After the Mission Begins

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: There are characters and themes in this story from Full Metal Alchemist and the Wheel of Time. They belong solely to their creators, Hiromu Arakawa and Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson respectively. I only make claims on my characters in this story, Outai and Mooney.

Chapter 1

'Do it...' a voice whispered in his mind.

He knew it was some sort of taint. It had to be! His people, his world, never knew this kind of evil, not until it infested the world suddenly and killed all of them.

All but himself and his priestess, who he was sworn to protect and secretly loved.

He didn't know why, but his chest ached badly. Odd thoughts ran through his mind - thoughts he should not have ever known after being cleansed by Holy. What was this taint? What was this feeling? Why was he considering ways to kill himself? He was too cheerful for any of this. If anything, it was his priestess, Outai, who seemed addicted to offing herself.

Except she couldn't stay dead. Neither could he.

They had lived for centuries - no, millennia - never aging, never being able to stay dead. It was their curse. Oh, he didn't mind protecting Outai. Rather, he enjoyed it. He'd give his life for her...except she'd never see it the way he did. She was still hung up on her husband and child, murdered so long ago in a bloody, and pointless, battle. But what was the point? Why did they keep on living when it was clear they didn't want to?

Holy. Holy had put a spell on them to preserve them. Holy preserved it's vessel - Outai - and the one to protect that vessel, as he was sworn to do since the disaster that befell his home world. He once worshiped Holy, this deity that brought peace and prosperity to his world, and now all he could do was curse it.

"Mooney, you're not yourself lately." a voice broke through his thoughts. "Is something the matter?"

"No, not at all!" he said, forcing a smile on his face and cheer in his voice as he turned to face his eternal companion.

Ah, but she was beautiful, even if her whole body was frozen. Her face was so smooth and dainty, she could be mistaken for a gorgeous pixie. Her hair was silky black, pulled back into a braid. Her eyes were a deep and shining forest green that mirrored eternal sadness if you looked deeply enough. Her figure was pleasantly slim, with a bosom that was just right - not too big, and not too small. It seemed her every feature was perfect, except that she was frozen. He didn't mind it that much, especially not in summer when the weather was too warm anyway.

And now he could see frustration building in her eyes, frustration that would have shown on her face if she could move any muscles in her face.

"I could pry it from your mind. You know I can." she said.

"But I also know you won't. It's too rude, and too high a risk for causing a stroke."

"But I know you better than that. You wouldn't fight because it would do that to you. You're not the type to harm yourself."

"Right. That's your job, isn't it?" he said, and as soon as he had, he regretted it.

"What's bothering you, my old friend? You are normally not so gloomy, or so insulting."

"I said it's nothing! Stop prying!" he snapped.

He immediately regretted his words again. Especially when that hurt and disappointed look came to her eyes. He had crossed the line again. He snapped at her, and used her greatest weakness against her. He felt badly for it, but couldn't bring himself to apologize. What would he say, anyway?

"Very well, then." she said calmly. "But remember this: you wanted me to talk to you about my problems. I'm your friend, just like you are my friend, so you know you can talk to me about anything."

"Yeah, I know..." he said softly, bowing his head slightly so his hair fell into his face, covering his eyes.

He couldn't take this any more. This excruciating pain in his chest, the voice that whispered to him softly and sweetly, like a lover; the racing thoughts in his head he couldn't explain, and oddly couldn't push away. He hated it. He hated himself. He hated Outai for making him feel like this. He hated everything, and hatred wasn't an emotion or thought process his people had.

This pain he couldn't stand was, at the same time, comforting. He hated the pain, but at the same time he liked it. He hated the thoughts plaguing his mind, thoughts of the various things he could do to himself, but they were also comforting. Over time, he began to embrace it all. He never feared death, but he never welcomed it either.

Until now.

Mooney stood and walked towards the forest that surrounded them, his hands deep in the pockets of his trousers. As always, his clothes were about three sizes too big, but he liked it like that. It was easier to move in, and he didn't like anything that would cling, much like the black dress that Outai wore that seemed to emphasize her luxurious bosom. Also with him was his sword. He NEVER went without it, not even when he slept or bathed.

"Where are you going?" Outai asked.

"For a walk." he said.

"Don't take too long or your dinner will burn. I added the herbs you like so much on it."

Ah, but she knew how to tempt him. In her previous life as a wife and mother she had learned a great deal about cooking, and always had a good meal for him. Every once in a while, as a treat, she would catch his favorite fish, and cook it with his favorite herbs and seasonings. Tonight was just such an occasion. Except, strangely, it didn't matter. Let the dinner, his favorite dinner, burn. He didn't care. It's not like it would be any good now.

"Thanks." he said as he continued walking.

He knew where he was going. He had long since searched the area, and found a cave some distance away. This cave was deep, and had so many dividing paths that one could easily get lost and never return. Strangely, it was somewhat similar to the cave where Outai's bygone family lay resting in their eternal slumber.

It was dark outside, more so since the trees of the forest blocked out most of the moon light and star light, but that was fine. Being half cat meant he had good night vision anyway, so he didn't need any candles or lanterns. More than that, using one would give him away before he reached his destination, and he wouldn't have that.

Mooney didn't make any source of light until he had reached the cave, and was a considerable distance inside it. In that cave there was no light at all, so not even he could see unassisted. He formed a ball of fire in front of him to light the way in the cold, damp cave. The air only got colder around him, and would have smothered the fire ball in front of him as he walked deeper into the cave, but he kept it fueled easily. He heard nothing around him, save for the occasional drip of water, and saw nothing but rock around him. Granted, the type of rock varied a bit, but it was all still stone. His footsteps echoed softly down the cave as his feet fell on the packed stone floor beneath him.

Mooney turned down a corridor to his left. It was short and led to little more than an elevated crawl space. It would do nicely. He didn't need to go far anyway. Just enough to hide for a bit.

He wasn't even sure it would work. The first time he did it, he failed. He had watched Outai try time and again, and each time she failed. It was the blasted curse. But perhaps they weren't doing it right. He would fix that.

Mooney crouched as the corridor became shorter, the ceiling reaching down further. A moment later the ceiling came up again, but he was against a wall now, and the corridor was narrow enough that he would have difficulty turning around. This would be good enough.

Mooney unsheathed his sword and planted the hilt on the cavern floor. It set with an echoing Tap! as the butt of the hilt hit the rock below. He pressed the tip of the blade to his chest, and, using his Earth element, formed a steel blade in the wall parallel to his left side. It seemed to grow from the wall itself, until the razor sharp edge met his neck. It stopped there for a moment as he gave a thought for Outai.

'Sorry, Outai. You don't need me anyway.' he thought to himself.

The blade jutting from the wall suddenly, and quickly, extended until it reached the wall to his right. The world went black, and his body, now separated from his head, fell forward onto his sword. Blood shot out from his neck in a fountain as severed arteries shot forth their crimson streams, but only for a brief moment before his heart stopped. As insult added to injury, his head now lay only a few feet from his body, with his own sword sticking out his back. He was covered in his own blood, which now oozed from his neck and his chest, cooling and congealing in the cool cavern air.

Black boots echoed down the cavern corridors with each step. A woman all clad in black, from her black knee-high boots to her black Chinese-styled dress and black cape hid her features from the world. Though the dress revealed little skin, it formed to her figure like a glove, and had a slit on each side that reached her hips. It was considered quite scandalous in her time, but she had stopped caring long ago. It allowed her to move, and that was enough. Besides, what the dress hinted at was covered by her cape anyway. In spite of her dark attire, her features were seen clearly in the pitch black of the cave as a ball of light hovered above her left hand as the right felt along the wall next to her. She had felt a darkness in her friend, and it worried her. She knew that darkness too well, and she should be the only one to deal with it. Her friend should not have to know that kind of pain.

The woman stopped suddenly as a corridor opened to her left. She smelled blood from it, and though her friend's brainwaves had stopped coming minutes ago, she could still sense him in that direction. She turned down the corridor, but did not travel far before she found what she was looking for.

In front of her was her friend, his head cut off from his body, and his own sword through his heart. The sight of his headless body laying in a pool of his own, congealing blood made her want to empty her stomach. It was FAR too close to what had happened to her beloved husband. She supposed that, at that moment, being frozen with no need for food had it's advantages. She would not be able to empty her stomach over this, even though her stomach right now wanted to. Still, she kept her calm.

She approached her friend - careful of the blade that ran from wall to wall where he had been standing - and knelt in front of him. The sight of his body like this made her unbelievably sad, and she didn't even know why. Sure, he was her friend. He was almost like an older brother to her...almost. Yet it felt just the way it had when her husband died. She felt at a loss, filled with incredible grief on top of what she still felt for her beloved son and husband, which was still as sharp as it was all those years ago when they first died. How could he do this to her? Why wouldn't he talk to her? He had ALWAYS talked to her about everything. At least now she realized how he felt whenever her grief overcame her, and she did something similar. She would have to stop doing so, for his sake, after this.

Without a word, she picked up his head and aligned it carefully on his neck. Using a combination of her powers, she sealed the wounds inside and out in a complete healing, though right now it would do no good. She lifted him to his feet with her mind, keeping him facing towards her so she would have room. Carefully, she pulled the sword from his chest with her stomach threatening to sick up, though it was impossible to do so. The sword made a sickening, meaty, squish as metal was pulled from flesh, and she cleaned it with her cape. After sliding it back into it's sheath, she unstrapped the whole thing from his waist and put it around her own. She knew he would wake up soon, and she would not risk him doing this again. All she could do now was wait. She lay him on his back, his feet towards the stone wall, and sat in front of him.

What seemed like only moments passing, had been hours. Eventually his deep, baby blue eyes peered open into blackness. For a moment he couldn't remember anything but who he was. He didn't know where he was, or why. He felt stone beneath him and cold air around him, though the air was strangely cooler above his head, which was rested on the stone floor.

His first thought had been for Outai. If he was here - wherever 'here' was - then where was she? Was she safe?

Then it dawned on him. He remembered what he had done, and why. The pain was still there - it had not gone away. So, where was he? Was he in limbo? Was he in Hell? Oddly, he had imagined hell to be much warmer.

He lit a ball of fire above him so he could look around, and sat up. Around him were stone walls and a stone floor, and in front of him, sitting on the floor with her arms around her knees, and her knees to her chest, was Outai. Her head had been bowed to her knees until she noticed the light and peeked up. Oddly, though her face was frozen and unable to change, she somehow had dark circles under her eyes, and if he didn't know better he'd think she had been crying. She said nothing and put her forehead back down on her knees.

He didn't know what to say. He knew he was being foolish - she had done that to him, but he had no right to do that to her, and besides all of that, neither could stay dead. Still, he tried anyway, like the selfish coward he was quickly becoming. He couldn't stand himself. He'd hurt her twice in one night, and if she could cry, then he'd made her cry on top of that. She was the most important person in the universe to him, and he'd hurt her.

"Outai, I..." he said, but he didn't know how to finish.

"Now I know what I've put you through." she said quietly. Had it not been for the echo, he wouldn't have heard her at all.

"I'm...sorry..." he said as he sat next to her, his knees to his chest, encircled by his arms.

"You didn't learn from my mistakes? You didn't learn from your first attempt, before finding me again? Why wouldn't you talk to me?"

"I'm sorry..." was all he could say.

He knew why he wouldn't talk to her about it, but he couldn't tell her. It lead too close to a subject he didn't want to approach.

"'Sorry' isn't what put your head back on your shoulders. It also didn't pull your sword from your heart, or clean it for you." she said sullenly.

Mooney heard a soft Plink! Plink! echo in the corridor suddenly. He looked towards the source, and found little bits of ice falling to the cavern floor, though the air was too warm for ice, and there was no source to drip. They had come from Outai.

"I know..." he said as he placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her, "I just..."

Before he could finish, before he realized what was going on, he was on the cavern floor on his back, with Outai hugging him fiercely. Ice dripped on his chest, which was still wet with his own blood. He could feel a couple pieces of ice find their way through the hole in his shirt and drip onto his skin, causing him to shiver with the sudden cold. He couldn't hear her sobs, but then again, her real 'voice' was only telepathy, and she wouldn't waste telepathy on sobs.

"If you ever do that again," she said, her voice calm though her body was tense, "If you ever leave me behind and alone again, I'll kill you myself, and then I'll follow you."

Mooney flushed a little. Considering the situation, it was appropriate. The only time she had ever hugged him - and certainly never snuggled him! - was when he had chastised her for trying to kill herself not long after she reclaimed the powerful stone that rested in a locket around her neck. She was never this close to him, and if anything seemed almost stand-offish. She was too hurt from the death of her family to let anyone close, including him. And yet here she was, laying on top of him, sobbing in his arms like any normal woman would do with the man she loved. The thought alone made him blush more. He knew she didn't love him, at least not the way he loved her, and it pained him.

Suddenly he realized where the pain had come from. All the pain, the hurting in his chest that lead to thoughts unwanted, had come because of his unrequited love. He'd heard of people becoming suicidal for it, but never thought it would happen to him. He was too strong for that, or he had been. How had he grown so weak?

Mooney sighed to himself, but did not move. She was never close like this, and he liked being so close. He was afraid that moving would make her move away from him, and he didn't want that. So, instead, he wrapped his arms around her, hoping she would somehow feel what he felt for her, and be comforted.

"I'm sorry." he said again, nestling his face in her hair, "I won't do it again."

"Promise?" she asked sullenly.

"Yeah, promise."

"Thanks, Mooney, and I promise I won't hurt myself intentionally again. We should go back to camp, though. Your dinner burned hours ago."

"Awww, but I like being here like this!" he whined.

Outai looked up at him, glaring a bit, but she didn't move.

"Okay, we'll stay here. But only this once, and only because I don't want you out of my sight until I know for certain you're okay. Promise me something else. Promise me that if you ever have a problem, that you'll talk to me about it. Don't bottle it up any more."

Mooney sighed to himself. This one was more difficult. His only problem was her, and he couldn't tell her that.

"Promise me, Mooney." she said more firmly when he hesitated.

"Alright, I promise..." he said finally.

"Good. You can start by telling me why you killed yourself."

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Image: NOT MINE! Came from Natsumi_chan150 on Deviant Art

Coding: Kim <3