Waha! I finished! Angst is back! ::Does angst dance::
Nyah. I've been thinking over this one for a while. So glad I got it all done. Some of you might have heard my dumb rantings on the plot bunny, so you may know that I was inspired by the legend of King Arthur (Hate that legend >>), and the story of Uther and Igraine. Of course, this is very different, because the only reason Uther and Igraine worked out was because Uther was a greedy manwhore, and Igraine was an airheaded floozy. But, moving on...
Episode 25 spoilers majorly, and minorly, episode 50 spoilers. I reccomend not reading if you don't already know Envy's past.
Contains; Language, cruel themes, unabashed Envy pity and the closest thing to a sex scene that you'll ever see a prude like me writing. >>;;
In Loathing Memoriam
A trail of sour smelling smoke trailed from the barrel of the doppleganger's gun, as it regaurded it's deceased victim against the pavement, with cold, scornful eyes. Normally, the shapeshifter was either perfectly stoic, or downright euphoric when it came to the task of eliminating human life. Yet, behind the decidedly unfeeling expression, there was a deeper link, a hidden loathing, an essence of sick satisfaction in this assignment. He gazed at the fallen photograph on the bloodied sidewalk with his borrowed eyes, glaring at the image of the perfect, happy family smiling back at him.
"You just had to have everything... you bastard."
It was meant to be a simple, impersonal mission. Whenever someone knew too much, exterminating them was natural. He was only meant to be backup in case the lieutenant got away.
Strange how things work out like that.
Envy, in spite of his inherent sin trait, was always more ready to express his own wrath rather than his jealousy. He'd never even let on the slightest of clues as to his true emotions, especially those pertaining to the chipper lietenant who they'd thoroughly studied and kept close watch upon from the beginning. He kept a completely neutral manner about discussion, and tried to sound indifferent on the topic of his asassination. He constantly justified any small nuances about his behaviors, trying to pin any special attention he gave towards his inborn sadistic nature. None of the other sins blinked an eye when he mused that it would be nice to see another human die; He hadn't tasted blood in a while. They never suspected, for what they saw in him, they always saw as simply justified in his nature.
Even when alone on the moonlit street, he found himself justifying, as he glared spitefully at the glossy blood flecked photograph. He justified to himself about what he'd done; what he was to do. He was only curious.
He knew the street and alleyways like the back of his hand; he had, after all, spent centuries in this world, and had grown to know Central meticulously as it grew and changed around him.
Buildings and streets changed. Humans never did.
He knew exactly where he was going. He'd been over files obsessively, and repeated necessary addresses in his head, almost to the point of overuse. He was rumored to have a tendency for forgetting details; that was only when he didn't care. He knew this adress like something personal. Like a poem or some grating playground diddy repeating itself in his ancient mind. His obsessive memorization was also just as reasonable; he was, after all, Dante's lapdog. He would do his best to serve her bidding, especially when murder was involved. His obsession with knowing everything about the Hugheses was chalked down to nothing more than thorough loyalty.
There was a light blue flash in the dark alley on the Central city street corner.
This was where it would begin.
The inside of the house was just as he might have expected. Picturesquely clean, save for the various corners and designated spots where Elysia's projects were scattered about, in an adorably messy manner, all objects in the house were pretty, practical, not valuable, and never breakable. There were family photos adorning every surface of tabletops and walls; heirloom art hung judiciously out of child-level reach above the mantle. In spite of the remnants of the birthday party that had taken place there recently, the carpet was meticulously tidy, a clear brave attempt to keep up with the wild four year old who had a tendency to stash small objects like halfway deflated balloons behind the sofa, and in other fascinating spots.
He closed the door, and set the key he'd taken upon the kitchen table as he cautiously stepped about the linoleum floor trying not to make too much noise.
There were colorful magnets on the ice box door; childishly constructed, shaped as various simple things and pasted with plastic googly eyes on the front. They tacked various papers to the surface, from shopping lists, to-do reminders, and mushy love notes from Maes to Gracia and vice versa. Such a ridiculous guesture; those little sweet nothings and smiley faces penned on spare bits of stationary, but they were so quaint, so very insanely human, that he found himself drawn into further curiosity.
He was musing about the most clever way to tell his comrades about how sickeningly foolish it was to see the sentimental literary battle of 'I love you more' 'No, I love you more.' upon the sticky notes, when his attention was caught by a colorful crayon scribble proudly posted beside the rest of the important slices of everyday life.
It was crude; laughable in artistic terms, but really, little more could be expected of a four year old girl. The edges were bent, and the upper right corner was smudged with some sticky purple goo, jelly, most likely. There were simple circles with stick limbs which must have been meant to pass for people, one short and smiling, with a green figure beside it, who held a black lump by their face, and far on the opposite end was a blue clad character with large circles about it's dot eyes, and a blob by it's own face which seemed slightly clearer, so he could nearly make out that it must have been intended to be a telephone. The girl was clearly too young to write anything except for the simplistic bold lines of "Elysia" written at the bottom, so it was clear where mother's borrowed penmanship was used in the penciled title "Papa at work".
The image of the lisping child running joyfully towards her mother, grasping the artwork with her sticky jellystained fingers was easily conjurable. Always accompanied with the phrase "Mommy! Look what I did!" Maybe the general feeling was one of those universal experiences that was programmed into the human, and consequently homunculus memory. Hadn't he read something about those sorts of things once; inborn memories?
Certainly it wasn't something he'd ever been through.
He had so few memories, and he'd replayed them for so long over his existence, that he really wasn't quite certain what was real any longer, and what parts of his previous existence were merely fancy. Nurturing your undying hate for the person who created you had the tendency to bias your memory just a tad.
He pulled the paper from the surface and sat at the table, massaging his temple. The image scratched something deep within his consiousness that he couldn't quite put his finger on. It didn't just scratch; it poked; it stabbed; it tickled mercilessly at some out of reach forgotten sentiment. And not knowing what it was; that was the sort of thing he hated the most. He'd come here for answers, or something like that. At least, that was what he told himself. Now, this discomfort bothered him.
'This guy...' he scoffed at the thought of the foolish lieutenant, 'He acts like such a family man. But how does he get all that time to stick his nose in everyone else's business? I guess he's not all he seems.' He breathed in satisfaction with the conclusion he'd come to. As long as he could convince himself that maybe the idiot was really unhappy, he could rest easier. All of the weeks of research and collecting background on him had lead them to believe he was the perfect father; nobody asked would ever deny that fact. At least now, he could prove such perfection didn't exist.
'Always working...' he mused, tapping his finger on the picture, 'Always...-'
"You're always gone! So caught up in your studies!" A woman's voice echoed, "If you haven't noticed, you have a son!"
The tremor of a memory caught him by surprise. The memories of a homunculus are different from those of a human. While their minds function the same as far as recording thoughts of their second existance, memories from a previous life are an entirely different matter. The few homunculi who do remember their life before their defective existence are often hesitant to tell. It is a painful experience; emotionally and physically. Like a short-circuit suddenly sending a jump through the nerves; reminding of the absence of the soul for only a split second. He held his head and waited for the pain to pass.
It had just quieted when another presence, benevolent this time, made him jump again.
"Honey?" cooed the voice of Gracia Hughes from behind him. He turned to face her; standing gracefully, as though the act of simply holding still could be an art, clad in a light blue nightgown, and holding an ever-present welcoming smile on her angelic face.
She looked so perfect.
"You're home so early," She said, briefly darting her gaze to the clock and back, and stepping forward, tucking a short lock of hair, messy from sleep, behind her ear, "It's only twelve. You seemed to have more on your hands than could be solved by then."
Envy had to take a moment to fully catch his senses before employing his acting skills.
"Well, things went better than I expected," He laughed, trying his best to smile casually, "But the investigations are going smoothly. I decided to call it a night."
'What if she suspects something? Should I kill her? Wasn't that the reason I came here?... Shit! What was the reason I came here? I didn't think I'd have to face anyone... did I?'
Envy's frantic thoughts were interrupted.
"Wonderful. I'm glad to see you're home safely," Gracia remarked, standing behind him and stooping to wrap him in a loving embrace, "Welcome home." She sank lower to set her chin on his shoulder and breathed contentedly,
"You know," She mentioned dreamily, "I never get tired of saying that. Welcome home, honey. Every single day, no matter how long it's been, it's so wonderful to see you back again."
She shifted and straightened herself, and without any order or cue, began smoothing her hands along his shoulders, and kneaded with knowing, deft fingers, gently working out the tension.
"You must be tired," She muttered, empathetically.
"Y-yeah. It's been a long day," Envy tried his best to lie, and fake fatigue. It wasn't really the acting that made him uneasy though, since he'd been experienced enough in that area; it was the touch. In all his centuries, he couldn't really remember the last time he'd ever been touched by another person unless it was in the process of killing them. Even his brothers and sisters among the homunculi; there was always an uneasy and unspoken barrier between them all. They all did their best to avoid contact, and keep their interactions strictly impersonal. He had been strangled by Greed once; of course, not long before he simply healed his crushed neck and sealed the bastard. That was the last time he'd ever been touched so directly. But now, there was a set of hands on his neck again, and they weren't aiming to crush his windpipe; they were gentle, and soothing; so completely alien.
He wanted to feel it longer.
He had just relaxed into the strange sensation of being touched when she removed her right hand and reached over his shoulder to pick up the crude crayon drawing on the table.
"Ah, I see you found this. We didn't get to show it to you yet, did we? Elysia just did it today."
"Oh, is that so? We may have to enroll her in art school pretty soon," It sickened Envy to say things like that, but he had to try staying within his intended character.
Gracia breathed and spoke a little bit more sadly this time,
"About today. What you said before. Well, I guess your answer is in this picture."
Envy couldn't quite think of how to respond to not sound incriminating of his ignorance, but Gracia continued for him,
"I know you worry about being a good father. You don't want all your daughter's memories of you to be of you being gone at work. And, well, here's the evidence." She guestured to the messy picture.
'So [I]that's what-...[/I]'
"But, there's another side to it, see?" She turned the sheet over to reveal another doodle upon the back. The same globular figures adorned it, but this time grouped together, smiling, and overlapping in what must have been intended as a group hug.
Envy gazed at the doodle, unsure of what to think of it, as the honey-haired woman spoke softly into his ear,
"You see? She's always thinking of you. She loves you so much, no matter where you are, or how far away you go," She gripped his hand reassuringly, "You're loyal to your friends; Roy could never ask for someone more than you. You care for those Elric boys, after they've lost everything. You do your job so well, and help people every day, and on top of it all, you still find time to make your family your priority. You care for Elysia, you protect us, and provide for us. Nobody could possibly ask for more than what you do. We love you for it, and we'll always be there for you. Always."
Envy's voice caught in his throat. Nobody had ever spoken to him like that. Not once.
"Honey. You don't need to blame yourself for anything. So just relax, and don't worry," She ran her fingers through his hair affectionately and planted a tiny kiss on his cheek, "No need to change. You're perfect."
'No need to...'
Young Envy perched on the soil in the corner of the dimly lit hall, as the creature in front of Dante gazed with ravenous eyes at the pile of stones in her hands. The messy pile of human pieces slumped and dragged itself again to greedily snatch it's first meal. The first sin whistled in amazement, a habit he'd formed while spending long hours alone in the empty corridors and sweeping halls of the underground mansion.
"Hello there, Envy." Dante spoke, not looking away from her new pet.
"That the new one that's supposed to be like me? What's his name?" The homunculus ventured, rocking on his heel boredly, yet fascinated by the prospect of another creature like himself.
"Haven't decided yet. I suppose we'll find out when we learn his power." The dark woman patted the growling mass as though stroking a child.
"What if he dosen't-" Envy stopped mid-sentence, not sure where he was trying to go with the question, "-dosen't have a power? If he's useless?"
Dante turned her head to gaze at her first sin with intense, smoldering eyes and said, with a vicious smirk,
"Then I'll simply be destroy him."
She was talking about the new sin. They both knew who she was really trying to warn.
'... perfect?...' Envy gaped at the thought.
The bastard... He really did have everything. He spent all that time away, taking care of military affairs, and poking his nose into other peoples' business. He had so little time for his family, and still...?
He'd hoped he could have justified an excuse for indifference by proving that he was imperfect. He'd wished so hard deep down that he could prove that Hughes was a truly unhappy man. He wanted so badly to just know that he didn't know the feeling of living the ultimate dream. Of a family. Of unconditional love.
His mind was suddenly frantic. He didn't want to know about this. He wasn't supposed to be here. He felt strange, and vulnerable, and out of place, and completely, utterly, filthy. He knew he was unworthy of the tender embrace that Gracia had wrapped him within, unwitting of his true identity. He knew his coming here was thoughtless and stupid.
He knew the absolute non-irony of his jealousy.
And he tried to justify it.
"Gracia-" He tried to speak, and was stopped again by a finger on his lips, silencing him.
"Get some sleep, honey." She smiled, patting his shoulder, and releasing her hold on him to step away.
He was stunned, to say the least, and had to spend a few moments before he could get up and turn around, so call out,
"Sssshhhh," She admonished sweetly, holding up a finger as he approached her, rather dazedly, "Sweetie, what is it?"
"You said before-" He started,
"Elysia is sleeping," She interjected, and he shook his haste from his words in favor of speaking more softly.
"You said before, that you didn't want me to change,"
"Yes?" She half chuckled, confusedly.
"Well, what if I did? What if I wasn't the same anymore? If I couldn't do my job; provide for you. What if I became useless?"
She blinked, and gazed, wide eyed, then softened into a quiet giggle.
"We've had this one before," She laughed, still hushed in a whisper, "We've already decided. When one of us get's sick, or when we get old and gray, and can't even cut our own food? We'll stay together. Because that's what we do."
She smiled radiantly, brushing a lock of sandy stray bangs from her eyes. She knew this little game. The docile friendliness in her eyes bore right through him, nearly making him shudder in it's earnesty.
She was so amazing.
He stepped closer to her, snatching both her hands and gripping them for security, a desperate need in his eyes.
"Would you promise?" He asked, his voice almost betraying his insecurity, reeking of childish nervousness, "No matter what?"
"No matter what," She reassured, playing along with her husband's needy little banter.
"Forever and then some," She shook her head, "Sweetie, I know you're stressed. Why don't you sleep?"
He held her hands tighter, and muttered just above a whisper, so impulsively that he didn't realize that he wasn't just thinking it,
"I need to hear it."
A very fond warm sigh told that she understood without being told just what this was about. She slipped her hand from his grip and brushed his cheek,
"I love you," She said.
Half stunned by the words, he leaned over without thinking and tasted of her lips which spoke that sweet thing to him. He felt a need, a strange inexplicable sentiment rise within him. It consumed him, enveloped him; some foreign emotion that vined and stretched and mingled with his inherent exxagurated jealousy. His pride was completely dashed, and for that moment, all he knew was this need.
He needed those words. He needed that comfort; that unshakeable eternal rock; that absolute nirvana that he saw in this common human's eyes.
Didn't they call that unconditional love? Isn't that what they call family?
He didn't care if those words weren't truly for him. He wanted them. He wanted her.
She broke the kiss, to his dismay, and patted his shoulder,
"Sleep?" She repeated fawningly, as she opened the bedroom door.
He followed her, caging her from behind in the gentlest embrace he could manage without driving himself insane. He wasn't going to let it all slip away. He couldn't.
"Honey," She cooed, as he grasped her left hand, "Not tonight. Elycia-"
"Elycia is sleeping," He assured her, raising her hand to kiss it, and she melted into her husband's touch.
The door clicked shut.
Gracia awoke, content and rested, to an empty bed, and the fleeting traces of an unrecallable nightmare, which she chose to push back and ignore, rather than worry over. The early pink sun was filtering through the lacy shades of their room, spotting the lilac sheets, and dotting across the floor. Maes was nowhere in sight.
"Honey?" She called out, with no response, as she reached for her blue robe and pulled it on, stepping into her slippers and listening intently to the silent void. No reply came. She casually supposed he was up early, making breakfast. Otherwise he may have kissed her goodbye if he were leaving early.
She padded drearily, yawning, into the empty kitchen. No sign of Maes. No notes. No surprise wake-up platter. And strangely, the crayon drawing of Elycia's was nowhere to be seen.
"Honey?" She called again, a cold air hitting the back of her neck, as the ultimate sense that something was very wrong dawned on her. She was reaching for the telephone to call Headquarters, when she was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Coming," She responded softly, as she turned the lock, which curiously, was already left open. She twisted the knob and was met with the somber face of a young lieutenant saluting, and speaking in a forcedly crisp tone that implied momentary breaking,
"Mrs. Hughes," He spoke, clipping his voice and attempting to break the painful eye contact.
The dream came back to her in a horribly cruel rage of foreboding sadism. She raised a trembling hand to her mouth. She knew.
"Oh my God... "
He didn't need to stand nearby to hear the sorrowful sobs that broke the silence. Even if he hadn't recieved a near animal sense of hearing as part of his rights being a sin, there was no mistaking the stabbing tremor every time another supressed breath was shortened among the crowd adorned in black; Any unfeeling rock could have sensed the agony. He pressed his knees tightly against his chest, as though trying to make hismelf smaller against the tree upon which he was balanced; making himself invisible.
He was regressing from his shameful foolishness, and he found himself again trying to justify it. He made up lies; excuses; stories that might make the smallest lick of sense. If he knew himself at all; he wouldn't have done anything like he had. He wouldn't have trangsressed into such a childish stage of dependency; such a dispicably human emotion. He had to have had a deeper reason. It must have been his cruelty. He just wanted to make things worse for the family; he just wanted to revel in the twisted humor that only a heartless monster such as himself could enjoy. It had to be that, and yet-
"Mama! Why? Why are they burying papa?"
Elycia's voice stabbed his ears with it's innocent pitifulness.
'It's because I'm a bastard, you brat,' He repeated to himself, 'I'm a bastard of the worst kind. That's just what I do!'
"Mama! Make them stop burying papa!"
'The more you cry the more I like it! I do! I love it when you humans suffer-'
"Make them stop! Papa can't go to work if they bury him!"
'Somebody, please make this brat shut up!' He desperately pressed a cold hand against his face.
The shriek made him shudder; a shockwave through his entire being. He knew that shriek. He was that child. He could remember; he could remember the helpless flailing human arms, shrieking for 'Papa' to come back. He wrenched the paper he held in his hands.
Somebody had dropped a tear across the surface of the waxy crayon drawing.
It definitely wasn't him.