A/N: This is a songfic based on my translation of a song that is actually in Russian. The orginal song can be found by copy-pasting/searching «если иначе нельзя» (which is the song's Russian title).

Disclaimer: I own neither Twilight nor the song.

If It May Not Be Otherwise

If it may not be otherwise,

And we are on the brink of inescapable battles,

He didn't know how long it had been. He'd had a watch in the pocket of his old (own) clothes, but they'd stripped him of all that together, leaving him this undyed prison garb (no need to mark the back in red- they hardly had a fear of him running, or a doubt in their ability to find him). It had been a fine watch, given to him in lieu of payment by a man whose wife and newborn child he'd saved from almost certain death. He'd tried to protest, seeing the poverty they lived in, but the look in the man's eyes had stopped him short. Honor before reason, some might say (might have thought), not looking out for your own survival, but he understood. Everyone had (has) their lines. Perhaps it was the lines stretched across ruin that meant something.

Having given a guiding thread

And mercilessly striking at enemies,

Aro had spoken to him twice, once before he'd been locked up here, once after. The first time, acting surprised to see him there, among the prisoners awaiting judgment or execution, picking him out of the line, I'm certain there has been a mistake. He was right, in a sense- certainly Carlisle had not been among the coven members piling drained corpses before the judge's (hangman's) door, nor the one whose idea it had been to change a gang of inmates, nor even in the coven at all. So he'd been led off with the other more repentant (useful) ones, to be given a speech about mercy and a great honor. Had been kept with the two of them, would have been kept, except that when they'd looked with bright (red) eyes and said yes, he had said no.

Lord, do not let me kill,

Better, number me among the dead,

The second time was in here, sweeping in in his fine dress, speaking with that august compassion, the noble regret. Old friend, your intelligence, determination, why waste such, so many great things… He did his best to explain, again, but it was the same as all those decades ago (and why and how could it be, that someone with Aro's gift of knowing whole minds could still never see any way but his own, and could not bear to reveal his own self, weaving his lies and half- and believed truths into that curtain of words that cloaked him). Had Aro wanted the watch (had it been a vampire, and not a man), he might have arranged the saving, seeing it in his mind as 'this is the way to move him'. Caius had come to get him in the end. Had come, had stayed a moment himself looking in undisguised (honest, at least) contempt. Yours quaint and unnatural ideals will get you nothing. Would you really rather die than serve? Had Caius wanted, he would have taken, called up whatever force was needed, with no thought for the method or the mind.

If it may not be otherwise,

If it is impossible otherwise.

They'd not been his only visitors, though most of the others did not come through the door, just lifted the metal sheet to look between the bars. He pretended to ignore them (come to gawk), red eyes and incredulous, or curious, or more contempt. He knew he was a rumor- the madman who refused the guard, who 'loved' the humans, who'd been a doctor, of all things (not many believed that one, it seemed). An old friend of Aro's and clearly he was insane and here to be cured and will join us just as soon as. Or no, a traitor and that's just the face he hides behind, plotting, brought here to interrogate, and he won't hold out long, you know she comes here daily, and can you imagine, will be dealt with, nothing can threaten, of course, can stand against. The second version (and who had thought of it?) made him laugh, sometimes, or as close to that as he could come, but mad- that he could understand. The mind that is strange to us- that is our madness. To the ones who believed, it was resisting such a one-true cause. To the others, it was insisting on suicide when such a wondrous path to power was presented. Insane. Of course he's insane.

My all-seeing Lord,

You send us trials of the flesh,

But madness meant something fully different after she came. 'Daily', they said, and that might have been a way to mark time if he thought it were true, but he didn't think they were privy to her schedule any more than they liked to speak her name. He knew it, of course, from before (Jane, such a simple thing) but he only heard it said when she came not with her twin but with another. Jane, that's enough. A quiet statement, heard through agony beyond imagining, but his mind had learned to catch them (enough, sister) because they meant the desperate-for end. Someone was always there with her, every time, and it only took one look to her eyes to know why, to know that if it weren't for their word, she never would stop. She'd been the last to leave, once, and had turned at the door. They say you're insane. I don't think you are. I wonder if you could be. If he could sleep, he knew he would have nightmares of a day in which she came alone.

Then let the steep path

Bring us to your heights,

It was only when they left, when there was nothing else (though I walk through the valley) that he would open the part of his mind that knew he was tempted. Not for the service- with what he had seen, he did not trust their justice, and their power had never been a draw for him- but for the life. They'd taken his lifestyle before, after all, and Aro believed in compromise (in everything) when it got him what he wanted. To say "yes, I will serve you, if only I can feed in my own way", laugh at it with them- eccentric but harmless, you know- and live, and be free and not in this stone cage. Not aiding evil, not really- if he were dead they wouldn't feed any less than with him, would make the same campaigns and kill the same, and they did keep order, after all, did fight destruction, and many good men know to compromise (be reasonable!), and if he were alive he might get free some day, might save a life, might change a mind, and dead he could do nothing. (And there, of course, was the shadow).

That the prophet, above the crowd

Would be rising up on a scaffold,

I fear no evil, for you are with me. Sometimes, he fell into reciting prayers, both to have something to do and because, winding words and pain from outside and temptation (shadow) from within, if he didn't fight he would fall. So he whispered the words, or said them louder, sometimes, and made himself think the truth when it wasn't welcome, when his mind didn't want to hear it. There is no escaping from the guard. One of the faces through the bars, he thought, was Chelsea's. You know the power of a mob. Have a leader, have an idea, have a draw, and people follow, the good people follow, and they tell themselves it's for the right, and in the morning there's blood and ash in the square. How long did he think he could resist, surrounded like that, linked with bonds like that? A short step at the edge of a cliff (it's rock, it's safe), but the cracks are there, and it's a long drop.

If it may not be otherwise,

If it is impossible otherwise.

In the times when he was thinking the most clearly, he knew they would never allow it anyway. The guard must move as (faceless) one. As a visitor, a guest, he had been allowed to disagree, but the guard could allow no dissent, the prisoner must be broken completely. Carrot and stick, and the former was done and not returning, the latter would be used until he took the step. Until they could bring him forward and he would say yes, it was madness, and yes, I am yours now, and thank them for the cure (mercy), and bow at the honor, and speak in one (their) voice with them, and obey without a question. The guard took only the best. The guard would never accept less than all.

If it is impossible otherwise

To hear the birds' unceasing commotion,

It was only after he'd thought through that that he realized an even greater terror- not that they would kill him, but that they wouldn't. Torture, sensory deprivation- blank walls, blank floor, not even bricks to count, the door blending in except when open- and it could only get worse, stopping the others so the door would open only for Jane, sending her more often, giving her longer times, more times (I wonder if you could be). Or other tactics. The hunger was burning in his throat, harsher (starving) all the time. Bring in bodies first, the recent dead, and see how long he lasted, how long until the thirst and the 'it's not even hurting anyone' took to overwhelm whatever resistance (hope) he had. Then let him wait more, until it was unbearable again, and bring the wounded ('they'll kill them anyway').Then- (and on). He'd seen the tortured betray their families to death. Every man has a breaking point.

To see the seagull flying,

Gliding on its unmoving wing,

In the end, the only way to deal with that terror was to accept it. A simple fact of minds and lives and nature- yes, if they didn't kill him first, they would break him in the end. And some might call it a bleak thing (man cannot live without hope), but it was strength for him, because it gave acceptance, and a path. If someone folds your hands over a knife, and holds your struggle, and stabs with it, is it your murder then, or theirs? If he was turned (cold-forged) into a tool, and used as such, whose actions were the tool's? So what would happen would, and that was that, and he could give himself into resistance until whichever end, and leave the end for then. A calm acceptance of no hope his armor-cloak from wild despair. And I shall not want.

Let my friends object-

Do not give this cup to another,

He didn't know how long it had been, and he didn't know how long there still would be. Any day could be the day this 'mercy' ended, any day could be the day his will would fail or his mind would snap. Perhaps they would grow tired of his resistance. Perhaps Aro would see danger in the rumors, weakness in the idea of all this time and yet not done. Perhaps they'd say he was a spy, a traitor, take him from here and burn him where the rest would see. The window on the door opened, and every time that it was whispers it could be death, and every time that it was mocking, it could be agony, and every time it could be the last time. And so he sat and thought of pasts and prayers, of lives and lines, of helplessness, and very sometimes of hope. The idle, silly flicker-dream of rescue or escape. The tiny spark that maybe even in the living end, things would be possible (her? Oh, she isn't with us anymore. She found her mate and so she left). But mostly, hope meant death. In the end, the prayers mixed with the past, and with the pleas. You say you want to help me. (He knew it wasn't true, of course, but he's bone (deeper) weary, and it's blurring thought, and anyway, who's to say that what he sees as truth is not another woven layer) You say you want to help me. I've given help, before. That watch that I don't have now- he needed it, and I did not, but help is for the one you give it to. I took that watch from him, for honor. I beg of you to take my life from me.

If it may not be otherwise,

If it is impossible otherwise.

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