chapter 1.

He has forgotten how long it has been. It seems like an eternity, days of pain and terror blending into one another until all that is left is horror, stretching back further than he cares to contemplate. Sometimes he thinks that it has always been so, that he has always been lying here, in this small room, where the only visitors are Them, coming to prod him with their tools and hurt him and hurt him until they leave and he is alone in the dark again.

But he knows it isn't so—he can remember that in the beginning he hated Them, whereas now he cannot hate Them because when they come he is not alone in the dark anymore, for a little while. So he knows that there was a Beginning, and there must have been a Before which he could remember if he tried hard enough... except that when he tries all he feels is fear and guilt and shame and pain, a horrible, bone-deep pain that is somehow worse than all the pain from Their knives and tools.

So he tries to forget that there was ever a Before, a Beginning, because remembering it simply hurts too much. There is only the Now, with Them, although They have not come for a long time.

He knows that because the last time They came They gave him food and water. They bring it sometimes, always enough to last for a while. But now it is all gone, his stomach feels numb from hunger and his throat is dry and They have not come since.

He wonders if They have forgotten him and it makes him feel small and cold. He does not like it when They hurt him, but They bring him food and when They come there is light. If They have forgotten him he will die here, all alone in the dark.

And suddenly there is light.

He squeezes his eyes shut and whimpers; it has been so long since They came that the light hurts him and blinds him. He can hear Their footsteps and wonders what They will do to him now. He only hopes They will give him food.

"Hey, kid?" The voice is strange—it is deeper than any of Theirs and less harsh.

"Kid, I've turned the lights down. You can open your eyes now." He is afraid—his eyes still hurt and tear—but also curious; who is this voice? He is not one of Them. They never speak to him like this voice does—softly, quietly, as if worried about the words' hurting him. They never worry about hurting him at all.

He opens his eyes slowly, blinking against the spots he is still seeing. The lights are low now, just so that he can still see but his eyes start to hurt less. The voice belongs to a dark-haired man, crouching in front of him. The man cannot be one of Them—he is wearing dark clothes, a black jacket with a pale collar, and They always wear pure white coats.

"Is that better?" No, the man cannot be one of Them, because They stopped asking him questions a long time ago or so he remembers dimly. But the man is waiting for an answer, so he nods.

"Good. Now, kid, what's your name?"

Name? He had a name, once. It belongs to the time Before and he shies away from remembering it. But his tongue remembers even if he does not, and he licks dry lips and chokes out, "Ed—Edward."

It has been so long since They have last asked him questions, since he has last spoken, that his throat aches from the effort. But he doesn't care, because he has a name now.

Edward... he sounds it out in his head. Edward. ED-ward. He has a name and his name is Edward.

It is a good thought.

The man smiles at him then, exposing sharp, pointy teeth that seem very out-of-place in his human-looking face. Edward seems to remember that once, this would have frightened him. But now he has a name again and this man is the first who has been nice to him in a very, very long time and he is not frightened.

"Well, Edward. My name is Greed and I'm leaving this place, together with some others. Do you want to come?"

Leave? Leave this place? He is confused. He is afraid of what They will do to him if he tries to leave and They come back. But They went away, left him alone in the dark for a long time and Greed was nice to him and wants to take Edward away with him. And Edward really wants to leave. He tries to imagine there being an After, not just a Before and a Beginning and a Now, and although he fails he knows he would like there to be an After.

He nods and tries to stand, but his knees are weak and something is wrong with his left leg so he collapses to the ground again as something clatters. It hurts and a moan escapes him.

Then Greed is beside him. "Shh, Edward. Don't try to stand, you're too weak." His voice is still soft and quiet, as if he were approaching a particularly skittish fawn. What is a fawn anyway? Edward has forgotten.

"Just wait, we'll have you out of here in a moment. Why were they so worried as to chain you anyway?" The last is said contemplatively and even more quietly than before, as if Edward isn't quite meant to hear it.

Edward shrugs. He doesn't remember.

There are several clinking and clattering noises as weights he didn't quite realise were there fall from his left wrist and right ankle. He carefully stretches out his limbs—yes, it is easier to move them than before.

"There you go. Now—" Greed stops, staring at him. Edward blinks, puzzled, and looks down at himself too.

There is a sinking feeling in his stomach where he sees the empty space where his left leg should have been, but for some reason he is not surprised at all. He is not surprised either when his eyes, of their own volition, travel up his body to his right shoulder. Or rather what's left of it.

"What the hell did they do to you?" Greed hisses, his voice growing harsh for the first time.

Edward flinches, shakes his head. "No... me." His throat is on fire and his tongue moves only sluggishly, but he forces the words out. "I-I did. My fault."

And this he is sure of, that his missing leg and arm, along with the burning feelings of shame and guilt he is feeling, belong to Before. That the loss of his limbs was solely his doing. His fault.

"Shhh. It doesn't matter, just don't try to talk. It doesn't matter," Greed murmurs. His voice is soft again and he looks apologetic. "Lie still and I'll take you out of here."

He kneels down and carefully touches Edward's shoulder—the left one, the one that is still there. His fingers are warm and gentle but Edward remembers Them and Their knives and needles and pain and he stiffens.

Greed draws his hand away. "I'm not going to hurt you, Edward. Please believe me."

Edward does believe Greed, it's just that his body has been hurt too many times and doesn't believe anyone anymore. His throat hurts too much to say that, though, so all he can do is nod.

This time he suppresses his flinch when Greed touches him, and soon Greed has gathered him into his arms and is slowly lifting him off the ground.

It is an odd feeling, being carried. Edward thinks he can remember someone carrying him once, but it must have been Before because the memory is barely there and in any case They never carried him. It is... nice... being carried, feeling Greed's heartbeat against his cheek, Greed's warmth soaking into his remaining limbs. Edward relaxes against Greed's body and thinks he can see him smile.

"Mm... Greed?" Talking is easier now, Edward finds, his throat not nearly so sore. In fact, everything is hurting less. "Why're you... nice?"

"Don't try to talk, Edward," Greed says absently. "You mean, why am I being nice to you?"

Edward nods into his jacket, eyes falling shut.

"Because you're one of my people now." One of Greed's hands comes up to stroke Edward's hair. "And I take very good care of what's mine."

As Edward falls into sleep, he thinks that that is as good a reason as any.