"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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Being a degenerate is okay these days
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((Min-jae Parker continued from Gift for the Darkness))

Jae's hands weren't shaking anymore.

He was on his second cigarette of the day, and his head felt clearer than it had in a long while. He wasn't feeling hunger pangs quite so sharply anymore. Good old nicotine, doing its job.

Vanessa was dead. It was another unpleasant little jolt. Hazel's death hadn't been announced for whatever reason, but he wasn't far gone enough to start questioning whether he had really seen her die. He had the jacket back, after all, drying bloodstain on its inside lining and all.

Back at the asylum again. He always seemed to end up here, but then, so did everyone else. He had slept, sometime and somewhere. He didn't really remember. He had awoken with the feeling that he had dreamed, but he didn't remember those either.

Back where he started. He remembered that clearly enough, at least. Alvaro (who was now dead). Vanessa and Nancy (who were also both now dead). But Jae was still here, still limping along. If he kept going on down this hallway, he would eventually encounter the corpse that had once been Asha Sur. Asha and her killers were all dead too.

And Brendan fucking Harte was still alive.

Jae heard his stupid, whiny voice from several doors down. There were one or two others too, maybe that girl that Jae had seen Brendan with days ago. Fuck if he cared.

Every time he started thinking he had a handle on himself, back at school or in this hellhole, Brendan came along to fuck it up. And here's the thing: Jae didn't have a good reason for hating Brendan. He had just disliked Brendan for as long as he could remember knowing him, and that dislike had festered into contempt and then into disgust, and now - now he almost hated the very idea of Brendan. Brendan, much like Alessio Rigano, had been nobody before he got here and took up a weapon to end a life. But the nobodies, it seemed, were the ones who got to live here when they didn't deserve it, and something in the pit of Jae's chest turned sick and black and gnawed at him whenever he thought about that.

Brendan wasn't just always fucking normal things up for Jae with his presence; when things were bad, Brendan was inevitably there to make it worse. The counselor that Jae had been seeing back home had called Brendan something like a target for misplaced aggression; essentially, she said, when Jae was feeling bad, he zeroed in on something convenient to take those bad feelings out on, and Brendan was just an especially good punching bag. Jae had just managed not to roll his eyes when she laid it all out to him like that - he knew how taking his anger out on unrelated things worked, thanks, he'd been living with it all his life - but he couldn't deny that it summed Brendan up in an almost elegant way.

Brendan was a target. Here Jae was, drifting aimlessly again, having just lost everything, and then Brendan's voice floated down the hallway and hel-lo all of the teeth-grinding rage that Jae was just starting to think had drained away.

He stopped far away enough from the room that he wouldn't be visible to anyone who just glanced out the doorway. There were definitely at least two other people in there, and if Jae was remembering right the girl was armed.

But fuck. Did he really care if he lived anymore? Worst-case scenario, one of them shot him dead and then what? Then he was gone from here, that was what. Back into the ever-turning wheel of the universe to take his just punishment for what he had done, and then he could start over again.

Starting over didn't sound so bad.

Even if he had to deal with a few lifetimes as an animal or a ghost, that wouldn't be so bad. People were worse than animals. Being a ghost might be a so-called lifetime of want, but Jae was betting he'd be a pretty sick-ass ghost all the same. He would haunt the shit out of some people who deserved it.

He almost made himself laugh inappropriately again with that thought, but managed to suppress it. Quietly, he set the staff down so that he could retrieve the crossbow from his bag and load it. His hands were steady.

Jae leaned against the wall and listened to the scraps of Brendan's conversation with his allies, waiting.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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