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Ken sat on his hands and locked his arms rigid, shoulders almost brushing his ears. He glared at the table in front of him. A pile of photographs lay there, one on top of the other, ordinary, everyday things. The top one was a football.

Cheap shot, Crawford. All those pictures of spoons and trucks and sakura trees, and then this.

Crawford pushed his glasses up his nose, and leaned back in his seat. "How are you feeling now?"

The room felt even smaller and more cramped than it was; Ken was suddenly aware of the lack of windows, of the airlessness and the menacing overhead light, and one buzzing security camera.

It felt like an interrogation, not like being cared for. Crawford had promised to care for him.


Ken shrugged, slid his hands out from under his thighs and folded his arms across his chest. "Feels okay."

Irritation flickered across Crawford's face. "On a scale of one to ten," he said slowly, as if talking to an idiot, "where ten means you have an extreme emotional response, and one means you have no response at all, where-"

"Two." Ken glared defiance at him across the table.

"If you want our help, it would be foolish not to co-operate," said Crawford, in a low, thrumming voice that made Ken's belly flipflop.

"I am co-operating," said Ken. "But I don't see the point. You're testing my breaking point, right? Well it doesn't work like that. It's not this shit that makes it happen. I already know why it happens."

"If you already know, tell me." Crawford put his handful of pictures face down on the table, and rested his chin on steepled fingers.

"I'm evil," said Ken. "That's all there is to it. I chose to let this happen, to give in to it. From the first time I killed knowing what I was doing, I was turned. The rest was denial, futile self-justification. I'm evil. There's no going back. That's why I'm here."

There was a pause; Crawford leaned back again, his deep penetrating stare fixing Ken like a pin through a specimen butterfly. "What does evil mean?"

Ken hesitated briefly, licked dry lips, the space between fear and excitement so narrow it made his nerves sing. "It means I'm on your side," he said. "That's why I'm here, after all. Because I don't care about right and wrong any more. I don't care about anything. The only time I feel like I'm alive is when..." His throat was tight, tears stinging at the back of his eyes; he rubbed at them with his fists, and when he opened them again Crawford was standing next to him. Ken jumped at the touch of long, cool fingers to his face; they slid along his jaw, thumb pressing against his chin, tilting his head up. Forcing him to look into the depths of those knowing, soul-peircing eyes.

"You're not evil," said Crawford, quietly. "Evil is when you care about the wrong things. Good is when you care about the right things. You're here with us because you don't care at all."

Then his lips were brushing over Ken's, the tip of his tongue nudging Ken's mouth open, and Ken's eyes fluttered shut and he let Crawford in. Because he was right. Ken didn't care. If he cared he wouldn't want this so much, wouldn't offer himself to the enemy like this, wouldn't wind his arms around Crawford's neck and let a little, needy moan escape from his throat when the kiss ended.

"Caring is dangerous, and largely irrelevant," said Crawford. "It doesn't get you what you want. Power gets you what you want. If you can control your power, and your emotions, then the world will truly be at your feet."

He stroked Ken's hair, smoothing down the wayward strands at his temples.

"You're not evil," he said, softly.

Ken choked back his emotions, his whole body clenched tight. "I want to control it," he said. "More than anything. I want... I need... I-"

"Then look at the pictures." Crawford picked up the next from his pile, and slapped it down on top of the football one.


Ken sobbed, once, loud, a few tears spilling down his cheeks. "Nothing! I-"

Crawford grabbed him by the lapel of his jacket and flung him against the wall, not hard, nowhere near as hard as he could have done, but hard enough to make Ken grunt, his ears ringing from the impact of his head against the hard stone wall.

"Don't lie to me," said Crawford, pinning him there by one shoulder.

"Please," said Ken. "It hurts, okay, it fucking-"

"On a scale of one to ten?"

Ken gazed at him through tear-blurred eyes, and clenched his fists in the crisp white cotton of Crawford's shirt. "Ten," he said. "Ten. I don't want it to be ten. I want it to stop. Please, make it-"

"They're fools," said Crawford, not meanly or even dismissively. Just matter of fact. "He," he waved in the direction of the pictures, "is a childish idealist. The others are victims of their own revenge. You're not like them. You're strong," and there was a glint of pride in his eyes, "and you're honest, even to yourself. That is your power, if you'll let it be."

He wiped the tears from Ken's face with the back of his hand.

Ken sniffed, and let the reassuring warmth of Crawford's body comfort him. Tugged him closer, surprised when Crawford let him, even more surprised at the tender kisses that fell on his face, the gentle fingers that threaded through his hair. Surprised and pleased.

"Make it better," he heard himself say. "Please, make it better."

He expected Crawford to push away, to drag him back to the table and complete the task. But he didn't. He leaned in closer, kissed Ken's mouth, his neck. "Alright," he whispered. Ken let out a little moan, and another as Crawford's palm settled over the stiffening ridge in his pants and very gently squeezed. "Will this help?" he murmured. "Oblivion?"

Ken wondered for a moment if it was a test; whether the wrong answer would mean Crawford would take back his hand and laugh at him. But he didn't know what the right answer might be, so he just said "yes," and held his breath.

Crawford smiled. "Good boy," he whispered, and the hand slipped the zip of Ken's pants down in one smooth move, and slid inside, and grasped with perfect pressure.

"You're not evil, Hidaka. You have a future waiting for you, and it's nothing to do with good or evil. It's about power, and strength, and making the world how you want it without being encumbered by fools. Trust me," and there he gave the perfect jerking twist of his palm over the head of Ken's cock that stole his breath, "I can see it, clear as day."

Ken groaned; Crawford's touch was too perfect, too good.

"Do you trust me, Ken?"

"Yes," hissed Ken. "Yes, I trust you. I trust you..."

This was it, this was where he belonged. Crawford didn't hate him or worry about him or think he was bad. Crawford took him just as he was. He belonged here. He truly, truly belonged.

And then it happened, the flash of white, the pure, tight pleasure, and Crawford didn't stop until the throbbing pulse had faded. He brough his hand to Ken's lips to be licked clean. And then Crawford kissed him, mouth moving firm and warm over his, tongue flickering like a snake's.

The trembling pleasure pooled in Ken's belly, warm and real as blood.

"The pictures," said Crawford.

Ken looked over at the table, and looked at Crawford with a cold smile in his eyes.

"So what?" he said. "They're only flowers."

And Crawford smiled back.