chapter 4.

An automail toe slowly scratching indentations into a wooden floor did not make for a pretty sound.

Envy lay near the middle of the room, arms crudely slung around his knees with the lackluster attention to detail a child might have shown in forcing a doll's hands toward the pretense of clutching. Edward had shown no gentleness in arranging the homunculus's body; he had dragged the paralyzed figure across the floor and forced Envy's rigid muscles into as much of a foetal position as he had cared to replicate.

Out of spite and obstinacy—the only remaining defenses he had at present—Envy had stiffened further, straining away from the human's touch until he had begun to grunt and shake with exertion. If only he could have moved his feet just a little more, then he would have given Edward's jaw a good crack or two.

Ed had not acknowledged any of Envy's reactions, neither the pained cries nor the petrification of the muscles. As methodical in alchemy as Dante and Hohenheim had ever been, Edward had arranged Envy slowly and silently. Beneath the heavy blond bangs, his expression had been thoughtful, even pensive. The stars and moon had provided enough light for Envy to see the incongruous coldness within the boy's warmly-coloured eyes.

The sight disturbed Envy in some quiet, understated manner which he had difficulty putting into words or organizing into a lucid thought. Those eyes...that solemn look...the coldness of the wind and the sounds of the night as the planet's forces battered the walls and shook the rafters...


Envy suppressed a whimper, heart jerking quickly, knots leaping into his stomach and throat. His teeth chattered, shattering when his mandible and maxilla collided so violently that Envy found himself swallowing and spitting out splinters of bone. Lukewarm liquid filled his mouth, streaming down his chin and creating a small puddle on the ground.

Even as his wounds began to heal themselves, Envy felt the pseudo-blood of red stone material draining down his throat and cooling rapidly, a subtle reminder that the fluid pulsing within his veins was not the heated blood created within a human body, but only a phantasmal imitation. No platelets coursed through Envy; his ersatz heart crafted no red blood cells and no white ones; even his lungs and brain were simple parodies, alchemically-born organs which functioned as the true parts did and imprinted memories which insisted that the homunculus was more than a monster ripped from the womb of the Gate...

Memories of...

Envy winced and closed his eyes tightly, licking the last remnants of the 'blood' from his lips as he curled in upon himself, trying all the while to ignore the drone of metal upon wood, the unmistakable sound of an array being etched all around him. It hurt! Everything hurt! The damned sounds, this awful position, the fucking array! All of these things were too familiar, too searing. They clawed at memories long since repressed, a past as dead and buried as Envy's original body.

Darkness and rain... It was like that back then, too, wasn't it? I had forgotten the was raining, and...

He twisted sharply, struggling against the manner in which Ed had pinned him: a spike of wood through one of the nodes, a barrier severing one of Envy's vital connections and creating turbulence in his energy flow. The Sin had other working nodes; he could still move a little, but all of his actions had grown clumsy and strange, his motor functions impaired like those of a human with brain damage. Envy had to fight to sustain a tiny amount of movement, and even that was flawed. He had gotten himself perilously close to the hole he had earlier punched in the ground, so close that tendrils of dark hair trailed off into the pit.

Envy could imagine the Gate, could see its dark maw opening to reveal a golden smile. Memories of the light flooded his mind, seeming to consume the shadows of the room. Lightning flashed and colours seeped behind Envy's eyelids. many of them...all coming together...

He moaned softly, shuddering at the visions which had begun to plague him. Hundreds of years ago, he had lain in a similar transmutation circle...though its location had been very different: the basement of his own home instead of the second floor of a hotel in an alien world. Then as now, his limbs had been uncomfortable, odd extensions that had refused to follow any of his brain's demands; instead of obeying him, the gangly cords had whipped around like gore-drenched tentacles.

The Sin of Envy had been conceived as a tangle of muscles, with elbows jabbing knees, guts hugging ribs, skull weeping grey and red onto Hohenheim's array. The Gate's travail had spat the homunculus into the world as a farce, little more than a cluster of worming innards, jagged teeth and bulging, bleeding eyes...

...a monster...

Suddenly and brutally, he remembered how much it had hurt to breathe, to stuff air into and out of those mangled, incomplete lungs. Envy remembered the image of his father, a tall shadow of a man who had stood nearby, gazing down at his wretched, pitiful failure, eyes shaded, lips parted slightly in wonder (in horror). Darkness (so much darkness) had covered the world into which the new creature had been birthed, and Envy's eyes had not yet been fully developed, but he had managed to glimpse sparse details of his father's face, body, posture, and actions.

That look...that damned expression....

Heavy footfalls (Father's gait was always so heavy, so...strong, but laboured, "burdened" Mother had said, though I didn't believe her...), the quiet whistle of breath through teeth, the sound of containers clinking against one another, wooden boxes and glass beakers playing a little tune to celebrate Hohenheim's creation.

Ignoring me...he was fucking ignoring me!

Or was he? Envy had wondered. Through the agony of bones trying to sift themselves into some kind of useful skeletal structure, Envy had been aware of the long seconds during which the clock had grated his raw nerves with every vile tick and tock; he had seen the manner in which Hohenheim had scanned his former son, analytical curiosity and only a hint of despair (fucking bastard...he was just sorry that he had made such a mess...him, the great "Hohenheim of Light"...) crossing his stoic features.

Maybe it would not have had such a profound effect upon his psyche had he not been so new, so raw and vulnerable both mentally and physically. Most baby animals cleaved to the first creature they saw, dubbing it their mother. Homunculi, simple Gate creatures confused by the images which dotted their minds and persisted in being considered memories, were no less impressionable than children. Bereft of souls, their minds could reason, could understand, but each had certain limitations, certain sore gaps which the homunculus felt it had to fill.

As soon as Hohenheim had stepped from the room, as soon as his thick, musky scent had vanished, as soon as the rain had stopped...

Envy had known. Had known he was alone. Had known he would not, could not forgive the bastard, just as he could not forget the transgression which had brought him into being. The memories of his past life had not yet begun to settle, so the new Sin had no identity beyond merely existing, beyond the stark cold fact of abandonment—his first feeling as a homunculus aside from the obvious physical sensation of having been literally turned inside out, stretched over a washboard, and given a few good rubs against a cheese grater.

So it was that his first conscious thought as a homunculus had come to define him, had in fact set the basis for his personality. Dante, equally wroth with Hohenheim for the same reason, had encouraged Envy's enmity, had nurtured his self-pity until it had flourished to the point of shaping his entire outlook. Envy had used his amorphous body to construct a form which reflected and personified his brooding nature, his discontentment, his restless desire, and his willingness to laugh in the face of everything which human society represented.

In life, Envy had embodied sophistication; as the debonair son of two aristocratic figures, he had worn a customary mixture of arrogance and indifference, displaying his intrinsic nature with everything from his demeanor to his attire.

In death, he was no different. Dark hair he had selected first, a sweeping mane of burgeoning shadows to clash with his pale new flesh. In response to the title Dante had bestowed upon him, Envy had decided to exercise his sarcastic wit by highlighting his hair with the colour which signified his essence. Dante had proclaimed the shimmer of green to be a silly, immature addition to his appearance, and Greed had heckled his rival endlessly about his abnormal tastes.

Largely to spite Greed, Envy had made other adjustments to his form, such as hips which begged to be touched, and a slender abdomen, one that managed to be both tight and firm as well as edged with hints of feminine softness. To protest his former shape—hard muscles, imposing height, and lion's mane hair—Envy's new figure was short, svelte, and lissome; hard lines contrasted with occasional curves, dusky hair stood out like a waterfall of black spikes against his fair complexion, and his clothes clung to his physique as tightly as if they had been painted on.

Beautiful. Sleek. Graceful. Poised, and—


Deadly, most of all. There was a method to Envy's mad lines, a reasoning behind his errant art and his anomalous whims. Every texture and colour comprised a small part of his self-expression, his inner rage broadcasting itself loudly enough for all the world to hear.

But now...with the way things were going...

...was everything....

...for nothing—?

Envy twitched, breath coming and going in raspy pants. So fucking close. He was so fucking close; he could feel it, could taste the bittersweet death of the man who had been his creator twice over. His violet eyes narrowed as he glared hard at the short fucking shit of a little bastard who was presently keeping him from his goal. How dare he! How dare that fucking whore's little cunt spawn try to keep him from getting what he deserved, what had been his for over four-hundred goddamned years!

By the time Envy's reminiscing had finally come to an abrupt halt, he noticed that two other things had stopped. One was the rain. The other was the scraping sound of automail digging into wood. The Sin shifted, swished his juices around his mouth, and swallowed. I can't be afraid... he thought, steeling his nerves and muscles. I can't...let that useless little shit get to me...can't...can't let his son take this from me...

(can't let him take the one thing that is mine, the only thing he hasn't stolen from me yet!)

His array completed, Edward stood on the other side of the room, arm hanging by his side, breathing shallow, back against the wall. Envy watched him, taking note of every little movement. The boy was plainly tired and beaten up to hell and back, so why the fuck didn't he just fucking pass out already?

Darkness cloaked the alchemist's face, inking out his golden features. It was not fair! It was not fair that he got so much, so many things, everything! It had never been fair or right that one person should be so lucky!

And there he is over there, with me stuck in this fucking circle! I can't even fucking move! Just like...

...just like before...

As Envy stared helplessly, his estranged half-brother wiped his face with his sleeve and proceeded to depart into the adjacent bathroom. Envy closed his eyes, listening to the twined sounds of rats squeaking and water running. He suspected the brat was deliberately dragging things out just to humiliate his foe, and the thought just pissed him off all the more.

When Ed returned, he was still scrubbing at his face with his forearm; Envy could not get a very good look at him except when intermittent specks of moonlight played upon his honey-toned skin. Envy edged forward slowly, sneering defiantly.

"Gotten all the puke and blood off your face, Edward?" he challenged. "Aw. Too bad. You looked better like that."

No response.

Envy frowned deeply, growling almost inaudibly as the blond stepped forward.

It won't work, you stupid shit. It won't fucking work. I bet you can't even do alchemy in this place. You think you can kill me? I've been around and destroying entire cities before that bastard ever even shot off the seed that made you, you useless little whelp...

His chest tightened, brow furrowing as he as snarled at the approaching alchemist. Born in an array...Envy could die in one, too. But I won't...won't fucking...let him have that satisfaction!

Ed knelt down, so close now that Envy could actually smell him, could sniff out the scent of alchemy (just like Father...) which not even the sewer's odor had been able to disguise. The sudden, wet sound of hand slapping the ground followed. Envy felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise to attention. Despite himself, he pulled back, teeth bared as though he were a wild animal. For a heart that could do nothing but circulate fake blood, the thing within his chest was moving at an astounding speed.

"Envy," Ed said quietly, coolly. "I'm going to send you back to where you came from."