Hutch sat by the hospital bed, his red eyes focused on the gray, familiar face almost totally buried behind the sheets and apparatus that were keeping his partner alive. Out of the million things that he wished they'd been able to do together, there was only one that he truly regretted not getting around to. But those three little words would have changed everything. I want you was somehow so very different from I love you. And he'd never had the guts to risk it all on a single throw of the dice. Now he was never going to have the chance to find out for himself how his macho partner would have responded to the discovery that his best buddy was warm for his form. Gunther's hit men had done their job way too well. Starsky hadn't died in that garage, but the doctors said it would only be a matter of time now. Minutes, hours...

"Years, decades, even centuries. The choice be yours." An unfamiliar deep voice said from the far corner of the night-dark hospital room. Hutch's magnum was in his hand before he even thought about it. It was 2 a.m.. He'd been alone in this room for over an hour. Nobody had gotten past him. He was sure of it. Fearing that Gunther's assassins had come back to complete the job they'd botched, the strung out detective scanned the room. There was nothing in the corner but shadows.

Thinking that he was really losing it, the tired blond re-holstered his weapon and rubbed a hand across his face. There'd been too many hospitals, too many all night vigils like this. He just didn't have it in him to go through this again.

"You'll not be getting the chance to go through this again." That same deep, strangely accented voice answered Hutch's mental ramblings. The accent sounded almost like a brogue: not quite Irish, not quite Scottish, but something that suggested both.

Hutch froze, a shiver passing down his spine. From where he sat, he could see the window. The darkness behind it made it reflective as a polished mirror. And in that mirror-perfect surface, Hutch found the proof that he had lost his mind.

According to the mirror-like glass, a short, stout figure was standing in thet far corner of the hospital room. With a numbed sense of unreality, Hutch studied the man reflected back at him.

Man? Hell, the intruder looked more like a lawn ornament. The voice emanated from a tiny being with a pointy chin, upturned nose, craggy face and bright blue eyes. Curls as dark as the blackness beyond the window peeked out from under a bright red pointy cap - which had a familiar white racing stripe running up the side, the blond noted with a vague sense of encroaching hysteria. That was the last familiar thing about the guy.

The clothes the stranger was wearing looked more like a costume. The blue tunic and black hose could have been lifted from Robin Hood or a Shakespeare production. There was no way the stranger could have gotten past the cop outside the door dressed like that. The only plausible explanation, Hutch realized, was that he had finally lost his mind and been driven over the edge by one too many deathbed vigils.

"Mad, you might be, but it is I you still see," His mental apparition insisted, his craggy face looking affronted by Hutch's mental disbelief in his reality.

"Who - who are you?" Hutch questioned, his hand inching for the security of his gun.

"Who am I? I am me, just as you see, me is what I’ll always be. When brooks first sang long ere the birth of man, look you, see, and there I stand. When the last of your kind is given back to the land, look thou again and there will I be. Always, knowing who I be. Can you say the same of thee?

"What?" His voice sounded scared and raspy to his own ears.

"Look at you. White knight no more. The quest be lost; the prince will fall. All because you lacketh gall." There was no escaping the accusative tone of the delivery.

Hutch wondered if this were a projection of his guilt-ridden conscience. The gnome was right. He'd failed. He hadn't protected Starsky from the shooters. If he'd done his job...

"It's no gnome you see, you knave. Gnomes be small, misshapen slaves. Good earth hides their lumpy shades. The gift is mine of daylight’s wealth. No gnome be I, I am an elf."

If Starsk hadn't been lying on the brink of death a mere foot away, Hutch would have laughed at the outraged visage. As it was, he could only gape and doubt his sanity. "What - what are you doing here?"

"Tis for my king and lady fair, this awful metal world I dare. Save for my wits, of power bare, for their son lies dying there."

"You - you mean Starsky?" Hutch stammered, gaping at the preposterous creature.

The little man gave a grave nod.

Gathering his wits about him, Hutch chewed at the ridiculous tale. "What do you mean 'king's son'? I thought you claimed to be an elf."

"So I said, and so I be, and you will find that so is he, this man you call your Star-es-sky."

The mistake of his partner’s name, more than anything, confirmed the reality of this impossible scenario.

"So is he what?" Hutch tried to untangle the sense of the weird rhymes.

"Though of power he’s been shorn, you will find he is elfborn."

"Yeah, right." Stifling a smile, Hutch looked away. His partner with the burrito breath and Jewish mother was an elf. Even for someone tethering on the brink of insanity and suffering the throes of an obvious nervous breakdown, that was stretching belief a bit too far.

"Move his curls, beneath them peer, and thou shalt find his pointed ear."

"I don't have to check beneath his damn curls. I've seen his ears a thousand times. They're rounder than mine. Do me a favor and just go away; would ya?" Hutch pleaded.

"Twas a glamor that you saw. His round ears, they be no more. Check thou now, if thou dost dare, what doth lie beneath his hair."

"Will you promise to go away if I do?" Hutch bargained.

"If that is what you wish me to."

Satisfied that there would be an end to this mania, Hutch reached out and carefully brushed his partner's longish curls up from Starsky's left ear. He couldn't believe he was even doing this, humoring a figment of his imagination. But he always felt better when he touched Starsk, and, what could it hurt, after all?

The instant his eyes focused on the delicate points his friend's formally round ears now came to, Hutch had his answer. The damn things were pointier than that green-blooded alien's on that awful sci fi show Starsky loved to watch. For a second, Hutch just sat there frozen in disbelief, and then he slowly reached out to verify what his eyes were telling him. They were real. Warm flesh, hard cartiledge. A normal feeling ear, that came to a dagger sharp tip.

No longer totally convinced that this was a figment of his over-tired imagination, Hutch felt a cold, icy fear squeeze through his innards. If this were real...

"What - what are you doing here?"

"Angry were we when he left, to follow on this hopeless quest. A total break, we thought it best. Let him have his dozen years, though they be crowned with mortal tears. He'd never stay the twelve-years through; we thought it true; we thought we knew. Long ere the twelfth year it would pass, we'd see him wed an elvan lass. His mettle not, we counted on, and soon our prince will now be gone. The rest would see him perish here, but I cannot. I love him dear."

"I don't understand what you're talking about," Hutch whispered; the only part that he did fully comprehend was the part about Starsky dying.

"Once beside a shaded lake, he found a manchild half-awake, whose beauty was beyond compare, with flaming locks of golden hair. His beauty did our prince ensnare. This mortal bound our young lord's heart. A love-sick fool, he was besot. Forsaking all that he held dear, he sought the man of yellow hair. A bargain made he ere he left, to win his love or die bereft, chained within a mortal form, to die disgraced, alone, forlorn, if not within twelve years he won, this golden treasure of the sun. The curse it windeth to its end, the golden hair is but his friend. One night hath he to win his way, or perish with the coming day."

Beginning to understand the rhythms of the odd form of speech, Hutch slowly questioned, "Are you saying that I'm the golden one? And that Starsky had twelve years to... to win me... or die?"

"That be the quest that brought me here, though many say it be not fair."

Desperately, the homicide detective sought to deny the possibility, but... they'd met in the academy. If Hutch's memory served him right, it would be twelve years tomorrow... which meant...

Which meant that Starsky was in love with him or had been infatuated enough to give up a whole different reality for him, if this being were real and not a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination.

Hutch tried to figure out how he felt about that shocking possibility, but right now all he could think about was the fact that his partner was in a coma, dying.

"So, what are you saying here? That he'll live if he wins me?" Hutch questioned.

Those blue eyes, so very close to Starsky's unusual sapphire color, pinned him as the gnome... no, the elf - Hutch corrected himself - nodded.

"All right. He's won me. I'm his, any way he wants me, any way he needs me, just... just save his life, please?" Hutch practically begged the strange little man.

"Words are not the thing we need. To save his life, will take the deed."

Hutch just stared at the creature before him. Starsky was lying here in a coma and an... elf was telling him that to save his partner's life he was going to have to have sex with the comatose man? What was left of his rational mind questioned his surprise. He was sitting here talking to a poetry-spouting elf, who was trying to convince him that his partner was the king of the fairies.

"He be prince of the elfborn. The fairies have a king their own," the elf with the Torino-striped cap corrected.

Someone in this room needed some serious couch time, and he didn’t think it was the garden gnome.

Anger mottled the little man’s face, “I told you once, I be not a--”

"I know. You’re not a gnome.” Hutch signed and raggedly requested, “Would you please stop reading my thoughts!"

"Then do not shout them at me so. Your thoughts are clear for all to know.”

Hutch had no idea how to hide his thoughts.

“T’would take too long to teach the skill. The time involved, my prince t’would kill.”

Hutch looked down at the little man. His mouth running dry, he asked, “Has Starsky always been able to read my mind like you do?”

Was that why their partnership had worked so well? Why he’d felt the instantaneous attraction to Starsky when they’d first met at the academy. Had his partner been reading his thoughts, or worse yet, manipulating him, all these years? After all, was it so far a stretch from reading a thought to planting one? And, on that same line, was it possible that this desire he’d harbored for Starsky these past few years wasn’t even his own invention, but some kind of telepathic suggestion his partner had made and fed through daily contact?

About to panic, Hutch recognized how illogical the idea was. If Starsky had purposefully planted this desire in his mind, then, surely, he would have acted upon it and they wouldn’t be in this current predicament.

“When on this quest of his he left, he went as man, his powers reft. Your thoughts have been your own for years. My prince has known but lonely tears. So what be thy answer, mortal son? Morning draws nigh; the night soon will be done."

"How - how can I... do what you say? He's unconscious. The doctors said he might never wake up again."

Hutch looked down at the man in the hospital bed. He could barely see Starsky beneath all the intravenous drips, life support apparatus and monitoring equipment. Even if his partner were awake, there was no way they could... accomplish what was required. It would be months before Starsky were physically up to the task, if ever.

"There be a world twinxt this and mine. I'll send you there, my prince to find. He bides there on that border plane, awaiting dawn and sweet life’s wane. But be thou warned if thou doth go, thou canst then never return alone. So be thee certain of thy heart or thee, too, with thy life shall part. Tis both or neither will return. That is my bargain, dearly earned."

Hutch swallowed hard. There was, of course, no choice. He didn't have a life without Starsky. No, that wasn't right. He didn't want a life without Starsky in it.

"What - what do I have to do to get there?"

For the first time since he'd appeared in the dark corner, the little man smiled. Just like Starsky's, the lop-sided grin seemed to light up the entire room.

"Close thy eyes and just relax. I will set thee on thy chosen path. Luck be thine, oh mortal son. Ere dawn’s sweet light, may thy quest be won.”

Hutch closed his eyes. For a moment, nothing happened. No surprise, the cynic in him chided. But, then, just as he was about to reopen them, a swirling sense of vertigo came over him as the room seemed to shift around him. Feeling like a blood sample on a centrifuge, he swirled round and round through a seemingly endless black vortex that felt like a cave or tight tunnel. Down and down he spun, until at last, all motion ceased.

Slowly, Hutch opened his eyes. He fully anticipated finding himself passed out on the hospital room floor, but Starsky’s hospital bed was gone. In its place he found...

He didn’t know what he’d expected fairyland to look like. Something from Lewis Carroll, perhaps. A world of invisible smiling cats and oversized rabbits with lateness neuroses. Or perhaps some Tolkienesque shire with hairy toed little people and gloriously ineffable, glowing elves. What Hutch got was a whole lot of nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. There was plenty of fog, huge billowing banks of it that surrounded him and obscured the entire landscape. As its eerie, damp waves kissed his face and chilled him, Hutch stared around, attempting to get his bearings. Great. Not Carroll or Tolkein. It was just his luck that he’d end up in a Lovecraft story. And he so did not need that thought.

It wasn’t dark. A peculiar twilight permeated the white walls of fog. Just enough light to show him how utterly hopeless his situation was.

Unsure of even what type of land he stood on, Hutch bent down to touch the ground. It hadn’t felt like stone or concrete underfoot, but his cowboy boots were thick soled and he wanted to be sure of the few facts he could ascertain.

Sure enough, it was wet grass, thick and lush as no lawn he’d ever felt. Beneath the damp smell of the fog, another scent tickled his nostrils. After a moment’s thought, he recognized it as heather. Ireland and Scotland had smelt like this when he'd visited them in his twenty countries in four days tour.

“Starsk?” he called out, not really expecting an answer.

His voice bounced spookily back at him off the surrounding fog.

Sighing, Hutch pulled himself to his feet. Choosing a direction at random, he started walking. Blundering blind through an unknown landscape mightn’t be the smartest game plan, but it was the only game in town at the moment.

Besides, none of this could possibly be real. It was all some psychotic fantasy or dream. He was going to wake up to the unending bedside death vigil. That was, if he didn’t wake up in restraints in a rubber room.

This felt far too real to be just his imagination. He was definitely walking somewhere. Each step on the soggy earth was nearly more than his exhausted body could handle. He had a vague concern of what his body was doing back in the hospital. Was some nurse going to walk in, find him wandering the room in a psychotic daze and freak out? Or was he going to wake up to find he’d passed out on the hospital floor?

Hutch shook his head and just kept walking. He went on through the fog-shrouded landscape for what felt like hours or maybe even days, seeing nothing but the whitish/gray walls of wet mist. Occasionally, he’d call out Starsky’s name or a more forlorn ‘hello’, but there was never any response. His voice just rang through the empty land like a foghorn in the open seas. He passed nothing and saw no one.

In his depressed, desperate state of mind, he couldn’t help but view the experience as an analogy of what his life was going to be like once Starsky was gone. There might be sunlight, buildings, and people galore to populate his world back in LA, but once Starsky died, none of it was going to have any more substance than the willofthewisps he kept seeing in the thick fog drifting past.

His eyes lighting on just such a specter, Hutch froze in his steps. The fog was still billowing by as thick and wet as ever, but there seemed to be something solid looking on the other side of it for once. Whatever it was, it seemed pretty big.

Thinking that he’d finally come to a house or building of some kind, Hutch slowly started forward, not sure if he wanted to meet the inhabitants of this drear land. He’d given up all hope of actually finding Starsky. He was now just hoping to stay sane long enough to wake up back in the hospital when his psychosis passed.

With every step through the wet grass and shifting fog, Hutch expected the shadow forms to dissipate like all the others he’d seen before had, but this one remained there as he made his way towards it through the damp fog. Another five steps and . . . .

Hell, that was definitely not what he’d expected to see. Shocked, Hutch stared at the ring of grey monoliths before him. They were huge, bigger even than Stonehenge. The rocks stood in a seemingly perfect circle, each joined to its neighbor by a flawless lintel. Looking over to his right, Hutch could see a single man-sized menhir standing alone.

For a long moment, Hutch watched the fog drift through the openings between the megaliths. This stone ring standing alone in the middle of all this nothingness was an eerie sight and it made his skin crawl, but it was also the first indication he’d had of human presence in this lonely wasteland.

If nothing else the stone circle might offer him someplace to sit other than the wet ground, he thought. Giving a shrug, he cautiously approached it.

There was nothing welcoming about the feel of the place. To the contrary, there was a sense of ancient power vibrating through it, an almost palpable impression that he wasn’t wanted here, which set his hackles rising, but the circle of stones was the only human construction he’d seen in hours and he’d be a fool not to investigate it.

On his guard, Hutch slipped soundlessly between the nearest pair of towering megaliths, praying that the mighty stone capping them wasn’t booby-trapped to squash unwelcome intruders like a bug. The lintel stayed up. Taking what little encouragement he could from that fact, Hutch took another few steps inside and stared around the interior of the ring.

Surprisingly enough, there was no fog in here. The place was lit with the same dreary, perpetual twilight as the flatlands outside the circle, but at least that cloying, damp mist was gone. The lush grass was ankle deep and ran to the center of the circle. There, a flat, altar-like rock held dominion.

Hutch stared in shock at the blue-jeaned figure sitting on the rock. The man was looking the other way. He had his knees drawn up, with his cheek resting on their tops and his arms hugging them tight to his chest. But even though the man's back was turned to him, Hutch would have recognized those distinctive curls and that strong back anywhere.

“Starsk?” The name emerged more as a croak than a call.

With familiar, lightning-fast responses, his partner spun to face him.

“Hutch?” Though his voice was far stronger, Starsky sounded no less confused than Hutch felt.

Aside from his obvious bewilderment, Starsky looked the same as he did most days when he picked Hutch up for work. His jeans were old and well worn. He had on that long-sleeved red pullover shirt that complimented his coloring so perfectly and his ever-present bright blue addidas. It was hardly how Hutch expected an elf prince to be garbed.

For what seemed like an eternity, they simply stared. Then Starsky was on his feet and they were rushing towards each other. They crashed with a painful umpf and wrapped their arms tightly around each other, each seeming to try to squeeze the life out of his partner.

There was no doubting that the man in Hutch’s arms was his partner. This embrace was the cornerstone of Hutch’s existence. The warmth and strength of the body pressed against his was undoubtedly Starsky. Hutch breathed in the familiar scent of sandalwood, soap, and that sweeter fragrance that was Starsky’s alone and felt he’d come home at long last. Right now, he didn’t care if he was insane and this was all just some psychotic fantasy. Starsky was real and in his arms, and that sure beat his lying comatose in some hospital bed. So, if this were madness, he welcomed it.

All too soon, that beloved warmth was pulling away.

Hutch watched that familiar face go from pleasure to fear faster than his partner’s Torino could squeal into action. “Hutch, what’re you doin’ here?”

“Looking for you. What the hell is this place?” Hutch asked, staring around the stone ring, feeling the strangeness of this land anew.

Starsky ignored his question. Something like panic entering his gaze, he asked, “How did you get here?”

“I . . . this . . . .” what was he going to tell his friend – that a garden gnome showed up in Starsky’s hospital room and sent him here? Staring at his oh-so-normal looking partner, Hutch couldn’t voice his lunacy. So, he settled on, “. . . this guy showed up and said that you were in trouble. I don’t know how he sent me here.”

Even from two feet away, Hutch could feel the tension that stiffened his partner’s body. “What else did this guy say?”

"That's not important now. We've got to—"

"Answer the question, Hutch! What else did he say?"

"He said that you were king of the fairies and that you were under a death sentence," Hutch snapped.

All the color blanched from Starsky's face. Stumbling back, Starsky sank down onto the altar rock.

"Starsk?" Hutch questioned, moving closer.

But Starsky didn't look up at him. His gaze remained fixed on the dewy grass at his feet. After what felt like an eternity, Starsky asked in a confused tone, "He told you everything, didn't he?"

"Come on, buddy. None of this is real. I'm dreaming or you're dreaming or something," Hutch said, conveniently not thinking about how they could be talking to each other this way about a dream if they were actually asleep.

"This ain't no dream. It's the Borderlands. It's no day trip. Didn't he warn you . . . ?"

"That I'll be trapped forever if I can't get you to go back with me?" Hutch finished. "Yeah. I heard that."

"Then what are you doing here?" Starsky's shout thundered through the stone ring. "Are you crazy?"

"Quite probably," Hutch answered.

"What?" That seemed to distract Starsky for a moment.

"I must be crazy. A garden gnome shows up in your hospital room in the dead of night, spins a yarn that someone tripping on LSD would have trouble accepting, and I wake up here. I mean, look at this place, does this look sane? Anyway you look at it, I'm not playing with a full deck. I think I'm having a nervous breakdown," Hutch reluctantly confided.

Starsky stared at him for a long moment with a strange expression on his face. Finally, his features smoothed into something more familiar.

"You're not crazy. And you're not having a nervous breakdown. Come on. Sit down and relax for a minute."

Starsky's arm settled over his shoulder and he allowed himself to be guided over to the rock. When he climbed up on its hard, flat surface it was cold and damp. He sat down Indian fashion with Starsky facing him.

"You shouldn't've come here, Hutch," Starsky said.

The fear in his voice sent a shiver down Hutch's spine. "Starsk, none of this is real."

"Will you quit that already? It's all real. We gotta figure out a way to get you out of here," Starsky said, seemingly to himself, his eyes scanning the surrounding monoliths as if searching for guidance or inspiration.

"Oh, for Pete's sake! Look at this place!"

"It's real," Starsky insisted. "I've never lied to you, not once, not ever. This place is real."

"Right. And you're king of the fairies," Hutch couldn't control his sarcasm. It was just like him to have dreams where Starsky was fully as intractable as in real life.

"Not king. Prince. And we're not fairies. We're elves," Starsky snapped with his usual short temper.

"Like there's a difference?" Hutch chuckled.

"This ain't no joking matter, Hutch. If we don't get you outta here, you're gonna die."

Starsky's fear was beginning to rub off on him. Whatever was going on here, his partner obviously thought it real.

Hutch did his best to gather his wits about him and tried reason, "Think about it, Starsk. How can any of this be real? I've met your mother and brother, okay? They're New Yorkers for Christ's sake, not elves or fairies."

"You met David Starsky's mother and brother, Hutch. Mine are . . . well, you couldn't meet them. Not and live," Starsky countered, his gaze still searching the area as though looking for an escalator to send Hutch home on.

He was shivering again. "What do you mean David Starsky's mother and brother? You're David Starsky!"

"Not originally. I, ah, borrowed him."

Beginning to wonder just who the crazy one really was, Hutch looked at his guilt-stricken partner and asked, "What do you mean borrowed?"

He didn't like the sound of that. Truth be told, he wasn't liking any of this.

"Things are different now than they were a thousand years ago, Hutch. A person can't just pop out of nowhere anymore and get lost in a crowd of mortals. Bureaucracy has taken over the world of man. You can't do anything without papers – birth certificates, social security cards, passports, drivers' licenses. If you don't have those things, you can't even get a job anymore. So when one of my people tries to pass for human, we have to take a real human's place."

"Starsky, this is crazy! None of this can be true. I've met your mother. She showed me your baby pictures –"

"And your first comment was 'why are his eyes so dark?'," Starsky reminded.

"What?" Hutch gaped, remembering all too well the pictures of that dark eyed, curly topped little boy that Anna Starsky had taken such pride in showing to him.

"In every picture of David Starsky taken before he went to 'Nam, he had eyes just as brown as Nicky's. You saw that the minute you opened the photo album."

"It was the lighting," Hutch said. "Your mom said the old apartment was very dark."

"The outdoor pictures all had brown eyes, too, Hutch. You pointed that out to her, too, and she just laughed it off. Remember?"

He did remember how strange that was, staring down at those color photos of a boy who looked a lot like his partner, but who lacked his Starsky's magnetic blue eyes. Anna had said that the photos had discolored over the years, but photographs usually faded; they didn't get darker.

"So what are you saying? That you're some kinda changling?" Hutch hated how shaky his voice sounded. None of this could be real. It just couldn't.

Starsky looked as scared as he had ever seen him. "Yeah, pretty much."

Hutch gulped. Starsky was watching him like a hawk. His partner appeared braced for the worst.

"If this is true, and I'm not saying I believe any of this, then what happened to the real David Starsky? Did you kill him?"

Still seeming tense, Starsky gave a negative shake of his head. "No, the war did that. I just stepped into his body right after he died. It took me a long time to find David."

Hutch shivered. "What was so special about David Starsky?"

"He was your age. He was from the same place you had moved to. He wasn't bad looking," Starsky shrugged. "A couple of hundred years ago, the difference in your backgrounds wouldn't have allowed it to work. What nobleman would look at a servant as more than a convenient body? But I had a chance in this age using David, if I could get close enough to you."

"So all this was about me?" Hutch whispered, shaken to find that the elf in Starsky's hospital room had not lied.

"I saw you at a lake one day when you were barely sixteen. You stopped to let a beaver out of a trap. I'd never seen anything as beautiful as that young man. My people are . . . long lived, Hutch. Very little moves us after a while, but seeing you free that trapped beast . . . you moved me. And I couldn't let it go."

"That guy in the hospital. He said that you gave up eternal life for me," Hutch said, still not believing that any of this could be real.

"Eternity didn't mean anything to me, then, Hutch. Neither did death, really. You've got to value life to fear death, and I was just so numb inside that it didn't mean anything. You were the first thing that moved me in . . . I don't know how many centuries. But it was forbidden to interact with mortals, so I couldn't approach you directly."

"Why was it forbidden?" Hutch asked, scared because this was beginning to make a crazy kind of sense to him.

"Elves, fairies, gnomes . . . all magical folk are tied to the land on which they live. Kill enough of the land, and you kill us. Mortals have devastated so many forests and polluted so many rivers and oceans that many of us have had to move on to other realms. Either that or die. My people have never forgiven yours for forcing us to leave. Our leaders have forbidden us upon pain of death to have any concourse with mortals. Occasionally, we come back to visit the land that bore us, for the green parts of this earth still tug at our hearts, but we're not supposed to go anywhere a human might see us."

"So that day you first saw me . . . ?"

"I was ready to flee back to our new home, but then I saw you free that beaver from that trap. I took a closer look at you, and . . . I had to get to know you, no matter the cost. It just took a long time to locate the right body."

Hutch didn't like the sound of that. "But why David Starsky? I mean, if you were watching me, you might have noticed that I wasn't exactly into guys."

"We can't cross gender. So much of what my people are is tied up to their sexuality, so I had to find a dying human's body to possess and hope that I could make it work out right in the time given me."

"But you never made a move on me," Hutch voiced his confusion.

"No, I, ah, sort of picked the wrong guy." Starsky sheepishly admitted.


"David was very drawn to the opposite sex. By the time you and I actually met, I wasn't just pretending to be David Starsky; I was David Starsky. He felt things so deeply, Hutch. He was so alive. I got caught up in his life and forgot about what I was really supposed to be doing."

"What do you mean you forgot?" Hutch gaped.

But wasn't it really just the story of his life? As soon as someone who'd voiced interest really got to know him, they were out the door. Why would he expect Starsky to be any different? So many lovers and even friends were drawn to him because of his looks. Once the novelty of his blue eyed, blond perfection wore off, nobody stayed. Except Starsky. And Starsky hadn't found him interesting enough to pursue once they'd met.

So much for love at first sight.

Hutch gave himself a mental shake. This wasn't about his insecurities. If any of this were real, it was about Starsky dying at the rise of the sun. Dying because he'd been having too much fun to be concerned about the death sentence he was under if he didn't accomplish his goal.

"This world is cloaked in forgetfulness, Hutch." Starsky answered Hutch's how-could-you-forget question. "The longer you're away from the elvan world, the harder it is to recall anything about it. It's one of the ways we protect ourselves from your people. Even if someone strays into it by accident, they can't remember anything about it after a few days."

"But you were born to it. How could you forget?" Hutch insisted.

"I was born to it, but I forsook this world to become mortal. And as a mortal, I was just as subject to that protective spell of forgetfulness as you. After a while, it all seemed like a dream. And once I met you . . . You'd just married Van when we met in the academy. So I became your friend, then your partner. And that was so good that I never wanted or needed anything more from you."

"Are you listening to yourself, Starsky?" Hutch demanded. "This is insane."

"Is it?"

"Yeah. How could you just forget that you were going to die if you didn't . . . if we didn't . . .?"

"It was easy, Hutch. I'd spent hundreds of years basically numb inside, and then I plugged into this young body that felt everything. It literally blew my mind. All I wanted to do was experience his life."

"It still doesn't make sense."

"What still doesn't make sense to you?" Starsky calmly asked. "That I could get so carried away with feeling things that I would forget the empty life I had before I came to L.A.?"

"Okay, maybe that does make some sense," Hutch allowed, "But the eyes thing. That just doesn't fly."

"Why not?" Starsky asked, confusion in the eyes in question

"If you could borrow someone's body, why would the eyes be different?" Hutch argued.

"The old folk saying is true. The eyes are the mirror of the soul, Hutch. We can't disguise that the soul of the body we're using isn't the same. Our eyes always stay our own, so we have to throw a glamour over people who might notice the difference."

"A glamour?" Hutch repeated.

"It's like . . . a spell. Sometimes it can make people think they're seeing what they expect or, like in Anna and Nicky Starsky's case, I just nudged their memories a bit so that they remembered David having blue eyes."

"Nudged their memories . . . ." Hutch felt sick. "You . . . you can do that?"

"Not anymore," Starsky said. "The longer I stay in this body, the more human I become. It's been almost twelve years. The forgetfulness spell on this land is a powerful one. Once you leave it, the memory of it fades quickly. I could barely remember what I used to be, let alone use my powers. But I still had to be careful."

"Careful?" Hutch was beginning to feel like a parrot, a very bewildered parrot. He didn't know whether to hate Starsky for what he was telling him or accuse his partner of lying to him again. The only thing was, he knew this man, and Starsky obviously believed that what he was telling him was the truth.

"Yeah, careful. Not to get into situations where it becomes clear that I'm not a normal human," Starsky answered.

"Such as?"

"Well . . . like recovering from things that would have killed anyone mortal. Only, I haven't been too good at that."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hutch asked.

"It means that I was careless. Things have happened that should have killed David Starsky, but didn't."

"Oh, what kinda things?" Hutch all but laughed at that. Despite his current bizarre psychosis, he was sitting a death vigil over Starsky's bullet riddled body right now in the real world. He felt his smile falter as he remembered how the surgeon had said that it was a miracle that Starsky had made it to the emergency room at all, or that his heart had started beating again after he'd code blued the other day. Now that he thought about it, how often did he hear the word miracle or miraculous in relation to his partner's recovery?

"How 'bout that bullet in the Italian restaurant? You remember what the doctors said about that. An inch from the heart; he should have died from blood loss and shock. And then there was Vic Bellamy's poison. Do you remember what the doc had to say about that one?"

Hutch shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself. He'd never forget that night if he lived to be a thousand. That had been a deadline with a vengeance. After everything he'd gone through to find the damn poison in the 24 hour timeline, the doctor had said that he'd brought it too late for a full recovery, that Starsky would live longer than the predicted 24 hours, but that he was going to be paralyzed for life, with spleen and kidney damage that would eventually kill him. Yet, his partner had made a full, miraculous recovery – within a week.

"And I never got the plague, Hutch. I sat with you in the quarantine room, drank out of the same glass you did, and nothing happened to me."

When everyone else was dropping around him like flies, Hutch remembered.

"All that means is that you have a stronger immune system," he tried to reason. "It doesn't mean that you're a fair—an elf."

"What about what happens to me in the woods?" Starsky asked in a familiar petulant tone that made this entire discussion even more surreal. If his partner wanted him to believe this malarkey, he should have been going for some sagacious Delphan oracle approach. The whiny child just didn't jibe with the elf king shtick.

"You're afraid to go into the goddamn woods!" Hutch snapped.

"Didn't you ever wonder why?"

"I didn't have to wonder why. You were very vocal about the reasons. Lions, tiger, and bears, oh my!" Hutch snarked. "You were like a four year old. You hated being out of your element."

"Or maybe I was just afraid of what would happen when I was back in it," Starsky challenged.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Hutch, my people have an affinity with the wild. The woods will . . . do things for us that it wouldn't do for a mortal, even when we're in mortal form."

"What do you mean, the woods will do things for you?" Hutch challenged.

"Think about it. That time we were up at Pine Lake when those Satanists—"

"Bear Lake," Hutch corrected.

"Okay, Bear Lake," Starsky snapped. "Do you remember what happened that morning you wanted to leave and I went fishing?"

Hutch thought. "I got an allergy attack?"

Somehow, he knew that wasn't right, bit it was all that he could remember about that ghastly vacation.

"How many fish did I catch in that lake, Hutch?"

Hutch had the sudden image of his partner standing there up to his knees in water in his borrowed gaiters and that ridiculous sun cap with enough fish hanging from his tack to feed an army. "So you got lucky, so what?"

"It wasn't luck," Starsky insisted.

"So you're saying that I should believe that you're prince of the fairies because you caught a handful of fish? Are you even listening to yourself?"

Starsky glared at him. Then he pushed his curls back behind his ears and demanded, "What about these, then? How do you explain this?"

Starsky turned his head to display his extremely pointed ears.

Hutch stared at the delicate tips. He licked his lips. They gave Starsky a wild, sensual air that was nearly irresistible. The sight of them unnerved him at first, but then a strange peace settled over him as the impossibility of what he was seeing was brought home. "How do I explain them? Easy. I'm asleep. This is a dream."

For a moment, Starsky looked mad enough to hit him. "You are the most aggravating man on the planet! You know that?"

"No, partner, you've got that honor. Come on. Cut this crap out. We've got to find our way home." Dream or not, that much he knew was true. Wherever this place was, they didn't belong here, not asleep or awake.

"I can't leave. But you're right. We've got to get you outta here."

Hutch watched as his partner jumped down from the altar stone and stalked over to the largest monolith.

Starsky stopped before the towering grey rock and just stared at it for the longest time. Finally, he shouted at it, "I don't know if you're watching or not, but I know you can hear me! This wasn't part of the deal. Hutch doesn't die here with me. He's got no part in this. Send him home!"

Nothing happened for the longest time.

Of course, nothing happened, Hutch chided himself. What was he expecting? Tinkerbell to flutter out of the solid rock and deliver an elf-a-gram?

Starsky, sounding furious, shouted again, "Answer me, damn you! I know you're there!"

Hutch shivered. He might be doubting his own sanity, but his partner had clearly lost it. Starsky was . . . .

The thought broke off as a deep male voice with the same brogue as that strange little man who sent him here emerged from the monolith, "He lured you from your people. It is only fitting that he share your fate. The choice was his. He was warned. You will not die alone, my child. There will be no more bargains. It is over."

"Don't do this! He didn't understand . . . please!"

Hutch winced to hear his proud partner beg. But the rock remained silent after that.

Starsky stood facing the rock, with his back to Hutch and his fists balled tight for a long time.

His features taut with what looked like desperation and guilt, Starsky finally turned back to him.

Hutch had no idea what to say. This might be a dream, but Starsky was obviously very upset.


His thoughts seemed very far away for a time. With a visible effort, Starsky focused on him. "We're both still here, still alive. That means it isn't sunrise yet back home. The bargain was till the rise of the sun on the morn of the twelfth year. It ain't over till the fat lady sings, Hutch. I can still make this right, still save you."

Bewildered, Hutch sat still as Starsky stalked back to him. He didn't like the resolved tightness that had creased his partner's handsome face.

Starsky walked right up to where he was sitting on the altar rock. He only stopped when his knees hit the rock and Hutch's kneecaps were bracing his hips.

Hutch flushed to find his partner there between his legs like that. Of course, his crossed ankles were between Starsky's groin and his own, but Hutch was just too aware of his partner on a physical level. Normally, they had next to no personal space when it came to each other, but this was too up close and personal for his peace of mind. He could feel Starsky's body heat on the inside of his kneecaps and smell his aftershave with every breath he drew.

"What're you . . . ?" he stammered. His words, breathing, and everything, including time, stopped as Starsky reached out to cup his cheek and turn his face upwards.

"Forgive me, Hutch. You can shoot me tomorrow for what I'm about to do. Promise."

And then Starsky bent down to cover his mouth with his own.

His panicked protest was muffled as Starsky claimed his mouth with almost brutal force. His senses swimming from a lack of oxygen, Hutch tried to figure out what was going on, what had caused this, but Starsky was pushing him over backwards and all he could think about was how good his partner tasted. And, brother, had he ever been wrong about Starsky being a bad kisser! No one had kissed him with this much passion in his entire life.

The altar was hard and painful against his back as he landed, but Starsky's hand cupped the back of his head to keep it from banging against the ungiving stone. He gasped into the kiss as Starsky's settled between his thighs, blue jeaned groin to blue jeaned groin. Between the demanding kiss and abrupt heat, he was brought to instant hardness as Starsky pinned him to the stone.

The kiss deepened. Starsky's tongue forced its way into his mouth.

His partner wasn't giving him any time to think or protest. No sooner was that tongue in his mouth than Starsky's left hand was squirming between their tight pressed bodies. His fawn brown jacket was all but ripped from his shoulders. The zipper on the tan velour shirt under it squealed as it was tugged down, the fabric shrieking in protest as the zippered v neck ripped under the force of the hand pulling the zipper down. Starsky grabbed both end of the shirt and ripped it right down the middle. Frantic fingers scrambled over the chocolate brown tee shirt he had on beneath it, tugging it up out of the waistband of his jeans. Then Starsky's fingers touched his bare flesh and his unsuspecting body was plundered by the sensations.

Though not exactly gentle, those fingers were eager as they acquainted themselves with his chest. Hutch groaned into the kiss as his right nipple was found and squeezed. The purest, most undiluted delight he'd ever experienced skyrocketed through him as Starsky teased him and brought him to life.

Once his head was safely settled on the rock, Starsky's hand abandoned the hair it was clutching to join in the fun. Hutch didn't think he'd survive the assault of both those hands moving over him. He knew this wasn't right, that they should talk, or that Starsky should at least goddamn ask him if he was agreeable to this, but he simply couldn't think with those hands touching him.

And Starsky was quite obviously counting on that. He never let up with the strokes and caresses that Hutch enjoyed most.

Hutch had finally figured out how to breathe through his nose and was marshalling his will to push Starsky off and demand some thinking time when Starsky's lips moved from his mouth to his neck.

He cried out as that talented mouth destroyed him there.

How could Starsky know that sucking that spot right below his ear would reduce him to a trembling wreck? But somehow Starsky did know. The way his partner latched right on to that hotspot made him wonder if Starsky hadn't been paying more attention to him than to his girlfriends when they double dated.

Hutch was sobbing from the sensations. His ears were hotwired to his groin. With every lick and nibble, Starsky made him his own.

He gripped Starsky's shoulders, presumably to push him away, but his traitorous fingers kept digging deep into Starsky's red shirt to pull him closer. Hutch knew that he should be fighting this. Hell, if this were anyone other than Starsky, it would have been rape. Starsky hadn't asked. Every time Hutch tried to say no, his partner barreled over his protests and deluged him with more touches. If that wasn't coercion, Hutch didn't know what was. Anyone else, and he'd have been hating every moment of it.

But it was Starsky, and it wasn't rape. Every touch made Hutch's body sing with pleasure. There wasn't anything this man he'd wanted so long could do to him that he wouldn't allow, only . . . it would have been nice to be asked, a vulnerable voice acknowledged from somewhere deep inside him.

His brown tee shirt was tugged way up to form a tight, tangled band across his collarbones. Starsky's mouth headed southwards then to claim the territory his fingers had explored.

Hutch cried out as that hungry mouth attached itself to his left nipple and started sucking. The calculation behind the assault was as devastating as its execution. For assault, it was. It was clear that Starsky knew exactly which buttons to push to make him a mindless participant in this seduction.

Appalled, Hutch realized that he hadn't even been able to touch Starsky's bare flesh yet, so carried away had he been by this ambush of his senses. His hands scrambled up Starsky's broad back, trying to feel something that wasn't material, but Starsky was still fully dressed.

Finally, Hutch's fingers found the warm curls. He contented himself with carding through those thick locks until his knuckle brushed an ear. Intrigued, Hutch carefully fingered the delicate points that Starsky hadn't had a day ago.

That got a definite response. Starsky groaned around the nipple he was suckling at. Hutch could feel the already impressive erection digging into his hip throb and grow even larger. Apparently, the ears were one hotspot that they had in common.

But Starsky wasn't even going to allow him that much control. Starsky grabbed hold of both his wrists and dragged Hutch's hands back down to his sides. Stunned, Hutch realized that that single touch to his ears had nearly driven Starsky over the edge.

After pulling in a couple of harsh, deep breaths, Starsky got control over himself. As if to pay him back for the trespass, Starsky ran the tip of his tongue down the center of Hutch's stomach. He worked his tongue in and out of the shallow depression in a suggestive rhythm. While his mouth was engaged there, Starsky's left hand slid further downwards.

The palm settled firmly over Hutch's erection, pressing down hard against the denim covered bulge with the heel of his hand. Between that and that teasing rover penetrating his belly button, Hutch's hips jerked up off the rock.

Starsky took immediate advantage of his helpless reaction. Like that was any big surprise at this point.

Starsky's tongue abandoned Hutch's stomach as he rose back up. A second later that heat and demanding pressure were gone from his tortured groin.

Hutch moaned as strong fingers grasped the waistband of his jeans and deftly undid the button. He couldn't believe the keening noise that emanated from his throat as Starsky carefully unzipped his fly. Then his pants and briefs were being peeled down his legs. His boots and socks were tugged off after his pants tangled around his ankles. Hutch heard them land in the grass some distance away as Starsky threw them off the rock. His jeans and briefs followed his boots, receiving the same treatment.

Hutch gasped as his bare bottom was lowered onto that freezing rock. Every inch of his skin puckered up into tingling gooseflesh. The rock was so hard beneath him, and colder than a sheet of ice.

The proprietary hold Starsky's hands had on the outside of his hips was a stunning contrast. Starsky's moist palms were blazing hot, but the rest of Hutch was so icy cold from that damp rock.

He gazed up at the fully clothed man bending over him. Starsky looked . . . driven. The hunger in his passion twisted face was almost frightening, but what was even more unnerving was the determined hardness in his eyes.

Hutch recognized that do or die expression of old. He'd never, ever anticipated seeing it should they ever get naked together, but since only one of them was nearly naked, he supposed his expectations didn't really count. Not that any of his wishes seemed to at the moment. Starsky clearly had a private agenda he was resolved to see through.

Those glittering eyes devoured Hutch's exposed genitals. Starsky gave his lower lip a nervous lick.

Hutch followed the trail that bright pink tip made, shivering as he imagined it being put to work elsewhere.

"Is that for me?" Starsky asked in a hoarse tone, his chin gesturing towards Hutch's seeping erection.

Feeling his cheeks flame scarlet with humiliation and need, Hutch sassed back, "You're the only one here, buddy."

"Is it mine?" Starsky's gaze speared him, baring his soul and leaving him naked.

Hutch bit his lip and hardened his resolve. He didn't know what the hell had gotten into Starsky, but he refused to give him that satisfaction. He was already bare butt naked from the waist down. It was pathetically clear that Starsky had the upper hand here. Damn him to hell.

"Answer me!" Starsky demanded, his fingers digging painfully deep into Hutch's hips.

Hutch remained stubbornly silent.

He tensed as Starsky pulled his hips up off the rock and bent down to blow a hot stream of air across his straining cock.

"Is it mine?" Starsky repeated.

"Yes, damn you," Hutch spat out. "It's yours!"

His bottom was lowered back to the icy stone.

After a second, Starsky's hands left Hutch's bruised sides.

"Are you mine?"

His pride refused to allow him to answer that. He'd given enough. Starsky had given nothing in return.

Whatever was going down, Starsky was on a very short fuse. Hutch saw anger and frustration blaze through his partner's desperate eyes as he refused to grant Starsky that victory. For a moment of sheer terror, Hutch thought that Starsky was going to do something stupid and turn this into something truly ugly instead of merely humiliating, but then his partner's nimble fingers slid down the inside of Hutch's thighs, straight down to his knees.

His strung out body exploded with sensation. Obviously, Starsky knew every single one of his weak points.

Hutch hissed in a breath, cursing as his traitorous thighs splayed wide apart, his body silently offering Starsky anything he might desire in exchange for the cheap thrill Starsky had just delivered.

He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his kiss-swollen lip so hard he tasted blood. He'd have told Starsky anything he wanted to hear, if only he'd asked. The fact that Starsky had chosen to force the issue like this made his pride insist that he not give Starsky the satisfaction of hearing how thoroughly he'd conquered.

A forefinger slowly trailed down his inner thigh. Light as a feather, it set off a chain reaction that left Hutch shuddering. Unfair, so unfair . . . .

The finger stopped, then abandoned him. He felt Starsky's cotton covered elbows settle on his left knee and his partner leaned over him. A heartbeat later, a wet tongue tip blazed the same trail down his inner thigh that the fingertip had taken. When it reached his knee, it stopped. Then Starsky blew a cool stream of air over the trail of moisture his tongue had left behind.

Every follicle of hair on Hutch's body stood at attention at that, his nervous system melting to a needy pulp. He opened his eyes to beg for mercy, to ask what he had done to deserve this torture, and found himself pinned by that searing gaze.

"Are you mine?" Starsky demanded again, as hard and intractable as the denim covered erection pushing against the outside of Hutch's leg. "Body and soul?"

The heat of him, the smell of him . . . it was too much. All resistance crumbled as Starsky's fingertip skimmed that slick thigh and Hutch was left gasping.

"I'm yours," Hutch whispered, hating Starsky as much as he needed him.

"Body and soul?"

He'd leave him nothing. Abandoning even the illusion of pride, Hutch hissed, "I'm yours. Body and soul."

Strangely enough, there wasn't any victory in Starsky's eyes. It looked more like relief as he leaned down to suck Hutch's cock.

Starsky paused over Hutch's genitals. "You were hard a minute ago."

"The rock's cold as ice, " he said, looking away before Starsky could read too much of the truth in his eyes. Starsky might ambush his body into accepting this parody of passion, but he couldn't dominate his soul. "Just get on with it."

But Starsky didn't get on with it. Instead, Hutch watched Starsky's capable, square left hand reach down to touch the rock beside Hutch's naked hip. Starsky muttered something under his breath, and a moment later the stone beneath Hutch pulsed with a sudden heat. What's more, the rock's surface softened until it felt more like a mattress than solid granite.

Hutch gasped in shock. "How . . . ?"

"I'm not in the mortal world now. My powers will work here, for a time. Are you more comfortable now?" Starsky asked, his hot gaze moving once again to Hutch's groin.

"Physically," Hutch answered. Then, as the hand that had just performed the magic reached for his cock, Hutch stopped it. "Not like this. Please?"

Pure misery flashed through those beautiful, tormented eyes. "I'm sorry to do this to you. If there was any other way, I swear I'd take it, but . . . I have to win you or you die. I'd've gone without ever ruining what we had, but I can't let you die because of my stupidity. I can't."

Hutch stared up at the tears standing in those brilliant, blue eyes. So much of what Starsky had told him had made him seem some alien, dangerous stranger. The being looking down at him might be pushed to the wall by this situation and desperate, but it was still his Starsky – the same man who had shot Vic Bellamy rather than see him die. And his Starsky was being torn apart by what was going on here.

Those fraught eyes flared with panic as Hutch pushed up on his elbows to a sitting position. Hutch could see an objection brewing in his partner's overwhelmed face.

As soon as he was sitting up on the bewitched, warm, soft rock, Hutch reached out a hand to cup Starsky's cheek. The vulnerable, confused look that earned him twisted his guts.


"We're not gonna ruin anything and you don't have to win me," Hutch whispered.

"You'd rather die than do it with me?"

The hurt in that question ripped Hutch's heart in two.

"No one's dying. We're just not gonna play any stupid dominance game. That's not us, Starsk."

"I have to win you," Starsky insisted.

Hutch let his fingers brush that stubbled cheek. Starsky gasped in a breath, his eyes squeezing shut in sheer, animal enjoyment of the touch.

Hutch's stomach fluttered at Starsky's reaction to that simple gesture. It, more than anything, told him how much power he had over this man.

"You can't win what you already own, babe," Hutch whispered.

"W-what?" Starsky stammered.

"My big, dark secret," Hutch gave a self-deprecating chuckle. "Some secret, huh? Here I was, terrified that you'd run like hell if you ever got wind of how I felt about you . . . and you'd already bartered your life away to be with me."

"How you felt about me . . . ." Starsky repeated, with the same confusion Hutch had no doubt worn in their previous conversation.

"I've been in love with you for years, buddy," Hutch whispered, even now shaking inside at so openly voicing his feelings.

Starsky pulled back from him. "Don't lie to me. Not about that."

Hutch grabbed the front of Starsky's shirt before he could put any more space between them. "I'm not lying. I've wanted you since . . . forever, it seems."
"I know that you like to think you're smarter than me, but I'm not stupid. If you'd felt that way, you'd've – "

"What?" Hutch cut him off. "Told you that I was warm for your form on one of our double dates? Or maybe I could've told you when we were on a meal break, if I could've pulled your attention from our waitress' miniskirt long enough for you to hear me. I didn't think I had a chance, Starsk, so I kept my mouth shut."

"You couldn't have kept that kinda secret from me," Starsky said, ending with a petulant, "I'd've known. We don't have secrets from each other."

"Starsky, I'm sitting here in Fairyland with the king of the elves. I think it's safe to say that we had a few secrets left. Both of us."

Starsky glared at him, completely unconvinced.

Tired of arguing, Hutch looked away. He knew his partner too well. Nothing he said was going to make a difference once Starsky made up his mind like this. There was really only one way to convince him.

Hutch grabbed hold of the bottom of his brown tee shirt and tugged it off over his head, so that he was now completely naked. Then he looked up. He didn't have to catch his partner's gaze, it was already riveted on him.

He shivered at the raw hunger there. If what Starsky said was true, he'd waited twelve years for this. No, Hutch mentally corrected, realizing that it had been a hell of a lot longer than that. Starsky said that he'd wanted him since he'd saw him that day at the lake in Minnesota, and Hutch had been just a kid then. Sixteen, maybe seventeen, tops.

Praying that he wasn't about to destroy everything they'd spent the last twelve years building, Hutch caught the hem of Starsky's red shirt. He lifted his brows in a silent question.

Starsky bent forward so Hutch could pull his shirt up over his head. Hutch closed his eyes, breathing in the warm scent of his partner as the shirt came off him.

The white undershirt underneath was tucked primly into those faded blue jeans. Hutch couldn't help but notice the tremor in his hands as he reached to unfasten the copper button.

Starsky didn't miss it either. "You're shakin'."

His partner obviously knew him well enough not to make the mistake of suggesting that it was out of fear. His interest seemed to relax Starsky. Some of the anxiety faded from those blue eyes. Starsky moved eagerly into his touch as Hutch sought to rid him of his clothing.

Starsky shouldered out of his undershirt once Hutch had freed it from his jeans.

Presented with that amazing cascade of dark hair trailing down over the well-defined chest and tight stomach that he'd coveted for years, Hutch did the only thing possible. He reached out and touched Starsky, where the hair was thickest between his flat breasts. The chest hair was fully as touchable as Hutch had imagined. It felt almost like kitten fur as he ran his palm down its dark, arrowing trail.

Starsky gasped in a breath at whatever sensations Hutch's stroke inspired.

Encouraged by the reaction, and the unmistakable bulge in the front of those jeans, Hutch carefully unzipped his partner and helped slide the tight fitting denim off the luscious curves of Starsky's lower body. His partner was like a Greek god, all sculpted muscle and perfect form.

"God, you're incredible," Hutch said as Starsky stepped back to remove his pants, briefs and footwear.

To his amazement, Starsky actually blushed at the compliment.

"I can't believe you want this . . . want me," Starsky whispered, as he straightened back up and stood naked under Hutch's gaze.

"I've waited so long," Hutch answered in the same low tone. "Can I . . . ?"

Starsky nodded, standing still as stone as Hutch's hand reached for his chest again.

This time, Hutch leaned forward and let his mouth join in on the action. Those bashful pink nipples peeking up out of that dark hair drew him like a magnet. He smiled at the shocked exhalation Starsky gave when his lips encircled the nearest bud of flesh.

His partner seemed almost stunned that Hutch would want to initiate a touch. Clearly, Starsky had long ago decided that he didn't have a chance of winning his cause. It hurt Hutch to think how close they'd come to losing everything because of their insecurities.

Starsky's skin had an addictive salty/sweet taste to it. Hutch spent a long time getting to know every inch of that impressive chest, while Starsky hung onto his shoulders for support and moaned like the pleasure was killing him.

While he licked and sucked his way from one nipple to another, Hutch's gaze couldn't keep from straying downwards. That heavy cock was huge now, purple with need.

Starsky's hands moved to his head, those talented fingers carding through his longish blond hair.

"You're so beautiful, babe," Starsky whispered. "Inside and out."

Hutch looked up to meet Starsky's gaze, and felt the breath whoosh out of his chest at the expression in Starsky's eyes. More than adoration, it was almost reverent. In that instant, Hutch had no trouble at all believing that this man had given up immortality for him.

He wasn't worth it. Starsky should know that, more than anyone. And yet, Hutch could never recall ever seeing Starsky happier than he was at this moment.

Starsky swallowed hard when he found himself under observation. He let Hutch stare his full and then leaned down for a kiss.

They tumbled backwards onto the enchanted rock with no thought of anything but each other.

Hutch's entire body seemed to sigh as Starsky covered him. He'd waited his whole life for that heat and weight to fill the emptiness.

Starsky's kisses moved from his mouth to his neck again, but this time, Hutch was a willing participant. Starsky wasn't forcing anything as he worked his way down Hutch's smooth chest. By the time Starsky had reached his groin, Hutch was a trembling blob of protoplasm.

To his shock, Starsky didn't hesitate for a second when presented with his pulsing cock. His partner simply opened up his mouth and sucked him in like it was something they'd been doing for years.

Hutch screamed as the sensations flashed through him. After so much teasing and so many years of wanting this man, it was almost too difficult to accept the offered release. His body and heart had waited so long for this, so long.

He never would have believed that his lady-loving partner would have had any expertise at fellatio, but Starsky's surprisingly talented mouth milked the pleasure out of him. Of course, if what Starsky had told him were true, his partner had had several thousand years to perfect his technique. Hutch had to admit, it was nearly flawless. He'd been done by experts, but nothing had ever felt like this before. Starsky's head bobbed at his service, each suck and twirl of that incredible tongue as he pulled back brought Hutch to higher and higher peaks of arousal.

Just when he thought he couldn't possibly stand any more, or feel any more, Starsky showed him different. Hutch whimpered as his partner's forefinger lightly skimmed the sensitive flesh right behind the base of his cock.

The sucking stopped as Starsky raised his head to stare down at him. No permission was asked as Hutch's knees were lifted and pressed up to his chest.

No one had ever moved him into this particular pose before, which made sense since he'd never been with another man before.

There was no mistaking what this position would simplify. His butt cheeks were spread wide open this way. His anus bared to the light.

Hutch shivered as Starsky's hot gaze branded that secret area as his own.

Beyond thought, Hutch could only moan in something between fear and desire as Starsky's left index finger lightly skimmed across his perenium to the tight ring of flesh hidden behind it.

No! This was not something he was ready to offer. Not yet, not on their first time together, not in this weird place.

But he was with Starsky, who under the best of circumstances had a way of getting around Hutch's better sense. With his legs pushed up against his chest and his ass cheeks spread wide to the world, he didn't have a chance in hell of saying no. Even if he'd wanted to, which Hutch wasn't sure he did. The sensations were too much for him to handle, but they were the kind of out-of-control deluge that made for the best kind of sex, the kind you regretted most the next morning, but that couldn't be controlled or stopped when you were getting into it.

And there was the fact that once again his partner didn’t give him the opportunity to protest or slow things down to a manageable speed. With a thousand or more years of experience showing in every touch, Starsky hurtled him to the brink of destruction, while he lay there and loved every torturous second of it.

Starsky's finger brushed over his tensed sphincter muscle, so lightly that skin barely grazed skin. But somehow that almost-touch electrified Hutch's body even more than the blowjob had. He gasped as that teasing, barely contacting rimming set his flesh on fire.

Thick gobs of precum were weeping out of his cock, which in this folded over position was almost close enough to his mouth for Hutch to suck.

He looked up through his knees, past his dangling heels to Starsky's face. His partner was always intense, but right now he was downright terrifying.

Starsky seemed to sense his gaze. He met his eyes and for the briefest moment, things were almost normal. That electric blue stare read straight to his soul, and Hutch could almost see how hard these years of platonic friendship had been on this man who'd wanted him from the first time he'd seen him. Starsky might have said that he forgot his mission, but it was clear to Hutch in that moment, that his partner had been doing a hell of a lot of sublimating during that time. Now that they were finally touching, Starsky didn't seem able to hold back any more.

Fortunately, Starsky had the talent to bring Hutch along with him. He mightn't be ready, but he was definitely eager for this. Starsky's loving had turned a virgin into a whore.

He was left a quivering wreck as Starsky reached between his folded up knees to collect the clear, sticky liquid from the glans of Hutch's cock onto the tip of his middle finger. That finger moved back to Hutch's anus and then slowly pressed into the center.

Hutch tensed as his body was breached. He'd never been so aware of a sensation in his life as he was of that slender, long finger slowly pushing into him. It didn't hurt him, but it was definitely an uncomfortable feeling.

Deeper and deeper the finger probed, squiggling around a bit in a manner that loosened the tract around it.

In that moment, Hutch almost hated Starsky again. He felt so out of control, so pathetically vulnerable. He didn't want to do this, not the first time, but . . . he didn't know whom he despised more at this point, Starsky for making him love this or his slutty body for allowing it to excite him. And excite him it did. This dark, forbidden pleasure hit him hard, right where he lived.

Leave it to Starsky to dig up his most deep-seated inhibition and make it an issue on their very first time together. His partner never did anything in half measures.

A sheen of sweat broke out all over Hutch, his breaths coming in hard pants thereafter as he tried to process what was happening to him and consign it with his self image. With as much as he'd wanted Starsky over the last few years, he had never fantasized about this. If anything, he'd dreamed of burying himself in his partner's luscious ass. This was just not Kenneth Hutchinson, and Hutch wasn't sure if he could be the man it was.

But as with everything else that had happened here, he wasn't really being given any choice in the matter. He was trapped on a sensual roller coaster, his body betraying him at every turn as he struggled to fit what was happening into his admittedly slipping grasp on reality.

Hutch was groaning with every millimeter Starsky went deeper, and when his partner's intruding finger touched a certain spot deep within him, Hutch screamed his pleasure as the raw ecstasy jolted his system. He'd never felt anything that intense in his life!

Starsky withdrew his finger a bit and hit that same spot again. Starsky continued to move his finger in and out of the tight opening to his body, loosening the virgin channel up with the motion, purposefully accustoming his flesh to the sensation, Hutch realized as he tried to fight the pleasure that could not be denied. He needed a time out, a breather to get a hold on who and what he was.

But there were no time outs, not now, may not ever.

Another gasp was torn from him as the finger pulled all the way out this time. Struggling for every breath, he watched Starsky spit on his finger. The slick digit returned with an equally wet companion. Together, they pushed their way back into him.

Those fingers definitely proved the old adage that two minds were better than one. Together, they totally undid Hutch as they scissored open and closed, pushing at the walls of his anal tract until they widened and opened to accept them. Once he was adequately loosened, the fingers paired together again. Starsky started thrusting against that special spot that realigned Hutch's reality every time it was touched.

The Hutchinson cool was nothing but a bitter memory to Hutch as he cried out with every inward thrust of those devilishly talented fingers.

"Please, Starsk, please, please, please . . . ." he begged for mercy.

He wanted this to stop. He wanted those fingers out of him. He wanted his pride and his dignity back. But his body wanted more, and there was no way he could fight both his own desires and Starsky. Even as he pleaded, there was a part of him that never wanted it to stop, that wanted to stay at this brilliant peak of delight as long as humanly possible. No one had ever made him feel things like this or touched him so deep that it hurt.

The rhythmically thrusting fingers hit that magic spot at just the right moment, and Hutch's entire world liquefied around him. His body melted, squirting out ejaculate all over his chest in hot pulses.

He groaned as the fingers withdrew. He opened his eyes in time to see Starsky's hands scramble to his own engorged penis. Wide-eyed and still spinning in climax, Hutch watched his partner aim the biggest, hungriest, purple/red cock he'd ever seen right at him. Starsky's cock rose like a monster from its sweat-beaded bed of dark pubic hair. The scent of Starsky's musk was overpowering even the lingering aroma of Hutch's own recent release.

Starsky's left hand reached for Hutch's semen-speckled chest.

Hutch watched Starsky gather up the sticky product of his orgasm. He transferred it to that monster cock and thoroughly coated it with Hutch's semen until the entire shaft gleamed. And then . . . .

Hutch gulped as Starky's hand guided that thick cock head to the place his fingers had visited moments before. It was a hard thing to want someone more than your self-respect, Hutch acknowledged, bracing himself. Even if Starsky would have taken no for an answer, the word wouldn't have been in his vocabulary tonight.

He couldn't hold in his grunt as Starsky's hips gave a thrust and that wide cock head pierced his anus for the very first time. In spite of the languor of aftermath, the stretch hurt like hell. It felt like a lead pipe were being inserted into him, Starsky's flesh was that ungiving.

Hutch locked his gaze with Starsky's. He didn't know who he was with, the man who'd been his friend and partner for the past twelve years or the magical, frightening stranger who'd given up his world at the mere sight of him.

But it didn't really matter anymore. Any worries he had about Starsky's identity vanished under the sheer carnality of the act Starsky was committing upon him. It didn't matter which Starsky he was with. Whoever it was owned him down to the very bottom of his soul. He simply couldn't think about anything else but the sensation of that huge cock violating him inch by slow inch, branding him as his own.

He wished that things could have been different, that this could have been the result of getting to know each other and wanting to feel Starsky inside him, rather than something done to keep them alive by proving dominion.

The shaft penetrating him chose that moment to illustrate his subjugation by bumping into that internal pleasure spot that was Hutch's undoing. Once again, that organic button worked its magic, flooding Hutch's system with more visceral delight than his senses could handle. He hated how much he loved it, how much he was going to want this again.

As his stimulated prostate crashed delight over him in irresistible waves, Hutch went instantly hard, reeling from the sensory overload.

Starsky took instinctive advantage of his reaction, making it very clear to Hutch that he wasn't the first virgin Starsky had introduced to this pleasure. His partner had debauching reluctant male virgins down to an art form, there was no getting around that. He wondered how many mortals Starsky had taken this way before him. Was he the last in a long line of conquests?

Withdrawing all the way, Starsky slammed back in, hitting that spot with the same accuracy he showed in his marksmanship. Hutch grunted and dug his fingers deep into the skin on Starsky's broad shoulders. In and out, in and out, Starsky rode him mercilessly, each thrust expertly hitting its target and sending Hutch spiraling further and further from the safe boundaries that had always demarcated his pleasures.

You didn't come back from this type of experience unchanged. Starsky was branding his very soul with this sex. There would be no need next time for his partner to ask if he were his. He was transformed to slut and slave by this union. Hutch knew that, no matter what, he was going to crave this from now on. And the fact that Starsky hadn't asked his permission for any of it, had just taken him as if his submission were a given, told him with crystal clarity that Starsky was as aware of his needy status as he now was. Hutch wondered how he was going to live with that.

If he was going to live at all. The sensations crashing through him truly felt as if they would annihilate him.

But they didn't. The steady pounding against his prostate merely brought him to another overwhelming orgasm. His semen spurted down on his chest in a hot, sticky shower and two thrusts later, he felt Starsky still and then explode inside him.

Starsky's scream of "Hutch!" seemed to reverberate from standing stone to standing stone for a very long time.

And then there was only stillness, their ragged breathing, and that cock inside him that Hutch could feel shrinking even as he lay there trying to accept what they had just done here.

Finally, Starsky roused himself from the stasis that had fallen over him.

Hutch gasped as his partner pulled out of his now very sore anus.

The sound drew Starsky's gaze to his face.

Hutch could feel his cheeks warming with shame. He didn't know what to say or how to meet Starsky's eyes now. He felt almost dirty, certainly used.

But to his amazement, there was no victory or arrogance in those sapphire eyes. No, it was tears standing bright in them. The dangerous, sensual stranger that had taken him heart and soul was gone. His Starsky was back, looking as shaken as Hutch felt.


He didn't answer, just waited.

The fingers that had plundered his innocence reached for his face. They were trembling, like the rest of Starsky.

When no protest came, Starsky brushed his cheek and leaned in closer and said the words that somehow made everything Starsky had just done to him bearable.

"I love you, Hutch, love you so much," Starsky promised in a shaky tone that broke immediately into a fresh stream of remorse.

Hutch still didn't have a clue as to what was going on, but he knew despair when he saw it, especially in this man who was the foundation of his universe.

Obviously, what they'd just done had taken as much out of Starsky as it had him, perhaps more, because the only aspect about all this that made Hutch feel like crying was the premonition in his gut that this was never going to happen again.

He drew Starsky down to him and cradled him against his chest. Those strong arms banded his back, offering as much comfort as they took.

"I love you, too, partner," Hutch whispered back, rubbing soft circles over Starsky's spine.

Drawing a deep, shuddery breath, Starsky lifted his head. "I gotta ask you this, Hutch. Are you still mine?"

Reading the fear, Hutch cast his pride aside and gave Starsky the truth. It was easy to do at this point. After what he'd just allowed Starsky to do to him, any dissembling would be pointless.

"Body and soul, Starsk. Body and soul."

"Thank you," Starsky whispered, seeming barely able to get the words out. "Hutch . . . I'm sorry. I had to do it. Had to make you mine to get you outta here alive. No one can say I failed now. No one. They gotta send you back."

"Send us back, right? You won, so there's no penalty, right? We both get to go home."

"I guess," Starsky said less confidently.

"What do you mean 'you guess'?"

"I really don't want anything more than to get you home safe."

"I'm not going anywhere without you," Hutch insisted.

"Hutch . . . ."

"What?" Looking into those haunted eyes, it was like none of the doubts raised by these last few hours had ever happened. This man wasn't some ancient stranger pretending to be his friend. This was his Starsky, the guy who time-shared his soul. Hutch could see in an instant the guilt and despair that were wracking Starsky. "I knew the ground rules when I came here, partner. It was my choice, all of it."

"I know I . . . crossed the line before. That was something I shoulda asked for, not just taken – "

Not wanting this conversation to go where it was headed, Hutch ran his hand down Starsky's spine and watched the naked man on top of him tremble almost as if in fear. "You don't haveta ask for what's yours, babe. I'm yours – body and soul, remember?"

"You're unbelievable," Starsky murmured, pressing an almost reverent kiss on his brow before snuggling down beside him.

"So, when will they get us out of here?" Hutch asked, relaxing as Starsky's warm weight blanketed him.

Starsky raised his head until they could look each other in the eye.

As his partner answered, Hutch couldn't resist the temptation of outlining the nearest pointed ear peeking out of Starsky's dark curls.

"Don’t know. All I know is you're not gonna die now," Starsky said, giving a tremendous yawn.

"What about you?"

"Huh?" Starsky questioned.

"Eternity's a hell of a price to pay just to get laid," Hutch said as bluntly as he could, still unable to believe that anyone would have made such a bargain just to sleep with him. "Now that you've won me, do you get your immortality back?"

Starsky's already soft gaze grew incredibly tender. "It doesn't work like that, Hutch. The bargain was that if I won you within twelve years, I'd get to live out my mortal existence, not get my old life back."

"That's not fair!" Hutch protested, unable to credit how calm Starsky was about this.

"It wasn't supposed to be fair, Hutch. It was punishment . . . and a warning to others to stay clear of mortals."

"But . . . how could you give all that up . . . for someone you'd never even met?" Hutch tried to make sense of it, but couldn't. Maybe he'd be able to understand if Starsky and he had met by chance and fallen in love, maybe then the sacrifice would be comprehensible. But right now it just seemed insane.

"It's hard to explain. When you live as long as my people do, the passion sort of burns out of you. After a while, nothing moves you, and you keep searching for something to make you feel alive again."

"Yeah, you said that before," Hutch remembered. It still seemed like a pretty lame reason to throw away immortality.

"I'd been dead inside for so long. And then when I saw you, you made me feel alive again. It didn't matter what the price tag was. It still doesn't."

"But, Starsk, you've lost so much . . . ."

"What have I lost?" Starsky demanded. "Would you want to be associated with people who'd pull shit like that on their own son? My parents did this to me, Hutch. They were so bigoted that they'd rather kill their own son than have him love someone they didn't approve of."

Hutch was silent for a moment as he digested that. His relationship with his own parents had never been an easy one, but even those cold blooded bastards wouldn't have sentenced him to death for bringing home the wrong girl. He continued to stroke Starsky's back until the tension that came with his outburst seeped from his muscles.

"Couldn't you have just left, and met me on the sly? Did you have to let them know what you were doing?"

Starsky chuckled. "You've never been a prince, have you? Leaving wasn't an option. And, even if I'd tried to deceive them, they'd have known. Their powers are . . . formidable."

"Formidable, huh?" The word didn't sound like Starsky, but, then, his partner had always had a habit of tossing out some fancy vocabulary to rattle Hutch.

"Yeah. You don't want to get on their bad side, ever. Take my word for it."

Hutch didn't have to. People heartless enough to condemn their own child to death over an affair of the heart weren't the kind he wanted for enemies. He'd take Gunther over that any day of the week.

"Yeah, but . . . Starsky, you gave up eternity as a prince for the life of a street cop. No offense, but that sounds pretty brain damaged, babe."

Starsky laughed his familiar, contagious giggle. "Brain damaged, huh? That's me, I guess. But . . . it wasn't really that big a deal. I never had a life of my own there. David Starsky's life might be shorter than the one I was born to, but it's my own life. It's what I choose to make it, not what my parents will it to be. And as long as you're part of it, it's worth the trade. To me."

Hutch tried to swallow around the lump that sentiment raised in his throat. "Ah, Christ, Starsk. How am I supposed to accept that? How am I supposed to live with knowing what you gave up for me?"

"I didn't give it up for you, Hutch. I gave it up for me. This is what I want. The twelve years we had together, that would have been worth it all in itself. What we did here tonight . . . ."

"It's more than just tonight, isn't it? I mean . . . ." Hutch faltered, listening to himself. What was he going to do, insist that Starsky make an honest man of him?

Starsky's hands rose to stroke his face. "You think I could give you up? I'm brain damaged, not stupid."

Hearing what Starsky didn't say, Hutch relaxed. Starsky had given up eternity to be with him. This was about a hell of a lot more than a one night stand.

"I love you," Hutch whispered as Starsky snuggled around him.

"I know," Starsky murmured back.

Hutch softly petted his partner's back, trying to decide which of the thousand questions running through his head that he'd ask next. But within seconds Starsky was a dead weight against him. Hutch couldn't believe it, his partner was asleep.

The enchanted stone was still soft as a mattress beneath his back. Between the sex, his fear, and the emotions Starsky had pulled out of him tonight, he was utterly exhausted. His eyes sank shut before he knew it, sleep stealing through his sated flesh. One last kiss to Starsky's crown and he was asleep . . . .

Falling . . . .

Hutch jerked awake, snapping his head up.

Harsh sunlight pummeled his groggy eyes. He forced them open. They had to get out of this stone ring and find their way back to . . . .

The sight of his partner lying there as still and pale as a wax sculpture in his hospital bed should have come as no surprise, but it did.

Hutch swung around to the corner his mysterious visitor had been in last night. It was empty as well. Also no surprise.

Remembering what was supposed to happen at the rise of the sun, Hutch's panicked gaze shot to his partner's face. Starsky was so damn still. Still as death.

His heart racing, Hutch frantically checked Starsky's throat for a pulse, only realizing after he'd found its slow, steady beat that the beeping of the heart monitor attached to his partner should have told him that Starsky was still alive.

He released a sobbing breath and got hold of himself. A dream. It was just a dream.

Of course it was just a dream, he chided himself for ever thinking otherwise. His burrito-loving, beer-guzzling partner was the last candidate he could possibly imagine as being the prince of anything.

Even so, he found himself lifting the curls covering the nearest ear. Feeling a complete idiot, he stared down at the perfectly round, absolutely normal ear.

Wondering why he felt so disappointed, Hutch sank back down onto his chair.

Did he really think it could have happened? That he'd gone to fairyland and made love with his partner?

He tried to remember the details of the dream, but they were fading fast. The thing he remembered most clearly was the fog, and touching Starsky. He tried to grasp the particulars of the elaborate fantasy his subconscious had woven, but with every breath he drew, the memory became cloudier and cloudier.

Starsky was . . . Starsky was an elf, who'd given up . . . given up something. Something important.

The rays of the sun slanting through the nearby window told him how late he was. He had a case to break.

But Starsky had given up . . . .

Whatever it was, the memory was gone. Hutch sighed.

Christ, but he was really losing it. God only knew what state he'd been in while he was hallucinating last night. He wondered if he should tell the captain about any of this.

Any of what, his last sane brain cell questioned. What was he going to do, tell Dobey that he'd had a wet dream where Starsky was . . . he didn't even know what Starsky had been anymore. All he knew was that something was lost.

There really was nothing to tell at this point. Just another night in the Hutchinson hell of might have beens, just another dream that would never come true. He might be crazy as a March hare, but he had a case to crack. After Gunter was in jail, then he could afford to indulge his breakdown. Until then, he was on the job.

"Sorry, Starsk. I'm gonna have to get back to work now. I'll be back in a few hours, though. You hang in there, buddy. You hear me?" he told the comatose man. Dragging himself to his feet, he bent over and kissed Starsky's brow.

Only as his lips pressed against the warm skin did Hutch recognize how inappropriate the action was. He was still caught up in the sensual wet dream he'd woven last night. He didn't have any right to be kissing Starsky. Nothing was any different from yesterday. He was still trapped in a reality where Starsky would never see him as anything more than his best friend. The only difference between today and yesterday was that this morning he had finally cracked. His grip on reality was really gone.

Hoping he could hold it together long enough to make the arrest, Hutch forced his aching body to step away from his partner.

He had to pick up Huggy and get back to work. Maybe if they went to that lawyer and rattled his cage once more, something would break.

Not paying attention to what he was doing, Hutch put his foot down onto something soft and nearly measured his length on the linoleum.

Looking down to see what he'd nearly tripped over, Hutch froze. He could feel the blood in his veins solidify as he stared down at a piece of red fabric with a familiar white racing stripe down its side.

His hand trembling, Hutch carefully picked it up and studied it. It was a pointy fabric cap. The kind an actor might wear in a Shakespeare production, sans racing stripe. Something tugged at the back of his mind, but all he could see was fog . . . fog and Starsky with pointed ears kissing him . . . Starsky fucking him in the middle of Stonehenge . . . .

He shivered. The fog seemed to recede a bit, and an image flashed through his mind. A little man with a dark beard, wearing this cap. A little man who had appeared out of nowhere and spoke in riddles about Starsky's impending death. For an instant the memory was very clear and he could almost hold onto it. But it was slippery as a silver eel, slippery as the fog.

Fog. Starsky was in the fog waiting for him. Starsky was the prince of the elves and he'd given up everything to be with him – eternity, his kingdom, the works.

But . . . it couldn't be. That was impossible. He had to have . . . .

What? Made the whole thing up?

Of course, he'd made the whole thing up. And yet, the cap was real and solid in his hand. If everything was just a dream, then where the hell had the hat come from? It was hardly something someone would bring or wear into a hospital room. Like someone would actually wear this thing in L.A., and, even if they did, that didn't explain how they'd gotten past the cop outside the door to lose it in here. Unless the nurse brought it in?

Realizing that his explanations were just as unlikely as the fantasy he'd concocted that explained everything, Hutch's quivering hand slowly pocketed the cap. He had to think about this. A lot. Because if last night was real, then that meant . . . .

That meant that he belonged to Starsky.

Body and soul.

Those two words slithered through him and he seemed to hear himself saying them again and again.

And in the back of his mind, he could hear his partner's laughing voice claim, "I might be brain damaged, but I'm not stupid."

But there was so much fog. Even as he fought to hold onto his memories, he could feel them getting lost in the mists. But Starsky had said it wasn't just a one night stand . . . .

For a second, that memory was the clearest, realest thought he'd ever had. Starsky had loved him and promised it was forever.

His world tilting on a new axis, Hutch stared back at the comatose man in the hospital bed, the man who just might have given up immortality to be close to him.

Still in a daze, he stumbled back to the bed. This time when he leaned down, it was Starsky's dry lips he kissed, that and the plastic tube trailing down out of Starsky's left nostril.

When he finally pulled back, Hutch whispered, "I'm yours, Starsk. Body and soul. Just come back and we'll work it out. I promise."

He didn't know if the hope that flashed through him would last out the day. For that matter, he didn't know if he would last out the day. Gunther still had that hit out on him.

But if by some miracle, they did survive this, there wasn't going to be any unrequited desire, for either of them.

Determined to get the man who'd put his new lover in this horrible condition, Hutch drew himself up to his full height, closed his fingers around the cap in his pocket, and went out to meet the day.

The End.

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