Become Again

The room smells like dust and disappointments, too old to be properly named. She doesn’t know why she’s followed him here, not when he means to die anyway; she’s literally a stone’s throw away from her goal, but here she is, crouched by his side and wrapping his bleeding arms with strips she’s cut from his faded green wrap. His breathing is ragged and loud in her ear, hot and damp on her cheek. The feel of his blood is shockingly real against her naked palms.

He looks at her with hard dark eyes, and she finds herself thinking, He wasn’t always so bitter.

There are pieces and fragments of memories whenever she closes her eyes — a warm hand on her cheek, fingers in her hair, and a smile as brilliant as the sun. Whenever she tries to pursue them, though, they fade again, so all she sees is darkness, and the hollow place where they used to exist is cold.

She wants to remember his name. She wants to remember her own name.

He tips his head back to look at her, his red eyes narrowed. Already, blood is seeping through his bandages. “You should leave this place,” he says. “The military will be here soon.”

She says nothing, watching as he tries to stand, and how he sways, pale and sweating. It’s sheer coincidence he hasn’t lost his arm, not with the way that State Alchemist reached for him, casual murder in his smile. She doesn’t know where the Elric boy has gone; she only hopes he’s made it somewhere safe.

“Do you still intend on making the Stone?” she asks softly. “You’re creating the final epitome of what all alchemists long for. Your god wouldn’t forgive that.”

He flexes first one fist, then the other. Even under the bandages, his muscles ripple strongly. “God has already turned away from me,” he says. “I have thrown away the gift of my name. After this, nothing else matters.”

She bites the inside of her cheek as she watches him. If she lets her eyes unfocus, she can see the shadow of a slender young boy, his hair still dark, his eyes still wide with unbetrayed optimism. She blinks it away, and crosses her arms under her breasts. “Even the worst of sinners can find forgiveness,” she murmurs. “Ishbara’s grace encompasses all that seek for it.”

For a moment, his face is unguarded. She has been trained well over the years, and can read his features easily: shock, surprise, and even a little dismay. “You –”

“Even someone who was not born of Ishbara’s people can find a place amongst them,” she says quietly. She doesn’t flinch as he approaches her, even when she can feel the heat radiating off him in waves. His eyes are dark and strange with something that she’s not sure even he recognizes. “That is what the First Prophet taught, and that is what the people of Ishbar still believe.”

His eyes scan her face, like he’s searching for something nameless in her face. She waits, still and patient as death, until his expression darkens and he steps away from her like a man betrayed.

“You’re not her,” he says flatly. “You aren’t her, and you never will be her.”

Slowly, she tilts her head, not breaking eye-contact with him. “And you’re not the boy I knew.”

For a moment his face contorts again, and he looks almost comically angry. “You –”

“I look at you, and I remember things,” she said quietly, and does not look at the shapeless green wrap he wears, does not try to search for the locket she knows he carries somewhere in the folds of his clothing. “You were so very young, but so fierce, and you believed all the truths of the world could be found in the teachings of our people.” She hugs herself, and wonders how she can feel so cold, even this way.

“I …” He looks pained now, staring harder at her, like he’s trying to will recognition from her pale, familiar features. “You –”

“You loved me, didn’t you?” She makes herself take a step forward, and isn’t surprised when he takes a half-step back; he’s taller and broader than her by far, but there’s an old, embarrassed fear in his eyes as he stares at her. “You saw me by your brother’s side, and you wanted me — didn’t you? You –”

“You are not her,” he grits out, interrupting her rising tirade. “You can’t be. She died.”

“I could be her,” she snaps. She lets her arms fall open, as though she could envelop him within herself, like she’s seen Sloth do to anyone unfortunate enough to gain her attention. He’s so close that she can feel the heat radiating off him in waves. “I could, but that’s not what you want. You want your crusade, you want your cause, you want God’s bloody tears to rain down upon you –”

“I want to see my brother again.” His voice is calm now, rock-solid in its certainty. “You — she — when I see him again, she’ll be there.”

She presses her lips together. “I could be her,” she murmurs again, grasping at those fragile, tentative straws. “I could be, if you just say the words; I could be her, and I could be yours –”

“You want someone who died long ago, as well,” he says, and there is pity in his voice, and that’s the most galling thing. “And even if I were … I am not who you should want me to be.”

Her eyes narrow. “What?”

“My brother is dead,” he tells her. He continues to stare, until she finally gives up, and drops her arms. “You can wish all you like, but I won’t become him. I can’t.”

“I –”

“I am not who you are looking for,” he said quietly, then reaches into his robes. For a moment, she tenses, then recoils when he drops the locket at their feet. It bounces once, twice, and then lies still between them; she can feel its presence pulling at her, like an old tired ache in her bones. “And you are not who I miss.”

She opens her mouth to say something, to protest, and all that escapes her is silence. He looks at her thoughtfully, and brushes past.

“At least,” she whispers, when he opens the door, and she hears him pause, “at least tell me your name.”

And for just a moment, she thinks he’ll give in and tell her. Instead, he says, “Names are a gift from God. When I sinned, I lost all claim to mine.”

The door snicks quietly shut behind him. She bows her head, and waits until she knows for sure he’s gone.

“Good-bye, then,” she whispers, softly. It pains her to reach out and take the locket, and she knows she should just leave it, because there will be nothing that can save her if Envy gets a hold of this, or Sloth, or Dante herself —

She picks it up and stands, staring out the window. He’s heading to his doom, and she only has so much time, she knows, before the trap set within the city goes off.

“Good-bye,” she says again, her palm on the window, “… Scar.”

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