Sweet was Its Blessing; Kind Its Caressing

Author: Debra Fran Baker
LJ Name: mamadeb
Email Address: debra.baker3@verizon.net
Recipient: amberite
Character: The Corinthian (The Sandman)

Thank you, rynia, for the beta.


He held the little boy in his arms, sweet and clean and the baby held on to him as if he were safe. As if he were safe. As if he could keep or would keep or needed to keep this baby safe. He would, though. Because the little boy thought he would and he was never a nightmare for babies. That would come later - but not for this child, he thought.

****

The Lord was gone, and his Land was empty. None of the others claimed to know where he was, although Desire smirked and Destiny held his book. He was gone and they - his subjects, his creations, his tools - they left, be they places or jobs or nightmares, to find themselves on Earth.

The Corinthian hid himself behind dark glasses and walked by day, and saw with his own...self the sweetness that walked with him. And they were sweet, all of them - firm and young and with everything ahead of them.

He'd left home only days before - his clothes were dirty but still whole, untorn, barely worn. "Mister? Mister, can you help me find a job?"

Oh, the innocence behind those eyes then. "If you want to help me out, boy, I can help you."

"Yes, please. I'm...I'm Johnny, and I can do all sorts of things - I used to help my dad at home. Before..."

He smiled then, mostly hidden by the dark glasses. "Good." The boy might have seen a shadow of something wrong, but he wouldn't believe what he saw in the shadows. His heart did beat a bit faster, because his heart knew. But boys who run away from home aren't sure what their hearts are telling them.

He knew that from their dreams.

"I have an automobile. You can tell me something about yourself while we drive." Johnny nodded, and walked with him to the automobile that he hadn't owned an hour ago. He climbed in beside the driver's seat. So sweet and trusting.

Johnny had run five days ago, because his mother was marrying again and didn't need him anymore. His father had died only a year before, and Johnny had been the man, earning some money and maintaining the house, but now he wasn't needed and wasn't wanted - he could tell. So he left.

He'd find his own way, he would, and then his own family and he wouldn't die or anything - he could see it all so clearly - like the swimming hole in the quarry.

"Are you hungry?"

"Not...not so much." He could taste the lie.

"I am." Oh, yes, he was. So hungry. So much more than in dreams. He turned towards the road so Johnny couldn't see him lick his lips. Any of them. Or maybe he could, because Johnny's heart started speaking again, and Johnny turned white.

There was a place to eat, a greasy spoon on the road to someplace else - dirt roads here, through farms. There was no choice, just what the cook had made that day, but it was warm and filling and the boy wolfed it down to prove his lie, and his heart stopped speaking. "You have a farm, mister?"

"You'll see. It will all be fine." And he smiled again, to see the boy turn white again.

They stopped again, a couple of hours later, for the boy relieve himself in a wooded area. It was secluded and green, and there was no one on the road. And he was hungry. So he stood behind the boy and touched him.

Johnny stood still, unsure, fourteen and innocent. Later, years later, decades later, the Corinthian would not find that again, but in this time and place, he wasn't even surprised. He touched him - still a boy, all but hairless beneath his hands, and touched him again until the boy shuddered and fell back on him, and then he turned the boy around - his eyes were big and they were sweet and so so scared - Johnny was hearing his heart now.

And he took off his dark glasses and let the boy see. He smiled the way only he could smile and the boy stood there and let him take off the dirty, barely worn clothes. Let him touch, his mind very far away.

And then he took out his knife and the boy screamed and tried to stop him from doing what he wanted, but he was a boy and scared - so, so scared - and this time he wouldn't wake up. This time there was only one escape, and that way was in his captor's hands. He wept, as much as he was able, blood instead of tears on his face.

He savored the fruits then, placing them inside his mouth, one by one - tasting like fear and innocence and betrayal. He savored it as a delicacy he might not ever have again. And as a last act of kindness - for he was never anything but kind in cruelty - he gave the boy escape. He piled the clothes neatly beside him, and, leaving the automobile, began to walk.

And he had those who imitated him, or built upon him, or preyed on other prey, and he thought them fools. He thought them even more foolish when they gathered to celebrate who and what they were.

They, the boys, became more wary. Not so trusting, not so innocent. Later still, they offered their own bodies to him, for money or drugs or food. He was kind to them, too. He was always kind. And they never listened to their hearts until it was too late.

And he remembered that as if it were a different man, because it was a different man. Dream returned and destroyed what he'd created and then created what he'd destroyed. And Daniel looked in his eyes, and listened to his heart, and the Corinthian was undone by something other than innocence.