Though he tried to distract himself with his books, he couldn't stop his gaze from wandering away, up to the clock on the wall as it ticked by in the quiet room. It was always like this, each day seeming to last longer than the one before. Occasionally, he entertained the possibility that something was off with the Earth's orbit, and he was the only one who noticed that what once took twenty four hours now took seventy two. Frustrated with his failure to focus on the pages in front of him, he closed the book, a hand raised to cover his eyes.

In the darkness behind his fingertips, the ticking grew louder, impossible to ignore. If only he could take the batteries out, silence it, for just a little while. But he couldn't, not without Yuri making some snide comment in the morning. Not that he cared what the man thought, Yuri's opinion wasn't exactly high on his list of priorities, but there was the chance, small that it might be, that Eri might notice. She'd shrug it off, no doubt, but what if she didn't? She might worry. Worry for him. She was generous, perhaps overly so, and it wasn't out of the question she'd spare a fleeting moment of concern even for a filthy thing such as him.

Hell, she'd done it before. Consistently. If she caught him distracted even for a moment, she'd be right there at his side. Asking if he was okay, if there was anything she could do to help. She treated him as if he wasn't broken beyond repair, as if he were no different than her other, undamaged dolls. It wasn't just him, he knew. Yeon-ho, too, was permanently scarred, and she treated him with the same unwarrented kindness. Given their similar background, Tei more than just suspected that the boy's feelings for her much mirrored his own. It was for that reason he kept an exceptionally close eye on him, waiting for that moment he gave in to that dark obsession.

He wouldn't let him, or any of them for that matter, hurt her. She was perfect, a flash of light in the void that was the world he lived in. He would even go so far as to call her a goddess, though he knew all too well how human she was. Mortal, fragile, and oh so breakable herself. There was a part of him that wondered if she realized how easily any one of them could shatter her with little to no effort. Of course she didn't, if she did, would she still be so painfully trusting? She was gracious indeed, but no one was that self sacrificial.

The clock on the wall finally counted past the twenty minute mark. By then, no matter how restless she'd been, the drugs he'd slipped into her tea would have gotten in her system and put her to sleep. He spared a brief glance at Yuri, then stood, as casual as ever. He left his book on the table next to his reading chair, and stepped out of the room.

Tei made a show of walking toward the bathroom, away from the part of the house she called her own. Then he doubled back, circling around until he came to her door. With a glance toward either end of the hall, he slipped into her room, making not a sound as he shut the door behind him.

He listened to her breathe while he waited for his eyes to adjust, the rhythm slow and deep. When he could make out the shapes outlined in the dark, he intruded further, finding her not in her bed but still sitting at her desk. She'd fallen asleep writing in her journal. His fault, but it caused a frown to form anyway.

"You know that's going to give you the worst neck cramp in the morning, right?" He scolded her in the gentlest, velvet soft voice he could manage, a hand reaching out to touch the top of her head. Her hair was soft under his fingertips, smooth and warm. He brushed his fingers through it, admiring the way it flowed over his skin. Everything about her was perfect. There wasn't a flaw to be found.

All he had to do was dig his nails into her scalp and pull. Rip the skin off her head, coat her in blood and leave her forever marred. He indulged in that little fantasy for a few moments. The pain would wake her up, surly. She'd scream. The others would come to help, but they'd never make it to the door. He'd smash their doll counterparts, destroy them one by one until there was only the two of them left. It'd be a pity to kill them all, but better than the alternative. They'd overpower him, or otherwise call for help from those that could. Just because they were dolls didn't mean the police would exempt him from the law.

She'd see the broken remains of her beloved dolls, and she'd cry for them. He wouldn't stand for that, of course. To refocus her attention on him, he'd have to damage her further. Deep wounds, to make sure they'd leave behind scars. He'd hurt her until he was the only thing she could think about, her entire world build around him as his was around her. Once she was ruined, he could be with her. They'd be on the same level, he wouldn't have to worry about tainting her by confessing his love. She'd already be corrupted. Vile. Dirty, just like him.

He wanted to. So badly, he wanted to. But he shouldn't. He knew he shouldn't hurt her.

He was disgusting for thinking these thoughts. For wanting to be near her, despite her perfection. She was so good and pure, and he was no more than a diseased animal, lusting after her. He pulled his hand free from her hair and touched his face, her scent lingering in his nose, the oil from her skin temptingly close to his mouth. His eyes burned, liquid building up until he had no choice but to let it spill over.

"...I'm sorry, Eri."

The words were whispered under his breath, as if he was afraid she'd hear the crack in his voice should he let it slip. Swallowing, he wasted no more time in pulling the chair out, stopping to wipe his face on his sleeve before trying to pick her up. It was bad enough they'd shared contact, he wouldn't dare add to that sin by letting his tears seep into her.

When his face was dry and he was sure it would stay that way, he knelt and slipped his arms under her. One beneath her legs, the other under her shoulders. He picked her up with ease, and carried her over to the bed, where he lay her down and tucked the blanket tight around her. It was a cool night, he didn't want her to catch a chill. She didn't need to be getting sick. If she did, she'd probably insist on going to school anyway, and then he'd have to nag her for an hour to get her to stay home and rest. It'd be just like her.

He turned to the desk, pulling a small penlight out of his pocket. It ruined his night vision, but he didn't need it at the moment. Wincing a bit at the glare, he scanned her latest entry, lips pressed into a thin line. It'd been tampered with again. Here and there, entire words had been erased. When he flipped back a few pages, he found several of her previous entries torn out.

He looked away from the notebook to glance back at her. She couldn't be the one doing this. These journals were important to her, not something to be thrown to the side or scratched out. Someone else had to be. And no matter how early he crept into her room, he never caught them in the act.

They were in for a world of pain if he ever found them. And if they so much as laid a finger on her...

He let out a slow, uneasy breath, and closed the journal, putting it back in the bookcase. She'd wake up assuming she'd done it before going to bed. It was never a problem.

His nightly routine complete, Tei snuck out of the room just a silent as he'd come. If it were up to him, he'd stay there the entire night, but Yuri would make a big deal about it if he didn't come back. For the time being, these little visits would have to be enough.

They should be enough. If he wasn't so selfish, if he could be grateful for what he had...

He shook his head in a failed attempt to clear his thoughts, and went on his way.