Disclaimer: The brilliant animated—and mangafied—work that is Hagane no Renkinjutsushi does not belong to me. Would be nice, though.

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- Rebuilt -

I rebuilt him, you know. I rebuilt him, made him what he is, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't regret every bolt and every wire that went into making him. The shimmer of metal has replaced the sheen of skin, and the click of imperfect joints has replaced the silence of motion he used to have.

How does he sneak around like he does, when he makes so much noise? It seems like every time he's here I've woken up to find him wandering around the kitchen, some sort of food tucked under his real arm with his false one outstretched to take something down from one of the upper shelves…How did he not wake me up? Every time he breathes the mechanical masterpiece that is his right arm groans and clicks, the metal is buried so far into his chest that even the slightest motion of his lungs makes noise.

I rebuilt him, and because I rebuilt him he left me here. If I had refused, if either of us had thought about the consequences, things would be so different. If he had screamed when we attached the nerves to the machine, if he had done even that much, then things might be even more different now than if he hadn't gotten his lost limbs replaced in the first place.

It isn't fair. We all worked to restore his mobility, to give him the power to move forward on at least one of his own legs—the other of my design. And move forward he did, on and on until I wonder if he even remembers me.

His little brother always sounds so happy to see me, but how am I supposed to know? The poor kid is nothing but an empty suit of armor with a seal of blood burned into it to keep his soul bound. There's nothing to say he isn't glaring at me through those glowing spaces in his helmet, there's nothing to say that he really is happy to see me.

And I know that he isn't. I share too many of his memories, too many flickers of joy and too many curtains of shadow. I've seen all his imperfections and even built a couple of them myself. I made him what he is, and he doesn't want to remember.

I'm always so worried—what if he gets hurt again? The last time he came his arm was completely missing, metal torn and twisted like only an explosion could be responsible for. He stays long enough to get fixed, then he leaves. He pulls on that red cloak and straightens his white gloves and he leaves. Every single time.

He says it's because this place isn't home, because there's nothing left here for him, and that hurts more than watching him go and not being able to stop him.

There's nothing left for him.

Nothing here but old memories and the burned ruins of what used to be home.

But I'm still here. I'm still here and I'm still waiting, and the doors of my house have always been open. He has a home, and a family that loves him and worries about him more with each passing day, a family that looks on with both anger and relief when he come walking up, metal dented and torn, smile affixed firmly on his face. He destroys my work, over and over, but I hope he keeps doing it.

It seems like the only reason he ever comes back is to have his right arm and left leg repaired. If he suddenly stopped breaking them I might never see him again.

The little idiot. He works so hard, tries to do so much, and never thinks about the consequences. We're both so stupid….I never should have agreed to help him. I never should have repaired his arm that last time. I never should have cared.

Caring hurts too much these days, at least where he's involved.

I should never have rebuilt him. If I hadn't rebuilt him he never would have left. If he'd never left… If he'd never left, then what would have happened to that sweet little boy bound to a hollow shell? If he'd never have left, where would they be now?

They've changed so much, both of them, that it's hard to recognize them sometimes. Hard to tell how much is left of the people they used to be. The people I helped to rebuild.

Technically it was only his limbs I fixed, not his brother's, but without those false limbs he never could have gone on this insane quest to fix things. He thinks he's making things right, he thinks he's doing the right thing. So did I, at the time. I thought it was the right thing to do, to rebuild him.

Now I wonder, though.

I wonder if he does, too.

- Fin -

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