For a time, Keith kept the gun on his desk when he called Matsuka into his room. Matsuka did not think to question why. It was natural that he should not be trusted; he was, as Keith said, a risk level one. But the more time he spent in Keith's presence, the more thoughts of that gun crept into Matsuka's head. He remembered the feel of it pressed up into the soft space under his chin, with his body helpless in Keith's grasp.

Once, he woke from a dream where Keith had pressed the gun there again, but not been afraid to touch him elsewhere.

Afraid. What a strange word for it. Keith wasn't afraid to touch Matsuka-he just knew it was a bad idea. Wasn't that it? At first, Matsuka could not imagine Keith being afraid of anything. Keith wasn't weak and timid like him, after all.

By the time they were on the way back to Soleid after annihilating Nazca, Matsuka wasn't so sure. Perhaps being weak and tired from all he had done there made him less timid and more clear-eyed. It was true that Keith didn't fear normal things, like death and the darkness. But something inside him drew away from human contact. He had ruthlessly destroyed a world full of people rather than talk to them again. What was it they had done to him and all he cared about that made him so determined? Whatever it was, it kept him away from other humans as well as the Mu. It kept him away from other humans, and from Matsuka.

Maybe it was realizing that fact that made Matsuka bold that day, when Keith called him to his room to go over orders with him. He listened to Keith with his usual deference, his head cast a little down, a little to the side. His gaze fell on the gun on Keith's desk, and images crept into his head unbidden. He couldn't get Keith to touch him with kindness. Could he get Keith to touch him with cruelty again? Would it feel different this time, with Keith hardened and darkened by the things that had happened to him in the Mu's care? Would the electric bursts hurt just as much?

When Keith casually lifted a hand to dismiss him, Matsuka reached out to try to grasp that hand.

He was almost too slow. But Keith hadn't been expecting it, and so he couldn't quite pull his hand back in time. Matsuka wanted to hold it-but all he managed to get was a brush of his fingertips against Keith's. It was enough for an image to slip from Keith's mind to his: the sight of that gun, knocked out of Keith's hands, scattering across the floor, while Matsuka himself flung Keith against a wall with extraordinary psychic strength.

Matsuka pulled back. "I wouldn't," he said. "You know I wouldn't. You've trained me too well."

There was that momentary flash of something in Keith's eyes-almost but not quite anger, not at Matsuka but at something or someone more distant. Himself, perhaps, for letting Matsuka in-

Then before Matsuka could move again, the gun was firmly in Keith's hand, its muzzle pressed just below Matsuka's ribcage. Keith's free hand settled on the small of Matsuka's back, holding him tightly to the gun.

"Not well enough," Keith said. "I told you not to touch my mind."

"Yes," Matsuka whispered. He couldn't articulate more of a thought. Whatever Keith said, he had been trained too well. He wanted Keith to keep holding him like this. He tipped his head back a little. The distance between Keith's lips and his own seemed painfully vast, even though it was only a few inches at this point.

Matsuka wondered what would happen if he could stay this close. Would Keith be less inclined to walk into battle ready to die, as he had done with Soldier Blue?

The gun pressed up against him was not the one Keith had used on Blue. He had been shooting to kill, then, bullets and all. Now he was prepared to shoot to hurt. When would he be prepared to shoot Matsuka to kill? Would there be enough time before then for Matsuka to save Keith first? Matsuka didn't know. He lowered his head in resignation.

That was when Keith released him. Matsuka sagged and tumbled to his knees (it felt dreadfully right to be on his knees before Keith). "Good," Keith said. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

"It wasn't shame," Matsuka said. He wasn't past the shame, exactly. He could still feel it as a bright hot spot at the back of his head, all the more acute now with the memory of Keith's mouth poised so close to his fresh in his mind, along with the knowledge that at that moment, Matsuka had had no desire to escape, only to be closer, the gun digging further into him, his lips pressed to Keith's.

But it was true that it hadn't been shame that had made him lower his head.

"Then don't tell me what it was," Keith said. "Remember for next time that it should be shame."

Matsuka felt his cheeks burn. "It will be," he said. The realization that had made him bow his head would not come again. It was only this: someday, that gun would have bullets in it, or worse. Someday, Keith would be the death of him. But he could not bring himself to mind, so long as he could save Keith first.