Ashes of Fate, Season 1

by Cynus

Episode 10

Some Things Are Better Left Untouched

It was that time of year again. The time that he relived it all. There was nothing like the cold chill running through the complex that reminded him of those days spent wandering the countryside, hiding from everyone. Those had been dark days, worse than any others he had ever experienced. He had been hungry, cold, and had done his best to be forgotten.

Ethan sighed and looked away from his computer, his eyes scanning the lab which he now called home. Things were different now. He was no longer alone, cold or hungry. Those days were certainly in his past, but there were always things which triggered his memory. Sometimes it was the temperature. Sometimes it was the face of an old friend. Or sometimes he simply glanced his small bookshelf and noticed the worn hardback book that he had read a hundred times; The memoirs of Shawn Dupree, a respected physicist whom Ethan had once had the pleasure of knowing. He had died near the beginning of the war, but not before he had become an accomplished member of Area 51's staff. Ethan had been reunited with him then, and they had become friends for the second time in both of their lives. When Shawn had finished his memoirs, he gave Ethan the first copy, and Ethan knew very well why he had. Things had been different then.

With heavy steps laden by the memories of those days, he walked to the bookcase and withdrew the book, flipping open to a page midway through the text, to a chapter titled "Some Things Are Better Left Untouched". He took the book back to his chair and sat down, and then he began to read.


Everyone avoided the old house on the hill. I know what you're thinking, why would I start with a line so cliché? Is this going to be the generic story about the haunted house, and how I was the one brave enough to enter it? No… I never set foot in that house, but that doesn't mean that this story doesn't concern it. More importantly, this story is about the man who lived inside.

I was a lab assistant working for the physics department at my local university, which happened to be a few miles down the road from the large mansion. Every day on my way to work, I'd pass the decrepit building in my car, glancing at it nervously as I sped by. It looked like it came straight out of every urban legend dealing with a haunted house, making it seem almost generic from a horrific point of view, but perhaps there was something to all of those stories, a reason why they struck fear in the hearts of the children who heard them. Maybe it was the cracked paint on its wooden walls, or the way the shadows hung about the building even at noon day, but it gave me the creeps no matter how many times I saw it.

Ethan Holmes, on the other hand, did not have that same effect on me. He had been working at the lab for a full month before I learned that he had bought the house on the hill. The rest of us listened in stunned silence as he related that he had fallen in love with the house when he was searching for a place to live. He explained that he expected the place to be quiet, considering that it sat far back from the road and the neighbors were all older, and not prone to throw wild parties at odd hours of the night. We laughed as we told him stories about the place, but he shrugged them off as if they didn't matter. 'Ghost stories have no basis in reality' was all he would say on the matter, and eventually we left it at that, but as time went on, I started to worry about Ethan.

Ethan smiled at that line, the same way he did every time. Shawn had always been the type to worry about everyone, even if he didn't have to. He had been a good man, if a bit superstitious for Ethan's liking at the time. Of course, if Ethan hadn't had his own form of superstition, he would have never ended up doing what he had. He chuckled at the irony and returned to the book.

What impressed me most about Ethan was how good he was at the job. He taught physics in such a way that his students were always engaged. I often wondered if it was because he was barely older than they were, or if it was his prodigy alone that made the subject so enticing when he taught it. Somehow at twenty-one he was a professor, and I couldn't wait to hear how he had done it. I was only a year his senior, and I couldn't imagine going through school any faster than I had, and I was still several years behind in my career.

The fact that we were close in age made us fast friends, at least as far as work was concerned. I didn't mind his friendship at all, considering most of my high school buddies had moved on to other things. Most had either left town or were married already, and that left me, the gay grad student, with no one to talk to. Ethan quickly became the one I sought out whenever I needed company, and he seemed as open to the friendship as I was.

We were out to lunch at the small café across from the school when he started the line of questioning that would make me even more involved in his life. "Shawn, you've lived in this town your whole life, haven't you?" He asked me curiously, though his eyes betrayed that he had another motive behind the question.

"Yep, born and raised," I replied without hesitation. "Why do you ask?"

"I simply wanted to get to know you better, we are colleagues after all," he replied cryptically, even though his next question reaffirmed to me that there was more going on. "Did you go to Oak Crest Middle School?"

"Yes I did," I confirmed, but I wasn't going to let him get away with this any longer. "But now I know there's more to this than simple curiosity," I accused with a smile to show him I wasn't offended. "What's with the questions?"

"Alright, I'll tell you more," he conceded, raising his hands as he surrendered the point. "But only because I'm starting to run into dead ends," he explained with a smile of his own. "I'm trying to find out what happened to someone who lived here five years ago."

"And they went to Oak Crest?" I replied, accepting his explanation. "Was this person around our age?"

"Yes he was," he confirmed with a barely perceptible nod. "His name was Aiden Phillips."

Up until a couple months ago, Ethan hadn't thought about Aiden since the last time he had read Shawn's memoirs, though Ethan wasn't sure what had changed. It had been shortly after Tristan had joined the Confederacy, but he was sure that Tristan had nothing to do with it, unless Tristan simply reminded him of Aiden. No, he was sure that wasn't it. He shook his head, unable to determine the source and unwilling to let it keep him from reliving his memories of Shawn.

"Phillips…" I repeated, thinking back to that time. Shaking my head I answered, "No, I don't recognize the last name, but I did know a few Aidens. Is there anything else you can give me to go off of?"

"His grandfather's name was Albert Fredrickson."

"Fredrickson!" I exclaimed, knowing exactly who he was referring to. "Now that's a name I recognize. I'm sure you're already aware from the conversations we had a couple months ago, but your house is known as the Fredrickson place. Old man Fredrickson used to live there, until he died about five or six years ago. He was an ornery old man, which was probably one of the reasons why we stayed away from his house," I explained with a grin. "So this Aiden Phillips you're looking for, he was his grandson?"

"That's right," Ethan confirmed with a nod. "He would have only attended school at Oak Ridge for a year. Eighth grade to be exact."

"I think I remember him," I said as I thought back to that time. "He didn't talk about his grandfather much at all, which is probably why I would have never made the connection." As the memories came back to me they brought with them an ominous feeling, and I had a sinking suspicion as to why. "Wait… is he the kid who disappeared without a trace over summer vacation?"

"That's him," Ethan replied without any hesitation. "Do you remember anything else about that time?"

"I know they never found him," I answered, replaying the memory of the search through the town. Everyone had mobilized to look for Aiden, but it was as if the boy had vanished without a trace. "The police let Old Man Fredrickson off the hook when searching the house didn't reveal a trace of the boy. They decided that he had probably just run away. I take it you knew him?"

"Yeah, we were friends back in our home town," Ethan explained with a sad smile. "He would visit his grandfather every summer, but when his mom died he went to live with the man permanently. We would email regularly, until one day I stopped hearing from him."

"Man…" I replied, shaking my head, "that must have been awful. And now you're trying to find out what happened to him?"

"Yep, that's why I came here instead of teaching at a more prestigious school," he confirmed. With a light chuckle he added, "My parents thought I was crazy, but I have to solve the mystery."

"And that's why you bought the house," I observed leaning back in my chair as the realization hit me. "You're hoping the answer is there, aren't you?"

"You're right again. Unfortunately I seem to be at a loss," he replied with a helpless shrug. "All I can do now is to keep digging until I run into something. At least you were able to confirm the basic facts for me."

"Digging isn't a terrible idea, that property of yours is huge. Have you searched the grounds?" I asked with a suggestive expression. "I hate to say it, but what if the old man actually did kill him and hid the body somewhere?"

"That's what I was already thinking," he confirmed with a grimace. "He didn't get along with his grandfather very well. Especially after he came out."

"Came out?" I echoed. "You mean he was gay?"

"Yep."

I was starting to put the pieces together now, and I realized why Ethan had gone to such trouble to solve the mystery of his missing friend. "You weren't just friends, were you?" I asked, and he didn't even have to answer for me to know the truth. His eyes told me that I had hit the nail on the head. He just smiled sadly and left it at that, but I couldn't put the conversation out of my mind as the days passed. The sadness in his icy blue eyes refused to leave me, and I wondered if there was anything I could do to help him.

The next few weeks dragged on and sometimes when I would drive past the old house, I'd see someone on the property, walking around with a bright flashlight. I was sure it was Ethan, looking for the remains of his long lost lover, and I even considered offering my help, but something told me my offer would be refused. This was a private matter for him, and he had made it clear he had brought it up to me only because he had reached a dead end. I wasn't about to intrude on his quest when he didn't want me to.

And so every time I saw him searching, I drove on, hoping that Ethan would find the answers he was seeking. My own experience had taught me the pain of losing someone, but I couldn't imagine how I would have felt if that loss had gone unresolved. I hoped for my friend's sake that he'd be able to find his solace.

Ethan couldn't help but smirk at the thought. Solace was one thing he had never been able to obtain, despite the fact that he had managed to get over the loss of Aiden. He had always wondered if his life would have been different if he had chosen to let go of that loss earlier. What a fool he had been in those young times.

I began to think that he had found his answers one night in the lab. It was late, and the other professors had already gone home, but I had stayed to apply the finishing touches on a project. No one else was expected to be there, and so I was shocked when Ethan entered the code to unlock the door and stepped inside.

"Ethan, what are you doing here at this time of night?" I asked as I recovered from my initial surprise. "Don't you have an early morning?"

"I have some research to conduct, and I need the equipment here," Ethan replied with a shrug. "The lab is in use at all other times of day, so I make use of it when I can." He grinned at me with a twinkle in his eyes as he added, "If that means I have to take a nap after class just to make sure I'm getting my rest, then so be it."

"What are you researching?" I asked without thinking. And then I shrunk back in embarrassment as I added, "If you don't mind me asking…"

Ethan hesitated, and I was about to tell him that if it was none of my business he didn't have to tell me when he blurted out, "I'm looking into the Prometheus Theory."

"The Prometheus Theory?" I echoed, "Doesn't that belong to Biology more than Physics?"

"I had a double major," Ethan explained with a shrug. He slung his backpack from off of his shoulders and set it up on one of the counters. Withdrawing a laptop from inside the bag, he turned his attention away from me. I wondered if he was ignoring me on purpose to get me to go away, but then I realized that I had seen this reaction from him before. It was the way he acted whenever he was focused on something. He wasn't trying to be rude; he simply had more important things to do.

However, I wasn't about to let it go at that. There was more going on than he was telling me, and my natural curiosity was far from sated. "But that doesn't explain why you would need the Physics Lab," I remarked, implying the question that remained unanswered for me.

Ethan turned around in surprise, as if he had forgotten I was there. When he saw me and processed the question he said with a wry smile, "Well, if you're so curious, I'll let you in on my secret. But you have to promise that you won't reveal it to anyone."

"Alright," I agreed without hesitation. "I promise."

"I believe that through the Prometheus Theory we will be able to restore limbs to people who have lost them, just from a shred of DNA," Ethan explained excitedly, "As you probably well know, many people have looked into how to accomplish this, but it seems like they're all looking at it from the perspective of Biology. I think the trick lies in tricking the cells through specific frequencies of electrical current."

"Tricking the cells?" I asked incredulously, "But do cells actually know how to regenerate limbs?"

"There are many types of lizards and salamanders who can regenerate lost body parts…" Ethan replied, but stopped when I snorted.

"Last I checked, we're neither of those things," I interrupted dryly.

"Would you let me finish?" he protested in exasperation. "You're as bad as my biology professor," he added with a roll of his eyes. "He was always interrupting me when I tried to explain things."

"I'm sorry," I said, raising my hands in defeat. "Please, explain."

He nodded in apparent acceptance and resumed his explanation. "Some studies have shown that human stem cells in early reproductive states can regenerate lost limb buds. The problem is that we lose that ability long before birth. I believe that the information is still in there somewhere, but it's like we've forgotten how to make use of it." My eyes widened at the thought. I was beginning to see where he was going with this, and it was exciting. "Since The Prometheus theory postulates that all thought is a matter of electrical impulses," he went on eagerly, "I believe we can help the cells remember by jogging their memory with electricity. I think we can make adult stem cells think that they're still in the embryonic stage, and cause them to rebuild what was lost. If it works I think that we'd be able to completely replace prosthetics within the decade."

"Wow!" I exclaimed as I let the idea sink in. "You really think so?" When he nodded emphatically I whistled and added, "That would be something."

"Yes it would," Ethan agreed, "but there's another side to it as well. The other thing I'm looking into is related to the first. I think the theory holds the key to restoring control to paralysis victims," he explained to my wide-eyed stare. "In other words I think we could regenerate broken spinal cords and jumpstart a person's nervous system. Imagine having the power to give people the ability to walk again!"

"It certainly would be amazing," I intoned, marveling at the idea. But I was still without an answer to my earlier question, and so I brought it up again. "As fascinating as it is," I said, making sure to convey my profound interest in the concept, "It still doesn't explain why you need the physics lab."

"The biology lab can't generate a current strong enough for me to test my own theories," he explained with a patient smile, "so I have to use the equipment here."

"I suppose that makes sense," I said with a nod. Then I asked the question I had been dying to ask the whole time. "Do you need any assistance?"

"I thought you'd never ask," He replied easily, grinning from ear to ear.

The memory of that exchange was a fond one, and one that Ethan had thought back on many times over the years. Shawn had been so eager to help, so eager to get behind a project that really hadn't shown much promise. And he hadn't even known Ethan's motives, but had followed him blindly. Shawn had been the greatest friend Ethan had at a time when he hadn't trusted anyone. Unfortunately, that had also caused them both a great deal of pain.

And with that our late night partnership was born. After nearly every shift we would get together and work on the project once the other scientists had left for the day. We would work for several hours until one of us started to wane, and we would take that as a sign that work should end for the day. The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, which we spent gathering data and testing hypotheses.

I noticed a change come over him during that time. He became obsessed in the data, but I was right behind him and didn't think much of it. The work was truly exciting, and we were both losing ourselves to it. It was exciting to work with him as well.

We had become the best of friends, but I knew that I was starting to develop other feelings for him as well. He was brilliant and charming, and not bad to look at either, and I found myself falling for him. I didn't know if he had the same feelings for me, but I knew that he enjoyed my company. I wasn't the type to start anything though, especially when it might ruin a working relationship that seemed to be giving us results. Some things were better left untouched.

And so I forced it out of my mind and focused on the work, and progress was steadily made. We found a supplier who could provide us with mice who had suffered serious injuries, and began our animal tests. The ethics blurred as we pursued our obsession, but we were rewarded with incredible results.

I remember the Saturday evening that we walked into the lab and discovered something different about one of the mice. I noticed that the leg stump was longer than it had been the day before, and my breath caught in my throat as I realized what it meant. It had formed a blastema, a mass of cells that were working to recreate the limb.

"Holy crap!" I shouted, drawing Ethan's attention immediately, "it's working!"

"Yes!" Ethan shouted as he joined me at the exam table. "Shawn," he said, laying a hand on my shoulder but not taking his eye off of the mouse. "This is fantastic!"

"We have to tell the others," I said excitedly, pulling out my phone to call one of the other scientists we shared the lab with. As soon as I pressed the first number, Ethan tore the phone out of my hands and cancelled the call.

I stared at him in surprise and confusion as he said, "Not yet."

"What are you talking about?" I asked, grabbing for my phone. He let me take it back but he kept a wary eye on it as I went on, "This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in science history!"

"We need to verify that it works first," he said calmly, turning back to the mouse with a look of determination. "We have to do further testing, maybe something bigger."

"What do you mean bigger?" I asked, not liking the thought that came to mind.

"As similar as we are," he replied quietly, "There are still differences between rats and humans."

"Are you implying that we should move on to human experimentation?" I asked incredulously. To move forward so soon on something of that magnitude was unthinkable, and I couldn't believe he might be suggesting such a course of action.

"Forget I said anything," he said with a dismissive wave. "But please, don't tell anyone yet. I want to go over the data before we present anything."

"Alright," I said slowly, sliding my phone into my pocket. "This is your work, so I suppose I'll let you lead."

Would it have ended any differently if he had let Shawn make that call? Ethan had wondered that so many times over the years but he had never been able to come up with an answer that satisfied his curiosity. He had set his sights on such lofty goals in those days that he was certain nothing would have stopped him from trying to achieve them. Obsession had always been his greatest failing.

"I think I'm ready to present our findings," Ethan told me several weeks later. "But I want to go big. I've set up a meeting in Washington D.C. with someone who may be willing to give us a grant for our research, but I need your help."

I could see the seriousness in his eyes, and I wondered what he was going to ask of me, but I knew I wanted in no matter what he needed. "Okay," I replied with a smile, "You know I have your back on this, Ethan."

"Right," Ethan replied, nodding firmly. "Can you give me a ride to the airport?"

"T-that's it?" I stammered. "I was thinking you wanted me to help with the presentation or something."

"Oh, you can do that too…" Ethan replied with a sly smile and a wink. "I'm just messing with you. Of course I want you to help me put together the presentation."

I smoothed my hair back in exasperation before shaking my head and grinning. "God… you know if you weren't so cute I'd probably be a little more pissed off at your practical jokes."

That's when he looked at me with new eyes. There was so much emotion in Ethan then that I simply didn't understand, but I desperately wanted to. The only thing I knew was that he looked extremely conflicted, and I began to worry as the next words out of his mouth were a cold, emotionless, "Did you just call me cute?"

"Yeah…" I said, looking at him critically, "What, you're offended? I thought you were gay?"

"I am…" Ethan replied, meeting my eyes and smiling, though the smile didn't quite light up his blue orbs. "And no, I'm not offended, I was just caught off guard. I didn't know you were gay."

"Well, now you do."

"Shawn," Ethan said my name like he was about to give me a death sentence. "I'd hate to ruin our friendship, but I have to be honest with you. There's already someone else in my life. I think you're a wonderful guy, but we can only be friends."

My heart fell, and I looked away, unable to process the news immediately. I had misjudged Ethan, and I didn't know how to handle it, but I knew I needed to say something. I let the silence hang for just a moment longer and then turned back to him, forcing a smile to my face. "I understand, though I'm surprised to hear that you're seeing someone. I was under the impression that you were single, or I wouldn't have brought it up."

"What, you don't think I'm cute enough to have a boyfriend?" Ethan pouted.

"No! That isn't what I said at all! You…" My eyes narrowed as I saw the grin on his face, and the twinkle in his eye. "You're messing with me again, aren't you?"

"Not about having someone," Ethan replied with a shake of his head, "But about being offended? Yes I am."

"Well stop it," I said testily, "If you aren't available, stop flirting with me."

Ethan lowered his eyes in shame and said, "You're right, it isn't fair to you. I'm sorry."

"It's alright," I said with a sigh once the silence had dragged on too long. "I'll get over it."

He didn't say anything for almost a minute as he busied himself looking anywhere but at me, but when he did speak his voice was trembling with concern. "Will you still give me a ride to the airport?"

"Haha! Of course," I couldn't help but laugh at the grin that lit up his face again. I was going to have to get used to the fact that I'd never have that grin to myself. "The research is far more important than me getting rejected."

Ethan sighed and put his hand on my shoulder. "I have a feeling you'll never let me live that down."

"Nope," I replied, shaking my head. "If I can't have you, I can at least make your life miserable."

"Now who's being the joker?" Ethan grinned.

"Who said I was joking?"

Ethan laughed aloud as he remembered that conversation. The look in Shawn's eyes had been one of longing and sadness, but at the same time Ethan had known that he would get over it. He had almost wished that he had listened to Shawn and went along with it. Where would he be if he hadn't rejected Shawn's advances was a question he pondered every year.

"Alright, Ethan, are you ready for this?" I had pulled up to the drop off section at the airport terminal, and Ethan looked everything but prepared. There was a distant look in his eyes, and he was sweating.

But still, Ethan reacted with the same nonchalance he normally held for everything. He looked at me and shrugged as he said, "The presentation isn't scheduled until tomorrow. What do I have to be ready for right now?"

"You're incorrigible," I said as I punched him lightly on the shoulder. As he rubbed his shoulder and pouted I unlocked the doors and said, "Get out of my car and get out of here."

"Oh, now you're trying to get rid of me huh?" He said with a laugh as he opened the door to step outside.

"Wish I was going with you, actually," I said with a sigh.

"Hey, the university is closed for the holiday break," Ethan replied with a sympathetic smile. "You should go on vacation or something."

"I can't afford it," I said with a shrug. "I'm still paying off my student loans."

"Go camping then," Ethan offered.

"And be somewhere that I can't receive your call when you tell me how it went?" I snorted, and looked at him like he was crazy.

"I see your point," Ethan said with a nod. "Well, find something to occupy your time. With the lab closed, there's nothing for you to do."

"Thanks for pointing out that I don't have a life." I rolled my eyes and grinned at him.

"I'm sure you'll come up with something," Ethan said with a chuckle as he stepped out of the car, then reached down for his carryon luggage that had been at his feet. "I have to go catch my flight."

Shawn hadn't understood how good he had it. Ethan knew what it was really like to not have a life. It had been that way then, and it was still that way in the present. He wasn't sure he'd ever understand what it was like to have a life outside of work. Whether he did or not, he knew that he would never make as big of a mistake as he had that day at the airport. That day that he had waited for Shawn to leave before hailing a taxi.

"Shawn. Are you awake?" Mike Douglas was the typical absent-minded professor, and it was rare for him to sound as urgent as he did when he called me at midnight that day. I had gone to sleep only an hour earlier, and had been expecting a long and restful nap. Needless to say, I was grumpy when he woke me up, but since he was my department head I knew I had to be at least moderately cordial.

"I am now," I mumbled. "You just called me. What can I do for you, Mike?"

"Campus security just contacted me and said that they thought someone was in the lab," Mike replied with an anxious tone. "They can't get inside because they don't have the security codes, and I was wondering if you could go check it out."

"Me, huh?" I said as I looked at the clock and repressed a groan. "Am I really the closest person?"

"Well I would have called Ethan but since he's out of town… you are, yes," Mike answered. "I'm fly-fishing with a buddy of mine on the other side of the state." And then he said the words that had be tearing off the covers and sliding into my jeans. "If it makes you feel better I'll make sure the university compensates you for your time."

"Music to my ears," I replied. "If you involve making me money then you know I'm down. I'll head over right away."

If only Shawn had said no, Ethan wouldn't be in the position he was in, but Ethan had never been able to bring himself to blame Shawn. It hadn't been his fault that Ethan had been in the lab that night, but he had been the one to complicate everything.

"Ethan? What the hell are you doing!? Why aren't you in Washington?" Of all the things I thought I might see when I entered the lab and let the door close behind me, Ethan standing over a worktable covered with human remains was the last thing I expected. Nor did I expect the gun that he drew and pointed at me.

"You shouldn't have come, Shawn," Ethan said sadly. "I was hoping to go undiscovered, but now you've forced my hand."

"Whoa! Don't shoot me! What the hell?" I shouted as I raised my hands in surrender. I was sweating bullets, and hoping that those bullets wouldn't soon be entering me.

"I'm not going to shoot you, unless you make a break for it or try to call someone," Ethan replied with a wave of the gun, indicating that I should start moving. "Or if you try to stop me."

"Try and stop you?" I asked, confused. And then I glanced back at the worktable as I suddenly realized why Ethan was there. "No… you're not!?"

"Aiden didn't deserve to die, Shawn. I have to bring him back." Ethan's eyes were filled with grim determination, and though I couldn't believe what he was implying I knew that he did.

"You're insane!" I shouted as I moved to where he indicated I should be, behind the worktable and still within his sight so that he could watch me. "You can't revive the dead!"

"Insane?" Ethan replied with a raised eyebrow. "You watched me restore that rat's missing leg, and heal its paralysis. I can restore Aiden's body as well, and reconnect the neural tissue. With these machines I can even get his heart beating again, once I restore his organs that is."

"What about his soul?" I asked with a bewildered shake of my head. "Where are you going to get that?"

"What is the soul, Shawn?" Ethan replied as he returned his eyes to mine. "Are you telling me that you, a scientist believes that there's really such a thing as the afterlife? Aiden was a product of his brain, just like everyone else, and I intend to restore that to him as well."

"There's more that makes us human, Ethan…" I said, watching him sadly.

"Is there?" Ethan interrupted me. "I disagree."

"Ethan…" I said with wide eyes, glancing down at the remains on the table with fear and disgust. "Don't do this."

"It's too late, Shawn. I've already begun."

Ethan nearly closed the book then. It was always hard for him to read the next part. It was always difficult for him to remember exactly what had happened. He had worked so furiously, so sure he was that his theories were correct and that everything would work out. Once he had regenerated the dead tissues of Aiden's body, Ethan had connected Aiden to a respirator and then jolted him awake with a final jolt of energy. Or so he had thought.

"Yes! He's alive!" Ethan's shouting brought me out of my slumber. He had allowed me to pull up a chair against the wall, though he hadn't paid any heed to my continuing insistence that he stop the insanity. In my frustration I had managed to drift off to sleep. "Look at that, he has a pulse, he's breathing! I have brought back the dead!"

The naked teenage body of Aiden certainly did appear to be breathing, and it did seem to have a healthy color to his flesh, though through all the wires and electrodes attached to him it was hard to tell for certain. For the briefest of moments I had hopes that Ethan had been right as he leaned down to Aiden's face and spoke softly "Aiden, my love, say something. Anything."

The boy stared up at him with dead eyes, that didn't even register Ethan's presence. His chest was moving up and down in time with the respirator, but otherwise his body was motionless. "He can't," I said sadly, standing up and approaching Ethan slowly. "It's not Aiden. Look at his eyes, Ethan. He's not really alive. You may have him breathing because of that machine, but he doesn't have a soul."

"No…" Ethan whispered as he caressed Aiden's face. "This can't be. I've worked so long for this. Just to hold you again… No…"

"Ethan…" I said as I laid a hand on his shoulder. "Come on. Turn it off. Let him rest."

The door to the lab opened suddenly, and one of the other professors stepped into the lab, Albert Walton. He set his eyes on Ethan and I and called out to me, "Shawn Dupree, are you alright?" He then noticed Aiden's body on the table and shouted in surprise and outrage, "What the devil is going on in here!?"

He charged toward us and Ethan reacted out of instinct. He grabbed the gun and turned it on Albert. "No! Stop it!" I shouted, hoping to warn Albert in time.

But it was already too late.

Ethan winced at the reality of that line. If only Albert hadn't shown up, they might have been able to bury Aiden and forget what had happened, but that hadn't happened. Instead, Ethan had shot Albert just as the man had attempted to tackle him. Albert's dead weight threw Ethan into the tangle of wires that were still connected to Aiden's body, ripping them from Aiden's flesh and biting into Ethan's. Ethan had managed to push Albert off of him, but in the process he only got himself more entangled.

The electrodes bit at his skin, hitting him with the same electrical current which had regenerated Aiden's cells and had regrown his flesh. But instead of regenerating him, they had begun to change him, quickly altering the way his cells behaved. By the time he had managed to free himself from the wires, he had been changed forever. He had become a monster, and he knew it. He could feel it in every piece of him. But when he had looked down at Albert he knew that he had done something truly irrevocable. He had killed someone, and for no reason at all.

"You killed him…" I said, unable to believe what had happened.

"No. We can still save him," Ethan said, breathing heavily. "Throw him onto the table. We can regenerate his tissue. If we do it quickly, he might not die."

"Right," I said with a nod. "Let's do this."

We disconnected Aiden and moved his body off of the table, and then quickly moved Albert into his place. I connected the wires while Ethan worked on the bullet wound. I was surprised by how skilled his hands were at checking the wound, but then I realized that he had probably been studying medicine on the side as well as he prepared to bring his lover back.

By the time that I had Albert completely hooked up to the machinery, Ethan had already retrieved the bullet and was ready to proceed. He nodded, and we fired up the machine again, adjusting the frequency to one that would repair the tissues rather than the higher setting that had been used on Aiden.

It took some time, but Albert's breathing became regular, and his pulse strong. I was excited by the results and nearly jumped for joy as I exclaimed. "He's alive! You saved him."

"I also killed him," Ethan said without emotion. "Shawn… I can't stay here. They're going to lock me up."

I turned to him and gave him a hard look. "Maybe they should."

"You were right, Shawn. I shouldn't have tried to do this," Ethan said, refusing to meet my gaze. "I became obsessed in this ever since Aiden disappeared. I knew that his grandfather had killed him, even though I didn't have any proof, and I wanted more than anything to reverse time and hold him again. I loved him, and I couldn't let it end that way. But I suppose that some things are better left untouched."

"Where will you go?" I asked.

"I'll disappear," Ethan replied without hesitation. "I'll go somewhere that they'll never find me. I never wanted to hurt anyone, but that didn't stop me from doing so. I can't be around people, not if I'm like this."

"Ethan…"

"Shawn?"

"I'm sorry that you couldn't bring him back." I said with a sad smile.

"You want to know something, Shawn?" Ethan asked with a smirk.

"What?"

"If I hadn't been so obsessed in the past, I might have seen what I was missing. You'll find the love you deserve some day, I'm sure of it."

Ethan closed the book as a single tear fell down his cheek. He had walked away from everything on that day. Venturing into the mountains in an attempt to get away from society. He quickly came to understand the ways he had been changed. Electricity seemed to hum through his veins. He could feel the current in every conductor that he touched, and the way a lightning storm made his blood sing was new and exciting.

But he also learned quickly that it allowed him to kill. Starvation drove him to hunt, and in hunting he had found that by the slightest touch he could disable a creature's nervous system. He hated that part of him so much that he buried it, and refused to use his gifts for the longest time.

The government had eventually learned the truth of the experiment and what had happened in the lab, and they tracked him down and offered him a job. He accepted and joined the research teams at Area 51, where he met up with Luke and Hayden, and eventually was reunited with Shawn Dupree.

Then everything had collapsed with the coup spawned by the Aliiance, and everything went to hell, but he could still remember Shawn's parting words to him when he had left the base with Shawn and Hayden. He had reminded him as Ethan had said all those years before, that some things were better left untouched. Shawn died the next day, refusing to abandon the facility, and the world had lost a great man in its time of need.

Ethan struggled to his feet and returned the book to the shelf, but as he was returning to his seat he passed by the large, lava-like egg that had returned to the base instead of Nevala. He didn't know why, but he had the strongest urge to touch it. He started to reach toward it when Shawn's cautionary note appeared in his mind, and he hesitated.

But then he remembered that he had never been good at listening to that particular piece of advice, and he adhered to the compulsion, placing his palm against the strangely warm surface of the egg.

He pulled back his hand almost immediately, shocked by the images that had run through his mind, and a single word escaped his lips before he collapsed to the floor in amazement.

"Aiden…?"

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