The Lashes of the Scourge

part 1 of Alpha kai to Omega

"So, what was it like for you?"

The thing leaned on the doorframe, arms crossed over its chest. It watched him with slitted violet predator's eyes set in his son's face—it could take many appearances, they'd learned, but it found that none disturbed his creator quite like the one it'd been reborn into, and it took malicious pleasure in causing discomfiture—if not actual pain—in others.

It waited expectantly, almost calmly, and for once it was not smirking at him.

Hohenheim didn't spare Envy a glance, though, studying himself in the silver-backed glass closely. He'd been in this form for less than a week—days of adjusting to his new height and reach, to a new face that he controlled but did not recognize, to all the peculiarities of the strange adult body in which he now found himself—but he was already beginning to note visible differences between his first examination of his new self and now. The short, wavy hair was developing a sandy cast, especially in certain lighting, the once clear blue eyes were now a muddy hazel, and some of the deeper lines around his mouth and cut across his forehead were softened and blurred; he'd even noticed that the clothing that had fit two days ago was now tighter in the shoulders and waist, and his wrists poked out beyond the sleeves.

He was—changing.

Was the soul's imprint of the flesh that had housed it so deeply ingrained that it could force this body—and any other body he transferred into—to express its memories by actually physically changing it on a molecular level?

"Dying, I mean," Envy clarified, startling him out of his speculations, and he finally turned to stare at the homunculus, an acknowledgement that made the damned thing smile. "What was it like, Father mine, to die and to be resurrected again? It wasn't the same for you, I know—> You lost your original body, but had the luxury of retaining your soul, whereas I—" It paused, licking its lips, then smirked, understanding that as much as its next barb gouged at its own self-identity, it hurt Hohenheim more, and causing pain was its delight. "Well, your transmutation merely reanimated my three-days dead corpse."

Hohenheim quivered as that arrow hit home, his expression hardening as he turned back to the mirror to resume ignoring the homunculus, but the damage had been done and Envy could see it clearly; the Sin laughed softly, mockingly.

"You couldn't leave well enough alone in the first place, and you couldn't even manage to do it right in the second. The great Paracelsus—You know, the hoi palloi say that you can restore sight to the blind, cleanse the leper, and that even your name spoken in a sickroom can turn aside the plague." Envy snorted with bitter laughter again. "If only they knew the truth. If only you advertised your failures.

You couldn't even recall my soul with the damned Stone you worked so hard to make, Master of the Elixir of Life, now could you? Seems there are some things that are always impossible, no matter what—"

The alchemist didn't answer, but stood silent before the looking glass without seeming to see the form reflected in it, his hands curled into white-knuckled fists at his sides. Any reaction to the thing's taunting was giving in to it; Hohenheim understood its game.

Envy sniffed and unfolded from the doorframe with the soft crackle of its own particular alchemical energy.

Hohenheim didn't have to look to know that the homunculus was shapeshifting; he could hear the static of it, feel the slight heat and prickle of the reaction, smell the scent of ozone wafting from its newly transmuted flesh.

"Mirror, mirror," the Sin mocked playfully, stepping behind its creator, and Hohenheim's eyes widened slightly at the sight of the thing: it was wearing his body, his first, true-born appearance, in an attempt to taunt him. It leaned on his shoulders, pressing its—his—cheek to his, grinning at their reflections with an expression that had never graced Hohenheim's face in his natural lifetime. "Seems we have much in common: you are changing, too, you know, although you will never have my abilities. You can only change into yourself—you'll never be able to escape your past."

Are these the barren firstfruits of my quest?

"Haven't you learned anything yet, Envy?

You, too, are locked into your past failings.

Yes, you look like me; you'd always wanted to be me, and you felt that nothing you ever did—no matter how good it was—could

Hohenheim pushed Envy away from him, heading for the door—it seemed that many of their conversations ended like this, and Hohenheim could only wonder how it was that Dante could stand the thing that had once been her son—but then, she seemed the have the monster tamed like some kind of savage housepet, spoiling it rotten when it obeyed and disciplining it harshly when it did not. As much as Hohenheim denied that Envy was anything of his child, it was still too close—to human, to Lucas—for him to treat it as callously as Dante did.

Too close, and sometimes the lines blurred, and Hohenheim had to wonder who he was speaking to as he walked away.

"You always wanted to be me, and though you can take on my face and form, you have not my mind, my soul, my skill. No, you have lost the ability to perform alchemy at all, much less at my level. Go on and play your little games, but that doesn't change anything

"You can seem, but you can never be."