Chapter 1 - If I once knew you
It should have happened during a rainy, stormy day. Bad stuff always happened on stormy days. But it had been a day without rain, with a cloudless sky, a beautiful day indeed. Father’s plan was working out perfectly, or so it should have been. No way to predict their creator would be killed and with him, all purpose in their life drained away. Bradley couldn’t remember. All he remembered was the dark creature’s pitiful voice as its life slipped away from him. If one should be considered guilty of Father’s fall, it was Greed. But they were all at fault. Weren’t they sinners after all?
It had been one year since Father’s fall. The whole conspiracy was exposed by some low ranked soldier, someone everyone thought dead, a boring man, always talking of his daughter, his eyes shining behind his glasses. Not that any homunculus could remember that fact. They had forgotten the fights to protect their old man as much as why they would ever protect him. Military had registered this fateful day as the First Crisis. Alchemy had never been eyed the same way after that people discovered their own top leader was a manmade human. The news spreads to other countries and a war broke on every border, as Amestris’ neighbours thought they could benefits from the shaken state of their enemy to add on more territory and resources.
But, after taking down Father underneath Central, the new army was ready for more than simple human soldiers. The newly appointed general Armstrong and her man from Briggs, Mustang’s group and many more, especially state alchemist, like the Fullmetal; they all gathered under General Grumman’s authority. This war, the Second Crisis, had been a massacre. While the man-made puppets sleeping under Central were burned to ashes, the homunculi had been kept alive. They were certainly hard to kill and Grumman had decided that since they were so useful to the conspiracy behind the military, why couldn’t they serve the military.
Their Father’s dead had left them deaf to the past, with no memory or longing to anything in this world. Sloth was the hardest to convince into accomplishing a task, but they all needed a master. Greed and Pride had been lost along the fights, but Lust, Glutonny, Envy, and Wrath were all still quite alive. Shaken from the change in their life, so shaken in fact they didn’t remember their name and powers at first. It came back quickly, but no other memories followed. King Bradley couldn’t recognize his own wife, or claim he had ever been Führer. Their characters hadn’t changed, but they were lost souls. Or well, lost monsters.
The lower ranked soldier, as colonel Mustang, or Edward Elric, didn’t like the way Grumman decided to work with the left homunculi. But the general needed an invincible army. And he had it. He quickly discovered that exposing the monsters to the remnants of their Father drove them in a state of utter fear, which made them controllable. So he controlled them and tasked them to defend the country’s borders. Envy was sent to the west, Lust to the east, Wrath to the north and Glutonny to the south. A bunch of soldier, carefully chosen by Grumman, was asked to watch over the homunculus to make sure it followed orders. Sloth was kept as the rear guard, right in Central, where the uncorrupted scientists and alchemists started running test on his sleeping body.
Amestris quickly kicked out any enemy soldier, building herself a reputation of having invincible soldiers among her troops, if not awful monsters that could slip in their ranks by taking the face of their own general, before to kill them all in their sleep. Once the war stopped, the homunculi were sold to whoever wanted them, as long as their owner promised not to use them against the country. The citizens needed to forget and as their birth had been a secret, Grumman made sure their disappearance was also quite discrete. A few rumours were running, about how they were still all living under Central and for the first few years following Both Crisis, the capital wasn’t feeling as secure a place to live.
Mrs Bradley still lived in Central, stripped of her first Lady title, stripped of her pride and usual joy, now renown as the woman who never saw it coming. She was some kind of a reversed Lois Lane, living with a monster for all her life, and never knowing it. But how could others point their fingers at her, when everyone had been fooled? Her husband had been truly human once, and he still was, even if he carried the mark of the beast on his eye, as she had heard. Since Father’s fall, she hadn’t seen Bradley. He had walked out a morning, smiling as always, reminding her not to search around the house, because her birthday was coming and he wanted to surprise her. And the first thing she knew in the morning, Selim was gone after his father, and his father wasn’t human and the boy himself...
She remembered the sorry look on Edward’s face as he brought her back her step-son.
“Mrs. Bradley, I’m sorry but...”
The dot of a child, lying in his hand, barely looking like Selim, looking pitiful and drawn out of a myth. There was no word to make it hurt less, but Amelia needed them to understand what was going on and Edward had explained, as gently as he could, because he’d seen mother with broken heart and it was hard to be the indirect cause of such a heartbreak.
“I’m sorry, but Selim was... a homunculus. This is his true form. I think he’s gonna age normally now and...”
Of course, she had snatched the embryo of a baby from the teen’s hands, yelling with pain and misunderstanding. And it had taken a long time to explain her. They had wanted to hide the whole picture from her, but she had asked for the entire truth. And how it hurt to learn...
How much did she cry on that day, as she realized her whole life had turned into an awful lie? The man she loved. The boy she called her own son. Both allied in a terrible lie to hide her the truth of their life. Had Selim... not Selim, but Pride. Had he been laughing at her when she turned her back, laughing as she thought he was just a normal kid, when in fact, he was even older than Bradley, laughing as she thought he was sleeping at night, when he crept in the shadows, spying for his real master, surely spying even on her? Even four years later, with her little Selim growing up at a normal pace for a child, with the boy smiling had her with a purity that couldn’t be fake, even she refused to trust her own eyes after all that had been hidden from her. How could she believe that Selim was a fake, plotting behind her back, even if he once had been? It destroyed her from the inside.
“There was no limit to their wickedness. They would corrupt everything, even a child.”
But what hurt the most was to believe that Bradley had agreed into this fake of a family. How he had convinced her to adopt when she thought they were too old, saying one of his long-lost sister had died and that they should really take in his nephew. How could he approve to lie to her even on that, after messing around with her for all their conjugal life? Had he ever loved her? Had he truly loved her even once, and still he’d been able to lie? That wicked bastard!
This question was the hardest to answer. She wanted to believe it. But how could it be love, when his mouth had carried out so much lies? If he could fake fatherhood with a monster, what was there for her to trust? He had been a comedian for so many years. And it hurt to think it was all a comedy. It hurt so much and so deeply, making her feels so little and stupid, she had tried to hang herself once. It had been Mustang who had stopped her, since both Hawkeye and he had taken a liking to the woman. Amelia would like to believe that Riza, who had worked a few weeks for her husband, had become her friend. And though colonel, no, general Mustang, had always wanted to see King Bradley fall from his Fuhrer’s seat, he never held a grudge for the wife of the wicked homunculus. She was mad to think they pitied her, but it wasn’t that either. The pair of soldiers understood her loss. Maybe did Riza understand more, after all that her own father had put her through?
Nevertheless, Roy had saved her from suicide, and convinced her not to ever commit it. She was still needed. Even if people despised her and pitied her, there were those who had questions to ask. And though she wasn’t the first Lady anymore, Grumman hadn’t been entirely nasty with her. He had given her a nice situation, a house closed to the public and liquid compensation – she was rich and that was an understanding - thinking it could help her forget, somehow. It didn’t help, but well, she couldn’t say no to it either. Even if people had stopped gossiping in her back as they saw her walking around the streets, it was still hard to keep a straight face in front of the older citizens. But Selim was such a darling now, at all time. And he needed her. Even if her body was feeling older and older and her bones and muscles protested whenever she lifted him in her arms.
He was all she still had. And it took her a long time to accept it and to understand she needed more.
On another beautiful, cloudless day, she was sitting in her room, a room she’d never shared with anyone except Selim, when he would have nightmare –and god, did the poor kid had nightmares - . Well, on that cloudless day, she sat in her rocking chair, looking at nothing in particular, trying not to remember the good old days, that were also lies, but still warmed her heart, and her gaze fell on the last gift she had from Bradley. And thought the soldiers only referred to him as Wrath now, she couldn’t believe he had been Wrath incarnated. Alright, he was grumpy when she had first met him and he was really secretive. But his smile was so warm and his laugh... And on the night table, a pretty crystal ball filled with snow, was showing her a nice picture of the couple they once were. It was maybe the only picture he’d accept to take with her back in the days. He had been shy, which seemed quite impossible now.
On the picture, they were holding on each other. She stood in front of him, her back against his chest, his strong arms wrapped around her. She had her hands on his arms, as if to prevent him from ever letting go. And how they were smiling, as if nothing could reach them; because at that time, nothing could... They were young, so young at that time. And still, he already had the eyepatch, and not because he had been wounded, but because he had to hide his ouroborous tattoo to her, and to everyone else. And though she wanted to cry, she grabbed the crystal ball in her hands, to hold it to her chest.
“How I miss you, darling. Even after learning everything, I really must be a fool, but I still miss you.”
Bradley didn’t miss her one bit. He couldn’t. He had no memories of her or of anything from his past before that Father died and that he became someone else’s slave. First, he had served the military, as always, and killed countless humans. Now, he served an Asian master, a group of gangster from Xing. Whenever he wasn’t killing people for them or doing any other dirty job, he would sit on some old chair, chained to a brick wall. His aging body was aching from every spot. He could have killed for a bed or a blanket. The cold air in the room was torturing his articulations and his fingers seemed stuck on the hilt of his blades, which he always kept unsheathed now. The chains were running over his arms and shoulders, tied around his waist and preventing him from moving a muscle. They released him only for work, or so he could eat and tend to his other human needs.
He had a shower once a week, which was far from enough and if he hadn’t been enhanced by his homunculus power, he would surely have fallen sick a long time ago. He could barely guess how old he was, but he felt old. All of his aching bones begged for mercy. His beard was itching because of the dirt in it and his eyes that he always kept open felt dried out. This life had no meaning, and he never felt really alive, except when he would be running in the night, after his target, and until he felt the said target dying on his blade. There was no shame or regret in the act of killing. No guilt feeling. But when he would sit for a whole day, his mind would start to think. And thinking could bring a bunch of unwanted feeling that made him feel even more uncomfortable.
How he’d wish his master wouldn’t be able to control him with those remnants of a dead person he couldn’t remember the face or the voice. Why he was so scared whenever they showed those bones to him, he couldn’t tell. He was terrified and it was hard to refrain himself from crying if the exposure lasted for too long. He hated feeling so diminished, so... vulnerable.
Then, one day, someone stepped in his cell, someone familiar which made him realize he had no idea what feeling vulnerable felt like.
“You’re sure you want to buy him, Mrs Bradley? He’s not the man he used to be at all.” His master voice warned the woman.
Wrath looked up. Mrs Bradley? That sounded awfully familiar. He blinked, trying to regain full consciousness and met her green eyes for an instant. Her shock was easy to see, but more surprisingly, seeing her awakened something within him. Suddenly, he wanted to straighten himself up, and to back in the shadow a little, to hide. Because her eyes seemed too sharp. And as she gasped, seeing the ouroborous tattoo on his unpatched eye –he had stopped wearing a patch since his true identity was discovered, years ago - he felt ashamed. What was that in her eyes? Why did her pain hurt him, when he didn’t even know her?
She turned her back on him, unable to stand his sight. He shifted under his chains, nervously gulping down. What was going on? Who was she? Why was his master looking so gentle suddenly? And what were those feelings in him? He shook his head, angry at himself. Angry at the master. And at the woman. They had no right to confuse him. He’d always did whatever was asked, without ever asking anything in return, because questions were answered with the scary box of bones that always send him to despair.
“You’re serious about this, Mrs Bradley? He’s dangerous you know.”
“How could you treat him like that?!” she retorted, pointing her fingers at him. “He may be dangerous, but he’s not a beast!”
Wrath was touched by the care of the woman, even if he thought she should mind her own business. He had no reason to complain. The bones were far from his sight and that was all that mattered. But then, she looked at him again and there were tears in her eyes and a knot built up in his throat, painfully. He had never felt touched by human tears before. Their fear left him indifferent. He was a killing machine; he worked on pure instinct and didn’t give a damn about... But damn, it was hard to breath with her looking at him like that!
“We don’t have to explain ourselves. Whenever we had to convince him into a mission, he would start yelling and throwing his swords around. We did that for his own good. Otherwise, he would have been disposed of long ago.”
The woman had to make a terrible effort not to bark back at the man. Wrath could see her anger reaching its peak and she furiously dried her tears, keeping her voice down as she asked:
“You’ll sell him to me, then, since he’s such trouble to you?”
The master sighed.
Wrath remembered there had been fewer killings for him to do lately and that he was surely going to rust along with his chains. So then, would that mean the woman would be his new master?
“If you want him and lay down the money, I’ll let you go with him. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to follow. He’s not what he used to, if he ever truly was what he pretended.”
Wrath wasn’t sure what they could be meaning, but he wanted to protest somehow. Sure, he didn’t remember any piece of his life before being sold by some old man to this gangster. Sure, he surely wasn’t anything like what he had been. But he was still someone. Not a thing or... Heck, he wasn’t sure anymore. He hadn’t much pride left at this state. He knew to fear his master and if the woman was to become the one who pulled his strings, he would have to move accordingly to her orders. He was a good and obedient puppet, even when he didn’t want to. The masters always had means to convince him. He hated it. He felt so strong and he wanted to have a will just as strong, but...
“Give me a moment with him, please.”
“You’re sure, milady?”
She laughed bitterly, a terrible sound to hear.
“He really can’t hurt me anymore than he already did in the past, don’t you think?”
The small Asian man nodded with a sad expression, showing way more humanity then he ever used to in front of Wrath. His master than glared at him, raising a threatening finger.
“This fair woman should become your new master, Wrath. If one hair is missing from her head, I’ll make sure you’ll eat those cursed bones you fear so much.”
The homunculus tensed at the notion, his chains clinking at the brusque move.
“Leave and don’t say another word.” The woman asked.
There was authority in her voice, and it surprised Wrath. But not as much as to see his Master was obeying to her. Whoever she was, she had a reputation, because Ling Sho Yuan wouldn’t normally respect any crying little old granny. Though, even if she had wrinkles here and there, he couldn’t exactly describe her as a granny. She was stunning for her age. And he rarely started thinking of the beauty of any petty human. No use or time for it, and well, not many occasions anyway.
The so-called Mrs Bradley turned around to look at him and the pain in her face was back, with a slight glint of unease.
“Hi there.” She whispered.
It seemed she had no idea how she was supposed to address him. And he grunted, his brows frowned at her, his face as harsh as always. He wouldn’t help her feeling any more comfortable. His bones were aching and his muscles were killing him from the pain of standing still in those dreadful chains.
“Can you still talk?” she carefully asked, taking a step forward.
“Of course I can, idiot!” he snarled back.
She jumped a little, but a slight smile grew on her lips.
“You’re angry, aren’t you, Bradley?”
His eyes widened in surprise. Bradley? Who was that?
“How did you call me?”
“By your name, silly. They didn’t tell you, did they? You’re King Bradley.” She replied.
“I’m Wrath,” he weakly protested, feeling confused.
And she could tell he was, because she could look at him in both eyes and see the darn ouroborous tattoo. She shivered every time the white eyeball stared at her. Well, she couldn’t stop herself from shivering, but shaking her head from side to side, making up her mind, she decided to stand up his staring.
“I once called you King Bradley, and Brad also, so I will keep on. Just try answering to the name.”
He looked away, seemingly annoyed with her attitude, whispering with a shrug of the shoulders: Whatever...
“So then Brad...”
She walked up to him, untill she was at arms range. Immediately, he tensed up, fearing she could have some of the hated bones hidden somewhere in her clothing. She wouldn’t be coming that close if she hadn’t a way to control him. The only thing humans ever wanted to do when they approached him was to dominate him, because he was a monster that needed to be bound and nothing else. But she came closer, her empty hands held up, as an offering of peace. So he kept his swords up, but without moving them, his chains slightly trembling around his limbs as he kept ready to move.
“Please, stay calm. We’ve known each other for all of our lives.”
Even if he didn’t remember, she had to be lying. Her voice sounded familiar and her face was too. And that wasn’t normal at all!
If she felt hurt, she didn’t show it, she just moved forward, reaching out one of her hands to him. He tensed even more. What did she want? What could she want from him?
“I guess I took the wrong way to present myself. I’m Amelia. I don’t mean any harm and I don’t want you to live as a slave any longer. As long as you accept to live with me, if it’s possible.”
Ain’t that the same, he thought.
Her hand gently brushed his sleeve, and he raised his sword. There was a limit that nobody should break when entering his personal space. And she was breaking it, with her quiet smile and her eyes full of questions. She knew him, there was no denying it; though he hated the fact he couldn’t tell how she did.
“Oh please, don’t get nervous. Let got off the swords, Brad.”
“Wrath,” he retorted.
“Please, darling.” She asked with a pleading tone.
That was a new name yet again. But this one was ringing a bell in his mind. Heck, she knew him more than she mentioned, if she could call him darling. She was standing right in front of him now and stood up from his chair, even if it meant the chains were hurting more, because the woman stood right in the middle of his opened arms, one of his swords on each of her side. And he knew that with just a twist of the wrist, he could kill her and he could already see the blood running on the floor. He wanted to see blood instead of looking in her eyes and hearing her talking about him as if she knew. It was so scary to feel himself reacting to her, accepting her presence, her familiarity. To like hearing her call him “darling”. He was Wrath, he was fury, he was a monster. What was that suddenly? When was the last time when someone had acted human with him since he had been sold?
He couldn’t remember, he couldn’t remember anything and that was exactly why it hurt so much!
But then, her hands were on his wrists and her voice turned even sweeter:
“Drop the blades, Brad, there’s nothing to fear.”
And because he didn’t want to fear anything, because her touch was so soft and shocking at the same time, or well, maybe just because he was really obedient, he dropped the swords. They clanged on the ground, but he barely heard it. She was coming even closer and that took all his attention. If something was hidden in her clothes, it wasn’t wicked bones, but a key, which she lifted in front of his eyes, keeping one reassuring hand on his right wrist, as if to be sure he was staying calm.
“I’m going to unchain you. I don’t want you to move, okay?”
“...Kay.” he said through his tied-up throat.
He sounded like a kid, though he was much older, but her proximity was terrifying! She smelled good and familiar. And it was infuriating, because he hadn’t remembered this scent before now, and now, it seemed clear that it had accompanied him for such a long time. But he wanted to deny it, scared of what it meant, because the smell was all he remembered. Feeling her eyes on him was painful, because he minded her expressions and the judgments he could deduce from them. Why did he, how was it even possible, he couldn’t figure it out. Things were simply like that.
As she unchained him, and as the metallic bonds fell to the ground, he felt lighter and straightened his back, which made him realize how small she was. He could have broken one of her limbs with his bare hands. And still, as she moved even closer, she scared him beyond words. But he didn’t move from an inch. He was keeping a straight face and enduring the inexplicable fear. And keeping his legs from giving up after standing still in his chains for so many days!
“You really don’t remember anything, do you?”
There was hope in her face, as if he could reassure her by saying that he did remember, but he shook his head and her eyes darkened. He hadn’t learned to lie. Had forgotten how to with the rest.
She sighed, then looked down. The top of her head was almost brushing his throat, since she took another step towards him.
“I don’t know if it’s right, but I really want you back home with me, Brad.” She whispered, her hand brushing his shirt slightly, as if she wanted to grab on his clothing, to bring him closer, but couldn’t give in to the urge...
Home? By the beard of the emperor, the woman meant business and he had forgotten far much more than he’d expected!
His throat was so tight, he couldn’t talk and anyway, he could barely think of any way to reply. Then, he realized he was thinking too much and that this Amelia was just supposed to become his master and that whatever she could have been for him before, if it was really true –and heck, who told him she wasn’t messing around with him just for fun?- well, whatever she or he had been in the past, he was a homunculus now. And that wasn’t going to change.
“Wherever you want me to live, I’ll live, if you’re my master.” He said sharply.
It was hard to think he could regard this small human as his master. She didn’t look fierce at all. She was so defeated. But then, she did what he’d never expected. Her arms wrapped around him and she leaned on him, with a desperate sob stuck in her throat.
“I’m not going to be your master Bradley, not now nor ever. I just want you by my side. The old you...”
His first reaction was to back away, which got him almost tripping on the cursed chair he’d spent his days on, but the chair was kicked to the ground and his back hit the wall and Amelia was still holding him close, her arms proving stronger than anticipated. Her embrace wasn’t entirely disagreeable, but the feeling of it, the feeling of her, so close... This time, he couldn’t pretend indifference. His heart was beating so fast and so strongly, she had to be hearing it through his shirt, and she was burying her face in her chest, so there was really no chance she couldn’t hear it. Her breathing through his clothing was warm, but he shivered.
What had he missed all this time? Who was this woman who claimed to know him? Why was it her arms around him make him feel so vulnerable, as if he was melting from the inside? Was she invading him, trying to subdue him in some wicked ways? Was this a particular human power he had never faced before? Why was his breathing so fast? Why did his arms want to wrap around her frame? Why did it feel normal to have her so close to him, invading his personal space like that? Why did he had to forget something as important as that? Why couldn’t he remember anything?
The thoughts and the misery they brought in his heart left him speechless and his lack of reaction only caused Amelia to weep, which only brought him deeper in his own misery.
“Oh, dear, won’t you hold me back, at least?”
Was that a command, he wanted to ask, but words couldn’t come out. Something within knew they would hurt. And hurting her would be a real sin, which will awaken more regrets, cause suddenly, he could feel those wretched emotions. His mouth was dry. His eyes were itching. His neck ached and Amelia’s hands clutched at his shirt, as if he could run away. So he raised his arms and awkwardly hugged her. And as she trembled, remembering what he couldn’t remember himself, he wondered why it felt so familiar to hold her.
They stood like this for a while, the so-called Mrs Bradley silently weeping on his shirt, and slowly, Wrath felt his strength shattered. His bones were still aching, his waist was numb from the chains and he could barely stay standing. He kept Amelia in his arms, because there was something comforting about it, but his back slowly slide on the wall, as he came to sat/crash down on the floor. That stopped the woman’s weeping and she looked up, her hands on his shoulders, her green tormented eyes hurting him better than any cursed and scary bones could.
She was surprised to have followed him down and to be kneeling in front of him suddenly.
“What... what’s up?” she asked.
A smile crept up on Bradley’s face and for a moment, he was the ghost of the man she remembered, back and alive and recognizing her at last.
“It’s my legs. They can’t hold up for so long now. I’m not getting any younger, you know...”
She grinned, before to bit her lower lip and finally burst in laughter. Her husband would have said that. And sure, he may have forgotten a lot, but it was still him, even with that awful red eye.
“Oh dear, of course, you must be exhausted.”
“Well, I could stand if needed, but since it seemed that this is going to take a while...”
“Don’t you make fun of me, King!”
“Wasn’t it Brad you were calling me?” he asked.
His hands were still on her waist, as if his body remembered while his mind couldn’t and he just couldn’t let go.
“Oh, you should get use to have me calling you many names, dear.”
Somehow, he liked it how she said “dear”. If he was putting every part of this puzzle together correctly, this woman had been his wife, or something resembling it. It was possible, though he barely accepted the notion. But it was nice to feel someone’s touch. His blades were never warm. And rediscovering something he once had, even if he didn’t remember... He was still scared, but not as much. She smelled good, looked good, she didn’t show him bones, she had a nice voice.
“Try saying my name.”
He blinked. She seemed to care about this meeting with him a great deal. Human really got worked up on small things. All he wanted was a good shave and a bath. And answers, if possible, of what his past had been. Freedom, oh, that was something he desired too, but he could get by with less than that if necessary. But she seemed ready to free him, just like that, because he once had been someone important for her.
“Amelia?” he tried, glad to hear his voice sounding steady and serious.
Her smile turned upside down and she sighed once more.
“You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”
“I think you’re the one asking for a lot. You asked me to say your name, and I said it!”
She drew one hand across her face, feeling desperate for an instant.
“Alright. We’ll go slowly. But you’ll remember me.”
And heck, as she said that, looking at him straight in the eyes, he wished he already remembered, even if it was silly in his opinion...
Bradley was officially sold to Amelia and they walked out of the gangsters’ house, only to discover that this house was a manor standing in the busy city of Xin. Bradley was used to the darkest streets of the city, he had never seen it during day. It was really different, with all the people everywhere. Fortunately they jumped in a cab –well, a carriage pulled by a horse - and they took refuge in the nearest hostel.
The first right he was given was to take a bath. He almost fell asleep in it, and it was a surprise when he realize he was going to sleep in a bed for the first time of his life! Though of course, if he had been living with Amelia before, he certainly had a bed and a house and all the rest, though it sounded incredible. What had happened to deprive him from all that? Exhausted beyond words, he snuggled over himself in the bed, not even questioning where Amelia would sleep. He didn’t feel any threat coming from her. She was confusing him too much and sleep was welcome. She stayed awake a long moment, trying to get used to the feeling of having him in the same room as her, while knowing it wasn’t him.
It was weird to see him without his eye patch. Weird to hear him answering her like a stranger. To see him sleeping all curled up on himself, like a wolf who couldn’t trust others, even in his sleep. She wanted him to relax, as he did before, and she wanted to see him smile. And more then all, she wanted to be able to look at him without feeling this whole mix of feelings that torn her heart apart. When she looked at him, she was seeing the old him, and still, she couldn’t see any recognition in his eyes. Couldn’t quite accept the ouroborous eye looking at her. Now, it was easier to stand it. But still... She covered her face, breathing hard. She was getting through this. The way he’d held her earlier, in his arms, even if he could barely stand up. It was still him. Maybe his body remembered? It wasn’t enough, but she would get by for now, she had to.
After some hesitation, she decided to join him on the bed. She turned her back on him after changing clothes, and just lied down, back to back with her man. He didn’t move from an inch. That was already something. She sighed, her throat hurting as she refrained herself from crying. How she needed him, the real him! Or the false him? Whoever that was, she needed him.
“Oh Brad, I must be going crazy.”
He groaned in his sleep, before to roll on his back, his side merely brushing her own back. So she turned around, and looked at him. And she smiled, because that was him, entirely, even if he was unconscious. He was back. Life could maybe return to what it used to be. Only with that in mind could she fall asleep.
In the morning, Wrath was the first to wake up. The first thing he realized was that there was someone in his bed. Her face was so close to his that he almost jumped to his feet from the shock. But he was a well-trained soldier and wouldn’t permit his enemy to wake up by moving suddenly. And as he slowly accepted that they were supposed to be equal – he wasn’t a slave and she wasn’t his master, but he belonged to her and had to answer the name she called him -, well, he was curious about all that it implied.
If he wasn’t her slave, if they shared the same bed, that totally changed his status in life. As a man and a homunculus, he was stronger and better than her. He wasn’t as emotional and he could be rational. Could he become her master? He wasn’t sure he understood equality. How could they be equal when they were so different?
He stared at her, rolling on his side to get a better view. Her hair was undone and ran in nice curls across her shoulders. She looked small, so very small, it was almost scary to think about holding or touching her. But he wanted to touch her, to see if it could trigger any memory of his past, that he’d shared with her, somehow. He reached out one hand, but froze. What was he doing? Even if she wanted to bring him back in this life, acting as a human wasn’t in him. He was a beast and a killing machine. But her presence was soothing him, to the point where he could almost forget all the killing that filled his past.
He was an old man, and all he had received were orders and painful slavery, but there was more to his life than the last few years. What had happened before the First Crisis had still happened, even if he couldn’t remember it! So the woman, Amelia, what was she to him? Was she his?
He liked the idea, even if it was a pity that he accepted chaining himself to human people.
“The situation is so strange.” He whispered, before to break the space between them.
He gently stroke her naked arm, following its shape from her shoulder to the tip of her fingers. He knew what was muscle and could name every bone under the skin, but more than that, he was surprised by the softness and smoothness of her skin. Her sleeveless nightgown had a gaping cleavage, and her chest was gently raising and falling down. It was a peaceful picture. He wanted to get closer to it. To taste her smell on his tongue. And it was really strange to feel such appeal for her. She lights something inside of me. Even when she sleep.
He merely touched her hair. Also soft. All he ever knew were the edgy chains and the hard chair he sat on. She was all curves and warmth. She felt fragile, but that made her all the more intriguing and exciting. He should mind his strength, so he wouldn’t hurt her. It was weird to think like that, since he was a monster, but he owed her his freedom from the chains and bones. So he could at least be nice to her, couldn’t he?
“What are you doing, Bradley?” she suddenly asked with a sleepy voice.
He hadn’t noticed she was waking up...
“Huh...nothing...” he lied, rolling on his back to stare at the ceiling.
It felt wrong to be so drawn to her when he didn’t know a thing about their past.
“Are you blushing, Brad?”
“No. I... It’s weird... You’re my new master and...”
“I said we were the same. We’re equals and there’s no...”
His laugh, as warm and frank as before, interrupted her. She looked at him, not sure if had to smile or to scowl.
“We can’t be equal, Amelia. You’re human and I’m a homunculus.”
She turned so pale, he realized that was a mistake, but he wouldn’t take it back, even if he could. This was ho things were. He was just being rational.
“You know, you were a human before to become a homunculus,” she observed, crossing her arm under her chest.
Her nightgown was really light, he could guess how she’d look without it. And her words were touching him deep. It was a little too much, so he kept looking at the ceiling, wondering if he could get up and walk away on her. But he couldn’t. He wanted to know more. Heck, that was him they were talking about!
“So what if I was a man at the start? What does that make me now, huh?”
She sighed deeply.
“I’d like to know myself.”
Her answer disappointed him. She was the one who knew and remember. She held all the answers to his past. He turned back on his side, frowning at her. And she returned the frown, looking rather mad.
“Don’t look at me like that, with that awful eye!”
Bradley was rarely aware of his ouroborous tattooed eye, but her reaction reminded him of it. His throat felt tight as she yelled. It was wrong to have this eye suddenly, it had to be, because there was nothing familiar about her reaction.
“It’s not my fault if...”
She got up and he sat up, speechless at the very idea he was starting to apologize for being what he was. Hadn’t she bought him knowing what she had paid for? Rummaging through her things, she raised a small object in the air, with black strap of fabric.
“Why don’t you wear that eye patch, huh?”
She threw it at him and he hesitated before to ask:
“Is it an order or a suggestion?”
She shook her head, biting her lower lip.
“Of course, it’s not an order. Just try it on.” She was almost pleading, but it was an order, he could tell as much.
He shrugged his shoulders, but complied, though reluctantly. She held her breath, unsure if she had asked the right thing. As soon as his eye was covered, he felt angry and threw the eye patch to the floor, jumping to his feet to confront her:
“This is stupid! I got the ultimate eye, I can spot any movement, protect you from anything, get myself through a train’s derailing without a scratch, just thanks to it and you want me to hide... to half blind myself? What’s logic about that?!”
“You wore that blasted patch for your whole life, pretending you had been wounded! What was logic about that? You never dare to look at me with those two eyes before, you were always...”
All the anger was gone from his face as she walked up to him, a mix of pain and resentment on her face. She had her fists raised and she fell on him, hammering his chest with her fists, repeating over and over:
“Always... always... lying... faking always... never assuming!... fooling me... always.. been such... a fool...”
He let her hit him at first, too shocked to react. Her words were hurting like bullets and he could barely feel her fists. She was crying once again.
She wasn’t lying. She never lied. She wanted me with her, but not every part of me. It seems I wasn’t a homunculus for her, but that’s what I am. That’s what I was. But what were we?
He stopped her next punch, catching both of her wrists and held her arms firmly, which only seem to break her down. He looked away from her face and spotted a ring on her left hand. Was it the ring finger? His breath caught in his throat an instant.
“Amelia Bradley, huh? And I was King Bradley?”
She nodded, hating him for saying he was.
“Were we... Are we... married?”
This was the weirdest question he’d ever asked. And she nodded again, but she was shaking so much, the sight was too much to bear. He hugged her close, almost crushing her in his arms. There were pictures running in his head, this was too many answers at once... Too much to imagine.
What have I done all my life? He wondered.
He wasn’t sure if he could ask her any more questions over the past. If they were husband and wife, that meant something. At least, it had meant something. Had he loved her when he was King Bradley? Could he love her now? Why was he even wondering about it, while he wasn’t suppose to suffer from any stupid little human sentimentality? But when he used to stop and think back on his chair and in his chains, he would start feeling all kind of things. His articulations still ached at the memory. But he could understand now that it wasn’t only a physical discomfort. He had been missing so much... Of himself, of his past.
“Just what do you want from me, woman?”
“I don’t know anymore... I don’t know, I just want you to stay with me.”
I can do that, he thought. I can, but I doubt she’ll survive me at this rate...