Just a little note: I have only seen through episode 28 so I don't really know what happens, other than things I have deduced for myself and little descriptions I have read. So if this is wrong or whatever, well I have artistic license.

This was originally posted under my beta's name until I got my own account. If you are confused, it was under Azar Darkstar, so its really mine. Ask her if you don't believe me.

Warnings: dark themes, character death, suicidal thoughts, M/M kiss

Between Love and Redemption

The Colonel is yelling again. Or should I say Brigadier General now? Didn't he get promoted after the… incident?

Doesn't matter anymore, nothing matters anymore. I ignore him, press my face into the pillow beneath and pretend as if I am suffocating the very air out of my lungs, taking away the very breath that keeps me in this miserable world.

His voice… it is invading my mind, trying to get in past the walls and the doors but I drown it out with my own voices, the shrieks of pain and suffering and… death. Yes, death… that is all there is now isn't there?

I should have died long ago, rid the world of my presence, then everything would be different they would all still… live.

It is all my fault, but no one understands that… they all say that I should stop blaming myself but they don't know what I know, they haven't seen what I have seen. The BLOOD, it is on my hands and it won't FADE! It won't wash AWAY!

Every night! IN MY DREAMS! I can see them, hear them, taste them, laughing, crying, living. They don't blame me; they want to see me happy. How can I be the one to continue on in the world? Why wasn't I the one to give up my soul? They are so FORGIVING, so FAULTLESS, and I… I am nothing.

The Colonel is yelling again… yelling? The man almost never yells. He pokes, he prods, he insinuates, he teases, but to lose his cool enough to yell? I block out the sound of his voice but look at his face…

His face, those once proud and beautiful features, scarred and twisted, hidden beneath that cloth for sure, but damaged nonetheless. He is still beautiful to me… but to himself… he will never be the same.

I look into his face, into his eye, and I see… The Colonel is crying as he yells, soft, slow, silvery tears of pain creeping down his face. I have never seen him cry… not even then…

So this… I have caused this too… everything I do brings pain and suffering to others. I am selfish, arrogant in my ways, and I still haven't learned to pay the price…

It all started the day mom died… and I have allowed myself to be led astray since then. My own foolish desires… pitting myself against the natural order of things with a determination that I would succeed. Fate… has a much larger plan in store for me.

I should have protected them! I… should have protected… him. It was my fault then, and it is my fault now.

This is my BURDEN! Don't you understand! This is my PENANCE! It feels so good even with the pain… so right… justice. It feels so good… and it shouldn't. I should hurt, cry, BLEED, like the others, before they went away.

The Colonel grabs my arm, forcing me to look at him even as I lay in this hospital bed. I look into his tear-streaked eye and feel instantly trapped, caught in the gaze within the lashes. I cannot help but listen now, listen to what he is crying…

"Is this what you wanted? Look at yourself, Ed, is this what you wanted?" He has grabbed my left arm, my flesh arm, the one of sin. He shakes it in front of me, so that the white bandages swirl in front of my eyes, nearly making me dizzy.

I do not answer… in truth, I cannot. What can I say? What can I tell him that will explain away the feelings? I can't escape from my mistakes, they follow me down every path, mocking my ignorance, mocking my pride.

He grabs onto my shoulders and forces me to turn towards him as he gracefully sits on the hospital bed next to me. He shakes me gently, frustrated and angry… hurt even.

"It is… how it must be…" I say. Even I can hear how pathetic I sound, my voice cracking, barely above a whisper.

Mustang's face twists up into confusion and fury, almost frightening to behold. His fingers tighten on my shoulders and I wince with the pain, then quickly take it back. No… I deserve it… every pain I CRAVE it. Like scratching at a blister that has already broken and now burns with every touch. There is something morbidly fascinating in watching blood flow from a cut that I induced, it eases the pain and causes more all in the same stroke.

"What about the rest of us? Those who are left that still love you? Don't we matter?" demands Mustang, never ceasing in his questions. I cannot escape from that look no matter how hard I try. I cannot lie to him…

"You have a chance," I whisper, "And if you leave now, I won't take it from you…" I then felt a most familiar sensation. That of hot tears prickling at the back of my eyes before they spilled out in a despairing river down my face.

"Don't do it anymore," he says softly, relinquishing his hold on my shoulders to curl his hand around the back of my head, running his fingers through my shorn hair, thumb caressing the bandaged slashes on my face. "Please?"

I want to lean into that touch, give in to the love that he offers, but my pain is my pleasure, my pleasure my pain, nothing will change that.

"These hands, Mustang," I start to say, holding them up in front of me, blinking down at them, tears splashing on one auto mail, one bandaged flesh. "These hands bring only death…" My hands, they TARNISH life, destroy it, ending with a finality that cannot be countered.

I am a MURDERER. I may not have been the hand that dealt the blow, but their blood is on my hands just the same. Staining my heart, staining my SOUL forever. I can never walk away… can never know joy or happiness… irreparably BROKEN… shattered like the dreams of a young boy and his brother.

"It was not your fault," he insists, imploring me to understand. But he cannot hear their screams every night. He cannot hear their wordless accusations as their spirits haunt me to no end. "They made their choices… even your brother… they all knew what they were getting into…"

"I could have stopped it. Even then, I could have ended it," I whisper.

"Two years Ed! That was two years ago! You cannot punish yourself for the past! It only ruins the future!"

"I have no future! Not without him!" I scream in anguish. He doesn't UNDERSTAND, none of them do.

Then… his lips are on mine. I never even saw it coming, but I melt into his touch nonetheless. No wonder the Colonel had so many girlfriends; the man kisses like a dream come true. He tastes of fire, the smoldering embers, and coffee, fresh from the pot. And then a lingering flavor of smoke. He took up smoking after… the incident, or so I heard anyways.

It feels so good… so human. I crave this touch every moment that his lips are pressed against mine. I can't escape… not that I would want to.

He breaks away and places his forehead in line with mine, looking straight into my eyes. "Let me give you one," he whispers.

I cannot help but cry again, at the kindness that I see in his eye, the kindness… and the caring. "I can't…" I sob. "I don't deserve to live with joy…"

"Ed…" he begins gently, closing his eye softly. I can feel him as he breathes deeply, warm air ghosting over my lips.

I can't… I can't do it. He doesn't know… my secret. He thinks he does, he always thought he did. But he is wrong… I can't live like this but…

"Agh!" I scream with my anguish as I forcefully push Mustang back. He stumbles off the bed but maintains his footing. It doesn't matter, I have the opening I need. I jump from the bed, running for the bathroom, running from that healing touch.

My path is swathed with blood of the innocent… my mind is torn with memories of once friends… now lonely graves.

I run in and shut the door behind me, slam the door in his face and lock it. Sinking to the ground, I lean up against it and try to ignore his poundings, try to ignore his attempts to save me. I couldn't save them…

Growling, angrily I tear at the bandages on my face, my neck, covering my arm and my leg. I can feel the blood begin to flow as my wounds reopen, as my pain flows free…

A clap and a flash of blue alchemic light and my relief from this life is in my hands. I look at it, at the bright white light glinting off of the sharp, deadly metal.

"Ed, please," he is begging me now, in a softer voice. He has stopped pounding on the door. I can tell he is still there. I imagine he is pressed up against the door, hands reaching for me, but unable to get to me.

I wonder what it would be like to die… I wonder if it is as freeing as they say.

"Ed, please don't leave me. You are all I have left now. I… I love you…"

I choke at his words. How can he say such a thing? To love me… a murderer. I killed his friends dammit, I KILLED HIS FRIENDS. "It is better this way… "I say softly, barely loud enough for him to hear me.

"No," I hear him scream. "It is never better this way. Stop dying in the past Ed and learn how to live! I need you!" I hear the rustling of clothes and I know, he must be searching for chalk. I must choose… before it is taken from me. But…

His words hit home, straight to my heart, all black and twisted. I don't… I don't know what to do anymore, how to think, how to feel. There is nothing left within me but blood, death and tears. I don't know anything else.

Hughes… Hawkeye… Armstrong… Havoc… Al… oh god… I am so sorry.

I couldn't save you… I was too blind… too stubborn… too stupid…

I look again to the shockingly sharp piece of metal in my hand and my ears faintly pick up the sound of Roy's pleading as he tries to find something to write with… but he may be too late…

Just like me…

We may all be too late…

It is a choice between love… and redemption… love… and ultimate penance…

The soft scratch of chalk on metal, fast and sure strokes, panicked etching…

and a sliver of metal glinting in my auto mail hand…