In a world with no seeming afterlife, the souls of those whose life was cut short were sentenced to live until they found peace and ceased to exist.
Marco stood there, looking at his mangled body. He couldn't cry, he couldn't move. He just stared with dead eyes and the dead eyes looked back. Other soldiers were screaming, yelling. He could hear Franz in the distance, sobbing, telling Hannah to look at him, please, he was right there.
Marco felt numb.
He waited for what seemed like months, years, seconds. Nobody looked twice at his carcass; nobody nodded his way, acknowledging his rotting flesh. He saw how flies laid their eggs inside of him, how larvae consumed him, how they popped his skin inside out like it were paper, like it were nothing at all. He felt sick.
When Jean found him, he would've vomited if he could. He felt like saying something, but he hadn’t found his voice. He felt like crying, but his eyes were bone dry, just like his lips and his throat. The screams of the dead soldiers only kicked his brain into reverse.
He was burnt in a pyre, thankfully. Nothing but his impotence would gnaw at him now; nothing would desecrate his body any more than what it already was. He felt diluted, like a sugar cube in a cup of tea. When Jean wept, promising to join the Scouting Legion, he felt wetness well in the creases of his eyes, and he broke down holding hands with a person that couldn't feel him.
"Stop it, Jean. I hate it when you cry." Marco said. He had a voice now, but somehow it wasn't the same. He felt nothing when he spoke, not the vibration of his vocal chords on his throat, or the spit inside of his mouth. Everything felt like lines on paper, and in stark comparison with the three-dimensionality of life. Death seemed really flat.
He stroked Jean’s hair, or pretended too, until it all became too much and he had to leave. He often wandered through the headquarters’ walls, couldn't go too far because shards of his bones were kept very close to Jean's grasp, like a lifeline.
He discovered many things, things he'd rather die again than to have known. He was fated to silence, but when frustration got too much out of him, he remembered other things. He missed his mother, and all of the opportunities that life gave him and he didn't take. In retrospective, he had lived a fulfilling life, albeit short. He didn't regret it; he just didn’t want it to end.
It all took a turn to the worse when Jean stopped crying one night, when he started being happy, happier. He wouldn't call his name anymore, didn't talk to him. Marco felt himself weaker with every night he was forgotten, even if Jean was right there. He understood how Jean had felt now.
Slowly, Marco noticed the souls he had died with starting to fade, one by one. They found peace, or gave up, but they left.
Eventually, they all disappeared and he was alone.
When Jean fought for the last time, Marco cried like he hadn't done the whole time roaming as a soul. He saw the life draining from Jean's eyes and that was worse than the promise of hell, than any thought of eternal damnation, or the bitterness of silence.
It had been a long time since his name brushed Jean's lips, but as he bled dry, Marco saw him smile, saw him cringe and cry. Saw Jean looking at the skies, hoping to find him there.
"I'm sorry for everything, and I regret not having a longer life. I hope everybody can forgive me for being a dick.” Jean choked back a little laughter- a little sob “But it’s all good now. I’m coming now. I'm coming to you, Marco."
He was too stunned to notice when Jean towered over him, blinking his eyes for the last time just like he had not too long ago. He looked at him, and Jean’s tears and smile were so out of place that Marco almost had the urge to laugh, too.
This time, when they hugged, they both felt it, like the heat of the sun or the essence of their being. The last thing Marco remembers is warmth and light.