Coins to Cats

chapter 1.

This wasn't how things were supposed to end.

It wasn't right. It wasn't fair!

It wasn't right that those bastard children of his hated father should take so much more away from him than they already had simply by existing.

It wasn't right that they should even come this close to succeeding.

Envy was enraged.

He'd lost everything in the course of a few hours; all the building blocks that he had thought so stable, the ones that had comprised the his basic reality for centuries on end flawlessly, had come tumbling down on his head, as had everything he'd taken for granted as being eternal and unchanging.

Dante had fallen into the trap of her own hubris, blinded by both her lust for power and for the blond bastard's pretty little boy—a mirror that allowed her to look back in time and try, foolishly and vainly, to live out her perfect storybook romance with her brilliant, handsome long as she ignored the fact that Edward was not his father and never would be, and that he was undeniable proof of Hohenheim's love for another, inferior woman, that is (she would have killed the brat within a few weeks, Envy was sure; or else scrambled his brains enough so that he became her the perfect, idealized lover who acted just as she wanted and walked between her lines); she'd been so distracted by the young alchemist's deadly waltz with Envy, her eyes shining as she leaned forward hungrily to trace each whirling kick, that she had been incapable of even realizing that her own death, tastefully dressed in a sleek off-the-shoulder black dress and elbow-length gloves, had crept up behind her, a smile curling its plump lips, until its fingernails shot out in quivering arcs through her weak, rotting breast and tore her to pieces.

Envy had whipped around at the sound of the high pitched scream as it choked down into a wet sputter, forgetting momentarily that he had to keep that short shrimp bastard distracted or the damned brat would cheat and use alchemy; he'd missed the sharp slash of Ed's victorious grin as the blond clapped and dropped to his knees, as he slammed his hands against the floor to burn the terrible binding array deep into the wood.

The game had already been won by then...though unfortunately for Envy, Ed had only begun to play in earnest.

"I'm going to kill you," he hissed again, twisting Al's wrist until the blond squealed in pain. It would be easy, he thought grimly, too easy. He wanted to rip the little bastard apart, but that was too fast and wouldn't satisfy his need to make one of those directly responsible for his suffering feel the extent of his hatred and rage. He laughed then, imagining how good Elric blood was going to taste, still warm and fresh in his mouth as he ate up the life of the freshly restored body, the body he'd so unwillingly paid for. "You'll be with your brother soon enough."

Al's fist took the Sin completely by surprise as it slammed into his face.

"No..." He rotated his captive arm in Envy's grip with the limberness of a weasel and threw his weight to the side, gaining leverage for a bare second...a second long enough to twist around the homunculus and jerk his own arm around his throat, dancing with Envy as he bucked and snarled, trying to throw the blond free.

This wasn't how things were supposed to continue.

He'd been so wrapped up in his fantasies of revenge that he'd missed the dark gold brows furrow down and the pale brown eyes, still overflowing with tears, harden with resolve and the will to survive, and the damned brat had gotten the jump on him.

Al's breath rasped damply against the side of his neck as he struggled to hold on with limbs almost unfamiliar to him, ones that had been unused for four years, and he had to stumble on tiptoe as Envy dragging him around, but the Sin's legs were already starting to tremble underneath him and he was beginning to wheeze and pant...and that threw him into even more of a panicked rage. He wasn't supposed to feel tired or weak; he possessed the endurance of a demigod and the tyrannous strength of a demon, his body fueled by the thousands of human lives running red like blood, like liquid cinnabar, through his veins...

...the thousands of lives that Edward and the Gate had ripped out of his undead body in exchange for the flesh of the boy he was trying to kill.

"I suggest that you stop fighting, considering that you're lucky to still exist—Envy."

Envy froze for a moment, and then his lips curved up into a vicious little smile as he straightened up and looked up through the long tangled strands of his hair at the dark-clad form that separated from the shadows and leaned against the corner of the church.

"You bitch," he spat back, clawing at Al's grip on his wrist with his free hand. "You treacherous, backstabbing bitch!"

Lust smiled coolly and unfolded her arms from under her breasts, lifting one hand toward him elegantly in threat. "Let go, Envy. Even you have to know that you can't take on both of us—not now, in the shape you're in. I don't think there's enough of the stones left in you; if I kill you this time, you might actually stay dead."

Al leaned over Envy's shoulder—making the Sin utter an indignant pained squawk as the pressure increased on his throat as the young alchemist pulled himself up using the headlock he had on him for leverage—to study this newcomer into their game behind the shield of Envy's cool flesh. "You... Who are you? What do you want?"

Lust raised a brow at the tuft of blond hair and cautious eyes, then smiled again, tipping her head to the side. "So he was right—it worked. But where is he? Where's your brother?"

"Brother..." Al whispered the word, his heart sinking again, and his eyes burned with unexpected tears. His grasp on Envy slackened and he slid free, stumbling back a few steps. The wound was so fresh as to still be steaming with hot blood, and he wasn't even sure what he was doing left alive suffering from it; surely it was a mortal blow. He shook his head a little, hopelessly: his brother was taken from him; he was in a strange place, naked, unarmed, and already exhausted from the fight with the murderously angry androgynous boy; and now there was someone else involved...

Envy rubbed his reddened throat and coughed, glaring daggers at Lust. She was directly responsible for his present state and the suffering the bastard alchemists had put him through...but she was right. He was far too weak now to try and fight her directly, and the thought was vexing, especially in light of how easily he'd beaten her before for Dante's amusement and for his own as he broke her in and taught her who was the top dog of the homunculus pack—and retaught her, as was necessary; Lust had been a disobedient creature, foolishly stubborn...but Envy had always thought that perhaps, perversely, she had enjoyed her discipline.

"What do you care what happened to the shrimp? Shorty's cock couldn't have been that much pleasure for you that you miss it..."

A single black talon vibrated as it halted an inch from his eye. "I didn't ask you," she purred, looking infuriatingly smug.

Envy's face contorted in rage.

Al took a deep breath and rubbed his throbbing head, feeling waves of exhaustion wash over him. His whole body ached and his lungs still burned from the chemical aftermath of the transmutation; his skin prickled with chill as a slight breeze swept over his bare skin, and he was beginning to feel a little dizzy and sick. This conversation had to end. The enemy of his enemy still couldn't be trusted to be his friend, but he didn't have a choice but to proceed carefully and hope for the best.

"B-Brother... I... I don't..."

"What? You don't remember?" Envy sneered into the stuttering hesitations. "You hit your head or something? Or maybe you're just as stupid as your shrimpy sibling?"

"Shut up!" Al finally yelled, his voice cracking and shrilly. He winced at the echoes that bounced and reverberated off the stone church and through the dark streets. He took a step forward...and then his knees wobbled under his weight and threatened to spill him back onto the rough pavement, and he grabbed at the homunculus reflexively.

Envy snarled in disgust and tried to throw the blond boy off, already feeling his own legs buckle under the additional and unexpected weight, and as Al dragged him to one side, he felt something cool press into his cheek and he flinched away instinctively.

A single red slash marked his face.

Lust smiled again, broad and amused, and she retracted her nails as a single heavy drop of blood ran down from the lower edge of the cut to his chin. She stepped forward, her heels clacking on the sidewalk and reached to offer Alphonse a hand up, which he took gratefully, although he was still confused.

Envy reached up to touch the strange wetness, his eyes wide and breath coming hard between his teeth. He flinched visibly as his shaking fingers found the cut. "Nnnn... No... No! No! Nonononono!"

It wasn't healing.

He flew at the other Sin suddenly as his intermingling rage and terror shot through his body and gave him another burst of energy, his fist cocked back. He wasn't thinking—Envy wasn't a logical creature—or else he might have recognized this as a bad idea before Lust's nails shot out again and slammed him back against the wall of the church hard enough for the ancient plaster to crumble down in a grey shower, pinning him there by his shoulders.

Envy snarled and fought against his entrapment for a moment, spitting terrible, vitriolic words...and then his eyes blurred and unfocused, and head rolled forward in a lazy arc. Lust retracted her talons, and he fell loose and limp to the ground.

Al sucked in a short breath, trying to steady himself, and he looked up at the woman-like thing he clung to for balance. "What are you going to do to me? To..."

"Equivalent trade..." Lust murmured, and then shook her head, something almost like wistfulness crossing over it as she glanced at the naked Elric leaning against her, his face flushed faintly pink from exertion and embarrassment but his eyes hard with determination. "I could do anything I wanted. You're in no shape to fight now..." She'd made her deal with Edward, and Alphonse didn't even seem to remember what had happened, but... "You need food and rest. You're exhausted."

Al nodded slowly. "As much as I don't like it, it seems I don't have a choice but to rely on you to help me. What about him?" He gestured at the unconscious heap that was Envy.

Lust regarded the other homunculus quietly for a moment. "It'd be easiest just to kill him."

"No. That's not an option." Al shook his head. Many things about his currant situation were confusing and unknown to him, but about that he was certain. There would be no more death and loss, not even of this strange, cruel being who'd laughed at his pain and had tried to kill him. "He's dangerous, and I can't trust him. He's injured, too, though... We should bring him with us."

Lust glanced down at the boy again, and then her expression softened a little. She wasn't sure if he was moved more by compassion or by the simple logic of keeping your enemies close, but it didn't matter. She nodded once.

"He's your responsibility then, since you've spared his life."

Al nodded again, his head feeling heavy and thick. He wasn't about to argue; he was too tired.

Lust tried not to grin.

All of Envy's "kindness" over the years would be repaid in spades.

This would be the worst kind of torture he'd ever have to endure.