Afraid to Love: Going Through the Motions

By Black Rose

I thought I could do this. I thought... but I didn't think, did I? I assumed. Too blind stubborn confident to bother with doubts, I just assumed. I could do this. I can do this.

I'm repeating it like a mantra to myself, every morning when I roll out of bed. Every minute of the day, every second of every minute. Because if I don't repeat it, if I don't keep telling myself...

If I stop, I'll never get started again. And I can't afford to stop. We can't afford it.

It's only weakness, I tell myself. It's only the leftover remnants of the illness. It's nothing, it's ignorable, and I put myself back to work with Zell, with Kiros, with Selphie, with anyone who will spar with me, with every repetition and motion of the workout I have done for years. The doctors say I'm doing fine, that there's nothing wrong with me.

Liars. Fucking liars.

My body does what it needs to, the way it always has. It goes through the motions. But that's all I'm doing. I'm going through the motions. I'm doing it by habit, because it needs to be done.

Sometimes I don't even know why.

I spent five years in Garden where hardly a day went by when I didn't spend at least an hour with a gunblade in my hand. The callouses are so deep I'll never be rid of them, the grip is molded and shaped perfectly to palm and fingers, worn with use, the perfect extension of my arm. They teach us to become our weapons, because those weapons are our lives.

They've stripped it. They've reduced it to bare bones, a base model no better than what I might pick fresh off the armory shelf. This isn't mine any more - it's a stranger to me, sitting there in a case that is just as butchered, modified to fit a shorter, lighter blade, a smaller caliber... right back to the basics that I used as a cadet. It's fine, they tell me. It's matched to my current abilities. It's a superlative weapon, just as good as the one I've grown accustomed to.

And then they tell me I'm fine too, and I nod and agree. What in hell am I supposed to tell them? Nightmares? Paranoia? The fear that they've ripped something loose inside of me that I'll never get back?

It's not the strength. It's not the speed, not the power. It's not even the magic, the warm press of a spell in your mind and on the tip of your tongue. It's not that.

It's the other things. It's the things I still can't remember. It's the things Irvine knows that I can't recall even a glimmer of. It's the feeling that there's something missing, like holes in my mind. It's being able to touch gaps, to know they're there, to look back and realize - there is something gone.

I wonder, sometimes... I wonder where she is. Who she's with. I wonder who Tirol gave her to, who's mind she nests in now. And I wonder if they dream the things I've forgotten.

I wonder what she'll take from them.

It's the price we paid and we gave it willingly. But now... I feel like my blade. Stripped bare. Foreign. Empty.

The weight of it in my hands is all wrong. The feel, the heft, the swing, the trigger, the recoil... all off, strange and wrong and different.

Maybe they're right. Maybe we are matched, a flawed blade for a flawed man. And we can both go through the motions, swing, fire, recoil, and I can watch the target explode in a burst of gunfire... because the motions are good enough. The motions will get the job done.

I can do this, I tell myself. I can do this. I will do this. It's only weakness. It's only the remnants of illness. It's only the unfamiliarity bred by over a month spent flat on my back. It's nothing.

If I tell myself often enough, if I go through the motions... maybe the 'nothing' will stop being so real.

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