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Dark Side of the Moon

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"Every man is a moon, and has a dark side, which he never shows to anybody."
                                                                                                            Mark Twain

 

 

Starsky slammed against the metal flooring hard enough to see stars, which was odd considering that his head was covered with a canvas bag, and he couldn't see jack. The sound of doors clanging shut assaulted his ears. He was locked in. He tried to scramble to his feet just as the floor lurched under him. The rumble of an engine proved he was in some kind of truck that gained speed immediately. The forward momentum toppled him to his knees, and he couldn't catch himself when he fell sideways against the smooth metal sides, not with his hands bound tightly behind him by plastic strips that cut mercilessly into his skin.

Lying on his side, Starsky forced himself to feel the movement of the truck, to listen to the pattern of acceleration and stops. Three stops, then a surge of speed. They were on the freeway, and moving rapidly away from where he'd been captured. Mission and Ninety-first. The closest on-ramp to Mission was three blocks south, leading away from Bay City.

He'd walked into the warehouse on Mission and Ninety-first without backup and without notifying dispatch.

Damn.

Hutch, where were you?

Hutch had called him. It had been Hutch's voice, he was sure of that. Not frightened, but urgent, telling him to meet him at the warehouse, that he'd tailed the suspect and had seen him go in. The address was altogether too familiar: Jack Dunfey's lair. He was the fucker who'd risen from mid-level criminal to crime lord running all of Bay City in under a decade.

Focus!

Hutch had called him, so why hadn't he been there? The LTD wasn't around; Starsky had circled the block twice before parking his '83 black Torino on a side street and approaching cautiously. If Dunfey had gotten the drop on Hutch, his goons would have hidden his car. Starsky had gotten scared, and that made him reckless. Afraid that Hutch might have been captured or hurt, Starsky had ventured inside the cavernous building alone.

Big mistake. Possibly the worst mistake of his life.

The place had been as dark as the far side of the moon although it was the middle of the day. High windows were painted black, emitting very little ambient light. He'd gripped his gun tighter, suddenly freaked. Where was Hutch? How could he find him? He'd barely gotten past a small side door when hands gripped his arms, and plastic bindings looped around his wrists so fast he couldn't fight back. His gun dropped to the ground, and a bag was shoved over his head. He'd kicked at shadows, then bit a fleshy hand as the bag descended, but he never had a chance. It had been a set-up from the start.

His mouth dry, Starsky considered his options. None of them were good. He didn't know where he was going. He was a prisoner, bound, blindfolded, and partially gagged. With every breath, the canvas bag clogged his mouth, tasting of animal and dirt. He could feel straw under his fingers. What kind of truck was this?

And where the hell was Hutch? It had been his voice on the phone, Starsky would swear to it. His inflections, his soft intensity. He'd used the nickname Starsk. Could someone mimic his partner well enough to fool him? There were impressionists who could imitate Elvis, John Wayne, and Brando perfectly, fooling the ear even when the eye could see it was really Rich Little or Frank Gorshin. But would that really fool someone who knew them well?

It had been Hutch. Starsky remained firm on that point, even when his belly lurched sickeningly as the truck took a wide turn, rising as it did. They were going over an overpass, connecting to a different freeway. Damn, damn, dammit to hell. Every mile took him farther away from Bay City and any chance of finding out what had happened to Hutch.

He had to think logically and analyze everything. The voice on the phone had sounded like Hutch, so he immediately believed what Hutch told him. If it wasn't Hutch, then who? How? A recording? But they'd spoken, exchanged words, hadn't they?

"Starsk, Dunfey just went into the warehouse on the corner of Ninety-first where it crosses Mission. Hurry. I'll meet you there."

That was all Hutch had said. Starsky remembered saying, "I'm on my way." Had there been anything else? Any proof Hutch was on the other end of the line? Only his gut instinct.

It had been Hutch. He'd already staked his life on it.

Get past the phone call -- get to the warehouse. It looked deserted, with signs of a forgotten time, when goods were actually manufactured in the United States and not in some robot factory overseas. Now, warehouses were the stomping grounds for the gangs and mobsters that crowded the field when the street people disappeared. Before the Economic Revolution of '80, the warehouse districts had become wastelands, inhabited by only the most hardened criminals.

Starsky recalled those turbulent years before the end of the Vietnam war. Monopolies like the California Economic Corporation took advantage of the social chaos and encroached on state and federal governments with malice. With all the protests and riots turning daily life upside down, few citizens noticed the big corporations hiring military leaders away from the armed forces for their own private militias. By the time the federal government fell apart, the military complex had been absorbed into the corporate sector. After the huge monopolies used their armies to restore order, the citizens saw them as benevolent. Soon, a conglomerate of corporations were funding state projects, restoring the economy the war had decimated, and backing their own political candidates with bundles of cash.

Finally, during the Economic Revolution, when the California Economic Corporation, or CEC, and other monopolies had completely overwhelmed state and federal governments, the CEC proclaimed that criminal acts would not be tolerated. But that didn't mean crime was eliminated. Instead, it had escalated. For Starsky, that had been a strange form of job security.

Starsky's recovery from James Marshall Gunther's assassination attempt was partly due to the CEC's influence. The corporation CEOs had seen the downfall of Gunther as a boon to their rise in power, and had paid Starsky's medical bills, providing him with the best doctors and therapists. When he'd regained his health, he and Hutch had been actively recruited into the CEC's new state police force. They'd gotten a raise in pay, enjoyed considerable prestige, and suddenly had all the might of the government behind them as they went after drug dealers and murderers.

The rapidly changing political climate hadn't really bothered Starsky until far too late. But Hutch had noticed long before he had. Hutch hadn't liked it. He'd watched the CEC's increasing monopoly as it encroached on all aspects of local government, then the restructuring of power in the state government, and finally, on all aspects of daily life.

Then, soon after the Economic Revolution, everything changed.

Except for crime. That never changed. Like back in the thirties when prohibition had outlawed alcohol, current laws made drugs and imported untaxed tobacco from other now independent states just that much more desirable. Dunfey had seen the opportunities presented by the chaos and used it to his advantage. Always a prime mover and shaker in the criminal underworld, he soon was the kingpin, the Godfather of all Godfathers, more powerful than Gunther had ever been. He had a reputation for ruthless dealings and a wide base of operations. Word on the street was that he had the CEC's president of Southern California in his pocket. Nothing in the state, never mind Bay City, happened without his stamp of approval. How he maintained his power was unknown, but his favorite base of operations was Bay City. The man was truly scum of the earth.

So, Dunfey might have been at Mission and Ninety-first; that was believable, but Starsky never got a chance to find out. Was it Dunfey's goons who had grabbed him, tossed him in a truck? Why? If they'd wanted to kill him, they would have done it already. Starsky's mind skittered away from more frightening possibilities -- could they want him as a hostage for ransom -- or maybe...to torture for inside police information? He wouldn't let himself consider the most frightening possibility -- legalized slavery --

Get back to Hutch.

Thinking of Hutch centered him, making it easier to endure the bumps against his spine as the truck raced toward the unknown.

Hutch had gone out that morning on one of his mysterious outings. He used to do that a half dozen times a year, but lately, the frequency increased dramatically. Starsky always assumed it was with a woman, but it could as easily have been a man. Hutch had always enjoyed both sexes, and to a lesser extent, so had Starsky. Usually, Hutch would be gone for the morning, then return refreshed and charged with energy. But where he went, or who he was with, was something he'd never confided to Starsky. Starsky accepted that, telling himself it was as it should be. They didn't need to know each other's every secret just because they'd been partners for so long.

Partners.

And lovers.

In his heart, Starsky would have liked to think that he could have kept Hutch satisfied sexually. But he couldn't deny the evidence. Hutch was never satisfied. Satiated for a while maybe, but always looking for more. Starsky assumed that was the reason for Hutch's secret outings. He never asked. Hutch was entitled to his secrets.

Starsky had his own. He had never told Hutch -- or anyone else -- about his hard teen years when he'd dabbled in every drug he could get, and used his body to buy them. That was in the past. In the last ten years, so much had changed for everyone that many used the excuse of the recent revolution to erase any bad periods in their past.

So, Starsky had barely noticed that this was one of those mornings. Hutch had told him not to pick him up, that he would arrive at Metro after twelve. He'd called at noon, just when Starsky was expecting him to arrive. Starsky had been cursing the newest advancement in computers, fighting with the machine's latest version of a fingerprint ID program when the phone rang. It had been Hutch's voice. He was sure of it.

He wanted to be sure of it, but now, miles away from the Metro squadroom and even farther away from knowing what was going on, he wasn't confident any more.

The truck changed lanes, swerving so fast Starsky slid forward, crashing into the metal basket attached to the sloped wall. Straw scratched his hands and tangled in his clothes, making him glad that his leather jacket and jeans protected his limbs. What kind of truck was this? The smell of horse was strong here under the basket. Wiggling his body around, he was able to hoist himself into a sitting position by laboriously grabbing hold of the bottom rungs of what he assumed was a metal manger with his nearly numb fingertips. It felt much better to sit up, even though he was facing backwards as the truck moved forward. His belly lurched again, acid churning in his throat, but he swallowed it down. He'd never liked riding backwards, although what difference did it make when he couldn't see anyway? He tried to breathe evenly, slow his heart rate down, but inhaling sucked the canvas bag between his teeth, which only made things worse.

Hutch... Why would he have been near Mission and Ninety-first, anyway? All the state-sanctioned brothels and legal slave houses, places Starsky assumed Hutch frequented on his outings, were across town on Lincoln. Maybe the LTD broke down? That damned car was a relic. Even Starsky had traded the old tomato for a new Torino two years ago, one of the '83's with the interceptor engines and a spoiler on the back. It wasn't red but midnight black, with a single pencil thin red line along the chassis.

The LTD must have broken down. If Hutch had seen Dunfey going into the warehouse, he should have informed their current captain, CEC's handpicked man, Len Roschenzky, and then called Starsky. But, he hadn't even used dispatch to contact Starsky. He'd called from an outside line, not the police radio.

Had Dunfey's men grabbed Hutch the way they had Starsky? Recorded Hutch's voice and then killed him?

Starsky refused to believe that. Hutch would never have said those words in such a normal sounding way. He'd have thrown in some clue, wouldn't he? He'd used the nickname Starsk.

That was what made Starsky so sure. Starsk. Hutch's special nickname. The way he sometimes said it, soft and low, just like on the phone, could make Starsky quiver. The way he'd say it when asking Starsky to go down on him. Like that. Sexy, longing.

Spitting out the canvas bag, Starsky shook his head. No, not like that. That couldn't be what he'd responded to. The sound of sex in Hutch's voice.

They'd been casual partners in bed from the first week in the academy, when Hutch had grabbed him, stinking of sweat after a long run, and pulled him into the showers. He'd pushed Starsky down in front of him, under the stinging spray of water splashing over their nude bodies. Hutch was solid and hard as a rock. Starsky was sure Hutch knew, then, what he'd done as a teen, but when he looked up all he saw was desire and need in Hutch's face. Hutch didn't know anything about his past. This was just how Hutch celebrated. He had sex. Nothing complicated or involved, just a simple act between friends.

That was how it remained. Whenever things went well, after a big bust, or a celebratory dinner for some citation of merit, Hutch would push Starsky down in front of him. Never forcefully, but Starsky had come to understand that this was his special job in their partnership. Keep Hutch happy with sex. Only oral, though, no penetration, but an occasional hand job or frottage for variety. That was Starsky's limit. For the most part, Hutch seemed satisfied with those boundaries, although after a while he intimated otherwise and eventually made specific requests. When Starsky refused the kinkier fare, Hutch would drop the idea. Things would be cool between them, but that would pass. Most of the time, Starsky could bedevil Hutch into a better mood with silly trivia and goofy jokes. They would trade barbs about each other's weird eating habits and insult each other's taste in cars.

The truth was, Hutch wanted more from their sex life. Because Hutch wanted more sex. Starsky had come to the conclusion that Hutch needed sex, like a junkie. He'd once escaped an enforced heroin addiction after only a few weeks of hell, but he remained well and truly addicted to sex. That was why Starsky never paid much attention to Hutch's occasional disappearances. He assumed Hutch was getting his fix.

"Starsk." Hutch had said when he'd pushed Starsky down into the spray of the academy shower. That's when it had begun. All the promises Starsky made to himself when he joined the police force, all his ideas of putting his past behind him had been shattered when Hutch uttered that one word in the showers. And he couldn't explain why.

"Starsk, just take the edge off," Hutch had whispered, his voice like whiskey, rough and intoxicating, and Starsky was utterly drunk. He'd never noticed the hard tile under his knees, the water going up his nose and almost drowning him. All he'd felt was Hutch. Hutch in his throat; Hutch holding the back of his head; Hutch bracketing his shoulders with his muscled thighs.

He'd never known how Hutch had so easily breached his defenses and slipped inside the barricades. Maybe there hadn't ever been any where Hutch was concerned. After that, they'd become a team. Partners. Starsky'n'Hutch: one word. He'd never examined their connection. Their bond was so powerful, he'd never wondered when he'd ceased to have an identity separate from Hutch's.

And Starsky could not deny that he enjoyed the sex. When they had it. In between their trysts, there had been a parade of women in Starsky's bed: Nancys, Kathys, and even a Carmelita. But none stayed. None defined him as Hutch did with that simple diminutive of his name. "Starsk."

Starsky almost let down his guard there in that dusty truck, thinking about servicing Hutch, remembering the long, hot stakeouts when Hutch would simply point downward, and Starsky would capitulate. Once or twice he'd thought about refusing to see what would happen, but he never did. He had to admit he loved the feel of Hutch's firm, taut flesh filling his mouth.

"Starsk." It worked like a magic spell, though Starsky didn't know why. But he'd go to his knees every time, and look up at Hutch's elegant face awash with lust. Was it the needy sound in Hutch's voice, a promise of sex with a hint of violence? Or was it because Hutch would talk while Starsky was on his knees?

"I went into this pissant job to help people," Hutch would complain. "To change the world...and look what's happened. The world is changing...mutating into something ugly. I've lost all control of the situation. There has to be something..." His rants would soften as his cock hardened until he'd climax, panting with release.

Starsky could be aroused just from the sight of Hutch sprawled in a relaxed heap on his bed. Or in the backseat of the Torino. Or once in a booth at Huggy's, after closing time. But there were other days, usually the ones when Starsky wouldn't fulfill one of Hutch's special requests, that he was left to pump his own oil. Most of the time, though, once Hutch had his drug of choice, when he was well and truly relaxed and sex had smoothed out all the tension in his face, he'd reach out with that long- fingered hand and finish Starsky off. It was usually short and sweet, since Starsky was often so aroused by then he could have humped a table leg.

Almost forgetting where he was, Starsky let himself drift away on the memory of those moments. When the truck jerked to a stop, he lost his grasp on the basket and sprawled forward. He was trying to right himself when the doors opened, letting in a blast of hot, exhaust-scented air. Someone grunted, and Starsky felt the floor sway as a man swung up onto the bed of the truck.

Starsky skittered to one side. He had no hope of battling his way out, not with his hands tied behind him and a bag over his head, but he wouldn't make it easy for them.

"Kidnapping a cop will put you in prison for the rest of your lives!" he shouted, the bag snatching half his breath. A hand closed around his right ankle, so Starsky struck out with his left foot. He connected and there was a curse of pain. A second man grabbed him, shoving him hard against the side of the truck. Stunned, Starsky fell, but fought to stay conscious as they manipulated his body like a doll's.

"Don't damage the merchandise," a gravelly voice said. So, there were three of them.

Starsky lay face down, nose pressed against the unforgiving metal floor. He wanted to run, but he couldn't get his limbs to cooperate. A sharp blade snicked under the edge of his pants, slitting up the legs and through the waistband. The pants fell away, leaving him naked from the waist down. Calloused hands roughly caressed his bare ass, and Starsky jerked violently.

They pinned him to the cold, straw-laden truck floor, hauling his legs out straight. Panting raggedly, Starsky attempted to kick and twist away from his captors, but they quickly locked his ankles into metal cuffs attached to a long length of bar, spreading his legs so far apart he could feel his hips rotate painfully. That was when Starsky was forced to realize why they'd kidnapped him.

No, this isn't happening. His brain refused to accept it. NO.

They flipped him over like a human pancake, neglecting even the most basic methods for protecting a prisoner. His head bounced against the floor. Lying on his back, his bound hands now dug painfully into his spine. A sweaty palm closed around his cock, making Starsky shout inarticulately. Someone sat down on his abdomen, driving all the air out of his lungs until he nearly passed out from asphyxiation. But what came next blew away the dullness in his brain like a flame-thrower in a field of dry grass.

Incredible pain shot through the end of his penis, blood red bursts going off behind Starsky's closed eyes as the man gripping his cock punctured the crown with a sharp tool. Starsky screamed, but the sensation only intensified as the man immediately forced something cold, hard, and metallic through the new hole. When the man released the metal, heaviness dragged his cock down, magnifying his agony.

No. No!

Starsky tried to unseat the man straddling him, but the hand still holding his cock squeezed tightly. Through the pain, he heard his captor laugh.

Starsky couldn't breathe. He'd been pierced. Marked as a slave. Robbed of his citizenship by a single hoop of surgical steel.

"Yeah, cop," a gravelly voice spoke above the laughter of the others. "You went along with the company line when they passed the slave laws as a way to handle the ‘criminal element.' Get 'em off the street, right? Do away with the riff-raff, and the homeless, and the lawbreakers?"

Starsky forced himself to inhale past the searing agony and the oppressive heaviness on his abdomen while hands fumbled with the ring being threaded slowly through the new hole. The process seemed to take forever. Even though he couldn't see, Starsky knew what they were doing. To secure the ring, one end had to be seated tightly inside the other.

"I can't get it in," Gravel Voice complained.

"I've got a hammer," another replied.

Starsky flinched, the thought of a hammer smashing down on his traumatized flesh too fearful to contemplate.

The calloused hands holding his throbbing cock steady shifted and Starsky screamed again, his ass muscles bunching in a fruitless effort to flee. Then, all of a sudden, whichever part of the ring that resisted finally slipped into place. The kidnappers chuckled their approval.

"Didn't think this could happen to you, huh, cop? You ever seen one of them rings once it's put on a slave? Can't be removed once the ends are joined. After ten seconds, a chemical reaction bonds the ends so it becomes one solid ring."

Starsky drew in an unhampered breath when the weight on his chest lifted. He could hear some of the men moving away. There was a sudden burst of intense heat in the ring that threatened to singe his cock, as the metal soldered itself together.

"Never thought I'd say it, but I love the CEC." One of the men kicked Starsky's spread legs, making the pain flare sharply. "Found a way to bring the cops down, and it's legal."

"My brother had one a' them rings, back before." There was clumping and clanging as the trio moved around the truck. "Before the CEC made 'em slave rings. He ran for Chink-ville up in 'Frisco, and took it out. No slaves in my family."

"Your brother had a ring? Shit. Never saw one before I had my first slave girl. Remember the first house? On Lincoln and 30th? I was riding her and didn't even notice 'til after that she was a cheerleader from my high school. Once I knew, I did her twice."

There was more laughter as the men recalled the early days after the take-over when all the U.S. was in turmoil.

They pushed Starsky onto his side. The ring in his cock hit the ground when he was shoved over, the sensation like a razor slicing him in two. Calloused fingers cut the plastic strips from his wrists. His hands were so numb he couldn't feel them.

Slavery. He was now someone else's property, not even allowed to own his own name or hold a real job.

"Put some a' that 'septic stuff on there, asshole," one of the men said, "and let's get on the road. It'll take a couple more hours, and the border crossing is always a bitch."

Starsky tried to roll away as more hands grabbed his penis. The tip must have mushroomed to twice the normal size and echoed the beat of his heart. Movement exacerbated the horrible soul-eating agony, but with his legs still locked in the spreader, he didn't have the strength to shift fast enough to evade his captors. They slathered something cool and wet all over the end and some of the pain receded a little.

Then the men began removing his leather jacket. Hutch had given him that jacket after he was shot. With leather goods now so expensive that only the richest bigwig could afford them, vintage leather was precious. He wasn't going to let these shit-faced slave dealers steal it from him.

"That's mine!" Starsky cried out as they pulled the jacket off him easily, grieving for what he had lost, but the canvas bag stuck to his dry tongue and his words were almost unintelligible. He needed to hold onto something.

"Good quality, maybe even vintage '40s," Gravel Voice said appreciatively, holding Starsky's arm away from his body. Agonizing pins and needles jabbed its length as circulation returned, and Starsky swung out blindly with his unfettered left arm.

His captor laughed. "Slaves can't own stuff like this. You know that, cop."

The other man grabbed Starsky's arm in mid-swing and snapped a thick metal cuff around his wrist. They hauled Starsky to the rear of the truck, his feet dragging heavily behind him.

"He ain't a cop no more, huh? Brought down to the dregs, now, huh? Never thought this kind of thing could happen to one a' the almighty state police, huh?" He locked the cuff to the top rung of the manger.

Starsky struggled, fighting his fate, but the ankle spreader impeded his balance. He was like one of those inflatable clowns, his lower half weighted to the ground, but easily knocked over. When one of them squeezed his newly pierced cock again, he nearly fell to his knees. The stress on his torqued thighs was incredible, and he bit back a scream as fresh pain shot down both legs. He ended up hanging by the arm from the hay basket, unable to get his feet under him for support. The guy with the calloused hands seized the opportunity, and quickly locked Starsky's right arm to the top rail of the manger.

They ripped Starsky's t-shirt off his body and wrote something on his back with a grease pencil. Seething, Starsky couldn't move enough to evade the debasement.

He went cold inside. He would never be a slave. However long it took, he'd hunt down whoever paid for his capture and rip their heart out, but not before piercing them with their own goddamned slave hoop.

The heavy metal collar that closed around Starsky's neck only reinforced his servitude. Finally, the men pulled the bag partially off his head, allowing him to take a few gulps of fresh air. Even that that minor freedom was cut short when they then forced a ball gag between his teeth and buckled it tightly behind his head. Starsky howled his displeasure, wrenching away from the hands that gripped the sides of his head.

Calloused fingers yanked Starsky's cock once again, and he froze in reaction to the renewed shock of pain and to avoid being emasculated. The men replaced the bag that covered his eyes with a standard blindfold, too quickly for him to see who'd kidnapped him. Starsky was familiar with the blindfolds; he'd seen them when he'd joined a taskforce to break up the slaving rings that were supposed to be illegal in B.C. Many slaves were blindfolded when being transported to increase their disorientation and keep them from knowing the routes in and out of the city.

Blindfolded, gagged, and pierced. He was now fully a slave, nothing more than merchandise, as the first captor had called him. A commodity to be sold or traded.

Oh, Hutch... Had they done this to him, too? Stripped him of his humanity, his goodness, and subjected him to similar treatment? Hutch wouldn't stand for this. He'd find some way out of the situation. Starsky's tendencies were for rash action first and thinking later, but Hutch could be calm, almost detached, until he came up with the right solution.

In the last year, Hutch had grown disillusioned by the current state of affairs in California. He'd railed against the CEC's increasingly draconian laws, and talked about joining an underground movement to effect change through civil protest and social reform. Starsky thought they would be better off to escape, run away to a less militaristic state like New Mex-Arizona or what was left of Michigan and Minnesota, where Hutch's mother used to be governor. There, anti-corporate protests weren't stopped with enslavement or death. Then they could fight from the outside, where they could get help from other like-minded people.

He could clearly hear Hutch's voice. "They claim they're different, that a corporation -- a board of greedy business men -- can change things for the better. This is communism except with money. Capitalism, with a capital C, and it won't work, Starsk. We need to take a stand for what is right. Protect the people from their own government."

Hutch had grown morose, letting his mustache grow back. Starsky saw the mustache as a barometer of Hutch's mood. It had come in lush and blond under his nose, a testimony to Hutch's deep depression. His mysterious outings had doubled in frequency, too. Starsky realized he should have been paying more attention. He could have asked where Hutch was going any number of times.

But would that have changed anything?

He was getting lost in his memories to avoid the present, but it was easier than anticipating what his captors might do now that he was shackled and nude. He could actually breathe when they finished their lewd inspection of his body and climbed noisily out of the truck.

The truck started up again, gathering speed. Starsky was sure they were headed for the old state of Nevada, away from the contradictory laws of California, where owning slaves was legal, but kidnapping and training them was not.

Thinking of Hutch brought him back to their case against Dunfey. The crime lord was involved in the wholesale trafficking of human beings. It was one of the things he and Hutch had been investigating. Dunfey's group secured slaves for customers with particular tastes. Tastes Dunfey probably shared. But he'd managed to keep ahead of the cops, as if he had inside information. He'd evaded every raid, every trap they set. That's why Starsky had believed Hutch's phone call so completely. Nailing Dunfey had been their goal for over a year.

Starsky forced himself to examine all he knew about the mobster's operation, glossing over the black market sales and gun running. Most of the people Dunfey's henchmen enslaved had been legal citizens until his hand-picked goons grabbed them out of their mundane lives and spirited them away to the infamous out-of-state slave farms. On paper, that was the one thing the CEC didn't allow -- the wholesale marketing of slaves. Slaves were supposed to be convicted criminals or prostitutes who couldn't pay the state taxes to keep their brothels open legally. Slaves were not supposed to be private citizens kidnapped at the whim of someone's pleasure. Since most slave farms were in the old state of Nevada, they were out of the CEC's jurisdiction and beyond prosecution.

So, that's probably where they were taking him. Starsky shuddered, but it helped to have that tiny bit of knowledge in this completely out-of-control situation. He might be immobilized and nude, but he knew where they were going.

Now for the why? And the who. Who would want him as a slave? Some member of the Corporation he'd pissed off? There were so many he couldn't pick just one.

Starsky was a rabble-rouser, a rebel. For all his anger at the system, Hutch kept it bottled up and played the good cop with their superiors. Probably why Captain Roschenzky had recently offered Hutch a promotion over Starsky. Hutch refused the offer, but they both knew that Starsky would never qualify for advancement through the new corporate organization.

Thinking about anything but that he'd been locked to a manger in an old horse trailer, yoked, and pierced as a slave, helped Starsky stay sane. He wanted to panic, to freak out and cry, but what good would that do? It wouldn't free him, and it wouldn't help him find Hutch any faster.

Hutch's last words repeated endlessly in his head. "Starsk, Dunfey just went into the warehouse on the corner of Ninety-first where it crosses Mission. Hurry. I'll meet you there."

Hurry. I'll meet you there.

I'll meet you there.

Hutch hadn't been at the warehouse when he called? The pay phones in that area had long been destroyed; there wasn't a working phone in a two-mile vicinity. So, where had Hutch been?

The little nagging doubt was back, but Starsky pushed it firmly away. Hutch wasn't involved in this. That wasn't possible.

By curling his fingers around the metal bar he was cuffed to, and going with the sway of the truck, he could keep his balance and prevent the ring in his cock from clanging against the hay basket. Every time the ring connected with metal, he felt the sharp spike of pain all the way up to his breast bone. To think some guys used to do this for sex appeal!

His mouth was so parched, his tongue kept sticking to the rubber ball clenched between his teeth, even as it caused a tiny line of drool down his chin. He wanted to lick that drool to help quench his thirst and wondered if he were becoming dehydrated. How long had it been since he'd been grabbed, anyway?

He'd arrived at the warehouse around 12:20 and they'd captured him immediately. It was approximately a four-hour drive from Bay City to Las Vegas -- if that was where they were going. Starsky had driven it often enough with Hutch back when the states were united and gambling was a fun pastime instead of the way states filled their coffers.

Had they been gone longer than two hours? Closer to three?

Starsky twisted his arm awkwardly inside the tight cuff, feeling the tiny wrist bones grind against the metal. These were far bigger and thicker than the standard police issue handcuffs he was used to. These were slaveware, impossible to remove without a hacksaw. He suddenly realized he wasn't wearing a watch. The bastards had stolen his Yamamoto Titanium Special with the depth gauge and compass.

He could no longer own anything. Slaves were owned. Everything they wore, touched, or used was the property of their master.

Starsky took a shaky breath, biting down on the ball of the gag. He'd get through this and escape. No one owned David Starsky. He'd protect the last thing he had, his name, no matter what.

Slaves were usually given variations on their original name, diminutives, or childish nicknames to further enforce their lowly status. They'd probably call him Davey, something only his mother had ever gotten away with. Hutch called him Starsk.

Starsk. Hutch's special nickname for him. Not childish or demeaning. Strong, masculine, and...Starsky refused to wander that dark path, past the memories of going down on Hutch to stumble over the new idea that Hutch might have done this to him. That he could be that duplicitous. No. Never.

Oh, God, Hutch, what happened?

The ride was long and arduous. Starsky kept falling whenever there was an abrupt turn or stop, and one time smacked his lip so hard on the manger rail that it swelled, pressing painfully against the ball gag. Maybe they were going farther than Nevada?

Then the truck ground to a halt, inching forward as if in a slow line, and Starsky knew where they were -- the border crossing between the independent states of California and Nevada. All those decades of trying to keep Mexicans out of California had provided good experience. California knew how to hold a border. There were checkpoints and double checkpoints. No dissidents or undesirables were allowed in, period. Just exactly who those undesirables were was decided from on high. It wasn't quite as cut and dried as the Nazis who had hated anyone who didn't conform to their idea of Aryan perfection. No, the CEC's ideals were more nebulous.

The doors of the truck opened, and Starsky shivered as a hellishly hot gust of wind swirled around him. He hated the thought that people were seeing him, naked and bound, blindfolded like a common slave.

"Cargo?" a bored voice asked.

"Human slave, bound for the farms," Gravel Voice responded, chewing gum loudly. He popped a bubble, the sugary-sweet smell totally alien in the dusty, horse-scented trailer.

Starsky tensed, very aware of the two men so close to him. A finger tapped him on the shoulder. "Invoice number's on his back, all official-like."

"Gotta inspect the merchandise," the bored voice said, as the man clamored into the truck. He smacked Starsky hard on the butt, making him jump in surprise. The heavy weight hanging from his penis swung from side to side and Starsky gasped, clamping down on fear and pain. "Good reflexes," the guard laughed. "For this kind of freight, there's a fee."

"You new around here?" Gravel argued. "Dunfey has a free pass, alla time."

"Things change fast." The guard's hand slid around Starsky's hip, caressing the skin over his pelvis.

Even with the blindfold, Starsky closed his eyes, more afraid than if he'd been standing in front of a drug-crazed maniac with a sawed-off shotgun. He didn't move, willing the questing hand away from his genitals.

"Six hundred dollars or I get a taste of this sweet whore."

Starsky shifted his weight to evade the guard's hand, but he couldn't move very far.

"Just keep it quiet. I'll go get the paperwork," Gravel said, the truck bed jouncing when he left them alone. "And don't bruise him any. We'll probably get gypped on the price with all the dings he's got."

"Feisty, ain't you?" the guard said once the man was gone. "Well, we can fix that quick." He bracketed Starsky's body with his own, pressing full length against him. Starsky could feel the smooth fabric of a polyester uniform and slick boots against his bare legs and ass. The guard's erection was hard beneath his pants, pressing into the one place that Starsky never allowed human flesh to breach. When Starsky had plied his body on the street, he'd protected that place religiously -- like a girl guarding her virginity with her very life.

Hutch had never touched him there. In fact, Hutch didn't always reciprocate sexually. He kissed Starsky often, nearly every day, but as far as other sexual acts were concerned, Hutch was a one-trick pony. He wanted to be serviced, and then would return the favor after the fact. Starsky could easily count the number of times Hutch had gone down on him first. Usually on his birthday, though the most memorable time was after the shooting when he'd cleared the medical board to get back on the force. Six years ago.

The rasp of a zipper being pulled down jerked him back to his immediate problem. The sound was so loud it drowned out the cars and other border guards outside. There was no one else in the world except Starsky and the guard. He pulled Hutch's image back, his shining blond hair and clear blue eyes, comforting and strong. If anyone was going to be pressed against him, he wanted it to be Hutch. But not back there -- never there. At fifteen, he'd declared that place off limits, and no penis had ever penetrated him since. He panted around the gag, unable to stop what was about to occur.

Hutch, what did you do to me?

Starsky could no longer deny the ugly thoughts. Hutch might have lured him to the warehouse. Hutch must have lured him to the warehouse. For what reason? He replayed Hutch's words over in his head to barricade himself from the guard's actions, but the pressure of an alien cock pressing against his backside was too strong to ignore.

No. NO.

"Hey, Rato, get out of there!" an urgent voice cried. "Boss is on the way from the security booth."

Starsky's attacker cursed with disappointment, fumbling with his engorged cock. He'd never made it past the initial advance. When he moved away, zipping himself up, Starsky sagged, exhausted.

The back doors were slammed shut moments later and the truck started up, trundling through the border after a brisk "All Clear" called by another guard. They were now in Nevada. Did that improve the situation or make it worse? Nevada was a wild, dangerous place, governed by only corruption and greed. Stephan King's novel The Stand had set Las Vegas as the capital of sin, and this had come to pass. Whether the devil really lived there was a matter of debate. Many criminals who'd been out of prison when the revolution began had gone to ground in Vegas. There was no extradition to California from Las Vegas, and no police. Many of the Corporation CEOs kept homes in Nevada for exactly that reason -- as did those in the criminal element. Although Starsky had heard that Dunfey's stronghold was farther south, possibly in New Mex-Arizona.

Starsky hadn't been to Las Vegas since he and Hutch had gone undercover to help investigate a serial killer. They'd won a great deal of money and given it all to a dancer for her crippled child. He hadn't thought of them in years. The girl would be in her teens by now, if she lived. Few people with handicaps remained. The disabled were among the first to be exiled, which had frightened Starsky when he'd thought he might be included. But he'd recovered well from his gunshot wounds. Perfectly, in fact. The new laser treatments had all but erased many of the surgical scars on his chest.

He tried to shut his mind down after the near rape, and was barely cognizant of the rumble of the truck under his feet or the metal cuffs holding him in place. For the next few hours he merely existed, banking down his need to fight until he found an opening. He couldn't escape from the truck, but once at the farms -- wherever they might be -- there would be more opportunity. There had to be.

Starsky would not be any man's slave.

When the truck finally came to a halt and the doors opened again, Starsky shook himself out of his haze. He had finally arrived.

"This is what all the fuss was about?" a man's voice with a British accent said. Starsky could hear his footsteps as he approached, and the tone of his voice made it clear he was appraising Starsky's worth. Then cool hands suddenly felt him up and down, but in an impersonal way, not designed to illicit a sexual response. More like a horse trader checking out an animal's lines. "Not really what I expected, but the buyer is always right. Especially at the price he paid."

"Good commission?" Gravel laughed.

"Darling, you couldn't even imagine."

Someone had paid enough to impress this man from the Farms? Starsky digested this interesting nugget with a surge of hope. Hutch had no money, certainly not enough to pay what must have been an exorbitant price for him. So Hutch wasn't involved...or if he had been, it was only peripherally, against his will. Maybe he was mixed up in something he couldn't get out of -- a bad debt or blackmail. Maybe he'd slept with the wrong person -- a CEC official or something. He'd been forced to make the phone call. That was it.

Caught up in new ideas, Starsky barely acknowledged the handlers freeing him from the leg spreader and the metal rail in the horse truck, and hauling him out. His legs had gone stiff and numb in the long hours, making him clumsy and uncoordinated. He was marched along a corridor with cold marble flooring, his arms quickly bound behind his back, a handler on each side holding him up. The agonizing drag of the ring in his penis brought home his servitude with every step.

The Brit followed behind, giving orders. "Step lively, chaps; this one has to be processed quickly. We only have a few days before the buyer arrives."

Suddenly, an alarm rang. Starsky turned his head in the direction of the raucous clanging, anxious to learn anything he could about the layout of the place. They'd come in from the left, and gone down in an elevator, possibly one or two floors, but emerged onto what felt like an identical marble floor. Starsky had been frog marched down another hallway to this place with the horrible alarm.

"Hear that, Davey?" the Brit asked sweetly. "If you try to escape your cell, everyone in the compound will hear that sound. Unpleasant, isn't it? Nod your head."

Starsky nodded. What other choice did he have?

"If you attempt to escape, it will be doubly unpleasant for you, I guarantee it. Your master has specifically ordered that you not be harmed, but there are punishments that won't mar your pretty flesh unduly." Starsky heard a series of beeps, like computer-pad buttons being pushed as the Brit continued. "I am programming a pass code into the door, and only myself, two specially picked guards, and your owner will be given that code."

When the door opened with a hissing slide that reminded Starsky of the electronic doors on Star Trek, he was pushed to his knees.

"Dismissed, Denato. Fortun, stay for now and get out the equipment."

Starsky swallowed, but there was almost no moisture in his mouth, the ball-gag nearly glued to his lips and tongue. He had no idea what to expect. He'd never visited a slave house as a patron, and had only been inside one a few times as a cop. Since owning slaves wasn't illegal, he'd only glanced at the slaves' living quarters while searching for suspected contraband, and on one occasion, a CEC Vice President's wife. He'd been involved in the investigation of her kidnapping. They found her four months later in the slave quarters of a competitor VP. Her owners had dyed her brown hair blond, covered her body with tattoos, and forced a diamond-studded ring through her clit. Her husband refused to take back what was now a sex slave, even if she was the mother of his children.

He now had something in common with that woman.

Would Hutch really want him like this? Or would he reject Starsky the same way?

A male hand tugged at Starsky's curls and strayed over his blindfolded face. "Your owner left explicit instructions. No shaving the head or dying the hair. No extra piercings. Such a pity; you'd look divine with a ring through your nose." He pinched the end, making Starsky sneeze. "Altering a new slave's appearance so helps with the acclimatization process. Helps the slave settle into his new role, but so be it. The buyer is always right." He said that ironically, and Starsky could easily imagine the overly dramatic lift of one shoulder and eloquent sigh. He'd seen men like this; they were called flaming queens and were often the object of derision. Obviously, not this man.

"I'm sure you're wondering what we're going to do, Davey."

Starsky jerked at the name, anger and humiliation burning in his gut. The Brit gave a sardonic chuckle and straightened Starsky's shoulders, unlocking his bound hands from behind him, and placing them just so on his thighs. Starsky had seen this before -- presentation position. All slaves were required to show themselves like this when a master came into the room. When he'd poked his head into the slave rooms looking for the VP's wife, every slave there had assumed this pose.

"Remember to show your best assets, Davey," the Brit said with a self-important laugh, twitching Starsky's limp penis lying lax between his spread knees.

Starsky screamed inside, but outwardly didn't give the man the satisfaction of wresting a reaction out of him.

"Not interested in me, are you? I'm sure you're hungry and thirsty, too, poor lamb, but that's all part of the plan. You'll be isolated here for a few days in your own cell. You'll be cared for, but rarely touched or spoken to. An IV will take care of fluids going in, and a Foley catheter for fluids out." He giggled as if this were a witty bon mot. "There will be other discomforts, of course, but you won't be really harmed. We have higher standards than those run-of-the-mill training houses. Most new slaves are relieved to hear that. Nod, Davey."

Starsky nodded, hating this queen in ways he could hardly describe. Taking the one chance he had while unrestrained, he launched himself in the direction of the Brit's voice, grabbing at silk clothing and a slender leg, knocking them both over.

"You heathen!" the Brit shrieked. "Get him off me. He's a menace. Use the sedation, now!"

Pushing, shoving strong arms subdued him as Starsky fought like a captured animal unwilling to be caged. Someone -- Fortun, Starsky realized -- jabbed a needle straight into his rump, sending unwelcome narcotic languor through him. It didn't knock him out or paralyze him, but left him completely unable to resist. Weirdly, the drug made him all the more aware of the sensations around him. The Brit's silk clothing slid over Starsky's skin like the belly of a snake, making him want to throw up. Fortun's hands dragging him up were like huge meaty paddles.

Fortun must be built like a wrestler, Starsky thought, as the guard manhandled him over a metal frame that was shockingly cold against his naked skin. Fortun draped his body forward against a center brace that supported his chest, then strapped him into place. The guard stretched Starsky's arms just above shoulder height on two parallel supports, and used leather bindings to secure him tightly at bicep, elbow, and wrist. This centered his head on a small metal depression that hugged his chin. Fortun, and now the Brit, wrapped leather straps around his head so that he couldn't turn even the barest inch. They strapped his legs and arms at regular intervals, but kept his feet resting on the cold marble floor. He could not escape the bindings, but the open design of the framework left every part of Starsky's body available to any master who wanted to use him.

At least, according to the wretched Brit, who talked incessantly through the ordeal. "You'll become quite accustomed to this place, Davey; it will be your home until you're claimed by your owner. We've worked long and hard to make this frame both welcoming and functional for the recently turned slave. Consider it an introduction to your new life and a way to retrain your body into one pleasing for your master." He brushed his fingers over Starsky's abdomen, feeling the ridges of his taut muscles. The center support brace had openings so that he could pinch and tease Starsky's nipples and chest hair with ease.

Starsky groaned, fighting to maintain an ounce of dignity, but with his chin jammed into the cup, even swallowing was a chore.

"You'll notice how easily I could use any part of your body. That pretty dick hangs free, and your glorious ass sticks out, all ready to be reamed. Fortun?"

With Starsky totally restrained, Fortun inserted an IV into a vein in his groin. He squirmed ineffectually as the needle jabbed him. When Fortun threaded the tiny tubing in, it felt like a million worms invading his body. Starsky screamed, his muffled voice hoarse and barely audible over the Brit's constant yammering.

"The IV is for long-term use," the Brit said, "so, once sutured in, we will maintain it carefully."

Starsky could hear the Brit walk around the frame as Fortun finished quickly. "It hurts, doesn't it, lamb?" The Brit kissed Starsky's cheek, leaving a wet place, but it was obvious that humiliation and torture turned the man on. "It will be over all too soon and we'll leave you alone. Just a few more things to do. Your body isn't your own anymore. We can control every one of your natural functions."

The guard shoved another catheter up his penis to evacuate his urine. Starsky remembered this from the hospital, but that had been a cakewalk compared to this ordeal. The rubber tubing forced the ring up against the swollen tissue of his crown, triggering pain so intense Starsky thought he'd black out, but he didn't. He bit down hard on the ball gag, no longer caring that they could see his pain and degradation. Just make them stop!

"It's cleaner this way, lamb," the Brit explained in his maddeningly cheerful and eerily aroused voice. "Don't want you to pee all over that nice new piercing. That would sting so badly."

Rubber tubing penetrated his anus twice. Once to clean out his bowels and a second time when a dildo plugged his rectum like a cork in a wine bottle. They fed the last tube through his nose to his stomach to feed him, if he earned the privilege of food.

The sedative was short acting. Just as Fortun finished with all the tubing, Starsky slowly regained some of his wits. For nothing. He couldn't move, couldn't fight, couldn't help himself in any way. He was more of a thing than a man now. He couldn't imagine any master seeing him suspended like this, plugged with rubber tubing, and be aroused. Disgusted would be more like it.

Then he was left alone.

The solitude was the worst. There was no sound, even though Starsky wasn't wearing ear plugs. He was overcome with the urge to move, and wiggled each of his fingers and toes just for the supreme pleasure of controlling a part of his own body. He had been robbed, pure and simple. Robbed of freedom and deprived of the most ordinary acts. Each tube that breached his body defiled him. He was filled with loathing. How could they do this to him? How could they do this to anyone?

Again, the image of the VP's wife came to him. Had she been bound to this hideous frame? Had this happened to every slave he'd ever seen on the streets, staring vacantly into space as they followed their masters?

He'd always assumed there would be whips and maybe thumb screws. A rack like in movies on the Spanish inquisition. Not IVs, Foleys, and feeding tubes like in the hospital. Those had once helped him heal. Here, these innocuous items were objects to torture and debase. It was not what he'd expected, yet all the more horrible. Degradation. Humiliation. Invasion. Rubber shoved into him, including the one place he'd protected since the age of fifteen. The plug in his anus felt wide, wider than anything meant to be inside the rectum, and as the hours passed it seemed to swell, bruising his inner walls.

Torture.

His mind skittered away from the word, but that was what the Brit and his underlings had done. Torture.

Hutch.

Hutch, I went to the warehouse like you told me to, but where were you?

He was never sure whether he slept -- some hours seemed like the unfathomable depths of dreamland and others like the endless tedium of being awake and unable to sleep. He remembered so much, things he didn't want to remember, and things he could never forget.

Being sent away from home to relatives who were nearly complete strangers. Rebelling against child-rearing techniques more strict than his mother's, and taking to the streets. He'd been popular -- on the small side, curly haired and charming. He'd gotten lots of clients quickly who paid for his services in drugs and candy. Or candy and drugs, he was never sure which was the most addicting. They'd press him against the rough surface of a brick wall in some dank alley and push him to his knees. It only took a few moments to satisfy most of the men who bought him. Just a few slurps and the rasp of a zipper closing. Sometimes he'd see the glint of a knife in the darkness poised against his unwhiskered cheek, or feel the pain of penetration when one of the regulars pushed that blade into his skin --

Fuck.

He opened his eyes into darkness, his body drenched in sweat. The decade old scar on his shoulder ached with the fierceness of freshly sliced flesh. He needed to run, to hide, to get away from those hands, but he was pinned like a butterfly in a museum case, displayed for his new owner.

Hutch?

No. Older, tall, blond, and powerful -- with a handful of cash. Starsky desperately wanted to escape the memories but they piled on, trapping him on the slave frame. A blond man with whiskey on his breath and cigarettes -- long ago, not Hutch, but so much like him. Ready to pay a lot of money as long as fifteen-year-old David Starsky would go down on his knees in a swanky hotel room. The money wasn't for his mouth, though, but for the other opening in his body.

No.

He'd refused. But the handsome stranger didn't take no for an answer. So he'd fought, scratched, and then screamed when the man shoved something big, hard, and metal into his ass.

Starsky dreamed of Hutch running up, apologizing for the misunderstanding. It was all a big mistake. This wasn't supposed to happen -- not to him.

He awakened to hear people in the room, walking around the frame, speaking softly to one another, too low for him to make out their words. They were watching him; the hair rose on the back of his neck. They could see him. See his naked body shackled to the frame, limbs held rigidly, all dignity stripped ruthlessly away. He could hear the rustling of their clothes when they walked, hear their breathing and soft tread of their shoes on a hard floor. But no one spoke to him. He'd never been so completely ignored while being the center of attention.

They replaced the IV bag, and a few drops of water dripped on his leg in the process. Someone wiped it away, caressing his thigh, making the slave ring bounce against the rubbing tubing in his cock. They cleaned the penile piercing gently and applied gel to the tip. For a moment it burned but cooled quickly, taking away some of the awful pain. Starsky was powerless, inanimate.

He wept. The tears pooled on the lower edge of his blindfold, but only a few escaped to roll down his cheeks. He felt one wet tear on his lip and rejoiced at this small freedom.

"This is pretty Davey, our newest acquisition," the Brit said to the crowd.

Starsky was nothing more than an object, something to play with and tease, not human at all.

"He's barely used, which is probably why his master bought him. The uninitiated are so wonderfully vulnerable." There was a smattering of laughter from the audience.

Starsky strained, trying to guess how many stood around him, viewing him like some exotic display.

How could they?

How could they use him this way? Yesterday, or maybe the day before -- he was no longer sure of the date -- he'd had a life. Been a person, dammit. Not a slave.

Not a slave.

Starsky felt hands moving the buckles strapped around his head, fingers threading through his curls, kneading his scalp. It was wonderful and terrible. He didn't know whose hands they were or what more they would do. His whole body tensed, anticipating pain.

Someone removed the blindfold. Although the room was fairly dark, his eyes stung as he struggled to adjust after the long darkness. He could see a wide metal door directly in front of him, tantalizingly open to an expanse of corridor. Where were they? In Nevada, but where? In the mountains? The desert? If he walked out that door and down that hallway, would he be free?

His audience, including the Brit, stayed out of his limited visual range, although he tried to peer sideways to get a glimpse of his captors. When a feminine hand trailed over his tightly bound hip, slipping a finger underneath the thick leather strap, bile rose in his throat. But at the same time, he had the oddest, almost terrifying need for that hand to linger, grab hold of his cock and pump him dry.

"This new frame is a vast improvement over the earlier one," a mellow female voice said. "The design is elegant but imminently functional. The way the leather holds the body..." she gave a strap a tug making it dig deeply into the sensitive area between Starsky's scrotum and thigh, "...is highly provocative."

Starsky jerked in his bonds, but hands caressing his head stilled what little motion he could achieve. Who else was there besides the Brit? Although they had removed some straps, enough remained to prevent him from turning his head. His chin was still wedged in the depression, and his arms and legs immobilized against the metal bars.

"Yes, I love how accessible his body is," the Brit agreed. "I can touch every part."

There were two sets of hands touching him; those cupping his head slithered down his sweaty body to his back. He was poked in his old bullet scars. The nerve endings there were damaged, making the sensation surreal. When a finger dipped into the largest of the thickened scar tissue, it felt like a zipping flash skittering down his torso, like a rock skipping across a lake.

"Very nice," the woman said. "So easily stimulated. He would be wonderful to play with." The slick surface of her long fingernails slid along the plane of his hipbone to his groin over the IV port to tangle in his pubic hair.

The Brit laughed. "You've gone all goose flesh, lammy-boy. Are you cold?" He licked Starsky's shoulder, his tongue warmer than any part of Starsky's body. The sensation was horrible and yet incredibly right at the same time.

No more. Leave me alone.

"You say he was a cop?" said a different woman's voice, sensual and snide. "Doesn't look much like one."

He heard more laughter from the peanut gallery.

"They all look the same on the frame." The Brit continued his slow, vile washing, all tongue and slippery fingers. "Sweet, frightened, and in pain. That's the best part. The pain sweeps away all vestiges of their old life."

Starsky cringed, shame heating his body better than anything his captor was doing. Some damned queen was using him like a party doll while people watched as if this were some fucking sideshow, and he couldn't resist in any way. He'd never imagined anything like this. Never considered the utter helplessness of a slave, forced to perform for a master without any regard for the slave's needs or wants.

"This is taking too long," the first woman said, sounding bored. She cupped his sac, her nails just a fraction too sharp against his flesh. "I have a dozen things to arrange before I leave for the council meeting."

"Take your time, Harriet," a male voice said. "I'll make some phone calls."

Starsky caught a glimpse of a broad back clad in a forest green shirt walking out the door and strained to see where he was going. His eyes could only swivel so far, but just as he despaired of seeing anything else, a naked man followed Forest Green out -- a naked man plugged up the ass with chains hobbling his ankles. Another slave. So there were others being trained as he was. How many? Who were these people? Why did they watch him, toy with him without giving him any answers?

"Thank you, Sebastian, you are such a gentleman," she called after the retreating man.

"Then, will you do the honors, my dear?" The Brit finally stopped licking him, leaving Starsky damp and slimy.

"Well, with that damned Foley you always insist on shoving up their dicks, Neville, I don't know what you expect me to do," she complained, finally coming into Starsky's view.

She was an older woman with gray hair coiled into a French knot, wearing an expensive but severe navy suit stating clearly that she was with the CEC -- an executive or VP. Were there many female vice presidents? Off to one side, he was aware of shifting bodies and murmured comments, but the woman demanded all his attention.

"Ah, you are pretty, aren't you, Davey?" She bent to slip one finger into the heavy ring on his cock. Starsky moaned, horrified when he felt an involuntary arousal crawl down his spine in spite of the pain from her rough examination.

"This will be so much fun to play with once it's healed. Only takes a short time. I've heard it hurts for a lot longer, though." She twisted the metal, sliding her hand up his length in a parody of a handjob.

Starsky arched as much as he could, desperate to get away from her ruthless torture. Her skin was as soft as a child's against his icy flesh, the heavy scent of magnolia clogging his nose when she leaned close to kiss his gagged lips. "There are so many nerve endings down there."

She flicked the ring, sending waves of pain up his abused genitals and across his abdomen. He couldn't breathe.

"I've heard that in some men, it hurts for the rest of your life." She smiled, all elegant beauty and power, and released the ring, tapping it so it would swing, then gently touched the side of his face. "You've been crying, sweetling. How novel. So few men give in to their own fears."

Starsky tried to look away to avoid seeing her terrible appetite, the way her eyes ate him alive.

"Who bought him? Someone I know?" she asked.

"Davey's master prefers to remain anonymous." As always, Neville seemed to add something vaguely dirty to everything he said.

"Too bad he's not going for auction anytime soon," a German accented voice commented from the back of the room.

"I was hoping to have more time to play." Harriet pushed back Starsky's eyelids, exposing his eyeballs until they watered and his vision blurred. Then she pushed his lips away from the ball gag, inserting her long blood red fingernail into his mouth.

That hurt. His lips were cracked and bleeding, his jaw extended far wider than ever before, the muscles and ligaments in his cheeks searing with pain.

She probed inside his ears, scrutinized his neck, shoulders, and chest with rapt attention. She gave every inch of Starsky's body a minute examination as if he were a horse she considered buying. She left no part of him alone.

He could have cried again, but wouldn't. Not in front of his abusers. He had to maintain some tiny remnant of pride. How did anyone else endure this? Why didn't every kidnapped slave go crazy?

"Fine specimen, though," she said, standing so close to the side of his body that he could feel her breasts under her suit jacket heaving against his ribs. She reached around and slowly removed the dildo, twisting it slightly to prolong the agonizing stretch of Starsky's muscles. "How is this, little Davey? Doesn't it raise the hairs on the back of your neck? It's such a unique, exquisite pain."

The low-level arousal that he'd been fighting slammed in when the plug came free. He panted, but got no joy or release from the sickening sensation. He squeezed his eyes shut to get rid of the sight of Harriet, concentrating on resisting her intrusions. She slotted a finger into his anus and scraped her nail against his prostate.

He would have jumped, if he could. Would have run, screamed, fought to get away. All he could do was gasp around the gag.

Not there. No.

Not there. God, please.

Only Hutch.

His muscles automatically clamped shut around her, trying to prevent any further entrance.

"He's not a virgin; I can feel scar tissue." She jerked her hand free, stepping back into his line of sight to hold out her soiled finger impatiently.

"That will lower his resaleability," the German said with a click of his tongue.

A female slave moved into Starsky's view for just a second to wash Harriet's hand with a wet cloth. The slave kept her head lowered the entire time, her body so tense she practically vibrated with fear.

"My recommendation would be to leave him on the frame for several days," Harriet said to the Brit over Starsky's shoulder. "And he needs a higher dose." She regarded him without apology for the way she'd treated him. This was normal operating procedure, making sure the merchandise was worth the money invested in it. "Poor Davey. There's not enough Phenine in your system yet or you'd have enjoyed that a great deal more." She pinched his nipple, eliciting a sharp shiver that trapped his breath in his lungs. "But just wait. It will hit so fast, and then you'll want to be touched so badly. But no one will be here to give you a hand." She smiled, her gray eyes frightening, filled with a false kindness. "Isn't it sad, my dear?"

"Just a pity," the Brit agreed, and rammed the butt plug home.

Starsky screamed, his throat spasming to force sound past the gag, but his cry was nearly mute to his own ears. Metal and leather bit into his body when he fought to get free. His struggle was futile, a useless battle that left him bruised and sore.

"Give it time, Davey," Neville soothed into his ear, flicking a tongue into the curved shell. "Donato, draw up a double dose this time. He has an incredible tolerance for the stuff. Who knew he would be such a natural slave?"

The Brit once again strapped the blindfold over his eyes. Starsky tensed when he felt the brush of Neville's silk shirt against his belly as the man bent to inject more drug into his IV. His body recognized the languor when the sedative took over with a sweet longing. Next would come the need, the desire for so much more, and that frightened him. He couldn't even control his own reactions anymore.

The door hissed shut as Harriet and the others left. He was alone, spread on the frame, open to anyone who chose to come in and touch him, abuse him, look at his nakedness. He cried again, alone. Waiting for them to come back and use him again.

Wanting to be used.

A fervent need built inside him, kindling a fire that burned hotly. He sweated, panting, which only exacerbated the dryness of his tongue and mouth. He imagined Harriet's hands covering the parts of his skin not crisscrossed by leather restraints, then pulling at his nipples, fisting his cock, pressing into his anus.

Not her!

Hutch, only Hutch would ever be allowed to do those things. Hutch taking him like a virgin with those sky blue eyes that could see past Starsky's barriers to his innermost thoughts.

There was no one in the room, yet it was full of his past lovers. Starsky dripped sweat, his belly writhing with need. He'd never felt such a powerful craving for sex, such a desire to fuck and be fucked. He couldn't move, not even to reach down and relieve the ache in his balls. He couldn't manage an erection, not with the tube stuck in him, but the rest of him roiled with lust.

A trickle of sweat slid down his nose. Starsky could feel it dangling off the tip, tempting him, and envisioned Hutch reaching down to flick that droplet away, his mouth slightly open, moist tongue peeking out as he concentrated. Starsky yearned to suckle on that tongue, draw in some of the sweet moisture, and taste Hutch's essence. Then he'd kneel, slurping up Hutch's cock like the finest ice cream.

It was too much.

Forcing himself to think past the seething madness, he realized that whatever was in the IV drug left him hot and bothered without any recourse. What had she called it? Phenine? He didn't know what that was, but it was working, making him crave sex. So he'd be willing when they came for him. So he'd perform.

David Starsky would never be a slave for any man.

He had to focus on something else. Going over the events of his kidnapping helped alleviate the intense sexual hunger. In his mind, he drove the streets around the warehouse again, turning right on Mission, left onto Ninety-first, left onto Cassio and Ninetieth, and then back to Mission. Making a wider sweep onto Ninety-second, but seeing no one. No mobsters, no gang members, not even a dog.

When had the streets ever been so completely deserted? Something had been planned, and he'd fallen into it with his eyes wide open. He'd been so sure Hutch would be waiting for him that he'd never given a single thought to anything else.

Hutch, where were you?

It had been Hutch's voice. That was established.

But it had been a bogus call; that seemed certain. But what else?

Hutch, did you know what they were planning to do?

He couldn't have. He wouldn't have gone along with it if he had. So, where was Hutch now? Back in Bay City, roaming the streets looking for him? Had anyone even noted Starsky dashing out of the squadroom?

Before his shooting, before Harold Dobey had been forced out, there had been good, reliable men on the squad that Starsky had been proud to call friends. But recently, as older cops resigned in disgust, the men replacing them were corrupt cops who accepted graft and pay offs. Starsky and Hutch and a small handful of detectives still struggled to do their jobs, but it had become a downhill battle.

There had been no one in the squadroom Starsky could trust when he'd left, even if they'd noticed his departure.

Then he remembered...Len Roschenzky had seen him leave. As Starsky grabbed his leather jacket off the back of the chair, he'd seen the captain watching him from his office door, his feral dark eyes like a predatory hawk's watching prey from a lofty perch. Starsky had never trusted the man. Dobey had been so good, such a solid, dependable leader, but Roschenzky was his complete opposite. It was almost as if he tried to control certain investigations, manipulating the outcomes for the benefit of the CEC.

"Got a lead, Detective?" Roschenzky had taken a coffee cup from the stack.

"Lunchtime. Gotta meet Hutch," Starsky had said, still not entirely sure why he'd lied to his superior.

Finally, he slept and dreamed of Hutch again. This time, Hutch kissed him as he often did in the morning, and pushed Starsky down to suck his cock. Starsky tried to, but his mouth was dry as dust, his lips chapped and split and his tongue cracked. Hutch held him close, imprisoning his arms, and kissed him again before pulling on his penis. Starsky gasped in surprise; Hutch never let him have first dibs.

Then he screamed as the Foley was pulled out, leaving a burning swath as if the inner skin of his penis were being dragged out the pierced hole. The screaming just ripped up his lips and throat more, and Starsky could feel blood in his mouth. Why would anyone want a slave like him? He was grotesque.

"There, there, I know it hurts, Davey-lamb." The Brit was talking again, but his words made little sense. "You've been so good for so long, we're allowing you a few more freedoms. The IV fluids are turned off. You get to eat and drink. Isn't that charming?"

Something thick and warm flowed through the tube inserted in Starsky's left nostril and into his stomach. It landed like a pile of lead, sickening him. It had been so long since he'd had food, he cramped up. It could be lethal to vomit while wearing a gag. He held his breath, struggling to keep it down.

"More, my lamb?" The Brit gave a nasty laugh. "You can't move your head to nod, can you? Oh, well, Fortun, give him another thirty cc's. He looks hungry."

The whole process was repeated twice, but Starsky had to admit, grudgingly, that eating, if he could call it that, did make him feel stronger. He was surprised to realize he could now move his arms and legs more freely.

"Fewer straps, Davey. And if you're good, tomorrow there will be more rewards."

He'd been good? How could he have been bad? He couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't do anything on his own volition. How could that be defined as being good?

Starsky didn't want to know what the rewards might be, and yet he did. Maybe he'd be taken down from the frame.

Maybe.

More time passed.

Hutch haunted his dreams, sometimes coming close, taking Starsky in his arms and loving him. Other times Hutch was a frightening stranger having sex with anything on two legs. Starsky saw Gillian, Kira, even Terry with Hutch. Then he was the border guard when Starsky was tied in the truck, and tried to force his way in, but Starsky was suddenly behind glass, only able to watch as a slave with his face was taken roughly from behind. He was terrified. He wrote his name, Starsk, on the glass, but the only thing he had to write with was blood.

Coming awake with a gasp, Starsky could feel his heart hammering in his chest, practically bouncing off the broad strap wrapped around his middle. In this dream, he wasn't the only one terrified. Hutch had been scared, too. Of what?

He needed answers to questions he didn't even know to ask. Maybe he should go back farther in his investigation of the day's events. Back before the phone call. Even back before that morning.

What had happened to make Hutch take off on one of his mysterious trips? He'd taken a whole weekend just one month earlier, and another two months before that. That didn't count evenings Starsky hadn't been with him. They didn't live in the same house, just spent -- what had Hutch once said? -- over seventy-five percent of their time together. So conceivably, Hutch could have been gone more often. Did he really need sex that badly?

The girls they'd once shared between them, forgettable bimbos with fluffed hair and pearlescent lip gloss, had long since been given up. Starsky wasn't quite sure when, but he had stopped seeing them before his shooting, that he was sure of. Before the debacle that was Kira. Since then, he hadn't had a single girlfriend, and only a few casual dates. Sex -- not in ages, except with Hutch.

Only with Hutch.

As for Hutch, it was hard to say. He no longer dated. They hadn't attended the police department's annual picnic with girls on their arms. They hadn't double-dated in years. If they went out, they went together. Stag. And yet, there were many evenings that he'd spent watching old movies, without Hutch.

Where did Hutch go? Why hadn't he ever been curious enough to follow? Because it felt like betrayal? Or -- Starsky managed to find enough fluid in his throat to swallow, but the action just seared a raw path to his stomach -- was it because he was jealous and didn't want to admit it? Jealous that Hutch found his release with strangers, possibly sexual slaves, instead of with Starsky?

What was he to Hutch? When it came right down to it, he was nothing more than a sexual slave. Hutch pointed, and Starsky sucked. The rest of the time was fine -- great even -- but Hutch's sexual appetite had always come first. He knew Hutch loved him. It was palpable when they were together; the little pats, the gentle gazes just before a firefight with some crook, but Hutch's dissatisfaction had become the norm. They were skewed, with no way to come back into plumb.

What was Hutch to Starsky? Everything. He wanted Hutch in his life, every day, every minute. So what was the problem? Why did Hutch go out so often without a word of explanation? Where was the trust they'd once sworn to one another?

Bound and gagged, with nothing to interfere with his thoughts, Starsky faced the ones he didn't want to acknowledge. The ones that made him see his partner in a different light.

Hutch had wanted more from him sexually. Much more. Starsky had not only refused, but ridiculed his requests.

When Hutch gave him a studded collar with a silver S charm and a long leather leash, Starsky joked that he'd forgotten to go to the pound for the dog. He'd called a pair of solid gold nipple clamps, nested in a box like fine jewelry, fancy clothespins, and used them to hang his wet boxers in the bathroom. He'd teased Hutch about the stunningly crafted crystal butt plug Hutch bought him, telling him to put it in a museum where it belonged because it was never going up inside of him. Never. Nothing went in his anus. Not since that terrible moment in his youth.

Not until he'd arrived here.

Hutch wanted a sex slave. He'd made that obvious. Starsky knew Hutch didn't want a fawning, bowing, subservient domestic to wash his clothes and cook his meals before kneeling to suck his toes at bedtime. He just wanted free reign to control the sex, whenever he demanded. Hutch liked it rough and hard, but Starsky wouldn't provide. He'd made a vow at the age of fifteen that he never would allow any man to take him like that, ever.

In the process, he'd lost Hutch. Because of a vow made so long ago, a vow to forget what happened that night. The problem was he never had, although he'd buried the memory deeply. He couldn't bear to remember the particulars because that would rip off the partially healed scab and he'd bleed out in Hutch's arms.

But he'd already done that. In the parking lot, after Gunther's bullets tore him apart. And he'd survived. He was still alive -- if he could call this living.

"How is our little Davey doing this morning?" Neville called out gaily as the electronic door slid open. "Hungry? And craving so many things, I'll wager." When he giggled, Starsky wanted to cut his vocal cords in half. But when the Brit's soft, long fingered hand caressed his throat, he moaned.

Touch. God, he craved touch.

"I thought so. That higher dose worked wonders, didn't it?"

Starsky wanted to pull away, but there was no way he could. The hand stroking his cheek was so warm, so deliciously wonderful, that he could have kissed it. Then, incredulously, the Brit began to work the buckles at the back of Starsky's neck free, loosening the gag. It was plastered to his lips and had to be pried out. Starsky groaned in pain, his jaw muscles practically locked in the open position. He'd been wearing the gag for such a long time that he couldn't close his mouth on the first try, and every movement brought fresh stabs of pain in his cheeks and neck.

"You are not allowed to speak, but your poor lips look so sore, lammy-pie." He squirted a tiny bit of water into Starsky's mouth.

It was nothing but flat, unflavored water but it tasted like ambrosia. Starsky swallowed, grateful. If he wasn't allowed to talk, he wouldn't. He hated himself for wanting to please this man just so he could get more water. Another squirt of water was even more heavenly, and a third was divine, but after that, the water was put aside.

"Your master finally called; there's been some sort of unfortunate delay, but he'll arrive tomorrow. Which is good, because it gives us more time to get acquainted, don't you agree?" The Brit touched Starsky's cracked lips with the end of his finger. "Remember, no talking. Just nods. I do so love it when my little slaves agree with me. It's so gratifying."

Starsky couldn't nod; with the blindfold on, he couldn't see. All he could do was wait. He endured the Brit's exploration and treatment of his pierced penis and fondling of his balls without a shudder of revulsion.

"You're better looking that I first realized, Davey. Much. I would really enjoy a go with you in my dungeon, but your master won't allow it. Such a pity, really. But I always say, the buyer is always right." He kissed Starsky's brow. "Fortun is going to take you down from the welcoming frame. Get you spruced up for the morrow. Wash off some of this stink. Then, I'll come take a look at you this evening."

Starsky trembled. He couldn't stand the man's fleshy soft hands lingering on his body, the slither of those silk shirts across his bare ass.

Fortun was much less demonstrative. He undid the straps and buckles with efficient speed, and held Starsky up when he nearly fell to the floor. His legs were wobbly after all the hours -- possibly days -- of being restrained.

Still, with nothing to lose, Starsky butted his head into Fortun's abdomen, kicking out at anything near him. His right foot connected with solid flesh, the blow reverberating all the way up to his thigh, and he heard a heavy grunt. Hands closed around his ankle, but Starsky shoved off the metal frame and rejoiced when he scored a glancing blow off Fortun's head with his left foot.

"Fucker!" Fortun shouted, letting go.

Starsky's balance was off, and he couldn't get his bearings because of the damned blindfold. He sucked in air, listening for the guards, then twisted fast and came up with both hands extended, grabbing hold of the Brit's damned silk shirt. Fabric shredded as Starsky sunk his nails into soft skin. Neville screamed like a girl, and Starsky kneed him, aiming for his balls. For those few moments when he had freedom, he had power. It was incredibly satisfying, and he got half an erection before they overpowered him. By the time another guard, possibly Denato, had Starsky in a stranglehold, the Brit was berating them for letting things get so out of hand.

A sudden blaze of pain struck across his backside like nothing Starsky had ever felt before. He didn't have time to react before the second blow covered the first, and a third snaked a line of fire in the same exact spot. He didn't know what had hit him, but it had a fearsome power. Supported by both guards, Starsky couldn't move.

Neville panted, tapping something narrow and snappy against Starsky's abused butt. "That was the crop, darling," he crooned. "You get three swipes every time you misbehave. Do you understand?"

Starsky refused to give him the satisfaction of an answer, but that didn't prevent the Brit from forcibly bobbing Starsky's head in an affirmative.

"Now, Fortun, give him the fireman's shower and then chain him. He'll be a docile slave by the time his master arrives!"

"When hell freezes!" Starsky shouted, but Fortun smacked him on the back of the head hard enough to stun. A red haze covered his vision even with the blindfold in place.

Since he was momentarily unable to resist, Fortun and Denato dragged Starsky over to another marble-floored room, and made him stand in a shower stall, his hands locked to an overhead bar the same way he'd been restrained in the truck.

The water was freezing, a spray that slammed into him full force, leaving him battered and gasping. He could barely hold his head up, but his thirst drove him to desperately gulp mouthfuls of water. He aspirated fluid into his lungs and start coughing. Afterwards he shivered, goosebumps riddling his body as he felt the rattle of water in his chest. Fortun made quick work of another enema, jamming the butt plug back in with stunning force. He swabbed a medicinal wipe to the healing pierce hole with a dirty laugh, and led Starsky back into his cell.

Starsky dug in his heels, suddenly terrified of being strung up on the welcoming frame again. Too torpid to fight, he resisted by going limp. It didn't matter. There were two of them and only one of him.

Instead of dragging him to the frame, Fortun pushed Starsky onto the floor and pretzeled him into place with his hands grasping his own ankles, knees bent up until they were level with his shoulders. Starsky refused to be restrained, but the guards were bigger and stronger, and simply smacked Starsky's head against the wall for his insubordination. They clipped the D rings on the ankle and wrist cuffs to lock them together, which would prevent him from removing the blindfold. The worst insult was when they linked a chain from his piercing ring to the floor. Finally, Fortun injected something into the IV sutured into Starsky's groin and then fed him more slop through the feeding tube.

The guards were silent as they worked in contrast to the chatty Brit, which only reinforced Starsky's solitude. It was a miserable experience, but better than being restrained on the frame like a quilt left on a line to dry. Or a rug to be beaten, as his grandmother used to do. The welts on his ass burned, and he'd been positioned perfectly to sit on the raw wounds.

Was that what they did here? Beat the slaves for every infraction? He realized he'd been so turned off by the idea of sexual slaves when the CEC passed laws legalizing ownership that he'd paid little attention to what happened to the unfortunates enslaved. He'd believed the party line, at first. That slaves were criminals or prostitutes who wouldn't pay their legal fees. People who -- in some way or another -- deserved their fate. His eventual disillusionment with the way the CEC ran things had forever altered that bit of wishful thinking long before he found the VP's wife pierced and tattooed, serving her former husband's colleague. He remembered the marks flayed across her once-flawless white skin -- marks made by a bamboo cane. He'd seen it propped in the corner of the room.

Would that be his future? Restrained and flogged, welts crossing his bare back as the straps had recently done? Or held down on a bed...over Hutch's knee...feeling the stinging slap of skin against skin, the sound of it like a firecracker exploding on a hot summer afternoon.

Starsky shuddered, appalled at his wandering thoughts.

Sitting in a corner with his knees under his chin, Starsky listened as Fortun left, the door's whine grating to his ears. It was weird to be restrained like this, as if they'd been aware of the way he often sat. He couldn't count the times he'd sat on the couch in front of his own TV with his knees up under his chin, clasping his ankles while watching Dracula stalk poor Lucy Hawkens. Only he'd had a choice then. He'd been free. In his own home. On his own couch.

Not on an unyielding marble floor.

Fortun had smeared Vaseline over his chapped lips, and on the rubber butt plug. Chain looped around both of his legs, cutting into his groin, holding the plug in place. Those were an inconvenience, but the chain attached to the ring in his cock was ignominy. Chained like a dog in the back yard. Whenever he moved he could feel the drag of the chain along the cold marble pulling on the end of his penis. It hurt but in a strangely alluring way. As if someone's hand, holding his penis gently, would soothe away the ache.

Hours passed, and Starsky grieved. Grieved all that he had lost. He'd pushed Hutch away by mocking his needs and what had it gotten him? Trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey in a slave farm. Without Hutch. Without anyone.

When had Hutch's behavior changed? He'd always needed sex more than Starsky, but recently, in the post-Corporation era, he'd grown increasingly demanding, yet remote and sarcastic. Not the same Ken Hutchinson who used to enthuse about wheat grass and fasting with Vitamin E chasers to improve performance and stamina. If he had stamina, Starsky never saw it. A blow job was over in minutes. Then Hutch was happy for a short while, but the coldness that froze Starsky out would return all too quickly. They hadn't been emotionally intimate in months.

That's why the murmured "Starsk," said so endearingly on the phone, had enticed him. That was the Hutch he knew; the one he trusted.

Therein lay the problem. He trusted Hutch so completely, so absolutely, that he hadn't given a thought to other possibilities. That Hutch might not be his trustworthy Hutch anymore. But Hutch couldn't have ordered his capture. Couldn't have paid exorbitant amounts for his slavery. So who did? And why?

Starsky felt like a rat running round and round in a maze, never able to find the exit. He was caught. He'd never imagined that an honest cop could be enslaved. A cop with a partner the top brass liked so much that he'd been offered a promotion. A promotion Hutch had refused because it would take him away from Starsky.

He waited there on the cold, hard floor, naked and chained. Waited because he could do nothing else. The waiting gnawed at him, tearing apart his masculinity. He should be fighting, or devising a scheme to break out of this freakish place. Not languishing like Sleeping Beauty dreaming of the Prince's kiss. But even after he squirmed around so that one hand almost touched the chain connected to his cock ring, he realized he still couldn't have gotten it loose or released the links attaching his wrists to his ankles.

Stupid.

He was stupid. No doubt Hutch would have figured out an escape plan by now. Hutch always thought things out logically, methodically walked through every step.

Hutch, where were you? And where are you now? Are you looking for me? I've been missing for days.

Starsky heard the series of beeps turning off the alarm code before the door slid open. He lifted his chin to give an impression of pride and strength. It was a sham, but the Brit didn't know that. If he could convince Neville he couldn't be subjugated, maybe he'd convince himself as well.

"You've gotten twisted all around, haven't you?" the man tsk-tsked, leaning in to whisper in Starsky's ear. "Not allowed to touch yourself, Davey. I thought you understood that. You were trying, weren't you? But couldn't get the right angle for a good handful."

He palmed Starsky's penis, milking it with the kind of action Starsky usually adored, hard, and fast -- but every squeeze brought white hot shocks of pain from the piercing, An erection was impossible. His penis did not give one twitch, not a hint of swelling. Starsky turned to ice, the stimuli no more sensual than the brush of his jeans over his skin, or the feel of his sheets when he climbed into bed. Nothing. Not erotic, not the pleasure his body had craved for hours. He despaired, but only Hutch had what he wanted. Only Hutch.

"I usually elicit more of a response in my slaves," the Brit said frostily, clamping down hard around his handful.

Starsky couldn't move, the pain paralyzing. Even dragging a mere breath of air into his lungs was too much work.

"Under normal circumstances I'd have you back on the frame with half a dozen lashes of the strap for that."

Starsky willed himself away from the pain, imagining ways to kill this guy with a piercing gun and two long leather straps.

At long last the Brit stepped back, panting. "You're a trial to me, Davey, I must say. Luckily for you, your master is on his way, and he doesn't want you harmed. Otherwise...Fortun! Come in here!"

"Fortun can't come right now," a familiar voice said.

Behind his blindfold, Starsky's eyes popped open.

Hutch!

"This is a prohibited area. How did you get in here?" Starsky felt Neville straighten, his silk sleeve sliding like oil against Starsky's overly-sensitized skin. "You don't have to pull a gun on me, cowboy, I'll come peaceably."

"I knew the password. Get away from him and leave us alone. I own him."

Hutch's declaration was still shocking, even though Starsky had suspected the truth. Now he couldn't deny it any longer. Hutch had paid a huge sum to have him kidnapped and brought here. Even without the gag, Starsky couldn't speak. He didn't know what to say.

"Well, you'll have your hands full, I must say," the Brit rambled. "You're not quite what I expected, but then who is?" His voice took on a mincing sexuality that made Starsky grit his teeth. "Your chit of ownership?"

Starsky heard a clinking sound as something changed hands, and willed himself to stay still. Strangely, Hutch's arrival didn't give him the relief he expected. He felt off-balance, at a disadvantage. Did Hutch really want him like this, chained and dehumanized on the floor? Disenchantment sat in his belly like the slop they'd been feeding him, only more nauseating.

"Everything does seem to be in order," the Brit said. "I'll leave you two alone to get acquainted."

"The key?" Hutch reminded him as the door hummed open again.

"Oh, you would want that," he tittered, starting to leave.

Starsky heard Hutch move. He imagined the hard, fast lunge he'd seen hundreds of times when they were questioning suspects. People never expected Hutch to be the angry one -- he looked too blond and beautiful -- but he could be a jungle cat, powerful and lethal. The Brit gasped, and Starsky knew Hutch had grabbed him in a tight hold around the fleshy part of the forearm.

"I specified that no one could harm him."

"We processed him like any other slave!" Neville protested. "Restraints, deprivation, alienation from all they used to know, isolation until the slave responds..."

"You. Didn't. Follow. Instructions." Hutch spat each word separately, as sharp as the blade of a filleting knife.

Starsky was riveted, almost panting. He should say something, but why? Not to defend the Brit, that was for certain. "Hutch."

"Oooh, he knows you? That does make it more complicated," the Brit said, breathing quickly, too. "You've got quite a grip, cowboy. I guess it wouldn't do any good to tell you that unprovoked speech is a punishable offense. Usually three blows with a strap will show him his place."

"Get out," Hutch said in a voice that sent shivers up Starsky's spine, and not in a good way. This Hutch was pissed and deadly.

Starsky had seen him that way before. Hutch was well known for his simmering anger. He let the small things get to him too easily, raging over gas bills and automated phone messages. But this was a volcano compared to those petty rants. This was the Hutch who had brought down Gunther by himself. Starsky had heard the stories and they scared him.

When the door slid shut behind the Brit, the silence was deafening. For a moment, Starsky thought he was alone again. Then Hutch took a single step and Starsky could hear his harsh intake of breath. The quiet lasted a long time, but it wasn't the comfortable silence of the two of them on a stakeout, sharing the same Coke. This was painful, a slow agonizing slash that opened the wound between them with surgical precision.

"Oh God, Starsky."

Starsky nearly flinched. Did he hear desire under the despair in Hutch's voice? He had to swallow to bring up enough saliva to speak. "What are you doing here?"

"It's simple. I bought you."

Savage, intense rage burned through Starsky so fiercely, it nearly blotted out Hutch's words. He wanted to refute that bland statement, force Hutch to retract the words, and make him beg forgiveness. This wasn't what a man did to his lover. They'd been allies, partners, equals! Now he was chained to the floor like some half-breed mongrel while Hutch loomed over him, probably with a whip in hand. Starsky was almost glad he was chained so securely or he would have launched himself at his partner, battering Hutch against the wall for what he had done.

"How the hell is that simple?" he ground out, his belly on fire.

"Because if I hadn't, you would have been killed." Hutch's earlier anger at the Brit was gone, evaporated like rain off a sidewalk on a hot day.

"Yeah? Couldn't be any worse than this."

"There are many things worse than this."

Starsky inhaled sharply. He craned his neck, feeling the hard bite of the collar on the back of his skull, as he sought out Hutch despite the leather-imposed darkness. Maintaining his dignity under these circumstances was impossible. He needed to be on equal footing. "You gonna rescue me?"

He wasn't certain if Hutch was going to remove the chains, and remembered, with the weird clarity that comes at the most inopportune times, Hutch fumbling with Starsky's restraints at Cabrillo State. He could still feel Hutch's big hands cupped around his wrists and the warmth of his breath on his neck.

This time, Hutch managed the locks handily, and Starsky groaned as he straightened his knees for the first time in hours. Damn, that hurt. It felt like millions of bees were stinging him from the inside, and his feet were numb. His fingers barely bent, but he reached up to pull the blindfold off.

Hutch pushed his hands away, working at a series of buckles and tiny padlocks that Starsky hadn't even been aware of. The light was overly bright when the leather mask fell away. He squinted, blinking, staring at Hutch's face. He needed to understand, to fathom just what Hutch had done to him. They'd always been able to read each other at a glance from the first day as partners. Right now, the man in front of him was a stranger.

Still half-blinded from the overhead lights, Starsky peered up at Hutch. His hair was wrong, a shaggy dark brown, and windblown as if he'd driven the car with the top down. A wig. Strangely, the mustache was gone, replaced by the peach fuzz down Hutch got when he hadn't shaved in a few days. But the oddest thing of all was his expression.

Hutch looked aroused. And he looked gorgeous. There was no other word for it.

Starsky clung to his anger, refusing to give in to sheer gratitude. He'd anticipated this rescue for so long he wasn't thinking straight. But he hadn't expected to feel like a rabbit about to be taken down by a coyote.

"Hutch."

Whatever motivation Hutch had started with was hidden behind those summer blue eyes, but there was no doubt what he was staring at. If this were an animated cartoon there would have been a dotted line from his eyes to Starsky's pierced cock.

Suddenly aware of his aching bladder, and that sometime during the day he must have lost control, Starsky realized he was sitting in a cold puddle. He wanted to move, needed to get away from that gaze, but the chain linked from the ring on the end of his penis to a metal bolt in the floor held him fast. There wasn't enough slack in the chain for him to stand.

"I've had fantasies about what that would look like," Hutch said in a strange, erotic voice.

"You can't be fucking serious," Starsky said, his own anger growing stronger with every moment that Hutch continued to stare at him. "Get this thing off me, and let's get out of here."

The blow across his cheekbone came so hard and fast Starsky was knocked against the wall. The chain yoking him to the floor pulled taut, pain ricocheting up his cock to the back of his spine. He tried to pull in enough air to stay conscious, unable to believe what Hutch had done.

"You're mine, understand? My property, under the law of this state and about half the other former states of the old U.S. And a slave never makes demands."

"What the hell are you playing at?" Starsky eased his hip forward just enough to loosen the tension on his penis.

"We're not playing, Starsky."

Starsky had faced Hutch down before; he just had to stay cool. Find Hutch's vulnerable spot and exploit it. Hutch might have freedom of movement on his side, but Starsky knew his weakness -- sex. Hutch was putty in his hands whenever Starsky had his mouth on that oh-so tender part of his anatomy.

He stuffed his wrath down hard, sliding a seductive hand inside Hutch's pants leg. "You want to act out a fantasy, I'm there, Hutch." Sitting up, he was not quite level with Hutch's groin; he tongued the lower edge of the zipper close to his mouth. Hutch hissed, responding instantly. "But I'm better on my knees, baby...with the ring off, I can move...give you so much more."

"Starsky." Although Hutch hadn't moved, Starsky recoiled as if he'd been struck.

Starsky, not Starsk. This was different. He refused to cower, lifting his chin and staring at Hutch with defiance. David Starsky was no man's slave.

"The ring can't come off." Hutch threaded his fingers through Starsky's curls, pulling him up to his knees, the grip on his hair just a shade too tight. This was no caress; it was a show of power.

"Why not?" Starsky kept himself as still as possible, held in check on both ends. If he moved at all, some part of his flesh would be torn free.

"It's made of a metal alloy that is impervious to most cutting tools." Hutch bent Starsky's head back just far enough that his lungs burned with the effort to breathe. The kiss that stole the rest of his breath was barbaric, a claiming. "Listen to me. This was the only way. We have enemies." Hutch examined him intently as if he'd never seen Starsky before. It was unnerving and strange. But as close as they were, Starsky could see him now, too. The wig gave him a different persona, someone aggressive and tough, an alien with Hutch's eyes.

"Things had to change," Hutch said finally. "I tried to think of another way, Starsk, but there wasn't. To keep you safe."

"I haven't felt safe in a long time."

"No," Hutch agreed, teasing out one of Starsky's curls, his breath against Starsky's cheek. Barely maintaining his balance, Starsky was bent back so far Hutch was the only thing keeping him upright. Starsky wanted to fight the lassitude, the languor Hutch's caress brought. He was still angry and scared, but the old feelings kept asserting themselves. When Hutch beckoned, he came, in all contexts of the word.

Hutch worked his hand down Starsky's arched body to the piercing, closing his hand over Starsky's cock, causing the chain to rattle. He eased him to the floor, standing like a feudal landowner over his slave. "As my slave, they can't touch you because legally you're my property, and this chit proves that." He brought out a silver disc, bigger than a silver dollar.

Starsky had seen them before; they were practically legal tender down on Lincoln Street where the slave houses were.

Starsky squirmed, not wanting Hutch's proximity to sway things. He wanted to nurse this anger until he got his explanation, but Hutch was making things far too hard, in more ways than one. Starsky covered his blossoming erection with one hand, as if hiding it would make it go away. "Where'd you get the money, huh? The trainer said it was a big wad of dough. Where'd you get the money?"

Hutch pushed Starsky's hand away. He began to tug gently on the ring. "You're chained to the floor and all you care about is the money? I had it. Cash on the barrelhead. The CEC put out a contract on you -- to get me to toe the line."

"They don't know you very well, huh?" Hutch was far too close. Starsky needed to move, to get away from the overpowering scent of him. Sweat, gunmetal, and dust mingled with that essential smell of Hutch that had always lured him so easily. This wasn't right, wasn't how he wanted things to be. And it was difficult to talk with his mouth so dry. He needed water and about two days worth of meals. He wasn't sure he had the strength to evade Hutch's advances. Was the Brit's drug still affecting him, or was this all his own weakness?

"They offered me a job, a promotion." Hutch came down on his knees on each side of Starsky's legs, taking Starsky's swollen penis into his mouth, cock ring, chain, and all. For a moment, an eternity, Starsky couldn't think with his aching cock dipped in warm honey. He wanted to protest, to reject the sex. Hutch rarely went down on him! How could he hold out against this?

Cold air hit his wet skin when Hutch jerked back, scrambling to his feet with a curse. "Hey, it's wet!" There was a dark stain on both knees of his khakis.

"Unfortunate side effect of not being able to use the john." Starsky shivered at the abrupt change and took a deep breath. What exactly was going on here?

"You peed on the floor?"

"Yeah, you wanna make something of it? I was chained, Hutch, like some dog! And unless you unlock this thing pretty damn quick, I'm going to do it again."

"They held your life out to me like a damned carrot on a string. Your fucking morality threatened a lot more than Roschenzky's ability to restrain our investigations. In their eyes, you were expendable." Hutch had the key in the same pocket he'd kept the chip, which made Starsky unaccountably angry again. He barely tolerated the few seconds it took to insert the key in a tiny lock, releasing the chain from the ring.

Standing on shaky legs, Starsky braced himself against the smooth, cold walls. He still needed to go, but Hutch's words stopped him. "Why?" He found Hutch's brown hair distracting, like he'd met Hutch's doppelganger.

"The Corporation, the CEC. The job they offered me came with conditions -- provisos. They wanted me to head up their private version of Internal Affairs. Roschenzky was moving up to oversee a whole secret network to spy on other cops." Hutch's jaw was tight, and he thrust up a violent hand up to jerk off the wig, throwing it to the floor.

"Because you're corrupt-proof," Starsky said softly. "They saw that."

"They wanted to use me." Hutch shook his head, but Starsky wasn't sure which statement he disagreed with. Hutch coiled the chain into a pile, stepped over the puddle, and walked into the bathroom.

Starsky followed him into the small marble-walled room, taking the opportunity to relieve himself while Hutch found a rag and cleaned the wet spot on the floor. It felt incredible to finally empty his own bladder, to have the freedom to walk around unfettered, but Starsky was still very confused. What was going on that Hutch wasn't telling him?

"But they weren't trying to weed out the bad cops," Hutch said. "They wanted to get rid of the good ones. Like you."

"You're a good cop," Starsky said, acutely aware of a distance between them that went far beyond their recent inability to read one another. Hutch was operating on a whole different level than he was, and it was damned disconcerting.

"Starsky, I'm not like you..." Hutch wiped up the urine and dropped the rag into a trash bin next to the toilet. "I...never took money under the table to look the other way, or banged some hooker for information, but I've been tempted. More than tempted...I accepted favors..."

"Who hasn't, Hutch?"

"You! You see everything so black and white!" Hutch bristled, his intensity returning so fast Starsky wanted to take a step back, but they were both crammed into the tiny bathroom with no room to move. "There are shades of gray you don't even notice. Little pockets of shadow where good and bad don't mean anything."

"I don't follow you."

"No, you never did, did you?" Hutch moved too close. "All those times I went out without you, you never did follow me."

Starsky could feel the heat of Hutch's arousal in the front, and the press of the hard porcelain sink against his buttocks from behind. The plug in his anus shifted when he tried to ease away from Hutch, sending a wave of dizzying pain up his chest, just over his heart.

"I always wondered why," Hutch said. "I kept expecting you to come after me. I thought you'd be jealous."

"I was." Starsky couldn't move, caught between the sink and the toilet with the outline of Hutch's erection pushing up his slacks as if it could skewer Starsky for barbecue.

"You never showed it. Just watched me walk out." Hutch's voice was low and sensuous, but scary. "I wanted you, Starsk, didn't you understand that? I had to go out and get whores, slaves, whatever I could find."

"You had me. But you wanted a sex slave, and I'm not that, buddy." Starsky infused the nickname with venom even though he was as turned on as a light bulb. Sweat dripped off the back of his neck, itchy under the edge of the collar.

"That's exactly what you are." Hutch trapped him with an arm around his waist, pulling him closer. He sounded bitter, cynical. "I made you that way."

Starsky exhaled noisily when Hutch jerked him close. There was not a millimeter of space between their bodies. He wanted to negate those words, force Hutch to retract them. Wanted to tell him to go to hell. "I would have done whatever you wanted if you'd ever asked," he said instead.

"Funny, all I remember is ridicule. The collar was for a dog? Well, this one looks like it was meant for you." Hutch traced the tight collar around Starsky's neck, stroking a long line down his Adam's apple to the dip just above his clavicle.

Starsky couldn't breathe. He kept trying to inhale, but his arousal was making it too hard to get in air. Glittery sparkles twinkled in his eyes when Hutch clamped his big hand around Starsky's throat and pressed his thumb against the pulsing artery below Starsky's jawbone. Just a bit more pressure and Starsky would pass out. He nearly straddled the sink to relieve the strain, but Hutch tightened his arm around Starsky's back, his left hand toying with the chains that held in the anal plug.

"I've got all the control now, don't I?" Hutch whispered.

"H-h-hutch?" Starsky whimpered, barely conscious. When Hutch released his thumb, it caused a wave of afterimages to flash across his retina and an instant headache when the blood flooded back into normal circulation. His eardrums pounded as if he'd ascended from the depths of the ocean too rapidly.

"Starsk," Hutch whispered in his ear, biting down on the lobe.

The tiny shock of pain was like a perfectly cut jewel, all sharp facets. It was too much, too fast, and too soon. Starsky was hard inside of a minute; the blood swelling his cock was intensely painful yet gloriously wonderful, making him finally understand the oxymoron of pleasure/pain. His cock tried to force its way between their closely pressed bodies, the metal ring jarring against Starsky's warm flesh.

"All I ever wanted was you," Hutch said. "But you ridiculed my desire, humiliated me for it. Even though I could tell you wanted me. Every time you went down on your knees, I saw it in your eyes. Your mouth on me was like...sweetness, ambrosia. I waited and fantasized that someday you'd present your ass and beg me to take you. But you never did."

"All of this is about what you wanted," Starsky ground out, the edge of the porcelain sink digging into his waist. "You never asked me what I wanted."

"Funny. I really thought you wanted the same thing." Hutch bared his teeth in a feral smile, and ran the flat of his hand down Starsky's belly, fisting a tangle of pubic hair. "You went down on your knees the very first time we ever did it, Starsk. You practically came on command -- except when I wanted to take it one step farther with the collar and clamps. Then you balked."

"I had my reasons," Starsky said flatly to downplay the raging need inside him. He was ready to orgasm if only Hutch touched him just right. Around the cock, hard and fast.

"Starsk," Hutch whispered, tugging gently on the chains stretched over his hip bone between cock and anus. "I know. I know all about you -- more than you think. And I know you want me."

"No..." Starsky began, but the idea of Hutch sliding inside him could no longer be ignored. And it scared the hell out of him.

"Yes, babe." Hutch pulled Starsky closer, enveloping him, and levered him out from the cramped space between the sink and toilet.

Starsky thought about fighting, about refusing to give in. But that was so much work and his defenses were in tatters. Trembling, he let Hutch bring him back into the main room. Grabbing hold of the door frame, Starsky put up a last resistance. In his condition, it was all he could manage. His anger banked, but not forgotten, he held firm. Except, he'd never been able to hold out on Hutch for every long.

"It's now. It's here. It's time." Hutch ran one hand down the curve of Starsky's ass, following the path of the chain. "It has been for a long while, Starsk."

"Not there." Starsky squirmed, but Hutch unhooked the chains to the plug, investigating what was tucked into his core. "Not there." All he could imagine was Hutch's long fingers probing inside him just before Hutch's giant cock claimed his forbidden territory.

Hutch let the links drop to the floor and wrenched the plug out fast. Starsky gasped, his rectum cramping. Hutch rimmed the outer edge with his finger, slowly, rhythmically, making hypnotic circles around Starsky's sensitized hole.

"Roschenzky knew I went to the slave houses," Hutch said, his hand still tickling Starsky's anus. "He was there a couple times; saw who I was with, what I did. Offered me the promotion then and there. Promised me unlimited access to every kinky little thing my heart desired. Money, a penthouse in the new apartments over in Long Beach, power, prestige...as long as I let the CEC keep on doing what it did best, fucking the population to death."

"How would I have gotten in the way?" Starsky tried to think rationally, but couldn't ignore the distracting finger pushing in and out of his butt hole.

"They knew you were out to bring down the abusers like Dunfey..." Hutch tilted his head back so they could look eye-to-eye. "Roschenzky implied that if they killed you, it would be easier for me to go along with them. He discussed it as casually as he would drowning a cat. Did I want you murdered...or have you enslaved?"

"So you did it for them!" Starsky shouted, pulling away. Hutch's grip was stronger, and he reeled Starsky back in, pinning him against the wall with one foot rammed into Starsky's instep.

"I did it for us."

Arousal warred with Starsky's fear, tightening his belly. The overriding desire was winning out against his objections. He couldn't fight both Hutch and the drug. Because he wanted to be touched, wanted to be...hurt, as irrational as that seemed. He wanted to have Hutch in his ass, but couldn't let Hutch go there. Not here.

Not like this. Not like...that night so long ago when he'd had no options. Surely Hutch would listen to reason -- give him time to adjust.

He tried to wiggle away from Hutch's hand on his ass, the edge of the doorframe like a hard bar along his spine.

Without warning, Hutch jammed three fingers upward, impaling him. Starsky thought they might go right out the top of his head. Gasping, he ground out, "Go to hell, Hutch."

"Be careful, slave." Hutch thrust his groin against Starsky's. "I could punish you for less than that."

"You want me, Hutch?" Starsky hissed. "You got it all, right here, right now; so take it. Then get out of my life."

"Can't do it, buddy. You didn't ask nice." Hutch licked Starsky's whiskery cheek, leaving a wet path from his jaw to his cheekbone, crossing over the feeding tube taped so inelegantly to the side of his face.

Starsky panted, forcing himself past the debasing physical desires that lured him. "Seems to me that was the problem on both sides. We didn't ask."

Hutch abruptly stopped all sexual advances, regarding Starsky for a long time in silence. He removed his fingers one by one, Starsky's body ejecting them almost reluctantly, and took a step back to restore some modicum of personal space. "Roschenzky really wanted you out of the way. He even discussed selling you to Dunfey and making a small fortune off the transaction. Wanted to know if I liked the irony of that. The moment Roschenzky threatened you, I had to do something, find some way to protect you without revealing myself. So, I put the plan in motion."

"What plan?"

"If you'd have followed me the last few months, you'd know. Sex wasn't the only thing on the agenda." Hutch turned his back, grabbing a towel from the bathroom to wipe his fingers.

Starsky didn't move, sublimating all the contradictory emotions he couldn't begin to sort out, and really looked around his prison cell for the first time. It was bigger than he'd expected. The huge metal slave frame dominated the space, leaving aisles about six feet wide on three sides, with the largest area in the back, where Starsky had been chained to the floor. Track-lighting like most art galleries used hung from the ceiling, creating weird pockets of shadow in the corners of the room. Hutch stood in one such pocket, the dark half of his face indecipherable and remote.

Forcing himself to examine the rest of the room, Starsky pretended he was at a crime scene, looking for evidence. It was a functional room without a single concession for the slave held captive. There was no bed, or any place to sleep. The bathroom was the only sign that a human being might spend the night here. Starsky closed his eyes briefly, bile rising in his throat. This was where he'd been tortured, abused by unknown people who gave no thought to his discomfort. He'd simply been another piece of the furniture, albeit one with openings to misuse and exploit.

Three black leather chairs faced the welcoming frame. For spectators. Starsky shuddered, remembering his examination in front of an audience. Not ready to look at the brutal frame for any length of time, he scrutinized the cream painted wall instead. Floor to ceiling shelves held every sort of cruel device meant to punish and humiliate. He saw the crop the Brit had used against his ass and a long-tailed whip. There were chains, gags, and leather bindings.

Starsky abhorred every inch of the place, and eyed the large metal door hopefully, but Hutch didn't seem to notice.

"Abbey League meetings were on the top floor of Slave House number seven, on Lincoln," Hutch said, moving around, taking in the chairs set to the right of the big door. Starsky tried to read his thoughts. Did Hutch know exactly what had gone on here before he'd arrived?

Interested that his assumptions about Hutch's whereabouts had been on the money, Starsky stayed still, listening.

"We had to vary the meeting days to avoid suspicion. Anti-Corporation activities are a treasonable offense, and we were plotting the overthrow of the CEC."

"When were you planning this coup?" He wasn't even sure he meant to ask that. Starsky wasn't sure what to ask, he was so astonished. He'd known Hutch was dissatisfied with the current regime, but overthrow the government?

Eschewing the chairs meant for torturers, Hutch sat on the floor with his back against the wall, face suddenly earnest and open. "When we have the strength. Up until now, the Abbey League groups have been too scattered, tiny cadres of resistance holed up wherever they could meet. The growing connections on these new computer networks have spawned a fledgling movement that aims to bring about a return to the old democratic government. But we have to be cautious. They could intercept us as any time, especially over the internet."

"You're crazy!" Starsky blurted. "If Roschenzky saw you there, then he knew the whole thing."

"I couldn't be sure. That's why I went so often, to different houses. To throw them off track. And then Tompkins died."

"Jerry Tompkins?" Starsky asked, surprised, the information so unexpected he had a hard time assimilating it.

Tompkins was an upper level CEC lawyer who had once been a District Attorney dedicated to helping the downtrodden. He had died from a highly publicized drug overdose. Police found illegal contraband near the body -- non-CEC-produced whiskey and cigarettes, and Superhero, a synthetic heroin, the most addictive drug ever manufactured.

"He was one of the first Abbeyites," Hutch said. "He was ready to run to Arizona where the movement is gathering, preparing for the initial strike. When they killed someone as well placed as he was, I panicked. If they could get to him, they could get to you. I had to act fast."

"I don't even know you anymore," Starsky said. He couldn't fight like this, naked and vulnerable with a ring through the end of his penis. They were unequal now; it felt wrong. "You used to be my friend, my partner. I was closer to you than anybody else on this Godforsaken planet." He wanted to kick Hutch, punch him, but those blue eyes mesmerized him and the sense memory of those fingers digging into his most protected spot weakened him. He'd once fantasized about subduing his kidnapper, his owner, and threading a cruel ring though his cock. He could never do that to Hutch. "You talk about the CEC using your golden boy charms -- well, you used me like a chump! I'm not your slave, Hutch, and I'm never gonna be!"

"Yes, you are."

Hutch's voice was maddeningly sweet, a gumdrop of persuasion, a drink of water on a hot day, and Starsky was so damned thirsty. He hadn't drunk more than a few ounces in days, hadn't eaten real food since he'd been kidnapped.

"Before we leave here," Hutch continued in that same enticing tone, "you're going down on all fours and beg me to take your ass. Like a real slave."

Starsky shook his head. He was standing and Hutch was sitting. There was no fucking way.

"Because, slave, that's the only way you'll find salvation," Hutch said with utter certainty.

"No. I never needed to be saved from anyone but you, Hutch."

Hutch cocked his bright head to one side, all beauty and bedevilment. "Do you know why the movement is called the Abbey League, Starsk?"

That infuriating nickname had the power to bring Starsky to his knees, but he remained standing.

"Edward Abbey is an anarchist -- devoted to preserving the wilderness. Refusing to give in to big business," Hutch explained in that lecturing tone he got when he was lording his knowledge over Starsky. "He said, ‘A patriot must be ready to defend his country against his government.'"

There was much to honor in a man like that, but Starsky didn't say it aloud, as he dropped into defensive mode. He couldn't let Hutch coerce him.

"He hid in the Southwest, waiting for the downfall of the CEC, but I think you'd like him. His motto is, ‘Resist much, obey little'."

Starsky shifted minutely, abruptly very tired. He barely had the strength to stand. How could he resist Hutch's entreaties? Why hadn't he heard very much about this Abbey League? Why hadn't he known what Hutch was doing?

Hutch rose gracefully to his feet, reaching out to take Starsky's hand. "We have to tear down the old life to start a new one, Starsk. My sweet slave."

Oh, God. Starsky was suddenly sliding off his high horse, tumbling down a long shaft. He couldn't. He wouldn't. No.

"No." He pulled his hand free, and Hutch didn't stop him.

Instead, Hutch walked over to the big metal door and for one instant Starsky thought he might slide it open and let them leave. But Hutch only retrieved a bag from the floor and carried it over to the looming welcoming frame where there was more light. It hadn't occurred to Starsky until now that he was almost unfettered, the chains binding him to the room unlocked. Why didn't he just open the door and walk out? He just had to figure out the code.

Hutch rummaged in the old leather satchel, his back to Starsky.

Taking the opportunity, Starsky scanned the large exit. He'd heard the sequence of numbers on the keypad more than once, but there could be hundreds of combinations. He had to try. Pressing the top three keys across the pad did nothing. The numerals in a downward slant -- one, five, and nine, were equally useless. He quickly reversed the code without success.

"Stop," Hutch said with total authority.

Starsky ignored him, straining to hear the individual tones when he pressed each number.

"Starsky, you won't get out that way."

"Fuck off."

"I have food."

His treacherous belly rumbled loudly. Starsky cursed, resting his aching head on the cool, impervious metal. "Hutch, I can't."

"Eat? Never known you to refuse food before. C'mon. I'll even take that ugly tube out of your nose."

"I can't...submit to you."

"You already have. That first week, when you knelt at my feet in the shower."

"That was..." There was no way to rearrange the past. He had submitted then, and every day of their partnership since. He'd always been Hutch's slave, simply waiting for the time when Hutch would formally claim him.

"Did you think I didn't know about your days on the streets, Davey?"

Starsky looked at him, the back of his throat spasming around the hated feeding tube, his belly threatening to expel bitter bile.

"I didn't know that first time. But later, I heard the older cops talk, Starsk. They remembered a small, curly-haired chicken on the streets." Hutch came close to him again, taking him by the scruff of his neck, fingers tangled in his curls. He pushed Starsky to his knees into his usual position. "I just knew what you needed, lover. I could read you like a book. You needed me. We're two halves of a whole, Starsk. The giver and the taker."

"Not always."

"No -- but it's because we fit so well together sexually that we could mesh so perfectly on the streets. We know each other inside and out. There's nobody else like you, Starsk." Hutch zipped down his pants this time, and guided Starsky to his erection. "Just take some of the edge off, 'cause I need to stay hard for later."

"Me and thee," Starsky whispered against that fleshy log touching his lips. "On the streets, we were a team. Equals. How could that work now with me wearing your collar?"

"Fill your mouth, slave, and let me do the talking." Hutch arched back with a wordless cry when Starsky swallowed him completely. "We're on the run, and it won't be long before the CEC bigwigs...ahhhh." He grabbed Starsky's shoulders, gripping him tightly, panting.

Long before Starsky expected, Hutch pulled free of his mouth.

"That's enough." Hutch pinched down on the base of his own erection, easing the pressure. His penis still jutted straight up from the gap in his pants.

Starsky sat on his heels, wiping the drool off his chin with the back of his hand. He felt stupid and confused, and weirdly, totally inappropriately, in love. His whole being ached to bring Hutch to completion, to finish the job he'd started, and his anus clenched as if in response.

No, not there.

In the back of his mind, the words "not yet" tried to force themselves out. Over twenty years ago, he'd resolved never to allow anyone inside. The huge metal rod his rapist had used to plunder his virginal ass in that plush hotel suite had ripped him apart inside. A maid found him the next morning, bleeding onto the white silk brocade bedspread. He never went back to that life. He'd gone cold turkey off the drugs, and made a vow to change. Becoming a cop had been the culmination of that promise, to fight against those who raped, forced, and victimized.

How could he allow himself to become a slave after that? How could he reconcile that he'd already become one?

"Hey." Hutch held out a sandwich. It was squashed, peanut butter slopping out on both sides, but it smelled like manna.

Starsky ducked his head, ashamed of his own neediness, and widened his thighs, assuming proper presentation position for his master.

Hutch's sigh promised so much more. Starsky suddenly understood that this was what Hutch had been waiting for. And Starsky could give it to him. Hutch's eyes roamed Starsky's body possessively, focusing on the permanent jewelry in his cock. "So pretty, Starsky. That ring looks so good on you."

Starsky stared down at the ring in his penis. He hadn't really looked at it before. Almost as thick as a pencil and heavy, it went through the urethral opening and out the fleshy underside of the crown. Staring at it for the first time, it frightened him, enslaved him...and enthralled him.

No, please, no. I can't be thinking like a slave.

"You took away all my rights!" Starsky remained kneeling, and focused on Hutch's scuffed silver-tipped cowboy boots to keep from obsessing on the peanut butter sandwich. He hadn't noticed if there was jelly on it. Hutch liked boysenberry. "This ring changes everything."

"I had to, Starsk. I told you."

"To keep me safe, as your property." Starsky swallowed against the foul taste in his throat.

"And as my property, you're suddenly invisible."

Starsky stared up at Hutch.

Hutch smiled, and put the sandwich between his lips. Starsky's mouth watered as Hutch took a bite and chewed. "You want this?" Hutch asked, a hint of smugness in his tone.

"Yes, Master," Starsky answered dully and wanted to weep.

Hutch nodded, and placed the sandwich on a crumpled sheet of waxed paper on the floor. "First, let's get rid of the tube. Take a deep breath and swallow." He touched the edge of a glass bottle against Starsky's lips. "This will help."

Starsky swallowed the water as Hutch pulled. It was awful coming out, more dreadful than it had been going down, and he gagged continuously, vomiting up the water when the tube slid out of his nose.

Hutch didn't say a word, just got a towel and solicitously wiped Starsky's bare chest clean. He kissed Starsky's face, and tenderly caressed the slave collar. "I imagined you like this so many times, Starsk." Hutch spoke so softly Starsky had to lean to hear him; for the moment, the food was forgotten. "With the collar I gave you around your neck, my golden clamps adorning your nipples, and my cock up your ass...you'd be perfect."

Close to swooning, Starsky vainly tried to gather his swiftly diminishing wits. "I'm not invisible."

"Not to me, no, never. But as a slave, the CEC won't notice you. If you joined the Abbey League, you could be our secret weapon."

"If I joined...?" Starsky protested. "Doesn't look like I've got much of a choice."

"No one pays attention to a kneeling slave. Slaves aren't even considered human anymore, just receptacles. Mouths and tongues, openings to plug..." Hutch pointed to each of Starsky's body parts, his face hard and cold.

Starsky was repulsed until he realized Hutch was leading him on, trying to make him angry.

"I could rent you out to the President-CEO. Roschenzky's told me on more than one occasion that Cosgrove said he'd like to ream your tight little passage. He'd sodomize you in a room full of VPs, and then chain you to his chair while they held a board meeting, laughing because the mighty, righteous cop was licking his boots like any other slave."

"You want me to be bait?" Starsky asked slowly. He rubbed his neck just above the collar, his throat raw inside. The thought of eating now didn't hold much interest, but he had to keep up his strength.

"I want you to be our secret weapon. You could hear things and report back."

"While getting fucked by everybody concerned?"

Hutch said nothing, just handed him the sandwich.

Inside, Starsky was screaming. Not again, not again.

"Your ass is mine," Hutch said, and tore open a bag of chips.

"Italwayshasbeen," Starsky muttered around a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly. He'd been right; it was boysenberry.

"What did you say?"

"It always has been," Starsky repeated, realizing he was sitting flat on the floor. When had that happened? He couldn't remember. Taking a minute to get back into presentation position, he added, "Master."

Hutch used the toe of his silver-tipped cowboy boots to push Starsky's thighs farther apart. "That's better." He ate some potato chips, and slipped one salty piece into Starsky's mouth.

Starsky nearly bit Hutch's finger in the process of taking it, but stopped in time.

"I want to see that ring at all times."

"When do we get out of here?" Starsky finally managed to ask, taking another bite of the sandwich. He didn't know when he might get another.

"When your training is finished."

"What?" He came to his feet in a single motion.

Just as quickly, Hutch caught hold of the swinging ring, putting enough weight into it to stop Starsky in his tracks. That hurt, so much so that he had to remember to breathe through the pain.

"What good will it do if you don't act like a real slave?"

"I'm never going to be a real slave!" Starsky needed to move, to get away, but not with Hutch holding onto his most vulnerable asset. "You're the one who said we were on the run. What kinda sense does it make to stay here?"

Hutch took his hand away to pick up the bag of chips. "I had to arrange your kidnapping through Dunfey. It was the only way to make it look like I'd gone bad, yet keep you from being killed or sold off. Dunfey's people took you out the main trade route in the horse trailer. I got out of Bay City and went through Oregon and down. That's why it took me so long. If they were going to follow one of us, it would have been me. I had to be sure no one did."

"You can't be sure of that."

"Is anyone sure of anything?" Hutch asked with maddening calm for someone who was still completely erect. "The queen who runs the place can train you in proper behavior in just a day or two. The rest, I'll do."

That knocked him for a loop. Hutch was going to abandon him again to that bastard?

"You don't know a master's behavior any more than I know a slave's," Starsky said when the aftereffects of that shock had reduced to a dull anger.

"How do you know?" Hutch glanced down at his own erection, the tension around his mouth finally betraying his inner pain.

"You were going to Lincoln Street for Abbey meetings." Starsky knew there had been times when it was for sex, but he needed to be obstinate, to argue.

"Had to make it look authentic, didn't I?" Hutch closed his eyes, fatigue etched in his features. But when he opened his penetrating blue eyes, everything was hidden again. "Starsk, I know it's not easy, but there are layers here you don't know about yet."

"Then tell me!"

Hutch went so still he could have been carved from the same marble as the floor. "That's what I'm talking about. You react to a command like that, slave, and you'll get yourself killed, along with the rest of us." He held out a potato chip like a peace offering, but Starsky chose to ignore the gesture. "I needed to protect you."

"You're repeating yourself."

"It bears repeating. I don't want you dead. Or worse...sold to Dunfey or Cosgrove or one of the other CEC VPs. Every person reduced to a commodity to be traded. You are worth so much more to me."

Starsky stared at the potato chip so he wouldn't be coerced by Hutch's enticing eyes. "You just want me tortured, pierced, and enslaved?"

"No, not tortured, but..." Hutch said softly, and crumbled up the chip.

"Pierced is okay," Starsky finished, feeling Hutch place the final bricks on his prison walls. "Hutch, he likes to hurt me."

"And there are others who could hurt you a whole lot more. You don't know what torture means, yet. What I've seen..."

"What about you? You want to hurt me?"

Hutch looked away. "It's not that simple."

"What do you want to do to me?" Starsky persisted. What did he want Hutch to do to him?

"Make love -- but not the way...we once did."

That wasn't what Starsky expected. Not at all. As much as he'd always wanted Hutch's love, there were now so many conditions attached to it. So many traps inherent in the plan.

Hutch suddenly shifted tactics. "It's safer if you don't know everything until we're away from here. So you can't reveal too much."

"Right now I don't know shit!"

"Right now," Hutch said, "right here, as bad as it is, you're safe. The minute we step outside of this place, we're fugitives. Knowing how to act like a slave is your protection."

"What's yours?"

"You." Hutch started to reach out, but stopped short of actually connecting.

Starsky copied the gesture; their fingers brushed in midair.

Hutch inched his hand closer, grasping Starsky's finally, and tugging him down to sit next to him. "You've always been at my back. Trust me on this. A couple more days of...training and we're out of here."

"Then onto Arizona?"

"You're catching on." Hutch nodded, his eyes raking across Starsky's naked body with searing desire. He wanted Starsky. There was such raw anticipation in Hutch's gaze, Starsky shivered. He was suddenly very aware that he hadn't worn clothes in days and Hutch was fully dressed. "But first," Hutch said, in that hungry, dark tone, "you have to ask me to take your ass. Nicely."

Starsky stared at his partner and forced himself to finish the sandwich. He could barely swallow; the peanut butter cemented his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He would not submit. He would not. "Go to hell."

"I'm a patient man, Starsky. I always have been." Hutch shrugged, opening a bottle of fruit juice and chugging most of it. "I've waited this long, a few more days doesn't matter. Though, I expect some of that time you'll have to be strung up on that frame." He tipped his head back as if taking in the monstrous frame for the first time, seeing the leather straps and restraining metal for the torture device it was.

"You said they hadn't followed instructions," Starsky said stubbornly, sitting down. His brain refused to accept what was currently happening and looped back to earlier, less volatile events. "When you first got here."

"There are crop marks on your butt, and you're bruised. Didn't you know that?" Hutch touched his forehead with a feather-light caress. "One eye is practically black."

"From the truck." Starsky evaded Hutch's touch even though that was the last thing he wanted to do. "I hit my head in the truck." That reminded him of Hutch's phone call and walking into the warehouse. "So, that's what you did? Went in with Roschenzky and Dunfey, you sick bastard? To arrange all this?"

"It had to look legit. They had to believe I was as corrupt as they were. And, Starsky...Roschenzky was one of the older cops."

Starsky nodded, his eyes fixed on the fruit juice Hutch placed so casually by his own knee. If Starsky picked it up and drank some, would he get cuffed? What exactly was their relationship now? What were they to each other?

"Roschenzky was the one who told me, just after we got out of the academy, what you used to do."

Just breathe. Starsky closed his eyes, feeling the betrayal all the way to his toes.

"I beat him up that day, pounded his head against the brick wall in back of the old Ramparts building. Remember it?" Hutch seemed surprisingly anxious for him to understand his reasoning. "I didn't want to believe him, but then I asked around. A couple of the other old farts remembered you, too."

Starsky recalled seeing Roschenzky with a fat lip and a gash over his eyes. Odd, what the memory dredged up. He'd been so small at fifteen, not at all the same kid as the one who came back from the war, angry, scarred, and trained to fight. He'd had vain hopes that maturity and rage would have altered him enough that those old bastards wouldn't remember. Vain hopes.

"That's what kept you from rising up through the ranks," Hutch said. "They didn't care if a low level sergeant used to do those things, but..."

When Starsky opened his eyes, wanting to believe that Hutch cared enough about him to have beaten Roschenzky over his honor, Hutch was quenching his thirst with the rest of the juice.

"Roschenzky reminded me about your past when he saw me in the slave house. Reminded me about the heroin ride I took with Forrest, too. Reminded me that there were things he could blackmail both of us with. But if I wanted to cooperate, I could be their poster child for playing both sides against the middle."

"He didn't know...about the Abbey League," Starsky said reluctantly. God, he was thirsty. And hungry, too. The sandwich had barely filled a corner of his belly.

"I don't think so. I just knew I had to act fast or you'd be right there in the headlines where Tompkins had been." Hutch unwrapped another sandwich and a second bottle of juice. Grape, this time. He pushed it toward Starsky as if knowing his touch wasn't welcomed. "Eat. I'll bet that British queen won't stay away forever."

"Hutch, how are we going to work this?" Starsky gulped the juice, trembling. He needed to be Hutch's partner again, needed to truly believe that Hutch had done all this to save him. But it was a hard pill to swallow. He had nothing left except his trust in Hutch. Right now that was as badly bruised as his eye. "Do I kneel at your feet? Or am I your partner? I just gotta understand this."

"Starsk," Hutch whispered, his voice husky with sex.

Starsky had to wonder how much longer he could keep talking with such an erection.

"I won't lie. Yeah, I want a slave. Not just any slave; I always wanted you. I want to ride you, feel you moving under me, begging for release. But I want the Starsky I knew before. Not some blank-eyed captive who can't think. I don't want you to change."

"Make up your mind, Hutch!" Starsky shouted. "You already changed me!"

"And you changed me. Are you the same man I met in the academy? Is any man the same after nearly fifteen years on the streets of Bay City?" Hutch spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "I wanted to protect you."

"I'm ringed. I'm a slave. You want me to work with you in the damned Abbey League so maybe you can forget during daylight what I got in my cock, under my jeans. But can those others, huh?"

"They won't have a choice."

"Like I don't," Starsky said hollowly. He didn't want to ask, but he had to know. "If I don't...agree, what will happen to me? I can't go back to BC."

Hutch looked startled, caught in the act of paring an apple with a small knife. The glint of the blade in the overhead lights made Starsky shudder.

"You didn't even consider that, did you? Some plan! You thought I'd just bow down, go along with everything?"

"Yes. I trusted you."

That simple statement floored Starsky, and snatched away his anger. How could he keep fighting when Hutch was so...what? Pitiful? Not hardly. Hutch had the coiled watchfulness of a prowling cougar. He was still and patient, but not calm. Not calm at all. Again Starsky's eyes were drawn to Hutch's very prominent cock.

"I will be your slave -- " Starsky stopped, watching Hutch's eyes.

For one second neediness and desire showed through, but then Hutch schooled his expression.

" -- In private," he continued. "I will kneel at your feet or submit to you in public only as is necessary to maintain...our cover. You want a secret weapon? It's on my terms, and I'm in on all stages of the plans to infiltrate the CEC, whatever comes up."

"Agreed." Hutch still didn't move.

Starsky stood, prowling around the confined space, trying to avoid any contact with the huge curved frame bristling with leather straps. He tried telling himself he had some modicum of control now, that the scales might slip slightly back into balance. "How much did you pay for me? I'll find some way to get money out of my account, pay you back -- "

"Starsky, you can't. The moment I arranged to buy you, all that was yours became mine." Hutch had the honesty to look ashamed. "The money doesn't matter, buddy. I'll give it back to you, but you can't get access to it without revealing where we are."

Starsky could almost see a statue of a lady holding a scale aloft -- the side that represented Hutch rose high, while the Starsky side fell lower. "I need...to find my way here, Hutch. I can't just accept all this so easy."

"I didn't think it would be easy. It was just -- "

"The only way. You said that." Starsky accidentally stepped on the coiled links of the chain still attached to the ring in the middle of the floor. His belly lurched, coming perilously close to returning all the food he'd so recently consumed.

He could no longer deny his reality. He was a slave. This was his future.

"Would you have left me here?" Starsky asked. "If I didn't agree with your plans?" He was suddenly fearful, considering the possibility of a life with nothing but the welcoming frame, pain, and anonymous hands in the darkness using his genitals like playthings. At least with Hutch he had a chance of doing something significant, and the idea of obeying Hutch in the bedroom wasn't a new one.

"Starsky, you don't realize your own worth," Hutch said obliquely.

Starsky shook his head, uncomprehending.

"You are so tough, such a fighter. Most people who meet you see this uncompromising cop, the one person on the force they couldn't corrupt." Hutch stood, his long legs going on for miles, his cock like a granite obelisk sheathed in crimson.

Starsky was so close to going down on all fours, giving up his last remaining possession, but he planted his feet, immobile.

"You're what we all covet, such strength with the face of an exotic gypsy. You've been taken down, I know, but I never wanted you to stay there, Starsk. I just wanted you to go there willingly -- for a few hours. If you'd only asked me."

"You never asked me." Starsky remained stubborn, although his knees almost bent of their own accord.

"Every time I went out, I was looking for you. Curly hair, a crooked smile, those are the ones I chose every time, Starsk." Hutch paused, guilt and something like despair crossing his face so quickly that Starsky wasn't quite sure he'd actually seen it. Closing his eyes as if the memories were too painful to bear, Hutch spoke, his voice catching in his throat. "If you do this for me, I swear it's forever. I'll never leave you again."

Starsky waited without breathing. This was too hard. He had to believe in Hutch before he could give up everything for him. He was going around and around in a rat's maze, trying to understand, trying to rationalize. There was no logic here; it was just him and Hutch, bound together in that indefinable way they'd always had since that first time in the academy shower.

"I love you," Hutch said, barely above a whisper. He spread his broad hand across his chest, over his heart.

This was the Hutch Starsky knew, the man who had been his partner for so long.

"And I know you love me. You're mine, but I am also yours," Hutch declared, his sincerity bound into every syllable of every word. He put out his hand, palm up.

Starsky exhaled, thunderstruck. It was the first time Hutch had ever said it aloud. Was he only using the word because Starsky was finally his slave? Or was this the truth? Starsky wavered, working out the myriad subtleties of their long-standing connection. He'd loved Hutch from the very first, without rational cause -- and always assumed Hutch felt the same, that he just had a different way of showing that love.

This had to be real. Why else would Hutch have gone to so much effort? Hutch loved him enough to risk changing every single aspect of their relationship. He must have believed that Starsky could see past his enslavement to find the love.

He did love Hutch. That was the basic truth. And he had to believe what Hutch said was real, or he had no hope left to cling to.

Starsky held out one hand, grabbing Hutch's fingers tightly. Still, the memory of his rape overshadowed everything. How could he submit? How could he not? Did he have any choice? If he refused, would Hutch allow the Brit to take him by force for "training"?

He paused, mired in conflict -- if he did this with Hutch, it would be the first time he yielded to someone he loved.

Still holding onto Hutch to anchor himself, he took a deep breath and reached out with his other hand to touch the welcoming frame. The feel of the cold hard steel was weirdly right.

"Please, Hutch...Master, take me..." Starsky said, barely able to get the words out. He was scared; he couldn't deny it. It wasn't just fear of the pain of penetration. It was relinquishing all he'd ever held on to. Of being laid bare on the altar, sacrificed in the name of love and trust. This would tear down his old life to start anew in a way he could never have imagined. But he would be starting over with Hutch.

Joy suddenly suffused Hutch's face with such radiance, Starsky was dazzled. "That first time," Hutch said softly, "in the academy shower, I pushed you down. I used you. But this time -- you asked."

"I'm..." Starsky had to strain to speak, quivering all over in anticipatory shock. He leaned his head against the cold frame. For the first time he could feel how swollen and sore his eye socket was. "I've never..."

"I know, Starsk. I know." Hutch crooned like a man who'd found his most precious treasure. He kissed Starsky on the shoulder, stroking his spine with the touch of a lover. "You inspire me. You never give up." He placed sweet kisses along the line of Starsky's jaw, one hand gently cupping the back of his head, while two fingers touched the collar.

Starsky wanted to melt into that love, accept it as his due, but he was scared. Scared of being sucked up into Hutch's need until he couldn't think for himself. Where were the boundaries?

"This will be so good, baby. So good, if you just give it a chance." Hutch encircled him with strong arms.

Finally relaxing, Starsky let Hutch take his weight. Resisting was so hard, and it hadn't changed anything anyway. He turned his head, blindly seeking out Hutch's mouth and was rewarded with full lips pressed against his. The insistent push of his master's tongue parted them, and he took that long silkiness into his mouth, sucking on it like a nursing babe. He'd been so thirsty; this was all the moisture he needed to survive.

Hutch was right; this was good, better than it had been since...his addled brain couldn't come up with a example. Hutch was surprisingly tender for someone who'd forcibly enslaved his lover, gently hugging Starsky so closely that he could feel the thud of Hutch's heart against his own chest.

"You're my slave," Hutch whispered, his eyes shining. "And because you are, I'll adore you. I'll protect you. You're mine." He backed Starsky up to the welcoming frame, trailing the palms of his hands down Starsky's torso. Both their cocks jumped when he grasped Starsky around the waist, pulling them together until their bodies were aligned, mirror images, opposite and yet the same. "My possession -- to take when I want. And you'll give me everything because you are my everything. What you have is all that I've ever wanted."

Starsky was stunned to realize that as Hutch's slave, he would be taken care of in a manner he'd never anticipated. He'd only thought of slavery as a demeaning, humiliating position, one of servitude without gratification. But with the right master, the slave could be so much more, a cherished being. His brain skittered away from all the other implications. There was only so much he could assimilate at one time.

"I know you're having a hard time accepting this," Hutch said softly. "And I know you'll resist. You're a proud man, Starsky."

Starsky was caught in the allure of Hutch's summer blue eyes, as if sinking in quicksand with no vine to grab hold of to hoist himself out.

"We'll fight," Hutch said, "but then we always have." Hutch kissed him one last time and stepped back.

Starsky realized then Hutch was waiting for his final capitulation. Starsky raised his head, unwilling to lose sight of the eyes that held him in such thrall.

"Eyes downward," Hutch commanded, going from lover to master with those few words.

Starsky dropped his gaze, unsure of his part. Should he kneel? Drop into presentation position with knees spread widely to show off the piercing? With his heart fluttering in his throat, Starsky knew what Hutch wanted. He turned to the welcoming frame, the curving steel bars a cruel but strangely compelling abstract sculpture. Made of black metal, the tallest point was the arched shafts that held the arms out to each side. The bars could be adjusted for anyone, and the leg stanchions could be raised so that the slave would be unable to stand on his feet. Leather straps hung from every part, enough to completely immobilize the prisoner. Once Starsky faced the brutal contraption, he couldn't force himself back into its unyielding embrace.

"That's it," Hutch said encouragingly. "You're so beautiful. So incredibly strong. Show me."

"I..." Starsky so rarely admitted he couldn't do something on his own. Hutch was the only person he'd ever revealed his fears to. "I need your help."

"We're both in this, Starsk. You and me, bound together." Hutch took Starsky's arm, helping him mount the apparatus carefully, then pressed Starsky's head into the depression for his chin, centering him.

So right and so wrong, all mixed up. Just then, Starsky would have done anything to keep Hutch's hands on his body. The Phenine was still fueling his desires, but then Hutch had always had that affect on him without any drug. Hutch was Starsky's aphrodisiac. He leaned back, desperate to keep contact with Hutch, but his master had stepped back.

"If you don't move," Hutch promised, "I'll leave the straps off."

"I won't," Starsky vowed. At the same time, he wanted to beg Hutch to buckle the leather bindings so tightly it would be impossible for him to move. How could he endure this without support?

Hutch placed his hand on Starsky's buttocks, right over the burning welts.

Starsky gasped, instinctively grasping the metal supports under his fingers. He had to accept his master's touch, then realized that was all the support he needed. He couldn't shut his eyes. He half turned his head, keeping Hutch in view, because without him, the visions threatened to drown him. The cloying odor of Glenfiddich came back with the memory of his rapist pressing him firmly against a white brocade bedspread. He felt the man push his buttocks in the air --

"I love you, Slave," Hutch said, pulling Starsky's attention back to this reality. "This may never get easy for you, but we've never done things the easy way. We've always fought, and then made up."

"I love you, too." Dispelling the dark memories, Starsky accepted Hutch's love and took it deeply in every molecule of his being.

"Remember Kira?" Hutch asked suddenly, and ran a gentling hand down Starsky's body. One finger lingered on the rubber port for the IV, sutured in the space where Starsky's right thigh met his groin. Hutch's touch was as delicate as the brush of a spring breeze. "That was such a fiasco. I was an ass, I'll admit. But after everything, we came back together. Because there was no other choice. We're bonded." He paused, keeping one hand on Starsky's butt while moving around, obviously searching for something with the other. Then, there was the sound of a tube being squeezed, and Hutch applied a cool ointment all around Starsky's anus.

He shook, barely able to stay in place. This was going to happen. There would be intense pain like knives splitting him in half and agonizing cramps gripping his abdomen. He resolved not to scream. Hutch wanted this -- had waited years for this moment. Starsky would not ruin it for him. Maybe afterwards, if he were conscious, he could bargain with Hutch -- his master. Maybe negotiate -- two hand jobs a day, plus oral, if only...not up his ass? Because, after all this time, after all the deliberate amnesia, the nightmares of that first time returned so clearly. He remembered every second of the smooth blond head bending over him, whiskey smell so strong little Davey had gagged. Imagine that, a boy so used to having cock jammed in his throat he could doze off during a blow job, had gagged from the fumes and screamed when the metal shaft was rammed into place.

"Sssh," Hutch whispered. "Nothing's happened yet, Starsk."

Starsky couldn't believe that he'd failed so completely. He'd cried out before anything had actually happened. He felt an insinuating pressure between his buttocks, and leaned forward, away from the intruder. "I can't...tie me up, please."

"This is for you as much as me, lover. I'm not locking you in." Hutch leaned over his back and caught Starsky around the waist, holding him in place with the blunt head of his cock nosed against Starsky's core. Hutch didn't let him move, but didn't push forward, either. "Tell me."

"S-scared."

"You were hurt once?"

"A metal...thing," Starsky ground out, his eyes squeezed shut. "It hurt. Blood." He could barely think coherently enough to say more, but Hutch seemed to understand.

"Babe, it will be so good this time, just let me in." Hutch kissed his right shoulder and then thrust forward just enough to breech the opening.

Starsky whimpered, his whole body clenched so tightly he could barely breathe. There was no way Hutch could be enjoying this; it must feel like trying to punch a fist through solid rock.

"Relax." Hutch repeated the spinal caress, once, twice, and a third time, all the while singing softly.

At first Starsky couldn't hear the words, but he exhaled and the thrumming in his ears died away, filling up instead with the sound of Hutch's voice.

"You belong to me..." Hutch whispered. "Every move you make."

Starsky surrendered, utterly and completely, hanging onto the frame in limp resignation as Hutch continued his painstakingly slow entrance. At first, Starsky just willed himself into compliance, taking short little breaths to relax his clenched muscles until Hutch was fully sheathed. There was some pain, mostly because he hadn't given in enough, he realized with surprise. Light cramps rippled up and down his gut, and the feeling of fullness in his rectum was almost too much to bear. But it wasn't the horror from the past. Maybe, just maybe, this could be a tolerable, even a pleasurable, experience. Now there was a mind-blowing thought.

"This is a gift, Starsk. Perfect, you and I -- like one..." Hutch's adoration was evident in every catch of his breath. He pulled halfway out, drawing Starsky's pelvis with him, and pushed in again more quickly, his full length fitting inside Starsky as if made to order.

Starsky shuddered, feeling the play of his muscles contract and release Hutch's cock, and wondered just who was screwing whom.

Hutch moaned with ecstasy and rocked forward, his cock shifting inside Starsky in a most provocative way. He reached around, grabbing Starsky's pierced organ with his big hand, milking it.

Starsky shouted, from pain or pleasure, he was no longer sure. Hutch's hand on the still-healing wound sent bolts of pain up his cock, which spiraled around the quickening clamps clutching his belly. But this wasn't really agony. More like something without a word, something raw and sexual.

Hutch was thrusting faster now, guttural grunts signaling his ascent into climax. Starsky was nowhere near orgasm; this was too new and frightening, but he felt Hutch's release in every cell of his body. Hutch's semen flooded his bowels, filling him, claiming him. The release was too sudden and too much; he wept.

"Hey." Hutch slipped out, then pulled Starsky into his arms. "That was everything I've waited for. Why are you crying?"

"I don't know." Starsky tried to knuckle the tears away, but they kept falling. "Put that thing back!" He looked around at the mess they'd made on the floor -- piles of leftover food, chains, and some of Hutch's clothes -- He felt frantic. He clenched his butt muscles down tightly, suddenly afraid of losing something valuable.

"What?" Hutch held his own deflated cock, as if thinking there was no way that was going back inside soon.

"The plug. Quick, before it all leaks out." Starsky reached out blindly, still searching. He didn't even know what it looked like; he had been blindfolded when it was shoved in and highly distracted when it was pulled out. In the bathroom. Hutch had removed it in the bathroom. He stumbled through the debris, unsteady, aware that he couldn't preserve what was already leaking out.

Hutch was faster and his reach was longer. Two steps and he'd retrieved the thick red rubber anal plug from where it lay near the sink. "This?"

"Put it in, put it in," Starsky begged, feeling Hutch's essence dribbling down his thighs. He clenched his inner muscles and leaned against the wall outside the bathroom. After being thoroughly fucked, even the gentlest stimuli hurt. Starsky bit down hard on his bottom lip when Hutch carefully settled the plug into place, trapping some of the semen inside him. "Yes."

"Starsky, are you all right?" Hutch clicked the links of the chain closed around Starsky's groin to keep the plug secure.

"I don't know." Starsky sat with his back to the wall, pulling his knees up under his chin and wrapping his arms around his calves. This was too similar to the way Fortun had left him chained, so he straightened his legs, feeling the plug shift oddly inside him.

Somehow that cleared his mind, and he looked up at Hutch. "I'm all mixed up. I just don't... Only you can have me, Hutch. Only you. Not him." He jabbed a finger toward the metal door, sure that the Brit would come back any moment and order Hutch away. Then he'd be strapped into the frame again, and what? Raped?

The only good thing about all this was that Hutch had done it first.

"He can't have you. I left strict orders about that. You're safe," Hutch assured him. "You don't have to wear that plug for me."

"I want to. This way I own part of you," Starsky said fiercely. He needed to regroup, get his thoughts on something else. "When do we leave?" He was sure Hutch had already said something about that. Shouldn't they be making plans? Then he remembered that Hutch wanted him to have more training. Well, fuck that.

"I have to get another car." Hutch zipped up his pants and stuffed the last of their meal back into his bag. "Huggy arranged for me to meet a guy in Vegas. It'll take some time -- maybe most of a day to drive there, finish the transaction, and drive back here."

So they weren't actually in Las Vegas. Good to know. Any knowledge was important. "I ain't staying here." Starsky mourned the disappearance of the fruit juice bottles and bread crusts. He was still hungry.

"I'll tell Neville he has two days to teach you what you need."

"I can fake anything I don't know," Starsky said stubbornly, getting back into presentation position. "See? And I'll keep my mouth shut, Hutch, but I ain't staying..."

"You are, and that's final." His voice was like the crack of a whip, sharp enough to draw blood. "One wrong move when you're alone with some master, Starsk, and it's all over. You need as much knowledge as possible to pull this off. I'll get some pointers too, when I get back."

Starsky stewed, but didn't break position. "Huggy knows about all this?" His chest ached when he realized that one of his oldest friends would see him collared and chained.

"Huggy's got connections. He's leaving BC soon; we just couldn't chance all of us disappearing at the same time. He sold the Torino for you."

"What?" Starsky shouted, jumping up.

"Starsky, that car is like a billboard spelling out your name. After you were picked up, Huggy drove it away so that no one would know you'd been there."

"That was my car!" Starsky slugged the wall to bleed off the anger, but all he succeeded in doing was breaking the skin across his knuckles. Anger burned brightly again for all that he had lost.

"Starsk," Hutch said. He didn't fight when Hutch took him in his arms, holding on tightly. "Hurt yourself?"

"Yeah."

"Don't hurt my property, or I'll have to punish you."

"Would you?" Starsky asked, unsure if he wanted to know or not. Neville had whipped him with the crop. He'd never before imagined what it would be like to be whipped or claimed as someone's property. He'd never imagined that he would ever willingly submit to being fucked, either.

"I've thought about it," Hutch said, and there was a huskiness in his voice like the texture of raw silk against dry skin, just a tad too rough, but sensual, too. Hutch picked up Starsky's hand, kissing the wound, and drew him down until they were cuddled together on the floor, their heads pillowed on the carryall bag. "I would press my hand into the small of your back, watching the way your ass curved down over the..." He seemed to be setting the scene in his mind, arranging details. "...Padded bar, and you'd stay like that, not moving a muscle, totally on my say."

Starsky closed his eyes, almost afraid, but it was too easy to see that picture, Hutch's words coloring every aspect. He could feel the thick leather under his belly and the firm placement of Hutch's hand, holding him down.

"I'd use my belt, because I don't have anything else." Hutch wiggled around, sliding his belt out from the loops. He laid it across Starsky's naked hip, one end just touching his bare butt. "Five strokes, to remind you. Not punishment. Just for us, because I want to."

Starsky shuddered, sure the belt had slammed into him, leaving a long red mark. Hutch hadn't hit him, but suddenly Starsky wanted him to. Badly. "Not here," was all he said, and Hutch nodded.

Somehow, they both fell asleep.

***

"Well, you two certainly made yourselves at home," a fey voice commented.

Starsky woke with a start, surprised that the whine of the door opening hadn't brought him out of sleep. Hutch still held onto him as he woke up, too. Twisting out of his lover's grasp and turning to face the speaker, Starsky had his first view of his captor.

Neville was all length and almost absurdly thin. Viewed from the floor, he looked like the reflection of a man in one of those funhouse mirrors, altogether too long and narrow, his height accentuated by sinewy muscles in his arms and legs. Starsky started to stand, if only to retrieve some of his stolen self-esteem, but Hutch pushed gently on his shoulder, urging him to his knees.

When Hutch got to his feet, Starsky was glad to see that the Brit only topped Hutch by a mere inch, maybe two at the most. He wasn't a giant, just used to looming over his cowering slaves, relying on his height to keep them low.

"You've got two more days," Hutch said, finger combing his tousled hair and buttoning his green shirt. "I need him day after tomorrow, so I expect his training will be completed ASAP."

"That's not at all possible, beautiful," Neville said with a smirk, but there was that inkling of sadism in his voice that creeped Starsky out. He longed to buckle a collar around that narrow throat, extra tight, and then shove a stun gun into sensitive areas. "These things take time, and you've got yourself a fighter. He tried to bite me, did you know that?" He rubbed elongated fingers over his right bicep in a coquettish manner.

He was flirting with Hutch! Surprised at his own jealousy, Starsky shifted the weight on his knees, preparing to get to his feet. Once again, Hutch seemed to anticipate his thoughts and touched him on the shoulder.

"Ripped one of my best shirts," Neville said. "There are definite penalties for that." The coquet's voice dripped with the desire to cause pain and a lot of it.

"I told you, I don't want him injured." Hutch pulled out his pocket watch, glancing at the time with a distracted air of someone who had to leave and soon.

Starsky could see the future clearly. Hutch would leave him and the asshole Brit would have him strapped to the frame and tortured inside of a minute. The fact that the IV port was still sutured into his groin gave Neville frightening access to his body.

"Any and all punishments, beatings, sexual intercourse, anything like that, have to go through me, and I say no." He re-pocketed the watch and shouldered the carryall, preparing to go.

Just hearing Hutch -- his master -- say those words loosened the tightness in Starsky's chest. Hutch wanted him protected. But Hutch would have no way of enforcing his rules when he wasn't around. Starsky had full trust in his partner and none at all in the Brit.

"Too lenient on your pet," Neville said, cocking a gold eyebrow. He was all gold. Starsky wondered what kind of hair dye the man used to get it that unique color. Hair like old flatware, gold without a sheen, skin tanned to an unnatural shade of golden brown, and gold rings adorning half a dozen fingers. Even his irises were the gold of a cat, as if he weren't quite human. The silk shirt he wore had small gold figures printed over a blue background. Tiny slave figures with their legs spread wide open for their golden masters.

"However, the owner is always right." The Brit waved a manicured hand as if shooing away flies. "It's my credo, you might say. I'd advise you to keep this one on a short leash, because there's no way I can break his spirit in that space of time. He's liable to go for your throat one day."

"Or I could go for yours." Hutch slid his long barreled pistol from the carryall, bringing it out casually, as if he was showing off the weapon instead of making a threat. "I like his spirit the way it is. I find a mark on him that I didn't put there last night, and I'll put one right between your legs."

"You are such a brute," the Brit simpered. "With such a long...gun. But speaking of marks, that brings up the question -- which do you prefer, a tattoo or a brand?"

Tattoo... Starsky inhaled sharply, which earned him a stern look from Hutch. There was something significant about tattoos. He could visualize the memo typed on official BCPD paper, but not the contents. All he could remember was the VP's wife, her naked back a panoply of ink. She'd been servicing her new master orally when they burst into the house, and had dropped to the floor with her forehead on the carpet and arms outstretched when the VP jumped to his feet with his open dressing gown barely covering his withering phallus.

Hutch glanced at him again, a question in his eyes, but Starsky couldn't answer.

"Haven't I made myself clear?" Hutch said with menace. He stepped in close, the gun still held loosely in one hand. Neville went a sickly color under all that gold, but didn't back away. "I'm not interested in ostentatious marks on my slave. The ring is sufficient."

"Funny. You said you were a CEC cop. Yet, you're not up on the current legislation." Neville shrugged eloquently, and took two steps to the side so he could lean decadently on the welcoming frame as if displaying his wares to Hutch.

Hutch didn't look the least bit interested. "What current legislation? I don't read up on every new rule some Corporation bigwig dreams up. Next week, it'll be obsolete." Hutch started to move past Neville when the Brit's laughter stopped him.

"You really don't know! How delicious!"

"Electronic trackers," Starsky said. He might be forced to stay on his knees like a placid dog, but his brain still worked. The new law stipulated that slaves must have tattoos placed either on the left hip, left flank, below the back of the neck, or on the left shoulder, with an electronic tracking device the size of a rice grain buried beneath it under the skin.

"Speaking out of turn." Neville swung his arm back to strike Starsky, but Hutch moved like lightning, grabbing the Brit's wrist in mid-swing, nearly crushing the delicate bones. Neville squeaked with pain and then moaned, his face taking on a dreamy quality. "I could get used to having you around, cowboy. And it seems your slave is the one who's been reading up."

"Why would I want an electronic tracker?" Hutch released him and dusted off his hands as if ridding himself of something foul. "He'll wear my collar."

"I've wondered the same thing, myself." Neville tapped the collar around Starsky's neck.

Starsky had to force himself to endure the touch and not pull away in disgust, but consoled himself by making a gruesome face behind the queen's back, which almost made Hutch grin. He saw his partner lose composure for a spare second before tightening his jaw.

Starsky went still inside, suddenly aware of how tenuous Hutch's position was. If the Brit realized that this master and slave weren't on the up and up, he could call the CEC authorities. Hutch was right, damn him. Starsky needed to learn how to be a slave to protect both of them. He could see how little attention the free paid to a kneeling slave even when they were discussing his care. How hard would it be to kneel under the desk of some high-ranking official in the CEC, maybe catch a glimpse of some eyes-only document before sucking the asshole's dick? Would it be any different than doing it in some dirty alley for a few bucks when he was a kid? He'd been training for this role since he was fourteen.

"If you have your own collar," Neville said, "feel free to buckle it on him. It really improves a slave's demeanor to know that his master has absolute control." Neville stroked Starsky's bruised cheek and tsk-tsked. "But wanting something and obeying the CEC's ever-changing laws are two different things. Since you're new to the master's life, Detective, a little history might help you. When the slave law was first enacted, the ring through the male phallic organ, or the clitoris in the female, was enough. But some slaves escaped and removed their piercings." He glanced down at the thick, gleaming steel ring through Starsky's cock and raised an eyebrow. "So, we produced a special metal nearly impervious to cutting tools. But those anarchist rebels in the border states got their hands on a laser. Cuts through anything." He laughed as if imagining desperate slaves running naked through the hot sun to the border to be free. "Owners wanted to keep tabs on their property, which I'm sure you can now understand."

"Get to the point," Hutch said impatiently.

"Tattoos have always been popular, therefore the owners of the most organized slave farms agreed that slaves should have them in certain designated areas for ID purposes. But a laser can remove a tattoo, as well. Leaves a scar." He cocked his head with a smarmy expression. "Which is obviously not a problem for you."

"I can give you a few scars of your own if you don't finish with this overly long lecture," Hutch growled.

"Electronic trackers under said tattoos," Neville said. "Enhances the slave's physical beauty, and logs him into a central data base so the owner can keep tabs on his property."

Starsky watched Hutch, afraid. They couldn't afford to let him be fitted with a transmitter. The only way he could tolerate his slavery would be if it helped the rebellion take back power from the shitholes who ran things now. David Starsky not going to be tagged like some endangered animal, and he wouldn't be of any use to the rebellion with such a marker. If he had to, he'd attack the Brit now and cause as much damage as possible so Hutch could escape alive. If only one of them could get out, it had to be Hutch.

"You mentioned branding," Hutch said. He was quiet, so calm, but Starsky could sense his tightly reined anger. He was once again a crouched cougar, ready to strike at the slightest provocation. It was obvious that Hutch hated this situation.

Starsky wanted to cheer. Instead, he held himself in perfect presentation position. He couldn't dwell on the idea of branding. Hutch would think of some way around it.

"Ah, my favorite," Neville said. "The mark left from a burning metal iron isn't quite as pretty as a delicately drawn tattoo, but it's permanent. Impossible to remove -- and some owners who buy and sell human merchandise frequently are not as interested in chipping a slave, since they don't care where they end up." Neville smiled and placed his palm on the V of skin revealed by Hutch's half-buttoned cowboy shirt.

Hutch removed the hand with a look of disgust. "I want him branded," Hutch declared.

No.

No.

Hutch did not just say Starsky would be branded like a side of beef.

Starsky was frozen in place, unable to move, unable to look at Hutch or anything but the floor in front of him.

"Finish his training in positions and commands," Hutch continued, as if he'd said nothing of consequence, "and I'll be back soon to put him through his paces." He moved to Starsky for the first time since they'd awakened, grabbing a fistful of curls to tip his head back so they could look into each other's eyes.

Starsky could see the desperation in Hutch that mirrored his own. But they couldn't say anything aloud.

"Starsk, you behave, or I'll take the belt to you."

What Starsky heard was I love you in code.

Hutch nodded once, his jaw so tense his cheek muscles twitched, and toed Starsky's knees apart a fraction wider before releasing him. He glared at the Brit. "I will be there for the branding." Hutch turned on his heel, and stalked out, leaving Starsky alone.

The steel door was still open.

Starsky scrabbled to his feet, compelled to run, to escape. Running naked through mountainous terrain suddenly didn't seem as stupid as idly waiting to have his flesh cooked with super-heated metal.

He made it five steps before hearing Neville scream for Fortun, and then a bruiser of a man tackled him to the floor. He pulled in a breath to shout Hutch's name, but the guard roughly shoved a ball gag into his mouth before he could get out the H. Starsky fought like a wild thing, arms and legs striking out, too enraged to place his blows with any precision. Fighting was fruitless anyway. Over the pounding blood drumming in his ears he could hear Neville yelling for Denato to bring a syringe, and then the sound of running feet.

It took three to subdue him, then strap him tightly to the frame and jam the contents of the syringe into his IV. Starsky hurt all over but within seconds he could barely move, restrained not only by thick leather but by the sedative. He howled around his gag, barely able to make enough sound to matter.

With Hutch gone, what would they do to him?

The Brit stood in the front of the frame, smiling like a cat who'd caught a mouse and was getting ready to eat him.

Starsky wasn't blindfolded, and he stared defiantly at his captor. His arms, now attached to the metal struts that curved forward, made it seem as if he were reaching out to hug Neville -- a repulsive thought -- and yet he was utterly unable to defend himself in any way. The Brit had the upper hand, and Starsky could only wait and watch for an opportunity. That had always been the hardest part of police work. Leaping without looking first rarely worked to his advantage.

Strategy, Starsky, always strategy, was Hutch's credo. Starsky vowed to follow his partner's lead. He just had to lay low and keep his head down until Hutch returned.

Being brutalized would only give him more incentive to help the rebels. He'd never paid much attention to the plight of the slaves before. Sure, he hated the way the CEC could twist people's lives so that one day they were just poor, and the next they were slaves subjected to every kinky whim a master could dream up. But he hadn't really looked at the issue from a slave's point of view.

How things had changed. Now, all he could think about was liberating the oppressed.

"Think you can fight me?" Neville sneered, his face so close to Starsky's that their noses brushed. Starsky wanted to squirm to evade his proximity, but his chin was firmly planted in the metal depression made for that purpose, with leather straps wrapped around his head from chin to crown and ear to ear. He was forced to stare straight into those uncanny golden eyes. He preferred the blindfold.

The Brit seemed to read his mind. "You loathe me, don't you?" Neville stroked Starsky's injured cheek again, as if fascinated by the bruising pattern. "You itch to reverse our places and do to me what I've done to you." He laughed, low and sensual, the cruelty clearly turning him on. "But my lamb, that's never going to happen. Your owner is a fool. Someone like you, with such fire, needs to be beaten often and maybe..." He grinned, and turned to the two hulks lurking out of Starsky's visual range. "We won't feed our Davey today so he'll be needy when his master returns. He's like a wild dog. You can't turn your back or he'll attack, but that's what makes him all the more attractive when he eats out of your hand." Their affirmative grunts were punctuated by chuckling.

Starsky clenched his fingers, pushing on the smooth cold metal under his palms. As before, the sedative wore off quickly, leaving a tingly, half-numb feeling in some parts of his body and an almost unbearable need to be touched in others. He yearned to move, to run, to fight. With Hutch in the room, he could suppress those urges, but now the straps were the only things stopping him.

"Fortun, fireman's shower," Neville ordered sharply, wrinkling his long beak of a nose. "He stinks of that cowboy."

Starsky saw Neville move away and a dark mass with a mono-brow take his place for a few seconds before the blindfold descended. He'd been expecting it and almost relaxed. He had to be let down for a fireman's shower, right? To be taken to the bathroom?

The full force of freezing water hit his back with such power that he screamed around the gag, emptying his lungs. There was not enough air to fill them up again. The water was so cold it burned, filleting him to the bone. Then, insult of insults, Fortun pulled out the butt plug, directing the spray up inside him.

That hurt.

Bad.

Starsky screamed again, but no one paid any attention. They'd stolen the one small part of Hutch that he'd been able to hold onto, reducing him to nothing. He screamed until he lost sense of what was going on, and kept screaming in his nightmares, feeling the silver dildo repeatedly bludgeoning his fifteen-year-old virginal hole until he was cleaved in half and lay dying on a white brocade bedspread.

***

He came to later. Time was nebulous without establishing sights and sounds. Starsky wanted to float in semi-consciousness, pretending he wasn't pinned like a frog about to be pithed in a high school science class, but his own thoughts kept intruding.

Hutch said he loved him. He'd said the words aloud, even while admitting he'd paid cash to strip Starsky of his freedom and every vestige of his old life. How did that work exactly? How could someone just turn a citizen into a nonentity? Why hadn't this ever bothered him before? He'd been fully aware of the inhumane practices, but had done little except toe the party line.

He'd once been considered a rabble-rouser who'd just as easily bite the hand that fed him, but how true was that? He'd enjoyed the prestige of being a State cop and the attractive, fatter paycheck. The CEC turned So. Cal into one of the strongest of the now un-united states. They controlled everything, using their handpicked police to enforce their will.

So many things changed in a short time, like prostitution and slavery as two examples. Laws came and went like passing fads. It became hard to remember what was legal and what wasn't. No wonder neither he nor Hutch had known much about the new tattoo ordinance. Around the squadroom, CEC memos were often treated like so much birdcage liner since the information could be obsolete the following week. Still, the Corporation played hardball, prosecuting those they determined to be criminals, and enforcing strict penalties and even death. They allowed no dissonance or upheaval. No vice that wasn't sanctioned by their lawyers. Something once considered as mundane as importing out-of-state cigarettes could result in years of jail time, but there was no penalty for boffing a sex slave on the street.

The first time Starsky had seen that, he'd rousted the slave's molester. For that public-minded spirit, he'd received a reprimand and a docked paycheck. He'd learned to look the other way, at least some of the time. Most of the time, to be honest. So much for the vow a fifteen-year-old had taken to protect the victimized.

The years on the street as a cop had changed him; there was no doubt about that. What ethics had he lost along the way? Had his blindness to the welfare of the slaves led him to this place? Or could he rest the whole weight of that on Hutch's shoulders?

He could admit now he'd been Hutch's slave from the first moment they'd laid eyes on each other. But in a strange way, Hutch was his slave, as well. Hutch might never go to his knees, but he'd debased himself in other ways to wait Starsky out. To wait for the so-called rabble-rouser to humble himself and consent. All the while, Hutch had been working for the rebels -- preparing for a revolution. So who was the real agitator here?

Starsky had always hated self-examination. He liked simple, straightforward explanations. Except there were none here. Just layers on layers -- sex mixed with politics, and love tainted by betrayal. The emotional morass hurt more than what Neville and his minions had done to Starsky's physical body.

Hutch, do you realize what you've done to my soul?

As much as he ached inside, Starsky now knew the truth. He would go with Hutch. He would accept what Hutch had made him, because Hutch loved him. And he'd always loved Hutch.

Forgiveness, that would be harder. But even as he recognized the anger still closeted deep inside, he couldn't stay angry at Hutch. From the moment Hutch arrived for his "rescue," Starsky hadn't been able to hold onto his anger for ten minutes at a time.

What did Hutch do to him?

He tried returning to his previous musings, walking the now familiar route of Ninetieth to Mission to Ninety-first, circling the warehouse for a way in. He wanted to change the outcome, fight off Dunfey's goons and find Hutch, tell him there was another way.

But was there another way? Or was Hutch right?

"Starsk, Dunfey just went into the warehouse on the corner of Ninety-first, where it crosses Mission. Hurry. I'll meet you there."

Oh God, if there was a supreme being listening, why hadn't he questioned that? Why hadn't he wondered for one minute longer? Or noticed that Hutch never spoke again. Hutch had meant to draw him out. He'd trusted his partner too far.

He loved his partner too much.

Was that possible?

If there had been another way to escape the CEC, Starsky could not think of one. Hutch's way had become the only way, and Starsky had to believe that, ultimately, it would be the solution. He had to believe it or he would be lost.

He allowed himself the luxury of reminiscence, deliberately recalling the moment of their joining on the frame. He felt Hutch enter him again, those warm, wonderful hands gripping him around his hips. The smell of Hutch -- leather, guns, and peanut butter -- all merged together with the heady aroma of their lovemaking. And it had been lovemaking, not just sex.

He trembled and cried, alone in that horrible place, robbed of the tiniest bit of decency.

***

Starsky was surprised when he was taken down from the frame after only a few hours. The day took on an unreal quality as Neville trained him, putting him through his paces, forcing him to repeat the same moves and positions over and over again. His belly rumbled loudly, and Neville laughed, snicking Starsky's shoulder ever so lightly with the knotted tip of a leather cord. Starsky swallowed with difficulty around his gag, correcting his posture, the small wound stinging. A few peanut butter sandwiches hadn't offset days of near starvation and his weakness showed. He tired easily and couldn't hold the more complicated poses for long, which just earned more wasp stings on his arms and legs.

Was this the way all slaves were initiated? Or was it worse for the ones without a master like Hutch to protect them? He didn't want to think about what could have happened to him if not for Hutch's refusal to allow him to be sexually abused. Now he understood why so many slaves seemed empty-eyed, clinging to their masters.

Starsky changed while kneeling at the feet of a man he despised. He learned how to be a true slave. Not for this foppish sadist who delighted when he messed up, but for Hutch. Helping the cause was secondary, however important. If he had to be a slave, he was going to be a damned good one until the time when slaves revolted and snapped their chains in two. He had Hutch, someone he trusted, and, more important, someone who trusted him in return. That was the key. Trust became hope and hope was freedom.

"On your feet, head to the floor, grasp your ankles, pretty ass as high as it will go," Neville commanded, the lash biting Starsky on the sole of his bare foot as he tried to move quickly into the proper stance. "You have a knack for this, Davey. A positive gift."

Starsky breathed in, his head pounding in the downward position. He was afraid that if he stayed like this too long he would pitch forward, and locked his knees.

"Use that whip on him one more time, and I'll wrap it around your scrawny neck and hang you with it," Hutch said harshly, almost too loud in the confined space of the room.

"Cowboy!" the Brit exclaimed, all signs of cruelty disappearing beneath a simpering flirtation. "You move as stealthily as a lion!"

Starsky would have laughed if he weren't practically kissing his own knees. The blood pounding in his ears was as loud as a hurricane force wind. He swayed, coming perilously close to falling, but concentrated on maintaining his posture to show Hutch. He wanted to prove he was doing his part.

If only Hutch would do his and get them out of here.

"You startled me," Neville said.

"Then don't leave the door open so anyone can walk in," Hutch replied tightly.

"The whip is a necessary part of the training process, but it's only used as a reminder, not punishment." The Brit caressed Starsky's upturned buttocks, finding the tiny marks from the whip with unerring precision. He pressed just a little too hard on one at the top of Starsky's thigh, where the hips joined the butt.

Starsky clenched his teeth on the gag, the pain like bright fireworks behind his retinas. Struggling to stay perfectly still, Starsky wasn't sure what would happen first. Either he'd pass out from all the blood rushing to the top of his head or he'd vomit from the jackknifed position.

Both possibilities were in the running when Hutch said, "Starsky, presentation position."

Starsky dropped so quickly his already bruised knees protested violently, pain roaring up to his hips, but at least presentation was a right-side up pose. He raised his chin, almost reeling from dizziness, and tried to rearrange himself properly. The familiar coolness of a silver toe tip nudged his thighs farther apart, and he rested his hands on his legs, palms down, waiting further orders. A part of the old Starsky stirred in the back of his brain, swearing and calling him a quitter, but he inhaled through his nose, straining to see through the blackness of the blindfold.

"You see, a mongrel cur can be taught to heel," Neville said.

Starsky would have liked to prove the Brit's assessment correct by biting him just above the ankle, but he held his place to prove to Hutch that he could do this. That he could learn what was needed and be of service to the cause.

Who was he kidding? In the end, he wanted to please Hutch. It had always been that way. For all their affectionate arguing, Starsky had always listened to Hutch and usually went along with his suggestions. There had been days when he'd been the one to lead investigations, especially when the case was illogical or bizarre. Starsky had a knack for those. But in the partnership, Hutch was the leader.

"You treat slaves like animals and they'll turn around and bite you in the tail," Hutch said dryly, and for once Starsky welcomed the gag, because otherwise he would have laughed aloud. "I know five positions; how many more is he expected to know?" Hutch asked.

Finally, finally, Starsky felt the brush of soft corduroy against his shoulder and a welcomed hand in his hair. He leaned into the warmth of Hutch's body, catching whiffs of the outside world. The scent of the forest; wood, fresh air, and the sharp tang of eucalyptus were like exotic flowers after so many days in a sterile torture chamber.

"Presentation, obeisance, punishment, submission, and deliverance are the most common," Neville began, and Starsky suspected he was about to start one of his long-winded explanations.

"I know those. What else is there?" Hutch unbuckled the gag, easing it out of Starsky's mouth, but left the blindfold in place.

Grateful, Starsky sucked in the long finger that wiped spittle off his lip, but his mouth was too dry to provide enough moisture. It was like dipping a stale donut into an empty cup. Unsatisfying.

"What about more complicated ones?" Hutch asked.

"Spread-eagle isn't hard, but requires the slave to remain immobile for long periods of time despite what the master is doing to it," Neville continued. "Even the smallest movement is cause for punishment. And of course, there's relinquishment, which you saw him demonstrating when you came in."

Hutch put Starsky through his paces with exacting precision. He was an even harder taskmaster than the Brit. Without the whip correcting his mistakes, Starsky had to be alert for changes in Hutch's tone. He listened carefully for tiny sounds of disapproval while holding absolutely correct positioning. One harsh word from Hutch stung far worse than the whip. He'd always relied on his ability to read his partner with a quick look or a glance before they rushed a building or brought down a criminal. The blindfold made things more difficult because he couldn't judge Hutch's body language. Starsky grew increasingly frustrated with his repeated mistakes of simple maneuvers. He was exhausted before Hutch called a halt to the exercises.

"He's improving, but you really should leave him here for a full month to get the complete training," Neville said.

"Didn't you say the buyer is always right?" Hutch retorted.

"Touché, my dear."

"There must be some decent food around here. A place to sleep that doesn't look like a movie set for some Marquis de Sade flick." Hutch crossed the room.

Starsky was aware of the click of his boot heels on the marble floor now that Hutch wasn't trying to sneak up on the Brit. That could be something to remember when he might be restrained in some other master's bed. He had to use all his senses, not just his eyes, to learn what he needed to know.

"The owner's rooms are on the upper floors. I can provide you with a pretty slave with the meal, if you'd like, at no extra cost," Neville said. "Chicken or steak?"

For a moment, Starsky thought the Brit was offering a choice between a virginal boy and an older man, but that was just the dinner menu. His belly rumbled loudly.

Hutch chuckled. "Starsky wants both."

"He isn't allowed above ground until his training is complete -- or, until you take him away. He gets neither."

"Now, why would I want some other slave when I paid good money for this one?" Hutch said in a voice that could have cut through the steel door. "I want a good night's sleep after days in the damned car in the heat, with my slave, and a large, rare steak. For each of us. You understand?"

"Forceful indeed," Neville said, but without his usual swooning. He obviously didn't like Hutch's take-over attitude. "He'll have to be restrained and blindfolded while in the hallways. Who knows what an unbroken slave could do?"

"Who indeed?" Hutch hooked an arm under Starsky's and pulled him to a stand, linking his wrist cuffs together in front of his body. "Just for the walk upstairs," he whispered.

Starsky was reassured. This was all a show for Neville. Once they were alone, Hutch would revert back to his old friend and partner, right? The kinky stuff was only for sex play. He wouldn't have to wear all this hardware daily.

The issue of the brand still had to be discussed, though.

He would not wear a brand.

But then he remembered...he'd said he would not be any man's slave...and yet he was.

Starsky responded to the pressure of Hutch's hand on his back and walked out of the torture chamber for the first time since he'd arrived. How long had that been? He was not sure, but his feet felt strange walking down the cold marble hall. Neville had made tiny wounds on both Starsky's feet with his whip and each step renewed the fire in those welts. The ring made his cock hang heavily, and it swung when he moved, pushing against his fettered hands with every step.

They all went upwards in an elevator. Starsky wanted to know the layout of the place, the exits and entrances. Which direction was west, and how many guards were there? He'd never been held prisoner for so long without calculating all the escape routes. Come to think of it, he'd never been held prisoner for so long, period. He wanted to talk to Hutch, find out more of what he knew, but he remained silent as long as Neville was nearby.

"Oh, silly me," Neville simpered in what Starsky now recognized as the voice he used when he was going to say something particularly unpleasant. "I totally forgot to mention the branding."

Starsky bit down on his lip to stop himself from blurting out something that would get him punished. His belly twisted into a knot.

"Yeah?" Hutch grunted, tightening his grip on Starsky's arm.

"Since you insist on taking this slave out before there's been sufficient time to mold him into a proper specimen, he'll have to be branded tomorrow morning before he leaves."

Starsky bristled at being called a specimen, but that reaction paled in comparison when he considered the idea of having hot metal pressed into his skin. Sweat dripped down his back, stinging all the lash wounds.

"He'll need to be shaved, of course," Neville added, with a slow, dark chuckle. He sounded more than ready to take a straight razor and do the deed himself.

"Where does this brand go?" Hutch asked as if it was of very little consequence to him, but Starsky could feel how tense he was.

Fuck! C'mon, Hutch, use that college education to get us out of here. The tattoo and tracker were sounding better all the time. Surely, they could dig out the tracker once it was inserted? Throw it in a lake, smash it with a rock.

"The most common place is on the left inner thigh -- where the owner will see it when he spreads his slave's legs." The Brit tittered nastily.

Starsky swallowed against the sick taste in his throat. He was reduced to a thing, like a schoolbook with a name written in marker on the front so others would know who owned it.

"I can send a slave in the morning to shave his leg. Could shave his whole body while we're at it -- a complete change of appearance really helps the slave settle into his role."

"Hey!" Starsky blurted and would have said more, but Hutch's nails bit down hard into his forearm.

"Starsky," Hutch said sharply.

Resentment washed over Starsky. He didn't want to resent Hutch, but he did. This wasn't some game. Hutch was really going to have him branded!

"Should take a crop to his back. Beat the spirit out of him," Neville said.

"If I want your opinion, I'll ask," Hutch retorted, rubbing his thumb over the small dents he'd made on Starsky's arm. "I know how to use a razor. I'll shave him myself."

"I'll have it delivered with your steak."

When they stepped out of the elevator, the difference from the training floor was immediate, even to someone wearing a blindfold. There was carpeting underfoot and the air was warmer. The beautiful strains of Bach played softly from a sound system. At least Starsky assumed it was a sound system. There might be slaves sawing away on violins and tinkling the ivories of a piano, for all he knew.

"Here we are, kiddies, room twelve," Neville said, unlocking a door. "The steaks will be up in less than half an hour. Don't do anything with your slave that I wouldn't do." His parting chuckle had such a depraved sound that Starsky had no problem guessing what he would do.

Starsky didn't relax until he heard the door shut behind Neville.

"You stink," Hutch said, unbuckling the blindfold and easing it off Starsky's face.

Starsky blinked in the light, looking around at the sumptuous room. This was no austere space filled with implements meant to punish and hurt. This was pure fantasy, complete with a four-poster bed draped with swags of silk and a white brocade bedspread.

A white brocade bedspread...

Starsky shivered and turned his back on the white spread, his stomach rumbling loudly.

A large armoire occupied one corner, and a love seat took up space in the other. Only someone with a keen eye would notice that the furniture was heavy and built to withstand writhing bodies restrained on the frames.

He didn't know what to say, and yet was overflowing with questions. His feet hurt and his head was pounding. All he wanted to do was sleep, but the specter of the branding and the similarities of this room to the one of his nightmares gripped him. He told himself a branding wouldn't be all that different from the time he'd accidentally bumped a hot iron with his hand, but couldn't even convince himself.

"Do you want a shower?" Hutch asked.

"No." Starsky hunched his shoulders, his hands still cuffed in front of him. He could still feel the savage battery of the fireman's shower on his aching muscles.

"Okay," Hutch agreed, sounding puzzled. He unbuckled and removed the wrist cuffs, leaving them linked together when he tossed them aside, and massaged Starsky's chaffed wrists. "A bath, then? I need to relax."

"A bath...with you?" Starsky asked, and hated how plaintive his voice sounded. He wanted his anger back, but it had been ground out of him. Hutch's warm hands on his skin felt so good he could have stayed there all day, attached to Hutch more intricately than by any of the leather bands buckled around his body.

"Yeah, with me. While we wait for the food." Hutch led the way into an elegant bathroom. Golden fixtures gleamed. There was a claw-footed bathtub, big enough for four, a glass-enclosed shower, and even a bidet for freshening up after a prolonged assignation.

"How are you doing?" Hutch asked softly.

That question broke the dam, the anger rushing back so suddenly that Starsky staggered. "How the hell do you think?" He braced himself against the green-veined marble counter. What was it about marble in this place? "I hurt in places I never even thought about before. That son of a bitch limey used a whip on every part of me, and then you act like I'm some kinda trained dog doin' tricks."

"Starsk."

"How long have I been here, Hutch? Huh? Just tell me that. How long until we leave, 'cause I'm gonna kill that bastard."

"Today is Saturday. Saturday evening, by now."

Four and a half days since he'd been thrown into the truck. Starsky hissed as if he'd been stabbed and thrust out a hand to keep Hutch at bay. Why were they always having these confrontations in bathrooms? He'd picked up a telephone in the squadroom on Tuesday at noon and changed his entire life. He fought to catch his breath and would have fallen if Hutch hadn't gripped his arm. A life saver -- or was it a destroyer? How could he ever know Hutch's true intentions anymore?

"Hey," Hutch crooned, and wrapped his arms around Starsky's trembling body. "Let it go. Let it be."

"Who are you, John Lennon?" Staying in those strong arms was enticing, but Starsky couldn't let his guard down. "Fill up the tub."

It was heaven to finally slip into warm, soothing water and lean back against Hutch. Starsky winced when his various wounds made themselves known, and it was far too easy to let the brutality float away for a while. Hutch soaped his back, murmuring soothing words that made no sense; they were alien to the world Starsky lived in now.

Baby.

Lover.

He wanted to give in to Hutch's sweetness, wanted it to go on and on, but the longing for what they'd left behind was powerful. They might not have had a perfect life, but it worked -- most of the time. Sure, Hutch had been distant the last few months and Starsky had found more reasons to pick fights, but that would have passed, right? Things could have been resolved without such drastic measures...if he'd asked. Hutch had said that he was waiting for Starsky to ask. Ask to take it up the ass, ask to be treated like a slave.

So, after years of waiting to be asked, Hutch had laid down the law. Literally.

Starsky closed his eyes, feeling Hutch's arms holding him tightly, feeling the friction of the washrag on his genitals, his cock rising effortlessly in the water. Hutch washed down Starsky's right leg, negotiating around the prominent rubber-capped IV port, and then repeated his actions on the left, lingering for a long time on the inner thigh, right up against the scrotum.

"This is where I will shave you," Hutch whispered, his breath tickling Starsky's ear. "And then you'll be branded there, as my property."

"Hutch," Starsky protested, but it was weak, without any substance behind it.

Hutch continued to massage his thigh, brushing the sac so enticingly, then moving away, engraving secret code into his skin. "I kept thinking about it, Starsk, all day. Thinking about seeing you naked in front of me, wearing my collar and my brand. Knowing it was all for me..."

Hutch took Starsky's hand and guided it over to his own body. Hutch's substantial erection seemed to levitate into his hand, so Starsky automatically began to rub the pulsing length.

"And then I thought of you dressed, looking the same as before...all this, in those jeans that are too tight for any sane mortal and a red shirt with some nipple showing." Hutch was panting.

Starsky wasn't breathing too well himself. How did Hutch do this? Turn the both of them on with just a description?

"You wouldn't be wearing boxers," Hutch murmured, "so in the front, the outline of the ring would be obvious, but not the brand. The brand would be a special secret. We'd be talking to people, doing normal things, and all the while I'd be waiting until we were alone so I could decorate one of your nipples with a clamp and take you -- just push your jeans down far enough to see your ass and push on in."

Hutch arched back as Starsky increased the tempo of his fisting, crying out. He came, his semen pumping into the soapy water. When Hutch opened his eyes again, he was staring straight at Starsky, those Nordic blue eyes like unending pools that could drown a man if he wasn't careful.

"Get up on the edge. Pull a towel around you if you're cold," Hutch said.

Starsky wasn't even sure why he responded, but something deep inside him needed to obey Hutch's husky, sensuous tone. He sat on the edge of the big tub with his legs spread wide, leaning against the towels hanging from a gold rod. It was so warm and steamy in the room, he wasn't cold, or maybe he was just becoming accustomed to being naked all the time.

He wasn't prepared for Hutch's next move. Hutch's lovely mouth attached itself to Starsky's cock, sucking for all he was worth. Hutch's tongue slid around the barely healed piercing, irritating the raw wound, but it was oh so good in every other way. Hutch bit down on the metal ring, tugging gently, making Starsky shout inarticulately when sensual pain shot up his cock. How could agony and bliss be so intimately tied? Starsky panted, gripping the towel rod, his whole body trembling, and looked down with amazement at the wet blond head bobbing between his thighs. Hutch rarely gave him a blowjob, and now he'd done it two days in a row. Was this worth all the humiliation? All the pain? All the loss? It shouldn't have been, but in that instant, it was.

He orgasmed and it was like an explosion demolishing whatever was left of his old life.

Wearing a thick terrycloth robe with a small moon embroidered on the left breast pocket, Hutch drained the tub and toweled Starsky down, then prepared a small basin of warm water. Just when they needed it, the razor arrived. A knock at the front door revealed a small, dark skinned girl with thick gold chains linking her pierced nipples to a collar around her neck. She pushed in a cart laden with silver-domed plates of food.

Starsky could smell the tantalizing odors of grilled steak and baked potatoes, but Hutch paid them no notice. He calmly took the straight razor from its case and laid it next to the basin.

"The beard's got to go, too," Hutch said. He swirled a towel around like a matador, a sly grin on his face as if he knew this might make Starsky smile.

In spite of himself, Starsky did smile. He was so mixed up. Half of him wanted to bolt and run like hell, escape this whole madness. The other half liked this very attentive Hutch. This turned on Hutch. He suddenly made the connection between the Hutch he'd known in the last six months and this new one.

"You've been planning this for a long time," Starsky said bluntly, staring at himself in a full length mirror. He'd hadn't seen his own reflection since before the kidnapping. Now he stared at the five-day-growth of beard on a surprisingly gaunt face covered in fading bruises. His long torso was pocked with black-and-blue marks and small welts. They'd removed all the leather cuffs and belts before the bath except for the collar, since Hutch did not have the key for it. The collar was tight against his throat, and seemed to grow tighter with every inhalation. The collar and the ring in his cock marked him so absolutely that Starsky couldn't imagine why he would need a brand.

His body was no longer his. Hutch owned him.

"Even before Tompkins died, I knew that we'd need to get out at some point." Hutch waved Starsky into a chair. He lathered Starsky's face and ran the razor down his right cheek, leaving a smooth, naked patch behind. "And I'm making no apologies, Starsk. When Roschenzky first brought up the idea of slavery, I went hot all over."

"Why'd you make me feel like I was an outcast half the time?" Starsky turned his head, feeling the cold swath of the razor against his jawbone and gently around his mouth. This was too close to being pampered, and he didn't want to pay the price. "And if you say it was to protect me, I don't wanna hear it."

"Yeah," Hutch agreed, and wiped the last of the lather off Starsky's face with a hot washrag. "I was preoccupied. People to talk to, favors to call in, markers, taking it slow with Dunfey so he wouldn't suspect anything. You were always on my mind." He turned the chair around so Starsky could see himself in the mirror again. He was smooth shaven, his own eyes dark and guarded...and standing above him, Hutch. The man's magnetism hit him like a bullet. This was how Hutch had done this, by sheer force of will and determination.

"Now spread your legs," Hutch commanded, totally in control. He was the master again. Starsky's owner.

"Fuck off." Starsky snapped out of the daze and launched himself out of the chair. But days tied to the frame had sapped his strength. He was weak and slow. Hutch simply grabbed his arm and slammed him back into the chair, jamming a finger into the soft spot under his chin until it almost impossible to breathe, much less swallow.

"This could be the razor, Starsk," Hutch growled. "This could be so many things that could get you killed for doing something like that." His face was so close Starsky saw two masters. "So spread 'em like a good slave in presentation and do not move a muscle, or I could cut your balls so damned easy."

Starsky never moved when the razor scratched over his skin, creating a bare circle in the hairy forest on his thigh. There was no turning back, no fairy tale ending where he was rescued from the dragon. He wouldn't think about the morning, and fell back on the trick that had gotten him through the entire ordeal. Focus on something else. "Where'd you go after you left? Didja get what you needed?"

"Las Vegas," Hutch said shortly, eyeing the shaved area critically. Then, in a surprising and sweet gesture, he bent and kissed the naked skin of Starsky's inner thigh with amazing reverence. "Starsky, this is a major commitment -- for both of us. Things will be very different for a long time, but I guarantee you that everything will be better in the future."

"I don't want to know about the future; I just want to know about now."

"I got a car, made sure our funds were safe. Talked to Huggy on a secure line. He's going to meet us in Arizona in a couple of days." Hutch flipped the razor closed like a gang member would a switchblade and placed it back in its case. "You'll like the car."

"Yeah?" Starsky took a slow deep breath, trying to assimilate. Trying to chart his course in this new world. Should he be kneeling now? When was he Hutch's slave and when was he the best friend? The line was so blurry it was invisible.

"It's metallic blue. Some kind of Ford. A sedan with a bad paint job." Hutch actually shuddered with a rueful grin. "I guess that's what sells in Las Vegas."

"Fluffy dice on the mirror?"

"No dice." Hutch laughed. "I draw the line at dice." He held out his hand, inviting and warm. "You hungry?"

There was no honest way to answer that one. Starsky nearly beat Hutch to the food cart. The steaks were excellent and the potatoes overflowing with melting butter. Starsky ate until his belly hurt, and then polished off the rest of Hutch's steak for good measure. He sprawled in his chair, almost happy. No thoughts of the next morning, just blissing out on good food. The meal would have been absolutely perfect with the addition of a glass of red wine and a slice of chocolate cake for desert, but he wasn't going to complain.

"Huggy told me that Dunfey disappeared," Hutch said, "but not before spreading it around town that you'd been taken as a slave."

"Damn." Starsky's heart pounded against his sternum unpleasantly. With his full belly, that hurt.

"No, actually, I think that gives us an advantage."

"Funny way to put it." Starsky pushed his chair back from the table, thinking of all the people who might have heard that he was naked and wearing a cock ring. "Makes me the butt of jokes -- pun intended."

"Yeah, and if they forget about the old Starsky and only see the new one, then you really will be a secret weapon." Hutch pushed holes in what was left of his potato with the fork tines. "You want anything else?"

Oh, how many ways could he interpret that innocent question. Starsky looked up at Hutch and was once again caught in the strength and salvation those pale blue eyes offered. If he could only turn off his brain, stop thinking about betrayal.

He needed to forgive. Because if he forgave Hutch, would he then be able to forgive himself? Stop obsessing about all the times when he knew Hutch wanted something more and pretended not to understand. Hutch was right -- he should have asked. But if he should have asked, Hutch should have made himself clear instead of paying criminals large sums of money to get his own partner in chains, even if it was, as Hutch insisted, to save his life. Ah, there was the crux of the matter -- secrecy. Not lies so much as sins of omission.

Forgiveness. Letting go of the past. Resolving to change. He'd done it once, in that seminal moment when he was fifteen. Then, he'd had nobody. Now he had Hutch. Someone he trusted, but wasn't sure he forgave. That had to be enough for now.

"I'm going to bed," Hutch said, stepping out of his clothes.

Under other circumstances, Starsky would not have found that perfectly ordinary action interesting, but so much had changed now. Hutch was naked in front of him, just as he was. Suddenly they were equals again. Except it felt odd, and he had to resist the weird urge to rearrange himself and slip into presentation, or the nose-to-knees redemption pose.

"I can't." Starsky had managed to avoid looking at the white brocade spread all evening. He'd kept his back to the bed as much as possible. When that blond head bent over the covers, pushed back the pillows and then the spread, Starsky nearly threw up, the phantom smell of cigarette and whiskey choking him. He had been fighting overwhelming nausea every time he faced the bed, and now, he bent forward with his head between his legs. Even there, he was nose to cock ring and had to close his eyes at the sight.

"Hey," Hutch murmured, one hand rubbing the sweat off the back of Starsky's neck. He massaged the place where the collar chaffed just below the hairline. "What's wrong?"

"Not used to sleeping in a bed, I guess."

"It's more than that."

Starsky wet his lips, glad that he could. Would he wear a gag tomorrow when the superheated iron pressed into his flesh? He raised his head, seeing the bed out of the corner of his eye. Hutch had pushed back the spread so that now the ivory satin sheets gleamed in the light from the bedside lamp, and the white brocade was no longer visible.

"It's stupid -- I just never liked that kind of... whaddyacallit, comforter."

"I can put it in the armoire." Hutch bundled up the puffy coverlet without batting an eye and stowed it in the spacious rosewood cupboard. "Never knew you to be so particular about the décor."

He'd kept that night bottled up for so long. Never told anyone, not even Huggy Bear who had been his only real friend back then. How could he begin such a tale? Where exactly was the beginning, anyway? With Mary Elizabeth, the girl who'd taken his virginity, or with the blond man who'd stolen what was left of his self-worth?

"You said you heard about me, when I was a kid," Starsky started, bracing his elbows on his knees. He couldn't look at Hutch, but he could feel his partner's support as if Hutch were holding him close.

"Yeah."

"This ain't easy to say." Starsky stared down at the ornate pattern on the Oriental rug. "Wasn't one of my regular...y'know, clients."

"Were you raped?"

Starsky sucked in air fast with that disorienting sense of falling through space while remaining perfectly still. He was glad he was sitting down.

Raped.

He'd said it to himself, privately, but never used the word out loud.

Men didn't get raped.

"Starsky?" Hutch ran a gentle hand through his hair, teasing curls around his fingers. "Can you talk about it?"

"He...uh..." Starsky went hot and cold and thought about throwing up again, but swallowed, his Adam's apple rough against the hard collar. "He looked like you."

"Damn." Hutch's fingers tightened on Starsky's head, but he realized it quickly and rubbed circles on Starsky's scalp to sooth the hurt. "How did you ever give in to me after that?"

"You didn't smell like him," Starsky confessed, and pulled Hutch in close, burying his face against his lover's -- his master's thighs -- preserving the rich aroma of Hutch in his sense memory. "You...weren't him. I knew that. He had blond hair -- it was creepy. He had something big, metal, I think, and shoved it up my ass. I just about died on a white bedspread in a big swanky hotel room." Some of the deep down fear drained away, the wounds from that night no longer festering.

"That's what you were talking about the other day. No wonder you never wanted what I did," Hutch said in a strangled voice. "You never said."

"No." Starsky barked a strange laugh, the past pain sharp enough to slice him in half. "I just wanted to forget about it."

"And I shoved it right back in your face."

Starsky looked up, expecting to hear some kind of an apology, but while Hutch looked sad, he made no admission of guilt.

"I told myself that was the last time," Starsky said raggedly. "No more tricks for old farts who got their rocks off with underage kids." He released Hutch's legs and fell back against the mattress with exhaustion. From that angle, Hutch looked impossibly tall. "I stopped, cold turkey, changed -- went into the army, then to the Academy -- and now you've got me back on my knees again."

He hadn't meant to let that resentment creep back in. He loved Hutch. Loved that they were finally communicating. But hated that Hutch was proud because he was wearing a damned ring in his penis.

"It's impossible to make promises I can't keep." Hutch sat down on the bed next to him. "I can't even predict what's going to happen when we leave here. But I swear, Starsky, I am not in this to hurt you." He interlaced his fingers with Starsky's. "I wish I could go back and beat that blond guy senseless and save that boy."

"You might have saved him," Starsky said.

"I didn't save him, I just believed in him." Hutch kissed Starsky, snuggling up against him, hip to hip, and then chest to chest. "He saved himself."

"I don't know how to do this, Hutch." Starsky melted into him, so tired. "Every instinct tells me to fight hard and run like hell."

"As long as you don't run away from me."

"I wouldn't even know which way to run." Starsky closed his eyes, so very aware of his cock against Hutch's thigh, the ring warm with their combined body heat, the throb of his pulse making the metal vibrate in time with his heart. "You're stuck with me."

"That's all I ever wanted." Hutch smiled at him, pushing back the sheets. "Now will you come to bed? 'Cause, I'm beat, Starsk. And I would like to sleep next to you."

Starsky waited until Hutch was stretched full length, curled onto one side, facing him, before lying down himself. Who was he right then? Hutch's partner? Hutch's slave?

No one had issued him the official slave handbook, but weren't slaves supposed to sleep on the floor? Or maybe across the end of the bed like some pet? He couldn't assimilate all the scattered parts of Starsky back into a whole. His past was bleeding into the present, the scrappy kid on the street corner high on uppers merging with the slave wearing leather cuffs high on Phenine. Where had the tough soldier in 'Nam gone? Or the respected Bay City detective?

"C'mon, get some sleep," Hutch murmured, half asleep himself. "Got enough to worry about in the morning."

The branding.

Starsky stiffened, but Hutch pressed his big hand, palm flat, against Starsky's abdomen. "Move again and I'll chain you to the bedpost." The threat was said in jest, with a chuckle for punctuation.

Starsky breathed in deeply, feeling Hutch's hand move with his respirations. This was similar to those long nights before a dangerous undercover assignment, when they'd go over and over everything that could go wrong, searching for loopholes and pitfalls.

Everything had gone wrong. He was a slave.

I have Hutch.

One thing had gone right.

Sleep came long after Hutch was snoring softly beside him. Starsky turned away from him, facing the window, only to have Hutch's hand slide down his abdomen onto his thigh, the fingers curling over the newly shaved skin.

***

Sunlight streamed through the mullioned window when Starsky opened his eyes. He lay unmoving, trying to adjust, but half a dozen welts and abrasions vied for attention, all reminding him of his status.

"Got about half an hour, Starsk." Hutch was dressed, the green shirt from the day before replaced by a familiar sight, a blue button down the exact shade of his eyes. Starsky had given it to him on his birthday the year before.

Half an hour until --

Starsky knuckled sleep out of his eyes, fear pricking his throat. How could he endure a red-hot iron pressed into his flesh branding him for life?

"Hey." Hutch sat on the bed, the mattress dipping with his weight so that Starsky slid toward him. "You didn't sleep much, huh?"

"Got a lot on my mind," Starsky ground out, and started to get up.

Hutch stopped him, inserting his finger through the slave ring like a just-married groom. "Don't move. I want to see you one last time unmarked."

"Then don't have me marked!" Starsky shouted, but he didn't dare pull away and risk further injury to his most sensitive organ. "You can stop this with one word, dammit. Hutch, it does not have to happen."

"Yes, it does," Hutch said with an intensity that shook Starsky deeply. "Because I want it to. It legitimizes you as a slave." His eyes burned into Starsky's, hot enough to sear. "And it makes me hot in ways you will never understand, Davey." He closed his fist around Starsky's cock, pumping hard and fast.

Davey.

Not the beloved Starsk, but the enslaved Davey.

"Fuck off."

"I am, baby." Hutch increased his friction, jerking Starsky off with expert technique.

Starsky didn't want to enjoy the ride. He wanted to be angry, blame Hutch for torturing him, but the slide of skin against skin was bliss. He felt stretched across a precipice, dangling over the gorge with only Hutch's hand on his cock holding him safe. Starsky came fast, the afterglow not enough to offset what was to come, but almost enough to let him forgive his master.

He watched through slitted eyes when Hutch unzipped his slacks, taking himself out with the same hand he'd used on Starsky. Starsky's semen coated Hutch's cock, providing lubrication for him to masturbate. Starsky had never watched Hutch like this before, watched the strong, masculine face go slack, head thrown back, eyes closed in coital bliss. If Starsky could have managed another erection, he could have orgasmed on the sight alone.

"Starsk!" Hutch climaxed with a joyous cry.

Starsky shut his eyes, torn between adoring this man and wanting to slug him right in the nuts.

A knock on the door startled them both. "Master Ken, I've been sent to escort you to the treatment room," a male voice called out.

"We'll be right there!" Hutch scrambled off the bed, trying to stuff his shirttail into his pants and zip himself up simultaneously.

Starsky simply wiped himself off with the sheet. There was something to be said for going nude to the party. Flicking the wet bedclothes away, he took one last look at his unmarked, shaved thigh.

This was it.

***

The walk down the hall was nerve-wracking. Since his destination was only a few doors down, Starsky was allowed to go there without a blindfold. This was his first real glimpse of other slaves. Like the girl with the serving cart, all were pierced and tattooed. He hadn't seen another person with a brand, but unless the slave spread his or her thighs widely, would it be visible?

Their slender young usher stopped in front of a heavy white door and dropped to his knees, never once looking up at Hutch. "Please go inside. Master Neville is waiting for you."

He assumed that Hutch would go in first, but Hutch, no doubt, expected him to bolt. He gripped Starsky's arm, pushing open the door so they entered together. The room was unlike any Starsky had ever seen except in some sci fi action flick. It had smooth, white, featureless walls with stark, angular furniture, all upholstered in shiny black vinyl, and a large brazier filled with glowing red coals. Bristling along one side of the brazier were three long handled irons. Instinctively Starsky shrank back against the comforting bulk of Hutch standing behind him.

"Enter the room, slave," Neville said coldly. "No dawdling."

"Starsk," Hutch said sotto voce, rubbing Starsky's goose-pebbled arm. In a louder voice, he added, "Starsky is my slave; I'll give the orders. I'm assuming you want him restrained on that table?" He pointed to one with a Y-shaped opening on one end, and leather straps to secure a slave in any position.

"You have done this before," Neville said coyly, all but batting his golden lashes.

Starsky hated him.

Hutch didn't raise his chin to acknowledge the Brit's height advantage. "Give us ten minutes alone, and I'll have him ready."

"There's a right way and a wrong way to everything, cowboy. Don't assume you know every angle, or you could slip up in the worst way." Neville walked past Hutch, almost too close, but Hutch never moved, forcing Neville to swerve so that they didn't bump when he went out the door.

Starsky looked back, past the departing Neville, and caught the flash of fear in the otherwise dulled eyes of a naked slave standing outside. Every slave in the place was probably terrified of this room, especially with an angry Neville inside.

Heated metal on fragile skin.

Just like the accidental brush of the arm against an iron or stove burner. Not bad at all. That had become his mantra.

But if he touched a burner, he could pull away immediately. Here, the heated iron would be held down for a count of five, according to Neville. He was afraid he'd scream. Maybe a gag would be a good idea.

"This is it," Hutch said unnecessarily.

"Yeah." Starsky tried for a grin and knew he failed miserably. "Personally, I always liked my thighs fried 'stead of grilled."

Abruptly, Hutch looked like he was going to cry, and shook his head to abolish the emotion. "I've seen you fried in the sun, it isn't pretty."

"And this is?"

"It can be." Hutch inserted one leg between Starsky's two, the twill from his pants indescribably erotic on the bare patch of Starsky's skin. "It will be to me." He kissed Starsky's mouth, latching on with a fierceness that surprised them both, and then his lips moved southward, over the jut of Starsky's jaw and onto the artery pulsing strongly above the slave collar. Hutch suckled like a vampire needing blood, raising a hickey in the process. Starsky couldn't believe how turned on he was by the forceful way Hutch was handling him. Who knew that this was his trigger?

"I've got your real collar," Hutch said breathlessly. "Neville sent me the key for the Luna one this morning." Without stepping back far enough for Starsky to see what was happening, Hutch unlocked the thick collar from around his neck.

"Luna?"

"The name of this place." Hutch pulled several things out of his roomy pockets and placed them on the black vinyl table. "That's why the brand will be a crescent moon."

"So now I'm a lunatic," Starsky joked, feeling desperate. He wanted Hutch's mouth back sucking on his skin, and his neck felt weirdly vulnerable without a collar.

"Touched by the far side of the moon." Hutch fastened a newer, stiffer collar around Starsky's neck so that a small ‘S' charm bumped his collarbone. It was the collar he'd refused to wear when Hutch offered it as a gift years before.

Starsky dragged in air, perilously close to passing out. The collar was so tight, yet so incredibly right. He remembered feeling trapped as he'd walked into the warehouse on Mission and Ninety-first, sure that the place was as deserted as the moon and twice as remote. Had Neil Armstrong felt this way? Stepping out into uncharted territory without a net, into a whole new world?

"One small step for mankind..." Starsky quipped, and then cried out when Hutch twisted his nipple to a point and attached a small, savage nipple clamp. "Fuck, Hutch! That hurts."

"Ever hear of fooling the brain with adverse stimuli? If something already hurts, the second pain doesn't seem so bad." Hutch kissed his sternum, holding down Starsky's left arm, the one that wanted to reach up and pull off the offending clamp.

It hurt more than he'd ever imagined a tiny silver ornament could. "G-got the concept, but only one, okay?" Starsky panted against the pain radiating across his chest, but Hutch didn't listen. He gave the right nipple an even sharper tug and the second clamp bit down with unrelenting intensity.

Starsky hadn't given much thought to his nipples. They were small and half hidden in chest hair, nothing to write home about. He'd never been a breast man when admiring the ladies, either. More interested in faces and legs. But -- shit! There were a hell of a lot more nerve endings in a nipple than he'd ever known. Each breath jittered the hanging clamps, doubling the pain. Like the ocean waves pounding on a shoreline, the clamps felt like an unceasing elemental force of nature.

"Take them off!" Starsky demanded, and was rewarded with the Hutchinson finger leveled at him with deadly precision.

"Get on the table, slave. Lie back with your legs spread."

"Hutch." The fear was so strong Starsky couldn't think. He'd endured a great deal in his life -- shootings, poisonings, but nothing voluntary. If this could be called voluntary. Nothing had been his choice since he'd landed head first in the truck.

Except Hutch. Hutch was his choice, and always had been. It was just so hard to give in, to accept. He belonged to Hutch, and in turn, Hutch would belong to him. Was this pain the price of love? How much more would he have to endure to prove that love?

How much more pain could he take?

As if in a dream-state, Starsky sat on the glossy black table and lay back. The vinyl stuck to his naked skin, holding him fast while Hutch wrapped heavy leather straps around his body, arms, and legs. Hutch gathered Starsky's genitals into a tight leather bag, tucking them away from the damaging heat. Starsky tried to move, dread forming icebergs in his belly, but the straps completely immobilized him.

"Just look at me, Starsk," Hutch whispered. "Don't close your eyes; don't look anywhere else in the room."

A lighthouse in the wilderness, a sanctuary in the storm, that was his partner. Starsky locked onto Hutch's face, desperate for reassurance. This would turn out all right. It would be over soon.

Just as the door opened and Neville returned, Hutch pinched down on both nipple clamps at the same time, tightening their grip.

Starsky howled, hating the vicious things.

"Keep looking at me," Hutch ordered, filling Starsky's vision with blond hair and summer blue eyes. "Nothing else exists, just you and me. Like before. In the beginning, before the Corporations took over, when they were just irritating vultures who broke down the monopoly laws and impeached the governor. Before, when we used to cruise the city in that old red-and-white striped tomato."

Starsky could see those two impetuous cops so clearly. Impossibly young and so idealistic. Ready to save the world. They hadn't even been able to save themselves.

He feasted greedily on Hutch's love, basking in the glow, but he couldn't tune out the sound of Neville moving around and speaking imperiously to some other hapless slave. The temperature around the table suddenly rose, and Starsky broke out in a sweat, rivulets pouring down his back to pool under his butt. The heat was so intense he could smell it, like a car overheating in the sun. He whimpered.

"Starsk. Davey," Hutch said, blocking any view of the lower half of the table with his body. He grabbed both of Starsky's hands, leaning over Starsky's bound body to do so. "Just you and me, babe. Together forever. Riding in the car with the wind in our hair, the highway so long and straight it goes on forever."

Searing, agonizing fire stamped Starsky's thigh, binding him to the pain. He couldn't escape, couldn't fight it, so he simply stared up at the center of his universe as Neville burned a crescent moon into his flesh. It smelled like meat burning on a barbecue.

The branding iron had been back in its brazier for over a minute before Starsky realized that the eerie, keening wail he could hear was coming from his own mouth. Hutch still held tightly to his hands. Had the nipple clamps helped? Starsky couldn't say. How much worse could the branding have hurt without them? He'd never know, because he was never going to get branded again. Was he?

"Ssh, you're doing great, Starsk." Hutch kissed his wet cheeks and took possession of his mouth.

Starsky shuddered, reassured, although by no stretch of the imagination could this be called doing great. His leg was on fire, an inferno that was eating away at his flesh and threatening to bore a hole right through the bone. He was glad Hutch still held his hand tightly.

"There, it's finished for all your fuss," Neville said gaily. "And it will look quite pretty when it's all healed. Just the thing for the master to play with when spreading his slave's legs."

Starsky resolved to murder this bastard someday, and bit down on the lip that Hutch had just kissed. He wished he could taste his partner there.

"He can have two doses of morphine," Neville continued, "as long as there's no silly problems with allergies and such. And usually there's a check-up in a day or two, but since you're so resolved to be on your way -- "

"We are." Hutch let go of Starsky's hand, but patted his belly once before turning to talk to the slave trainer. "How about something for the road? He can't just go without anything."

"We're not entirely heartless. He'll get some Phenine. Slaves seem to do very well on the stuff."

Drawing in strength from Hutch's brief contact, Starsky lay very still. He didn't have the energy for much except breathing. Now that the initial pain was dampening, he could think more clearly. He was now a branded slave. Even if, someday, the slave laws were abolished, he'd still bear the marks of that life. Even if no one ever knew, never saw the brand and pierce hole under his clothing, Hutch would know. Hutch wanted him like this.

He'd gone through this pain for Hutch's sake. To bind them together. Hutch would be part of him for the rest of his life, and he a part of Hutch. They were now conjoined twins with something extra, a love that only revealed itself fully after so many years of hiding in the shadows. It was a scary, exhilarating love that was both life-affirming and darkly twisted.

The real question was, now that David Starsky was this man's slave, did he want to regain his freedom?

How far had he come since that fateful Tuesday when he'd vowed never to bow to any man?

"This is Tink," Neville said, waving a limp wrist at a smaller Asian man. "He'll do the bandaging and whatnot. Cheerio, chaps, I'm off to polish a miscreant's rosy ass."

"Hello," Tink said with the careful consonants and syllables of someone who had learned English as a second language. He was barely as tall as Hutch's shoulder, delicate and spare with a narrow, angular face and sharply canted black eyes. He wore nothing but the usual ring in his cock and a small caduceus charm on his collar to denote his former profession. "I was a doctor, before."

Before. The word echoed in Starsky's head. From now on, everything would be reckoned as Before Slavery and After. Even Hutch had used the term.

"I have worked with many burn patients. This is deep, as all brands are, but will heal well as long as it is kept clean."

Starsky hissed when Tink touched the wound lightly. The doctor spread a cooling gel over the entire area and taped a light bandage in place. "One dose of morphine now and another in six hours," Tink explained, injecting the narcotic into Starsky's rump. "That is all slaves are allowed."

Starsky wanted to curl over on one side and let the drug take him under for a while, but the straps still held him fast to the table in that uncomfortable legs-spread position. Morphine was good stuff, even if it gave him vivid dreams. After the surgery to repair the damage of Gunther's bullets, when he was still on regular doses of the painkiller, he'd had a dream that had never made sense.

Until now.

Prophetic, really. He'd dreamed he'd been strapped to a table with surgical implements clamped to various open wounds while the surgeons did their work. Only in the dream, they hadn't been repairing his bullet wounds, they'd been changing something inside, turning him into some sort of bionic man. He'd been awake but unable to speak, only able to listen to the nurses' comments on his well-formed body and heavy sac. They would touch him, fondling his cock and giggling, not the least concerned for his modesty. As a doctor cauterized some vessel, the sizzle and pop sounded like gunshot, underscoring the nurses' raunchy talk. Oddly, he hadn't been so much frightened as resigned. Somehow, this was his fate, to be some sort of lab rat, without any right to protest his violation.

In the dream, the name "Starsk" uttered in a low sensual voice had caused him to open his eyes. Hutch stood at the end of the operating table dressed all in black leather -- jacket, slacks, and a low-brimmed hat -- watching. The surgeons gave Hutch no mind, continuing to place more bits of metal and wire inside Starsky's body. Just when the stink of heat against skin had been overpowering, Hutch had leaned in and kissed him. Immediately, he'd been healed, the incisions magically closed. When Starsky looked down at his body, the scars spelled out the word "Hutch" from just above his cock straight up to his breastbone.

Starsky had always considered it the result of morphine-induced paranoia and watching too many reruns of the Six Million Dollar Man. Now, held down with straps, with Tink carefully snipping the stitches that held the IV port in place, he knew differently. He'd seen his future in that dream, and it was here. He cried out once when the snaky IV tubing slithered from his body, and looked over to see Hutch press his fingers against a gauze pad to staunch the bleeding.

"Sssh," Hutch whispered, and stroked the tangle of hair just above the black bag protecting Starsky's manhood. The bag seemed to rise of its own accord, the knots holding it closed suddenly far too tight, and Starsky moaned. He wanted -- no needed -- Hutch's hand there, warm against his belly, but it was too much. System overload; all circuits fried.

"Almost over, tiger, then some food and a nap. You look like you could use it," Hutch said, the corners of his mouth turning up at the sight of the dancing codpiece.

"No food." Starsky shook his head, and was proud that he had that ability. Apparently, he had less control over his nether regions, because the erection was growing limp as his nausea level rose. That nap sounded good. How long would he be kept here? Hours, like on the hideous frame?

"You must eat and keep up your strength," Tink advised. "I can only give you a small jar of ointment, but aloe vera works well. Be very careful to keep the brand clean and lightly covered. If infection sets in, that could be fatal. More and more doctors will not treat slaves. In fact, recent laws have made it impossible to give more than a single dose of antibiotic to a slave."

"That's ludicrous!" Hutch exploded, and pressed too hard on the gauze pad.

"Hey," Starsky reminded him, and caught the apology in Hutch's eyes. Hutch looked haunted, as if the whole experience had been more than he'd bargained for. "It won't get infected," Starsky said, but he was still appalled by the law. Was there anyone left in the world that gave a damn about slaves' welfare?

"It may be different in other areas." Tink shrugged, obviously used to schooling his emotions around owners. "I only know our small patch of Nevada, and little enough of that."

"Where were you from?" Starsky asked, deciding it was about time he entered the conversation. The ointment and narcotic were taking effect. It must have been a low dose of morphine because he wasn't drifting off in a languid daze. His leg still hurt, but he felt disconnected from the pain. Quite a nice feeling.

"When I was taken? San Francisco." Tink pursed his lips together. "I couldn't pay my medical school loans, so my bank called in the hunters."

"Your bank!" Starsky responded too quickly, forgetting the straps that held him. He jerked upward and was rewarded with a huge backwash of intense hurt from all over his body. The straps dug into the flesh of his chest and belly, cutting off his oxygen for a moment and he panted, waiting out the agony. Both nipple clamps seemed to pinch down twice as hard, and he was sure there would be bloody pinpricks circling his nipples when Hutch removed them.

"What was that Phenine Neville mentioned?" Hutch asked with concern, when Tink taped a clean gauze pad in place. Hutch's hand went back to that nest of hair over Starsky's groin, but this time there was no arousal.

Starsky recognized the name of the drug and thought he knew what Phenine did, but was loopy enough that he couldn't put his finger on why he didn't want Phenine again.

"A painkiller made especially for slaves." Tink ducked his head, tidying his scissors and bandages on the procedure tray. "It is a new formula. So many drugs are available only to those who can afford high prices charged by private physicians."

"The CEC cut off health insurance late last year," Hutch agreed.

"Just so," Tink said. "That alone had a huge impact. We've had many slaves added to the fold since then -- those who've lost everything because of astronomical medical costs."

"Barbaric." Starsky sounded hoarse to his own ears, and swallowed, feeling the pressure of the collar on his Adam's apple. Not his collar, Hutch's.

"This whole thing is barbaric," Hutch snarled, unbuckling the stiff leather straps. His anger made him clumsy and Starsky would have loved to help him, but Hutch had started with the ankle bindings first.

"So now, a whole new market," Tink said. "Drugs for citizens and others for slaves. Phenine isn't strong, but it is better than having nothing at all." Tink took no notice of Hutch's frenzied movements, and scooped a portion of ointment from a larger tub into a small white jar. He tucked that and a bottle of pills into a bag marked with a crescent moon. "I will come to your room, Master Ken, later, to administer the second injection. Thank you for speaking so kindly with a humble slave." He bowed formally, and went to his knees, touching his head to the floor for a moment before backing to the door on his knees.

With half the straps unbuckled, Starsky was able to see this remarkable sight just before Tink stood with his head lowered and keyed the door opening sequence. Starsky shuddered at the tangible example of what he might become. Then the clamps hanging off his chest jittered violently.

"Take 'em off!" Starsky hissed, at the limits of his endurance. He would have thrown up if he had eaten anything.

Hutch obeyed without comment, taking the wind out of Starsky's sails. Yesterday, Hutch had been predatory, totally turned on by Starsky's debasement. Today, he seemed shell-shocked, his face pale and unreadable.

The removal hurt, sensation coming back to his nubs with sudden intensity. Starsky bit down hard on his lip, refusing to play the victim. If only he could rub the offended areas, but Hutch had somehow left the straps holding his wrists down for last.

"Having second thoughts?" Starsky asked, confused.

"Just finding out that reality is a great deal different than fantasy," Hutch muttered, releasing the buckles restraining Starsky's left arm. Starsky half sat up and awkwardly unthreaded the strap from the buckle on his right arm by himself. "I had these daydreams. You down in front of me, wearing the collar and cuffs...so damned beautiful." He turned away, picking up the bag of medications absently. "But the rest of the time our lives would be like they were..."

"Before," Starsky said.

Hutch sighed, nodding. "What you just did for me, Starsk." Hutch put the bag into the pocket of his jacket, looking down the length of Starsky's body, his gaze so hot that the dried sweat on Starsky's back rehydrated, drenching him. "It's unbelievable."

"Like I had a choice?"

"No." Hutch touched Starsky's left thigh, fingers delicately poised at the edge of the bandage. "Neither one of us have since I got caught up in this mess. If you want to blame someone, blame Roschenzky." He dropped to his knees, head bowed as Tink had done.

Starsky was appalled. This wasn't Hutch. This wasn't how it should be.

"Master," Starsky said, his voice breaking and twisting so that he could barely get the words out. "Hutch, please." He wanted to pull Hutch up, but when he swung his legs over the side of the table, the world tilted like an amusement park ride.

"I've turned your life into hell," Hutch said.

Starsky was stunned to see that Hutch knelt directly between his knees, his mouth so close to Starsky's cock he could have opened up those narrow lips and sucked him on in.

"I didn't mean to," Hutch said in a tight voice. He loosened the ties on the leather bag protecting Starsky's genitals, easing out his penis and sac with infinite care. "I was so busy with my own agenda I didn't think out every angle."

"Not hell." Starsky was as astonished as Hutch to hear himself say that. If this wasn't hell, what was it? A life with Hutch, forever. How could that be hell? "Just different."

Hutch rubbed his fair hair on the inner skin of Starsky's right thigh, a ticklish yet wonderful sensation. If he hadn't been about three-quarters high on morphine, it would have turned him on, but his cock only twitched once. Then, Hutch leaned in and bestowed a reverent kiss up in the junction of his left thigh and groin, right above the newly minted brand. That did it. Starsky sucked in a startled breath, even the gentle pressure of Hutch's lips causing pain, but his cock jumped for joy, nearly poking Hutch in the ear.

"Baby," Hutch murmured, rubbing his head against Starsky's erection. "Lover, slave. You're all I ever wanted, do you know that? After stakeouts, on those nights when you'd do me with your head practically under the steering wheel...I had the best dreams after that. I knew it was sick, but I loved you most then."

"I loved you, too." Starsky closed his eyes, aware of nothing except the feather light brush of hair against his sensitive organ. A few strands caught in the metal of the ring, pulling sharply until Hutch reached up and untangled himself. Even the most minimal touch of skin to skin was perfection. Starsky came suddenly, splattering Hutch's hand with semen.

"Lick it." Hutch stood, raising his sticky fingers to Starsky's mouth. "Clean me off."

When Starsky opened his mouth to obey, Hutch did the same, both of their tongues lapping up the cum together. Salty, almost bitter, musky, Starsky's own essence. Wet tongues met fleetingly, warm breath mingled, foreheads so close together that Starsky was convinced their thoughts could transfer back and forth without a single word spoken.

Desire. Need. Infatuation. Devotion.

That described how he felt about Hutch. Then, other words filtered up through his consciousness.

Enslaved. Owned. Branded.

Scary words, but they described him as well. Just as master, owner, and enforcer marked Hutch.

And partner.

Always partner, no matter what other things were said.

"Partner," Starsky said aloud.

"Yes," Hutch agreed and helped him down off the table.

Starsky wobbled, his legs shaking, and remembered Hutch helping him down off another treatment table after he'd been injected with a deadly poison. They hadn't known how to save him then, but had worked together to find the culprit as Starsky got sicker and sicker. He wasn't sick now, just stripped of all that had once given him status in the world. But with Hutch beside him, maybe they could restore order. Return the world to the way it had been before the CEC moved in. He remembered that Hutch had to go on alone once Starsky was too sick from the poison to help.

This time, he planned to be right at Hutch's side. He forced himself to stand erect, ignoring his trembling knees.

***

Tink came in when the afternoon sun was slanting through the windows of Hutch's suite, casting weird shadows that made alternating black and bright patterns on the ornate carpet. Starsky had slept since the branding and endured a second injection without comment. He still didn't feel like eating, but knew he should because there was one more hurdle to jump over before they could leave that evening.

Despite the stupefying effects of the morphine, the fresh wound on his leg, and his weakness, he had to show Neville that he'd learned the basics. Going through the slave positions with the new brand would be an ordeal and really brought home his status. No one was concerned about whether he felt well enough to perform; they just expected that a slave must satisfy his master.

"Get any rest?" Hutch asked, looking up from some papers.

"Feel like crap," Starsky muttered, his mouth furry. Low-level nausea still sat heavily in his belly. He tottered over to the bathroom to clean up and brush his teeth. The brand felt huge, like it covered him from groin to knee, and throbbed with every step. In fact, it was fairly small; a four by four inch gauze bandage covered the entire thing. Starsky had the urge to pull the tape off and look at his new adornment, but wasn't sure of the protocol. It was on his body, but he didn't own any part of himself. Hutch probably wouldn't punish him for such a minor indiscretion, but Neville might. Still, Starsky just wanted to see what it looked like.

Unable to staunch his natural curiosity, Starsky carefully slid a fingernail under the edge of the gauze, and gasped, pain flaring up with fiery intensity. "Shit."

"You want to see it? Wait until it heals," Hutch said, leaning against the doorjamb. "It will look better then."

"It's part of me," Starsky said, gritting his teeth to remain strong.

"And every part of you is part of me." Hutch took his arm, leading him out to a small table covered with scattered papers and some bread and cheese. "If nothing else, slavery may teach you some patience, Starsk. Bravery, you already had." He poured a glass of orange juice. "Now eat something before we have to go see that ponce, Neville."

"What's all this?" Starsky indicated the papers as he placed some cheddar on slice of sourdough and chewed without much interest. Surprisingly, it went down well, and his stomach was quite happy for another piece, which he supplied.

"Reports that the Abbey League needs; information that the CEC didn't want to fall into the wrong hands." Hutch grinned.

"But it did?"

"Only if you consider ours the wrong hands." Hutch shuffled some of the pages then pulled one out to show Starsky. "Names of the major players, CEOs, who knows what about who..."

"Shouldn't that be whom?"

"When did you suddenly become the grammar expert?"

"A lot has changed recently."

"Yeah." Hutch put down the list he'd been squinting at, looking at Starsky with something of the old Hutch.

This silly back and forth, as if they'd been whiling away the hours on a stakeout instead of ensconced in an overly decorated bordello, felt like old times. Starsky could ignore for a moment that he was naked and Hutch dressed. He could ignore all the ways the CEC had fucked them over as long as what Hutch and he had between them stayed essentially the same.

"Anyway," Hutch said after a pause, "we're learning the ways to squeeze back, to grab them by the nuts and make it hurt. Which ones regularly use slaves is the most important, because that's who we -- you can target first."

"I thought you said we were wanted men in BC. How can we go back there?"

"We're not. The transfer of power happened a while back. Very few of the bigwigs live in Bay City anymore. Many have places in states without extradition to California like Vegas, or in neutral territory like New Mex-Arizona. My assignment is to infiltrate the mob, get an invitation to the council meeting supposedly taking place in Phoenix, and take Dunfey down anyway I can."

"Hutch!" Starsky dropped his piece of cheese and didn't bother to pick it up. He'd never suspected that his partner had such a devious scheme. "But he's gone."

"There are logical places he'll have to surface," Hutch said enigmatically. "We'll be there first."

"So suddenly we're the perps? Breaking laws 'stead of bending 'em?"

"When was the last time you felt like we were upholding any law worth having, huh?" Hutch went hard and cold in a second.

"Seems like the day we left the academy," Starsky admitted, thinking back on all the assignments he'd been a part of that had rubbed him the wrong way. Jailing old men because they cheated a little on taxes, looking the other way when those in power used the less fortunate for their own means, rapes that went unreported, robberies that were recorded as misunderstandings... He'd always been the maverick, accused of taking the law into his own hands to arrest those who broke the real laws -- the ones that said murder, stealing, and extortion were wrong. It had gotten him into hot water more often than he could count.

"Exactly," Hutch said. "The men running the government are the biggest criminals of all. So, we switch sides to fight back."

"You think they'll believe we went traitor?"

"We never went traitor to ourselves, Starsk." Hutch entwined his fingers in Starsky's, squeezing tight. "Unless you consider this..."

"No." Starsky exhaled with a loud whoosh. "I'm still getting my brain wrapped around this whole thing, but I get why you had to do it. At least, I understand intellectually; the rest'll come eventually."

"Your brain's working just fine, lover." Hutch picked up a square of cheese and popped it in his mouth. "You've already got the physical in line. The emotion will follow."

Nodding soberly, Starsky poked at the remains of the meal, piling cheese cubes into a mini stairs and walking his fingers down. His emotions were all over the map. He wanted to kneel in front of Hutch, but not that British prick. He gloried in the way Hutch looked at him now, lusted after him in a way that had never before been so obvious. It was the rest of the world he worried about. What would happen once they left this place? For all that Starsky hated the cruelty, humiliation, and punishments at Luna, they were nothing compared to what it would be like to walk in public nude, collared, and branded. Could he hold Hutch to the promise that he would only have to be a slave when it was necessary? Could he withstand the pity in the other Abbey Leaguers' eyes?

"There was a woman here..." He thought back, not sure which day he'd been so roughly examined. "Harriet." He stuffed down memories of being watched by an unknown audience while Harriet and Neville had played with him, and the shame that drugs coursing through him made him crave their callous handling. "Sr09;she mentioned going to a council meeting. That she had to leave soon." He couldn't trust his own senses anymore, though. He could have conjured her up just as he'd done visions of Terry and Hutch making love.

"Harriet." Hutch rifled through his papers. "I'm sure I saw her name here. Good. The more information we have, the better." He located the right document and circled a name with a pencil. "Harriet Roget. She owns Luna."

"Looked like a VP, one of the CEC's lawyer or something." Starsky hated the fear that her name brought.

"She is. Probably bought this place as an investment and found she liked having men at her feet."

Not me.

Not ever.

"Is today Sunday?" Starsky worked hard to keep the sound of a whiny child from his voice. He had to maintain dignity, prove that he was still a man.

"You know it is. Why, you plan on writing a diary?"

"I need to keep track," he snapped. "Take about a day to drive to Arizona?"

"I think so."

"Where are my clothes? Cause I ain't driving through the desert naked."

"Don't worry. When the time is right, I'll give them to you."

"When the time is right?" Starsky bristled. "I'm not some baby that needs to be led around by the hand, Hutch. Give me my clothes."

Hutch didn't move; his eyes were the pale chips of a glacier. He licked his lips and seemed to come to some decision. "The other day we agreed that you would be my slave in private." His gaze raked across Starsky's nude body with blistering heat, but there was censure for Starsky's behavior. "I'm the one in charge here, Davey."

Starsky felt the slave name like a punch in the gut.

"Once things have settled," Hutch continued in a softer tone, "once we're really in private -- it won't matter so much. But there are so few people we can trust. You have to believe that. Follow my lead or you could get badly hurt."

"Worse than what you've done to me?" Starsky retorted bitterly.

"Worse than what you did to me for all those years, buddy."

Starsky went down on his knees, his belly burning with shame and anger. "Master, accept my apology for ridiculing your fucking fantasies."

Hutch smacked Starsky so hard he fell back against the bed, his lower lip split. Starsky stared up at his partner, knowing he'd provoked the blow, and fascinated by the montage of rage, guilt, passion, and confusion that played across Hutch's face.

"Why?" Hutch demanded.

"To prove that you would." Starsky tasted his own blood and sucked on his lip. "Even in private. What's that old saying? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hutch, you gotta be careful. Playing in their sandbox could change you forever."

"And as you said, so much has already changed." Hutch massaged his temples, a sign that he was getting a major migraine. "Your clothes are in my bag. I went to your house and got a few things before I left the city." His jaw muscles spasmed before he continued. "I stood in your bedroom feeling like I'd killed everything we ever had together."

"What we've got now is different, but I'm beginning to think it's a lot more honest." Starsky judged that it was safe to reassert his independence and stood. He was about to rummage through the suitcase for something to wear when a knock on the door stopped him.

"Get back on your knees," Hutch said, flashing him a sympathetic smile. He brushed his hand fleetingly through Starsky's curls and keyed the door open.

Neville stood in the hall, dressed all in green and gold. A silky kimono covered a gold net shirt that revealed a hairless chest. The sprayed-on leather pants were eye-popping green, but Neville was far too skinny to pull off the style.

Starsky knelt stiffly in proper presentation, his eyes cast toward the floor, hands resting loosely on his thighs and his legs spread as widely as he could tolerate. Even so, Neville made a rude sound and grasped Starsky's shoulders, pulling them back until he thought his backbone would snap. Starsky imagined snapping the twig-like trainer in two without breaking a sweat.

"Shoulders back, and work on keeping those legs spread, Davey lamb. Need to show perfect posture at all times." He snickered. "I see that you'd delivered a bit of necessary discipline to the lad, Hutchinson. With his gypsy boy looks, he really should have a couple of bruises and that oh-so winsome smear of blood at all times."

Hutch stood just behind Starsky. The solid warmth of his legs against Starsky's back was exactly what Starsky needed to sustain him.

"We've got somewhere to be, so get this over with," Hutch snapped.

"A demonstration of all the common slave positions," Neville said, sounding bored. "Showing that the slave has learned at least the most basic of skills and listens closely to his master's voice." He circled Starsky, gold alligator-skin shoes and slick green leather all that Starsky could see. "Hutchinson, put him through his paces."

"Obeisance, Davey," Hutch said formally.

Moving as quickly and gracefully as he could, Starsky bent forward at the waist, still on his knees, and placed his cheek on the floor, arms stretched out in front of him. The next command was for Punishment, which only required raising the buttocks up in case the owner wanted to paddle his slave. Submission was the first of the standing positions, hands clasped behind the waist, head bowed, legs spread. Starsky found it appallingly similar to the Army's parade rest. Everything he'd done in his teens was coming full circle, even his stint in the armed forces. Hutch's uninflected tone sounded exactly like the whip-crack voice of Staff Sergeant Morgan, back in basic training.

"Slave!" Hutch roared.

Starsky looked up, astonished. He'd been daydreaming instead of paying attention.

Hutch was fearsome in his anger, his jaw as pale as marble and just as hard. His blue eyes bore straight into Starsky's soul.

Dropping to his knees, Starsky didn't even notice the pain of hitting the floor, only aware of a hot blush of shame that burned across his cheeks. He'd made Hutch look bad.

"Well, you'll have to punish him now," Neville drawled, a delighted grin making him look like a ghoulish jack o'lantern. "Breaking position. Eye contact. Can I interest you in a whip or an old fashioned tawse?"

"I prefer a belt," Hutch said as if he did this every day. "Punishment position, slave, and don't move a muscle. Five strokes for disobedience."

Steeling himself to hide his trembling, Starsky folded himself into the pose he'd held shortly before. He wasn't sure that he could maintain it without flinching. The brand on his thigh throbbed; heat radiating off the wound. How hard would Hutch hit him?

"I'd use my belt first, because I don't have anything else."

What Hutch said that first night left Starsky incredibly aroused, but reality was another matter. He wasn't turned on by the prospect of a beating.

"Five strokes, to remind you. Not punishment. Just for us, because I want to."

He waffled between anger and desire, with a bit of fear to spice things up. The five strokes were Hutch's code for love, that much was clear, but he didn't really have to do the deed, did he? He didn't have to prove his worth as a master to Neville. Or did he?

Hutch slipped his belt out of the loops and wrapped the end with the metal buckle in his hand, holding it down to Starsky's mouth. "Kiss it, Davey," he said loudly, then added, "Starsk, I..." almost too softly to hear.

"Just do it," Starsky hissed, pressing his mouth to the leather. His bottom lip stung, and left a tiny drop of blood on the pressed leaf pattern on the belt. With Hutch this close to him, he could smell Hutch's musky arousal. Hutch wasn't doing this to prove himself to Neville; he was proving his domination, and love, to Starsky.

Starsky held himself immobile when the first blow slapped his bare bottom. He suspected Hutch wasn't putting his whole weight into the swing because the pain wasn't bad. But when the second and third blow landed in exactly the same spot, Starsky had a harder time remembering this was a show of love. He bit down on his abused lower lip, tasting the bright, sharp tang of blood. The fifth blow landed precisely over the first four, blistering that one place on his left ass cheek. Starsky hiccupped, barely able to keep from crying. He hadn't moved, but it was a near thing.

"Magnificent artistry, cowboy," Neville crowed. "I knew you'd look right at home striking another man."

"Now, Davey." Hutch stepped in front of his partner, banishing the Brit from Starsky's view. "Let's start from the beginning. Presentation pose."

Despite nipples still tender from the clamps, his aching butt, and the renewed pain from the brand, Starsky did his routine flawlessly, determined not to lose concentration this time. Deliverance was the hardest of the standing poses, staring straight ahead without looking at the master, hands locked behind the neck with the elbows stuck out like angel wings. Hutch took the opportunity to palm the welt on Starsky's backside, and it was all Starsky could do not to squeak in pain. The touch hurt, and yet, perversely he liked Hutch's hand there, covering the hurt, soothing it away. The same hand that caused pain also brought pleasure.

"Spread eagle," Hutch directed, pointing over at the bed.

Starsky didn't hesitate, lying down on the rumpled bedclothes without pushing them out of the way. He knew the drill -- nothing was done for his comfort, even though the twisted sheets made a lump in the small of his back. Everything was for the master. Whatever the master wanted, the slave provided. He grabbed hold of the upright posts on either side of the bedstead, which were just far enough apart to strain the muscles in his shoulders. He reached out with spread legs to touch his toes to the posts at the foot of the bed and waited.

Spread eagle was always a test of the slave's endurance and ability to obey without being restrained. When Neville had trained him in the position on Saturday afternoon, he'd used the whip on him again and again, creating tiny stinging welts on his feet, belly, and cock. Starsky caught his breath, wondering if Hutch could top that, and if he could hold out against whatever pain Hutch inflicted without removing his hands or feet from their stations.

Hutch trailed the end of the belt down Starsky's body. It was provocative as hell, and scary, too. Was Hutch planning to smack his front? The leather flicked lightly against Starsky's penis, sliding between his legs, but never to the left, only on the right, the unmarked thigh. It snaked under his balls, making him gasp and want to writhe, but that was not allowed. Starsky tensed, he could barely stand the pressure of the sheets against his blistered ass, and the ticklish sweat dripping under his collar into the hollow of his throat and down his back burned like fire on the welts.

Oh, God, Hutch. What you do to me.

The belt was narrow and fit through the metal ring piercing Starsky's cock. It was a tight fit. Hutch had to curl the edges of the belt to get it in, but once through he was able to thread the leather strap to the midpoint.

Starsky closed his eyes, his breathing erratic and labored. How could he remain motionless with this going on? Each time the belt inched a little farther, the ring tugged on the end of his cock, sending the most amazing and alarming sensations to his brain -- to every sensitized part of his body. He was abuzz.

Hutch held Starsky's organ tightly, pinching down on the base as he pulled and prodded the belt along its course. The feeling of that hot, big hand on his skin was the most electrifying thing Starsky had ever encountered. He literally had to hold his breath not to thrust up into Hutch's hand, and cried out when Hutch tugged the belt up to wrap it around Starsky's waist.

"Lordy, cowboy, you do know how to play a mean flute..." Neville said faintly.

Starsky had forgotten he was in the room. The only person he was aware of was Hutch. His whole universe was Hutch. He moaned when Hutch pushed the belt under his body, and tightened his grasp on the bedposts.

"Hu..."

"Sssh, no talking, mushbrain." Hutch straddled him, knees tight against Starsky's hipbones, his hands scrabbling under Starsky's back to get a purchase on the buckle of the belt. He finally tipped Starsky's body over to the right to snug one end of the now sweat-slicked leather into the tight fastener.

His body twisted like a piece of Christmas candy, Starsky panted, feeling the hard jut of Hutch's knees holding him firmly, and the moist heat of Hutch's penis pressing into his side through a layer of clothing. Hutch was incredibly turned on.

Starsky grunted when Hutch finally secured the belt; his cock was strained to the limit of its length, pressed tight against his abdomen. Every breath, every movement, was agony, but incredibly erotic at the same time. Starsky had managed to keep contact with the four posts, but felt more wrung out than he'd ever been after an hour at Vinnie's gym.

"Good work, Starsk," Hutch breathed into his ear as he eased Starsky back onto the mattress.

"I'm all aglow, I'll tell you that much." Neville fanned himself with one limp hand. "Oh, Hutchinson, we could go places together, you and I. You have the gift, my dear."

"It takes the right partner," Hutch said dryly, holding out a hand to Starsky. "Did you get my car all gassed up and pack some food for the road?"

"As you commanded, lover." Neville tittered, watching Starsky stand gingerly. "It hurts, doesn't it, lamb? We always have to suffer for the good stuff. That's what makes it so good."

Wanting to smack the limey scarecrow across his supercilious mouth, Starsky almost started to speak when Hutch dug his fingers into his wrist.

"We're out of here, then." Hutch looked at Starsky.

"Oh, I did forget to tell you something." Neville paused at the large door, standing coyly like a winsome model in some fey fashion magazine.

"Why am I not surprised?" Hutch ran a long finger down Starsky's spine, tugged once on the belt, making Starsky grunt, then turned away to pick up a piece of luggage.

Starsky swayed, standing unsupported, his cock tight and hot on his belly. God, Hutch isn't going to make me sit in the car like this, is he? He looked down, staring at his imprisoned organ. The pull on the ring strained the head of his cock, making it look like the point of a rocket. That's exactly how he felt, like he was about to blast off. If Hutch touched him even one more time, he would climax with Neville still in the room.

"These little details always seem to get away from me," Neville sighed. "He'll have to be masked and cuffed until you are past the gates of Luna -- house policy, Davey." He glanced over at Starsky, golden eyes smoky. "Not that I don't prefer most of my slaves wearing a mask and manacles, but in your case that pretty face with all the bruises really shouldn't be covered for too very long."

"I'd like to see a few bruises on your face, too, but then we don't always get what we want, huh?" Starsky managed to get the whole sentence out before Neville slapped him hard. It was an open-handed womanly slap, which stung but didn't do much damage.

"He deserves days alone on the frame with a rocket launcher shoved up his butt," Neville shrieked, high color on his bony cheeks. "Tell your slave to apologize, Hutchinson!"

"If he's speaks the truth, why should I punish him for it?" Hutch shrugged, but pointed a dagger finger at Starsky.

Knowing he'd probably crossed the line, Starsky dropped his head, tucked his hands behind his back and took an absolutely perfect submission posture. "I would never lie in front of my master," he said through his teeth.

"See, he obeys me to the letter." Hutch stepped in front of Starsky like a shield. "Why the blindfold if he's leaving?"

Neville sighed as if both ex-detectives were totally stupid. "So he won't know the location of our little haven, of course. In case he turns rogue and wants to come back to murder us in our beds."

"I know the location," Hutch said ominously.

Starsky risked raising his head, knowing both were ignoring him. Hutch was once again the sleek, tawny cougar on alert, ready to strike. He didn't move, but Starsky could see the muscles of his back rippling with suppressed energy under his shirt.

"But why would you tell, cowboy?" Neville asked, but his voice had this odd little squeak of fear, and he smoothed the lapels of his kimono nervously.

"Why wouldn't I?" Hutch countered, holding out his hand. "You'll have to supply the mask, we're traveling light."

"I'll have Neela bring one pronto. She so enjoyed serving you last night." Neville palmed the door and was out before Hutch could take another step forward.

"I think you scared him." Starsky chuckled. He relaxed his stance, groin now continuously aching in competition with his brand. And he had to go to the bathroom. He fingered the buckle in the back, trying to work the belt loose from the opposite direction than he was used to.

"Damn fool," Hutch muttered. He looked up and down Starsky's bound body, and licked his lips like a man who hadn't eaten in a long time. "You'll still be wearing a mask when we leave here. And leave that thing alone."

"I gotta go," Starsky said belligerently. "Especially if we're going to be driving a long way." Still, he'd wanted Hutch's hands on him for the last ten minutes, and thrust his hips toward his partner. "I can't take a wiz like this."

Hutch wrapped his hand around Starsky's cock, and, amazingly, it swelled, a tiny pearl of fluid appearing on the upright end. Starsky gulped, but held steady, all of his nerve endings praying for Hutch to bring him off.

"Don't come," Hutch said.

Starsky's heart stalled, then restarted, slamming against his chest with startling force. He clenched down, forcing all his pleading hormones to back off. "Wr09;what?"

"I have a few things planned for later -- once we're away from here." Hutch squeezed, not enough to hurt, but enough to take the edge off Starsky's rampant need. Then he swiftly unfastened the belt. Starsky had to make a mad dash to the toilet, but he made it.

When he emerged from the bathroom, Hutch had laid clothes over the footboard of the bed. Familiar clothes. His own clothes, from his own drawer back in Bay City. Jeans as soft and worn as flannel pajamas and a red Henley shirt, most of the buttons missing from the open placket. No underwear, which didn't surprise him. And no leather jacket, which was probably on the back of one of those mouth-breathing mooks who'd stripped him in the truck. Real, old leather, soft as the hide of a baby calf, the heady scent a comfort on those days when he was cold and alone because it smelled like Hutch.

Hutch favored leather almost more than Starsky did -- and it suited him the way popcorn went with movies or peanut butter with jelly. Perfection. That blond hair just dusting the folded down collar of his sleek, tan jacket with the blanket stitching down the lapels...

"You looking at me?" Hutch half turned from stuffing his papers back into the carryall, knowing Starsky's mind, his heart, his very being so completely. Even more than Starsky knew himself.

"Is there a law against that, too?" Starsky jerked his pants all the way up and hissed when the denim crushed the brand and fresh welts.

"If there is, I can always give you a warning and then release you into my care for safekeeping. C'mere."

"I'm not so sure I'm safe around you." Starsky pretended to protest, but he liked the give and take, the easiness of the moment. He couldn't quite find his footing anymore with Hutch. He wasn't sure of the new protocols, but told himself their basic bond hadn't broken, just shifted to one side.

Hooking a finger into Starsky's empty belt loops, Hutch reeled him in. "I went over to your place to look for that old pair of jeans you used to have. Remember them? With the rip on the right knee?" He ran one hand up the inner seam of Starsky's pants, but instead of a rip in the knee area, he split the thin fabric right over the brand, fraying the edges all the way around until the white gauze showed through like a tiny flag.

Starsky couldn't move, caught in a tractor beam of those hungry summer blue eyes like the Millennium Falcon being towed along by the Death Star.

"And right here, under the fly, the threads were so loose I could have just grabbed hold and yanked." He suited action to his words, but didn't touch Starsky's flesh, just eliminated the last vestiges of denim, bringing the silver cock ring into view. "But I couldn't find them. So I had to bring these."

Starsky had to try twice before he could speak, rampant desire leaving him weak and trembling. "I cut 'em off...t'wash the car."

"Ah." Hutch nodded as if he were a music lover hearing Bach for the first time. "I knew there had to be a good reason why they weren't in your drawer. You never throw anything away. Which is why I was able to find the collar and the nipple clamps." He reached up languidly and pinched one pert nipple hard, using his fingernails like the teeth of the clamp.

Starsky hissed, but had learned enough to remain absolutely still. Weirdly, the sharp little pain just intensified the ache in his groin, his erection jutting out like a beggar hoping for a hand job.

"Finish getting dressed, slugger," Hutch said, "so we can blow this pop stand."

"Kinda hard with you attached to me like that." Starsky looked straight at his lover, his partner, his master, and his best friend, and knew exactly what Hutch was doing. This was his anchor.

"I'll always be attached to you," Hutch said fiercely, letting go. The pain of release, millions of starving cells finally reclaiming circulation, was as piercing as the initial pinch had been. "Owner and slave are yoked together, Starsk." His voice was raw silk, raking over Starsky's ravaged soul. "Others might sell their property, but you should have been branded ‘all sales final, no returns.'"

"Yeah?" Starsky had to look away from all that intensity or he'd lose whatever remnants of self-reliance he had left. He jerked the red shirt off the bed with a shaking hand and yanked it over his head while trying to arrange his thoughts. Not being able to see Hutch, even for that short period, helped. "Hutch, I gotta have some...independence. I ain't gonna be on a leash from now on or..." Or what? He couldn't fathom leaving Hutch, but being branded and pierced had never been something he'd imagined, either. The world was changing too fast.

"Starsky, I promise."

"You keep saying that." Starsky tugged the shirt down, hiding what he could of his body. It felt good to have a boundary, even something as thin as cotton fabric between his nakedness and prying eyes. "But how can I be sure? Slavery is legal, and you seem pretty happy about that." He hadn't meant to add the last, and couldn't hide the bitterness in his voice.

"You don't trust me?" Hutch had backed up, an expressionless mask hiding his face.

"I trust you. It's the rest of it I don't trust." He'd hurt Hutch, but couldn't stop. "What if we can't change this? What if everyone in the Abbey League gets picked up and enslaved, too? Huh? If you're a slave, Hutch, who's my master then?"

"You are." Hutch jabbed that long pointed forefinger at him. "You have my permission to take down as many people as possible before you break free and save yourself. If that happens, Starsk, don't look back."

"Then all I'd see would be you," Starsky whispered bleakly, wondering how the conversation had gotten so twisted around. Just like everything else. He was saved by a knock on the door.

Hutch shook his head as if shedding cobwebs, blond bangs flopping into his eyes. He brushed them aside, walking rapidly to the door. Hutch didn't like the way things were turning out any more than Starsky did.

"My apologies for being so tardy, Master." It was the girl from the night before, Neela of the dark skin and luscious curves. This morning, chains linked her pierced nipples with matching rings in her labia. When she walked into the room, Starsky could see the chains tighten and loosen with every step. It must have been excruciating, yet somehow arousing at the same time. He knew the feeling.

"No problem," Hutch assured her, laying a pale hand on her brown shoulder. He took the black mask she held out, but didn't remove his hand from her body. "Neela, may I ask you a few questions? There's no right or wrong answers, but I want an honest opinion, not one dictated by Luna or any of the masters."

The girl's dark eyes flashed fear, but she didn't look up at him. She was too indoctrinated to look into the face of a master. Instead, she glanced over at Starsky, seeking solace.

"You can talk to him, Neela."

"Yes, sir. I'll try," she mumbled to the floor.

Starsky could see her knees start to bend. She wanted to kneel in front of a master, but Hutch's hand on her shoulder prevented that.

"What did you do before you became a slave?" Hutch asked.

"B-before?" Neela shifted uncomfortably, the chains linking her nipples and labia stretched as taut as a tightrope against her flat abdomen. "My father couldn't pay the fines imposed by the Corporation. He'd had his own shoe business, but taxes went up and he lost customers..."

"Go on," Hutch encouraged in the gentle tone that had soothed many frightened witnesses. Hutch was a master at this, as well.

"My father sold me," she said, her voice breaking with tears. "Me and my sister, Nasha. To pay the CEC."

"Damn," Hutch said softly. If there had been any lingering illusions that all slaves were prisoners and criminals, this blew them out of the water. "If slavery was abolished, would you want to be free?"

Neela looked up, her obsidian eyes boring into Starsky's, but she was speaking to Hutch. "Yes. Yes." With that, she fled the room.

"We have to stop the CEC, before every person in this country but corporate CEOs are on their knees giving VPs blow jobs," Hutch ground out, his face savage. "C'mere."

Starsky wouldn't have disobeyed for a million dollars. He knelt at Hutch's feet, but looked straight up with defiance. "This comes off once we pass the Luna gates."

"That was always the plan," Hutch said, and strapped on the heavy black leather blindfold. The band was tight, bringing on an instant headache. Starsky wanted to rip it off just to read the determination in Hutch's eyes. As if sensing his thoughts, Hutch quickly cuffed Starsky's hands in front of him with the heavy leather manacles.

Starsky hated the darkness. It was too easy to remember when he'd been a prisoner bound for who knows where, almost raped, and freshly pierced. He raised his bound hands to feel the small charm that bumped against his collarbone. This was Hutch's collar. Wearing it felt like winning a prize and losing the battle at the same time.

"That looks right on you," Hutch said softly and helped him stand.

Starsky appreciated the hand at his back; his knees were wobbly, but he couldn't let Hutch know.

"Sit on the bed," Hutch said. "I want to check out the brand before we leave." Hutch levered him down onto the mattress; his fingers probed into the hole in the jeans to rip away the bandage.

"Fuck!" Starsky suppressed an urge to scream. The wound was too fresh to tolerate much handling. His thigh muscles twitched when Hutch spread the cool gel over the raised brand. It was all Starsky could do to stay still.

"How's the pain?"

"It hurts."

"You can have that stuff..."

"Phenine," Starsky said. Was it really a painkiller? He recalled the weird sensory effects all too well, not so sure he was willing to endure that kind of induced desire again. What about aspirin? Would that work on the deep pain of a burn?

"That's all I've got, Starsk." Hutch sounded apologetic. At least the gel was working, cooling the fearsome heat of the burned flesh. "I'll get a glass of water for the Phenine. They're as big as horse pills."

There was nothing to do but sit on the bed, blindfolded and cuffed. Starsky clenched his hands, pressing the palms together to sublimate some of the pain from the rest of his body. He was a slave about to go out into the world for the first time. A non-entity, a possession, with no rights whatsoever under the current constitution of most of the once democratic Western states. There were some states that didn't recognize slavery, just like in the 1860's when the Southern states battled the North over the same issue. Would it come to civil war again? Did the Abbey League have the power to start an uprising, or was Hutch deluding himself?

Starsky had to trust Hutch or he had nothing. He had to trust in their bond.

"Swallow this." Hutch put a huge tablet into Starsky's mouth and held a glass of water to his lip.

The pill was massive and got stuck halfway down his throat. Starsky coughed and sputtered, nearly choking before the painkiller made it to his stomach. It was hardly worth taking if it took that much effort just to get it down.

"You okay?"

"I'll manage." Starsky raised his manacled hands to wipe his lips. He had a brief flash of himself, masked and cuffed, kneeling at Neville's feet like a good supplicant. Then, striking upward like a rattlesnake, he'd jam his joined hands into the Brit's groin, smashing his so-called manhood into purple pulp. Starsky smiled. Even a bound slave had some ability to fight back; it just took planning.

Together, he and Hutch could do just that.

***

Hutch told him the new car was a convertible. Starsky was amazed Hutch hadn't included that pertinent fact in his first description of a metallic blue Ford with a bad paint job. Driving away from Luna, with the hot wind in his hair and scent of pine trees in his nose, Starsky was exhilarated. If he could have moved freely, he would have been over the moon.

Neville, as expected, managed to cop a last feel and make a snide comment as they climbed into the car. "A little more training, cowboy, and you could have had yourself a real stallion there. Of course, some people like that raw, untamed ride. I'd just be afraid that an unbroken horse would buck me off."

"That's the difference between an English saddle and a Western one," Hutch drawled in his Charlie McCabe, Texas oilman voice. "I've always preferred to go bareback, myself."

"You all come back now, you hear?" Neville reached down to insert the buckle into Starsky's seat belt, lingering a beat too long before breaking contact. His hand brushed the ring in Starsky's cock intimately. Starsky was so repulsed by such close proximity to his trainer, he didn't pay much attention to the strange tingling spreading warmly across his pelvic area.

The engine started with a roar that rivaled Starsky's lamented Torino, and they were off. Neville yelped as the car pulled away. Starsky hoped that the rear tire rolled over his foot.

"Take this thing off me," Starsky insisted when they'd been driving for a while. He'd enjoy the wind whipping across his face a great deal more if he could see the road, take in the night sky, and most of all, their location. So he could come back some day and burn Luna down until there was nothing left but scorched earth.

"We're not off the property yet," Hutch said.

"How big is this place?"

"Remember that map that caught fire in the opening credits of Bonanza?"

"We're on the Ponderosa?" Starsky was appalled. He wasn't about to let bucolic memories of his favorite Western TV series be warped by the likes of Neville and Luna. Although the image of the burning map was apt.

"In the right vicinity."

"That's just terrific!" Starsky kicked the floorboards. "You see any of Little Joe's brides' graves around here?"

"It's dark; hard to see much," Hutch said dryly. "Mostly live oak, pine, and old growth trees. Some eucalyptus. But if we hit a crudely lettered headstone, I'll let you know."

"Was Luna a big underground enclave or were there buildings? Like a mini-town?"

"One main above-ground structure with several smaller buildings. I didn't wander around after I found where they kept you."

Starsky swallowed. It was still hard to reconcile his feelings about Hutch having paid money for his enslavement with the memories of their previous partnership. But he could not deny he was glad Hutch owned him instead of a vicious sadist like Dunfey or anyone else from the CEC. He blew out a noisy breath, antsy and on edge. He wouldn't feel safe until they were far, far away. Maybe not even then.

"Is Lake Tahoe close by? There are houses there. You think we could stay a night?" Starsky was tired. He didn't want to say it out loud, but fatigue dragged at him, compounding his achiness. He tried to tell himself that getting away from Luna was too important to give in to petty physical frailties.

"Starsky, I think the lake is over to our right, but not actually within the boundaries of the property."

"Good, then it's not actually Ben Cartwright's land."

"I can't be sure, however."

Starsky nearly stuck out his tongue in Hutch's direction. He could hear the amused sarcasm in Hutch's voice. "How long until we get to Arizona?"

"Roughly two days; I told you that."

"And towns around here? I mean, if we're near Tahoe, there used to be hundreds of houses. Casinos. All that stuff."

"When I drove to Las Vegas the other day, many of the houses were boarded up. Bank foreclosure signs on a lot of them."

"Which way was Vegas?" Starsky fidgeted in his seat. His head was killing him, and the tuck and roll upholstery was uncomfortable on his abraded butt. He was also becoming aware of a low level but growing nausea combined with a strange itchy need to be touched.

"Starsky! Will you shut up? It's that or a gag, I swear."

Starsky shut up for all of thirty seconds. The threat was an empty one, anyway. He was fairly sure Hutch didn't own a gag -- unless he'd brought along one of Neville's. "You really get off on this."

Hutch apparently had taken his own advice; he didn't say anything.

"I mean, I know you had a thing for all this kinky stuff -- I've seen you whenever we rousted Milty at the Triple X House of Love, looking at all the leather stuff."

"I've never made any secret of what I wanted."

"Yeah. Me. Trussed up like a virgin in one of those novels written by Anonymous." Starsky held up his hands, the twin urges to throw up and be ravaged so strong he couldn't take in enough air. He coughed, lowering his arms until he could grasp the end of his penis with both hands.

Oh, sweet Jesus. Hutch, please...

Pleasure coiled up his spine to the top of his skull, threatening to blow his brains apart. All from one touch.

Hutch grabbed his hands to release their hold. "What the hell are you doing? Are you jerking off?"

Starsky orgasmed suddenly, cum spurting forth and splattering his jeans. He'd rarely come so fast or so hard, and riding on the coattails of the climax came the undeniable compulsion to puke -- now. His throat spasming, Starsky screamed, "Stop the damned car!"

As the vehicle slowed, he fought with the door handle, shoving the heavy car door open and falling out of the rolling vehicle onto hard, packed earth, heaving up his guts. Nothing else mattered, not whether Hutch stopped and came back for him, or if the planet continued to revolve around the sun. All he could do was rid his belly of its contents. He'd eaten very little in the last day -- hell, the last week -- and soon all he could do was dry retching, his stomach cramping as if it might implode.

"Starsk! What the hell?" Hutch must have jumped from the Ford. He skidded to a halt, his silver-toed shoes digging into Starsky's leg.

That small nudge, barely felt, sent Starsky spiraling back into hyper-arousal. "Fuck," Starsky panted between heaves, pounding the flat of his hand on the ground. "That bloody Neville." He heaped curses on the Brit when he could speak, and hauled in huge gulps of pine-scented air when he couldn't.

"The Phenine," Hutch guessed, rubbing Starsky's back.

It should have been a soothing massage; instead, it was a lit match thrown into bone-dry tumbleweed. Instant conflagration. Starsky rolled over his right shoulder, ending up on his back, which pulled Hutch almost down on top of him. Only Hutch's quick reflexes saved him from covering Starsky like a big blanket.

"Drive it in, Hutch," Starsky wheezed, sweat dripping off his body like rain. "Fast! Like you wanted to that first night."

"No." Hutch scrambled out of reach, his anger crackling in the heated air.

Starsky reached his cuffed hands out imploringly, hating his urgent need. This was worse than when he was thirteen and first found out how much fun sex with someone else could be. Mary Elizabeth Dominico, three years his senior, had taken him into a boarded-up grocery and popped his cherry. After that, she gave him uppers and taught him how to go down on a girl. He'd joined her in that abandoned dusty store, between counters that had once held fruit and vegetables, for six weeks until she declared him too old for her exacting standards. She left him literally with his pants down. Needing more drugs, he'd used the lessons she gave him to supply his fix.

Just like Hutch later used me to supply his.

Things did come full circle. He'd have cried, but he couldn't bring up any tears.

"That shit, Neville, gave me somethin' in the IV when I was on the rack." Starsky lay on the ground, not caring that there were prickly things in his hair and dried evergreen needles spearing his palms. "Phenine. It was like this, only since there wasn't anybody around, I just hurt. Had a hard-on like a tree limb with that damned ring stuck through the end. I kept thinking of you. Of sex. Your hands all over me. But nobody touched me at all."

"It's some kind of aphrodisiac," Hutch said, his voice coming from a safe distance.

"Please, Hutch. You wanted to before." Starsky tried to get up, but he was so damned tired. At least his belly had stopped complaining. "I need..."

"Not here. Not on their property."

"You said you had plans," Starsky insisted. He strained to orient to Hutch's voice, aching to see through the dark blindfold. "You had plans!" He staggered to his feet, lunging at where he thought Hutch had to be, the siren song of desire humming in his veins. "You and me, naked. Please, Hutch..."

Hutch caught his arm, but didn't bring him close. "Starsk, they can monitor us while we're inside Luna's fence. There are cameras on the telephone poles, and a guard at the gate. You want them to see everything?"

Resentment threw water on his raging inferno. Starsky jerked out of Hutch's grasp, slamming into the hot metallic side of the car hard enough to hurt. "Don't touch me if you're not gonna help me." He still wanted that big cock in his mouth. Still wanted those beautiful hands closing around his penis, tugging on the ring and wringing the semen out of him. But the intensity had faded enough for him to climb wearily back into the passenger seat. He couldn't do the seat belt with his hands locked together and couldn't bear to have Hutch close enough to snap the buckle into place.

Hutch started up the car without another word. Huddled down in the seat, Starsky shivered in spite of the heat, his belly roiling from the exhaust fumes. The drawbacks of having a convertible.

"I think I see a light up ahead," Hutch said eventually. "The gatehouse."

"You think I give a shit?" Starsky lashed out verbally because he couldn't do anything else. He was sick, his stomach rebellious, and his head pounding. Perversely, the brand didn't hurt at all. Wonder of wonder, the Phenine was good for something. "That Limey bastard just had to fuck me over one more time. God, I hate this." It was impossible to think straight when all he wanted was sex, rough and fast. Need burned through him, crowding out any intelligence. It was all he could do not to hook a leg over the gear shaft and impale himself on the rounded end.

"Stop the car!" an authoritative voice called out.

Starsky shuddered when the engine vibrations changed and the car slowed. He could have orgasmed from that alone, but the presence of guards dampened his arousal. Hutch was right; he didn't want Luna personnel seeing them grapple like hormone-crazed teenagers.

"Hutchinson," a guard said.

Starsky wasn't surprised they recognized his partner; Hutch had been in and out three times in the last week.

"Finally got your slave trained? He's a real looker. Must have put down a wad for a piece of ass like that."

"Open the gate." Hutch sounded angry.

Immediately, a creaking groan signaled a metal gate sliding open. The car bumped over a hump in the road designed to keep speed to a minimum, and then Hutch let out the throttle.

They must have hit sixty in thirty seconds, a feat that would have impressed Starsky on any other day. The engine whine deepened as they accelerated, wind whipping Starsky's hair around in a frenzy. The ends of his hair snapped painfully against his cheeks and neck. It almost hurt to breathe with the dry, hot air pushing against the back of his throat. Hutch never, ever drove like this. Not this raw, aggressive, let-the-gas-pedal-bleed-off-your-anger speed.

Starsky did -- frequently. And long, flat roads like this one were perfect. He dimly recalled the first car he'd owned, a busted up Thunderbird that he'd overhauled, sweating out the withdrawals from the drugs he'd given up, using the frantic, desperate need to change his life to fuel his labors. When the car was drivable, he'd sped across the emptiness of the Mojave, letting the wide-open spaces scour the nastiness from his brain. Like Hutch was doing now.

Starsky pulled his knees up, bracing his feet against the dash, sure that if they hit something he'd go flying through the windshield. Like they'd done years ago. When Hutch drew the line at Starsky's reckless driving and played amnesiac for twenty-four hours. Scared the crap out of Starsky. But not as much as this did. Hutch's demons were busting loose.

The car jerked violently to the right, Hutch using a sharp turn to bleed off the forward momentum and slow the car. Starsky was thrown sideways against the door, centrifugal force gluing him to the vinyl. He clung to the handle with both cuffed hands, waiting out the car's power. It was shockingly quiet when the engine finally switched off, the softer sounds of the wind in the trees and the car ticking as the metal cooled suddenly audible.

"Hutch?" He felt hesitant, uncertain. At least it had distracted him from his rampant arousal.

"C'mere." Hutch pulled Starsky roughly into an embrace, kissing him so hard their teeth knocked together.

Desire blazing up all over again, Starsky leaned into his master, the gearshift between them poking him in the groin. He couldn't have cared less. His hands were caught awkwardly between their bodies, but he felt Hutch's cock stiffen and grow rapidly hard. Hutch bit him on the bottom lip, sucking and kissing with a need that matched Starsky's own.

Growling with lust, Hutch scrabbled at Starsky's jeans but there were too many barriers. He sucked in a deep breath, blowing it out. Starsky felt the warm whoosh on his wind-chapped cheek, and knew whatever had bedeviled Hutch was waning enough to be manageable.

"Time for this thing to come off." Hutch unfastened the complicated series of buckles at the back of Starsky's head.

The night sky was overly bright when the blinders fell away. The yellow moon, like half of a Dutch cheese, rode just above Hutch's head. His blond hair shimmered in the moonlight, dazzling Starsky's starving eyes.

"Do you hate me, too?" Hutch rasped, his hands shaking when he unlinked the cuffs, and then miracle of miracles, removed the tight leather bands from Starsky's wrists. The cuffs were lined with a soft chamois, but over time, the close fit had left abrasions.

Starsky massaged his wrists, enjoying the feeling of his own bare skin, and pondering Hutch's question. "I wanted to hate you." He waited, sorting out his thoughts, listening to Hutch breathe. "I kept tryin' to convince myself that you wouldn't do this to me. That you -- the partner I thought I knew -- wouldn't pay money for my body like all those shits did when I was a kid."

Hutch gasped, but said nothing.

"But you know what, Hutch?" Starsky put out his unfettered hands, reaching for his lover. "Given the right circumstances, I might have paid money for you."

Their hands connected in the middle, fingers wrapping around each other in solace. Arousal slammed back, and Starsky had to clench his jaw to keep from going off like a rocket. Most of the need was from the drug, but Hutch had always had that effect on him. He'd always been attracted -- and frightened -- by the big blond, but Hutch's resemblance to his long ago rapist had only registered recently.

"So, where do we go from here?" Hutch asked plaintively.

Starsky was confused. Hell, he was more than confused, he was lost -- on a tree-lined mountain road with a crazed person. One moment Hutch was loving, the next strict, then by turns angry, demoralized, and aggressive. It was difficult to decide if he'd always known this Hutch and never fully seen him or had just met a whole new Hutch.

"Didn't you bring a map?" Starsky had to let go of Hutch or risk ravaging him for his own ends, which would not be wise considering Hutch's volatile condition. "S'been a while but far's I know, it's a straight shot down past Vegas to Arizona."

"My motives may have been suspect -- and calculated," Hutch said as if it was hard to talk. "But your safety was always the prime concern."

"Your methods left a little something to be desired."

"Yeah." Hutch kissed him with such tenderness that if Starsky had been standing, his knees would have wobbled. "Let's get out of this car. Give me a minute."

"Not goin' anywhere, you big idiot."

Starsky got out and looked around while Hutch opened the trunk and arranged a blanket a few feet from the car. The far off call of some bird sent a chill up his spine. What kind of birds flew around at night? He finally pulled up "owl" out of long-term memory and relaxed, inhaling deeply to slow his palpitating heart. He was too old for crap like this. Out in the middle of nowhere, wearing a pair of holey jeans. It was surprisingly warm, the air soft and fragrant, but there was a hint of chill in the air. Typical when in the mountains.

Watching Hutch, Starsky felt a curious twinge in his heart. Was he insane to still be in love with this man? "Babe," Starsky said softly. "I missed seeing you."

"I missed seeing you, too." Hutch pulled Starsky close against him, burying his face in Starsky's curls.

This was home.

Assuming their accustomed roles like misplaced robes, Hutch gently pushed Starsky down on his knees. Starsky unzipped his partner joyfully and extracted his hidden treasure. He knew how to comfort Hutch, how to give him what he needed. With pleasure, pure and sweet.

"Star-ssk," Hutch moaned, drawing the syllables out in a long hiss of pleasure when he climaxed, pumping into Starsky's mouth.

Reaching down, Starsky palmed his own organ. That was how he often satisfied himself on those long stakeouts when Hutch wanted relief from the boredom of sitting in a car for eight hours. His cock felt like someone else's, the prominent piercing changing its familiar contours; the crown was far more sensitive than before. Still sucking Hutch, Starsky slid one hand down his own length, wincing. The Phenine drove him on, whispering its dark desires, forcing a desperate need for sex even though handling himself hurt. He panted, pulling off Hutch, feeling the rampant need take over again.

Please, Hutch...

"Hey." Hutch went to his knees, cupping his hands around Starsky's. "Sssh, it's okay. Slower." He gentled Starsky's frantic pace, then fondled his heavy scrotum,

"Oh, yeah!" Starsky shouted, pain transforming into ecstasy. Hutch closed his thumb and forefinger around the base of Starsky's penis, giving four rapid strokes. That did it. Starsky came, panting with the exertion. "Thank you." He dropped his head onto Hutch's shoulder, the after-sex euphoria a far better drug than Phenine. And almost as good a painkiller. He was numb.

Remarkably hungry, to boot. He sat down on the blanket to investigate what was packed in the carryall this time.

Swigging a beer, Hutch settled next to him, drawing Starsky into the circle of his arms. He looked relaxed and tender, all signs of his anger wiped away. Tracing a finger across Starsky's eyebrows, he smiled. "I hated covering up your eyes. Like hiding precious jewels behind a tarp where no one can see how beautiful they are."

"You think my eyes are beautiful?" Starsky joshed. He tipped back the beer Hutch provided, savoring the luxury after so long. Slaves couldn't buy alcohol -- or be seen consuming it without a master's permission. Just one more right he'd lost with a single monetary transfer.

"Sapphires or something really rare and valuable." Hutch played his finger down Starsky's eyelid, his touch lighter than a butterfly's wing.

Starsky blinked, feeling the brush of lashes against Hutch's palm. "Is that why you paid Dunfey? So you could own my eyes?" Starsky couldn't regret the words even though they spoiled the moment.

Hutch pulled back his hand as if burned.

"Tell me how much you paid, Hutch? Where'd you get the cash that easily?"

"None of this was easy." Hutch snatched up his own half-empty beer bottle and tossed it against an oak. The glass shattered, contents spraying the surrounding area with fermented malt and hops. "You want to keep harping on this? Fine. My father died; I inherited a fortune."

"You didn't tell me." Starsky thought back, remembering Hutch taking off one weekend and coming back looking dazed and stiff instead of content with his usual post-coital languor. "I mean about the money." Even the announcement about the senior Hutchinson's funeral had been after the fact, as though Hutch needed to explain his abrupt departure to forestall future questioning. Well, the future was now, and Starsky had questions. "Did you find out about the inheritance right away?"

"Not the total amount, but I suspected it." Hutch busied himself with the food, cutting up apples and doling out salami. "I knew how much he was worth, and I'm the only son."

Never one to refuse food, Starsky helped himself. "How did he die?"

"Heart attack. I got the call one day when you'd gone to a court appearance, last November," Hutch recounted, sounding exhausted. "My aunt said come right away, but it's not that easy to leave California these days. She didn't understand. My mom might have..."

Starsky nodded. Hutch's mother had been a lovely woman, bred from generations of politicians. She'd served as governor of the sovereign state of Minnesota after the break-up of the United States. But the job had killed her quickly, two years ago. Hutch's father, a bastard who'd made millions by foreclosing on the poor and indigent, had lived without a heart for decades. Starsky was surprised that a heart attack could kill him. He'd always assumed only a wooden stake would fell the old man.

"I had to pull some strings," Hutch added. "Had to agree to things..."

"Which set the ball in motion."

"You know why we never got Dunfey, even when we had him dead to rights over that cigarette smuggling thing?" Hutch folded a slice of salami between two wedges of crusty bread. "One of the CEOs had paid for the cigs. He ordered me to drop the charges."

"You were forced to do that?" Starsky jumped up, furious at what Hutch had had to go through, and angry that they hadn't arrested the mobster six months before. Maybe he never would have been kidnapped if Dunfey's operation had folded then.

"Schaffer -- the CEO, traded his -- " Hutch gulped reflexively, his face anguished. " -- traded his own daughter for the contraband. Dunfey took the girl away -- to Luna."

"Did you see her there?" Starsky felt the girl's debasement and humiliation to the bottom of his soul. Sold by her own father. Like Neela and Nasha.

"No. I saw her a few months later, in Slave House ten on Lincoln, with track marks on both arms and nothing left in her eyes." Hutch bit his sandwich savagely as if biting off part of Dunfey's anatomy. "I tried...to get her back. Tried to buy her, but she was already spoken for. It had been planned all along, which is why I was ordered to drop the charges. I was already peripherally involved with the Abbey League, but this spurred me to fully commit to the cause."

"How much, Hutch? How much did I cost?" Starsky repeated, his words slicing open wounds. He paced around the scrubby ground cover, keeping as far away from his partner as possible.

"Half a mil, Starsk." Hutch's eyes pleaded, begged, for forgiveness. "I paid top dollar so they wouldn't hurt you worse than they had to."

"Had to?" Starsky spit. He wanted Hutch inside him so badly he could feel the withdrawal pains ripping up his guts. Wanted him and hated him at the same time. "So, because you had to go to a fucking funeral to get your inheritance, you got special permission to leave Bay City without papers, handed over a girl to a slave ring, joined up with the rebel forces like Luke Skywalker, then gave your alliance to the dark side, and sold your best friend up the creek to keep him from bein' enslaved by the CEC. Is that about it, buddy?"

"They would have killed you. Or Dunfey would have, if he'd gotten his hands on you."

"So you keep sayin'. And you said something about being a fugitive, but here we sit out in the open like picnickers waiting for the ants."

"I don't have to explain everything to you."

"You being the master, I guess not." Starsky had tears in his eyes -- from rage or sadness, he wasn't sure. "You paid five hundred thousand dollars to let Neville string me up and torture me."

"They didn't follow my orders...but yes, I did." Hutch's voice held remorse, but also something else. Not pride and not quite satisfaction.

"How much money do you have left?" Starsky stared hard at Hutch, trying to comprehend, and knew what he'd heard in Hutch's voice. Resolution; that was it. But what exactly had been resolved?

"What?" Hutch asked.

"How much money do you have left?" Starsky repeated, having purged some of his anger. He was still a slave and couldn't change that. Acceptance would come slowly, and possibly someday, forgiveness. "A couple of thou? What?"

"Twenty million." Hutch looked up from his half-eaten sandwich. The moon was doing incredible things to his hair. He was stunning, a paragon of beauty from some far off land to grace the citizens of the former United States of America. To grace Starsky's life with the illusion of perfection.

"How much are you giving the Abbey League?" Starsky willed himself to be strong against Hutch's beauty.

"As much as they need."

"Give me one million."

"You're not allowed to have money."

"Then spend one million on me."

"I will," Hutch vowed. "Ten million, Starsk. If you'll forgive me."

"Forgive you?" Starsky was surprised how closely Hutch's thoughts paralleled his own. He let the words sink in until he felt them in his bones. If only forgiving Hutch would take away all the pain, degradation, and cruelty from the last week. "You are the only person who ever meant anything to me in my whole life. But...I don't know how to forgive you, yet. This hurts, down deep."

"For what Neville -- and the rest of them at Luna -- did to you, I'm sorry," Hutch said.

"What about what you did to me?" Starsky asked. He didn't expect Hutch to answer.

Hutch had wanted this for a long time. He obviously hadn't expected it to come at such a cost, and that wasn't even factoring in how much he'd paid.

Half a million dollars.

Starsky had only seen that much money once, while they were undercover. It had filled an entire suitcase. It boggled his mind. Hutch paid five hundred thousand dollars for the right to fuck Starsky whenever he wanted.

The owl hooted again, wind rustling the leaves in the Ponderosa pines.

Starsky looked up, still spooked by the eerie sound of the birdcall. He could feel the damned sex drug thrumming in his veins, pushing him into irrational desires. All he wanted was to thrust into Hutch's naked body, pound him into the ground. Take back some of what was stolen from him. He tried to banish such thoughts with Hutch sitting so near. Starsky could feel the heat coming off his body, smell spilled beer mingling with Hutch's distinct odor. He'd never been able to ignore Hutch's presence, but with the Phenine on board, it was harder than usual.

Get back to forgiveness.

If he totally forgave Hutch, would that mitigate the anger he had for what had been done to him? Could he hold onto any kind of self-respect if he prostrated himself to the man he loved? He tucked his anger away, forcing it down to a manageable size that didn't rip his heart in two.

Starsky let himself look at Hutch and see his flawed partner. He'd always understood that Hutch needed sex like a drug. Understood and accepted it. It wasn't much more difficult to understand that Hutch wanted sex with bondage. Bondage with pain.

"D'you forgive yourself?" Starsky asked.

"That's forever a work in progress," Hutch admitted.

"I keep goin' over all the stuff in our past -- reliving conversations...You never came right out and said you wanted to tie me up or take me hard, but it was there. I just didn't want to hear it." His brand sparked a sudden flash of fresh pain as if reminding him of what he'd gone through.

Hutch raised his chin, fingering the neck of a second beer bottle. "I've been into this for as long as I can remember."

"I want you bad, Hutch." Starsky whooshed out a pent-up breath. "I want you so much sometimes it scares me. I always wanted more than we had before, but I wasn't ready for anything like this."

"And now I've pushed you too far," Hutch said as if his last hope had just gone headlong over a cliff.

Making a decision, Starsky knelt next to Hutch on the ground. Maybe it wasn't true forgiveness, but acknowledging Hutch's nature and his own tendency to bend to Hutch's will was as close as he was going to get tonight. "I'm your slave," he said, supplicating.

"And I'm your master," Hutch said breathlessly.

Starsky pulled off his shirt and started unzipping his jeans, but Hutch pushed his hands away, then stripped him quickly. When Starsky lay back naked on the earth, he saw tears on Hutch's face, the moonlight caught in each drop. "Take me, Master. I'm asking you."

"Yes." Hutch had never zipped up his pants. Now, he palmed his big cock, bringing it to full size.

Starsky tented his knees, watching in amazement as the thing continued to swell. His own was of decent proportions when completely aroused, which it had been for some time, but Hutch's was of mythic stature. To Starsky, he was Michelangelo's David in living flesh. Starsky had felt it inside him once before, but this time he would be able to fully appreciate the experience without the terrible memories of his rape ruining the pleasure.

"Legs up on my shoulders," Hutch said, producing a tube of something squishy from the carryall on the blankets. "Eyes front, right at me. Never look away, ever."

"I thought -- " Starsky grunted, raising his feet to hook them around Hutch's neck.

"Slave rules are made to be broken." Hutch smoothed ointment into Starsky's anus, probing with his finger in that forbidden place. "Gotta keep you on your toes, Starsk." Hutch said that name like a long drawn out hiss of desire.

"Sometimes you'll be my love slave," he continued, "but most of the time, you'll be my partner. That's a given."

Starsky gazed into Hutch's eyes to see the inner man. He barely noticed when his lover tossed away the crumpled tube and eased himself forward. A blunt thickness pushed against Starsky's opening, and he sighed, emptying himself of everything but Hutch. The huge bulk entered him, stretching Starsky's inner walls until he was sure he couldn't take any more. It was not pain exactly, but there was excruciating pressure; his body felt too full to be believed. He cried out once as he merged with Hutch. Small cramps came and went as fast as lightning on a hot day, but he focused on being part of Hutch and Hutch being a part of him.

Hutch yelled, thrusting faster, pushing Starsky into the dirt. Underbrush and pebbles scratched his bare skin, but Starsky didn't care. Arms spread wide, he felt like a midsummer sacrifice on Mother Earth. Not a virgin and definitely not a sacrificial lamb, he was forging an alliance of his own. Their union instilled strength in his ravaged body.

"Davey," Hutch whispered, pumping faster. He'd started gently, but like driving the car, revved up quickly.

Starsky rocked in Hutch's rhythm, arching up to take each thrust until only his shoulders and the palms of his hands were in contact with the ground. The rest of his body was bowed like a sapling in a windstorm, his lover planting seed deep inside his core.

"God, I love you, Starsk." He caught hold of Starsky's cock, twisting the ring around, the pain singing in Starsky's blood.

Starsky came so hard he thought his back would snap, and he shook, unable to stop the overwhelming shudders. Hutch was still pumping semen into him, chanting the name Starsk over and over. His arms buckling, Starsky slumped back on the ground, Hutch coming down on top of him with Starsky's ankles still locked behind his neck.

"Baby?" Hutch shifted around so that they were lying side by side. He drew his hand down Starsky's cheek, stroking his eyes and brows.

"That's how it's gonna be from now on?" Starsky curled against Hutch's sweaty side, feeling every ache and pain he'd received at Luna overlaid with a wonderful lassitude. He could sleep here for a week, at least, with the crushed leaves and bugs...Were there scorpions in Nevada?

"Yep," Hutch said, answering Starsky's question about their future. He tidied a damp curl off Starsky's forehead, twining it around his forefinger.

"I can live with that." Starsky bumped his head on Hutch's ribcage. "Gonna sleep now."

"Inside the house would be a better idea."

"There's a house?" Starsky sat up too abruptly and bit back a scream. The Phenine had definitely started to wear off. The brand felt as fresh as the moment the iron had imprinted his thigh. "Whoa." He panted, accepting the hand Hutch held out to haul him to his feet. Starsky swayed, glad of Hutch's support. Peering past the car, he could see a jumble of houses far enough away to be shrouded in darkness. At this distance, it was impossible to make out the architecture, but none of them had lights or any outward sign of habitation.

"They're deserted," Hutch said.

"Where'd all the people go?" With civilization in sight, Starsky was suddenly conscious of his nakedness and cast about for his clothes.

"Don't know. I think some states had more..." Hutch paused, contemplating the houses, "...more objections when the CEC took over."

"You think they were killed?" Starsky asked softly, pulling on his shirt and ragged jeans as if they were armor against dangerous forces lurking out of range.

"Killed, chased off, who knows? Many people from California disappeared, too."

"Like we have."

"Help me clean this stuff up," Hutch said. "With any luck, we can get a bath and clean sheets. The Abbey League maintains the first two houses." Hutch balled up scattered food wrappers while Starsky stuffed the beer bottles and uneaten food back into the hamper. "It's like an Underground Railroad for modern slaves."

"That make you Harriet Tubman?" Starsky asked.

"I prefer to think of myself as a conductor."

"I always did want to ride in the caboose." Something loosened in Starsky's heart. Could he live like this long term? Could anyone? He had to jettison the past and look forward or the weight of all those memories would surely kill him.

***

The house had been lovely at one time. Remnants of the former inhabitants still remained: a few pictures of a blond happy family on the wall, a pinball machine in the rec room, and tins of rattlesnake meat in the back of one cupboard. The furniture was mismatched, probably culled from more than one formerly elegant house, and there were two to three beds to a room to accommodate as many people as possible.

Starsky found it odd to walk freely through the echoing halls, peering into rooms empty of all furnishings except beds and mattresses, many just lying on the floor. Besides the main living areas, the place had six bedrooms and as many bathrooms. The water was still on as well as the electricity. But no one lived here. There were a few hand scribbled notes in the kitchen, from the slaves that had passed through recently. Many just said thank you, or, "You saved a life." Hutch had added a handful of twenties to a small cash box that had a sign reading, "Take what you need to make a new life."

Feeling creepy, Starsky reversed direction and headed back to the room he and Hutch had selected. Hutch was finishing his shower. Starsky had let him go first in exchange for a chance to wander the house without an escort or chains binding him. He'd been a slave for a week and already understood how precious these rights were.

Starsky paused in the doorway of a library. Bookshelves covered most of the walls, but what captivated him was a framed piece of parchment. Elaborate curly-cue writing on the top declared this to be the Declaration of Independence. It looked like it could have been one of the original copies. Priceless.

Thomas Jefferson knew the truth. All men had the inalienable right to be free.

He touched the collar still encircling his throat, fingering the silver S charm. He'd been given no choice. He wondered what would have changed if Hutch had come out and asked him again, a few months back. What harm would it have done their already bruised relationship at that point?

"Starsky?" Hutch's voice echoed eerily in the hall. Starsky stuck his head around the doorframe to see Hutch bare-chested, wearing only a pair of old khakis. "What did you find?"

"Something precious." Starsky pointed to the antique document.

"Oh, my God," Hutch said reverently. "We should take this to a safe place."

"Why'd you think they left it?"

"This looks real." Hutch touched the glass and tried to slide his fingers under the frame. "Well, there's the answer; it's bolted to the wall."

"It's the kind of thing that oughta be here, anyway." Starsky stood shoulder to shoulder with Hutch, trying to make out the familiar words in the old-fashioned script. "Where people come to escape -- "

"Captivity?"

"‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,'" Starsky read. "‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"

"‘But when a long train of abuses and usurpations,'" Hutch read farther down, "‘evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such a Government, and provide new guards for their future security.'"

"That's what you're doin', Hutch." Starsky slipped his hand into his partner's.

"At the expense of your freedom."

"Yeah, y'know, I've been thinking about that." Starsky turned from the document to look at Hutch. "That pursuit of happiness thing. This made you happy, didn't it?"

"I thought it would, yes." Hutch's face was grave. "I rushed so fast toward the goal, I never stopped to think about what it would be like for you." He blushed, all sign of the strong, tough master from Luna gone. He looked tired and older than the cop who'd policed Bay City a few weeks before. "What you had to do as a kid..."

Hutch was so close that when he spoke, Starsky could feel his voice rumble through his skin. Hutch touched his lips to Starsky's closed eyelids, but didn't actually kiss him, just maintained that slight pressure until Starsky wanted to sink to the floor.

Was I fooling myself when I thought I could escape this life? Starsky gulped, trying to keep breathing steadily. He wanted to see Hutch, look into his fathomless blue eyes, but he couldn't move, chained to his master by nothing more than two lips.

Hutch completed the kiss finally. His tongue washed down from Starsky's nose to his mouth and pushed between his parted lips. "You're beautiful, Starsk." His breathing was ragged as he plundered Starsky's mouth.

Was it worth losing one freedom to gain another? Starsky had no time to think about such esoteric things with Hutch's tongue halfway down his throat. Lifting his arms, Starsky tried to signal that he needed air when Hutch drew back, sucking on his bottom lip one last time.

"We have to stop," Hutch panted. "You need a shower."

"With you?" Starsky opened his eyes, briefly distracted by the odd colors and flashes that flared across his retina.

"Not tonight. I want to get on the road in the morning, rested."

"Take off the collar?"

"No." Hutch stroked the leather band.

"Why? You said I didn't always have to kneel to you when we were alone."

"You don't have to, but the collar stays on."

Enraged, Starsky stalked away, trying to loosen the collar from the back. Like the blindfold, it seemed to have extra buckles, and he couldn't pull the ends free. Surprised that Hutch didn't try to stop him, Starsky fingered a miniature lock. Giving it a tug, he discovered it was fastened securely at the back, looped through one of the D rings. There was no way he could get the damned thing off by himself. He swore and kicked the dark-paneled wall.

"Are you finished?" Hutch asked in an annoyingly reasonable tone.

"What the hell do you care? I can't get it off." Starsky glared at him. "Are you satisfied?"

"I am, and do you know why?" Hutch looped a finger through the ring holding the S charm. "Because I like the way my collar looks on you."

"So you've said."

"Pursuit of happiness, Starsk." Hutch held up one finger, but there was smug amusement on his face.

"I think I need to propose an amendment," Starsky muttered. He didn't strip off his clothes until he'd closed the bathroom door behind him. Hutch got to see him naked often enough. However, he had nothing else to wear to sleep in. He'd once thought nothing of sleeping in the nude; now it was one more thing he had no choice in.

He luxuriated in the shower, washing away the stink of Luna. The water softened the tape around the bandage on his groin and Starsky started to pull it off, but stopped, thinking of Hutch. This whole thing was so confusing. He lived in his own skin, but didn't own it.

Hutch owned him -- everything but the thoughts in his head.

Starsky stood with the water sluicing over him, staring at the sodden gauze. He'd waited weeks to see the healing surgical wounds on his chest after the Gunther shooting, but he hadn't really wanted to see them. They'd stretched obscenely across his shaved chest like tumbled railroad ties. Just looking at them had scared him, and made him ashamed of his own body.

The brand was small, judging from the size of the bandage. He'd have to crane his neck and swivel his leg to one side to see the wound. The only time it would visible was when he knelt with his thighs spread and eyes lowered. The brand was something shared between master and slave, not for the whole world to see.

Shame welled up again. Shame that Neville planted the mark and shame that Hutch wanted it.

Starsky growled low in his throat and pulled off the dressing. Water landing on the burned flesh nearly made him scream. He shut off the tap, bending to examine the brand more closely. A sickle moon rode the curve of his inner thigh, only inches from the base of his scrotum. It was reddened, puffy, and warm to the touch, but strangely, Starsky could see the appeal. When it healed, the result would be eye catching. Something for the master to play with, as the damned Brit said. Something, perversely, to be proud of if Starsky had had it done on his own. He'd withstood the pain for Hutch. He tentatively traced the contours of the moon, hissing softly from the renewed burning.

He toweled off quickly and emerged from the bathroom naked. Despite all his conflicted feelings, he wanted to be with the man he loved.

Hutch was sprawled on the bed, still clad only in khakis, reading a briefing.

"Will you put more ointment on this?" Starsky canted his leg to let the brand show.

"Dressing came off in the shower?" Hutch asked dryly, and pulled the carryall onto the bed, extracting the first aid supplies.

Starsky held himself carefully when Hutch swirled the cooling gel around the wound. It was difficult to avoid getting some on his sac, and every time Hutch touched him there, he had to remember to breathe. The Phenine had completely worn off, but having Hutch between his legs was an aphrodisiac on its own.

Taping the bandage back in place, Hutch banged the thick penis ring with the back of his hand. It swung like a pendulum, doing amazing things to Starsky's libido. He dropped down on the bed, barely aware of the ache from the brand with so many other sensations bombarding him. He suddenly wanted to be up inside Hutch, something he had never considered before. Since he'd always guarded his own ass, he'd assumed Hutch wouldn't welcome penetration, either.

Now, like Alice, he wanted to go down the rabbit hole to see what was inside. He used to imagine anal penetration to be brutal and agonizing, but recent experience had taught him otherwise. Hutch preferred being on top. Would he take it from the bottom, as well? From his own slave?

Starsky pulled Hutch down beside him, enjoying the feel of skin gliding over skin, their arms tangling together and heads bumping when they tumbled around on the sheets. "Hutch...I want to do you like you did me. Like when we were out under the stars."

"Yeah." Hutch's voice rasped, raw and turned-on. He nipped at Starsky's ear lobe, ticking the interior of the ear with his tongue. "But the ring..."

Starsky knew it was too good to be true. That must be what the ring was for. Not just to visually mark him as a slave, but to prevent him from using his own body to pleasure another. "It's too big to fit in."

"No, it'll fit. After a while." Hutch panted, relinquishing Starsky's ear.

He could feel a throbbing hickey there, where Hutch had marked another part of Starsky's body. Would Hutch really let him do that? Or would he keep putting it off with one excuse after another?

"It's an open wound, Starsk," Hutch said softly. "Once it heals more, we can do it."

"You gave me oral," Starsky said.

"Not the same thing." Hutch mouthed Starsky's shoulder. He sucked the skin stretched over his collarbone, then kissed the small hurt. "I promise. My ass will be yours -- as soon as it's safe."

Starsky mourned the missed opportunity, tucking away the promise for the future. It was more than a promise of reciprocation -- it promised equality. This was a big change for Hutch. He'd always wanted complete control, and rarely had given back much sexually. As convoluted as it seemed, was it possible that becoming Hutch's slave would reestablish their partnership?

Hutch was getting undressed, his eyes caressing Starsky in a way that sent shivers over his scalp. He scooted all the way to the middle of the bed, ready and willing for anything Hutch might have in mind.

Hutch rolled over onto him, their cocks bumping with rising heat. Sweaty friction, incredible lust, and frantic thrusts soon propelled them. Starsky howled, Hutch joining him as if they were two coyotes rutting under the moon. Mutual need quickly brought them to the point of no return.

Afterward they slept, Hutch still draped across Starsky's body.

***

Every city/state and territory now had border crossings. Starsky soon discovered how low his status was. Even with his master standing beside him, as a slave he had to endure lewd glances, groping hands, and cruel remarks. Entering the Las Vegas city limits had been bad. The guards frisked Hutch and took him into a small office to interrogate. While he was gone, an acne-scarred cretin with foul breath forced Starsky to undress to access his slave markings, even though the ring showed plainly through the rip in his jeans.

"Kneel when you're in the presence of your betters, slave," Acne-face snarled.

Starsky was ready to stand his ground. If the guards kept Hutch away long enough, he was sure to be raped, and he wasn't going down without a fight. If Hutch was right and they were on any fugitive lists, then the Las Vegas authorities could imprison them for an undisclosed length of time for no specified reason. The BC authorities did it all the time. He'd just raised his fists to prepare for attack when a hand pushed him down from behind.

"Do as you're told, Davey," Hutch said. "Grab your clothes and thank the nice man."

"Oughta put a chain on that one," Acne-face leered, staring directly at Starsky's penis. "He's the kind that could get took right out from under your nose."

"Not likely," Hutch said over his shoulder. "He's got the clap and about four other VDs besides. Taking him for treatment, but there's not much hope of recovery at this point. Syphilitic dementia. You can have him, though, if you want him?"

"Aw, get out of here."

Starsky stuffed his jeans and shirt under his arm, not needing the push Hutch gave to get him back into the car. They were over the border of Las Vegas and driving on the outskirts of town before he had a chance to pull his jeans back on. "What the hell did you tell him that for? I don't have the clap!" He'd had it once, while in 'Nam, but a single dose of penicillin had cured that quickly.

"They'll enter it into the records." Hutch grinned roguishly at him. "Not a guard on the way out of Las Vegas will touch you."

"Smart thinking." Starsky buttoned his fly. "For a blond." He wrestled the shirt over his head, afraid to be bare-chested in the relentless sun for too long. "Where'd you get my papers? The goons that grabbed me at the warehouse took my ID and badge when they stole my jacket."

"I own you, Starsk, remember? Your old ID isn't even legal any more. But I picked up your passport and some other stuff when I went to your house."

"Didn't grab any shades while you were there, did you?"

"Sorry." Hutch grimaced as if thinking he should have.

They didn't stop, bypassing downtown Las Vegas and all the casinos for the open road and miles of cactus and Manzanita. Getting out of sin central took even longer than getting in. The exit guards demanded an even higher bribe than the entrance guards had, and Hutch had to break into a locked box from the trunk. Starsky watched in amazement when he pulled out two bundles of hundreds and handed them over. Two thousand dollars, to get them out. He hadn't asked how much it cost to get them into Las Vegas.

Hutch's warning had worked like a charm, not one guard fondled Starsky other than to look at the brand and piercing. And they did that with rubber gloves on, although that didn't stop the raunchy comments about his prominent assets. He almost laughed, staring at a mid-point past the jack booted legs planted in front of him. It took supreme effort not to react when two guards checking off license plates proposed chaining his cock to the back of a moving car just to see if he'd come that way.

"Everything seems to be in order." The booted guard waved them back to the Ford while another counted the money.

Starsky looked back at the car behind them, watching a homely woman and six small children pile out. The guards seemed fascinated by the oldest child, a lovely girl of about 16. Where the hell had all the goodness gone? All the morals and values the average person had once held true? Nothing was left -- the old United States was now a wasteland, stripped bare and raped. Even if the Abbey League succeeded in their plans to restore order, would there be enough left to start again? Who could bring back democracy when the anarchists had taken over so completely?

"Gonna go broke quick if you keep handin' out Grants like that." Starsky focused on the flat desert in front of the car, once again wishing he had dark glasses for protection against the glaring sun.

"Doesn't matter how much I hand out, as long as we keep moving and the guards keep their hands off you..." Hutch held the steering wheel tightly, his face grim. "I have a great deal of money."

"This ain't what I meant when I asked you t'spend a million on me," Starsky said softly, touched but confused. Hadn't Hutch realized what would happen when he enslaved Starsky? How was he going to react when Starsky went undercover as a true slave to bring down the CEC from the inside?

"You hungry?" Hutch asked as if Starsky hadn't spoken. Or maybe he had heard, after all. He was pointing to a wooden board covering an old official green US highway sign. Black painted letters spelled out McDonald's, Last one on Earth, 17 miles. "You think that's for real?"

"Ain't had McDonald's fries in years," Starsky said wistfully.

"I never thought they'd go under." Hutch squinted even with his sunglasses on.

Once again, Starsky wished he had something to cover his eyes as long as it wasn't the blindfold. Putting up the ragtop on the car would help. His nose was boiling in the sun.

"But Taco Bell bought out every single place in the west," Hutch added.

"You see a burger place when you went to Duluth?" Starsky asked. It was the first time he'd ever asked about that fateful trip. Hutch had been so distant and closed off afterwards. Now Starsky knew why.

"Wasn't exactly looking for a burger, Starsk," Hutch drawled with half a grin. "But now that you mention it, no. Lots of Dairy Queens. Lots of them."

"A Blaster," Starsky said reverently, his mouth watering. Ice cream covered in chocolate, so cold his brain seized up and his nuts shriveled when he ate the heavenly concoction.

"Is that all you ever think about? Fast food? I bring you peanut butter sandwiches and fruit, and you want charred beef and potatoes dipped in grease."

"With cheese," Starsky reminded him. "Charred beef topped with cheese. Just to really piss off the Jewish ancestors."

"You're weird." Hutch laughed, looking at him with happiness.

If he hadn't already loved this complicated, mercurial man, Starsky would have fallen hard right then. Hutch was shiny in the sunlight, all golden beauty and subtle strength. He had been the captain of the football team, the favored child of rich parents, and an awarded member of the police force. He was also a fierce defender, loyal friend...and kinky master.

"You willing to spend some of that inheritance on burgers and fries? Just to feed me. That ain't the old Hutch." Starsky grinned fecklessly at him. "I call that weird."

"Pot calling the kettle cracked," Hutch intoned with just the right amount of snootiness and they both began to giggle.

Starsky put his head back against the car seat, totally happy. Every once in a while another giggle would bubble up, rising up into the cloudless sky like party balloons filled with helium. He'd waited so long for Hutch to come back to him. Who knew it would be at such a cost?

Golden arches were visible from a mile off. Lots of golden arches of every height and width. The proprietor of this roadside diner must have purchased every cast off piece of McDonald's architecture left after the fast food giant folded. The largest set of arches curved over the off-ramp, directing the traveler to this fantastical destination. The rest ringed the white enameled building like a fence made of yellow M's. Inside the perimeter were plastic Ronalds, his loony smile offering fake cheer for all the hungry passersby. There was an old play area with tunnels and tubes for children to crawl through, a plastic replica of a hamburger with a face and legs, and a dozen picnic tables. The fare, while probably not up to McDonald's standards in 1980 before they closed, was decent. The menu was simple -- grilled burgers, French fries, and vanilla ice cream shakes -- but Starsky wasn't disappointed.

"This is terrific." Starsky slurped loudly on the last of his shake and eyed Hutch's with greedy intent. He shrugged innocently, dragging a French fry through the catsup.

"You want mine?" Hutch offered as if that weren't quite obvious. He'd eaten most of his French fries but Starsky had finished both cheeseburgers.

"You sure?" Starsky took the paper cup without waiting for an answer and stuck his straw into the hole in the top of the lid. Thick, creamy milkshake melted in his mouth and down his throat.

"You need the calories more than I do." Hutch ran a gentle but ticklish hand down Starsky's ribcage. "Doesn't take much for you to drop a couple of pounds."

"The Luna diet." Starsky shivered, the cold from the shake suddenly going to his bones. Just the name stirred up bad memories. "That's the last time I ever mention that place."

Hutch's hand had traveled south, under cover of the table, and was carefully investigating the gap below Starsky's fly. He turned the ring around in the pierce hole like a child from a century before playing with an old fashioned hoop. "Were you pierced at Luna, or before?"

Starsky put down the cup, his mouth inexplicably dry. "In the truck. Two guys, I never saw their faces, held me down and..." The remembered pain swamped him, needle bright and as sharp as a laser. He jerked back, trying to escape Hutch's touch.

"Hey, hey," Hutch whispered, one hand firmly on his back to keep him at the picnic table. "I didn't mean to start something, but...I think I knew when they did it."

"Huh?" Starsky braced his head with tightly closed fists, shaking. Hutch's hand stayed at his back, unmoving but so good.

"I was maybe two hours out of Bay City, maybe two o'clock, when...this sounds ridiculous, but I felt you. Here." Hutch tapped his chest.

"Yeah." Starsky stared at him with astonishment. "I don't know what time it was, but that would be about right."

"Strange. Maybe it was because I was thinking about you so much. I didn't expect to feel such a connection..." Hutch trailed off, his face grim, the furrow between his eyebrows deep enough to hold an ocean.

"We always had a connection, babe," Starsky pressed his thumb against Hutch's forehead, smoothing out the wrinkles. "Just sometimes the wires get crossed."

"You saying I've had bad reception lately?"

"Goes both ways." Starsky mimed holding the police radio mic, hissing and sputtering against his fist. "Ze -- brazzzz three, psst fsst calling Hut ckh -- sssss."

"Wise ass." Hutch swiped at him and ended up with a finger in the catsup.

"Can't take you anywhere." Starsky handed him a napkin, looking around at the kitschy drive-in with satisfaction. "Hutch, you ever thought about owning a McDonald's?"

"No."

"What do you plan to do once we run the CEC outta town?"

"Go back to the way things used to be," Hutch said.

"You really think that's possible?" Starsky felt a strange fear in the pit of his stomach. That there was nothing left for them, one way or the other. They'd lost their jobs as cops. How the hell could things ever go back to the way they were in the '70s when life seemed so promising? Once, the scariest things on the horizon were gas shortages, drought, and a bunch of companies banding together in what they claimed were not technically monopolies.

"I don't know." Hutch tossed the greasy wrappers and wadded napkins into the trash, showing great potential for some future over-the-hill basketball team. "But with democracy, all things are possible, so I have to hope."

"You optimistic. This I gotta see." Starsky laughed, getting up from the picnic table and arching his back in a vertebrae-cracking stretch. A family with two small brown-skinned boys had been about to take the table next to him, but when the father saw Starsky's ring, he shooed the children over to the play area, whispering to his wife.

"Damn," Starsky said softly, the ache in his groin and penis suddenly ten times stronger. Those people saw nothing but a slave when they looked at him. He glanced at Hutch, trying to smile to cover up the hurt. "Me, I could go for a place like this. Have to find a chocolate concession, that's a must, but I bet the owner would sell for less than a million."

"Keep dreaming, Starsk," Hutch said, his voice like a caress. He didn't touch him, not in front of strangers, but Starsky could almost feel the print of a kiss on his lips. "I did see some Ray Bans in the gift shop, though. Take your pick, and I'll throw in a pack of gum and some peanuts."

"You like gum and peanuts," Starsky groused. "I hope they got Snickers, or anything chocolate."

Chocolate didn't keep in the desert; at least, that was the excuse. Starsky ate slightly stale Lorna Doones one by one as they sped down the highway. He'd complained about the decreasing number of sweets available in recent years, but it had never seemed as bad as this.

He insisted on taking a turn driving, which helped a lot. Driving had always been his balm and his salvation. Taking control of something tangible. Those long ago solitary races through Death Valley had saved his soul. He felt invigorated behind the wheel, despite the enervating Nevada heat. He floored the gas pedal, sure Hutch would say something, but not caring one iota.

"You wrap this Ford around a cactus, you're walking the rest of the way to Phoenix." Hutch braced himself against the dash. The car hit a crack in the pavement, launched into the air, and came back to earth with a teeth-rattling thud.

Starsky laughed, with the wind in his hair and sand in his teeth, gunning the motor for all it was worth.

He found himself staring at his wrists on the barren, straight-aways where he didn't have to pay much attention to the road. There were few cars going either direction to distract him. His hands looked foreign, not the same ones that had driven the Torino.

Hutch had buckled the wrist cuffs on tightly before they left the safe house. Smooth, brown leather, a color similar to Starsky's lost jacket, wrapped around his wrists, accenting the paler skin of his hands. He'd always been told he had nice hands, small for a man of his size, but he'd never paid very much attention to them. They were just part of his arms. Now, he was very aware of how the narrow column of the cuffs put his hands on display, reducing them to playthings for some master waiting for a handjob. No longer the hands of a free man.

Every time he turned his hand on the wheel, the twist of wrist bones under the form-fitting leather cuffs reminded him of what he had become.

Night found them over the border into the incorporated territory of New Mex-Arizona, but not yet at their destination. Starsky could see a blue shimmering light on the horizon that turned into a neon Indian teepee as they got closer. The blue coalesced into a huge neon sign mounted above ten conical cement huts shaped like the apocryphal native dwellings.

"Wouldja look at that!" Starsky pointed, sitting up straighter. "We gotta stay there, Hutch."

"That's the plan."

"So sometimes you do have plans I like," Starsky said with a grin and steered off towards the motel.

The inside of the first teepee was not quite as cute as the pink and blue trimmed outside; a round office in drab tan with a long counter complete with a bell, a rack of out of date brochures, and a plastic sign advertising credit cards that had stopped being accepted two years ago. The whole place seemed like set decoration from a movie in the '60s just waiting for Hitchcock to direct a scene.

A nut-brown woman who had to stand on a box to see over the counter watched greedily while Hutch counted out the fee in advance, her black eyes darting back and forth between the two men. Since Starsky still had no official ID other than his slave papers, Hutch had to sign in for the both of them, showing his California passport and detective's badge as proof of citizenship.

The woman glanced at Starsky with contempt, and pushed the key toward Hutch. "Slaves gotta be dressed around here. We're good Christian people. We don't abide by any of those free sex shenanigans they do up in Vegas."

"Just passing through, ma'am," Starsky said quietly, the joy of staying in a teepee completely drained away.

"He don't talk to me, either, you hear?" she snapped at Hutch, disapproval pinching her face.

"Lady, we're giving you our business, so I'd suggest you behave like a civil inn keeper unless you want a lawsuit on your hands," Hutch said quietly.

"Slavery ain't even legal in this territory."

"Exactly why we're coming here instead of Vegas." Hutch towered over her. The counter was between them, but Hutch could have easily picked her up and shaken her like a rat. He didn't. He simply stared at her with pale, ice-cold eyes, picked up the key, and walked out.

Starsky glanced back at the woman who was rooted to the spot. He wanted to laugh except the fist-sized ball in his chest kept getting in the way. He had to get another pair of jeans without a ring-sized rip in the groin.

Number seven was painted yellow with a red zigzag all around the exterior. "Looks like Charlie Brown's shirt," Starsky said, trying to lighten the tension. He plucked the keys out of Hutch's fingers and opened the door. The usual musty smell of a cheap hotel wafted out.

"I wanted to shove those keys in her nasty little face and arrest the shrew." Hutch kicked at the old-fashioned air conditioner.

"Hey, turn that thing on 'stead of abusing it." Starsky raised his arms, he was covered in sweat and even the insignificant breeze from the open door was a relief. The room was stiflingly hot. "This is the only hotel for miles around. Let's get some shuteye and get out at first light."

"Starsk..." Hutch began, and his eyes slid down Starsky's body with heat that had nothing to do with the ambient temperature.

"She don't take with none of that free sex stuff," Starsky said wolfishly, pushing the door shut with his sneaker.

"Good, I won't try anything with her." Hutch leaned forward just enough to nip Starsky in the sweet place where his neck met his shoulder. "You smell like sweat."

"Big surprise." Starsky slid his arms around Hutch, his cock jutting out with insistent demands. "We gotta turn on the A.C. or we'll bake in here."

"I like sweat." Hutch took a big sniff, snuffling under the edge of Starsky's T, which sent a delightful shiver down Starsky's spine. "You know, every time one of those guards patted you down, every time somebody pointed or made some crude remark about the slave, I had this rush of anger, and following it came..."

He looked up, their eyes locking and Starsky felt a visceral sensation of absolute love. "Madness?" Starsky asked, just to see the play of annoyance, embarrassment, and adoration play across Hutch's classic features.

"Love, babe. Love. Passion." Hutch molded his hands around Starsky's skull, pressing his hair flat and kissing him. "That you were all mine and they'd better get their filthy hands off you or..." They grappled for supremacy, each trying to take control of the kiss, sucking and licking each other until they had to declare a tie. Hutch breathed in deeply, his chest expanding and contracting against Starsky's, and gently pushed him downward.

Starsky settled on his knees, Hutch still holding his head like a precious treasure, and unzipped Hutch's fly. That magnificent phallus sprang forth right into Starsky's mouth. He knew what to do and did it gladly, giving Hutch all his expertise. That they were master and slave had no meaning at that moment. This was the greatest freedom, giving and taking without expecting anything but joy in return.

"Wait." Hutch stopped Starsky, and bent over him, fumbling just a little with the tight buckle on the collar.

"Hutch?" Starsky asked, and waited until the leather band was removed from his throat. His neck felt wobbly, as if he needed the support of the collar. But his head didn't tumble off its perch and he smiled, looking up at Hutch.

"No slaves in here tonight," Hutch whispered and pulled him onto the bed.

The air conditioner eventually got turned on, sometime after they showered together in the miniscule stall. They slept close together on one bed, sheets pushed down to their bare feet, Hutch's lips touching Starsky's chest the whole night.