Friday, April 20, 2012

"The Fate of Pride"

Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction
Rated K+

Originally published on March 17, 2012

Lust is dead. At least she didn't see our humiliating defeat.

Gluttony is dead. At least now he will no longer have to continuously sate his appetite.

Envy is dead. At least he will no longer have to hide his ugly form from the humans.

Sloth is dead. At least now he can finally rest.

Wrath is dead. At least now his ever watchful eye can finally sleep.

Greed is dead. At least he finally found what he was looking for.

Father is dead. At least he had me fighting alongside him until the very end, like a good son.

They're all gone.

I should be with them. But I'm not.

Why am I still here?

Because Edward Elric decided to spare me. He decided that he would show mercy to me. The fool. If he understood me at all, he would know that this was not mercy. There's no greater humiliation than this.

When I lay before Elric, reduced to the form of a powerless infant, he denied me the honor of joining my brothers. Instead, he said, "You wait here until I get back," and then ran off to kill Father. And I waited, because I could do nothing else. I thought that nothing could be worse than the helplessness I felt at that moment and the shame of being spared.

I was wrong.

It's been two years.

I tug on the soldier's sleeve, pointing towards the back door. I want to go outside and play. Playing is so juvenile, so mindless, and yet it's better than being cooped up in the house, watched by two armed guards, with nothing to do but be reminded of what I have lost.

The soldier shakes his head. Insistently, I tug again, and he becomes angry. Instinctively, I step back in fright, but inside, I plead: "Please, just draw your gun and end this torture."

His partner berates him, and asks what harm could there be in letting me outside. "He's perfectly harmless," he says. Those words echo in my head, and I hate them. To think, that these humans can think of me as harmless. I remember my brother Envy, and how much contempt he showed for humans in his lifetime. "Worms," he called them. It was a sentiment I agreed with. Compared to the homunculi, humans were even less than worms.

To think also that, in his final moments, Envy admitted that he was jealous of humans all along. I was too shocked to believe it. Was he not proud of whom he was? I suppose to be proud was not his nature. But was I really the only one who felt that way? Possibly, and maybe that's why I was the most loyal to Father. Because unlike the others, I was proud to be his son.

The angry soldier leans in to his partner, and whispers, "What if he's just been pretending, and he's trying to escape." Equally humiliating. If they thought that they could still hold me prisoner while I had my powers, they had clearly not met any of my brothers. Even the weakest of us would not have been stopped by two humans, and I was the strongest of the homunculi. If I had the power I used to, these insects would have already been pulled into the shadows and had their throats cut.

Eventually, the angry soldier relents and opens the door, allowing me to walk outside. He warns me not to try anything, but I just smile. I yearn to tell him exactly what I think of his pathetic attempts to keep me penned up, but I can't. Somehow, I can't express myself as clearly as I could before, so whenever I try to express my disdain for the humans, it comes out sounding immature and silly, like a real child. Eventually, to stop looking unnecessarily foolish, I decided to just stop trying to scare the humans and just act like the normal child I supposedly was. But I am still a homunculus, and they can't change that. I at least have that much dignity.

I decide that I'll catch a butterfly, so I run up and down the yard. The soldier never takes his eye off of me for a second, like he still thinks I'm a threat and that if I am, he would be able to stop me. I ignore him, and spot the butterfly. After a few minutes, I cup it in my hands, happy that there is at least one thing in this world that is weaker than me. Looking closely, I see that it has two big red spots on its black wings. Immediately, I let it go in shock, realizing how closely it resembles my old form. Yet another reminder of how low I have sunk.

I see the woman known as Mrs. Bradley, who used to call herself my mother. Of course, it had all been a charade; she had believed I was one of Wrath's relatives, and the two of them had adopted me. She had no idea that Wrath and I were homunculi, and even after she was told, I don't think she quite believed it. From my role as the son of King Bradley, I had watched the country from the shadows. Who would have thought that after our plan failed, I would be back in that woman's care?

Anyway, she is talking to one of the generals who had staged the rebellion against us—I don't care to remember his name. I ignore them, and instead direct my attention at a bird, resting on the ground.

I have a thing for birds. Unlike so many other animals, the ability to fly is practically unique to them. This puts birds higher up on the evolutionary scale than many other species; if it weren't for the fact that birds are usually so small, they would be the strongest members of the animal kingdom.

As birds are above all other animals, so are the homunculi above the humans. In some ways, we are so far above them that we don't even compare at all. It is for this reason that we have no qualms about our superiority to humans; should the birds feel sorry for the creatures that crawl on the ground, simply because those creatures cannot fly?

But now there are no more homunculi. I am alone, now. Just like this bird. Perhaps we can keep each other company.

Then I realize that the bird isn't resting; it's hurt. Its wing is broken, and its side is covered with blood. Perhaps it was attacked by another animal, like a squirrel, and it lost to that animal that by all rights should have been weaker.

Just like I had lost to Edward Elric.

I simply can't let the bird lie there. I pick it up delicately, and run over to my moth—I mean, to Mrs. Bradley. The old general notices me, and smiles. Then Mrs. Bradley sees me. "Selim, what's wrong?" she asks, using the alias I took as her son.

That's not my name, woman. You know who I am; at least show me the respect of called me by my true name. I bite back those words and plead: "Mama! The bird's hurt! Help him!"

Mrs. Bradley notices the injured bird in my cupped palms. "Oh no! The poor thing!" she says.

Yes, I know. It needs to be cared for, and I can't do it myself. "Will you help it? Can you make it better?" I ask. As soon as the words leave my mouth, I wince, because I have just asked. A human. For help.

Mrs. Bradley smiles. "Of course. He'll be just fine." Behind her words I can sense real sincerity; she's not just telling me that to appease me. She once saved me from a speeding car, risking her own life to do so. Of course, it wouldn't have actually hurt me. But, while she didn't know that at the time, I know that her feelings towards me have not changed since she found out what I was.

The old general tells Mrs. Bradley that he wants to remove the guards soon, but that he needs to keep an eye on me for a little while longer. Just before he gets up to leave, he warns Mrs. Bradley that if any of my old behaviors begin resurfacing, the military will probably have to have me destroyed.

Upon hearing those words, Mrs. Bradley knelt down beside me, and assured him that that wouldn't happen, completely unaware that my original personality was still here beneath the innocent facade. I feel annoyed that she is still preventing me from joining my brothers with dignity.

But when I look into her eyes, I see the same determination that was there when the car was careening towards me. She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect me, and I have no doubt that if the government ever came to take me away, it would be over her dead body.

And I realize that I'm grateful for that. Because no matter how strong I used to be, I am completely powerless now. And being powerless, the thought of the military coming to take me away frightens me, as nothing before ever has. But having Mrs. Bradley there, protecting me, makes me feel much better.

I decide right there that I don't want her to die trying to save me; I'll change for her. If a human can learn to care for a homunculus that had lied to her his whole life, I can learn to be good for the sake of a human who has shown me nothing but kindness. I am hurt, but I can learn to heal. Like the bird. And perhaps I'll be better for it.

As the general leaves, he looks back directly at me. I smile and wave. Looking slightly surprised, he waves back. For the first time, we are both considering the possibility of homunculi and humans living in peace. Even more surprising, is that we're both looking forward to it.

That's the worst part of it. All of my brothers had the option to die with their dignity intact, even if some of them (like Envy) chose not to. They all died as true homunculi. And here I am, finding myself at the very bottom, utterly vulnerable to and dependent on the humans.

I hate them. But I hate myself even more, because I have finally realized that I do actually care about these pathetic creatures.

My name is Pride.

I was the first homunculus.

Now, I am the last.

And my fate is worse than death.

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