Too Beautiful

It was the aging, not the meticulously human appearance, that took Dante decades to perfect, so Pride spent a long while as a gangly youth of perhaps seventeen, all skin and bones and incongruous Eye. Dante's pet project, Dante's pet bedfellow. And Envy himself was not the only one subject to that sin.

Greed, though, just took him under consideration, as he always did.

Pride, in the baggy pants and leather straps that came naturally to him, liked to practice in the wide expanse of Dante's parlor, impaling air currents or specks of dust, or perhaps taking on a pillar, blade whirring and singing in the light filtered through the long gauze curtains, strong legs planted wide and wiry muscles working under skintight shirt. And as Greed sidled in one morning, he pivoted and sliced in the curtained, sheeting light, then lunged, one long thrill and coil of honed inhuman grace, guided by the beacon of his Eye, and froze there balanced long, and the tip of his sword slid a handspan into the marble like it was butter.

"They'll find you out, you know," Greed drawled, pacing closer.

Pride didn't startle. Pride never startled; he saw everything coming. He just stepped back, flicked the sword down to his side, turned with arrogance like his namesake, arrogance like the teenaged boy he seemed to be. "Why?"

"Because no human could look that fucking beautiful when they fight, of course." Greed shrugged expansively, hands in pockets, at Pride's slight frown. "Last time you did that the blade broke, not the pillar. What's new, kid?"

Pride smiled slightly, a ruthless, genial smile that would one day command a nation. "I took the idea from you, Ultimate Shield." He ran the blade along his palm. "It's edged with adamant. She transmuted it for me."

Greed grinned, slid a hand from his pocket, curled one suddenly black claw. "Great. Come on, let's get it on."

In a moment Greed was midnight black and Pride was poised and lunging, and diamond shrieked on diamond and sparks scattered over the bare marble floor as they clashed wide-ranging in the great arena circle of the parlor. Greed twisted, leapt like a great cat; Pride slashed and parried, scratching the shield, taking a few of those bone-shattering punches but moving on, indomitable, flesh reknitting. An opening, and Pride lunged, throwing his weight behind it, and the spikes on the knuckleguard of his sword smashed into what would have been the soft flesh of Greed's stomach, and one snapped off, but two were embedded deep beneath the shield.

Greed coughed; black carbon rolled back; blood trickled fine from naked lips.

"I didn't even die," he snorted.

"I'm going to be fighting humans, and not always to kill. You didn't have to." Pride hadn't moved—he liked to freeze after a decisive blow, sometimes too still to be human, perfect deadly sculpture of a man.

Greed laughed. "If you're going to be fighting humans, you're going to have to learn to fight without this." And he splayed one big bony hand over the Eye, sealing out light with his palm, and there was a hint of anger in Pride's sharp young features now, at his most precious sight being stolen.

But then Greed leaned close, and their faces brushed, homunculus cold to false human warmth, and the world was blurry and colorless to Pride's human sight, yet he still licked the blood from Greed's lips and smiled.