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velvet mace

Icarus


Envy sympathized with Icarus. The faint of heart took the story as a cautionary tale, but he saw deeper. Icarus' wings may have melted, but at least he had a chance to feel the sun before he fell. And did anything else after that really matter?

Envy gasped and spun about as he searched to orient himself, every nerve aching to attention. Around him was nothing, nothing—a plain of gold so soft, so featurelessly vague it defied any attempt to distinguish ground from sky. Unease gnawed his stomach with a bite that grew more keen as reality shifted nauseatingly from oppressive emptiness to a single, disconcerting focus.

Edward Elric stood in front of him, porcelain pale and dull eyed. Envy uncurled as irrational fury heated his middle. The kid was dead. He'd killed the little bastard. He should be gone.

If he was here—could that mean that Envy was dead as well?

"What the hell—Where am I?" he snarled.

"The Gate," the ghost replied—his voice as limpid and passionless as the rest of him.

The hairs on the back of Envy's neck prickled up as he sensed something behind him. He gasped and turned. A set of doors loomed before him huge, filling his vision with its baroque grandeur. He took in the huge radiating eye and twisted mass of sculptured limbs that reached in bas relief from the frame. The sheer mass of the doors pressed menacingly at him, and had he been human he might have peed his pants in terror.

He whipped around, "Where does it lead?"

"When I passed through it, it took me to a city called 'London'. That's what my dad said."

Envy's eyes widened and he felt a painfully sweet stab of excitement punctuate his fear. "Your 'dad'. You mean Light Hohenheim?"

"Yeah."

"Then he's alive?" This changed everything. Envy's face hardened, and he pulled his tight lips back over his teeth in a defiant sneer. He turned his back on Edward, dismissing the ghost with a shrug of his narrow shoulders. Here was his chance at satisfaction, his moment in the sun, and everything else was secondary, everything. He stepped confidently up to the Gate.

"Don't," said Ed, behind him, but with no force. "You don't know what will happen to you."

Envy didn't even bother to look at him. If the shrimp could walk this path, Envy could, too. Instead he contemplated the barrier for the briefest moment.

Sure, the Gate looked formidable, but beyond the psychological intimidation of its size and the evocative carvings drawn on its surface, it was just set of double doors like any other. Envy dug his fingers into the crack, and the Gate yielded to him, reluctantly. In the back of Envy's mind he knew that there was more to it than just a physical act. This was a metaphor he was opening. This was the Gateway to Truth.

No problem. He didn't mind soul-searching, he knew what he'd find. After all, he'd been eating his own guts for centuries. He knew all about his arrogance, his cruelty, his unrequited fury. If this Gate lead to Hohenheim, all those failings would soon be washed away in the pure cleansing flame of revenge. After all it wasn't his own fault he was the way he was. He knew exactly where to put the blame.

It was all Hohenheim's fault—his entire existence. That revolting old man had passed on his hubris the way he'd passed on his eye color and the shape of his face. To be a son of Hohenheim was to be tormented with temptation, and, when one innocently faltered, to be punished mercilessly.

It wasn't enough for Envy to die painfully at a young age—no, ordinary death was too small, too paltry that bastard's progeny. A son of Hohenheim had to pay for his arrogance. And pay, and pay, and pay. And the interest accrued on his sins kept him forever in the red. Four hundred years of unrelenting envy for the crime of being that bastard's son. Envy couldn't even remember the original transgression—he had only Dante's word for it. But he believed her because it was just so fucking perfect.

As a living human, Envy had wanted to impress his father. Was that really such an awful thing? But Hohenheim held onto his praise like a miser. Undaunted, Envy had followed in the old man's footsteps, become an alchemist, a scientist, dared mother nature to bare her teeth at him. He'd taken risks, worked with noxious substances, ignored the discomforts when the fumes began to poison him—all for bare scraps of attention that he'd snapped up like a starving dog. For all that, Hohenheim hadn't even been at his bedside when he died.

But he was at Envy's side plenty after that. Hohenheim positively doted over his corpse. Finally Envy no longer wanted his father's devotion, so out of love the fucker brought him back. Envy, no matter how hard he tried, could never quite live up to the old man's expectations. Turns out the old man really didn't want him that much after all. Rejection hurt even more the second time.

It was time, past time; four hundred years past due on this debt, and this was the best set of circumstances he had ever been given. Hohenheim would never suspect he was being hunted—not until he had that old man's rotting corpse exactly where he wanted it. Excitement pounded his chest, his muscles tensed powerfully, his tongue tasted phantom blood. It would be easy—ridiculously simple! The main decision now was just how he was going to kill the bastard when he caught up with him.

The Gate opened on blackness and a faint smell of dust.

"Take me to him," he yelled into the dark, and stepped confidently forward. He suddenly felt eyes on him, even if he couldn't see them—a strange prickly self-conscious feeling that coaxed an involuntary (and quickly suppressed) shudder. "Take me to Hohenheim!"

His foot crossed over the threshold and touched—nothing. No ground, no resistance. His nerves suddenly jerked to life, as his sense of self-preservation kicked in. Bottomless pit, he thought, as he instinctively attempted to pull back. His arms reached out for the open doors to steady himself. But it was already too late; a cold coil of darkness looped about his ankle and pulled him forward, hard, dragging him off balance. More lines of dark wrapped about him, finding his arms and wrists, snagging his waist. They all moved in a coordinated fashion, pulling him deeper.

Every sense in his body told him that he was falling, but a quick glance over his shoulder showed the open door hovering at the same level as it receded slowly into the distance. Just beyond, bathed in golden light, he saw Edward staring at him with that same shell-shocked expression.

This is want I want, Envy reminded himself. The doors began to close. Envy flashed the dead alchemist one last triumphant grin before Ed was shut off, and then faced forward to meet his fate.

"Take me to Hohenheim!" Envy ordered, pouring every bit of force and desire into the command. He knew the Gate. He knew it granted wishes, like some demented genie. It was merely a battle of wills. He would win.

~...homunculus—~ The word was not so much spoken, as carved into his mind.

"Yes?" he bit the word. Something slid ticklishly across his consciousness, and his skin crawled with sudden goose bumps. Fear returned with a hammer stroke to his heart. He was being judged—observed—graded. No, not fear, excitement. That's why his breath surged faster and deeper, flaring his nostrils out. He put on his cockiest demeanor and met that unseen eye, determined not to let any weakness show. Creatures like this respected confidence.

The tugging on his arms abruptly ceased, and only the sense of falling remained. He didn't like the sensation at all, and he moved for the first time within his bonds. They resisted his movement, but only a little, like fluttering scarves around his body. Other than that, he felt nothing—not even the buffeting of air that would normally come a fall.

"Do you hear me?" He called out, his words muffled to a whisper. "Take me now!" He'd meant to scream the last word but his own ears strained to hear it. The Gate was playing tricks with him. Infuriating.

Time slowed, and with every sluggish second he found it harder to hold onto his bravado, but he had nothing to do but wait on the Gate's unhurried pleasure. His senses, deprived of input, began to manufacture their own. His eyes saw flickers and sparks, but nothing he could follow. He smelled nothing, not even the dustiness from before. His ears began hearing a faint, worrisome rumble, like the sound of many people speaking far away. But when he strained to make half-heard words out, they faded out elusively.

At first these hallucinations provided a mild entertainment but as time passed and nothing happened, he grew worried. Eventually, panic began to scrabble its way into his heart. Had he failed? Maybe this was it? He'd be here forever, alone in the dark.

No! This is just test, and I can pass that. His determination was rock hard, ocean-deep, endless. He could not lose.

Almost as if on cue with his loss of composure, the Gate seemed to turn its attention to him once more. His awareness seized on the cool lines that fluttered across his naked flesh, stroking him with feather light caresses. It was not much, but the sensation to keep him anchored in space and time, and he gratefully grasped at it.

~—dead—~ came the non-voice after an interminable length. ~soulless—what can it offer—~

Envy's shaky confidence cracked, and a moment of wild panic rippled under his skin, causing his arms to flail and fight. The breach lasted only a second before he covered his terror with wry self-condemnation. Of course it wanted something! He knew it would all along. And yet until that moment, he had not given even the tiniest consideration to what the Gate might demand in exchange for his passage.

"You want souls? I have souls," said Envy with sudden inspiration. "I'll give you a redstone—the souls of a dozen humans. That should be enough to take me to Hohenheim."

~—yes—we will take them—give us your redstones—~

Not all of them! Envy was about to voice a protest when he felt something slide against his face. He snapped his mouth shut just as tendrils of cold explored his lips. The prodding was gentle, a smooth simple motion starting in one corner and drawing a line across to the other. As it moved it his lips parted like unzipped cloth. He felt probe pressed experimentally against his clenched teeth, then slipped deeper under the cheek to where his final molars gave way.

~—open—~

NO! he thought back at it, hoping it could read his thoughts. ONE stone. One.

~—open—~

Envy opened his mouth. The cold slipped in like an eel, pushing his jaws apart. It was utterly smooth, almost greasy, and passed between his lips with only the barest sensation of friction. It's first fluid motion brought it all the way to the back of his throat. Envy swallowed, his esophagus complaining about the size. About midway down Envy's throat the probe inexplicably halted it's decent. Envy continued to swallow furiously around it, then, realizing the futility, he waited.

As much as Envy didn't need to breathe his body still insisted that it wanted to. The urge grew from a mildly annoying desire, through various stages of insistency, to a final all encompassing imperative that drove away all thoughts of anything but the desire to take that next breath. Even the foreign stretching of his throat lost its importance, in the face of the desire for his lungs to expand again. Envy could only hold still for so long before he had to reach up with his loosely wrapped arms and yank the offending thing out. He wasn't surprised to find the ribbon like bindings suddenly grow taut, forcing his arms and legs to splay out. Another life burned away uselessly in the struggle. Was this how the Gate was insisting he pay?

Fury burned his face. Take it already he inwardly called. Or take your fucking tentacle out of my mouth and let me hawk one up for you. He turned his mind inwardly and tried to separate out the stones from where they lay, permanently lodged in the walls of his stomach. With a prickly burn he felt them fall free. Muscles that normally were beyond voluntary control answered his orders and clenched hard, driving the stones up his esophagus.

The probe thickened painfully, like a hand stretching its fingers, then collapsed down again around several of the stones. It then withdrew, up, out of his mouth, leaving the unpleasant flavor of bile in its wake. As uncomfortable as that was, Envy let out a hitching chuckle in his first gasps for breath. That wasn't too bad at all. That was fucking easy!

"Take me to Hohenheim," Envy ordered imperiously. His mind was already drifting ahead, to how he'd hunt down the old man, and what methods he would tender his payment. The Gate's intrusion gave him ideas. Envy imagined how Hohenheim would writhe for air, while his ignored son, his cast off creation, tenderly shoved a redstone all the way down his throat to his gullet. Taste this, Old man. Ain't life sweet. Moments past, while Envy's fantasy spun out to its inevitable conclusion, and even while he imagined is bloody forearm sliding out of Hohenheim's lax, ashen lips, he felt a prickly worry that something should have already happened by now.

"Well?" he shouted to the nothing. "What are you waiting for? You got your price, take me to Hohenheim!"

Something cold was pushing through his lips again. This time there was no finesse, and it parted his jaws with brutal force. He brought his teeth down on the thing, feeling it yield like hard rubber. Satisfaction was short lived. It continued to push down his throat; The force of its thrust nearly yanked his teeth out, before he changed his mind and stopped biting. The fingers spread midway down, just as they had before, and Envy felt the stones sinking pleasantly down to his gullet.

Oh fuck! thought Envy.

~—worthless—~

The tentacle reeled out as swiftly as it had forced its way in, leaving Envy to choke on the taste of his own stomach juices. Payment rejected.

"Don't you fucking call redstones worthless!" he snarled, hating the way the thick air swallowed his words. "Those are hundreds of human lives. Human souls. The most precious fucking thing in existence, don't tell me its worthless, you fucker!"

~—worthless—to you—~

Realization dawned on Envy with a shock greater than the pain of the probe punching down his throat. "I gave you something too freely. You want me to suffer."

~—sacrifice is meaningless if not a sacrifice—~

Fucker! "What do you want then?" It had to take something, it couldn't possibly leave Envy here in this horrible nothing place forever. But for the life of him Envy could think of nothing worth more than what he'd already offered.

~—what do you value?—~ it asked.

"I value stones."

~—you seek revenge—you covet anger against Hohenheim—we could take that—-~

For a way out of this place, it was tempting to give in to the Gate's demands.

"No!" Envy rejected. He had no doubt that this thing, whatever it was, could remove his emotions as easily and as permanently as removing a stone. But if it did, Envy would implode. He'd spent centuries nursing this emotion, brooding over the slights, the duties shirked, the ultimate rejection of Envy as a son, and a creation. Without his hatred of Hohenheim, Envy would have no goal—no reason to do anything. He'd have lost the final sheds of personhood. Better to starve his way through every stone, than to let this thing remove his only purpose for being.

What else was there—his liver? That might actually be it. Envy knew that sometimes it excised organs—bladders, intestines, kidneys—things that should by all rights leave the alchemist dead. But dead things don't rue their losses. The three months Envy had spent oblivious and rotting in the grave were the happiest of his existence. The Gate must know this, so no matter what it took, the Gate always left its victim's alive. Intact? No. Sane? Rarely. But alive. And that was all Envy really needed. Once his revenge on Hohenheim was over, he didn't care what happened.

"Take a limb, or two," Envy counter offered. "Leave me a cripple like that alchemist freak. But if you try take the only reason I came here in the first place, the deal is off."

The Gate was quiet for a long moment.

~—very well—~.

Envy felt its cold arms caress his flesh. Small fingers dragged themselves over the tense muscles of his stomach, feeling out the definition of his abdominals, tracing the valley that ran from breastbone to navel. Figuring how best to carve me up. Envy gritted his teeth and waited, determined he'd stay sane. The Elric boys had. They'd turned the shit the Gate had given them into gold. If they could come out on top in the end, Envy could, too. It would be a lot harder to kill Hohenheim if he lacked the ability to overpower him. But his mind was cunning enough; there were still methods one could use. Drugs. Traps. Yes. He could do this. He pushed aside his doubts and waited for the caresses to turn painful.

~—control—~ the Gate suddenly uttered. ~—you value that—it is our price—~

Envy felt surprise across his flesh like an electric shock. This was not what he expected to be asked for. The irony of it built up, until it boiled over in near hysterical laugher. To think he'd actually been scared of what the Gate would take for a moment.

"Control?" he repeated. "You think I value that over redstones? You're nuts. I've been serving people my entire existence. Do you even think I'd be here, at your mercy, if I were some control freak? You are wrong. But if that's what you want, go ahead take it. Move me like a puppet, order me about, if that's what gives you your jollies. Just stick me down where you left Hohenheim when you are finished."

~—fair exchange—submission for opportunity—~

"Sure, deal," said Envy, dismissively. "Whatever you say."

~—foolish thing—-~

The Gate was mocking him. Fuck that. Fuck. He caged his hurt emotions behind gritted teeth. He wasn't going to mess with this chance. The Gate was the foolish one.

"What will it be?" Envy asked. "Want me to bark like a dog? Cower before your grand magnificence? Fawn on you?"

~—submit—suffer—enjoy—~

The fuck? What the crap did it mean by that?

Before the thought had completed itself, Envy was distracted again by much more important changes. The world around him shifted, and Envy sighed with relief as his flesh slowly took on weight. He felt his hair settling on his shoulders and across his back. The cold tentacles released him slowly, allowing him to slide downwards until his feet touched soft, warm ground. A moment later he was freed with nothing but the lingering tingle of their coldness to remind them of their existence.

With the suddenness of a door slamming, he could see. Envy blinked and put his hand instinctively up to shield his eyes until the lancing pain left his pupils. There wasn't much to see, just a grey, featureless plain that extended in all directions indefinitely. The only thing breaking this monotony was a single door, much plainer and less threatening than the first, hanging off the ground without jamb or frame. Instinctively he knew that Hohenheim was just beyond—as promised.

It was too soon. He hadn't paid his price yet. Still—this whole adventure, start to finish was one big tease. Well the hell with that. The door was right in front of him, and only thing stopping him from leaping through it was his word.

Fuck his word.

Envy dashed forward. He got five solid steps towards the door before he felt something snag his ankle. His momentum propelled him forward until he fell, sprawled across the ground. He looked up. The door hung over him, so close he could touch the carvings with his fingers.

Then he was being yanked backwards.

"NO!" he screamed, and bared his teeth. He rolled onto his back even and dug his free heel into the soft ground. Abruptly, the pull ended.

He saw it.

It was like no creature he'd ever seen before: nameless, black, and unspeakably huge, suspended the air like an inverted pyramid. Its ill-defined borders shifted as he stared, growing thin, boneless appendages, that continually lengthened, curled, and then merged back into the mass. Envy noticed the eyes. Not two, but hundreds, maybe thousands, unpaired and unblinking. Most were small, human eyes, one hung sideways and huge in the middle.

"Is that supposed to scare me?" asked Envy defiantly.

~—no—~ came the reply.

Envy looked down to see an arm looped four times like a ribbon around his ankle. The tiny hand at the end stroked the black band of his foot wrap. It didn't look like it would be that hard to break its hold but an experimental kick did proved fruitless at snapping it.

"Let me go already!"

~... eventually...~ the gate responded.

"How long do you expect me to wait?" Envy growled.

~—until—-~

"Until I'm submissive? I'm being submissive." Envy called, out. "Look at me! I'm not doing a damn thing. Submitting away. Let's hurry up do your part and get this over with."

~—no—~

"Well then, fuck you!" His patience, stretched hair thin, suddenly snapped.

Envy reached inside himself and willed a change. Not a hard change—really quite simple, and one he'd done before many times. He visualized the body shape, small, slim, the silly oversized belt and the not nearly so silly blade jutting out from his forearm. One clean slice and he'd cut through the arm, then he'd be up through the door before the thing knew what hit it.

He'd visualized Ed so keenly in his mind that it came as a complete surprised when he realized the blade he was bringing down against the tendril was nothing more than his own normal black gloved hand. He hadn't transformed! Somehow it had stopped him.

Envy changed tactics and grabbed the arm and pulled, attempting to wrench it away from his foot by sheer strength. He brought a second hand to bear on it, then kicked, and finally just shrieked his rage.

The Gate waited, unmoved and unmoving.

Goddamn it, the shrimp was right. He was right. Envy hadn't known what he was getting himself into. The Gate wasn't going to give him what he wanted. The Gate never gave anyone what they wanted. It tricked them with promises and then offered them shit. Given another chance he wouldn't have gone through those doors. He'd have found some other way to get to Hohenheim. He'd have waited for the Alchemist to make his way back to Envy's world, and hunt him down then.

"What the FUCK do you want from me!" Envy cried out at the top of his lungs. "Just tell me!"

~—submit—~

"I'm TRYING you fucking bastard. Can't you see? I'm trying." And with great effort he lay back on the ground and glared up at the empty sky. "Do something to me, or let me go."

~—suffer—~

"Oh trust me, I am," muttered Envy.

~—enjoy—~

"Impossible!"

~... that is our price—~

"Goddamn you," muttered Envy.

He waited. Minutes stretched, turned to hours. The Gate didn't move, and Envy lay pinned down by a single foot, mere steps away from the end of his ordeal and going nowhere. An eternity later Envy stopped looking at the door, stopped looking at the thing that held him. Stopped thinking up ways to kill it. This must have been what Greed felt. he mused. 130 years in a cell. How had he managed not to be driven crazy by it?

Finally he gave up thinking at all.

The first touches surprised Envy and he froze. He blinked down to see a second arm had joined the first, sliding around the same ankle.

"What?" he gasped.

~—you are ready—~

The arm slid up like a snake, higher than the first, over the shin to the knee. He noticed the way it slid over his calf, in a smooth stroking movement. It felt nice. A bit of sensation to relieve the boredom. Then little fingers fluttered against the back of his knee and he reflexively twitched away. The soft, light touch continued unabated. He kicked automatically to dislodge it. It teased his nerves, and Envy laughed.

"Stop it," he said. He reached down to yank the thing away only to find both his wrists swiftly bound together over his belly. He attempted to bend his knee and deny the hand access that way. He had a moment's relief before the arm made two swift loops around his upper thigh, then forced his leg straight. The tickling resumed.

~—suffer—~

So that was the game. Surely the Gate could come up with some more painful thing to subject him to. Stab him with knives, burn him, flay him? He'd been through all those before at one time or another. He could bear a bit of goddamn schoolyard tickling. Envy willed his body to relax.

And failed.

It didn't hurt but it was unbearable. Like the urge to breathe before, the need to rub his skin and make that touch just a bit harder, scratch it out, grew from a vaguely unpleasant need to an all out imperative. Worse than that was the uncontrollable humiliating laugher that forced its way out of his mouth in gruff bursts.

Another hand wound around his other leg, anchoring itself well before the fingertips found the tender spot on the back of that knee as well. He laughed even harder and writhed.

Envy fought for control, fought for freedom. He lost. Within minutes, he was reduced to rolling helplessly on the ground shrieking with laughter. Tears began to well up in his eyes. He tried every mental trick he could bring his distracted mind to bear. He willed his body to become numb, to turn off.

He realized with humiliation that to an outside observer it would appear that he was enjoying this treatment very much. He managed to launch a hateful stare at the thing, but he couldn't stop his reactions. He felt hijacked, stripped of dignity.

You've made your point! he thought at the Gate, unable to control his breathing long enough to say the words. Stop it!

More hands found ticklish junctions at his sides, the soles of his feet, his neck, and now he was screaming. His head hit against the ground with enough force to bring bright stars to his eyes, but he couldn't control himself. He was out of breath, and his stomach muscles were burning, but it wasn't enough for his regenerative reflex to kick in. He couldn't even open his eyes any more, and his throat had become parched. Nor could he stop his futile writhing. His bladder had given out under pressure, leaving him wallow in his own disgusting dampness. But not even that humiliation was enough to satisfy the Gate.

It would have been better if the Gate had properly tortured him. A moment of pain, followed almost instantly by relief, and the more he was hurt, the faster his regeneration repaired him, until he didn't even feel the pain anymore. But this was not something that burning redstone could compensate for. There was no injury to repair. All it was was stimulated nerves. Normal functioning.

His regenerative reflex was not completely gone. When he vomited and the acid combined with his own laugher to eat his throat raw, he felt a soothing wave of relief follow moments later. When his parched mucus membranes cracked and his vocal cords tore with his breathless laugher, everything healed to normal. His lungs burned, and he bit his own tongue deep enough to taste blood. Moments later the pain was quenched.

But the tickling never ceased.

He was going crazy. There was no relief. He turned now in supplication to the one thing he knew was greater than himself. His eyes were too tear swollen to see it, but he still felt its eyes on him. If the Gate wanted his worship, it had it. He believed it in. He knew it was larger than him. It was life, death, mercy, hope. It was a cruel jealous God. He hated it, and he'd do whatever it wanted. Anything, anything so long as it just stopped.

He was dizzy with hyperventilation and beyond exhaustion, held just on the edge of regeneration. His frantic, random movements were beyond all voluntary control, and everything had narrowed into the moment, which was forever, and overdriven with need. And nothing he did made it any better. Finally, in his desperate writhing, his head smashed once again against the soft ground, and that was enough.

Envy hitched a final breath in and passed out.

He had no idea how much time passed, but in it his body had finally regenerated. He roused to consciousness again to find his sweat had dried, and his thighs had gone from soaked to sticky with the residue of his own urine. Minutes perhaps. Half an hour tops. But at least the tickling had stopped. He didn't hurt, but a deep sense of exhaustion made every muscle heavy. He lay looking up into the Gate's myriad eyes, numb. He didn't ask how much longer or what he'd have to do. He just waited.

It was holding him almost tenderly, cradled in a network of long arms. A few were wrapped around his arms and legs, but loosely, like they had been in the dark space. A black hand smoothed the hair back from his face. More hands moved in, caressing him again. Though Envy tensed in expectation of being tickled again, it didn't happened. The hands applied just the right amount of pressure to relax his muscles. Envy went limp.

He didn't fight as the fingers slid under the wraps on his ankles, tugging them, pulling them off. Fingers smoothed over the naked skin pinching the back of his heels, rubbing circles over the ball's of his feet, sliding between each toe. Every squeeze seemed to relieve a pain so submerged below his consciousness that he hadn't realized it was even there.

The gloves were being removed now, and in their wake fingers massaged the palms of his hands. Envy's eyes slid shut, and he let himself feel the pleasure. It was good. He vaguely remembered a time when Dante would hold him in her lap and run her hand over his back, tracing circles over his flesh. He'd never admitted he enjoyed her touch—not to her, not even really to himself. But now, feeling the fingers digging into the muscles of his neck, he knew he had. He'd wanted Dante's touch to go on forever. He'd been afraid if he admitted it, that she'd scold him for being soft.

Pleasure was a human thing. Along with pain. Both made one weak. Ego, on the other hand, that was the proper indulgence of the homunculi. And that was what the Gate had chosen to mess with. Envy's eyes flashed opened, aware that he was letting it pet him, like some dumb animal. He'd been through the hurt/kindness cycle with Hohenheim, and he wasn't going to fall for it again. The Gate was only being nice now in order soften him up for the next cruelty.

The Gate's caresses moved up his arms to his shoulders. The headband was pulled free, releasing pressure across his forehead. Small fingers drew elaborate glyphs across his face. They slipped over his ears, rubbing them softly. He wasn't surprised to feel them peeling his halter top up over his nipples, leaving it momentarily as a roll under his armpits. Hands ran over his chest, cupping the gentle rise of his pecs, squeezing the flabless flesh, before narrowing in on the nipples themselves. These were rubbed, tiny thumbs digging into the center of each, before changing tactics and grasping them, pinching and pulling them outward. Envy gasped.

"Enough," he said, using his hands to pull the Gate's slithery appendages away from his body. He knew he wasn't being submissive, but he didn't care anymore. He was not going to sit still and allow the Gate to molest him. There would have to be some other price.

~—enjoy—~

More hands joined in, the thing had thousands to spare. So easily they wound themselves around him, like silk ribbons over his wrists, pulling them high over his head, stretching him out. Once more he was helpless. The halter-top rolled over his shoulders, grazing his chin as it passed. The skort was being rolled as well, over his slim hips and down his legs, feeling like a rolling pin as it squeezed his thicker thighs together. The pressure released as it neared his knees and then there was just the occasional brush of the tough carbon fabric against his calves and feet. He was naked and exposed the way he never allowed himself to be.

His androgyny ended at his groin. There, clean, hairless, and intact was the usual masculine accouterments. Conservation of his stones required that he keep his adopted plumbing intact. As much as he loathed his body's baser functions, he was stuck with them, until such time that he found a stash of redstones so large that he didn't need to worry about wasting them. The sexual organs themselves were on the small side, by his own choice. He had no need to prove his masculinity to anyone, and a bulge would have ruined the smooth line of his tight skort. When for some reason sex was required for a job, he wore a different shape, with organs that matched the occasion.

He'd never been molested against his will before. Ever. Dante was convinced that he'd died a virgin, his nose pushed so far into a test tube that no woman (or man for that matter) would touch him. "You had an unpleasant smell," she'd said with that pursed-lipped distain she had for anything that didn't live up to her expectations.

As a homunculi, there was no point in trying. The first Lust made a valiant attempt to wrest him into her bed, only to discover that under Envy's skort was nothing—nothing at all. No holes, no protuberances, all possible points of sexuality temporarily erased at his whim. Envy had laughed long and hard at her disconcertion. She'd never tried it again.

He couldn't pull that trick with this creature. It had proved that when prevented him from taking Edwards form. Well fuck it. It's going to do whatever it wants to me anyway. It's not like I really care—

Envy relaxed, closed his eyes, and surrendered.

The Gate eagerly accepted the invitation. At once it seemed every part of him was stroked. The palms of his hands were caressed, the large muscles of his thighs kneaded, his buttocks squeezed and massaged. He hissed as the delicate fingers discovered his testicles, pinching the scrotum, pulling it in several directions at once. He jerked back as he felt them slowly squeeze the sack to just exactly the point of pain before releasing. Simultaneously his cock was lifted, stroked. Fingers teased its flaccid length, explored the slit at its tip. It was an overload of sensory information. Each part vied for his attention, his feet, his hair, his balls, nipples, his cock. The sensations began to cancel each other out and he actually didn't notice half of what was being done with him.

The Gate seemed to understand this, and backed off. Apparently it didn't want Envy missing out. It experimented, tested his flesh like a scientist, until it found the combination of caresses that provoked him most. A single arm wrapped around his shaft, squeezing and slipping along its length. In less than a minute it had found the prefect amount of pressure. Envy hissed and clenched his teeth, his thighs and buttocks clenching. He could feel the weight of his cock as it filled.

It invaded him in degrees. His mind focused with laser-like intensity on the single slim arm that curled purposefully up his thigh. It teased him, following the groove of his buttocks, past his entrance, before sliding back. The friction along the tender skin was full of both promise and threat.

He twisted his hips, unable to resist the need to defend that vulnerable spot, but the arm followed his movements exactly. The small fingers focused in on that one spot, rubbing, teasing the tight muscled ring. Envy hissed as he felt the first tiny digit slide past his sphincter.

The Gate allowed him to buck his hips once, then the web of arms holding and supporting him seemed to tighten. Envy's freedom of movement was reduced to the fisting of his hands. The intrusion deepened, widened, pulled him open, and it was cool and slick, its texture so smooth it slid past with little pain. Envy let out a tight little gasp with each deep, coiling thrust. It filled him in slow undulations, like a wave swelling over the shore.

The stroking of his cock jerked to a faster tempo. The sensation of thrusting into a tight cold coil, matched the feeling of being filled, an amazing synchronicity of nerve endings. It felt so good, so absolutely perfect. It took his flesh to its limit, but no further, never quite far enough that pleasure would cross the threshold into pain. Never to the point where the hitching of his forgotten libido would slide comfortably back towards hibernation.

Why—why—why his thoughts pulsed to the timing of his breath. What possible enjoyment did this thing get from this degrading act. It was like him, after all, not bound by the imperatives of reproduction, not beholden to such weak and useless concepts as romance or the financial expedient of family. And yet as a form of backwards sadism, it made sense. He'd sacrificed his body before on this particular alter, swallowing his disgust as he smiled into the face of whatever partner Dante figured needed seducing. He'd spread his legs, and offered up his temporary female organs to some important peon's mating rut, knowing that even as they dirtied him with their breath and seed, that he had them by the balls. He'd laughed at how easily he could twist vulnerable desire into bitterness. How many had confessed love for him? How many had been crushed to find they'd been shamelessly used?

The tables were turned. Here he was held by the least desirable sexual partner he could imagine, and he wanted to fuck it, and be fucked by it, his lusts stirred the way no previous partner had ever managed. And it was hideous, but he didn't care because the need was so damn keen now, backing down would be a far worse torture than continuing on.

He glared up into its huge unblinking eye and, throwing out one last unspoken curse, he gave it what it wanted.

It quickened its thrusts exactly in time with his orgasm, as if it knew what he was feeling. The pressure within made the pleasure in his cock more intense, building him to a higher crescendo than he'd ever reached in his dry, spiritless sexual duties. He could feel an addiction forming, and even when this was over, he'd remember these loathsome, perfect, touches and part of him would want more. Part of him would miss this.

The last jagged wave of pleasure hit its peak and he opened his mouth in a miserable groan. Fingers found their way past his lips, this time moist and webbed with his own ejaculate. It rubbed his humiliation into his tongue, making sure he savored the flavor of his defeat. He wrinkled his face with disgust and tried to spit the bitterness away.

"Why?" he asked, when he could.

~—even icarus had a moment in the sun—before he fell—~

Terror roiled over Envy's belly, and his eyes widened in disbelief. "NO! Fuck you NO! I'm not going to fall yet. Sex with you is not my moment of glory. Killing Hohenheim—THAT'S my triumph! Don't you dare—" His voice cut off with sudden unexpected agony.

The arm buried between his buttocks, thrust again, this time there was no pleasure as it rammed him, splitting the lining of his intestines and immersing itself deep in the abdominal cavity. The pain he'd been anticipating from the start overwhelmed him. A second arm forced its way in. Then more arms stretching and tearing him mercilessly, breaking his pelvis to pry him further apart. He could feel it spreading within him, daggers of pain going through his chest, his arms, his legs, his brain.

He healed. The pain dissipated as his nerves dissolved and there was only the disconcerting feeling of being inexorably altered. This wasn't the smooth transformations he'd done to himself, but transformation it was. His body expanded like a balloon to accommodate a sudden flooding mass. His skin burst, peeled, and reformed rougher. His eyes saw scales, shining iridescently. His arms and legs shrank and were lost in the burgeoning torso.

He grew, huge, a great long immense snake. Limbless, sinuous, monstrous. His form settled as he howled out his fury.

There would be no stealth, no grace, no slowly savored triumph. His options for killing Hohenheim in this body were reduced to nothing but clumsy strength and fangs. When Hohenheim's death finally came Envy would have to taste it, literally, the old man's blood and flesh in his mouth as Envy ripped him apart with the only weapon left to him.

"My revenge!" he cried out, his new unfamiliar jaws and tongue shaped the words with effort.

~—your revenge is meaningless to us—~

"Change me back, you bastard. Make me human! I can't search for him like this! The humans will try to kill me!"

~—hunt—and be hunted—your passage is paid—~

The door that had been hovering so close all this time finally opened on the clear starry blackness of an English summer night. Gravity shifted, and the open portal became "down".

"NOOOOO!" Envy shrieked and flailed his serpentine body in a hopeless attempt to escape his fate.

The Gate let go and Envy fell.