The two boys sit on the flat rock over the river, fishing. They are evidently brothers, and cannot be much older than ten, maybe eleven. The eldest—he's also the smallest, but his face is slightly sharper than the other's—casts his lure and flops onto his belly, scowling. "This is boring."
"You just need to have patience, brother," the other boy says, still as attentive to his task now as he was four hours ago. "That's what mother says, isn't it?"
"Mother says a lot of things, but I don't ever remember her talking about fishing," snaps the elder boy, and his brother laughs.
"She didn't. She says you have to have patience in everything, which you never do. You're too impulsive, brother."
"Yeah, yeah," the elder mutters, dropping the fishing rod and wriggling on his stomach right to the edge of the rock, peering down at the river. The water is tinted red with the setting sun, but he can see the silver backs of a shoal of fish on the other side. He glares at the squirming bodies, resting his cheek on one hand and twisting a lock of his golden hair in one hand as he thinks. "Fishing is boring, though. Can we go back home?"
The younger brother sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Fine, fine. Though only if you agree we can do this again at some point, brother. And that you won't complain once."
The older brother scowls, but nods. "Yeah, guess so. Now come on, you're so slow!"
They race each other through the fields and back home, the cornstalks bending under their feet and yelps of laughter ringing through the mountains.
It's autumn when their father walks on out the door, the leaves that line the meadows and clog the river all red and gold like the eyes their father passed on down to his oldest son. The boy watches him go, the man's tail of blond hair swishing back and forth as he heads down the little path cutting through their front garden. The elder brother glares at the back of his head, and the younger sleeps through it; their mother follows him to the end of the garden, calling his name. They exchange promises of some sort, but the elder boy can't hear what they're saying.
Winter comes, and passes. Once, twice, thrice, and then many more winters. The boys grow older, wiser and closer, and their mother watches them do so and is proud. She has changed since their father walked away, becoming not so warm as they remember, and the elder brother hates him for that.
Disaster strikes during the spring, when the elder boy becomes ill. Life becomes a whirling mess of doctors and physicians, and the younger brother never leaves the elder's bedside, clutching his hand as his older brother writhes silently, coughing weakly and complaining of a headache. His breathing is soft and broken; his hand is cool and damp, yet he whimpers that he is too hot, that his skin is burning and it hurts. Their mother watches them both for a short while, and leaves to confer with yet another doctor.
He watches his brother get worse, and finally, by mid-summer, he dies.
There is a huge entourage at the funeral, but their father does not attend. The younger brother stands there in his uncomfortable, ill-fitting black suit, his mother beside him, head bowed as the priest intones his brother's name and the coffin is lowered into the earth. What's left, when all's said and done, of his brother aside from a headstone and a patch of earth?
It's fall again, just past his sixteenth birthday, when his father returns, boasting to their mother that he has discovered the greatest alchemical breakthrough in anybody's lifetime. His mother smiles, but he leaves the room, slamming the door behind him.
When his father catches up with him, later that evening, he is shocked to hear of the elder brother's death. The younger brother gives vent to his frustration, pushing at the man and shouting that it's all his fault, and that if he'd just been there his brother would be alive, and he's a failure of a husband and father. He goes storming out to sit by the river, shaking with anger and leaving his stricken father far behind.
When he returns, the floor of the living room is covered in an extensive chalk array, a heap of ingredients in the center. He snorts—it's alchemy that took his father away, and the man still can't stop doing it—but pauses at the complexity of the array. He's never seen anything like it before, in all his father's notes and abandoned text books. His father kneels, putting his hands over the chalk outer ring, carefully, so as not to smudge. "Watch," he says, "he'll be back before you know it."
The alchemical light is strong, so strong he can feel the force of it on his face. The sick, clenching feeling in his stomach as he knows what his father plans makes him freeze, his mother coming to stand beside him. She rests her hand over his, and says that it will be all right, that his father knows what he's doing, and he cannot give voice to say that's what I'm afraid of. Because as much as he wants to see his brother again, he will not defy the laws of nature to do so.
The monster born from that transmutation is terrible to behold, and he feels a scream bubbling up from his throat at the sight of the exposed organs, the twisted limbs originating from parts of the body that they shouldn't. His father rises—doubles over, clutching at his stomach—and hisses, and his mother steps away, taking a small locked box from one of the bookshelves. He recognizes that box, knows it by heart; his mother once told them both never to open it, not even to touch it. He notices this with the part of his mind that isn't backed against the wall, eyes wide and hands clasped over his mouth, that isn't whimpering hoarsely.
His mother makes her way over to the twisted thing in the center of the array, flinging out the folds of her dress to crouch before it as she unlocks the little box. The last thing he sees before he faints is her hand dipping into the box, removing something small and red from inside, and feeding it to the quivering monster.
When he awakes the monster is gone, and in its place is his brother, perfect and flawless. He rises on shaky legs, staring. His mother, still kneeling on the floor but now joined by his father, who looks pale and tired, smiles up at him. "Envy," she says, "this is your brother."
The eyes his brother turns towards him are violet, rather than gold, and he shakes his head. "He's not my brother," he manages weakly, and backs away from the scene.
He dies in the winter, of the same thing that got his brother—mercury poisoning, a bitter and painful end. Envy doesn't visit him once, since he knows he seems to disturb the boy; he's been openly hostile each time they meet, hating him for what Envy sees as usurping their parents' affection. He laughed and told the homunculus—a new word, and he knows what one is rather than what it means—that he's welcome to Dante and Hohenheim, as he most certainly doesn't want them.
When he opens his eyes, thronged by Envy and Dante—but oddly, not Hohenheim—for the first time in his second life, he doesn't remember anything except that he hates them all. "I think you shall be Greed," Dante says, self-congratulation evident in her tone, but he looks over her head to Envy. Their eyes meet, and in that moment he knows instantaneously both that they will hate each other, and that they are now not who they were.
As Greed follows Dante out of the study, his eyes fall on a picture of two little boys, huge smiles on their faces. The smaller-yet-older is holding up a fish on a hook, the younger a fishing rod. He snorts, and smashes the picture frame with the heel of a hand. Things are different now.