The Difference Between

Greed/Envy. NC-17. ~5000 words. Dubcon. Pastfic.
What could you have possibly done that’s worse than everything else you already have?

Greed walks into every room like he owns it.

Rain pelts the rippled glass, coldly stinging droplets that slash the petals of early struggling flowers. The beds are dark and rich, turned by the hand of some nameless gardener. She doesn’t like to dirty her dainty fingers. Not anymore.

He enjoys spring, the way the air smells of damp earth and green growing things, the way the bright sun warms his skin. Spring brings clear roads for travel, but stubborn winter is still holding on with dark clouds and biting wind. He is restless, cooped up and penned in. Prowling empty hallways searching for something to do, avoiding doing anything she wants him to.

It’s Envy’s room, next to his and joined by thick sliding doors. The window is open. Water soaks the carpeting, stains it dark as spilled rum. He shuts it and draws the curtains closed against the dull afternoon.

It feels alien, lived in but not; things collected over too many years set down and forgotten and never appreciated. The oil lamp she had given him when she still had thoughts of mother and son, wick unburnt and rotten with time; silver-backed hairbrushes unused, tailored clothes unwanted. His fingers drift over each item, disturbing dust and leaving evidence enough to bring Envy furious to him, if Envy would notice before another layer of grey settles and hides his trespasses.

Envy is gone, sent on some errand weeks ago neither of them bothered to mention to him. The others, too, wafting in and out of the house like half-remembered ghosts. He hasn’t seen them for days now, and there’s a taint to his impatience that tastes too much like loneliness. Each time he’s on the verge of leaving, each time he thinks she’s forgotten he’s still here, she reappears. She smiles at him, dark eyes hard as the precious stones draped round her neck, and doesn’t bother to break the silence with a word of greeting.

He picks a carelessly discarded waistcoat off the chair, catches the familiar scent of Envy still clinging to fine, hand-woven threads. Turning it over in his hands, he thinks about putting it away, about giving Envy a reason, and pauses halfway to the armoire. Dried blood on the sleeve, tacky-edged slashes across the back. The room is starting to reek of it, unnatural and too strong to have spilled from a human’s veins.

Envy is lying on the floor beside a bed he never uses, long hair falling out of its tie and fine clothes in tatters. The back of his shirt is shredded, white turned the brown red of stale blood. Some part of his mind that remembers what it means to be human tells him Envy is dead. He knows it’s impossible; they’re the immortality people dream of, but even as he thinks it, he realises it’s true. Envy is dead at his feet, vibrant purple eyes dull and blankly staring.

He sits on the bed, overcoat gripped in one hand dangling between his legs. He’s seen Envy die before. Too many times to count he’s been the one to snuff out the spark as easily as dousing a match. He’s felt the quiet afterwards, the fleeting moments when whatever makes them live has stopped, frozen, suspended and silent like fallen leaves caught in a winter’s pond. He’s watched, fascinated, as Envy’s been snapped screaming back to life.

Seconds tick to minutes, and Envy doesn’t move. Wetness has gathered at the corners of lifeless eyes, trickled in slow, drunken paths down porcelain cheeks. A dead man’s tears, and Envy is neither. Envy doesn’t even know how to cry.

“What have you done this time?” he asks. He waits for a flicker of something to tell him Envy’s listening, but Envy never really does. “What has she done,” he corrects himself as he stands. The coat drops to the floor.

He picks Envy up, limp as a child’s doll in his arms, and lays him on the coverlet. Envy’s eyes close, and death becomes sleep. He traces the path of dried tears, touches soft, parted lips. It’s like touching the things he wants; possessive and materialistic. Envy’s a pretty thing to own.

Warm breath brushes the back of his hand; stuttered, weak. He’s never seen Envy like this, so quiet and still. Vulnerable. But whatever’s been done, the stones will heal it. He has some hoarded safely away, ones stolen behind her back, ones given to him by Envy. Traded for favours and promises neither of them will keep. Favours and promises are never the point.

He brushes tangles away from Envy’s face, and Envy lets him. Envy doesn’t have a choice. Gently, more afraid of ruining his moment than causing more pain, he rolls Envy onto his stomach, head nestled on the pillows and laid out exactly how he wants him. It’s easy to finish tearing the wrecked shirt, and Envy makes a fragile noise, high in his throat, as blood-crusted material pulls on wounded flesh.

It’s a quick, vicious thrill, clutching greedy claws in his gut, to have Envy spread out for him, breathless like they never are, aware but helpless. His hand gripping a bare shoulder, wide and dark against pale skin, he looks at the gory mess of Envy’s array, and it’s not as horrifying as it should be. Curious, he rubs his thumb over the sticky node closest to his hand. It’s whole underneath, tender like new scar tissue. He touches another, the one in the centre of Envy’s back, just to hear that soft, breathy sound of pain again.

“Better you than me,” he whispers to Envy, lips brushing skin that tastes of salt and copper. Stroking Envy’s side, petting him like matrons pet their poodles, he thinks of getting a washbasin and cleaning the mess away. Easier to drop him into a tub, but he likes the idea of dragging this out, taking his time like Envy never lets him do. He likes the idea of fucking Envy now, just like this, supple limbs draped loose around him, pretty body pliant and yielding.

He gets to his knees, saying, “I suppose this means you’ve been here all along,” and peels the rest of Envy’s clothes off to toss them to the floor. “I wonder what you did to deserve it,” he adds, his knuckles drifting up the back of Envy’s thigh. The rest of him is untouched, pale flesh perfect and whole. Only the marks on his back had bled, three round eyes weeping red tears.

Leaving Envy, he goes quickly back to his own room and latches the door. He takes what he needs: basin filled with warm water, soft washcloths, single, small stone. He shuts and locks Envy’s door as well, not expecting to be disturbed but not willing to take the chance. The lamps he leaves unlit.

Admiring Envy like a man admires his estate, he can see the subtle rise and fall of shallow breaths. Envy’s recovering slowly, floating somewhere between sleep and waking, a consciousness that barely is. He sits on the bed facing him, sets the basin down, and smiles a hungry, dagger-edged smile when dark eyelashes flutter and glassy eyes gradually open.

“I knew you heard me,” he says. Envy tries to focus on him, so he leans down, brings their faces close and mouths almost touching. Envy’s breath smells like pain, old metal-tinged screams. He can hear the unspoken reply echoing in his ears: Go away. Leave me alone.

He shakes his head, caresses Envy’s face with the hand holding the stone. “I can’t do that,” he murmurs. “Do you really think I’d leave you here, beaten and bloodied, all by yourself?” His smile grows as he speaks; it’s what Envy wants him to do, making it the one thing he won’t. Envy’s made him play this game before.

There’s need burning in glazed eyes, something he understands. It’s not sympathy that makes him bring the stone to his lips, or some lingering human desire to help that makes him use monstrous teeth to crack it in pieces. He tilts his head, warm lips brushing Envy’s cool ones, tongue pushing melting red fragments into his mouth. His hand splays over the torn array, the kiss turning hard and stealing what remains of Envy’s breath.

“I hate you,” is the first thing Envy tells him, still too weak to move, too weak to do anything besides breathe and hate. For him, one is as natural as the other.

He runs the backs of his fingers along Envy’s hip, waiting to see how much strength the bit of stone has given him. Envy watches, eyes nothing more than narrow slits as the steady stroke of skin on skin lulls him unwillingly close to exhausted sleep.

After several long minutes, he’s too curious not to ask, “What did you do?”

The rain patters against the window, thick drops greying the sky and bringing night too soon. Envy doesn’t answer, distrust bright in his eyes. He’s waiting now, snake in the grass, to see what will happen. It makes Greed smile, and for a quick moment, Envy’s the rabbit instead.

He licks the sharp angle of Envy’s shoulder blade, his hand slipping between slender thighs. Envy stirs, fingers curling on the downy pillow, lips spilling a curse into the heavy air. Flesh firms in his hand. Envy’s eyes darken, hate so like lust that it doesn’t matter to Greed where one ends and the other begins.

He lets his hand linger, then reaches for one of the floating cloths, drawing it out of the water and sliding it, soaking wet, over the small of Envy’s back. Stained water trickles to the bedspread, and Envy hisses when it touches the very edge of one node.

Dipping his head, wetting the cloth again, Greed lays his mouth lightly over Envy’s before dragging it boldly across the full array. The sound Envy makes is like a scream muffled in cotton, buried alive. He can feel his heart trip over itself, the claws in his stomach twisting, twisting tight until he has to do it again. He seals his mouth to Envy’s, holding him, pinning him as he starts to writhe. He swallows every injured noise, drinks each one eager for the next.

Envy’s struggling to stay conscious when he’s done, gulping breaths fast enough to choke on. Between his legs, Greed’s cock is heavy and slick, aching with the need to break him down, to shove deep in clenching heat and make Envy scream from the inside out. The blankets are drenched in bloody water, the basin overturned and spilled to the carpet by Envy’s thrashing. He looks down, fingertips tracing bruised, swollen lips. Absolutely captivated.

His marks on Envy’s skin aren’t fading. The slice made by his teeth isn’t healing. It’s something he’s always hated, how quickly they healed, how fleeting the little signs of ownership were. Envy’s small, pink tongue touches one bleeding lip. Their eyes meet, and then pointed teeth scrape the curve of Envy’s jaw, pierce the delicate skin of Envy’s neck. His fingers tangle in damp hair, palm pressed to sweat-streaked skin. He watches fresh blood seep from the perfect print of his teeth. Envy shudders as his tongue grazes the bite.

“I hate you,” Envy repeats, a different emphasis this time. His fist is curled against Greed’s chest, but he doesn’t have the strength to push him away.

“You hate everyone,” Greed replies. He rolls to his knees, straddles Envy’s hips and sweeps long hair aside. Cooling water seeps through his breeches. “The only difference,” he continues, “is how much.”

Envy tenses under him; Greed can’t see his face any longer, but he knows dazed eyes have widened, flickering with something that isn’t hate. He takes his time, exploring the shiny new not-skin of Envy’s array. It’d been cut away, sliced open and gouged out like she had tried to destroy him. The jagged knife marks linger, healing flesh stretched taut.

The shield flows down his arm before he thinks about it, lengthening fingers to claws and nails to talons. Envy must have felt the change; he’s cursing again, voice tainted with real fear beneath the threats. Greed settles back on his thighs, grips a handful of hair and holds Envy down until he stills. He can hear the harsh breaths sucked in through clenched teeth.

“Did it hurt,” Greed says, not a question. He scrapes the tip of one claw along the joining lines. It’s so new, so vulnerable. So tempting. Intoxicating. How a god feels holding fragile life in the palm of its hand.

Envy quivers, barely contained, and Greed thinks he imagines the whispered, “Don’t.”

“You’ll have to trust me,” he says. He bends down, puts his mouth to Envy’s ear. Takes in the scent of wet skin and the tang of salt. He curls his claws under, careful not to draw blood this time. “Don’t you trust me, Envy?”

Again, Envy doesn’t answer. He thinks of forcing one from him, of letting a claw pierce the array and see what it does, see how much it’d make Envy squirm. Cruelty tastes like candy in his mouth. Thick, sticky toffee sweet on his tongue.

“Why don’t you tell me why she tried to kill you,” he suggests. Brutally hard knuckles brush tender flesh, too gentle to be sincere. “What could you have possibly done that’s worse than everything else you already have?”

“Why?” Envy counters. It lacks bite, the single syllable too heavy and slurred. Greed thinks he’ll pass out, and tucks twisted strands of hair behind Envy’s ear to better see his face.

“We don’t have to talk,” he says, no answer ready and distracted by the wet hair curled round his fingers like vines. He’s never seen it matted and neglected. Envy is vain, and seeing this is just another reason for Envy to hate him.

He stretches out on the ruined sheets, unconcerned with the stains marring his clothes. Envy looks at him again, eyes clearer but still haunted; he expects the pain of claws sinking into him, of Greed being inside him in a way that would make him wish for honest death.

Greed doesn’t have to say it, but he does. He whispers it in his ear, into his mouth, telling all the things he wants to do. He slips a claw between Envy’s lips, lightly pins his tongue with the tip and rewards him with a kiss when he slowly curls it around the sharp edge. Envy reminds him of a cornered kitten, wary and cautious and one wrong move away from turning vicious.

The shield melts away. He paints soft lips wet, brushes the back of his hand over the still-fresh bite. Nudging Envy’s thighs apart, he settles his leg between them, drawing close as a lover in the dark. “Tell me how much you hate me,” he says, his hand drifting down, giving tender, coaxing caresses as false as the faces Envy wears.

Envy’s eyes close, muscles tense as Greed works one long finger into him. It’s all tight heat and small shivers, Envy’s hips twitching with every lazy stroke. He wants the frantic noises and useless struggling again, the feeling of Envy against him like a butterfly pinned with steel. He glances at Envy’s face and sees naked human emotion he’d thought killed off decades ago.

“Look at you,” he murmurs, cupping Envy’s cheek, stroking his thumb over parted lips to feel silent, hitched breaths. “Look at you,” he says again. “You don’t know if you want to kill me, or fuck me, do you?”

Envy starts to speak the scathing denial he’s heard uttered too many times before. He curls his fingers, spreads them wide, lets them begin to turn harder than stone, and the words die on blood-reddened lips.

“You don’t want me to hurt you again,” he says, his hand shifting back to warm flesh. Envy says nothing, just watches, but it’s answer enough. “I won’t,” Greed assures, not caring if it’s truth or lie, and kisses him again. He can’t remember the last time Envy let him have proper kisses. “As long as you don’t make me.”

Envy laughs at him, a ripple of sound made for dim, smoke-stained rooms, and says, “You liked it.”

His fingers still for a moment, caught off-balance by the tone of Envy’s voice; he wonders if Envy is toying with him, merely playing the part of helpless. His hesitation isn’t missed, and when Envy smiles, he has to fight the vicious urge to wring endless screams from that long throat.

“I did,” he admits instead, deliberately twisting his fingers to wipe the smile away. “I think you liked it more than you want me to know.” His palm presses too hard on water-slick raw flesh, his fingers push too deep, and Envy writhes between his hands, flinching away and straining toward. It’s Greed’s turn to smile, to laugh, as dark eyes glaze.

“What would happen if I did it?” he asks, preventing an answer with quick, calculated sensations, writing flashes of it clear across Envy’s face. One sharp claw scratches a barely-healed node, and Envy hisses, tenses, clutches at him. Greed groans softly in anticipation, licks the corner of his mouth, and listens for the grudging sounds echoing low in his throat.

“Maybe I should make you choose,” Greed whispers, teeth lightly scraping the shell of Envy’s ear and an arm sliding under him. Something creeps through his veins, makes him want to squirm with how delicious it is. Envy’s done this to him before, and it’s more than the chance to do the same in return that makes his tongue feel thick in his mouth.

It’s easy to drag Envy onto his chest, legs draped round his hips, head nestled in the crook of his neck, unresisting hands pushed into his hair. “Do you want me to hurt you, and fuck you, or fuck you and hurt you?”

Envy tries to lift his head, tries to use energy he doesn’t have to hide his thoughts. Greed runs both hands down his back, the threat ghostly light, and wets drying lips when he quivers.

“Pick one, Envy.” Warmth sinks through wet clothes. He caresses the cheeks of Envy’s ass, fingertips dipping between, teasing briefly before digging into pale thighs and spreading them wider. “You know how to play this game,” he says, touching hot, hidden flesh again. Grinding Envy against him, thrusting his fingers deep, he forces a breathless whimper from bitten lips.

He imagines what it looks like, Envy arranged, exposed, squirming on thick fingers pulling him open. His cock digs into the hollow of his hip, he can feel the softer length of Envy’s rubbing against him. Envy is struggling to move; his limbs are slow and sluggish, his hands slip on the sheets. It’s like he’s drugged. He’s caught and it’s perfect.

“Which do you want,” Greed prompts. He leans a little to the side and nudges with his shoulder, and then he can see Envy’s face again. He can’t read the shambles of half-finished thoughts behind heavy-lidded eyes, and he doesn’t care. All he wants is what Envy can’t do.

Envy tries to snarl an answer, teeth bared in a quick flash of white before acid pleasure makes him gasp and curl tight to Greed.

Greed bites just under his jaw, sucks blood to the surface to bruise. He spills Envy to the mattress between his legs, sits up and leaves him sprawled there for a moment to enjoy the thought of fucking that wide mouth raw. He shoves a hand into thick, tangled hair, pulls it sharply back, and jerks Envy’s head up.

“I like you like this,” he says. He briefly strokes Envy’s cheek, then tugs impatiently on the small, close buttons of his pants. He never learned to resist temptation. “I wish I’d known how simple it was to get it,” he murmurs, hand curled around his dick and wrist pushing heavy cloth aside.

Envy’s fighting him now, a hand braced on his thigh and the other raised, trying to push away. The air reeks of sex and blood. Greed rubs the tip of his cock over bruised lips, pushes between them, and Envy’s eyes flash wide again. A sound of animal fear echoes loud over the rain. He scrambles to get away, barely managing to tear free.

Greed snaps a clawed hand around his throat, feels the hummingbird pulse beat dully through the shield. He rises to his knees, lifting Envy with him, and catches slim wrists before nails can rake uselessly down his arm.

It takes him a moment as Envy slowly stills, starts to slump in his grip, to realise that Envy’s afraid of dying. It’ll fade, Greed thinks, but for now, it brings raw terror bubbling up through the hazed light in slit-pupil eyes. He lets the blackness recede, waits until the pulse under his fingers calms, and settles back on his heels. Envy falls, the burst of energy gone and leaving him weak again.

“I told you to trust me,” Greed says, arms sliding around him, gathering him close as his hands drift over soft skin. Envy’s back is against his chest, heart beat echoing dull and slow; Envy’s knees are bent and spread, legs flush against his own. He likes the way flesh quivers in the wake of his touch; he likes touching the things he owns. Envy doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, and Greed tilts his face up to see if he’s still conscious.

Envy blinks slowly at him, like it requires more effort than it’s really worth. A warm breath wafts over parted lips as his palm cups one tear-stained cheek, and he traces the dried path with his mouth. Tangled hair is rough on his skin. The room grows darker, and he wonders how much time he has left.

“Envy,” he whispers as clouded eyes begin to slip shut. He wraps an arm tight around Envy to hold him and lazily strokes the inside of his thigh. Blunt fingernails scratch the ouroboros. “Envy,” he repeats, lifting Envy just enough to slide his cock against soft flesh, pushed tight between the cheeks of his ass.

Envy shudders, groans. Slim fingers curl loosely over his as Envy’s head falls back onto his shoulder. Lips brush his neck, forming words he can’t hear. He burns the moment into his memory, the picture of them poised like an artist’s lovers, perfect black slashes of coal on stained white canvas.

Gently, he lifts Envy again, breath frozen in his lungs as the head of his dick presses against clenched muscle. Envy whispers his name, says, “Don’t,” but it’s too late; words turn to breathless hisses and he’s sliding inside, pushing into Envy’s body, flesh clutched so tightly around him.

Envy’s shaking, quivering, drawing little gasps of air as he rolls his hips. The shield ripples over him, turns nails to claws that prick skin and vanish again. Envy’s fighting him, can’t hold still in his lap with his dick buried deep. The small twitches, the little squirms, the endless writhing forces him to move. His teeth close over the muscle taut and straining at the base of Envy’s neck, his arms lock around him, fingers splayed and possessive over flesh bearing his marks.

He draws back, torturing himself with the feeling of Envy’s body grasping at him, savouring the choked sounds filling the heavy air. A pause and he’s inside again, sliding easily at first, then having to push and shove and force Envy down onto his cock. He spreads his knees wide, pulls Envy’s thighs further apart when he does, and gives a few shallow thrusts, breaking Envy’s low groan into short, hard grunts.

“You’re desperate for this,” he accuses, lifting Envy’s arm to nip at delicate skin, tongue sliding down the curve of his underarm. “You hate how much you want someone to want you,” he says, both hands skimming down Envy’s chest to his hips.

Support gone, Envy slumps forward, barely able to brace himself with one hand pressing white-knuckled to the ruined bedclothes. His other hand clutches at Greed’s fingers digging hard into his side.

“Tell me what you did,” Greed says, slowing, admiring the way every thrust makes Envy jerk, muscles flexing under smooth skin, shiny healing wounds. His hands drift back up, almost letting Envy fall face-down on the mattress before curving over his shoulders, holding him up. His gaze follows the notches of Envy’s spine, down to where he can watch the hard length of his dick sliding effortlessly into rippling heat.

He lets go of one shoulder, long fingers wrapping tight around Envy’s forearm instead, dragging it back until muscles bunch and a sharp protest stings his ears. It’s better again, fucking him like this, feeling it, watching it. He keeps the sounds of his own pleasure quiet, wanting to hear Envy’s helpless, frustrated moans. No curses, no denials, just wordless pleas for more, for less; he doesn’t care which.

Envy’s head drops forward, wet hair clinging to his back, dangling over his shoulders to the coverlet. Struggling for breath, he says Greed’s name, and Greed latches selfishly onto the sound of it spilling from bruised lips. He snaps his other hand around Envy’s free wrist, wrenches both arms back until Envy’s spine is bowed and they’re both on their knees, flesh slapping flesh, Greed pounding brutally hard into Envy’s slender, shaking body.

Orgasm rips along his nerves, sudden enough that the rush of pleasure takes him by surprise. He jerks Envy upright, pressed and held flush against him, and growls something too low and dark to be human lust. He grinds deep and feels his own come slick warm over his dick, turning harsh friction to gliding pleasure. Holding Envy by the throat, he turns him for a kiss, wide mouth tasting of unwilling tears.

Greed says something to him; he doesn’t know what. He says it again as he lays Envy out once more on the bed, as he lets his cock slip free of sweet come-slicked heat and replaces it with his fingers. Envy moans, tries to roll away, and Greed stops him with a hand wrapped tight around his cock. Fingers curving and twisting into him, Greed jerks him off, adding his come to the mess staining expensive sheets.

He lays beside him, dirtied hands stroking dirtied flesh, revelling in the way he can tuck Envy’s unresisting body close to his. Envy’s breathing gradually evens out, hovering again on the edge of oblivion. He pillows his head on one arm, letting his hand wander idly. Under the exhaustion, he can feel Envy’s boiling hatred, fury mixing with a lust, or a want, or a need, something so similar to the feeling crackling like lightning in the pit of his stomach.

The night grows darker as he thinks about leaving. His skin is tight with dried sweat, drying come. He combs his fingers through matted hair, working the tangles out. Envy lies awake and doesn’t try to stop him. Later, he knows, Envy will raise hell, happy to make his life miserable between bouts of things that only the desperately greedy want.

Dim lamplight creeps across the floor to the overturned basin, distracting him. His hand pauses, curved over Envy’s hip, and the light hesitates, then floods into the room. She stands in the doorway, shadows flickering across her face, and lowers the shutter only after his eyes have stopped aching.

It takes several quiet minutes for the smell of decayed perfume to penetrate the lingering scents of sex and blood. It crawls down his throat, curls in his stomach like molten lead. He wonders how long she’ll stand there, watching them. Her disgust is like her perfume, heavy and cloying.

“Envy,” she says. She takes a step into the room, drawing shallow breaths. She hates the reek of violent sex, but says nothing, only repeats Envy’s name again.

Envy stirs at the sound of her voice, trying to curl in on himself, then to crawl away on limbs that won’t work. Claws ripple into being, then fade again, and Greed convinces him to stay with nothing more than a hand stroking over the stained mark on his thigh. For now, Envy is more his than hers.

“Envy,” she says, a third time. There’s a note in her voice he hasn’t heard in years, a hint of the mother she might have been.

“He’s listening,” he tells her. He wants her to leave; she ruins everything. It’s because of her Envy only wants the things that someone else does.

She ignores him, says, “I’m sorry, child. You must forgive me.” She sounds desperate, and reminds him of the boys that rip the wings from butterflies and cry when they wither and die. His fingers wind in the drying, smooth strands of Envy’s hair as she watches. She says, her voice harder, “I know it wasn’t your fault, Envy.”

He smoothes a possessive hand over the ouroboros again. Envy’s eyes clench tight, body tense, trembling against his. Too low for her to hear, he whispers, “Don’t.”

Greed turns to watch her, catching the reflection of his eyes glowing with lamplight in the mirror. The truth is stamped across her face. Like mother, like son: under the pretty face, she always was a jealous bitch.

He stares at her until she leaves, the sparse light slinking back into the hallway. Darkness settles again, broken by the sounds of the rain petering out and the steady brush of skin on skin.


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