could even think about them. He hurled himself at Hutch and they hugged for all they were worth.
They laughed and cried, clinging to each other, unable to believe this miracle was really happening. They whispered love words they never thought they’d feel mushy enough to utter to another human being.
Everything felt so right between them, so perfect. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be happening to them! So long feeling like this, giving up all hope from the first moment they realized their love for each other had changed. And it had been theirs all along. All along!
They started raining kisses all over each other’s necks, lost in a frenzy of despairing need of loving one another now, making up for lost time now, making sure this was truly real. They kissed all over their faces, bumping their noses, trying to reach every place at the same time.
When the fit of kissing calmed down, they found themselves staring deep into each other’s eyes. One second was all it took before they slowly crossed the short distance separating them, opening their lips tentatively and closing their eyes one heartbeat before the first touch shook them down to their very souls.
They whimpered, totally devastated. Just a brush, and their bodies seemed to implode and burst in an explosion of heat and sensation so profound it changed them forever. Their skin filled with tingling goosebumps, every inner organ jumped with joy. Everything they had been up to that moment burned to ashes, and their next kiss put those ashes back together in perfect harmony. Nothing could ever be the same, for they had become that which they were meant to be. The fine, delicate music they were creating with their love marked the path they would follow for the rest of their lives.
Hutch’s arms came up and embraced the still powerful back of the man covering him with his body. He had never known such perfection, so much happiness. He didn’t know it was possible to feel like this and still be alive. This was heaven on earth, this was his destiny in his arms. He felt Starsky’s trembling, shy hands framing his face as he tilted his head and his lips opened again, taking his own in a heartfelt, reaffirming kiss that obliterated everything in its wake.
Hutch returned the kiss, projecting all the love and need that had consumed him all his life, knowing that he had found at last the only person who could understand him and give him the peace he had sought for so long. He wrapped his beloved in a bubble of warmth and adoration and they lost themselves in it, knowing they would never need anything else.
Time ceased to exist as they loved each other with such tenderness and devotion they ached from the beauty of it.
A moan of pain intruded into their perfect world, sobering them instantly. Starsky collapsed on Hutch, his chest muscles twitching and spasming. The effort of supporting his weight on his arms all that time had been too much for them.
Immediately knowing what was wrong, Hutch turned Starsky onto his side and his hands began a gentle and infinitely loving massage, gradually stroking the pain away.
"I’m sorry, Hutch. Oh, dammit, I’m sorry," Starsky apologized time and again, in an endless string of painful gasps, blaming himself for breaking the sublime communion of their souls.
"Don’t, love. Don’t," Hutch reassured sweetly. "It’s okay. Your body needs some more time, that’s all." He buried his fingertips in the hard pectorals, instinctively knowing how to touch, how to knead and rub to unknot the cramped muscles. Before he knew, Starsky was sighing in blissful relief.
"Thank you," Starsky exclaimed, from the bottom of his heart.
"My pleasure always, babe," Hutch replied, unable to stop his roaming caresses.
Starsky stared at the ceiling, a wistful expression on his face. "I wish..." he trailed off.
Hutch knew exactly what his partner meant, and settling comfortably beside his love, he began nuzzling him playfully. "I know, but just think about all the beautiful and sexy things that await us. I’m sure they’ll be the most effective incentive," he wriggled his eyebrows.
Starsky laughed. "Oh, they will be, they will be." He became serious and met Hutch’s gaze. "Will you wait for me, until...?"
Hutch reached out and cradled the pale face in his hand, burning Starsky with the intensity he exuded. "I’ve been waiting for you all my life, and I’ll wait for as long as it’s necessary."
The blue eyes filled with tears and a heartbeat later, they fell on the warm palm.
"Hutch..." Starsky was out of words. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he needed his partner to know...
Hutch nodded. "I know. But you’re halfway there already. You’re getting stronger every day. And you’re already responding physically," he inched closer and bestowed a comforting kiss on the pouted lips. A kiss full of promise and hope. "Soon, my love. Soon." He wiped away the tears with his thumb. Then, he kissed the reddened eyes, lingering on them until he healed their soreness.
With a moan, Starsky sought refuge in the open arms, that welcomed him home and closed around him, keeping him safe and protected. "Soon," he found himself repeating like a mantra, cuddling up the cozy body and holding it until it hurt again. But he smiled now, because this pain he could live with.
This was the only pain he would never give up.