chapter 2.

Envy was unnerved.

More to the point, Envy was afraid, but the latter condition happened to be one that he could not allow himself to feel; fear was far too weak, too human. What did he have to be afraid of, anyway? Not the short shit, not his bastard of a father, not this foreign new world, not the future, not his newfound inability to slip from form to form with the ease of a serpent shedding its skin.

The last one might have been a valid reason, he conceded grudgingly, even if he refused to admit this aloud. If a being went for four-hundred years with a capability as natural to them as breathing, then had that power casually and abruptly stripped away, acceptance did not exactly make for an immediate response.

Not that the stunted stream of piss needs to know that...

As they walked through the broken, mostly abandoned streets of whatever city this was, Envy's wary gaze never departed from the blond's face and back. Since Edward was apparently more familiar with this alien landscape than he was, Envy allowed the other to lead, but he kept only a couple of steps behind him, ready and eager to pummel the brat should he decide to try anything sneaky. Edward had that irritatingly defiant look upon his face, that look which screamed fuck you as loudly and passive aggressively as a person could convey through silence.

Envy gritted his teeth, half-wanting to just ignore the arrogant fucker and half-wanting to kick the alchemist's teeth in, knock him down, and stomp on him. He kept his wet, sweaty hands at his sides, but he could feel them itching to hit, to break, to hurt and kill. Edward looked inane, drenched as he was in filth, bloodied up, hair a rat's nest, and one arm ripped away; what gave him the fucking right to still appear so stubborn? True to the Sin's name, he resented the boy for his seeming lack of fear in a situation where he should have rightly pissed himself to hell and back by now.

Envy knew he resented the boy. He refused to believe that this might have been a byproduct of jealousy. Regardless of the name Dante had bestowed upon her former son all those long years ago, Envy did not think of himself as being envious of anyone. That, like fear, would have been too human, and given that he was far superior to humans, what the hell did he have to be envious of? Nothing!

Edward may have embodied everything Envy had ever wanted, may have gotten it all by right of birth, by virtue of being the lucky son, but he was still a damned human. He didn't even have all of his limbs! How laughable; how utterly pathetic! Edward Elric was nothing but a short double-amputee who would have been forced to wallow in the mud like a pig if not for a couple of clunky pieces of junk.

So why in the fuck do...

Envy severed the thought's neck before it could have a chance to continue speaking to him. His mind happened to be a very linear thing; four-hundred years of practice had honed his focus to an impeccably thin point. Envy set goals and worked toward them. Anything else besides his own wants and needs was meaningless fodder, chaff before the wind.

Cities fell; perished. Ishbal went the way of the sands it sat upon—tossed away in one strong gust of wind. War had demolished Lior. A multitude of humans had decorated the streets; dark red flowers had bloomed in gardens of flesh and sinews. Envy remembered all of the details perfectly: wails of anguish wrapped in the sound of gunfire, smoke billowing in the sky, acid rain, shredded streets and crumbling buildings.

In the end, nothing had remained. Nothing ever remained. Time crushed humans and their feeble establishments. Villages and cities Envy had seen laid to ruins; many times he had participated in the razing. Humans were sickeningly finite, but Envy was not. Hatred itself was timeless, and this particular grudge had been centuries in the making. Envy's wounds had long ago closed, but the scars within him refused to fade.

One way or another, he had other concerns at the moment.

"Where the hell are you taking us?" he asked of the blond in front of him. There was no shortage of irritation in the inquiry. Envy still suspected Edward had some ulterior motive, some sneaky plan, mainly because he would have in the boy's position; Envy was jaded and perpetually incredulous when it came to the supposed good intentions of others.

He was dishonest. He had misled his fellow homunculi, had used them without a sliver of remorse. He saw the world through a veil of indestructible cynicism: humans were foul, stupid, whiny, and more than ready to abandon their supposed loved ones at a moment's notice. No matter that some of them had pretenses of compassion; Envy knew better. He had seen wars firsthand. He had seen the level of hate a human being could produce; he had witnessed what 'good' men did when a lust for blood was awakened within them.

Everyone is a killer on the inside...I wonder if the little bastard has accepted that yet...

"The last time I was here, it was dark out," Ed muttered, turning to give Envy a glare that just radiated petulance.

Envy had to quell the urge to cuff the brat hard enough to knock him out. Instead, he just frowned bitterly, seething. What the fuck was the kid talking about?

"You're going to have to give me a chance to get my bearings straight," Ed continued, either ignoring or just not noticing Envy's annoyance. "If you want the truth, Envy..." There was a pause, a second or two to let the oh, shit nature of the revelation seep in. "...I don't recognize any of this area."

Envy growled, grabbed Ed by the collar, and promptly pulled him close. "What the fuck do you mean you don't recognize it?" He gesticulated harshly, throwing an arm back as if he meant to swing a punch at Ed. The blond did not move; he simply stood there, eyes narrowed, a tiny frown of indignation twisting his lips. Self-righteous incarnate, Envy thought; he wished Edward would react, throw a damned temper tantrum or something. When Ed just stood there, looking stoic, resolved, and pensive, he reminded Envy too much of...


"What do you think I mean?" Ed countered. Breath slid between his teeth and lips in a low hiss. Envy watched his body language, gauging his exasperation. Stupid little human was probably sore as fuck after the beating he had been given... "I think what I just said was pretty damned self-explanatory! Maybe patience isn't exactly your strong point, but you're just going to have to get over it! I can't pull Dad out of thin air, y'know. I'm an alchemist, not a god!"

Envy felt one of his eyes twitch. His immediate response to Ed's caustic tone was a backhand across the face. Watching the blond stumble awkwardly, his balance devastated by the missing limb, Envy could not help revealing his delight in the form of a feral grin.

Not surprisingly, Edward fell to the ground and rolled over, visibly struggling and straining to push himself up. Envy watched, snickering. Once Ed had managed to prop his weight up on one elbow and his knees, Envy went for a kick to his abdomen, but the youth rolled out of the way and found his footing with an alacrity Envy secretly marvelled at.

Ed gasped, then panted, body trembling with exertion and eyes smouldering with newly re-kindled rage. It took a great deal of heat to melt gold, but Envy was beginning to think he had just found success. Good, good. This was what he had been hoping for. Anger. Burning acid consuming everything in its path. Envy could understand that; he could deal with Edward as long as they stood on an even playing field, but the Sin could not permit this young, brash, insignificant human to act unperturbed—not when he himself felt unsure and afraid.

Edward snarled; beneath the vomit, dirt, and blood, his face had contorted to become a tangible manifestation of hatred. "Do you think that's going to help us out any, Envy?" he demanded. "Because I sure as fuck don't think hitting me is going to cause me to find Dad any sooner!" He turned, spitting upon the side of the road. A hand went to the empty socket; fingers stroked the automail port longingly.

"No, it won't," Envy agreed, smiling with pseudo-sweetness as he tilted his head. "And neither will taking that smart-ass tone with me. You show some respect and maybe I will, too."

Inwardly, he chuckled to himself even as he said that. Heh. As if. Hohenheim stayed number one priority, of course, but he was definitely looking forward to eliminating the both of them. Edward would perish as soon as he had outlived his usefulness...which hopefully would be soon; Envy could not stand the sight of him. He hated his attitude, his hubris, everything about him...Hohenheim's son...Hohenheim's son who had been beloved by his father and mother...

"People are giving us strange looks," Ed said suddenly, ending the observation by swallowing hard enough for Envy to hear. Envy remained quiet as Edward glanced this way and that, giving the surrounding area a few cautious scans. The blond looked curious, though probably only passingly so. His words had been spoken with barely more breath than a whisper. Insistence laced Edward's tone, suggesting an unspoken plea for them to leave, to seek shelter, maybe.

For the first time, Envy considered their location as something real, something more than a mere hindrance. With the grace of a dancer or a gymnast, he shifted on the balls of his feet, turning to inspect the city and its inhabitants. His jaw clenched.

Large city, but nothing special...nothing he had not seen before in Central. The buildings, streets, and people seemed drenched with dreary, sullen-faced resignation. Envy saw that people's eyes were turned toward he and Edward, yes, but the boy was severely mistaken if he thought anyone was actually looking at them. Nondescript, ashen faces marked the sparse number of people milling about the sides of the street. Envy recognized the anxiety lining eyes and bodies; he considered himself intimately familiar with the panicky concern for self and disregard for others which flourished all throughout this shaken terrain.

He pondered, then licked his lips. "War, right?"

Edward steadied himself and regarded Envy with an unusually solemn look. His earlier fury looked to have dwindled away as quickly as it had come; some fires burned so hotly that they extinguished themselves in a hurry, as Edward's passions did; other flames kept embers glowing for a long while, as Envy's enmity toward humanity had managed.

"Yeah," Ed replied at length, nodding. Golden eyes stared coolly at Envy. "If this is the place the Gate sent me before...then yeah. They're at war. They have machines which can go into the sky."

The discovery which had shocked Edward so thoroughly did not have an effect upon Envy. The homunculus was busy thinking about what a logical course of action would be. So far, Edward had proven to be of no help at all, and Envy's patience was waning. He did not have an eternity in which to accomplish his ultimate goal; although theoretically an immortal being, Envy needed sustenance in much the same way a human did. Dante and her red stones lay on the other side of the Gate. The nexus between worlds had closed itself off to Envy, and unless he could get the short shit to help him open it again, then he wouldn't be able to return to Amestris...

...not that the stones couldn't be forged here, of course. Even though Envy and the other homunculi had failed to coerce Ed into making a Philosopher's Stone in Laboratory Five, Envy felt certain that he could be a little more persuasive now that Lust wasn't around to get in his way. A war-torn world had to make a ripe breeding ground for the stones of life.

Though...if I can't transform, maybe the crippled fuck can't do alchemy...

Envy did not intend to jump to any conclusions about that, though. He did not even want to think about what a lack of alchemy would mean for his fate.

Of course, if I can kill that fucking bastard... then it really doesn't matter, does it?

Just as the silence between himself and Edward had begun to grow uncomfortable, a droplet of rain struck Envy on the nose. He gave the sky a disinterested glance, then looked at Ed, who was already beginning to appear perplexed by this sudden change in their situation. The blond gave Envy a blank look that nevertheless managed to be a very telling one. Obviously, the boy was wondering why in the hell they were standing in the streets getting rained on.

Envy grunted, rolled his eyes, and sighed. He had to wonder the same thing.

Still, he did not want to get a fucking hotel room and be surrounded by humans! He did not need to sleep, so why waste time lying amid the rats?

But ...if it's just for a little while...just long enough for me to find him and destroy him...then I won't have to worry about humans or Hagane no Ochibisan any more...

"Fine," Envy mumbled, pushing his hair away from his face as he glowered at Edward. "Let's find a fucking roof to get under. Don't think I won't tie you up at night, though..."

Ed sighed. "Envy, what in the hell can I do? I don't even have my other arm!"

"You think I care? ...Shut up. I know how resourceful you are." His hand went to Ed's collar, yanking the boy toward him hard before pushing him back with such force that he almost fell again. Ed's fingers went to his neck, lightly touching the raw, reddened skin. Envy's sudden grip had tightened the fabric to such an extent as to almost choke Edward. It would have choked him, had not the homunculus shown restraint.

"Fine," Ed echoed, sneering as he sent a rather nasty glare in Envy's direction. "But you'd better keep your hands off me while I sleep."

"Don't make me sick, Shorty," Envy retorted instantaneously. "I see how stupid you look with vomit all over your face."

Mercifully, Edward kept silent.