Lust of Ishbala.
Warning: Fluff, Angst, and Self-Insertion Characters. Y'know, the usual.
Um... I know that all authors say this, but I've had this story up for a while... and I know people are reading it, so a review or to for the reccord would be greatly appreciated.
Raul Julia is the name of the actor who played Gomez on the Adams Family. This bit of trivia will make sense later on...
This was originally going to be posted the night Lust's death aired on CartoonNetwork. But I missed that episode and the story wasn't done on time, anyway. Of course, this also started out as a cute, angsty fluff. All my angst just turns upon itself...
The world was blacking out around her, and Lust stopped fighting for consciousness. This was it, her death, her last breath. She tried to think of what she wanted to say, the last words she would ever utter, but in the long run, it wouldn't matter if she said anything or not. She was dying. What else mattered?
She came to slowly, gradually becoming aware of her surroundings, a shady, empty, narrow little alley. A few yards away, a bright square of sunlight marked where it opened onto the main street, a busy one, if the muted noises coming from it were any indication. But, what was she doing here?
"Am I... alive?" Lust whispered, pushing herself off the ground to examine herself. Alive... could that mean... was it even possible...? Had she come back with a soul? Somehow been reincarnated?
Hardly daring to believe it, Lust bit down on her thumb until she drew blood, watched the wound bleed,... and then heal.
"Crap,"whimpered the still-a-homunculus-what-the-hell-up-with-that, too frustrated even to swear. "I'm supposed to be dead! Destroyed! Gone for good, never to return! That was the deal. Get soul, live happily ever after, or perish and finally find the eternal rest I had been denied for so long, one or the other! Lingering on indefinitely was not an option!" she lamented, finally being overcome with the unfairness of the universe and throwing herself, kicking and screaming, all dignity forgotten, onto the cobblestones.
"Lust," a warm, maternal voice chided gently. Lust stared wildly around, but the alley was still as deserted as ever. "Lust, dear, stop crying," the disembodied sound continued, and Lust suddenly found herself clutching a disposable Kleenex with "KS" embroidered on it in silver thread.
Dabbing at her eyes with the oddly-embellished tissue, Lust glanced suspiciously at the sky. "God? Is that you?" she whispered timidly.
"No," laughed the voice, this time sound more solid. "But very, very close." And Lust found herself facing an awkward teenage girl in pajama pants. "The author, in fact. KalliopeStarmist, at your service," she beamed, bowing formally.
"That's pretty arrogant of you, you know that?" Lust asked, her sarcasm returning as her fear of this odd little child subsided.
"Can I help it that I'm the best fanfiction writer ever to grace the world wide web?" shrugged the girl.
"Seriously, are you one of Pride's friends or something?"
"Ha. Ha," Kalliope growled humorlessly. "Don't make me turn this into a torture fic."
"You've revived me when I thought I was dead. What worse torture could you possibly come up with?"
The authoress smiled mysteriously. "Don't be so glum. Take some time to enjoy the world. You'll feel much differently if you do. And, if you want to get technical, I didn't revive you. You're still dead. Lust," Ms. Starmist made a sweeping gesture about the alley. "Welcome to... well, I suppose you'd call it Ishbala."
"Ishbala, huh? They must have redecorated since the war," Lust noted.
Kallie blinked in confusion. "War?... oh, no, not that Ishbala. The other one. The afterlife, Heaven, Elysium, call it what you will. The place where all interesting anime characters go after they die."
"... don't you need a soul to have an afterlife?"
"We're in the habit of making exceptions. Now, I've brought you here for a few reasons. One, you and all the other Sins are some of my favorite characters, and I try to give my favorites happy endings,"
"Very maternal of you," Lust remarked.
"Thank you. Two, I want you to find an old friend of yours. Once you do, if you really want to, I'll destroy you and let you sink back into oblivion, ok?"
"Doesn't leave me much of an option, does it? Who am I looking for?"
But the authoress had vanished.
All right... who do I know who's died? Lust asked herself as she wove her way through the bustling hordes of deceased anime characters. "If you think I'm looking for Cornello, you've got another thing coming!" Lust shrieked up at the sky, attracting a few passing glances.
"Ew, of course not," Kallie's voice echoed through her head. "Who'd want to look for him?"
"Well, then who am I..." Lust started to ask, but no response. And then it hit her. "Of course. Greed! GREED!" A group of evil-looking ninjas stared at her, but the other homunculus didn't step forward. "Greed, you bastard! Get out here so I can die!"
Hours later, the sun was starting to set, and the crowds were dying down. Lust's feet were killing her, her voice was almost gone. Through windows and open doors, she could see little groups eating dinner, and wondered how you bought food in this messed-up place. But, still, she limped on gamely, rasping out, "Greed! You avaricious twit! It's Lust!" as loudly as she could manage and almost knocking over a dark-haired, dark-skinned woman who was carrying a basket of bread or some similar baked good.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Lust gasped, grabbing to woman to stop her from falling.
"Don't be. My fault, I should have heard you coming," she assured her, regaining her balance. "Looking for someone? Maybe I can help?"
Lust brightened a little. "Maybe... have you seen a man... um, about yea tall, pale, dark spiky hair, pointy teeth..." This was hard. That description could have applied to just about any dead anime dude, except maybe for the pointy teeth. "Oh!" Lust pointed at the symbol on her chest. "He'll have one of these, on his hand,"
The other woman seemed to notice the unusual insignia for the first time. "An oroborus... Are you from FullMetal Alchemist?"
Lust had been asked some unusual questions in her day, but this one completely caught her off guard. "FullMetal? Um... I know him, sort of, in a friendly-enemy type way, if that's what you mean."
"Poor woman. You just got here, didn't you?" Lust confirmed this, and her new acquaintance glanced up at the ever-darkening sky. "Do you want to spend the night at my house? I don't want you out on the street alone all night."
Lust was only too grateful to accept. "Thank you. Er, I'm..." she hated introducing herself, "Lust,"
"And I'm Julia. It's nice to mee—," Lust's new benefactor broke off, staring in wonder at something over Lust's shoulder. She turned to see, of course, and found herself staring at a shop's window, which was reflecting back her and Julia's faces.
"We... look an awful lot alike," Lust finally managed, when she found her voice again.
"RAUL!" shrieked Julia, slamming open the door to her house. "You got some 'splaining to do!"
Lust slipped in quietly behind her, carrying to the basket of baked goods. (Julia had been too angry to be trusted with it.)
There were two young-ish men in the room, and one of them gasped when he noticed her. "Lust?"
She almost dropped the bread. "Scar?"
Eyeing Julia warily, and making slow, deliberate movements, Scar crossed over to the other man ("Raul") and clapped him on the back. "I think I'm gonna let you handle this one, bro."
"Gee, thanks," he gulped, not taking his eyes off the homicidal Julia.
"I bet Lust is starving," Although she didn't take her eyes off her target, Julia managed to address Scar. "Why don't you take her to the kitchen and find her something to eat? While I have a little chat with Raul here." She took a menacing step forward, and Scar and Lust practically flattened each other trying to get out of the room first.
"That man, Raul," Lust asked into her stew, "Is he your brother?"
"Yes. And Julia is... his wife."
Lust nodded, pushing a chunk of meat around her bowl. "And you still love her?"
Scar sighed, but didn't answer, because at that moment, Raul had dropped the bomb, and you couldn't hear yourself think over the din Julia was making.
When the ruckus in the other room died down, Scar was able to reply, "Actually, at the moment I'm feeling a little bit frightened of her..."
"Not quite as perfect as you thought?" smirked Lust. "Humans have horribly faulty memories."
Scar chose to ignore this. "What are you doing here, Lust?"
"Alchemy? I'LL SHOW YOU ALCHEMY!" thundered the next room.
Lust winced, "Apparently I'm wreaking happy marriages."
"AND STAY OUT!" Julia yelled, slamming the front door closed. A second later, she walked into the kitchen, breathing a little heavily, but smiling. "Sorry about that. My husband and I had a... slight disagreement. But I'm sure he'll get tired of sleeping outside in a few days. And tomorrow we can help Lust look for her friend,"
"I don't want to be any trouble," Lust started, but Julia stopped her.
"No trouble. And we owe you. Big time."
This was true, and Lust had often said so.
"So, Julia-San..." Scar broke in nonchalantly, directing his voice more towards the outer wall than Julia, "you pretty serious about your husband?"
Immediately, someone began pounding frantically on the door, trying to break through it. "Lawrence! You double-crossing bastard! Keep your hands off her!"
Lust started giggling. Scar rounded on her.
"What's so funny?"
"Your name... is Lawrence?"
"No wonder you go by Scar."
"Shut up, Lusto.
"Chilluns," Julia chided, stepping in between them, "play nice, now."
That night Lust tried to fall asleep, concentrating on the rhythmic scrabbling of Raul, who was trying to scale the walls of the house, but she had too much to think about. This is awful. I have more trouble sleeping now that I'm dead...hmm... Raul and Julia. I never thought I would actually meet them... Hey! Isn't there some kind of Creation Claus, in the fine print in the alchemy books, that stops a homunculus from getting too near the original?
"Don't think too hard about it," advised KalliopeStarmist, appearing magically on the edge of Lust's fold-away bed.
"And shouldn't Raul be tattooed and insane and missing an arm?"
"He's cuter without the tatoos, who said he was sane, and he is missing an arm. Didn't you notice?"
"Then why does Scar have his arms?"
"I gave them back. You don't want the poor guy to suffer, do you?"
"That doesn't make any sense...if Scar gets his arms, then it's only fair,"
"Go to sleep, Lust. Tomorrow you have to learn your way around the animated afterlife. You'll need your strength."
Lust agreed that this was so, and went back to falling asleep, this time with more success. The last thing she remembered thinking was "Heh heh. Lawrence."
At dawn, Lust awoke from habit, and found, to her surprise, that she could go back to sleep. For the first time in her memory, Wrath didn't need comforting after a nightmare-filled sleep, Sloth wasn't rushing around looking for her purse so she wouldn't be late for work, Envy wasn't screaming at everyone in earshot for ruining his "beauty sleep", and Gluttony wasn't knocking on her door whining for her to please fix everything.
"I could get used to the whole dead thing," Lust decided.
Vowing to sleep in the next day, Lust tiptoed her way onto the roof (the house being your typical flat-roofed desert dwelling) to watch the sunrise, something else she hadn't been able to do for a long time.
It was a breathtaking morning, and Lust was almost perfectly content... now if only I had a cup of tea...
With the 'chink' of china being set down, a nice hot cup of tea on a saucer appeared on the ledge next to her.
Completely satisfied and at peace with the universe, Lust brought the little cup to her lips. "Thank you," she whispered, knowing the author could hear her.
"Um... I was going to drink that," Scar notified her uncomfortably.
Startled (she had thought she was alone), Lust hastened to replace the teacup, murmuring, "I apologize, I didn't realize you were there."
"I suppose you thought the teacup magically appeared here just for you?" Scar asked teasingly, sitting down next to her and wiping off the rim of his reclaimed tea.
Lust quickly changed the subject. "Nice morning."
"Yes." There was a silence as Scar took a sip of his hard-earned tea. "I'm... actually kind of glad you showed up... don't take it the wrong way, I'm not glad you died or anything... it's just..."
"No, I understand. Living with a couple can be rough. I'm surprised you survived this long without losing your sanity."
"Well, I have known them my whole life, that helps." Scar took another sip of tea and considered something that hadn't occurred to him before. "You don't mind staying here, do you? This must be a little awkward for you."
"It does feel a little surreal," Lust admitted. "It's weird to think of them as real people. They've always been these mythical heros to me, more like fairytale characters than actual humans. Raul and Julia... strange, I never knew their names before..." Lust dangled her feet over the roof and watched people waking up below. "...and Julia... it's spooky. I'm supposed to... to be this woman... and now I understand, she's more than some role I should be able to play. She's real... and I will never be her. I'm not sure if I ever wanted to."
Scar couldn't think of a good response to this, so he busied himself draining his tea.
"There was something I wanted to say to her," Lust added, mostly to herself. "But I can't remember. It couldn't have been important."
"That's just how it goes. I never did get around to telling my brother I love him... I tried, but I just kept bursting into laughter, and I never finished the sentence. He thinks I'm a little crazy... maybe he's right." Suddenly, Scar turned to Lust, staring intently into her eyes. "Brother... I," And Scar burst into laughter. "I can't even say it when he's not around... I love...hahahahaha."
"I'll make you a deal. We'll both go downstairs, I'll have a chat with Julia, and you talk to Raul. If we both keep straight faces through the whole thing, then... well... if this was the real world, I'd buy you a drink..."
"Well, we could... Oh, I have no idea, why don't we just do it and find a way to celebrate later?" Scar shrugged, offering his hand. Lust shook it resolutely.
"You've got a deal... Lawrence."
"I really prefer Scar."
"I'll try to remember that, Larry."
Julia didn't make a sound when the pair entered the kitchen. She wordlessly handed Scar a plate to take to his brother, as though she could guess the missions that the serious duo was about to embark on.
Once alone, she confronted her duplicate, solemnly examining the face before her. "So, this is how my husband sees me," she sighed, just as Lust was about to scream from the tension. "Oh, Raul, you got it wrong. I was never this beautiful. Never this perfect."
"Don't be fooled, I'm far from perfect," Lust promised.
"Lust," whispered Julia, the significance of the title dawning on her. "...lust. Our personal sin... What does that say about how he thinks of me?" Blinking back confused tears, Julia turned her face away, and Lust gently guided it back.
"Don't talk like that. Remember, I was just a failed attempt to revive you. I was never intended to substitute for you. Your husband loves you, so much that he could never replace you. So much that he would give up everything for you."
"Still... to resort to alchemy... to profane everything we hold sacred..."
"I think..." Lust paused, unsure she was authorized to give her opinion on such a matter, and proceeded barely whispering, "I think... wanting to be near the one you love is a sin that ought to be forgiven."
The other woman closed her eyes tightly, as if she were in pain. And, suddenly, Lust remembered what she had wanted to say to Julia, and had wanted to say to her ever since she learned of her existence. It wasn't appropriate for the moment at all, but she had to blurt it out, "You know, giving someone hair for a present is a really disgusting thing to do."
Eyes still closed, Julia nodded pensively.
Raul tore into his breakfast with a vengeance, barely pausing to chew. "Scar, you are a lifesaver. I wasn't sure where my next meal was coming from... say, this is a good muffin. Do you want a bite?"
"No, thank you," Scar replied distantly. Raul didn't seem to notice that his little brother had something important on his mind. "Eh, your loss."
With a deep breath, Scar closed his eyes and muttered, "BrotherIloveyou."
Raul finished his muffin. "What?"
"I said, Brother, I love you."
"I love you too. Hey, could you butter that slice of toast for me? I'm having a terrible time with this arm... I really ought to look into getting an artificial one, but I'm such a procrastinator,"
Scar couldn't help it. He started crying. "I know it always seemed like I hated you, and that I never showed any affection, but... deep down, you really meant a lot to me," he sobbed, while buttering the toast as requested.
"You do? But... I never told you,"
"Ah, Bro," Raul sighed, embracing Scar with his one arm, "you're my little brother. That's how brothers are. Even when they hate each other, they love each other. You don't have to say anything for me to know that."
The front door swung open silently, Lust standing in the entrance. Raul ditched Scar for her before either party could blink.
Lust wasn't sorry about interrupting a family moment at all. Raul, she just noticed, was the most handsome man she had ever seen. All her life, she had felt as though she was incomplete, and she had always attributed this to her absent soul... but when the scarred man's brother hugged her, she began to wonder if it was something else that had been missing.
"I owe you an apology," he whispered. "I never dreamed that... that it had worked. If I had known you existed, I would have helped-,"
There had been a time, long ago, when Lust had had a list of snappy comebacks to say to her creator... but that all seemed very childish now. She couldn't remember one of them.
"And I owe you an apology, Raul," Julia added remorsefully.
Raul kissed his creation's forehead (Lust almost fainted), and dashed to his wife's side.
Feeling very third-wheelish as the happy couple made up once again, Scar and Lust decided to go find Greed. This was important, as Lust was more suicidal than ever, and she didn't want this to go on longer than it had to.
Both nibbled on the toast Scar had been holding when they left, but neither was feeling hungry. They wandered around for a little bit, half-heartedly asking after Lust's acquaintance, without much luck. They didn't talk much, but that was ok, because it almost certainly would have ended in an argument, with one of them storming off and getting lost. All in all, it was a relief when they decided it was late enough to return home and go to bed.
Lust had always gotten on fairly well with Envy. In fact, had you asked her, she would have even said they were friends. Sure, he could be a little bratty, but once you got used to him, he was actually kinda fun.
The envy that kept her awake all night was not the green-haired shape shifter that she knew and loved. Rather, it was an angry, violent, persistent emotion she had never experienced before, not this strongly, and it made her want to stab someone, possibly herself. She wanted Raul, she wanted to be Julia, she wanted to be human, she wanted a soul, she wanted to go back to the real world, she wanted to disappear forever, she wanted to strangle KalliopeStarmist, she wanted, she wanted,
Lust curled up like a shrimp, sobbing into her pillow, "I want my Gluttony."
The statement shocked her, but she realized the instant she said it that it was true. More than anything else, she wanted her closest friend back... and she couldn't have that, either.
That was when she really started to cry. Dryly, of course. For reasons beyond her own understanding, homunculi were incapable of tears. Nobody could explain the relationship between souls and little ducts behind the eyeball, but it was true. (Except in Wrath's case... whiny little brat, Lust thought.) ... but, tears or no, she could still sob rather loudly, so, out of courtesy to everyone else, she decided to do her mourning out on the roof.
Unfortunately, Scar already had dibs on the roof. Lust tried to tiptoe back to bed before she was noticed, but he apparently had eyes on the back of his head, because he called out, "You couldn't sleep, either?"
Sighing heavily, Lust sat down on the ledge next to him. "Nah. Homesick."
The man nodded, turning to look at her. "It must be tough... to leave people behind." He reached out and laid his hand on hers sympathetically. They sat like that, for maybe thirty seconds, before both snatched their hands back and lapsed into uncomfortable silence.
"Sorry," Scar finally apologized. "It's just...I still love her."
Lust nodded, "I understand. It would seem that I am destined to love your brother, too... after all, that is why I exist." She fiddled with her hands for a minute, adding quietly, almost apoplectically, "you look like him."
"And you make me think of her," Scar agreed, his voice suddenly becoming more businesslike. Lust caught onto his attitude.
"So, you understand that, though it may appear as though I love you, I am really just..."
"On the rebound, so to speak," Scar finished. "And the same goes for me."
"We're really just attracted because of convenience."
"Yes. Necessity." The two tried to steal glances at the other simultaneously, and ended up staring into each other's eyes. Both promptly averted their gaze.
"Necessity," Lust repeated silently to herself. She stared out over the dark, silent buildings. They looked so empty. It was hard to believe they were all filled with real people, who had lived lives, and had families,
For some reason, the thought of all those nameless faces, all of them missed by loved ones, got to her. A tear coursed down Lust's cheek.
The sensation was so unfamiliar, so bizarre, so unnatural, that she lost her balance and fell off the roof, two stories, onto a hard-packed cobblestone road.
Someone (Scar? She couldn't tell, the world was getting fuzzy) screamed, "LUST!" She closed her eyes. The world was blacking out around her, just like before. She was dying... again.
"Wait! I'm not supposed to die yet!" she tried to yell, fighting tooth and nail for consciousness.
"I thought you wanted to die," Kalliope Starmist drawled. Lust struggled to open her eyes. She was floating in a huge black space, with the authoress floating, as if perched on an invisible chair, before her.
"But... I was supposed to talk to Greed."
"I never said that. I told you to find a friend of yours. I meant Lawrence."
"Scar," Lust growled. "His name is Scar."
The girl blew a piece of hair out of her face apathetically. "Whatever. Sorry I kept you hanging on there so long, I've got a couple of other stories in the works right now."
"But... do I have to go?"
"You wanted to. I just wanted to have a little fun with you first."
"I thought you said that you liked happy endings!" Lust protested.
"I do. You would have been happy to die and sink into oblivion. "Find the eternal rest you had been denied for so long" were the words I believe you used."
"But... but..." Lust dug her nails into her hands in frustration. Yes, she had said that, but...
Kalliope smiled. "Are you saying that you want to stay? That you actually enjoy some part of living? That the world can be a good place?"
"I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but... would it be ok if I stayed a little longer?"
"As long as you want. Like I said, I like happy endings." The teenager winked mischievously, and Lust suddenly understood.
"Did you plan this out by any chance?"
"I'm the author. I'm all powerful. Of course I planned this out. But if you want the reason you're so attracted to Scar, you're going to have to take it up with Hiromu Arakawa. She's a few steps above me in the great scheme of things. Anyway, nice to meet you, Lust. Good luck with your new life."
Someone slapped her, and Lust looked around frantically for whoever it was, but that was getting harder, as the room was whiting-out as she turned her head. The author waved her goodbye cheerfully. "You'd be a lot easier to like if you weren't so insufferable," Lust shouted. Someone slapped her again. She opened her eyes (but she couldn't remember closing them) and stopped Scar's hand from slapping her again.
"Lust? You woke up! I was afraid you'd," Scar rubbed his eyes. Lust stared at him, a smile twitching onto her lips. "Lust, why are you looking at me like that?"
Oh, hell, I'm dead, now's the time to start livin' it up, Lust told herself, ignoring the inconsistency. With one quick movement, she sat up, pulled Scar back down with her, and kissed him.
When she finally let him up for air, Scar asked her, in a stunned voice, "What happened to necessity?"
Lust shrugged. "It still applies. I decided you were a necessity to my happiness."
Ever since his death, Scar had been desperately trying to reexamine his values. He didn't think Lust was going to make this any easier. He found he didn't care.
"They're going to be arrested for public display of affection," Raul sighed from his bedroom window, not quite over being awoken in the wee hours of the morning by his little brother's scream. Julia punched him gently.
"Aw, shush. It's cute."
"Just like a fairy tale romance. And they all lived happily ever after," Raul joked, pecking her on the cheek.