Our Lives-

I loathe you.

You never loved me, just used me for what I was good at.

Rubbers had a more useful purpose than I ever would to you. At least they can be bought brand new each time an unused one is needed and be discarded without consequence once dirtied. Too bad I cannot boast the same claim.

Reflecting back on it now, I understand, that as much as I hate to be proven wrong they were right and I was the one that was mistaken. I should not have followed you. No matter what sweet words you said, no matter the grand illusions you spun where you and I were equal partners in everything that was important, you were just lying to my face. I should have noticed the jaded mirth in your eyes when my back was turned.

I should not have believed in you, worshiping the ground you walked on as if I meant as much to you as you did to me. If I hadn't been so hot-headed and defensive on your behalf I might have noticed what everyone was talking about. Unfortunately, once I got an idea in my head, nothing but blunt proof could convince me that I was wrong. It was always like that.

"Mmm… shorty, why are you so tense? This isn't the first time you've done this." You would seductively whisper anything to me whenever I wanted to stop. I think you were trying to forget that it was you that started this, without my consent or approval. You took from me what I was not ready to give, but like always that didn't matter to you.

Sometimes I wonder if you ever felt the sharp sting of regret. I know I have.

It's your fault she found out about the twisted things we were doing and died as a result. The consequence of him afflicting me everyday would not have happened if it weren't for you. At least, that is what I wanted to believe. But now I know better, he reminds me everyday.

This perverse existence I lead is all my fault.

It's continuously my culpability.

Slap. "If you weren't so fucked up, she would still be here!"

Grab. "Why did you have to drag her into your shit, huh? Couldn't stand not having attention? Well congratulations, you have my attention now."

I don't fight back anymore. It shames me to admit that. I used to defend myself, a couple years back, when I still knew who I was. But not now. Instead, I just take it all in, the pain, accusations and humility are mine to accept.

I can see my brother's pale face in the open silver of light from the doorway. This routine never changes. Ever since he found out about what was going on behind his back he watches me get beaten down with loss carved into his face. Maybe he's waiting for the day when he can intervene and put a stop to our farce of a family.

I don't have the heart to tell him that day cannot arrive unless over my dead body.

But I'm okay with it now. As long as that bastard doesn't touch him, I can find some measure of peace. Even if it means my pride gets beaten in a way that I am unsure of how I could ever resurrect it. He is the only thing I have left to live for. If he were to die, whatever is left of who I used to be would be gone too. So I have to keep protecting him.

I say that, but I can't bring myself to answer his calls as I lay on the carpeted floor.

Sometimes I wish life could change. I spit out the blood and sit up shakily.

Maybe the reason I take this punishment is more complicated than compensating for my guilt or to protect him. She would not have wanted either of us to live like this after all.

Perhaps I accept it to wait for someone who I can believe in again.

I entered the store on a mission. Al had kindly sent me to purchase a selection of groceries in sickeningly blazing hot weather. The kind where downtown kids see who can fry an egg faster on the melting pavement. I still hold the record of three minutes and my mother thought it was adorable that I was practicing my culinary skills. She told me I could become a world famous chef if I wanted. I think she wanted to see me smile.

That was the kind of person she used to be. Always looking on the bright side, trying to make people feel confident about themselves. She never lied to anyone, yet wasn't afraid to exaggerate the truth a bit to get them inspired. I don't think I ever saw her act anything but genuine. Especially when it concerned her two favourite young men.

The near frigid store air hit me with a blast of air conditioned wind that blew onto my face, bangs falling in my eyes and tickling me annoyingly. With a grumble, I reached up to swat them away, but grimaced slightly at my spontaneous move.

I'd been coming to this store for something like nine years. I think it was built sometime near the dawn of time. The previous owner had been a corpulent little man. Beard, moustache, bald head and all, he was quite stocky, I daresay shorter than myself. But he possessed a decent sense of humour nonetheless that made us get along fairly well. The issue of my height was never addressed, (what hypocritical person would call me short when he was even less of stature)? He chose his battles well.

Last I'd heard, his health had begun to fail in his later years of operation, and by request of his wife, had decided to sell the business to someone more capable. The new owner was supposedly from out of town, but no one new specifically from where. An unusual thing to happen in a small town as gossip travels faster than light.

I was glad to see that the original name of the store was still posted up at the entrance. It would've changed something vital if the name were tampered with since the title explained it all.

A person could find anything here: food, cleaners, books, junk munchies, and even some selective clothes. Could there be a better place to poke around on a hot day?

The temperature inside gave this building the allusion of an icebox, and was a beautiful break from the possibility of acquiring heat stroke outside.

However, I am a man of business.

First Item: Eggs (Check)

Second Item: Razors (Check) even if I was a little unsure on this one. When I said everything was here, I seriously meant it. I was curious why Al would get me to pick up something so obscure, but like the generous brother I am I decided to continue.

By the 'Seventeenth Item' I can undoubtedly say that the guy behind the counter was starting to creep me out. He had been starring at me since I set foot in the store! Granted I was the only one currently inside. But still, he looked enough like a rich boy so couldn't he buy himself some manners?

Most girls would have been freaked out by the stalker-like man at this point; the idiot was going to lose business if he kept this up with all of the customers.

I glared at him briefly and went back to my work. I think I imagined a smirk crawl across his face.

I finally reached the last 'Item' on my list! I paused, and then scowled. Was Al doing this just to be the stereotypical annoying younger brother? He knew I hated even thinking about this particular grievance to the world. Stupid jerk.

I stood facing the cooler, my reflection quivering before me faintly. With my eyes shut in concentration I reached for the chrome handle. I could do this damn it! The stupid thing wasn't going to bite me from in the carton.

Let me clarify: I fucking hate milk. Anyone who knows me knows that.

My hand withdrew and I licked the sweat from my upper lip, bit down on the bottom one tightly, forcefully yanking the door open and retrieved the putridly disgusting liquid. Al would owe me big time for this.

As I made my way up to the check out counter I kept the vile thing as far away from me as possible, my arm stretched out to it's limits. I could care less if I looked ridiculous, a person never could be too careful with something so deceiving.

The bastard at the counter chuckled at -one- of my traumas. I immediately dubbed him under the category of an ass.

I mean sure he was gorgeous and all, I'm willing to admit it. But good looking people usually don't have the personality to match their looks.

His store nametag titled him as 'Roy Mustang, Manager'. So he was the new owner, who apparently had yet to hire any staff. Were he not so instantly insufferable I might have applied for a position, seeing as I was out of school for good. I had no real desire to go to college. And my last job ended rather… horribly.

I paid him for the goods and prepared to leave, wary of the conflicting emotions playing on his face, dismissing him until I felt his hand gently wrap around my wrist. The same one that had been painfully sprained the night before that Al wrapped afterwards.

Once he saw my teeth grit and jaw clench he quickly let go and apologized.

What was his deal?

I glared at him again and patiently waited for him to explain whatever the hell his problem was.

"Sorry about that," he grinned, "I'm new here, and I was just wondering if you could tell me where the library is?" His dark eyes focused directly on mine and I felt my cheeks involuntarily heat up. I hoped I wasn't coming down with something for how hot they felt.

Not to be judgmental or anything, but I had the general consumption that clerk uniforms made even the handsomest people look less than what they appeared. But not him. If anything, the dark blue enhanced everything about him. From his black hair to the pale skin. He was actually making me nervous, like some kind of predator versus prey scenario.

I sighed in defeat and placed my bags of groceries on the floor, dug a pencil and paper out of my jacket and wrote down my answer.

My penmanship used to be horrible, completely untranslatable even by the most talented. But, due to my loose tongue I had to vastly improve for situations such as these when I was forced to communicate.

He blinked confusingly when I handed him the scrap of loose leaf.

'Next to the Church.'

Without saying a word, he looked outside the window, a few streets down at the prominent golden lined bricks of the local preacher house.

"You know kid; you could have just told me that. Or are you too shy?"

Stupid bastard. Who the hell did he think he was dealing with?

My rage showed bluntly on my face, as my golden eyebrows nearly connected and my lips drew back across my face menacingly. I wasn't a fucking kid!

He laughed softly at me, "You sure are a spit fire. The name's Roy Mustang, mind telling me what yours is?"

I took him for a deadbeat; did he not realize that his name was displayed for the world too see in bright red letters, pinned to his shirt? Well, maybe he was trying to be proper, manners and all that.

Against my better judgment, rather than reply, I grabbed the paper back.


There really was no need for him to know my last name, so I tossed it back to him, picked up my bags and left the cool fresh air to venture into the heat once again.

"Brother, did you enjoy your time at the store?" Al took the groceries from me and began to put them away while I plopped down in the kitchen chair. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't exhausted. My forehead felt nice against the cool wood table.

"I'm surprised that you actually got this," He grinned as he held up the milk carton and I put on my fiercest scowl.

Al just laughed, "You knew we had to get some sometime! How do you expect me to make you stew if we don't have it?"

He did have a good point. Al had Mom's old recipe, the one that made my mouth water at the thought. I could live on it, and he knew it.

Suddenly, he turned back from the fridge and faced me, "I forgot Brother, Dad left a few hours ago," That didn't surprise me. "…and he said he'd be gone for tonight."

I let go of the air I was unconsciously holding in my chest and sighed deeply in relief. Last night had been a nightmare. I honestly didn't think I could endure another round of consequences so soon.

Al noticed the look I had and decided to lighten the subject. "But, while you were out, that movie we ordered in the mail came in. So you can watch it if you want. I'll join you after I'm done with supper."

Numbly I nodded and left for the living room. I tried to imagine I didn't see the shimmer of tears in his eyes at my mute reply. I couldn't stand to see the guilt on his face whenever the subject of our Father was brought up. I knew what he was thinking and remembering. The soft sobs kind of gave it away. Even after all these years he still cried for us when I couldn't.

'What the hell is wrong with you?'

'You bastard! It wasn't my fault already! Look, she came there of her own free will and you have to accept that fact. Maybe if you hadn't left her and looked after her like a husband is supposed to do instead of drinking yourself drunk, she would still be here! Only a coward would do less!'

In a blind rage he lunged, "You little-! How dare you speak to me that way!" His strong hands that used to pat my back on a job well done or stroke my hair after a nightmare clenched tightly around a rather vulnerable area of my body.

That was our first fight that Al had witnessed, and I wish he had never seen it.

When he took me to the hospital, doctors told me that the damage was irreversible and Al knew that I would never be the same again.'

Apparently, my vocal cords that I took for granted when I spoke my opinion loudly or laughed at a silly joke are just a delicate privilege. Once smashed with the brute force of strangulation they crapped out on me, taking away the biggest part of who I was with them .

That fight was the last time I spoke.

And Al still hasn't forgiven himself for standing there and letting it happen.

Quite frankly, I will never forgive myself.

AN: Recently I wandered back to this, almost scared to see what it sounded like after such a long time. It wasn't as bad as I feared but I felt it could use a clean up to make it easier to read. There won't be major plot changes so there's probably not much point in re-reading if you've already seen this.

Before I forget: Disclaimer- This plot does not belong to me, even though it is an AU fic. This one disclaimer will serve for all possible future chapters.

Future chapters for anyone who hasn't already read this include: violence and language and should only be viewed by people comfortable with those situations.