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One could say I've had a lot of time to think lately. Although that wouldn't be strictly accurate. When the unpleasant chaps in the uniforms aren't asking me questions or doing experiments, when I'm not drugged or frightened or in pain, then I've got a bit of time to think.

Perhaps it was inevitable that something like this would happen. There's not a rule of "civilised" life I haven't broken, without compunction and often with amusement. And when you worship a double-faced god of chaos, you can't hope for much in the way of divine protection. I was clever, I covered my tracks, I stayed free; but the day came when I wasn't clever enough.

I could blame myself, but I prefer to blame you. There are lovely ironies in all this; would you appreciate then, Ripper, if I could tell you? You used to enjoy irony, before you became so very earnest. Of course, this time the cosmic joke is on you as much as on me.

I can't help remembering our time together before the end. The memory brings me pleasure and pain so entwined I can hardly tell them apart. But I've learned to like that over the years. And a lucky thing, too, considering where I am now.

It's true I was up to mischief when you surprised me in that crypt. But for once it was nothing to do with you. I was honestly happy to see you. I'd planned to do what I often do when I pass through Sunnydale--lurk for hours near your house, hoping for a glimpse of you. Pleasure and pain. But there you were, and for once it was mostly pleasure, though you weren't exactly friendly at first. I thought you were going to hit me, as usual, and my skin tingled and my cock hardened in anticipation. When you didn't I was surprised, and then I looked at you again and realised that under your suspicion (always the Watcher now, my dear) you were as pleased as I was. You'd missed me. I could see it in your eyes. And I saw that you were lonely. You've grown used to being a bit invisible, the unregarded adult among self-absorbed children. You hardly need to hide your unhappiness from them, I'm sure--they'd never notice anyway. But I knew you very well, once.

So I lured you out for a drink with the promise of information about "314." But after telling you what little I knew, I steered the conversation towards the old days. The good old days, not the bad ones. The ones we could laugh over. We talked about your band, our travels, our scrapes when we were young and poor and had to humiliate ourselves doing Tarot readings and selling love spells to pay the rent. I wanted you to remember all those times we talked in bed together into the grey, rainy English dawn. I didn't want you to remember demons.

Eventually, you told me about your problems with your Slayer and her new professor, and about feeling useless and feeling old. Then the moment passed, and we were laughing and joking again, remembering when we were gods of the night, remembering magic.

I was surprised by how much you drank, and how much it took to affect you. You drank, Ripper my love, like an old soak, the sort who puts it away steadily every evening, never quite getting drunk but always floating an inch above his troubles on a cushion of alcohol. That night you gradually relaxed as you drank, and warmed up. You smiled, and were charming, and touched my arm to emphasize a point. Our knees brushed under the table, and sometimes I caught a look in your eye that I remembered very well. The last time I'd seen it was when we were lovers, early on. When you were Ripper, bold and fierce, but before the demon, before it all went wrong, before you buried yourself under tweedy, nervous propriety. I remembered you young, sexy, eager for magic and music and fame, and eager for me. Half of me wanted to take you right there in the bar. The other half wanted to cry, and I haven't done that in a long time.

I knew I could make you mine again. When you looked away, floating on some happy, tipsy thought, I whispered, "You're really very attractive." I put just a little magic behind it, enough to be sure that you'd notice and remember when I first said it to you, twenty years ago and more. When you looked back at me I pretended I'd said it to the waitress, but you knew. I shifted so that our legs touched again, and you didn't move away. The pulse was pounding in my throat, and lower down too. I thought about sliding a discreet hand up your thigh, but it was too soon and I didn't want to scare you off. Instead I ordered us another drink, and we toasted, "To magic." As we talked, your leg pressed against mine, so that I felt your calf muscles under the wool trouser.

"Let's get out of here," I suggested.

As you drove me back to the wretched motel where I was staying, we gradually fell into silence. Our laughter had gone again, dried up by a sort of arid melancholy, dried up by time and memories better left unspoken. You breathed a little sigh, and I said, "You really aren't happy, are you, Rupe?" Enough barriers had come down between us that you didn't take that as a taunt. To my surprise, you answered almost honestly.

"No. But I don't expect I have the right to be. I get on all right."

Of course you do, I thought. Perfectly all right, provided the whiskey's always there.

"And are you happy, Ethan?"

I was taken aback. It's not a question I ask myself, and certainly not one I'd ever expected to hear from you again. I thought for a moment, wanting to give you at least the half-honest answer you'd given me. "I don't think happiness really comes into it. But I have most of what I want."

"You have power."

"Yes. I have work that I enjoy and that I'm good a--isn't that what psychologists say we most need? Though I don't suppose they have my sort of work in mind."

"Are you . . . is there . . . anyone?"

"No one important," I answered, thinking of a succession of men met in bars, men I never saw again after a night. A little sex, a little magical power draining, and they stumbled out the next morning not much the worse for wear. Usually.

Knowing the answer, I didn't ask about you, but you told me anyway. "I haven't really had anyone important in my life. Not for a long time."

You didn't say, "Not since you," but I heard it.

You pulled the car into the motel and parked in front of my door. "Rupe, why don't you come in for a bit? I've got a bottle, we could have another drink and talk some more." You said nothing, but clicked open your seat belt. Anticipation tightened in me like pain.

Inside, I went to get the Scotch, then felt your eyes on me. When I pulled you into my arms and kissed you, you tensed for a moment, then your mouth opened to mine. I'd been waiting half a lifetime to kiss you again, and I savoured it. I pushed my tongue in deep, tasting you, giddy at the sensation and the surge of memory the taste of your mouth sent through me. We stood like statues, unmoving, only our hidden tongues searching.

When you pulled away my heart sank, but you only took off your glasses and set them down. You blinked at me nervously, looking so boyish, so much the same, that it was like stepping into the past. But I knew the past was gone. I knew how things had been between us for years now.

It was those newer memories, those other feelings I'd learned from you, that spoke through me. "Ripper . . . you can do whatever you want. You can hurt me. Make me bleed. I don't care. I just want you."

You drew in a long breath, and I wondered what you would choose. What exquisite pain, what terrible pleasure was coming?

Some emotion crossed your face that I couldn't entirely read, regret and longing and something unnameable. "No," you said, so tenderly it shocked me. "I don't want to hurt you anymore, Ethan. I don't want to be Ripper."

Then you were kissing me and your hands were everywhere, running over my back, down to my hips, cupping my arse. I kissed up your jawline, feeling rough stubble under my lips, and licked at your earlobe, remembering how you'd liked that. You gasped and I bit lightly, wishing you still wore an earring. Then you were kissing my throat as you opened my top shirt button. I caught your hips and pulled you to me, and you moaned softly in your throat as your hard cock rubbed against mine. As your fingers quested over my chest, undoing buttons, I felt your touch all the way down to my toes. I tugged your shirttails free of your trousers and reached in, hungry for your skin. Your back was as smooth as I remembered, well-muscled, your body only a little softened by age and alcohol. Then you moved lower, kissing down my chest and belly, thrusting a warm, dexterous tongue into my navel. Your mouth outlined my cock through my trousers. A rush of weakness made me stagger, and I held your shoulders for support as you worked at belt, button and zip.

My trousers slithered to my ankles, and I could only beg, "please, please," as you lowered my shorts and brought your mouth to me. Your tongue licking up my shaft sent needles of pleasure into my spine. My fingers caught at your hair, and I fought the urge to force your mouth down onto me. Instead, you caressed my balls with one hand and pulled my foreskin back with the other, exposing tender skin. "Please," I said again, barely able to get the sound out, and then you licked a drop of wetness from my tip and took me in, moving tentatively, slowly. The heat and the slight roughness of your tongue drove me almost to frenzy. I knew I would come if you moved faster, so I summoned the willpower to pull away. Somehow I got you to your feet and tore at your clothes, popping your shirt buttons in my desperation.

Then we were naked, pausing for a moment, looking at each other. You no longer had a young man's body, but you were still beautiful, at least to me. I hoped you felt the same, seeing me. I hoped you still saw me as slim and elegant, not as the skinny old man I was becoming.

"Well," I said after a moment, "here we are." You smiled, and I urged you back, onto the bed. We kissed again, side by side. I touched your chest, tickling the soft, light hair, and brushed one nipple lightly until it stood erect and you arched your hips against me. I reached down for your cock, swollen and red, and stroked it firmly. The moment I put my hand on you, you sank your teeth into my shoulder, hard but not quite drawing blood. Distantly I heard myself cry out as the pain ignited me.

Part of me wanted you to hurt me more. The rest wanted something else, something we hadn't had since before we called the demon. I straddled you, pinned your arms over your head, kissed you fiercely, bit your nipple as I humped against you. I couldn't wait any longer.

Neither could you. "Fuck me. Please, Ethan, fuck me." So much like the old days. I almost came just hearing you say it.

"Turn over, then."

"No. Like this. I want to see your face."

I took a deep breath for calm, and reached into the drawer of the bedside table for the lubricant. (Never travel without it. Who knows when opportunity will knock?) I smeared some on my fingers and reached between your spread legs. Knowing you were out of practice, I opened you carefully. I put a finger inside you, then two, stroking upwards until you gasped, then I moved in you as your muscles relaxed. You were panting by the time I withdrew, your cock purple and straining against your belly. I lubed my cock quickly and pushed your legs back. "Ready?"

"Yes," you hissed.

As I pushed against the muscle, slowly thrusting in, you groaned. "Open for me," I said, pleading, commanding, as I pushed in deeper. It was so tight inside you, tight and hot. You felt as perfect as I remembered, the way no man has felt to me since. When I was all the way inside I stopped, need a pause for self-control. I looked down at you. Your eyes were closed and your face tense with pleasure and pain.

"All right?"

"Yes," you answered, opening your eyes and reaching up to kiss me.

I stroked your cock, a little soft now, until it hardened in my hand and your eyes closed again. Then I withdrew slightly and thrust, watching your face as the sensation took you. As we fucked I watched you, concentrating on you to slow my own reactions. I wanted this to last. Soon you made small sounds of pleasure with every thrust, exciting me almost unbearably.

"Oh, god," you whispered. "It's been so long."

"How long, Rupert? How long since you've been with a man? Tell me." I was moving faster now, gasping out the words.

"Not--oh, yes--not since you. Ahh!" You clutched at my arms, bruising me with your strong fingers.

"Say my name," I demanded, working your cock hard and fast and thrusting in the same rhythm.

"Ethan. Ethan. Ethan . . ." And then, with my name in your mouth and my cock inside you, you were coming, crying out, semen shooting onto your belly. Seeing you, I lost the last of my control. I thrust hard once, then again, and then the pleasure rushed all through me and I was coming, pumping deep into your body, filling you with me.

For a minute or two I drifted, lying in your arms, nuzzling your neck and shoulder. Then you stirred beneath me. "Ethan, I can't breathe."

"Sorry." I moved out of you and off you, feeling cold where the air hit my cock and my sticky belly. You lay dazed, half-asleep, as I cleaned us both with a sheet and pulled a blanket up over us. I kissed you and you settled your body against mine. I wanted to tell you that I'd loved you all these years, loved you as much as I'd hated and feared you. But words were dangerous.

When I woke, the clock said 2:56. You were sitting on the edge of the bed, slumped and staring into space.

"What's wrong?" I sat up sleepily and tried to put my arms around you, but you shrugged me off.

"Don't touch me." I heard the change in your voice. Your Watcher voice was back, prim and anxious. "What the hell have I done?"

"You've done what we've both wanted for a long time. Come back to bed." I touched your arm with my fingertips, but you leapt to your feet and were in the bathroom before I could say more. Through the locked door I heard you vomiting, and then dry-retching miserably. I felt nauseated myself, knowing it was more than alcohol making you sick. I had made you sick, and what we had done.

When you emerged, pale and trembling, you switched on the overhead light and gathered your clothes in silence. There didn't seem much point in speaking, but I had to try.

"Rupe, why are you going?"

"I should never have come here. At my age I ought to know better."

"Know better? This is what you wanted. You knew that perfectly well a few hours ago, when you were begging me to fuck you."

"All I want," you said, your voice rising in anger, "is never to see you again."

"Is that so?" I was angry too now. "Tell me, Rupert, how does it feel to be a coward? That's why you haven't been with a man in twenty years. How does it feel to hate yourself so much? Is it any wonder I hate you too?"

With that, you were gone, slamming the door behind you. I heard your car start and pull away, dangerously fast, and I lost hope that you would ever come back to me.

***

The next day, of course, you turned into a demon. When you and your Slayer found me and demanded that I make you human again, I did, without a word about what I knew. And then you gave me to these military sadists.

But the funny thing, my love, the irony I promised we'd get to eventually, is that I hadn't used magic on you. I never turned you into a demon. Somehow, with whatever tangle of shame and self-loathing lurks in your mind, you did that all by yourself.