Breathe In, Breathe Out

Greed/Envy. R. ~2400 words. Reverse timeline. Pastfic. Co-authored with Ponderosa.
People die from wanting too much.

There is no Denial.

*

Anticipation curls tightly in Envy’s stomach. He welcomes each explosion of pain as knuckles crack against his jaw. Edward is losing himself in it, bloodlust gleaming in furious golden eyes.

He almost cackles in glee when Edward demands to see his true self. Greed had asked him that once, and sulked when he wouldn’t. It’s too perfect. The only thing better is the complete and utter shock plastered across Edward’s face.

Blood gushes hotly down his arm, spattering across his face and chest. Edward doesn’t believe it; no one ever believes their own death. Envy wonders if Greed looked at Edward the same way, if Edward felt Greed’s blood warm and slick on his skin.

Envy can see the life fading quickly from his eyes, and smiles with vicious satisfaction. It’s so close to killing that bastard. So very close. One by one, he’ll kill them all.

“An eye for an eye, they used to say,” Envy murmurs.

*

Sprawled on his side in the rumpled sheets, he gradually focuses on Greed’s face. Greed grins, all pointed teeth and self-satisfaction.

*

“So, Greed is dead, huh?”

“Yes,” Lust replies. “He died in…”

She goes on, and on, but Envy isn’t really listening. He says what she expects him to say, sneers when she expects him to sneer, and paints the picture of apathy she expects to see.

He’s disgusted with Greed, disgusted with every fool cursed with the name Elric. Blood never bothers Dante, but she always prefers it to spill at someone else’s feet rather than soil her precious toes. A part of him appreciates, even applauds her skilful manipulation, the irony of using the bastard’s son to rid herself of an inconvenience like Greed. Even if it’s only for the pain little Edward endures.

Saunter right into Dante’s hands; such a predictable Greed-like thing to do. Finally, his cockiness had fucked him over for the very last time.

“Huh?” Envy says, belatedly noticing Lust’s silence. “What’s wrong? Don’t tell me you’re getting all emotional because Greed kicked it.”

“Not really,” Lust says, avoiding Envy’s gaze. She murmurs something else that he forgets as soon as the words leave her lips.

“Stupid…” Envy mutters, dismissing her ramblings without a second thought. He doesn’t have time for her and her philosophy, or her eyes soft with human emotion, or her sympathy for the worthless creatures.

The new homunculi are like children to him, children he doesn’t have the patience to deal with. They’re not Greed, he realises, and Greed is who he wants.

But Greed is more than dead; he doesn’t exist anymore. Some idiot alchemist will raise another to take Greed’s place, Dante will give it Greed’s name, and only Envy will ever spare Greed a moment’s thought.

As the knife sinks through the restaurant owner’s flesh, Envy imagines it’s Dante’s rotting heart it pierces.

*

There is no Anger.

*

The Fifth is never silent. In the dark, claws scrape metal and stone, and animal eyes shine with intelligence. The chimeras fascinate and repulse him. They bare their teeth and hiss at him. He’s tempted to stop and give them a reason, but he’s not here for them.

He can feel it as he draws nearer, the measured, throbbing pulse that slows the blood in his veins and dulls his vision. Even before he can see the soft glow, he can feel it trying to suck his life away.

Maybe it would have been better to let Dante kill him, but Envy’s too selfish for that. He tells himself he doesn’t care how Greed suffers.

Greed’s eyes narrow with pure hate. “You,” he spits.

Envy smiles, and lets Greed think its because he’s happy to see his handiwork. “You should be grateful,” he says. “You’d be dead if it wasn’t for me.”

Greed’s lips peel back in a snarl that quickly fades. Instead of replying, he closes his eyes and turns away.

“She just wanted to kill you,” Envy continues, restlessly pacing the edges of the array. He wants Greed to look at him. He needs it. “But I know you. Poor Greed, what’s the one thing he doesn’t want?” he asks, fingers toying with the leather bracelet he’d taken from Greed’s wrist all those years ago.

Greed doesn’t answer, but Envy knows he’s listening. He can feel it like the brush of butterfly wings on his skin. It’s enough. Hate is something he understands.

“To have nothing,” Envy whispers.

*

“Not bad,” Envy comments as soon as speech is possible. Playing with Greed gives him something fun to do, stuck in the empty hell of a city the alchemists had created centuries ago. The new homunculus picks enjoyable ways to explore the abilities of his body, and for once, Lust would be the jealous one.

*

Envy’s eyes flash wide, slit pupils dilating and contracting in the instant life returns. Breath slams into his lungs. He slumps against Greed’s chest, and listens to the echo of their pointless heartbeats.

“Run,” he rasps, and doesn’t know why he bothers. It’s too late now.

Greed’s grin wavers, the clawtip tracing the dark lines of the ouroboros stamped on Envy’s thigh stilling. “What?”

Envy pushes himself up, crawls backwards off the body stained with sweat and tears, blood and come. He watches suspicion wash the last of Greed’s contentment away.

“Envy,” he growls, and reaches for him.

It’s easy, too easy, to roll away. Envy lands in a silent crouch on the carpet, rises and backs up slowly as Greed surges to his knees. Suddenly, the room is bathed in sick pink light. Bile burns the back of his throat. He doesn’t stop until his back hits the wall.

Greed’s doubled over in pain, staring up at him. Every human emotion Envy enjoys is stamped stark as newsprint across his face: shock and dread, the perfect expression of poleaxed denial every person wears when death finally stops for them. It disgusts him to see it on Greed’s face.

“I should have been enough!” Envy screams. Over the horrible sound of Greed’s vomiting, he can hear Dante’s delighted laugh.

*

There is no Bargaining.

*

The girl’s eyes are wild with fear and confusion. Again, she looks to Greed to explain what’s happening, incapable of believing that all his beautiful words aren’t true. She trusts Greed, like all the foolish ones do. It makes Envy sick.

Greed doesn’t answer the silent plea. This game isn’t theirs anymore, but Envy knows exactly how it’ll be played. Underneath the seething jealousy, he’s almost proud. Proud, and a little worried.

“She’s pretty,” Envy comments, crouching down beside her. He grasps her chin and tilts her face toward him, smiling at the sight of tears trembling in the corners of her eyes. “He promised you everything you ever wanted, didn’t he?” Envy asks, voice full of false sympathy.

It’s all a mask; he knows better than showing any truth in this glass house.

“Yes,” she says, breathless and uncertain.

“You can’t have everything,” he replies. He can feel her heart beating as frantically as a hummingbird’s. Idly, he twists a perfect curl around his finger, letting his knuckles brush the soft, pale skin of her bare shoulder.

Her mouth opens in shock or protest, Envy doesn’t care which. She’s not his concern. “People die from wanting too much,” he continues, long fingers sliding gently around her throat.

The girl’s eyes flash wide. “No-!”

“Greedy, greedy,” he says, finally meeting Greed’s narrow-eyed stare.

*

Greed flexes his hand, still obviously fascinated with the ripple of muscle under metal as much as he is with the limitless potential of Envy’s body. His expression settles into something more anticipatory as razor-sharp claws stroke the dark ouroboros on one naked thigh.

*

Envy’s thighs press tightly to Greed’s sides, his hands pin Greed’s wrists to the ruined sheets. The matte-black shield is strangely warm under his fingers, and he imagines he can feel Greed’s pulse through the carbon. He smiles, a maliciously delighted twist of his mouth.

Greed’s teeth clench, sweat beading on his lip. “Asshole,” he groans, licking it away.

“Just pick the one you want more,” Envy purrs into Greed’s mouth.

Greed knows the rules, Envy plays this game with him all the time. Offers him two things he wants and dangles them in front of him. Pick the right one and Envy will give him both. Pick wrong and he ends up empty handed.

The choice is the trick. The right answer changes as quickly as Envy’s mood, and it’s just as unpredictable. A game of chance that no one really knows how to win.

“Decide – decide – decide,” Envy singsongs, his breath warm and heavy on Greed’s throat. He doesn’t care which Greed chooses, it’s the act of forcing the choice that he enjoys.

“You,” Greed hisses.

Envy smiles, secretly pleased. It’s impossible for him not to be; Greed might want everything, but Envy has spent two lives being unwanted. He’s addicted to the idea, obsessed with it, and he knows it. He has to make Greed pay for reminding him.

Greed thinks he’s won.

“Wrong,” Envy says, just because he can.

*

There is no Depression.

*

The alley is dank, reeking of filthy humanity. Terrified rats skitter off into the blackness, desperate to escape a gory death at Envy’s bored hands.

He crosses his arms and says, “You’re late,” when Greed finally appears.

Greed shrugs, as unconcerned as always. “I had stuff to do.”

Lust doesn’t comment, but Envy can practically hear the thoughts churning in that pretty little head. Neither of them is fool enough to trust the other; they know Dante uses them as she likes to get what she wants. The difference between himself and Lust, Envy thinks, is that Lust actually believes Dante will keep her word. Greed would never be so stupid.

“He’ll be leaving within the half hour,” Lust informs Greed, referring to tonight’s mark. “You already know what she wants.”

Greed is only partially listening. He wanders past Lust, slouching against the wall near Envy. “Why can’t she do it herself?” he asks, and strokes one knuckle down the soft skin of Envy’s upper arm. It’s a possessive gesture, a casual touch that easily betrays them both.

Envy doesn’t have to look to see the calculating gleam in Lust’s eyes. Greed knows better, but he doesn’t care enough to follow the rules.

“Just do it,” Envy snarls, grabbing Greed’s finger. The snap of bone is loud and satisfying until the jolt of surprise flashes across Greed’s face. It’s only then he realises what Greed has done to him.

He jerks his head sharply for Lust to follow. “Just do it,” he repeats, and ruthlessly shoves the worthless human emotions he thought he’d killed long ago out of his mind.

*

“Worth dying for?” Greed asks, although it’s only half a question. A thin line of blood spills over his careless fingers. Abruptly, eyes flaring with eager light, he rolls above Envy, straddling slim hips still bearing the marks of his teeth and his claws.

*

The fine crystal shatters, sprinkling to the expensive carpet in worthless shards.

“I’m sick of you,” Greed shouts, anger flaring hotly in slit-pupil eyes. He slumps in the chair, knees bent and spread wide. “Fucking sick of you feeding me little tidbits whenever you see fit,” he sulks.

Envy lazes on the windowseat, one leg swinging idly over the side, and carelessly watches the dark wine spread like a bloodstain. “Ask nicely,” he says, smiling. “Maybe I’ll answer.”

Greed snarls a curse at him, viciously kicking the ottoman. It tumbles across the floor, splintered and broken. “Go fuck yourself,” he mutters, drinking straight from the dark mouth of the wine bottle.

Envy rolls off the seat into a low crouch just as the bottle crashes through the window above his head. Razor-edged shards rain down, slicing the cushions open. “You’re no fun when you don’t want to play,” he complains, rising slowly. “I’m offering what you wanted, aren’t I?” He lifts a hand, palm up, and shrugs.

“Trying to get me to play your games,” Greed retorts, eyes narrow and wary as Envy approaches.

“You’d like them,” he insists, circling behind the high wingchair. Envy curves a hand across Greed’s throat, forcing his head back, thumb stroking the sharp angle of his jaw. He enjoys it, how easily it is to toy with him.

Hunger flashes in Greed’s eyes; Envy can feel want strong enough to kill for thrumming under his fingers. Greed can’t control the force of it, not yet. Soon, Envy knows, but for now, it’s just another way for him to play. His smile is one of pure malicious glee.

“Ask me something,” Envy purrs into his ear. His teeth graze Greed’s ear, one hand sliding boldly across his stomach. “Ask the right questions, I’ll give you more than just answers.”

Greed’s tone is surprisingly flat. “Why are you such a twisted, bitter son of a bitch?”

Silence meets his words. Abruptly, Envy laughs the first real laugh Greed’s ever heard from him. “I didn’t have anyone to tell me what I was,” he says, fingers tracing the soft flesh of Greed’s lips. “Why should you?”

Sharp, pointed teeth catch Envy’s fingertip, easily slicing into flesh to draw bright red blood. Envy’s breath hisses sweetly in his ear. “Because I’m greedy,” Greed says.

*

There is no Acceptance.

*

Envy stands over the pale, shivering body, its tender flesh streaked with blood and gore, coal black hair slicked flat to its skull. Wide eyes, wild with fear, fix on him.

“You’re a mess,” he says, crouching down to pat its heaving side. He grins when it winces and tries to make uncooperative limbs move. “It’d be easy to kill you.”

Envy strokes a hand up a surprisingly firm chest, curling it around the thing’s throat. One snap, he thinks, and that fear would fade with its defective life. Better than abandoning it.

It swallows a breath as his hand tightens, purple eyes narrowing as if it knows Envy’s thoughts. The growl it makes is half a plea and half a threat. It’s enough to make him pause.

“You don’t want to die?” he asks.

*

He doesn’t wait for an answer.

*

There is only Envy.

End

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