ZaKai Stonewall (zakai_) wrote,
ZaKai Stonewall
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The Sound of Silence - Epilogue

Title: The Sound of Silence
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Type: Divergence (after Barry the Chopper), and a bit AU, COMPLETE
Main Characters: Edward Elric, Roy Mustang
Rating: R - NC17
Warnings: angst, dark, deals with the issue of child abuse, language, underage sex
Summary: Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept.

Chapter Listing Here




The Sound of Silence

Epilogue

Answers



There was quiet for a long time after Ed stopped speaking, yet the stillness seemed to ring loudly through the small, chill room as if to punctuate the tale he’d been silent about for so long. Riza felt as though she could barely breathe as she tried to take in what she’d heard. Her heart beat hard in her chest and despite the cool temperature in the room, she was uncomfortably warm and had a light sheen of sweat over her body.

When Ed had begun speaking, she’d felt shock and disbelief. There was no way the colonel would molest a child, let alone Ed! There was no way he would do something so disgusting and depraved! Colonel Mustang was a good man, and not only that, but he cared about Ed. He did. She knew he did! She’d seen so many things he’d done or made happen for him, despite how stubborn and bratty Ed had been.

The way Ed talked about being at the colonel’s house that first night made her blood boil with anger, though not toward the colonel, but toward Ed. Roy Mustang was dead, killed by the young man in front of her, and then he dared to accuse him of such a thing. She wanted to lash out in anger at him for even daring to say such a thing, but she didn’t.

She couldn’t.

Ed’s voice, so deeply depressed and miserable when she’d first started talking to him, had become timid and unsure. Sometimes he would press his hands against his eyes and shake his head and mumble that he just couldn’t remember. Then there were times when he would stop and his eyes would open in shock as if something had suddenly made sense.

The first time this happened was near the beginning of his story when he first went to the colonel’s house. He’d said that Mustang had given him a cup of hot chocolate and then his eyes had gone wide with stunned horror. He’d been silent for several minutes before whispering something about that being why he hated the drink so much.

After several more long minutes of silence, he continued his tale. He’d spoken of the hugs and cuddling, and the admonition that he should keep it all a secret. He’d spoken of how confused and ashamed he’d felt. His head had dropped and he wouldn’t look at her as he’d spoken of how he’d hated the new closeness with Mustang, yet liked it because he wanted someone to pay attention to him.

Bitterness underlined with anger had filled Ed’s voice when he talked of Mustang starting to give him information, but wanting something in exchange. Again he’d looked down and buried his head in his hands as well as he could with the shackles. In muffled words he’d spoken of how he wasn’t sure now if it had been equivalent, but he’d needed the information...

Ed had looked up at her then, and his golden eyes swam in a sheen of tears. What she’d seen there chiseled at her anger towards him, at her disbelief. The look he’d given her had been filled with so much shame and humiliation that her chest had constricted and she’d felt tears prick at her own eyes.

‘I didn’t want to...’ he’d whispered. ‘I felt like a... I felt like he was treating me like a... You know... paying me like a...’ Ed hadn’t been able to say it, but she knew what he meant.

There had been silence for a long time after that and, when she urged him to continue, he’d said that he didn’t know if he could, but that he would try because he owed her at least that much. At that, Riza had felt confusion. He owed it to her? What did he mean by that?

With head bowed and voice low, Ed spoke haltingly of the fondling and of having to say that he wanted it, or to tell the colonel how he ‘wanted’ to be molested. There were times, as he talked, that he’d tried to curl up, but the chains didn’t allow for it. He’d spoken of his disgust at being kissed the first time and how he seemed to always feel dirty—how no amount of washing could seem to make him feel clean...

As she listened, Riza found her anger slowly drifting away from Ed and to Colonel Mustang. Ed would not make this up. This was too detailed to be fake. The way Ed spoke and the way he was reacting at having to tell this... there was no way it wasn’t real. Ed was too genuine of a person to make such a horrible story up.

But if that was so, then why?! Why would the colonel do this?! Why Ed? How could she have not known? But, of course, she knew the answer to that question. Mustang and Ed had kept the secret masterfully. Perhaps Ed had poured all his anger into the arguments they had in public. Maybe that was part of why he’d always seemed to be so angry at the colonel.

Maybe.

But then all of those thoughts and speculations were thrown from her head as Ed told of how the colonel had taken him by force. Of how he’d been beaten before Mustang had coldly raped him in his office. Ed’s voice had gone chillingly monotone and all she could do was stare at him in undisguised horror as he gave detail after detail of an event that no one who hadn’t gone through it could describe.

Riza wanted to press her hands against her ears and tell him to stop, to be quiet because she couldn’t handle hearing anymore. Tears had finally escaped her eyes, and she’d cried softly as Ed told her in an emotionless voice about his desire to murder Mustang that night.

When he’d spoken of the day after, fear had crept into his voice and it was then that he too broke down and started crying. He hadn’t been able to go on for a long time, but she’d been in no hurry to make him. She’d scooted her chair close to his and wrapped her arms tightly around him.

At first, Ed had stiffened sharply, then he’d buried his head against her and let her hold him. Riza had rocked him back and forth in an effort to comfort him, though she knew that there could be no real comfort from memories like that.

Her tears became tears of rage at Mustang, and Riza thought suddenly that if the man had still been alive, she might have killed him herself. What a slimy, manipulative bastard! The man had convinced the poor boy that no one would believe him if he told, threatened to reveal his and his brother’s secret, raped him, then told him that it was his own fault!

Riza had just wanted to hold Ed and never let him go. She’d felt so ashamed because at first she’d felt so much disbelief—because at first she hadn’t believed. She hadn’t wanted to believe. If Ed would have told her before, would she have believed? Or did it take something like killing the man to get people’s attention?

‘I’m so sorry,’ she’d whispered to Ed and tightened her grip on him. She was sorry... sorry that it happened, sorry that she hadn’t known, sorry that she hadn’t been able to protect him... and sorry that she’d ever doubted him even for a moment.

When Ed had been able to resume, he’d told her about his offer to Mustang. Shame had filled his voice when he’d told of how he’d gotten himself to the point that he thought he could be what Mustang wanted. His face darkened with humiliation, and disgust threaded through his voice as he spoke of letting himself enjoy what Mustang did to him.

And then the anger came, along with more tears, and she’d finally understood what he meant by him owing her. Fresh tears had filled her eyes as Ed told her about how he believed that she’d saved him from something awful. Of course, Riza remembered that night—remembered how he’d been so uncharacteristically grateful.

Now she knew why...

His story had continued on with how he’d been able to use the information from Doctor Marcoh to finally get Al’s body back. He’d spoken of the intense fear that someone would abuse his brother, and of his fear that if he got too close to Al, someone would think that it wasn’t right—that something bad was going on between them.

At that point, Ed had gone frighteningly silent. Riza had watched him carefully as his cheeks paled and his body stiffened. He’d kept his gaze averted and Riza supposed it was a full ten minutes before Ed spoke again, but he’d said less than three words before bursting into tears.

Heavy sobs wracked his body and again she held him. Broken words tumbled haphazardly from him as he spoke of the night he’d crossed the line with his brother. He’d pleaded with her to understand that he hadn’t meant it to happen. He’d never meant to touch him like that, and that it had only been that one time.

Riza had held him tightly as he told her, in sorrowful tones, of being neglectful of Al, and how he’d been trying so hard to not be what Mustang was, that he’d ended up hurting his brother anyway—only in a different way. Shame had tinged his words when he spoke of returning to Mustang, returning to what he hated most, and how he’d ended up becoming dependent on alcohol to help take the pain of his life away.

He’d never meant for either to happen, but both had.

Through it all, Riza had waited for what would push Ed over the edge, but when she finally learned what it was, she couldn’t keep herself from crying again. Ed had gone through so much abuse, and yet he’d never been willing to kill Mustang to make it end. It had taken a threat to his brother’s well being to force his hand—and even then, he hadn’t wanted to actually kill the man...

He’d cried as he told of the confrontation between himself and Mustang, and through heavy sobs he’d told her of his pain and confusion, and of the horrible feel of the gun bucking in his hands and the look of surprise on the colonel’s face. Ed had gone on to describe the wild, out-of-control feelings and the fearful flashback—worse than any others he’d ever experienced—before being knocked out by the drugs.

And now, after all that, there was silence.

For a long time, Riza sat there, gathering her thoughts. What could she possibly say to him? He was quietly looking down at his shackled hands, his face hidden by his greasy bangs, and she could only guess what could be going through his mind. What he’d told her was something he’d kept secret for a long time, and it was an awful secret...

Her chair was already close to his, but she scooted it slightly closer, then wrapped one arm over his back and pulled him close to her again.

“I believe you,” she whispered softly and felt tears come to her eyes. Such simple words, yet when Ed heard them, his head rose and he gazed deeply into her eyes as if searching to see if she told the truth. He blinked and tears trickled from his eyes, already reddened from crying, and down his already wet cheeks.

“You do?” he asked in a low, hoarse voice. He looked surprised, as if he was afraid that it wasn’t true.

“Yes,” she answered. “I believe you. I know you wouldn’t lie to me, Ed.”

At that, Ed swallowed hard and, after a moment, a small sob escaped him and it seemed that all the tension in his body was released at that moment. “I was so afraid...” he said through his tears. “I thought... Mustang said... I...”

Wrapping her other arm in front of his body to complete the embrace, Riza held him tightly. “He was wrong. What he said... he was wrong to tell you that.” She sniffled and continued. “Everything he said and did was wrong, Ed.”

His head hung and he whispered, “Maybe... I...” He let his breath out heavily and whispered, “I just... I shouldn’t have let him do that... I’m so... I feel so… ashamed... I should have just told him ‘no’... I...”

Riza pulled back and grabbed him by the shoulders, interrupting his words. “Look at me, Ed.” It took a moment, but finally he turned his gaze up to meet hers. “I want you to listen to me, alright? This was not your fault.”

“But...” Ed began, but she cut him off.

“No! I said listen,” she said firmly. “What happened... It wasn’t your fault. He did bad things to you. He was wrong.”

“But, I let him so that I could get the information for...” Ed interrupted, but she covered his mouth until he quieted.

“I told you to listen, Ed,” she said. “You were only a child. He was a man—a grown man. He knew better. He manipulated you, and took advantage of your insecurities and your devotion to your brother.”

His shoulders fell a little and his lip trembled slightly, and she hugged him before going on. “You were a lonely child who had already been through so much. He saw that and he took advantage of that to meet his own ends. This was not your fault.”

She paused and tried to keep herself from crying again, but was failing miserably. Wiping at her eyes, Riza said, “I feel almost as if this were my fault...” He blinked in confusion, and she continued. “I wonder why I didn’t see what was happening... I just... I really thought that the colonel was being good to you. I really thought that he was being the adult figure you needed... I just...” Her voice broke and she hugged him again. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry...”

She felt him shake his head. “I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t want anyone to know...” Ed whispered. Giving him one final squeeze, Riza pulled back and looked into his eyes. There was a small trace of the Edward Elric she knew in those eyes as he looked at her with sympathy. “Crying doesn’t suit you,” he said, obviously trying to comfort her, and she couldn’t help but smile a little. Even now, Ed was trying to be the caretaker, when he should be the one letting someone take care of him.

Reaching up, she brushed back a few strands of stray hair from her face, then said with a small trace of humor, “I’m not used to such flattery from you.” She was rewarded with a small, bland smile—it wasn’t much, but it was enough.

“I’m going to help you, Ed. I’m going to get you out of here.” She would. Ed didn’t belong here. Yes, what he did was wrong. Murder was wrong, but what had been done to him was wrong too. He’d already been punished enough over the years for this crime. He didn’t need prison time; he needed therapy. He needed help.

“Thanks, but... I don’t really think they’re going to just let me walk out of here...” Ed said dejectedly.

“There’s still the trial,” Riza said.

“I did it. I... killed... him...” Ed whispered. “I didn’t mean to. I never wanted to kill anyone, but I did. I don’t think it will be much of a trial.” Riza studied him. He was right. He did do it, and there were witnesses. However, she believed that there was a way.

“Ed,” she said carefully. “I believe that there is hope for you, but you will need to be brave.” She paused as he glanced up at her, nervous apprehension painted across his features. “Ed...” she said softly. “You will need to tell the judge what you told me.”

His eyes widened, and horror filled his features. “No!” he exclaimed sharply. “No. I...” Panic and fear filled his voice. “I don’t want anyone else to know.”

Riza pressed her lips and sighed. She didn’t blame him. It had been hard enough for Ed to tell her, someone that he knew and trusted, but to tell not only a judge, but the other people who would be in that courtroom... Not only that, but this case was high profile. Everyone knew who the Flame Alchemist was, and every one knows who the Fullmetal Alchemist is. The fact that Ed killed Mustang was all over the papers. Anything Ed said in that courtroom would be known by everyone. Perhaps not all the details, but the basics would be known.

“Your brother needs you,” Riza said quietly.

“No... he doesn’t,” Ed answered back just as quietly. “He’s better off without me.”

“You’re wrong. He loves you. He’s afraid for you and asks about you all the time. He’s confused and hurting right now... he needs his older brother. He needs his brother to be strong, not only for him, but also for himself.” She paused, then, “I can’t make you tell anyone else, but if you want a chance at going free, then you’re going to need to tell. You’re going to need to be strong.”

“I can’t...” Ed whispered in agony. “What if they don’t believe me...?” His eyes filled with more tears and he hung his head.

Riza laid her hands on his and said in determination, “I will be there for you, and I will do everything I can to help you, but in the end it’s up to you. Will you let the colonel control you even after he’s dead? Will you let him decide who you tell and who you won’t because he said they won’t believe? It’s possible that some people won’t believe you, Ed, I won’t lie, but some will believe.” She squeezed his hands and whispered, “You are not alone.”

“I...” Ed began, then faltered when the door opened and the two guards who had escorted Ed in walked into the room.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we can’t give you anymore time,” one of the guards said.

Riza squeezed his hands again before standing. “I understand.” She stepped back as the two guards stepped beside Ed and each took one of his arms. He stood and stared at her with wet eyes.

“Can I think about it?” he asked, his voice trembling.

Her face softened and she nodded. “Of course.”

The guards began to lead him away, but he stopped and turned to look at her. “And Al?” he asked anxiously.

“He’ll stay with me. I promise to take good care of him,” she assured him.

He visibly relaxed, then said, “Will you...” He paused, then asked hesitantly, “Will you tell him that I love him?” He blinked and a tear escaped one of his eyes, trailing slowly down his cheek.

“I will,” she promised softly, then watched as the guards led him out of the room. It was then that she felt a small touch on her arm and turned to see the guards who had guided her here earlier.

“If you’ll come with us?” one of them said. She nodded and followed after them.

Riza’s mind was occupied with the meeting she’d just had with Ed. She’d come here looking for answers, and she’d gotten them, but she was leaving with even more questions—some were questions that she would never get the answers to because the only one who could answer them was dead.

She’d come here feeling confused at the situation, and a level of self pity because she’d cared deeply for the colonel. But, the tragedy of the situation had escalated to something greater than herself and more than just the death of her commanding officer. He was still gone, still lost to her, but on a completely different level. Her undying respect for him had vanished, leaving a void that had been filled with disgust, confusion, and anger.

While Roy Mustang had become less in her mind, Edward Elric had become more. The fact that he’d survived so many years, and still accomplished so much, amazed her. She’d had a certain amount of respect for him because he’d become a State Alchemist at such a young age and had been able to fulfill those duties well enough, but now...

As she walked out of the jail, Riza noticed that it had stopped raining. Turning her head up to look at the black, night sky, she breathed in deeply. The air smelled fresh and clean. Tomorrow would probably be a beautiful day...

Perhaps it was symbolic.

Riza walked to her car and opened the door, but instead of getting in, she looked over at the jail. Ed was strong—stronger than he believed. She wished she could know what choice he would make, but she believed that he would fight—if not for himself, he’d do it for Al. The trial would not be easy and he’d have to face many obstacles, but she believed that he would win.

She sighed.

Unfortunately, the trial would only be the beginning. After the trial was over, and he was free, that’s when the real work would begin. He had so much to overcome, so many problems to deal with and work through.

It would be hard.

It would be so very hard...

Not only for Edward, but also for Alphonse as well... She would be there for them. Riza felt determined to support them in any way should could. Letting herself into the car, Riza started it and pulled out onto the road.

Perhaps tomorrow would not be a beautiful day for Ed, or even the next, or the one after that, but Riza hoped that someday there would be a tomorrow which would be beautiful for him. She knew that what happened with Mustang would always be a part of his life, a dark blotch on his past. But perhaps someday he would be able to escape it and feel independent and free of the horrors of his childhood and live the rest of his life in peace.

- the end -


--
--

Author’s Note

As many of you know, this story was very difficult for me to write (and I know that it was difficult for some of you to read). I think this is the first time I ever felt a great sense of relief to have a story finished.

I have to admit that I was scared to death to start posting this story. I had no idea what the reaction would be. It took 3 – 4 times of posting the prologue and taking it down from my website to finally have the courage to leave it there and post it somewhere where someone might actually read it.

Since then, I’ve received so many supportive comments from so many people that it really helped me when I contemplated (oh so many times) taking the story down. Those comments gave me the courage to continue posting this.

I know this story was very depressing, but I would like to say that there is hope for people who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, abuse. I know there are people out there who are reading this note right now who have had to deal with abuse of some sort. No matter the amount of the abuse, it’s still abuse, and it still affects the person. If you’ve been a victim of abuse, please know that it isn’t your fault. They are the one who was in the wrong, not you.

If you are in such a situation, please find someone you trust and confide in them. Please search out help. You are not alone. It’s easy to feel alone, to feel that there is no one who could possibly understand, but there are people who have gone through what you are.

For those of you who have never been in an abusive situation. I’ve so very happy for you. I actually never really believed that there were people out there who’d never experienced abuse until I began sharing this story with people. Because I grew up surrounded by abuse, I naturally just figured that everyone dealt with it, only some were better at hiding it than others.

I hope that this story has given you more understanding of the mechanics of abuse. Not all abuse is the same, and not all reactions to abuse are what have been portrayed in this story. Not everyone who has been abused will abuse others, or become addicted to alcohol, or such things; however, no abused person ever escapes without it taking some sort of toll on them.

I’ll end now (so that my A/N isn’t longer than the chapter). I would like to thank my beta, Masamune Reborn, for looking at these chapters, often more than once. I’ve had a few close friends who have been so very supportive during the writing of this (you should know who you are), I’d like to thank them too if they’re reading this A/N. I would like to thank everyone for reading, and thank those of you who have left me comments. For anyone who might have questions or would like to contact me for any other reason, my e-mail is: zakaii@gmail.com.

I would also like to leave the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” because I listened to it so often while writing this story, and because there were many things in this story that were influenced by this song. Also if you would like to download the song, you can find it HERE.

Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision
That was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
Beneath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share...
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools," said I, "you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows."
"Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed in the wells of silence.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said: "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls,
And whisper'd in the sound of silence."
Tags: stories, the sound of silence
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