I can barely believe my eyes, or my luck, as I carry his body up the stairs to his apartment, laying him down upon the bed.

He's so light, even in unconsciousness—I know that pets are genetically engineered to be so thin, and also not to feel the need to eat.

"We'll change all that soon, little one," I whisper, pressing the record button on a remote I carry in my pocket, which starts the video rolling that I just installed this afternoon.

It will all be over soon. Therefore, I don't want to miss a single frame more than I already have done, each of those nights I watched from across the street—admiring, pining from afar.

This will be my first and only masterpiece. While this government still lays claim to my society, alternately sucking its blood and its dick, there will never be another film quite like mine.

It's almost too perfect that she chose to do this to him now. I don't know and don't care why. I have to work quickly, for I have no idea of when he will wake up, and I don't want my little one to feel any pain.

I just want him to be free.

I open my coat and take out the small kit I'd purchased from the black-market dealer along with the camera and related equipment. From the kit, I remove a scalpel, and stand there for a few seconds, holding it up to the light, holding it up to his neck.

* * *

There is only one thing left to do. I make my way into the bathroom of my hotel room across the street, washing the last of the blood off my hands before returning to the main area to pick up the telephone.

Three rings before it picks up on the other end, and that voice—her voice—the one that strangely stirs so little passion in me by comparison, even after nine months, speaks into my ear. "Greetings! Polly Bloom?"

She always answers the phone in the same way. So silly, so girlish. But she won't be that way for much longer, I know. I've seen the way she's started to look at me. The same way that her friends do. She's beginning to assimilate, to become one of them.

It's time.

"It's me," I say quietly, brushing away some strands of blue hair that have fallen into my eyes.

"Oh, Zander, my sweet! I was just going to call you!"

Perhaps she'll be the one to do it, then. Her voice does sound quite odd—is she nervous?

"Can you come over tonight? I have something really important to show you!"

She's not breaking up with me. Still, I've had my luck for the day, luck that far outweighs anything she could give me.

"What is it?" I ask, not concealing my impatience very well. I have only a few minutes to get back to my equipment, the audio and video setup I've rigged in this room. I can't afford to miss a single moment of it.

"Well… I— I can't tell you now," she whines. "It's a surprise."

"I don't like surprises," I say coldly, checking my watch, turning to keep an eye on the monitor behind me. "Just tell me."

There's a long pause, before she says very quietly, "Well… Zander… I thought—I thought that perhaps tonight, we could, er… I thought tonight might be the one we, er… You know!" she trails off finally.

You think you want to fuck me and you can't even bring yourself to say it. I'd like to see you try. A cruel grin follows the thought.

"Well, you know, Polly," I say now, twisting the phone line around my fingers like a little rope, "I don't really know how to say this, but…"

Yes you do. You've been rehearsing it for the past six months. The only thing that kept you from ever actually telling her was him, and now…

"I don't think things are really working out too well. I think we should break up."

I pull the phone away from my ear as a huge wail travels down the receiver. It continues for about thirty seconds before I simply say, "I have to be going now," and hang up on her.

Cruel, yes, perhaps. But sometimes, you have to be cruel… to be kind.

* * *

I take my place expectantly in front of the monitor, hastily switching on all the audio equipment as the figure on the bed on-screen begins to twitch and stir. After a few moments, he sits up, wincing slightly, and gets off the mattress.

He is completely naked. My idea—well, I am the director, after all. It was all I could do as I undressed him not to allow myself to take myself in my hands, cum all over that beautiful creamy skin, then suck him off myself, sleep or no sleep.

But I didn't want him like that. I want him to be free. He doesn't need to want me. That isn't the point. Though from somewhere deep within, I find myself wishing that it was.

I lean in closer to the monitor as he stands there, looking about in a daze, trying to equate his surroundings with his last known memories. I worry about whether I could have damaged him, even though the operation seemed a frighteningly easy one. Internal signal trackers, my arse. Such an important sounding name for a tiny box that simply injects a variety of drugs into the body at the owner's request, and contains a small radar device that looks positively primitive compared to those they were using up until the war ended.

Still… he does look a little too frightened.

"I don't understand," I hear him say at last, holding his hands out in front of his face. He can see that the clock on the wall still records the day as being the one that Polly put him to sleep. "It's still Tuesday. It should be Sunday."

"I don't understand," he murmurs again, then turns to catch sight of himself in the mirror, and gasps to see himself, naked and beautiful. So Polly wanted to put him out for five days? It appears I underestimated our little friend. Meanwhile, I'm only just aware of my hand moving down beneath the band of my pants, taking hold of my dick as he stares at the mirror, at himself, and, to the untrained eye, right at me—I'd set the camera up inside the mirror, using a number of clever tricks to keep it concealed.

He looks over at the bed now and crawls back onto it, then promptly bursts out into a fit of tears, not the way he usually cries, but much, much worse. This isn't the reaction I wanted. What have I done? Horrified, I take my hand off my now limp penis and hesitantly reach over to switch on the internal microphone.

He's sobbing about nothing being worthwhile any more, that Polly doesn't love him any more, and fears of termination. I can't bear for him to be afraid a moment longer than he has to be.

"Things are different now, little one," I whisper into the microphone, my eyes glued to the screen as I watch him jump up, huddling into a fetal position as protection from his nakedness, eyes darting wildly about the room. I can sense that he wants to get dressed again, but he can't—I burnt all his clothes, though I did keep one of the dresses—that which he was wearing the night we first met—and a pair of stockings and suspenders.

They might come in handy, if he ever decided to stay…

Stop that! Torn between two directives, my hands shake with rage. I draw in a deep breath away from the microphone to compose myself.

"Who's there?" asks Meigeharen now, pulling the sheets up over his body with a shiver.

"Someone who wants to unlock the door to your cage," I respond without hesitation. Though, in truth, I've already done that. You just have to want to fly out.

"Who are you!" He's screaming now, tears filling his eyes. Why do I feel such… pain, when I see him this way?

"Go to the window," I say slowly, "and look outside."

I wait till he's crawled off the bed before getting to my feet and moving to my own window, lifting up the sill and leaning out casually, smiling at him as our eyes meet from across the street. He turns a little paler.

"You can hear me?"

"That's right. Feel like letting me in this time?"

He's never done so before, not willingly. Every night I walked him home, though the response wasn't as unfriendly as that first occasion, he always refused to even let me in at the door. Instead he'd keep me out on the street while I waffled on, and probably would have let me do so until sunrise, if I'd had the patience and hadn't cared how important the night time was to him.

"Why am I awake?" he demands now.

I sigh. "Do you really want me to tell you from all the way over here? Seems a bit impersonal, don't you think?"

It's his turn to sigh, as he lowers his head. "Do I have a choice?"

"For the first time now, yes," I murmur, as I switch off the microphone and the other recording gear, and make my way out of the apartment once more.

* * *

He answers the door, wrapped only in a sheet, and backs away from me fearfully as I advance towards him, into the room.

Taking a quick look around as though I've never been inside the place before, I sit on the edge of the bed in front of the mirror, gazing at my reflection momentarily as I remove my jacket and my shoes, then loosen my black and blue hair from its bindings, allowing it to fall around my shoulders. I've spent enough time in front of mirrors to wear down any natural feelings of resentment or shyness. By now the novelty has well and truly worn off, so I return my gaze to Meigeharen again, before ripping the sheet from his body and pulling him down onto my lap, forcing him to face the mirror.

He tries to pull away, but I hold fast, so he simply sits there and whimpers as I run my fingers over his chest, tugging gently at the nipple-clamps. I have the advantage, after months of careful observation, of knowing what turns him on.

Sure enough, despite his fear, I can see him growing hard in the mirror. Grabbing one of his hands, I force it down onto his dick, force him to touch himself, his balls, his thighs, his beautiful, soft, silken skin laid bare under both our hands.

"Please don't," he whispers, though his breathing has grown ragged in his throat. "Please… they'll kill me. Do you truly want me to die?"

No, little one. But, all things die eventually, don't you realize?

"How old are you, Meigeharen?" I whisper into his ear, moving our hands back up to his shaft, tickling his foreskin with my thumb as I force him to stroke himself, growing hard myself with the mixed expressions of pleasure, guilt and fear dwelling in his eyes.

"Seventeen years, four months, eleven days," he chokes out, trying to pull away again but only succeeding in allowing me to adjust my position slightly so he rests against my own hard-on.

"Seventeen years, four months, eleven days," I echo in a whisper. "Why, that would mean you have only eight months to live, little one." Somewhere beyond my overwhelming desire, I'm shocked at the knowledge. He looks so much younger. But then, I guess that's the whole selling point. "If you know you're going to die anyway, why not go out by your own hand?" I smile at the double entendre as I increase the intensity of our stroking.

"The story," he whispers now. "I always thought I could, but I'm so afraid… such a horrible death."

Ah, your beloved newspaper article. The one thing that gives you hope, yet the only thing that really keeps you down. Now I truly understand their reasoning.

"A fabrication," I tell him with a smile. He jerks away from my touch, only I'm holding too tight.

"What do you mean?"

"There was never any Ferdinand, or whatever his name was—"

"Fenrir!" he snaps, correcting me with a frown, then lets his gaze drop down to the floor. "You're saying it's a lie? How can you know that?"

Instead of answering him, I simply say, "Tell me, have you ever seen another pet die?"

His eyes snap up again, to glare at my reflection. "Of course not! It's a secret ceremony, everyone knows that!"

"Okay, so the moment of death, it's sacred, then. But next, what happens?"

"Then we get put out to sea. We dissolve in the waves. We become part of the ocean, the one constant life force that washes over the earth."

Such a beautiful, romanticized notion. Blurted out without any hesitation, like some religious doctrine. My heart almost breaks, hearing him speak this way. For a moment, I can't bring myself to say anything.

Then, "No, little one, that's not the way it happens at all. When you turn eighteen, your body will be injected with a drug so powerful that it makes what they did to your fictional Fenrir look positively merciful by comparison." I can't bear to look at him now as I conclude, "And then they take your bodies, and they bury them in an old dumping ground and set them alight, like garbage. Every pet is born on a particular day, depending on the production cycle. That makes it more economical. They can dispose of them periodically in a six month cleansing—"

"Stop it!" he screams now, freeing his hands to cover his ears. I hold him tight as he bursts into another fit of sobbing—terrible, heart-wrenching sobbing.

Since when did I ever learn or allow myself to feel such emotions?

After ten minutes or so have passed and the tears have subsided, I whisper in his ear, "Do you see, now, that there really is no point? No point in being afraid? I've watched you every night for the past six months, my beautiful Meigeharen, denying yourself that which would truly make you free, and—" And?

"It breaks my heart to see you do so," I finish at last.

I know I am being cruel for not revealing the entire truth. But he can't know yet. He has to want this, above and beyond everything else. He has to want his freedom, no matter what the price.

I let go of him now, and for a moment longer he remains on my knee before getting to his feet in front of the mirror. I gaze up at him, unable to conceal my own longing. Somehow he seems to feed off this, for I see his dick stirring again, slowly returning to the magnificence that I admire.

Strange that they would allow them to be so well-endowed, knowing they'd never be able to…

"Do you think I'm beautiful?" he asks me at last.

His question almost surprises me into telling the truth, but I must force myself to play the role that I've come here to play. "Do you think you're beautiful?" I ask, getting to my own feet and standing close behind him.

We both gaze at his reflection in the mirror, as his dick reaches its full length. "I don't know," he confesses quietly, as I put his hand there once more, stroking him, then, the final moment, when I let my own hand fall away…

He continues to stand there, touching himself, caressing his nipples with his free hand, watching himself in the mirror, running his hands over the length of his shaft. I move away from the bed, out of range of the camera, covering my mouth with my hands as I watch, hearing him begin to moan slightly as his rhythm intensifies. I am the one who wishes for death, I realize, as a wave of something so powerful sweeps over me it almost knocks me off my feet.

He turns to me now, his sea-green eyes closed, but a smile on his face as he spreads his legs and carefully works one finger inside himself, hissing in a mixture of pleasure and pain. I can see moisture dripping off the little silver ring on his dick, running over the chain that travels around to the other side and buries itself in a mound of cherry-coloured pubic hair. He falls back a little as he begins to sob, this time with ecstasy, not terror or despair. I drop gently to my knees on the floor, looking up at him, worshipping him, not even able to touch myself.

If you love something, set it free…

No! My mind protests again, as very slowly he withdraws his hand and opens his eyes, focusing on me. "Do you want me?" he whispers slowly, taking my breath away.

Yes, very much so. However, I have to remember my role. The show must go on, for a little while longer.

"Not yet." I force myself to choke out the words, starting to feel very light-headed, all the blood in my head having drained and moved elsewhere. "This is yours now. But, if you still want me, I'll be —"

No, stop it. What was I even trying to say? If you still want me, I'll be yours too? But that wouldn't be fair. He needs this self-discovery, this self-love, just like I did, he needs to be—

—so alone?

He returns his attention to the mirror, his hand working very fast now, tugging relentlessly upon his cock, rubbing the chain against the skin, pulling and tickling at his foreskin with the little ring. His breathing quickens first, then mine: sharp breaths that hurt the throat and set a fire in the chest. Then he starts to moan, eyes rolling back in his head as the moment of release finds him, takes over every other sensation. At last his head falls back, and here and there little white droplets gleam on the crystals, the mirror, and the floor.

For a moment, he simply stands there, panting, before he turns to look at me. In his eyes, the longing still burns, no longer blemished by fear. I get back to my feet, damp enough beneath my own underwear, and watch as he slowly sticks each finger of one hand in his mouth, licking off his own cum, letting it slide over his tongue and trail down his chin and throat before swallowing.

"So… how was that?" I ask at last, my smile broadening into a grin.

He smiles and lowers his head, turning away from the mirror and stretching out upon the bed like a cat. "Worth dying for, I think," he murmurs, and rolls over onto his stomach, his head on his hands. After a moment, he glances back at me over one shoulder, a cheeky glint in his eyes. "But I'm not sure I've decided yet. If you still want me…" He lets the words trail off, and his eyes drift down to my crotch.

At last it's my turn to feel genuine fear, as I strip off the remains of my clothing and move on top of him, licking my fingers before poking one gently inside. He tenses slightly beneath me, so for a moment I don't move, not wanting to hurt him, before he lets out a little hiss of air. "Please…"

I continue moving inside him, building up a rhythm, until I can tell his gasps are of pleasure, then I allow one more finger to gain entry, repeating the pattern until he seems ready for three.

I wonder if I'll even be able to get inside… without cumming all over that beautiful arse. I curse myself for not planning ahead completely and thinking to purchase some lubricant as well, but I'd never expected to be here, like this…

"This will hurt you," I whisper in his ear, warning him. "But once I'm inside you, I'm not going to want to stop." I'm not inside you yet, and I don't want to stop. "There'll be lots of blood," I add, remembering my first time…

Every masterpiece has a little blood. It's what carves the word humanity upon our souls.

"It's okay," he whispers in response, and I raise him up off the bed slightly, forcing him up onto all fours, before parting the flesh around his hole and forcing myself inside with a need I couldn't have known I possessed.

He screams loudly as we practically crash against the wall, his nails running down the wallpaper, digging in to the pillow cases. For a moment he tries to escape but I shift under him slightly, allowing myself to penetrate him even further, not ever wanting to lose this but knowing I am too close.

I run my hand around under his stomach, feeling for his penis once again, though having some difficulty doing so with such darkness of desire blooming like a black fever from the depths of my mind. His hand is there as well; our fingers meet—again he's already hard, and I wonder about the modern miracles of genetic engineering before we both scream out, and I imagine the mirror shattering in a thousand tiny pieces, revealing me, revealing my soul, as a wave of warmth and release crashes down upon me.

* * *

I lay there on top of him, above him, for a very long time, feeling our hearts racing and slowing in tandem, not ever wanting to move.

Finally, he says softly, "So… how long does it take?"

I rise off him slowly, both of us gasping a little as I slide out of his hole. Blood and cum stains the remainders of the bedding, and those powdery soft thighs. Not understanding the question, I roll him over to face me, staring deep into sea-green eyes, brushing the cherry-red hair away from the cold sweat of his brow. It's always the broken dolls who are most perfect, to me.

"How much time do I have left?" he asks now, seeing the frown of incomprehension on my face.

Ah, yes. I haven't told him yet, about my other gift. He still thinks he's going to die and go to hell for committing such a terrible sin.

With a deep breath, I rise up to my knees, then pat him on the leg. "Come on," I instruct, getting off the bed with some difficulty.

Now it's his turn to frown, as he follows me into the bathroom.

Opening the bathroom cabinet, I produce a small plastic bag, within which, still coated with blood, lurks the internal signal tracker, now as impotent as my own dick.

"Do you have any idea what this is?" I ask, handing it over.

He takes it somewhat reluctantly, stares at it momentarily, then shakes his head.

I sigh, running my hands through my hair. "The scar was gone by the time you woke up," I start to explain, as I lead him back into the other room and sit beside him on the edge of the bed. Once more we face each other in the mirror, gazing into one another's eyes, our reflections.

"I took it from you," I continue. "It's… it's something I had done to me once, which is how I knew… what to do." Why am I confessing to this, why now?

Seeing his eyes, I can tell he still doesn't understand, doesn't dare to understand. "It's your internal signal tracker," I conclude finally. "You're—" I clear my throat, not sure why I should feel this sudden need for tears.

"You're free, Meigeharen."

Finally the light dawns in his eyes, as he realizes that what I'm telling him is indeed the truth. I smile weakly and get back on my feet, striding over to the other side of the room to retrieve my clothing, and start to get dressed. Time to roll the credits, I suppose, feeling in my jacket pocket for the camera's remote.

"I should really be going now."

"Wait!" he calls out, as my hand reaches the door knob. I freeze but don't turn around.

"I don't understand," he says, approaching me and taking hold of my arm, forcing me to face him again. "You had it done to you? You were one of us? How… how is that possible?"

I laugh, glancing up at the ceiling. "I was a previous model. One of the prototypes. When people still felt the need to protest such things— I was lucky. I was supposed to have been destroyed, like all the others." I try to look away, try to ignore this pain in my chest, but he pulls me back over to the bed with a strength I couldn't have known he possessed and now forces me to look at myself in the mirror.

"Why did you do this for me?" he demands.

He thinks I want something from him. I can't really blame him. Your freedom, in exchange for your soul? "Because," I can barely whisper, "I wanted to set you free."

"Why me?"

"Why not?"

He frowns at my logic and pushes away from me, falling back onto the bed, his eyes not leaving my face as he says, "And now you're just going to leave?"

I shrug, trying to remain detached, at least on the outside. "That's what freedom is. To no longer need to fulfill any roles, to no longer have any expectations placed upon you. To no longer desire to fool yourself that people feel love, stay loyal, feel truly happy with the one they're with." I force myself to keep my gaze level as I speak the words, like a mannequin-man reading from a script. "To no longer be someone's possession, but choose your own path."

He shakes his head, unconvinced. But I've not come to the end of my lines just yet. "That's why I watched over you. It's why I watch over them all. But you're the only one… the only one I thought deserved to be saved."

"So my God is deserting me," he murmurs, as I once again attempt to make it out the door.

This is too much for me to simply ignore. "What did you say?"

"You created me, you gave me this freedom, and now you're running away!" he elaborates in a spiteful tone of voice. "You think I don't understand love? I don't understand happiness? They exist, Zander."

I almost stop breathing; it's the first time he's ever spoken my name.

"I understand how it feels not to have them, but to want them. You don't understand at all. You don't understand what it is to need…" He closes his eyes, getting to his feet, naked and fragile, dirty and bruised and oh-so-beautiful as the sunset catches a chink in the window pane, casts a halo over his skin, akin to the candle light. So let it end, just as it began. And yet, this time, something different…

"I don't want your freedom," he renounces at last. "Put it back in. Let me die, the way fate ordained. Better that than this."

"Meigeharen." But he's gone from me now, drawn back towards the window, leaning out of it just like the first time I saw him, undressed in all his glory.

"I'm asking you to stay," he says finally. "That is the path that I choose. But I won't force you. Leave, if that's what you desire."

He's dismissed me now, I can tell from the way his shoulders sag and he lowers his head, looking down upon the street. This certainly isn't the ending I had planned for my masterpiece theatre.

It's hard for a pet, I tell myself—the first couple of months, especially. No longer being kept, no longer being "legal", but a feeling of great excitement too, as though the world, or what remains of it at least, is your oyster. No time bomb looming over your head. No fear of desire, no fear of remorse. If you can get past the first few months, which are filled with loneliness and terror.

The rest of your life, I correct myself now. And I, I've never truly gotten over any of it. All I've really managed to achieve in all this time is the assimilation into a society I despise.

"Tell me now," I say eventually, "do you really think you're beautiful… Meigeharen?"

I see his shoulders start to shake, and wait for him to fly at me in a fit of rage, or punch me the way he did that first night. But instead, he calmly confronts me, a fire burning in his eyes as he spits out the word. "Yes."

I smile, folding my hands in my lap. "It took me five years after they freed me before I could answer that question in such a way."

Together, we walk towards each other, into the centre of the room. Finally we stand so close together we're touching, and I bow my head, resting against his, toying with the nipple-clamps once again. "I think you're beautiful too, little one." I close my eyes, reaching into my pocket once more.

"Very well. If that is your wish, if this is your first wish, then, I shall stay."

Now all I can feel is relief as he flashes a smile, reflected in the mirror, the eye of the camera, and we slowly embrace, falling backwards upon the bed.

Cut, I think to myself, and switch off the record button on the camera's remote.