by Melissa the Sheep
Summary: Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.
Spoilers: Minor for episode 32 (just the little bit about Greed's back story)
Date: April 16-17, 2005
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist belongs to Arakawa-sensei, Square Enix, Funimation, Studio Bones, etc.
Feedback: melissa at hippiegoth dot org
Archive: List/community archives and by submission. Otherwise, ask.
It surprises Greed for a moment when the whore changes form--dress melting into knee breeches and waistcoat, limbs turning sinewy, fair curly hair shifting into a dark straight ponytail, the dainty rouged lips he'd picked her for changing into a familiar smirk. But it's not the first time Envy has done something like this to him, and he recovers his wits quickly enough.
"Bastard," he mutters, and rolls away from the body that's still arching under him but is no longer soft and feminine. He rises from the bed and fastens his pants.
Envy's own voice is sharp behind him. "After all this time, I thought you'd be happy to see me again."
"Not when you just take things away from me," Greed replies petulantly. He steps over the buckled shoes he tossed to the floor a minute ago when he'd been planning on removing his pants, and walks barefoot down the hallway.
A few paces behind him, Envy laughs. It's the same mirthless sound Greed remembers, and he tries to ignore it as he stalks into the parlor. He hadn't taken off his coat before ushering the whore into his bedroom, and he shrugs out of it now as he walks, then drops it on the parlor floor.
The housecat is napping in his armchair. Greed scoops her up and drops onto the velvet seat, legs splayed, slumping. The cat twitches her ears, indignant at being so rudely awakened, but she curls up again on Greed's stomach when he coos endearments at her and runs his fingers over her sleek gray fur.
"Come now," Envy says from the parlor doorway. "I didn't take anything from you. Not today."
Greed keeps his eyes on the cat, tickles her chin, feels her purring under his fingers. "You took her."
"Your whore? You never had her, Greed." Envy moves to stand between Greed's knees, and, with a smile, reaches down to caress his jaw in a mocking echo of how he strokes the cat. Greed raises his chin reflexively, just as a cat would, and finds himself looking into Envy's eyes. "You had only me. Don't you want me any more? I can be anybody--isn't that enough for you?"
The truth is that nothing is ever enough, but that's not what Envy wants to hear. There's probably no right answer at all--whatever he says, Envy can always find a reason to hate him. Greed stays silent. He knows this game. Good sense would demand that he throw Envy out of his rooms, then leave this city as quickly and discretely as possible. But he always did like to take a gamble, and, now that he's on his own and doesn't want to go back to taking orders, the stakes are high here.
"Not answering, hmm?" Envy says after the silence drags for a moment. "You've gotten smarter." He pats Greed's cheek lightly, and it could be either condescension or grudging approval. Envy turns away and drifts over to the sideboard, opening different bottles in Greed's collection of liquor and sniffing at the contents.
"What brings you into the city?" Greed ventures. He can't remember Envy ever going on his own accord to any town bigger or farther than Dublith--Envy has no interest in coffee houses, in operas, in art, in the things people do and say and create. He likes people only as much as he can make them suffer.
Envy continues to inspect Greed's liquor.
"Well?" Greed asks.
That could mean any number of things, and many of them would not be to Greed's favor. It's not that Envy is loyal to what Greed abandoned--but if he feels spiteful enough, he could go home now and ruin Greed with just a few words.
"But what about me?" Greed asks.
"You didn't answer my question. Why should I answer yours?" Envy holds up a bottle of pale green liquor. "What's this one?"
"Absinthe. It was invented about ten years ago now, but I don't suppose they'd have it in Dublith yet."
He takes Envy's silent glare to mean he's correct.
He smiles in return. "The color suits you, Envy."
"Does it?" Envy's lips turn up, and it's not quite the usual smirk. Maybe flattery has its uses. There isn't any truly bad blood between them, not yet, and Greed hopes to keep it that way.
"Would you like to try some?"
Envy nods, and his smile grows wider. Maybe he wonders what twist Greed is trying to put into their game.
The cat jumps from his lap as he rises. At the sideboard, he assembles the proper equipment on a tray--glasses, spoons, sugar bowl, carafe of water. Greed sets the tray on the floor and kneels. Envy stands over him and watches as he pours absinthe into the two short-stemmed glasses.
Of course Envy finds grounds for complaint immediately. "Yours is fuller."
"Because I don't think you want to drink your absinthe straight," Greed returns, balancing one slotted spoon across the rim of Envy's glass.
"And why not?" As expected, Envy regards that as a challenge. Without waiting for Greed's reply, he knocks the spoon away and raises his glass to his lips.
Greed tries not to smirk at Envy's sputtering and coughing. Envy never was much of a drinker. "Because it's much stronger than any wine or ale you ever had in Dublith."
"It's bitter," Envy whines. Yes, absinthe really does suit him.
Greed takes the glass, sets it back on the tray, and replaces the spoon. "The normal way to drink it is with sugar and water. Watch."
Envy mutters a bit under his breath, but doesn't interfere. Greed puts sugar in the bowl of the spoon--two lumps rather than one, because Envy always had a sweet tooth--and pours a thin trickle of water over them. The sugar water forms milky clouds in the absinthe, swirling until the whole glass is opaque. When the sugar has all been dissolved, Greed removes the spoon and hands Envy the glass.
He gestures to the couch. "Have a seat, Envy."
Envy toes off his shoes and sits down, then sips his drink, more cautiously this time.
Greed drains his own glass in one long swallow, alcohol burning down his throat, and refills it before returning to his chair. The cat rubs against his ankle. "How do you like it now?"
"It reminds me of the herb garden at home." Envy's eyes are sharp on him, watching for his reaction.
Greed laughs sardonically, and drains his glass again. He can feel the red stones working inside him, processing the alcohol faster than a human body could. He's always had to drink heavily, and quickly, to feel alcohol's effects for more than a few moments. The promise of drunkenness is beginning to bloom behind his eyes now, enticing him, teasing as it fades slowly.
He moves to reach for the bottle again. Envy is quicker, rising from the couch, tipping Greed's glass upright, pouring in more absinthe.
Greed lays his empty hand on Envy's hip and leers. "Thank you, darling." And that was awfully stupid--probably exactly what Envy has been hoping he'll do.
Envy's expression is not quite cruel, but almost like the sweet, genuine smile he gave Greed a few times, when they were truly young.
And because he wants so much, and never knows when to stop, he keeps on drinking, swallowing everything Envy pours for him, until his hearing and vision start to blur. He's only vaguely aware of Envy's hands at his throat, undoing his tie and pulling it away, moving down to his shirt. The room tips suddenly. His neck isn't strong enough to hold up his head any longer, and everything fades away.
A few minutes later, when he's burned off enough alcohol to regain a little bit of awareness, the first thing he knows is Envy calling his name gently. "Greed. . . . Greed. . . . "
He rolls his head toward the sound. It's farther away than he remembers Envy standing--it sounds like it's coming from the sofa.
"Greed . . . "
He groans in response.
"Greed. Tell me, Greed. Am I not enough for you?"
He chuckles. Some part of him hesitates to reply to that, but he opens his mouth anyway, trying to produce words.
"Am I not enough for you?" Envy repeats.
"You're not enough," he slurs. "Nothing's ever enough."
He's swimming back toward lucidity, and he tries opening his eyes, searching for Envy in a room that's overly bright and still spinning. Envy moves fluidly off of the sofa and towards him, and stoops down to cup his chin and curve fingers behind his ear.
"Never enough?" he whispers, breath warm against Greed's face.
He shouldn't answer this. Shouldn't give Envy any reason to hate him. He holds his tongue this time. Though he may not be as cunning as Envy, nor is he as stupid as Envy thinks, so he waits several long moments for Envy to abandon the question.
"I hate you," Envy whispers.
Greed's eyes are beginning to focus better, and the room is slowing down and looking more normal, as Envy leans in. Envy's mouth tastes of sugar. Greed moves his lips and tongue, still slow and clumsy with the effects of his drinking, and he closes his eyes as he leans into the kiss.
When he opens his eyes again, he is alone, and he's no longer sure why Envy would have left.
The cat is standing at the tray on the floor, her face dipping into the half-full glass Envy left there. Greed is still a bit unsteady on his feet as he gets up to sweep her into his arms.
"Here now, pussy, that's not good for you."
She mews and jumps to the floor.
Greed places the tray back on the sideboard, and picks up Envy's abandoned drink. Maybe he should run now. Get far away, because he worries that he might have said something wrong to Envy in those minutes while he was drunk.
Or maybe he didn't lose Envy's game, and Envy's visit is not worth thinking about, worrying about, or remembering. He'd like to think that--he'd like to convince himself of it, if only for a few minutes, and so he drains Envy's glass and then reopens the absinthe.
The cat twines around his legs as he raises the bottle to his lips.