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Title: Ghosts of Youth
Author: spikeNdru
Rating: Adult/NC-17
Pairing: Spike/Ethan
Warnings: Mention of previous Ethan/Giles relationship.

For estepheia.

Author's Notes/Summary: I hope this fic at least approximates what you had in mind when you made the request for Spike/Ethan: In Season 7 the Initiative snatch Spike off the streets and transfer him to the Nevada detention facility where he ends up in the same cell with a chipped Ethan. Many of the Initiative-based stories I've seen are dark!fic. I decided to take a different tack, however; this is more in the hurt/comfort genre. Also, I had Spike picked up by the Initiative while still in Africa, rather than the streets of Sunnydale, before The First got its hooks into Spike. It's my theory that the guilt and depression Spike evidenced were a direct result of having his soul returned, but the insanity was due to The First's machinations.

Disclaimer: Not mine; all belong to the genius that is Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox. I'm just playing with them.

Many thanks to crazydiamondsue for the beta.


The soldiers stood at attention as the frail old man was wheeled past them. The honor guard was meant to be a show of respect, but the retired Commander knew it was a hollow show. These young soldiers had no idea who he was – would have not known even if they heard his name. For he had left the sea in 1937, long before he could have been expected to obtain glory – or, at least, notoriety – during the War. His work had been done in secret for the rest of his career, but had never lost its fascination for him.

It had begun as a small group of men with obscure funding to study the paranormal. If he remembered correctly, the development of mind-control techniques had been the original objective. He distinctly remembered his first trip to Haiti. They had gone to observe Voodoo practices, in which entire groups of followers seemed to experience mass hallucinations. They had observed more than they had bargained for – he had seen zombies raised with his own eyes, a colleague had been bitten by a werewolf, and Reginald Smythe had joined their group.

It was the inclusion of Smythe that really opened things up for them. Smythe had called himself a "Watcher", but after fifteen years of heat, humidity, insects and an abundance of rum, Smythe was tired of 'watching', and wanted to be 'doing'. Smythe had lost his daughter – or perhaps his niece; the Commander could no longer remember every minute detail – and wished to take a more active role in a fight that had nothing to do with the alarming situation in Germany.

Their small group had taken the initiative in learning all they could about the denizens of the night, of whom most humans never became aware. They had seen the possibilities that completely eclipsed their stated goal of mind control of the human enemy. And then they discovered that they had a counterpart operating in Prussia. The Germans were attempting to modify the behavior of sub-terrestrials – to develop their own private army of monsters.

The Commander smiled briefly. He had been instrumental in dropping a monkey wrench into the works of that little operation! When Smythe had told them of the anomaly of a vampire with a soul, it had been the Commander who had seen the possibilities of using that vampire to kill two birds with one stone. The military would get a prototype new submarine to play with and the Initiative would get a prototype of a different kind.

The souled vampire had been too clever for them, however. He had completed the mission as required, but then disappeared before they could study him further. But the technology that the sub was carrying turned out to be very interesting indeed. It was a shame that it had all gone so terribly wrong in Sunnydale. Yet, there had been one success, at least.

Hostile 17 was a very unusual creature. The successful implantation of the chip had modified his behavior to such an extent that he had not only allied with humans, but had voluntarily gone to obtain a soul of his own. Unprecedented! The Commander still had enough pull that the current leadership had agreed to indulge him in his quest for a final bit of research.

The Commander had often wondered how the presence of a soul made Angel different from both other vampires and from humans, but had never gotten to satisfy his curiosity. Now, near the end of a long and productive life, he was being given a second chance. He had the authority to deploy a team to Africa to capture Hostile 17. A souled vampire! Would the humanity of the soul be able to overcome the urges of the resident demon? And how much of what is defined as 'humanity' actually resided in the soul? The Commander had known plenty of humans who appeared to be pretty damn soulless!

The Initiative currently had access to a rather immoral human whose behavior they had been attempting to modify, without much success. It was an unprecedented opportunity for the Commander. He planned to put SubT-17 in with T-234 and observe and record their interactions. He had authorization for complete control of the project, so there would be no interference. He was aware that the Brass were humoring him, but it didn't matter. Perhaps he would finally be able to define the function of a soul – and at his age, that seemed to be the penultimate question.

They had reached the long table, and the young soldier settled his wheelchair at the head. The soldier saluted and, with a precise turn on his heel, rejoined his fellows in the honor guard. The guard marched out of the room to take up their positions in the hall outside the briefing room, which was both soundproofed and free of electronic surveillance.

The Commander faced the group gathered around the briefing table.

"Gentlemen, I have a mission for you. There can be no slip-ups. No mistakes. Your orders are to be followed to the letter, and for Christ's sake, keep the Finns out of this one . . ."


The Subjects

He was trapped! Trapped in his coffin again. His hands beat at the lid, trying to claw his way out as he had done so many years ago – as Buffy had done more recently. But this coffin was metal. He could not claw his way out, and could not get enough momentum to punch his way out of the metal box that so tightly enfolded him. He was buried alive – or, in his case, undead – in a metal coffin and there was no way out that he could see. Unless he was only dreaming that he was buried alive. Maybe the metal coffin was just a . . . what was the word? He had always struggled with words, trying to find the most perfectly precise word that would express with shining clarity exactly what he was trying to say . . .

He was drifting again . . . losing the train of his thoughts. He remembered having a conversation with Giles about what happens to vampires who don't get to feed and he remembered making a facetious remark about it, but he didn't remember discussing hallucinations.

Metaphor! That was the word. Maybe he was hallucinating being trapped in an unforgiving metal coffin as a metaphor for his inability to escape the consequences of his evil deeds? Bugger that! Angel was the Mr. Broodypants, not him! Of course he regretted a lot of what he'd done in the past, and if he'd had a soul then, he probably wouldn't have done it. And now that he'd gotten his soul back, he certainly wouldn't do those things in future, but he'd done them while soulless and . . . He was losing the thought, again. Sort of like the man dreaming he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming he was a man. So maybe he was hallucinating or maybe he was dreaming that he was hallucinating or maybe he was actually imprisoned in a metal coffin . . .

Spike gradually became aware of a slight rocking motion, as of water passing over him. The kind of motion you would feel in a submarine – no, wait, the submarine had been half a century ago. What would he be doing on a submarine now? He was getting things confused again. He couldn't be on a submarine. And yet, it wasn't the kind of ocean movement he'd feel if he were on a ship. He'd spent enough time in the holds of ships to know that! So, not a ship. It had to be a submarine, unless . . . Bloody hell! Unless he was imprisoned in a metal coffin and dropped to the bottom of the ocean instead of being buried on land.

But who would do that to him, and why? If they'd wanted him dead, they'd have just staked him . . . It didn't make any sense. He was feeling sleepy . . . maybe he was dreaming. 'Cause Angelus had done many more, and worse, things than he'd done. So why wasn't it Angelus who was locked in a metal box on the bottom of the ocean? Why him?


Ethan dozed fitfully. He hadn't had a truly deep, refreshing sleep in nearly two years. He'd never adjust to the florescent lights, glaring twenty-four hours a day. His body craved the soft, welcoming darkness . . . English rain . . . the scent of flowers and newly-mowed grass.

Instead, he got hard, bright, brutal florescence; hot dry air that stripped the moisture from his body, and the scent of electricity and chemicals.

Ah, Ripper . . . you have much to answer for. What have I done that was so bloody terrible that you'd consign me to this hell on earth? Or is it not me that you're punishing, but yourself? Do you think about me, Ripper – here in this bright, sterile facility, at the mercy of sadists calling themselves scientists? Here without a trial or any due process? Here, not because of anything I've done, but because when you look at me you can't stand to remember what you've done. What we've done.

A real pillar of the community now, aren't you, Rupert? But your house of respectability is built on a foundation of sand. Do you remember the magic, Ripper? The magic of the times and the magic we created? Do you remember the rush – the magic building up inside until you think you can no longer contain it without exploding, but you hold on just a bit longer . . . The feeling that's like nothing else on earth as the power thrums through you and the whoosh as it leaves your body to become a living thing of its own, leaving you light and hollow inside and wanting nothing more than to be filled again . . . filled with each others' mouths and tongues and cocks, creating a different kind of magic. Do you remember that? Do you, Ripper?

Or, do you not think of me at all? Out of sight, out of mind, eh? Do you even remember sending me here, whilst you go on, living your life as a good little Watcher? Do you? Do you, Ripper? Do you?

Ethan heard the snick-hiss sounds of the door being opened and a contingent of six soldiers came marching into his cell. They held him still as a white coat advanced on him, a syringe containing yellow fluid held out in front like a flag or a cross; a symbol of protection from the Other. A reminder that in this world there were those who did and those who had done to – us and them. And Ethan was definitely 'them'. He slipped into unconsciousness and welcomed the darkness. At least he wouldn't have to look at those bloody florescent lights . . .


The small 'house' had been carefully built to the Commander's specifications. It was built of cinder block, but the inside walls were lined with titanium. The Commander's rooms were designed to be completely handicapable – sinks, counters and stove all at the optimum height to be accessible to one confined to a chair. He had a built-in dishwasher, a specially designed refrigerator/freezer, fully stocked, and a microwave within easy reach. His bathroom was state-of-the-art. The Commander was self-sufficient in ways he hadn't been for twenty years. Government funding was certainly a wonder. It was very freeing. And exciting.

In addition to the kitchen and bath, he had a bed-sitting room, the focus of which was a wall of screens. These screens were the purpose of this whole, glorious experiment. They existed to give him access to everything that occurred in the other half of the small house. Military surveillance cameras, and some prototypes the military didn't yet have, had been embedded everywhere during the construction of the house. Heat sensitive, night vision, infrared, low light, bright light . . . the Commander couldn't even remember all the technological information he'd been given about the surveillance system installed for him. It didn't matter – as long as he got what he wanted. And he would. His 'guests' would be arriving soon.


The Experiment

Ethan's return to consciousness felt analogues to a salmon swimming upstream to spawn; he felt like he was on the bottom of the ocean, gradually making his way to the surface, swimming upward toward the light. He felt – Oh, stop with the water metaphors, already! Must be from living so long in the dry desert climate of Nevada that my dreams are all of water . . . He opened his eyes to soft, normal ambient light. Gone were the harsh fluorescents. Gone was the clear acrylic cell. He was lying in a real bed. A bed with sheets and soft blankets and pillows.

Bloody hell! Whatever that stuff they gave him was, he could make a fortune on the black market with it! If it caused pleasurable hallucinations like this . . .

Ethan smacked himself in the face. Ow! Well, either he was awake and could feel the slap, or he was still out of it, dreaming he was awake and feeling the slap. Or, he may finally have gone insane. That was always a possibility. Bugger that! Ethan decided he didn't much care how he came to be in his current circumstances; he may as well enjoy it while it lasted.

He swung his legs off the side of the bed and sat up, but needed to pause, gripping the mattress, until the dizziness passed. He looked around at the furnishings. Large bed, dresser, comfortable chair with a reading lamp – that was the source of the non-fluorescent light – TV/DVD player, sofa against the wall. He shakily made his way to the TV and switched it on. A blank blue screen appeared. Right, then. He wasn't to be allowed access to actual news and TV programming, but there was a large box of DVDs next to the set.

Feeling a bit stronger, Ethan explored the rest of his new living situation. Bathroom – with a lovely shower – and kitchen. Refrigerator stocked with food, not the MRE crap he'd been living on for the last few years. And beer! Could it possibly be real beer? And . . . blood? Packets of blood? Ethan sighed. This must be a dream, then. Why would a real refrigerator be stocked with packets of blood? Oh, well, hallucination or not, he may as well have a beer before he woke up.

Ethan decided this couldn't possibly be his dream, as he would never stock any fridge his subconscious invented with Budweiser or MGD! Aha! Dos Equis Amber. Not Guinness, but definitely the best of the lot. He pulled open the drawer next to the fridge and amidst the jumble of wooden spoons, spatulas and other assorted cooking implements, he discovered a bottle opener.

The beer was like Ambrosia as it slid down his throat, and he felt quite lightheaded. It had been so long. So long since he'd had a drink – so long since he'd felt like a human being! Whatever gods were responsible for his changed circumstances, he'd have to remember to thank them. Ethan cut off a hunk of cheddar cheese – not Stilton, of course, but 'Wisconsin Extra Sharp' would have to do – opened another beer, and made his way back to the bedroom.

He finished his snack and decided he'd just lie down and rest for a bit. He could take a shower later. Right now, he was still feeling tired from the effects of the drug.

On the other side of the house, the Commander noted Ethan's food preferences with spidery handwriting in a cheap composition book.


THUMP! Screeeech . . .Slam! RAWRR!

Ethan's eyes flew open and his heart was pounding so fast and hard he was sure he was having a coronary. What the bloody fucking hell was happening?

His right hand still clutched his chest, as if he could force his heart to stabilize by will alone, as he slipped out of bed and touched the wall. As silently as possible, with one hand on his chest and the other sliding along the wall, he made his way around the corner and peered into the kitchen. A new item had been added to the furnishings of his small abode. His decorator certainly had macabre taste, as the item in question was definitely a metal coffin. Perhaps he could use it as a coffee table?

There was another roar, and suddenly the lid was flung back. Ethan stared at the yellow eyes and ridged forehead as time seemed to slow. The vampire was moving as if the air had suddenly turned to tar, or maybe molasses . . . Ethan had time to observe and process every detail. He noted the rectangular hairline crack in the kitchen wall that must be a door, although there was no access from the inside. He replayed the sounds that had awakened him. The 'thump' had apparently been the dropping of the coffin; the 'screech' the prying open of the sealed lid. The 'slam' was most probably the exiting of whomever had delivered the box, and the 'roar' was undoubtedly the toy surprise inside.

The vampire's hands clutched Ethan's shoulders and he could feel the cool whisper of an exhaled breath on his neck. Chills ran up his spine as the vampire's fangs grazed his throat. He scrunched his eyes shut. This was to be it, then. Not how he imagined dying, but even death was preferable to his lab-rat status. He'd never actually considered that he might die, but he'd had a good run while it lasted.

The fingers bit deeper into his shoulders and he winced. They'd definitely leave bruises. He felt hysterical laughter bubbling up inside and he swallowed hard, attempting to cut it off before it burst free. There'd be no bruises – bruises were the result of blood pooling under the skin, and if he was drained of blood, there'd be no blood left to pool.

The vampire seemed to be . . . snuffling at his neck. Why wasn't he biting? Ethan slowly opened his eyes to find a pair of confused blue ones staring at him from only inches away. Ethan caught his breath at the sight of the most beautiful man he'd ever seen. He'd always heard that Death was seductive, but he hadn't thought it would be quite this literal –

"Who are you? And where the bloody hell am I?"

Mad dogs and Englishmen . . . Apparently, Death was a bit of both.

"My name is Ethan Rayne, and I haven't a buggering clue as to where you – or I, for that matter – are. I'd been a 'guest' of a special military detention facility for some time, I was drugged and woke up here – wherever 'here' is – "

"Oh, bollocks! Not the fucking Initiative!"

"You're familiar with the Initiative, I take it?"

Spike finally let go of Ethan, wrapped his arms closely around himself, and began to pace. Ethan edged away, although there wasn't much of anywhere to go; the vampire could kill him within seconds, if he wished. He suddenly remembered the blood in the fridge and flung open the door. The vampire was still pacing and muttering to himself.

Ethan grabbed a few of the bags and cleared his throat. The vampire's eyes immediately focused on him. Ethan threw a bag and the vampire caught it; his face morphing into the ridges and fangs while the packet was still in mid-air. He sank his teeth into the blood, slicing through the thick plastic with ease, and the blood disappeared in seconds. Ethan threw another packet, then another. The vampire drank five pints before his face seemed to ripple, and he once again looked human.

Ethan stared at him in fascination. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but why didn't you kill me when you had the chance?"

Spike ran a hand through his hair and frowned. "That's what the gits wanted, innit? Starve me for weeks t'see if I could be forced to kill – see who was stronger, me or th' demon."

Spike resumed pacing. "Get me killin' again, yeah? Knowin' the guilt would drive me crazy . . . Not again! They've soddin' well done enough bloody experiments on me. Not again!"

He whirled and began slamming his hands against the wall, then punching the unforgiving metal until his hands were raw and bleeding. "Not again! Do you hear me, you pillocks? Not. Fucking. Ever. Again!"

Spent, Spike leaned both hands on the wall and pressed his face against it. "Not again," he whispered.

"Er, do you want a drink?" Ethan didn't know about the vampire, but he certainly could use one. There didn't seem to be any whiskey available, so he opened the fridge and pulled out two Dos Equis.


Spike felt exhaustion begin to creep over him. His muscles felt leaden and the nearly empty bottle dropped from fingers that could no longer grasp it. Probably a combination of the drugs still in his system and the first 'meal' he'd had in weeks, he thought. He managed to drag his legs up on the couch and then he knew no more.

Ethan watched him sleep. How interesting. The vampire was technically dead and had no need for oxygen, yet his chest rose and fell occasionally with quite unnecessary breaths. It had to be from long habit, for him to continue even in his sleep. Who was this most human of vampires?

Ethan briefly considered staking him while he slept. There were several long-handled wooden spoons in the kitchen that would probably do the job. And yet . . . the vampire hadn't fed on him when he'd had the chance. If he staked his new roommate he'd be alone again, at the mercy of his captors. Ethan had been alone for so long . . .

He stared at the long spiky eyelashes resting on those perfectly chiseled cheeks, the soft full-lipped mouth, and determined chin. In many ways, this vampire reminded him of Ripper – the real Ripper, not that pale, tweedy ghost who had given up on life and sold his soul to the Watcher's Council. The resemblance wasn't physical, but more a matter of attitude. Gods, Ethan missed that up-for-anything-devil-may-care attitude Ripper used to exude!

Ethan stood, wanting to gently brush the hair back from the vampire's face. He reached out a hand and then withdrew it; not quite daring to touch – to connect. He made his way around the dogleg of the L-shaped room and lay down on the bed. Within minutes, he was asleep.

The Commander rubbed his hands together in satisfaction. Hostile 17 had resisted the urge to kill – drugged, half-starved, and with his demon ascendant; he had still resisted. It must be the presence of the soul!

The Commander was very pleased that Hostile 17 hadn't killed T-234. If he had, there were other prisoners who could take 234's place, of course, but it wouldn't be the same. He wanted to observe the interactions of a human who was apparently bereft of a conscience and a demon who had developed one.

The Commander smiled wryly, remembering. The sub had appeared in the harbor, filled with the bodies of the crew and several Germans. The one glaring omission had been Lieutenant Lawson – who was never seen again. And Angel, of course. The Commander often wondered exactly what Angel had done with Lawson.


Spike's eyes flew open and darted around the room. At least he wasn't still in the coffin, then. He still felt rather muzzy from the drugs in his system, though. Spike's vampire constitution worked in his favor to break down and eliminate the substance more rapidly than Ethan's, but he had been given multiple doses over a longer period of time.

He got up to explore his new prison. No doors or windows that he could see. He searched more carefully. The only possibility in the entire flat was the barely perceptible rectangle in the kitchen. Must be a door, then. They'd had to have gotten him in somehow. He slowly ran his fingers over it. The metal was perfectly smooth; the tiny fissure not wide enough for a fingernail. Looked like he and that Ethan bloke were stuck here for a bit. Might as well be comfortable.

The accommodations were a bloody sight better than the last ones the Initiative had provided him. No tea, though. Unless one was feeling charitable enough to call those porous paper packets with the strings stapled on 'tea'. Spike wasn't feeling that charitable, so he made a pot of coffee. While it was filtering, he opened a packet of blood, poured it into a mug, and put it in the microwave to heat.

The tantalizing aroma of fresh-brewed coffee awakened Ethan. He staggered into the bathroom, relieved himself and splashed cold water on his face. A flash of the old cocky attitude surfaced and he gave a two-fingered salute to the mirror. He had absolutely no doubt it was a cover for some form of surveillance. He brushed his teeth and then went in search of the coffee.

Ethan nodded at the vampire and poured himself a cup of black coffee. He noticed that the vampire took his with cream and three sugars. Ethan searched the refrigerator and took out a box of eggs. Should he offer to make some for the vampire? He'd never realized they actually ate . . . food . . . but he'd made coffee, so it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Ethan held up two of the eggs he'd removed from the carton. "Want some?"

The vampire focused on him with obvious effort – he'd seemed to be deep in thought, and it looked like the thoughts weren't pleasant ones.

"What? Oh . . . yeah. Got any Tabasco?"

Ethan searched the condiments on the door shelves and held up two bottles.

"Red or green?"

"Red." He seemed to be having some difficulty translating his thoughts into words. "Thanks."

Ethan looked up in surprise. He hadn't expected a 'thank you'.

After breakfast had been prepared and consumed, the housemates drifted back to the bed-sit and Spike desultorily flipped through the DVDs, finally selecting Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Again, Ethan felt a flash of surprise. If he'd thought about it at all, he'd have guessed vampires would be more the action/horror type, choosing lots of blood, carnage and gore.

They watched several movies. Ethan had next pick, and he chose A Clockwork Orange, then Spike picked The Princess Bride, mumbling something about 'the Nibblet's bloody favorite flick'.

With no clocks, windows, or external schedule to follow, Ethan felt somewhat disoriented. It could be morning, afternoon or the middle of the bloody night, for all he knew. He sucked in a quick gasp of air. When had he gotten so used to having a schedule that he felt lost without one? He worshiped Chaos, didn't he? Why should he fucking care what time it was? The Initiative had much to answer for, but this craving for order they had somehow imbued him with was the worst. It terrified him.

Spike looked up, as if he knew Ethan's thoughts.

"Sun's down."

Ethan was intrigued. "How do you know?"

"I just know."

Ethan got up and brought back two beers. They were gone all too soon, and Spike got the next round. By the time they had each made two trips to the kitchen, they decided it would be more efficient to just relocate to the kitchen table – closer to the beer.

As the beer flowed, so did the conversation. Spike became more animated, and Ethan decided he was actually quite good company, if a touch hyper. At least he wasn't a brooding, morose type of drunk . . .


"Giles? You had it on with Rupert Giles?"

"Oh, you know Rupert, then?"

"Well, yeah. Spent four years of my unlife in Sunnyhell, didn't I? Just never figured old Rupes for actually getting shagged! Well, there was that bird back in, what was it? '98? Nineteen ninety-eight . . . but I dunno if they'd got round to the shagging yet before Angelus killed her . . ."

Ethan sighed. "Yes, he has come across rather tweedy in recent years. Rather like the 'hair shirt syndrome', isn't it? Absolutely oozing righteousness and morality."

"Yeah, that's Giles, alright. Th' original white hat."

"Not quite 'original' – more like 'constructed'. . ."

"You mean all those 'dear lords' an' glasses cleanings and 'there is no way to Buffy, you evil, immoral vampire' was all just an act?"

Ethan thought for a moment and opened another beer. "No, not an act – a re-action, rather. You should have known him then . . . he was all fire and passion and powerful magics and so beautiful he'd take your breath away. Up for anything, was Ripper. Bold and impetuous and wanting to experience everything life had to offer, and then some. Cocky and arrogant and powerful . . . he had real power. Power over magic and power over me . . ." Ethan's voice had dropped to a wistful whisper.

Spike looked at him with compassion.

"You were in love with him." It was a statement, not a question.

Ethan gripped his beer tightly. "Always . . ."

He took a long drink, then went to the fridge for more beers for both of them. They had finished the last of the Dos Equis some time ago, and were having to make do with the MGD. Ethan wished there was whiskey available.

"But then he changed. A spell went wrong and people died. I figured we needed to work harder – to develop better, more surefire spells. To control the magic . . . But Ripper ran away. Just gave it all up. Convinced himself it was a youthful indiscretion and buried himself in the bosom of the Watcher's Council. Went over all conservative. Instead of gaining control over powerful magic, Ripper chose to attempt to control powerful magic users. The last few times I've seen him, we butted heads. Thought I'd take him down a peg or two, give him a chance to let go . . . so I turned him into a demon, and that's how I ended up here."

"The Fyarl? That was you? Bloody brilliant! Or . . . not from Giles' perspective, I guess."

"You knew about the Fyarl?"

"Well, yeah. I happen to speak Fyarl. Became his soddin' interpreter, didn't I? Earned a few quid for it, too. But then he made me give the money back when the soldier-boys tagged me with a bloody tracer and were runnin' me ragged. Charged me for removin' it . . . but he did remove it. Have to give him that."

"So, you've known him well, these past few years?"

"Lived with him for a bit, didn't I?"

Spike caught sight of Ethan's face and gave a brief laugh, then drained his beer and reached for another.

"Oh, not like that! Kept me chained in a bathtub he did, and . . . your mind's just gone to a happy place, yeah?"

Ethan laughed. "The mental pictures are . . . stimulating, I must admit."

"Stimulating, hmm?" Spike's hand snaked out and covered Ethan's erection. He drew his nails up the length of him and then the hand was gone, once again holding his beer. The touch was so brief, Ethan wondered if he had imagined it, but then Spike continued, "Yeah, I can 'see' that."

Ethan leaned forward and covered Spike's hand with his own. "Sometimes you remind me so much of him . . . the way he used to be . . ."

Spike stared into Ethan's eyes. He saw such pain and longing in their depths – the same pain he knew was in his own eyes whenever he thought of Buffy. He could never make up for the pain he'd caused her. He knew that now. He'd never be good enough for her. He'd never deserve her forgiveness. But maybe he could take away, for a little bit, some of the pain Rupert had caused this man . . .

"That all I am to you? A substitute for Rupert?"

Ethan didn't flinch or look away. "Everyone is. For me, there's only ever been Ripper."

"Well, then. Since we've got that straight . . . fancy a shag, luv?"


The blue light from the silent TV bathed their bodies in an other-worldly glow as Spike pulled his T-shirt over his head and unbuttoned his jeans. The burns on his chest had faded to faintly puckered red marks.

Ethan reached out and gently touched the rough skin marring the smooth expanse of chest that looked like white marble, and felt cool and firm to the touch. Museums should be filled with statues replicating this beautiful boy. No, not a boy; older by far than Ethan himself. What must it be like – to remain forever young and beautiful, while all around you grew old, withered and died? It must be very lonely . . .

Spike pulled the bright orange shirt over Ethan's head and Ethan tensed his abdominal muscles, holding them rigid in an attempt to minimize the softness that had crept in over the years. He'd never be able to come close to Spike's rock-hard washboard abs, but he didn't want Spike to be too . . . disappointed.

Spike's hand brushed his skin as he worked at untying the drawstring in Ethan's orange pants, and Ethan quivered.

The pants dropped to pool around his ankles, and Spike pulled his white cotton underwear down after them. And then Spike's hand was on his erection. He grasped it in his fist and squeezed – hard, but not painfully so. Ethan's legs trembled, and he was glad for the support of the mattress and box springs behind his thighs, helping him remain upright.

Spike sank to his knees, and Ethan caught his breath as his cock was slowly drawn into that perfect mouth. The simultaneous sensations of coolness and heat were overwhelming. Spike's agile tongue swirled around the head of his cock, and blunt teeth scraped the length of the throbbing vein, beating with the rhythm of Ethan's heart.

Spike's mouth tightened and the pressure increased. Ethan grasped Spike's shoulders and his fingers clutched as Spike's mouth enclosed him. Spike's tongue swept over his balls and Ethan moaned. Ethan thrust his hips, plunging his cock deeper into Spike's throat.

The clean, rich smell of extra-virgin olive oil overlaid the musky scent of male arousal permeating the room. Ethan gasped as Spike's thumb massaged into him, relaxing the tight muscle, and then shuddered as two of Spike's oiled fingers thrust deep. Ethan came with a rush, deep in Spike's throat. An almost unrecognizable feeling bubbled up inside him, and Ethan threw back his head and laughed with joy.

Spike's fingers thrust and twisted within Ethan, stretching him, and Ethan fell back across the bed as his legs could no longer hold him. He breathed in the scent of more of the olive oil and then his legs were grasped and lifted by strong hands. His ankles gripped Spike's shoulders as Spike thrust into him. Ethan caught his breath as his cock hardened a second time.

A hand slick with oil grasped his cock as Spike continued to thrust into him, filling the emptiness he had carried inside for so long. Ethan's lashes sparkled with unshed tears of gratitude.

The Commander gripped the arms of his wheelchair tightly. As he continued to watch, a tear wended its way down his wrinkled cheek. He raised a shaking hand to brush it away, but the moisture had already been absorbed by his parchment-like skin.

He closed his ancient eyes. It didn't matter. Eyes open or closed, the images that formed in his mind were not those of Hostile 17 and T-234. They were long-buried fantasies of his younger, vital self . . .

. . . and Angel.