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chauni

Between Pluto and God

chapter 7.

It was well into the middle of the next day when they
stopped, their legs aching, their breath ragged. The thought of staying in a
town was dismissed in fear of being discovered; in the end, Edward and Envy
found solace in the depths of some woods a mile off the road. Building a low
fire, Ed moved close to where Envy sat atop a log, his hands outstretched towards
the flames, shivering slightly.

"Of all the things to bring, you didn't think to get another
coat?" Envy muttered, scowling a little. "Do you even know the meaning of the
word 'prepared'?"

"If you want, I can take you back there," Ed shot back,
his eyes narrowing. Fingers dug into his pack, now dusty and a little worse
for wear, and pulled out bread and a cheese roll. A knife was produced a moment
later, and cutting pieces off, he began to share them with his companion. "I
have no problem with that."

Envy narrowed his dark eyes, but set to eating the sandwich.
How close to the surface did that bring everything? He was in debt. Damn, he
was in debt big, and to Edward, of all people. It made everything sting,
everything sour, made the bread taste moldy and cheese stale. He snorted, chewing
in silence, listening to the toads that serenaded them, and shivered.

At least, until something heavy fell about his shoulders,
something already infused with the heat of a body. Envy turned to look, to stare
at Edward who was moving closer to the fire, trying to get warmer now that he
had no coat. He thought of saying something, of telling him that he was an idiot
for giving up his heat, that for once, he should think of himself; instead,
he slid his arms through the sleeves and sat in silence, munching on the bread.

"Where are we going?" he whispered, watching the sticks
in the fire fall, the fireworks of sparks drifting into the sky a few feet.

"France," murmured Edward, cold hand working the knife
down through the cheese. He didn't flinch when he heard shuffling, fallen leaves
crackling, when he felt the warm arm of the gifted coat wrap around him and
draw him near.

"I heard they smell there," Envy sighed, leaning into Ed,
sharing the warmth of the insulation.

The alchemist laid his head on the other's shoulder, swallowing
the tangy cheese. "Well, it's either perfume or never being allowed outside
again."

There was a moment of silence, before Envy's cheek was
resting against the golden crown. "Do I have to decide right now?"

Not responding, the golden eyes closed and bodies melted
into one another by the campfire. Eventually, it fell upon itself, flared, then
fizzled out, a metaphor for life tangled in a five minute ordeal, but they were
asleep long before such things could hit their weary minds.

Three days later found them in France, deep enough that
they didn't have to worry about errant German soldiers wandering over and accidentally
running across them as they did trips to the store. They were in a small village,
quaint enough to be cute, but not cute enough to be clich´┐Ż. They nested in a
small studio over another restaurant, and they both paid for rent by helping
out in the kitchen below, though Edward worked far more than Envy.

They had started to build a life, one that was tangled
with one another. Although neither one were comfortable with it, there was a
security in not being alone in a strange land; they were life rafts on a sea
of doubt. Time was tense, strained, and French was a bitch to learn, but they
had managed, found pathways that language wasn't restricted by.

Weeks drifted, and they heard nothing of Germany's manhunt,
of the country's pride being wounded. They found solace only after a month,
then two, of silence, breathing out in relief as they were allowed such a privilege
as ignorance. And it was in this time that Edward brought home a bottle of wine,
fine and dusted and corked with the sweetness of a loving maker.

"What is that?" Envy asked, folding one of the shirts that
he had pulled off the line. It was still warm from the sun, fresh and bringing
his nerves of his fingers to life. Ignoring the question for the moment, Edward
disappeared into the kitchen, emerging only when he had two tea mugs in tow
(wine flutes were an expensive luxury that mattered little to them; as long
as it held the drink, it served its purpose). He took a seat on the cot that
Envy had chosen to occupy for their stay in the flat, pushing the clothes, folded
and not, onto the floor in a messy heap.

"What did you do that for?! came the indignant yell, dark
eyes staring down at the mess of clothing. "I was almost done!" "Shut up," Edward
purred, handing him a cup of wine before pouring one for himself. "No complaining
during a celebration."

Envy stared down into the swirling, almost violet depths,
before looking back up into Ed's excited gaze. "Celebration? For what?"

The sip the alchemist took made his nose wrinkle, but he
passed it off like it never happened. "Our daring escape."

"You're a little late." Envy brought the wine up to his
nose, sniffing it, trying to discover if any drugs or poison might be lurking;
it seemed clean. After a small swallow, he found it tasted clean, too. "That
was two months ago." Logic, though skewed, always went in a line that jumped
from point A to point B, and so on. Edward had gotten rather skilled at using
such knowledge in his favor. "But we've stayed in the clear for sixty days.
That means we're safe, as far as I'm concerned. Therefore, celebration."

And what better reason was there than that which was given?
Envy smiled, raised his mug, and bounced it off Ed's. "To us."

"To us."

Hours later saw them lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling,
the bottle long empty and tipped on its side on the floor. Shoes had been kicked
off, toes wiggling, the window open to let it in the night breeze. Comfort was
a blanket over the room, something so warm, so natural, that it was a wonder
that anyone could draw coherent thoughts at all.

There had been a funny antidote that had ended in laughter
before fading from fuzzy, drunken minds. Silence owned them, owned the air,
before Edward rolled over, glassy golden eyes staring across at dark hair that
spread out over pillows and blankets alike.

"Did you ever do this with your brother?" Envy wondered
out loud. His speech was slurred, the "S"s dragging long, and hard letters suddenly
going soft.

There was a moment of thought, before a quiet answer drifted
out, permeated the air. "No."

Envy laughed, nodded as his hand slid down onto the mattress
between them. "Finally, beat him on something."

Silence, before the soft pressure of even softer lips interrupted
what was turning into a 'moment'. The cot creaked as metal and flesh rolled
atop the pliable body of a human, cold steel rolling down the curves of slight
hips and delicate ribs. The tip of a heated tongue found the first scarred letter,
alcohol breath warming pink, puckered skin of a jagged "F".

Envy laughed as Ed's hair fell forward, tickled his chest
even as that tongue found the "A". His long fingers grabbed the golden strands,
threading through them, tangling and clinging like they were ropes to his salvation.
His body was a hazy sun, heat that poured from every pore and seeped into the
air about them. Edward's mouth was igniting his nerves, a flare and an explosion
back to life.

"The...the voices ssstopped," Envy whispered, back arching
as a soft mouth found the "I". Feet pressed down on the mattress, digging as
he rolled into him. "They st-stopped!"

A hand dipped, caught something, squeezed it softly, earning
him a soft moan. Golden eyes wouldn't look up, couldn't look up; they stared
at pale skin of smooth torso. "Don't...let people hear you talk like that,"
he murmured, clutching him tighter. "They might...might think you're crazy."
A voice cracked, the breath wafting up from pleasure-heavy lungs, and Envy smiled,
lips crooked. "Maybe I am."

Ed traded his tongue for his finger, tracing those letters
instead as he slid down the body. Lips found the small indent of a navel, dipped
down further, and met the hand that was so warmly gripping Envy. Before the
cool tip of his tongue met the burning secret flesh, he whispered, "This means
nothing."

The tension fell on the room, awkward for a moment before
a sweet, skilled mouth fell over his lust, forcing Envy to purr as he fell back
against the cot. Fine. Nothing. This meant nothing, but nothing had ever felt
so good, so warm to his body and his soul. Nothing had ever felt so filling.

Moonlight created shadows over walls, over floors, the
twined bodies wrapped throughout one another so deeply that they had turned
into a serpent eating its own tail: no beginning, no end. Envy's head tipped
back, fingers splayed over the strong back, the cold metal, and he could imagine,
just for a moment, that it was his name that Ed was whispering instead of his
brother's.

Three A.M. was a magic hour, an hour where Edward still
stared up at the ceiling, the cool breeze seeping in through the open window,
billowing thick white curtains. His skin still burned with Envy's touches, his
kisses, his lips and teeth and fingertips, his ears still warmed by the exclamation
that he was human, human, dammit, and that the voices stopped. Fingers
pillowed his head, his teeth catching his bottom lip, chewing it to Hell, the
guilt weighing down on his soul.

It hadn't meant anything, had told him that it didn't,
but the way Envy had looked at him...he knew his own eyes didn't match that
same wonder, that same hope. He knew he couldn't feel it, feel that human heartbeat
not because he wasn't real, but because his heart beat for another. And Envy...Envy
had to know it, too, had taunted him back at the old apartment about it. But
he had been a sliver of hope for Envy. He had shown him what humanity could
feel like, not love, but companionship. Friendship. Lust. Sanity. Who wouldn't
fall victim to that?

He growled, swinging his feet off the edge of the cot,
leaving Envy to curl up into a fetal ball beneath the white blanket. Lacing
up boots quickly and grabbing his coat, he slid from the flat, down the stairs,
out of the main restaurant and out into the night. It was crisp and quiet, near
silent, and he found the peace he needed in back alleys under the stars.

While passing between two tall, brick buildings, a rustle
caught his ear, made him whirl around. It was Envy, had to be, Envy had followed
him, wanted to know where he was going, why he wasn't back in bed. It was Envy
who would bitch and moan and whine and turn into his normal, smarmy self. It
was... ...a small orange and black tabby, staring up at him with a piece of
rotten fruit dangling from its little mouth.

Edward stared at the kitten, even as it meowed to him,
stared up at him with beady black eyes. The stripes along the top of its head
brought the alchemist back, back to a place in the rain, back to when Al creaked
when he walked and rain pelted from gray skies overhead. He smiled a little,
reaching down to scoop the cat up, to hold it to his chest, to feel the rumble
of the purr burrowing down into his torso. He closed his eyes, burying his nose
down against the fur, pursing his lips to kiss the top of the small head.

"...B-Brother...?"

The muscles down his back tightened, squeezed, as he straightened.
There was something behind him, could hear the sound of wind, of tearing,
could feel intense power run through him, through the air, like he hadn't in
years. Tears prickled the corners of his eyes; was he dreaming, still lying
in bed beside Envy, curled around him with limbs knotted? Was the wine still
pouring through his mind, making this all so close? Was it the guilt, making
him think, feel, believe? "B-Brother? Is that...is it...?"

The kitten was clutched tighter to his narrow chest, brought
in so close that it meowed in annoyance. He was afraid to turn around, afraid
to look, to see nothing there, to see his imagination completing its cruel game,
was afraid of so much disappointment. He couldn't bear it, not that, not that
denial of every hope, every dream, not now, not ever.

"I can't hold this open forever. If it...if it is you,
turn around! Turn around and let me see you!"

The kitten was a shield, a shield against the horror of
being faced with nothing, no smiling face, no beautiful boy with dark blonde
hair, no wide and hopeful smile. The kitten would give him something to hold
onto when no one met him, when it was just the dreams that never faded, when
it was a momentary lapse of reason. The kitten would pick up the broken pieces
of his soul when there was just the mouth of the alley there to meet him.

"Please, brother!"

"You-You're always so impatient, A-Al," he whispered, his
voice thick, wet, heavy. His boots scraped over the cement of the alley, forbidding
thought as he whirled in a typhoon of blonde hair and black overcoat and orange
fur. His eyes were closed, closed until he was facing straight ahead, until
he felt the fingers spreading over his cheeks, across his lips, through his
hair. "Al..." And golden eyes opened.

The air was ripped in two, time and space divided and split
jaggedly down the center of the alley with blue electric tongues lapping at
the edges. In the depths, he could see the Gate, and beyond the darkness of
that, a room that looked almost...familiar. But those were things that didn't
matter, didn't at all, because Al was there, was standing in front of him, Al
who looked younger than he had expected, Al who looked beautiful in electricity
and moonlight.

"Brother!" came the hurried yell, the hands covered in
chalk dust and blood held out, reaching out for him, trying to grab him, pull
him into the midst of the split.

"I never thought...I had st-started to give up..." Edward
shifted the cat to one hand as he rubbed his eyes, the damn things watering
from flying dirt and grit, mmhm. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, Al!"

Al grabbed the hand, tugging him close for a warm, unearthly
embrace. "You should never give up hope. As long as one of us is out there,
we will always find each other." His lips moved against golden hair, soft letters
formed sweetly. "Come on. We're going home."

Going...home. The only thing he had been working
towards for years now, and now it was here, here within his grasp, in his fingertips.
Al had beaten him to it, had found a way sooner than he had, and the thought
made him smile, made him proud, made him...complete. His brother was safe, had
fared well, was himself again, flesh and blood and bone and soul. He was a human!

A human...

"Al, Envy's here, he's hu—"

The edges of the split started to fall in on itself, slowly
working its way closed. Al's eyes widened in brimming panic, his fingers clutching,
yanking onto one arm, the one with the cat, pulling Edward towards him. "We
don't have time! Come on!"

Ed looked back up at the sky of France, up at the constellations
that looked different than his, at the moon that was so silver in the black
night. He looked up at drab buildings that littered the sky, looked down at
dead streets where whores catcalled from far brothels. He looked to where Envy
lay sleeping with dreams of sinning, to where Hohenheim poured over newspapers
in fear of finding an article on the death of his son. He looked at the world
that had been a house, but never a home, and smiled.

Edward Elric stepped through the rift just as it closed
behind him.