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chauni

Between Pluto and God

chapter 3.

"Are you sure you should be doing this?"

Edward turned his golden gaze up towards the looming police
officer who had aided him earlier that day, ignoring the stunned look that was
being shed upon him. Together, they strolled through the damp basement, down
the stone stairs, around a sharp and jutting corner. Low lights hung, swayed
in the draft, casting shadows that rolled and danced and paraded proudly over
the wet walls.

Somehow, Ed was able to tune out the cries of the people
on the other side of the bars, pleas to be released and shouted rage over being
wrongly accused. They were desperate and hopeless, full of despair beyond a
human soul. He grit his teeth, threatening to break them as he shoved his hands
deep into his coat pockets. "I'm sure."

It was to the far end that they walked, their steps casting
a haunting echo around them. Edward still couldn't believe he was here, still
couldn't believe that he had somehow scrounged up the money needed to bail this
creature
out, still couldn't believe he had stepped through the front doors
and announced through grinding teeth and a bruised jaw, I'm here to free
a person you picked up earlier today
. Why did he listen to his father? Why
did he let anything that old man say register?

They stopped at the corner cell and it took a moment for
golden eyes to correct to the darkness. On a thin, rickety cot against the far
wall lay Envy, hair dripping off the edge to pool on the dusty floor. His legs
were curled high into his chest, his back bent over them, fetal position in
every sense of the word, and it was strangely...cute.

Ew.

Ed cleared his throat, watching as Envy's eyes fluttered
weakly, slowly, before shooting open in a shocked surprised akin to a mortal
wound. With a hiss, he was on his feet, lunging at the bars, hardly giving the
freed man enough time to jump back and away to safety from those hungry, savage
nails.

"Are you here to gloat? Is that it?!"

The officer looked down at Edward. "Are you really sure
about this?"

I bet I could say that he died. Or that he wasn't there
when I went to get him. Or that he didn't want to come. That old man would never
know! Or that—

"I'm sure," he grumbled, then turned his face away.

Envy took a step back from the gate, his shoulders rising
and falling in steady, heavy breaths. What were they talking about? What were
they planning? Were they going to execute him? Drag him into the street and
shoot him? Well, if they were, they had one hell of a fight coming, the sons
of a bit—

The gate swung open, no barriers, and the two enemies stared
at one another with blank faces. Was it death that this was an offer for, or
freedom? What were the payments? What...what...what—

Ed turned on his brown booted heel and started to walk
away without the barricade of any more words. No follow me or upstairs,
the lynch mob is waiting
. Just resignation. Just silence.

Freedom it was then.

Envy grumbled as he marched up the stairs, making certain
to stall for a heartbeat if only so their feet didn't fall in the same tone,
in that same second. Stubborn? Perhaps. Hands dove into deep coat pockets as
he growled, and he moved to a high desk once he crested those steps to sign
his discharge papers.

Air was sweet as they made their way outside, and Envy
made sure to take a deep breath of it. That dank cesspool had smelled of mold
and urine, and with the mingled cries of the other inmates, he had made certain
that next time...well, he would be more crafty. In the street would not be an
option, especially after he killed Edward.

"Why?" he muttered, barely over the noise of a throng of
people they waded through. When the makeshift savior didn't bother to turn or
acknowledge him, he lashed out a hand and wrapped it around the other's wrist,
halting him in his tracks. "Why?!"

A lie would get them nowhere, Edward knew; as stubborn
as Envy could be, he was hardly stupid. Gold eyes peered back over his shoulder,
flat and hard, solid. "I couldn't let anyone find out what you are."

The hand loosened, fell away, lost in the long sleeve of
his adult coat, and Envy snorted. So, obligation? Worry? What a foolish reason.
He stalked after him, dark eyes narrowing beneath a few stray strands of long
hair. "Where is he? I know he's hiding somewhere, and you kno—"

"I don't know anything!" Edward yelled, turning on his
heel with a sparking glare. "And even if I did, why would I tell you?!"

"Because we're the same!" Envy screamed. Did it matter
if he lied? Or, maybe it was a half lie, a false truth, something to play upon
like a prism that gave a different color depending on the angle? "I know how
he abandoned you, just like he did to me! He never acted...acted as he should
have!"

The same? Edward laughed under his breath, bitter, short
like the air outside. "We're not the same. Same circumstances, perhaps, but
we're not the same. Will never be the same, okay? Now, come on."

"Where are we going?"

"Home."

'Home', for all intents and purposes, consisted of a rented
apartment that had come out of a savings Hohenheim had been saving for a few
months, unknown to Ed. After begrudgingly resigning himself to gather the strayed
rat, the old man had handed over a small satchel with some money and an address
of a hotel that sold rooms by the month ("They claim it's a wonderful source
of income since so few people are traveling anymore" had been the verbal explanation,
leaving Ed to wonder who "they" were). Packing up several books, some clothes,
and his blueprints (not to mention a bit of food when the old man's back was
turned), he had come here before he had traveled to "rescue" Envy, setting the
place up in a sort of living establishment, if it could truly be called that.
Rickety, drafty walls, dirty, browned windows, books thrown rather than placed
in any order, and dishes caked in months' old food from previous tenants, it
seemed this place could be condemned easier than being cleaned.

The hinges on the door cried out as it opened, and with
a grunt, Envy was ushered into his "new home". Ed had decided that the easiest
way to keep the secret safe was to start over, a new house, a new life to everyone
but him. The old man could get out while they were preoccupied, and then, then
when Envy was busy, Edward could leave too. Sure, it was abandoning him, but...this
was Envy! If anyone deserved to be abandoned...

Sliding out of his coat, Edward hung it on a rusted hook
that jutted out of the wall in the corner, before closing the door with another
audible shriek of metal on metal. Cold eyes found Envy, Envy who was glowering
in the corner, sniffing the air as if he could find the scent of the object
of his hate still hanging in the air.

Edward glared. "I told you, he's not here! I haven't seen
him since I got here!"

Envy, defeated for the moment by the appearances of supposed
facts, frowned and took a seat on one of the dual cots. Not ready to be rid
of his meager wares, he instead leaned back onto his palms, peering up at Edward.

Silence reigned, thick and oppressive like any dictator,
and they stared across it as though it were some bridge. For the first time
that day, Ed thought of Al, dreamed of him, ached for him, wished that it was
that brother who stared at him from the bed instead of this...this monster.

"Is there anything to eat?"

The blonde head jerked up, peering at him, cursing him
for the way his daydream was shattered. "Mm," he muttered, which was the closest
to an actual word one would get from him. He moved to the 'kitchen', which was
really no more than a room with two cupboards, a sink, a dirty refrigerator,
and a hesitant stove. Grumbling, he started to pick through the drawers, looking
for the bread he had stuck up in there when he had stopped by earlier. Hopefully,
mice hadn't gotten to it already, a thought that made him mentally cross his
fingers.

The door beside him opened, and gold eyes swiveled to see
Envy rooting through the icebox, gathering the cheese. Ed thought of snapping
at him, yelling at him to get out of there, but what would that solve? Sighing,
his hand curled around the bag, and with a jerk, he dumped the bread onto the
counter. "Is this good?"

"It will have to do, I guess."

They went about eating in silence, Envy picking apart the
cheese and bread and popping them into his mouth at alternate times instead
of actually making a sandwich. Ed rolled his eyes, moving to the main room and
opening his book. Would he ever be able to finish it, he bitterly wondered?
He had gotten through the introduction, but every time he attempted to get past
that third paragraph in Chapter One, someone was interrupting. Selfish bastards.

Soft padding footprints toured past him, and Ed didn't
bother to watch Envy stroll by. The door to the bathroom slid shut with equally
noisy hinges (at least the place had a uniformity to it), and then water began
to run. The shaking of the walls, the thudding of the pipes, the slow creak,
and Edward knew that it wasn't just the sink that was being filled.

A bath. That should buy me a half hour at least.

The water stopped its constant downpour after a few moments,
and there were two minutes of pure silence before a masked hiss echoed through
the paper-thin walls. Seems the water might be a wee bit too cold, which wouldn't
be a surprise considering this unstable, shady little place. Edward could hear
the splashing, the roll of the water as it rocked back and forth against porcelain
and flesh, some of it dropping onto the floor with a whispered crash.

He had better clean that up, because I sure won't be
doing it. The slob.

And then blessed silence. Falling into his book, a small
smile fell over his lips, tattooed itself there as his mind wandered and worked
towards how this would help him get home. Home.

To Al. To the only person who ever mattered.

Time flickered by in speeds that didn't seem possible,
and he was well into the second chapter when he heard his name called out. Grumbling
under his breath, he folded the edge of the page he was on, slamming the book
closed in frustration. Now what?

"I need a towel, shorty!"

Shorty? Shorty? Who did this guy think he was? Envy
should be bowing down and worshiping him like the god he was for everything
he had done for him today, including, but not least of all, getting him out
of jail. Now he had the nerve to call him microscopic and so tiny that he could
ride a flea like a horse?!

Complete with a scowl etched into his face, he moved to
the pantry that was carved into a wall in the "kitchen". Throwing open the door,
he pulled out a coarse towel that he had folded and shoved in there quickly
earlier that day, caught sometime between making the place bearable and getting
Envy. Once in hand, he stomped to the bathroom, footsteps thunking hard with
every fall. Why didn't that idiot think of things beforehand?

There was no knocking, no polite Cover yourself; I'm
coming in
. Nothing but the turning of the handle, the push against the door,
and the squeaky swing.

"Here yo—"

The fingers relaxed, spread, dropped to the towel and let
it tent itself on the floor. Edward hadn't meant to stare, hadn't meant the
lingering look or the way his mouth dropped open, hadn't meant the way his heart
stopped or the way his foot stumbled back one step. He hadn't meant any of it,
none, but couldn't help it, couldn't stop his body from reacting. Not when he...
when he...

Envy stood in the half-drained tub, the water dripping
off the smooth flesh, coating it like layer of mercury, of diamonds in the silver
moonlight. The dark hair was heavy against his back, slick and flat, hanging
without worry, without the barricade of the headband that he continued to wear
even in this world, and his cold eyes were downcast. Across his left thigh was
his natural mark of his birth, and Ed could imagine the matching ones against
his back, against the shoulderblades, dark as dried blood. One hand was held
out, the fingers and palm curled up, demanding for that towel.

But it wasn't that which made Edward take a step back,
which made him flinch like he had. No, it wasn't the stunning beauty that was
leaking through the evil that was Envy.

It was the bright red letters carved into the flesh, jagged
from where the skin had been torn. Each careful capitol had been drawn with
a sharp edge, a deep strike, from one end of his ribs to the other, and though
they weren't bleeding, they hadn't healed either. They...they were old. They
were old.

F.A.I.L.U.R-

"Failure," Edward murmured, lips numb. "Envy—"

The homunculus stepped out of the water unabashed, the
remainder swishing back and forth and lapping at the rim of the tub. Bending
over at his waist, he picked up the towel and tied it around his chest, tying
it tightly in front, hiding the scratchy lettering behind the terrycloth. His
look was blank, his eyes flat and controlled, doll's eyes.

"They call them as they see them, apparently," he whispered,
before slamming his hands on the blonde's chest and shoving him out of the small
bathroom. The crashing of the door bounced off the walls, and the other tenants
of the hotel screamed their displeasure over being disturbed so rudely by the
noise.

"Envy..."