He had tried to be strong, tried to withstand the urges. He'd even managed to fool himself for a while, managed to marry, to have a child, to believe that it had just been a phase. He managed to be happy with this, to love his wife, to be proud of his son, to not have to think about...that...to get aroused.
But then his beloved Mary died and the iron bands he'd wrapped around his perversion snapped.
He found himself watching his son -- his son, his precious boy, the child Mary had left him -- and thinking about what it would feel like to fuck him. To fuck his Lance, who looked up at him with trust and love and Mary's beautiful brown eyes. His Lance, who giggled, who held his hand, who liked to pull off his swim trunks and run naked along the beach. Lance, who was still so innocent.
Lance, who curled up closer next to him, small body lost in the voided space on the marriage bed, who cried so hard for his mother, didn't understand why she wasn't here to stroke his forehead and make the world a better place.
He made his decision then, made the call that he never thought he'd have to make.
"Hawkins," he said. "I need you."
But even after he lost the battle, he still tried to win the war. He was a soldier, after all, a General. War was what he did. And so he always made Hawkins bring him the older boys. The ones who had been used so often that they were older than him in cynicism. The ones who didn't try to make this anything other than the sick perversion that it was.
For a while, they were enough. Enough to make him think that this was something he had beaten, something that he had overcome. Enough to make him relax, a little, to let him hold his son, to admire his son's beauty and trick himself into believing that the love he felt was that of a father.
He thought the cynical youths who never talked, who had lost that innocence that he'd fought so hard to let Lance keep, were what he really wanted.
He'd even been happy, that day, when he'd gone to Hawkin's office to abuse his role as a Chairman and get Lance a decent room. He'd been happy and content with his life until he saw the boy sitting on the bench outside the office: the sweet, young boy who looked up at him through long, soft lashes, who had wide, guileless eyes.
He was painfully hard within the fleeting span of one breath and the next.
"Who is he?" he asked when he was inside Hawkins office, ignoring the way Hawkins clumsily rose from behind his desk as his unexpected entrance. "Is he--" And he couldn't even force the words out.
"Ah. Ah. Keith? Ah, sir." Hawkins closed some ledger, looked like the slow, pedantic bungler that he was. "Yes, sir. I mean. He is sir."
"I want him."
"General." Hawkins looked pained at this request. "Sir. He's fourteen, sir. And an Onyo." He stressed the word, as if it would truly prove a deterrent. "Wouldn't you prefer to have--"
"Him." He didn't want to repeat his request, wanted to bless Hawkins for trying to let him keep whatever shredded dignity he might have. But there was something different here, something that took the old, iron bands of control he'd managed to solder together and melted them down into useless slag. He wanted -- he needed -- this boy. "Bring him to me."
"Yes sir," Hawkins said and the boy was in his private rooms the next night.
Keith was everything he wanted, everything he'd forced himself to let go. Keith was innocence and beauty and had the same awkwardness of still unachieved growth as Lance. Keith was soft pliancy and gentle noises and soft exclamations of surprise and pleasure. Keith was Youth, free of abuse, of corruption, of the darkness that had made it so easy to take the older, cynical boys.
For a while he treasured that about Keith, tried to keep that innocent look alive, even though he knew that Keith had been used, was being used by the others. For a while he took Keith tenderly, lovingly, with soft kisses -- those kisses he could never, would never, give to Lance -- and gentle caresses and whispers of reassurance. He didn't plunder Keith's feigned innocence, just filched small trinkets that wouldn't be missed.
But it wasn't enough.
He wanted to break that innocence the way he could never break his son's. Because even though they looked nothing alike, acted in no way similar, Keith reminded him of Lance in some way, some quantity. Perhaps it was just the age, the awkwardness of the limbs, the indefinable taste of youngness. Whatever it was, it made him want to take Keith's hand and pull him roughly off the beaten path to adulthood, force Keith into the dark and shadowed woods.
He had to do it, to protect Lance, to vent these urges before they built up and overwhelmed his tenuous self-control.
So he became hard. And then he became harder. Took away even the pretense of asking and just took.
He watched Keith's innocence drop, shatter completely, and even though he knew that it had never been real (for how could it have been real when Keith had come to him used) he relished that moment, the sudden nakedness. He stared at the stunted, ugly thing that crouched within the beautiful child and he wanted more. He wanted to break the ugly thing further, to tear it down, to leave his mark upon it.
That was probably when he really lost his hold on his control and became so mired in the dark woods himself. Because the sight of this child bound in iron chains, a cruel bit in his soft, sensual mouth, shouldn't have aroused him so. It should have horrified him to take a lash to the unmarked back -- to beat the skin that would be just as unblemished when their next night together came around -- and douse the sheets in blood; to wish that he could hurt Keith so badly that the next time they fucked he could reopen all of the wounds he'd left. It was wrong and he knew it and he couldn't stop.
No matter how hard he tried he couldn't stop. He couldn't stop himself from opening Keith up, entering him, still taking him gently even when the blood from Keith's back mixed with the lube and his seed.
He knew he was truly lost that night when, as he fucked Keith, he buried his face into the sweat dampened mass of tangled black hair and smelled--
Lance. His Lance.
His came, then, harder, with more pleasure, groaning out his son's name, wrapped up in the scent of Lance's shampoo.
Keith didn't say anything about the slip of his tongue, not that night, not any night after. But the next time -- and every time after that -- Keith smelled of Lance, and he never made Keith stop.
Perhaps that was why he didn't try to move Keith out of Lance's room, why the violence and the blood and degradation kept escalating until there were equal parts of sweat and tears dampening Keith's cheeks and darkening the pillowcases.
Kept going until Keith looked at the lash one night and said, "Please, sir, be a little careful. Lance is starting to ask questions."
He felt fear then, panic, because Lance was only supposed to be a nebulous presence here, an innocent that could remain untouched despite how he was used. He made Hawkins move Keith after that night, made Hawkins give Keith to the little beast who maimed and killed all those students. He waited for Keith to die, for this thread between his darkness and his son to snap.
But Keith didn't die.
And he couldn't stop using Keith. Couldn't stop summoning Keith to his quarters, Keith who smelled like Lance, Keith who had the same, ugly blackness as his own inside.
He wanted to be free of this. Wanted to be a better man. Wanted to be the father Lance thought he was. Wanted to protect Lance forever.
He didn't protest when the others sent Keith away, even though most of him screamed out in fear against the loss of his drug. He feared what he would do without Keith as a stopgap. What his weakened control, his glutted, tyrannical desire, would make him take next.
That was why he put his son on the personnel roster, even though it hurt, stabbed into him like a thousand knifes, and he bled inside. But.
It was retribution. It was payment for all the times he made Keith bleed, for the pain he had inflicted.
And it would keep Lance away from him, keep Lance safe from him.
After they were gone, banished from this life for good, he managed to live a little easier. Crippled, yes, but not bowed, not broken like he had been. This had been his last act as a father, and that freed him a little. Not enough to stop using the boys Hawkins' replacement found for him, not enough to stop wishing for Lance, but enough to crawl away from the desire to break the youths he used.
When the gray man came he even managed to be angry like he used to be, before he had shame weighing him down. Before he had this thing that could be used against him.
"What do you want?"
"The boy," the gray man said.
Fear ran through him -- for Lance, for his son -- and his hand pulled his laser out of its holster before he could think.
The gray man was quicker, though, and his last thought, as the sharp blade of the knife slid into the back of his head, was that he would protect his son.
He would protect his Lance. Forever.