Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Yasuhiro Nightow, Yousuke Kuroda, Satoshi Nishimura, and various publishers including but not limited to Young King Comics, Madhouse and Pioneer Entertainment, and Victor Company of Japan. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Posted by: Elspeth, A.K.A. Elspethdixon

Ships:  And the Lord said, "Let there be subtext." 

* Author's note: This fic contain spoilers for the anime series through episode 22, Alternative, particularly for the end of said episode. *

Mercy

How could you?

His eyes follow me, angry and shocked, green-blue wells of sorrow and disappointment.  I can hear his voice ringing in my ears: "Why?"  Ever experienced a moment when someone else makes you hate yourself so much that you just want to cry?  So you yell at them, and hit them, and anything to make them shut up, because you know, damn it.  You know you're scum; corrupt, ruthless, baptized by blood and gunsmoke.  But life is a cold equation, a game of chess where you have to take out the black pieces to protect the white.  I hate to borrow a metaphor, but sometimes you really do have to kill the spiders to save the butterflies.  Mercy is an expensive commodity in this world, and sometimes it has to be bought with blood.  You know all this, you know someone's got to make the hard decisions, do the dirty work, but that doesn't make the accusing stares hurt any less.  So you yell, you lash out, you get angry, because you've just seen a friend's illusions shattered before your eyes, and you did the breaking.  But some illusions are dangerous, some deaths are necessary, and when it all comes down to it, you had no choice.

How could you?

Damn it, tongari!  What else was I supposed to do?  Let him shoot you?  And he would have shot you.  Trust me, he would have.  Cute kid or not, the Gung Ho Guns are demons, the legion of the damned.  We do not hesitate, we pull no punches.  Our mercy is the brush of dark wings, and our charity is steeped in blood.  Nothing short of a bullet can swerve us from our paths, not even your smile.  The twelve apostles of Death.  Shinigami, all of us.  Kid or no, that was no innocent.  I know you want to believe that he would have stopped, would have lowered that gun and slid the hammer forward again, flipped the safety back on.  I know some part of you needs to believe it.  But beliefs like that can get you killed. 

How could you?

Because it was him or you, tongari.  It was him or you.  Maybe he wouldn't have shot.  Maybe I did kill needlessly, another sin to add to a list far too long to count.  But I couldn't risk it.  You think it's going to be easy to live with this memory?  To go through the rest of my life burdened with the knowledge that I killed a child?  The sight of that small, crumpled body stabbed my soul with a million knives.  You know how memories can hurt, how they pierce a man's soul like nails and twist in his thoughts like thorns.  I've seen it in your eyes.  Imagine living with that one.  Because that's what I've got to do.  Because, painful as it is, this is a memory I can live with.  Seeing your death, watching your eyes glaze over and your body go still, and knowing that I could have prevented it; that is a memory I could not endure.

How could you?

Because I'm not as good as you.  I'm not martyr material.  I'm a selfish, overly-worldly sinner who couldn't stand the thought of losing you, of losing Millie, or even, God help me, Meryl, to that kid's gun.  Better to have you all hate me than to see you dead.  All men are brothers in the eyes of the Lord, but there are some I value above all others.  I can't match your selflessness, your ability to forgive everyone.  Ironic, ne?  Forgiveness, after all, is supposed to be my specialty.  I try, but I'm an eye for an eye sort of guy myself.  If I have a guardian angel, he has blood-red wings and a flaming sword.  Or maybe he has a red trenchcoat and a colt .45, and a smile that can warm a slightly tarnished soul.  I don't know.  A Gun used on the side of righteousness still kills, and I know better than any man where the path paved with good intentions leads. 

How could you?

Because somebody had to, tongari.  Somebody had to do it, and it wasn't going to be you.  You'll hold to your ideals until you die for them, slash yourself apart a little piece at a time to save the rest of us.  Sometimes, I wonder if that isn't what you want.  If that supposed disapproval of suicide really goes as deep as you think.  Because you're going to get yourself killed one of these days, trying to save everybody.  The law is "love thy neighbor as thyself," you know, not "love thy neighbor, not thyself."  Yeah, I know I don't exactly follow it either, but I never claimed to be perfect.  That blood of yours is going to buy one too many other lives some day, and I didn't want that day to be today.  You've got something you have to finish, don't you?  Zazie's not going to be the last to die, but a lot more would have followed had it been you lying there instead of him.  I can't clean up after you forever, tongari.  I might not always be here to do the killing you can't.  But as long as I am, no one's shooting you while I have a clean shot at them and a bullet in my gun.  I've chosen sides.  I chose back at August, when I killed Rei-dai the Blade, back on that old ship, when I drew down on Leonof's puppets.  Hell, I chose that day you plucked me out of the desert, the first time I saw you smile.  I am the one who rings the black funeral bell, and this is one burden I'll gladly shoulder, if it will keep me from having to ring that bell for you.  I'll tell ya one thing, though.  There are days when my own personal crosses to bear get pretty heavy.  And this has sure as Hell been one of them.