For all of his vanity, Envy hated mirrors.
He hated the watching eye of the cool silver-backed glass; he hated the way that they mimicked and mocked him; the way they forced him to see himself; the way they revealed him; exposed him, peeling away his layers of defenses until he was as raw and bleeding as a skinned animal, still stumbling even as blood-blossoms rose up in crimson patches, shocked but not unfeeling. He hated the damned things' stand-offishness, their faux neutrality, their inaudible laughter—he knew they were laughing; how could they not, seeing what they'd seen and knowing what they knew?
Most of all, he hated being reminded.
The mirrors remembered, and they never failed in their smug silence to remind him of everything he fought to forget: who he was and who he was no longer and who he could never be again, despite outward appearances; how he'd failed—through no fault of his own—failed at being an alchemist, failed at being a son, failed being who he had been before death had marked him as its own; the resentment and disillusionment that boiled over into rage and revilement—
—not just once, but twice—like father, like son—
—things he wanted to forget and couldn't; things he clung onto because he couldn't forgive them and for which he still—after all this time, still—sought vengeance, repayment—
The mirrors remembered that long-ago afternoon, the one that Envy didn't think about anymore—at least not intentionally, though the deep-lying memories were tattered and dog-eared from constant subconscious peeks and sideways glances. They remembered the events of that day, the culmination of that blond bastard's furious disappointment in his creation's "failures"—
—his own failures, if anyone's—
—busted the dam of sane restraint and flooded violently over, sweeping Envy away in the churning current and sucking him under, choking out with ice-cold fingers any trace of humanity that had remained in him past rebirth.
The mirrors remembered, for they had seen it. >
Seen it, because he'd—
He'd been looking in—
He was looking in a mirror, his slim fingers tracing over the smooth, quicksilver surface as he studied the not-quite familiar features of his own face; he recognized the figure reflected back to him as himself, but at the same time, it was not—it was as though the mirror inverted his coloration and made dark what was once fair, fish-belly pale what had been healthily tanned, bruised violet what had been gleaming topaz. The blood had run true from father to son, it had seemed, but death froze it cold and rotted it, corrupting the familial resemblance.
His eyes in particular interested him: unnaturally colored and slitted, utterly inhuman and gleaming with a malicious vulpine cunning of the sort he had not possessed in life. No one could say that he had his father's eyes now.
He was so intent on examining himself, fascinated by the dark secrets seemingly promised by his own feral gaze and the over-all difference between this version of him and that depicted in the paintings which hung in the sitting room—
(Funny that. The paintings had all been turned toward the walls, and the mirrors draped with black cloth; it was like there was a conspiracy to keep him ignorant of what he'd looked like and how he now appeared—or like the other residents of the house couldn't stand to be confronted with the evidence of change—)
—that he didn't notice the movement behind him. He didn't see the large blond man's coolly neutral expression slowly unfurl as he, too, stared into the mirror at the homunculus, revealing the revulsion and abhorrence he'd been carefully concealing since he'd created the thing, the utter loathing he'd been hiding from the other occupants of the household and from the creature itself for days.
If he had seen it—if he had seen what the mirror had seen in Hohenheim's face that afternoon in that moment—the moment before all hell broke loose—then perhaps—perhaps—
But no. He hadn't looked up, hadn't seen beyond himself, and what had happened had stayed happened long after he screamed his own denial of it over and over again. There was no use crying over—
—a shattered mirror—
(Could that even be said?)
—spilled milk. The past was inalterable; time was not cyclical, but linear, and fruitless speculation was a waste of time.
(Plotting paybacks, on the other hand—)
He didn't seen the expression on his creator's face, and while he was dimly aware that the man was there, he wasn't concerned about his presence; Hohenheim was peculiar, irritatingly detached, but he was not negatively tied up in Envy's lingering memories of sickness and pain, and only dimly remembered in the foggy, dreamy interval between his death and complete rebirth.
Besides, he was the one that had given consciousness—true sentient awareness in the form of matte red jewels that had tasted of blood and sulphur; his was the hand that fed, and in return for that, he was owed a certain amount of loyalty—if, for nothing else, then in hopes that he might offer more stones.
Envy purred delightedly in his throat and leaned forward, eyes half-shut, rubbing his cheek against the cool glass like a small child trying to cuddle up with their own reflection, kissing the flat surface in giddy adolescent vanity. The differences didn't mean anything to him—they were interesting, but he had little remaining connection with that golden young man in the paintings—and he liked the way he looked now, all predator-sleek and supple like a malignant-looking trickster, blurring the lines between human and inhuman, male and female, dead and alive. It was fitting, though he couldn't have explained why.
There was no word, no warning. There was simply a hand dropped onto the slope of his shoulder—startling him a little at first, but then he actually purred louder as the wide thumb traced along the alchemical leyline—that slid up to the nape of his neck and then suddenly turned savage, gripping hard and drawing a shocked mewl of pain.
He didn't have time for more of a reaction before he was slammed violently forward into the mirror he'd been so preoccupied with, and the heavy weight of the human crashed in behind him, giving him no leeway, no breathing room, no space to even recover from the surprise. The glass splintered in an impact crater under his face, and in an insane moment of clarity, Envy heard the squeal of the cracks running through the whole thing before its integrity was compromised entirely and it showered down over him in a frozen cascade of gleaming, cutting shards. Cool bluish bursts fizzled rapidly over his body as the superficial scratches healed, but he could still taste the blood in his mouth from where his lip had busted when it had connected with the mirror.
He pushed back—what in the hell was happening? This didn't make sense!—only to be thrust forward again; the larger man's shoulder crashed into the back of his head as his temple bounced off the oak frame mirror back, and the combination knocked him dizzy for a moment...
Just long enough for the transmutation.
The wood framework shot out like something alive, coiling around his wrists and ankles with the striking speed and thickness of an anaconda and crushing him down face-first into the back before freezing hard and solid again, his head turned at an awkward angle, face against his shoulder; the last jagged teeth of glass that hadn't fallen with the first blow showered down, and trickles of blood wound down his arms and chest from the deeper cuts they caused, staining his pale skin with streaks of sanguine-rust.
Other than the crash of breaking glass and the static crackle of alchemy, Hohenheim's harsh breathing and the whisper of his clothing as he moved, the attack was completely, unnervingly silent; Envy didn't cry out even once, too stunned and confused by this unexpected violence to be able to understand what was happening at first. All he could think at first was the wonder what he'd done wrong—perhaps he was not supposed to have turned over the paintings or uncovered the mirrors? Perhaps he hadn't cooperated enough with the experiments Hohenheim had subjected him to in the first two days—the blood and skin samples, the foul brews of toxic chemicals to ingest, the alchemical vivisections and painful injections?
(Ah, but it didn't occur to him for years to think that he had done nothing wrong—nothing, except fail to meet Hohenheim's expectations by simply being what he was instead of who he'd been before—by revealing that even the greatest stumbled, and that the arrogant blond bastard wasn't the god he'd thought himself to be.)
He never managed to finish the shaken inquiry; the same hand that had shoved him into the mirror latched onto his hair and drove his face forward repeatedly. Bruises bloomed and faded in rapid succession, bones snapped with audible noises, blood spattered the pale oak wood, and Envy finally screamed, high-pitched and wild in feverish terror and confusion, fighting against the wooden bonds frantically.
"Shut up!" the familiar voice hissed suddenly in his ear, holding him by a hank of hair still. "Shut up! I am not your father; you have no father! I made you, but you are nothing more to me than any of my creations—an object that exists for my use and pleasure... Nothing more to me than the crucibles I use, or the books I fill. You were not even worth the use of the stone that fuels you."
Envy shuddered violently, caught off-guard by the sheer rage in that tone and by the fierce killing instinct that rose up in his breast in response, and though he knew that his struggles were useless, he couldn't seem to stop them. Nor could he halt the word that managed to stagger free from his choked throat:
(His mind and his tongue knew no other word for the blond man; they had both stumbled awkwardly when he'd tried to call him by name, and finally he simply slipped into old patterns, letting motor memory take over. It wasn't exactly untrue; Hohenheim had been his body's sire, and then had given him the seeds his rebirth, fathering him twice over.)
"I am not your father." This time the voice was ominously calm. Envy's hair was mercifully released, and then the two strong hands swept over his shoulder and along his pinned arms; hot breath and whiskers tickled along the crook of his neck as the man leaned in against him. "I am nothing of yours—but you are all of mine, and I intend on using you as I wish. "Perhaps it will even make you shut your babbling mouth about all this ‘father' nonsense—though I doubt it. You strike me as being an exceedingly stupid creation."
Hohenheim's hands slid back down to his torso, rubbing his fingers over the slim, effeminate musculature of his flat chest and then down over his stomach before feathering out to grip his hips. Beard scraped along Envy's shoulder again, and then lips and teeth found his ear, nipping along it with sharp huffs of warm air, causing him to shudder again violently.
"No—" he whimpered softly, panting for breath though he didn't need it. Panic caused terrible vertigo—he felt unbalanced, trying to stumble for his footing even though his ankles were tightly bound to the bottom of the mirror frame—and sudden understanding of what was about to happen made him nauseous, and the combination made his chest feel as through it'd been caught in a vice. This wasn't right—This really wasn't right! That strange, hot, murderous fury licked at his heart again, and suddenly he felt much more centered; it didn't obscure the other emotions, but it threw leather lashes over them and reined them in a little, made them more manageable. Fear was weak, an acknowledgement of helplessness, but anger was strong, and it could bear the burden of his straining, breaking mind.
Down his narrow hips and over his thighs, smoothing over the strong muscle—one lingering for a moment on the ouroboros brand, finding it easily through touch alone. Blunt nails dug at the mark, trying to scratch the offensive symbol out perhaps, but the ragged gouges healed over anew each time, and finally those fingers moved on, gliding up under the silky drape that obscured his groin.
Envy's spine stiffened and he closed his eyes, pressing his face against the wood. This wasn't happening! He refused to acknowledge the menacingly hard press against his lower back, the teeth sinking into the fleshy part of his shoulder, the hand squeezing his genitals roughly—making him wince in unexpected pain—and then bypassing them to slide between his parted legs. He refused to feel it. Refused. It wasn't happening—
Fingers prodded sensitive areas carelessly, and the other hand left his ass to stroke over his shoulder again, thumb swirling threateningly over the node that marked it; they had interested Hohenheim as soon as he'd seen them marking the homunculus's body, and it hadn't taken him long to deduce that they were a weak point—the lines indicating the flow of power through the creature's body and the nodes themselves functioned as alchemical ganglions—and that there were so many fascinating—
—things he could do to the creature by manipulating the energy pooled within them.
A tremulous shake of his head.
"You know what will happen if you don't." The voice was serenely reasonable, crazily reasonable, as though they were discussing something else altogether, something mundane, something not—not this. "It's unnecessary; I'm invested a rather large amount of precious raw material into you, and I am going to get my returns on that whether you cooperate when I ask or not, so it's in your best interest to spare yourself unneeded pain."
Envy hesitated, then his mouth twisted downward. Better to go down fighting than to accept that this was just going to happen.
There was a heavy, irritated sigh at his ear, and then both groping hands left him briefly; Envy had just enough time to grit his teeth and brace himself before the large palms hit the blood-colored nodes hard, already crackling with energy, and pain—pain like he'd never known before in life or death, huge and toothed and ravenous; pain so large that there needed to be a new word invented for it—slammed through his whole body.
Envy jerked as the energy jolted through him, feeling as though he was suddenly impaled on thick spikes of electrified glacial ice; his eyes rolled back sightlessly into his head, the spittle in his mouth evaporated as sparks leapt about in the open cave of his mouth, and he couldn't scream, couldn't utter a single sound—his throat was locked shut and his chest frozen solid—he couldn't even have breathed had he still needed to.
The agony left as quickly as it had come. Envy's body lost the tension that had been keeping him tremblingly rigid against the wood but the cuffs held him firmly in place, cutting into his wrists as his weight dragged down.
For a minute, Envy couldn't make heads or tails of the command, still recovering from the vicious shock and trying to rearrange his world to make sense of the fact that there could be something so much worse than death, and then he took a deep, shuddering breath to help steady him; he focused on the down-pointing triangular marking his forehead—
(Smart bastard never did figure that out. Though he was able to puzzle out that the crimson stripes were merely the product of power lines that ran close to the skin, and that the majority of the energy channels were much deeper and not visible, he had never been sharp enough to realize that Envy's shapeshifting ability was directly related to the triangular cluster of lines and nodes on his forehead—the not-array that almost functioned as one, opening up something—
—within his mind and allowing him to access the almost limitless potential of the stolen lives powering his body in this unique and particular way.)
—and pulled in, forcing the dark clothing-like extensions of his body to recede and leave him as exposed as any naked and vulnerable human.
As bad as what might happen now—
—oh, but it was obvious what it was going to be, wasn't it? just say it already!
—it couldn't possibly be as terrible as that pain.
Nothing else could be that bad; Envy thought that if he had to deal with that again, he might—
Hohenheim's palms were hot against his shoulder blades again, and Envy twisted violently, trying at once to free himself, attempting to get away from those torturing hands, and look his—
—father in the face frantically, bewildered. He'd listened, hadn't he? He did what was asked of him! What more could he do?
(Later, he would understand that sadism was a reason in and of itself—He would understand it and he would come to own it, as often is the case when abused turns abuser.)
"Better." The alchemist pressed up close against Envy's nude form again, but his hands didn't move away from the sensitive crimson circles. "Still, you should have obeyed the first time."
The second burst of agony lasted much longer than the first. Envy thought at first—before the current tore through him and ripped away anything resembling higher cognitive abilities, stripped his mind clean of a memory of a time without pain—that surely this was hell, and that it would go on for eternity, and that was enough to nearly drive him mad.
He hung limp as a child's—
—ragdoll from the oaken bonds, barely conscious enough to notice when Hohenheim's hands slid down his quivering, sweat-lathered back. His ears were ringing as though someone had placed the great bronze cathedral bells in his head and sent them swinging, crashing into the inside of his skull, blocking out all outside sound, and making the backs of his eyes pulse; tears of blood streaked down his face like barbaric warpaint, and the trio of nodes across his shoulders were burning deep within, making his very bones ache.
He'd thought—dully, in that disjointed, animalistic mental shorthand that is more awareness of one's own emotion state than actual thought—that he wouldn't care when Hohenheim finally took from him what he'd wanted, that he was beyond caring about anything, that nothing mattered anymore—but he still screamed against the pain of his violation, screamed like an animal dying in a trap.
He didn't touch him any more than he had to, his arms reaching over Envy's shoulders as he leaned against the wall on either side of the transmuted mirror frame to brace himself as he drove his thick length brutally into the homunculus with the steady regularity of a clockwork pendulum, and that somehow made it worse—as though he really was simply an object to be used and nothing more than that.
The smell of the man all around him, the timbres and pitch of the voice that caught in soft grunts, the human warmth—it was all familiar, too familiar—tied up in the smoky traces of sweet long ago times, in the memories that lingered somewhere below the smooth surface of conscious thought—that the contrast with his current, much more vivid pain and abuse was a deep, stark line etched into his mind; his mental anguish antagonizing his physical suffering, egging it maliciously.
Glass crunched under Hohenheim's shoes as he shifted his weight, and Envy's eyes fluttered open at the sound, staring at the broken shards of mirror littering the floor, all reflecting the same horrible scene over and over and over again as it was being seen through a thousand inhuman, uncaring eyes, and it was like facing the Gate again—those eyes watching in unblinking fascination as he was ravaged and showing it all back to him, ten thousand times over—and then he began screaming again helplessly, unable to stop it and unable to shut it out.
The mirror's eyes saw it all. Saw it and marked it and smiled with jagged, shattered teeth, mocking him and his torture. There would never be any escape from this moment; it was frozen in time, preserved in the memory of the shining glass that witnessed it and forced him to stand a witness to it too—a witness to his own rape.
Finally, after what seemed like years of feeling the unnatural, painful fullness at the peak of each thrust and after decades being ripped open again and again—only to heal tight again, every time—to accommodate the cock slammed into him, there was a harder grunt, hot breath ruffling his hair, and then liquidy heat that wasn't blood filled him. The pale pinkish foamy combination of thick, viscous fluids splattered messily down the backs of his thighs as the large man mercifully pulled free of his body, and then his amber eyes flicked over the thing that had once been his own son before he rolled his shoulders in a lazy shrug; he was already turning away when he touched his hands together and patted the oak frame, turning away to other, more important things, as though reversing the transmutation that held Envy captive was a mere afterthought for him.
The homunculus fell backward and crashed into the glass-covered hardwood floor, his trembling limbs robbed of their usual grace and refusing to bear his weight. Slowly, eventually, Envy sat up and pressed his hands to his face, shoulders shaking violently.
Shards of mirror jabbed at him, heckled him with their splintery snickers—you had been nothing beautiful, nothing worth beholding, nothing of note, nothing at all, they chuckled, not until you were bleeding and screaming, walking the razor's edge of sanity—and their taunting caught at the edge of his mind, dragging out his pain, his suffering, his still all-too-human emotions. Desperately, Envy smothered them all beneath a heavy white noise blanket of safe, stifling denial, ringed ‘round with repressed rage like punji sticks hidden in the tall grass. His shoulders quivered again, and something of a wavering, crazed laugh passed his lips, startling him with its queer rustiness.
So this was the beginning of eternity.
So here was his true fall from grace.
Father, why hast thou forsaken me?!