So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my good.

-Paradise Lost, by John Milton

"Sing me a lullaby," he whispers, and begs.

00000

Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow

00000

"Child, come here. I need help making this cake."

"Yes, matron."

The Matron always calls him child, just as he always calls her 'matron'. There are no names here, in the Geass Order. Names, V.V. says, are merely titles of convenience, and are given only when someone is useful enough to have a name.

He doesn't mind. Child is good enough for him. He's a failed tool, after all.

V.V. says his Geass is powerful but flawed, capable of killing him if used too frequently. He remembers his chest in agony, like the claws of the monsters that sometimes stalk the shadows of his nightmares were slashing and stabbing his heart, and remembers screaming for salvation at the age of five.

("Useless." V.V. had said coldly, eyes distant and cold like the arctic poles. "Discard him.")

He was dismissed to the care of the Matron, who lived in a house out in the countryside, a perfect little spot isolated from society, with rolling hills and sprawling forests and all manner of places perfect for children to be children.

Being useful isn't important anymore.

All he needs is the Matron's warm smile, the scent of freshly baked goods, and the security of being loved.

He doesn't see most of the other children anymore, the other potential Geass candidates- the older ones have all gone away, disappeared, and to the mind of a child once someone disappears they're rarely thought about again.

If he had thought about those older candidates a little harder, a lot of things might have been different down the road.

For now, he grabs a large wooden spoon from the third cupboard on the left and hands it to the Matron obediently, scooting up onto a stool next to the Girl.

The Girl is the Matron's other ward, another failed Geass user, like him. He was sure the Matron would have called her 'child' too, but that was his name and so she needed a different way to differentiate.

He liked her well enough, though the Matron was always his favorite. She had a too flat nose and a face that looked more boyish than his own, and sometimes she pushed him to get the first cookie, but all in all she was nice and played with him while they waited for the Matron to read them stories or bring them food. She'd been here longer than him, and had known the previous boy who stayed with them up until he left. She didn't talk about him though, and would always get quiet and stop playing with him when he asked.

When the cake is done, they split it between the two of them. It's not a full sized cake, but rather appropriately sized for children, perfect for them, a sign of the Matron's unconditional affection as she takes everything into account for them.

They smile with each other, and laugh, as the Matron sits with them and lets them eat the cake to their heart's content, secure in the knowledge that all children desperately crave- to know that they are loved.

00000

Once, he skins his knees on the rocks outside, and cries on and on and on.

She sweeps him into her arms, taking him into that primeval darkness of comfort that a child instinctively longs for, and clings to, and whispers.

"There there. It's okay. It's okay."

The pain goes away, dulled by that magic little spell called love, that makes you blind, that can let you burn the world with a smile.

00000

The Matron has a garden outside, filled with all sorts of pretty flowers on one side and the vegetables they eat on the other. It's like a small slice of Eden, a place the Matron talked about every now and then in her stories.

It's where the first boy and girl were born, a paradise on earth, lost due to the pride of humankind.

This paradise, he hopes, he prays, will not be lost.

("Useless," V.V. mutters. "Discard him.")

(He was thrown out, and he can be thrown out again)

Birds fly in to eat the vegetables, snails crawl in to ruin the plants.

They destroy what is beautiful, intrude upon this sacred land that the Matron has given them.

He is angry at them.

Paradise is ruined.

So he uses his Geass to catch the birds and breaks their necks (easy, like breaking twigs) and listens to the silence that was once filled with birdsong as though it were music. As for the snails, he showers them with salt like soldiers spray gunfire, and waits to hear the sizzling sounds of their demise, almost like the screams of the damned praying for forgiveness at trespassing into paradise.

And after he buries the birds outside the gardens and tosses the corpses of the snails along with them, he runs up to the Matron, who smiles, pats his head, and gives him a cookie for a reward.

00000

Project: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 Observation Report 50

Date- [REDACTED]

Subject 24095 exhibits the projected attachments of an adopted child bonding with a mother. Subject appears to have very strong feelings, as predicted. Deviations are within acceptable ranges. Recommend the scenario proceed to phase two.

00000

And everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went,
and everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go

00000

You know what no one ever asks is, what about Mary's other lambs, the ones that didn't get to follow her around and that she didn't love quite so much?

00000

"Tell us a story, matron," he pleads, in the nightly ritual they continuously take part of. The Girl never asks for the stories, but always stays awake in her bed, on the other side of the room (they are both too young yet for it to be improper for girls and boys to sleep in the same room)- it is a task left to the newer ward of the Matron, he believes.

She smiles and nods. She's a large woman, he thinks, not fat- no, never fat- but just… perfectly motherly, with that form that just allows you to bury yourself in her hugs and feel safe.

Her voice is soft and warm, and lulls them into the story, like an enchantment luring them into an eternal sleep.

00000

There were two children, a boy and a girl, children of a poor woodcutter. The woodcutter couldn't afford to feed the children, for there was a great and terrible famine in the land. So, his wife convinced him to abandon their children in the woods, to leave them to fend for themselves and die.

But the children, by fate or luck, chanced upon a strange house in the woods, made of gingerbread and candies, delightful treats that made the children ecstatic, and, unable to help themselves, being merely children, the girl and the boy began to eat the house.

Suddenly, an old woman appeared, who lived inside the gingerbread house. She invited the children inside, where a magnificent feast awaited them. They devoured the food, ate heartily, and became dulled with full bellies and happy hearts.

The old woman seized upon this opportunity, locking the boy in a cage and forcing the girl into servitude. She planned to devour the boy after fattening him up, for she was a wicked, black hearted creature who had grown a taste for the unholy delicacy that was human flesh, especially the soft tenderness of children.

00000

The Matron stops there, smiling, patting his head, for he is already being lulled away into the recesses of sleep.

In a way, it's a blessing.

Happily ever after is just a lie, after all, and children rarely escape the wicked witch and get back to a normal family and have full, bright lives and marry princesses and princes, like they do in the fairy tales.

No, they get devoured whole, and not one person in the whole wide world gives a damn.

00000

The Girl doesn't talk to him the whole day after they hear the story.

He tries to get her to play ball with him, but she refuses to meet his eyes and sits on the swings instead, singing a song to herself and crying when he looks away.

He doesn't understand.

00000

You see kids, Mary has lots of little lambs, but only one she wanted to keep.

(One of you has to be eaten)

00000

Do you want to know the difference between killing birds and killing humans?

00000

He wakes up to hands around his neck, fingers wrapping around his windpipe and constricting expertly. The hands are small and wiry, not that of a fully grown adult's, but they are strong.

It doesn't even take an instant of thought for his eyes to open and his Geass to activate.

And even less time for him to pull the frozen hands off of him, get behind the person, grab a shirt from a nearby drawer, and initiate a stranglehold of his own, using the shirt as a makeshift rope to asphyxiate his attacker.

His Geass falters and he lets it go, and his attacker takes a moment to be surprised before the chokehold becomes life threatening. He's already learned how to count the seconds it would take to end a life, and starts counting backwards. He can feel warm tears from his would-be-killer dripping down onto his fingers. It feels oddly nice on his skin, like droplets of a warm bath, comforting and warm.

The body is jerking uncontrollably now, all thought gone before base instinct, the hardwired instinct to the survive that will surpass all logic and emotion, even for the briefest of instances before rigor mortis claims them.

(Humans are only true at the moment of death)

Ten seconds have passed, and still his attacker struggles,

He applies more pressure. The windpipe has to collapse soon.

Fifteen seconds. The body should be slipping into unconsciousness by now. The opponent must be amazingly resilient, he wonders, and resolves to put more pressure. There is no mercy in his heart, that kind of ruthless absence of conscience only a child can possess, that terrifying single-minded innocence that is purer than driven snow and more horrifying than the cruelest hearts.

"I'm sorry."

Words? At this stage? It goes against everything he was ever taught as a child during his stay with V.V., that education to murder and slay that is as second nature to him was walking and breathing.

He's so surprised that his grip falters, and he realizes he knows this voice.

The Girl glances at him with teary eyes and an expression of the purest sorrow, like the first snowfall of the season, clean and untouched.

He lets go, releasing the makeshift stranglehold he created, but it's already too late.

Far, far too late.

00000

There isn't one.

00000

"I… I didn't mean to…"

The Matron steps forward, smiling and enveloping him in her arms, a wordless gesture of supreme understanding and forgiveness.

"There there. It's okay. It's okay." The mantra is soft and welcoming, the ultimate lullaby to a distressed child who only wants absolution.

"She just… I didn't…" he can't form words, and his tiny hands grasp desperately at the folds of her dress, as if the lightest touch would forgive all sins.

Would she send him away? She had to, he was a killer now. He wasn't a good boy any more, and good boys don't get to live in Eden.

("Discard him")

(Cold, merciless eyes, casting him out, because he's no longer worthy to be there.)

"There there. It's okay. It's okay."

The mantra continues, soothing the hot tears that blind his eyes to all the world, weaving a spell around his senses.

"She was going to kill me," he sobs, burying his face deeper into her embrace, like a sinner seeking vindication from God in the dark. "I didn't want to die."

"I warned you, didn't I?" the Matron murmurs, over his delirious, trauma induced sobs. "I told you in my story, to watch for the wicked witch who would try to trap you."

It begins to crystallize with the Matron's words. He wasn't wrong.

The Girl was the evil witch who tricked him with smiles and games, all the while preparing to kill him, to devour him whole and make him disappear forever from the Matron's loving arms.

That's right.

That's right.

That's right.

(It had to be right)

"They won't let you stay," she continues, her words drifting in his ears like a wondrous enchantment. "Do you want to stay with me?"

"Yes," he cries.

(Forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever)

"I love you, little lamb," the Matron croons, and strokes his hair.

"I love you too," he promises.

He killed her, and that way the story could have its happy ending.

Only when the witch is dead do the children get to live happily ever after.

"… I won't let them trap me again," he promises brokenly. "I won't ever let them."

So he could live happily ever after.

00000

Project: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 Observation Report 59

Date: [REDACTED]

Scenario is proceeding according to predicted schedule. Psychology of subject 24059 seems stable, or at least within acceptable parameters for the purposes of this project.

The Director has ordered us to increase the number of material we normally allot for the experiment's purposes as we proceed to the next phase. While this is unusual, Subject 24059 is one of our most promising candidates thus far, and the Director has taken a highly unusual level of interest in him.

00000

A new ward for the Matron appears a month later, this one a small boy, a year younger than himself. The boy is full of bright eyed kindness and smiles, and likes to play make believe games about castles and soldiers and roll around in the grass.

But he can see right through all of it, through the make believe and the smiles. This person is a witch, and witches have to die.

He knows now.

He tricks the boy into following him out into the woods, loses him behind a tree, and then, when the boy is confused, smashes his skull in with a rock. It's not a clean, easy kill- he's not nearly strong enough to kill so easily.

The boy collapses to the floor, bleeding, but alive.

It takes two more strikes with the rock before the body finally stops twitching. He uses one last added blow to make sure.

He feels sick for a moment, with the iron stench of blood choking his nostrils, turning his stomach and lifting acidic bile into his throat, but it soon passes and he leaves the body for the worms and the maggots to feast upon, goes back to the Matron's loving embrace, has a cookie, and soon everything starts to feel a little better.

00000

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
"Why does the lamb love Mary so,"
the eager children cry.

00000

The next child is a girl, a little bit older than him. She's cleverer than the boy, and doesn't trust him right away. She refuses to go alone with him anywhere, and always clings to the shadow of the Matron.

But she has to sleep, so on the fourth day after her arrival he slips a knife between her ribs as she sleeps. He would have liked not to dirty the sheets the Matron had so carefully prepared, but it couldn't helped, and she didn't seem to mind the cleanup the next morning.

It took three weeks before the Order sent them a new ward for the Matron.

Two boys, very friendly and active. Rambunctious, even. They were rough and he didn't like them very much, but he smiled and played along and play wrestled with them to learn how best to eliminate them. The problem was that they were always together, even sleeping in a different room as his (with locks), and they were far stronger physically than his thin frame could fight, even with Geass, which wouldn't last long anyway.

Since they liked playing outdoors so much, he prepares ahead of time. It takes about a week for him to prepare the spike pit, hidden in a clearing in the woods outside the house. He sharpens sticks and digs a hole using a small shovel in the garden. It only takes him half an hour to lure the twins into the pit, using the Geass to freeze them just for a second, to push them into the pit, and watch as the makeshift spears tore holes in their stomachs, the smell of guts and blood now as familiar as baked goods or the scent of grass on the wind.

It was only a week before a new invader of paradise came. This one was a girl, again, trusting and beautiful, who offered him a flower chain as a present when she came.

He murdered her within three hours of her arrival, just before lunch, and let her carcass rot in the sun.

Another came, and another, and another, and another.

Sooner or later he killed them all, and then played out in the gardens and laughed and smiled, ate cookies and lived free, because he had already killed the enemy. As a reward, the Matron even baked him a cake again.

00000

"How did the story end?" he asks, glancing up at the Matron.

She smiles.

00000

Project: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 Observation Report 139

Date: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 is reaching the final phase. Despite consuming nearly seven time the number of material usually allotted to these experiments, Subject 24059 has not shown the parameters we are searching for. While the recommendation of [REDACTED] is to designate Experiment 66 a failure and liquidate the subject, the Director's order is for experiment 66 to initiate a new protocol which is intended to produce the desired result of this project where our previous trial runs have failed. While personally I feel that this risks contaminating the subject, I must admit that the psychology behind the Medea protocol is sound.

00000

"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."
The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
the teacher did reply.

00000

"Please die," comes the voice, a prayer, an order for execution.

The feeling of hands against his throat is familiar now, and this time, he doesn't even think, opening his eyes, activating the Geass, and then calmly rolling over, grabbing the knife beneath his pillow and running his attacker through, feeling the familiar warmth of fresh blood running over his hands, a nostalgic embrace, and hear this new witch's breath hitch as the nerves start to feel the pain.

He savors these moments now, because they affirm his commitment, that what he is doing is justified.

Righteous.

He's just trying to earn his happy ending, after all.

00000

It takes him a moment to remember that there's no new ward this week.

00000

"My little lamb," the Matron croons softly, smiling through teeth stained with bubbling blood. She coughs, and a little spatter of her blood hits his cheek, and his hands leave the knife in her stomach (her bleeding, gutted stomach, pouring out endless rivers of red like a biblical flood, and he wants to cry and take it all back and just die) to absently touch the blood.

"I told you that the wicked witch would trick you, didn't I?"

00000

It takes a day before he remembers how to breathe, and how to scream.

00000

You see, one of the children force fed the other one, making him fatter and fatter until the witch was ready to devour him. The one who was forced to help the witch seemed like the bad guy, but that child cried all the while.

The wicked witch was always playing the mother, feeding them all manner of sweet little lies.

00000

"Do you want to be useful?" V.V. asks him softly, legs dangling almost childishly off a chair in the kitchen, idly munching on one of the Matron's cookies, the ones she baked with a smile for him, the ones she baked right before she tried to murder him in his bed.

00000

Nobody ever gets to have a happy ending.

00000

"Yes."

He can't ever be happy, because Eden is gone, or it never existed at all, except in a story that was probably just a lie anyway.

So he'll have to be useful.

00000

Project: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 Observation Report 140

Date: [REDACTED]

Experiment 66 is a success.

As the Director projected, the traumatic shock of the Medea Protocol coupled with the prior phase of the experiment has created the perfect parameters for an assassin suitable for our purposes.

With this, he is ready to accept orders under our command. His Geass continues to prove to be subject 24059's primary flaw, but the Director's gambit paid off after all.

As an official note, our stock of material has thinned and we will need to train a new caretaker for any future iteration of this project. Recommend similar parameters to duplicate this success.

00000

The lullaby is over, like childhood.

"I love you," he murmurs sleepily.

The Matron smiles. "I love you too, my little lamb."

00000

(And they lived happily ever after)

00000

Give a boy a knife, he may kill.

Teach a boy how to kill, and you won't need to give him the knife.

Author's Notes

Blame Portal, especially for all the cake references (and I actually suggest listening to "Still Alive" as a closer for this story). The themes about running experiments and such just struck a chord with me about Rolo. Because Rolo, while a yandere sociopath, also happens to have a human side as well, and a fierce attachment to what he calls family and a hatred for being deceived. So I tried to run with it, and try to peer into how you make a child that clearly only wants a family into a machine that kills on command. And came out with this monstrosity.

The story, of course, is a remixing of Hansel and Gretel, which I do not own, FYI. I omitted a few things in the story that didn't contribute anything. And the nursery rhyme is, of course, Mary Had A Little Lamb, which is now going to haunt my nightmares.

Okay, now I need to write something romantic and sappy and sweet, to get this story off of me.