And I bring fic as a humble offering...do leave a comment if you have one. Unless you like, totally hate it, and then you can just ignore me. ^_~ Thanks to snarkymonkey for looking it over for me, and making sure it was fit to post. <3
Title: Condemned to Live
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and characters thereof belong to Arakawa-sensei and other lucky people, but not me
Rating: R, for language and um...dark stuff
Warnings: angst, angst and more angst, swearing, dark, weirdness
Kagi's notes: Wellll...before you read this, you might want to go read this post by saya_aensland, which I totally agreed with; it was the inspiration for Hatred, the fic I was reading when I got the idea for mine. Soku writes angst like nobody's business. <3 However, mine is not on quite the same subject, just dealing with some similar themes. Apologies to Soku if any of my lines came out similar--it was completely unintentional. ^^; It's been a month or so since I last read Hatred, and although I got the idea then, I didn't start working on this until yesterday, so. ^^
Dedication: For sockren. <3 Soku, this is not your fanfic!fanfic, since it's not directly based on your work--but it's for you anyway, because it was your fault. ^_^ One aspect of Hatred kind of suggested this to me, and I just took it and ran with it, in a somewhat different direction. Hope you like!
Condemned to Live
It was another town, another assignment. Probably, another setup from the Colonel, a hidden agenda that Edward wouldn't find out until later. If then.
Edward should be used to being thrown out of places by now. He should be used to being hated, simply because he belongs to the military, rejected for mistakes not his own. He is used to it, in a way, has come to accept that this is how the world works. It doesn't trigger his temper or injure his pride, not the way that comments about his height do. But still...it hurts.
It hurts mostly because...they are right.
He is a dog of the military, owned by the war machine which has injured so many. He is a soulless bastard who will do just about anything to fix his one great mistake--his sin. It is his own fault, this trap, and he knows it. So he doesn't fight the shouts, the threats, the scorn of the angry citizens. Their voices ring and echo in his head, long after they have abandoned him to the dark of night. This night is no different.
You bastard. How dare you come in here and act like you belong? You're just a fucking dog, obeying orders you don't understand. Murderer. Liar. Thief. Get out! You don't belong here. You don't belong anywhere, except with other scum like you!
And it's true, it's always been true...he doesn't belong anywhere. He doesn't truly have a home. He is a lost soul, forever wandering, one of the damned in search of a scrap of redemption. He knows he doesn't deserve even that.
The accusations awaken older, deeper, darker thoughts; they run together with his memory, beating mercilessly in his brain until he doesn't know what's true and what's not. You ruin everything you touch. The only thing you bring to life is pain. You hurt them all, especially the ones who love you.
Mother, with her sad, gentle smile, always waiting for the man that Edward will never be anything like, not if he can help it, not even if she wishes he was....her still form lying where she fell for the last time...her simple, neat headstone on the hill...the horror that he created when he tried to bring her back. Winry, with tears on her cheeks and pain in her eyes as she watches them leave, knowing they only, always, come back to her broken...and Al...his sweet, trusting little brother, the one who loved him, believed in him, and almost died for it.
Misery washes over Ed and he takes a deep breath; it cuts into his lungs like an icy wind with sharp, stabbing pain.
You killed him. He's not really there anymore. You're never going to get his body back. He's as good as dead. And you should be. You should be dead! It should have been you, you selfish, arrogant brat.
He hates you, you know. You betrayed him, betrayed his trust; you're a worthless, pathetic, faithless excuse for brother. How could he love you after that? You didn't just fail him, you stabbed him in the back. He should never have believed in you.
You're not worth a damn thing, and no matter what you do, you'll never pay for what you've done. Never. Stupid, idiot fool, searching for a way to redeem yourself.
Such a slim chance, a desperate possibility, a shred of something like absolution, or at least, of restitution. He knows he doesn't deserve even that, but he searches anyway, for his brother's sake. Only for that, so he tells himself; but he knows what a selfish creature he is. He knows the real reason he searches is for the tiny hope that maybe, just maybe, he can undo his greatest mistake, and pay for his greatest sin. To lift the black, ugly stain on his heart with a single act of atonement.
The voices laugh mockingly at the idea, and tonight some of them sound suspiciously like Colonel Mustang. Go on, wear yourself out in a hopeless search for something you will never find. You've been looking for how many years and still you have nothing? Idiot!
The military's good graces aren't going to last forever; they must be getting sick of you by now. You're wasting your time, and everyone else's! It's hopeless, and you know it. Redemption? Ha! Even if you did manage to restore him, it wouldn't make you any less of a sinner.
And face it, the odds are completely against you--you'll never find it. Ever.
Then there is the other voice, the one that is his own, and yet not quite. As if he stood inside his own head and judged himself, and found himself wanting. The voice of that other self is often spiteful, usually scornful, sometimes full of pure hate. Tonight it is all of that, in varying degrees.
You're a damn selfish bastard, is what you are. Trying to restore him just to save your filthy soul. It was you, you are the one who killed him in the first place, playing god! Fucking hypocrite. How can you stand yourself? You make me sick! I hate you. Bastard. I hate you.
That one sometimes runs a litany through his mind whenever he does something necessary but distasteful, something he is not proud of, or when he is pretending to be something he is not; and all the while, the voice will scream in the back of his mind, or simply hiss, low and intense like venomous static. Over and over and over the words hammer at him, fierce and insistent. I hate you, I hate you, I HATE you!
Al, in particular, seems to bring out the worst in that voice. It gets especially vicious where he is concerned. Why do you force him to spend time in your company? It must cause him pain just to be around you, to see how little a price you paid for your sin--only a leg, and an arm. He lost his whole body. He must loathe you, after what you've done to him. Why don't you just leave him alone? Haven't you hurt him enough already?
He would be better off if you had just died. You ought to be dead. You know it. It was you who should have paid for your sin. He would be fine if it wasn't for you! It's your fault, and you fucking know it. You know it! I hate you.
The voice never stops, really, though if he keeps busy enough it will fade to a background mutter. But at quiet times or in the dead of night, like now, it comes like the whisper of a ghost, haunting him. The words, though they exist only in his head, would stab into his soul like so many knives, until he thinks he must be bleeding, somehow, somewhere, and god, if he could only make it stop! But he doesn't know how.
The slashing, cutting tone of the voice and the hurtful words build up inside him, layer upon layer of pain no one else can hear or see....bleeding from the inside in a rain of silvery razor-edged shards, of broken soul, broken dreams, broken heart. Sometimes, like tonight, he wishes there was some way, something he could do to hurt back, to lash out at the neverending torment. He knows, somehow, that it would be against the rules. What exactly the rules are, though, he is not sure.
Why don't you just kill me? Ed rages at it tonight, furious and hurting and wanting nothing more than just a way out...if only Al didn't need him, worthless as he is, if only Al didn't depend on him--he who should never be trusted with anything so important, so priceless as his little brother's life. He feels that it is vastly unfair for that other self to keep suggesting that he should be dead, and not do anything about it.
The voice snickers back at him now, tauntingly, far too gleefully--oh no, you can't die, not now. Coward! You lived when you should have died, and now it is your punishment. Death is too good for you; you can't possibly atone for what you've done in such a simple way.
You should live in pain, live and breathe and bleed with every breath you take. That is justice for you, now.
And Ed knows the voice is right. He knows it is the truth. When darkness falls and he is alone the voice gets louder, until sometimes he thinks he might be crushed beneath the weight of accusation. This night was one of those times.
Stop! his mind cried. Just stop! But it wouldn't stop, it grew louder and louder until it drowned everything else out, and he fell to his knees as he did sometimes, with his head in his hands, pulling his hair in agony, wishing he could pull the cruel words right out of his head.
The sneering only got worse when he did this, as it mocked him for his weakness. What, crying now? Little lost boy on his knees, crying for his mama. What's the matter, bitch, can't take it? You did this to yourself, you know. It's all your fault. You're so pathetic you can't even ignore the voices in your head. Because it's only your voice after all, isn't it?
I'm you. It's all your own thoughts. You're doing this to yourself, making yourself suffer...why don't you just stop? Because you can't, can you; because you like it. Bitch. You know you deserve it. Stand up and take it like a man!
He raised his head, gritting his teeth and glaring into the darkness, his eyes burning with tears he refused to shed. I'm not that weak! I can take it. You're right, I'm right, I did this to myself. It's all my fault. Now I have to deal with it.
I can handle it. I have to. I'm the only one who can save him now. And I will. I have to.
Grimly he got to his feet, and shoved the mocking voice to the back of his mind, ignoring the last ring of scornful laughter as it reminded him that Al would not need saving, if it hadn't been for him. Maybe not, but the fact remained that he did need saving, and there was no one else. He clenched his fists in determination.
Too bad for him you're all he's got, his other self responded, taunting. He deserves better than you, loser.
Those words made him feel guilty, but despite that, he snapped at the voice, "Shut up! Just shut up. If you can't say anything useful, don't say anything." I am going to save him, I am. My life may be worthless, and I deserve nothing good, not even this chance, but if I can restore him, that will be enough. That will mean I did one good thing in my life, one good thing to redeem what little soul I have left.
That's the only thing I live for...then I can let go, I can stop fighting, then I can die. Then I can kill you!
A chilling, haunting laugh echoed back at him from the corners of his mind, and he shivered, feeling as if he had somehow missed the point. His other self had gotten the last laugh, after all. He still didn't know why. He still wished it would just go away, but he knew better than to hope for that.
It was the voice of truth, and it was justice.