ONCE AGAIN, I AM NOT DEAD. Just jobless and dealing with depression and lots of other shit that's going on in my effed-up life. But I have left you guys waiting long enough, so here's a new chapter!

He awoke with a jolt, his vision weak and blurry and water dripping into his eyes and stinging them. He saw Edward's worried face hovering above him, saw past him the dark green fin where his legs should be.

"Where're my legs?" he muttered to himself and closed his eyes again before Edward shook his shoulder frantically.

"Envy, don't black out again! C'mon, stay awake...you can do it..."

Envy looked up into Edward's amber eyes, his own screwed up in confusion.

"Where're my legs? What's this..."

"You turned yourself into a mermaid," Edward answered slowly, his eyes darting toward the fin then back to Envy, "and blacked out."


"Is now really the time?"

"Mm," the Homunculus hummed softly and, with concentrated effort, split the fin in two and shifted until his legs were back to normal. Edward watched silently, and Envy looked up at him.

They gazed at each other in long moments, before Edward hooked an arm around Envy and helped him out of the bathtub; he hauled the Sin dripping wet onto the floor and held him.

"Thanks, Chibaloo."

"You have got to stop with the nicknames, Envy."

"Shut up, you love them."

"I love you," Edward corrected. The suddenness of his own comment surprised him, but he saw the blush on Envy's cheeks and the pleased look in his eyes and didn't regret it, "but not the stupid nicknames. Can you stand?"

Envy clambered onto his feet, wobbled for a moment, then regained his balance and snatched up a towel to cover himself.

"Envy...what happened? Does it hurt to transform?" Edward stepped forward and took hold of Envy's long locks, wringing the water out gently before stroking the dark green strands back. Envy regarded him, stone-faced, for a moment before sighing.

"Once, a few hundred years ago, I found a lake. A big lake. It was nice and I was young and had less important things to do and so I jumped in and transformed into this monster; this sea serpent kind of thing, like a giant eel. I like shifting into things no one has seen before..." he trailed off and Edward stared at him, confused, before he continued, "so I swam through the lake in that form. There were lots of tunnels and things in the rock bottom of the lake. I swam through those...I guess, maybe thinking I'd find something. Or maybe I did it just for fun, it's hard to remember what you were thinking when so many years have passed...I swam deeper through the tunnels, and the passages got smaller and smaller...I got stuck and I squirmed and struggled and panicked and everything was closing in around me and I thought I'd be in the darkness forever."

Envy paused and gazed up at the ceiling; Edward had never seen him so thoughtful before.

"That's what it feels like to transform lately," Envy finished, looking back at Edward.

"How did you get out? You turned into a smaller fish?"

"No," Envy snorted, " I turned into a bigger fish. Cracked right through the rocks and erupted out of the lake."

Edward rolled his eyes.

"Of course. Seems like more your style anyway. Envy..." he took Envy's hands in his, smoothing the pads of his thumbs over Envy's silky skin, "you understand, right? Why I...why I don't want you near those stones?"

Envy nodded.

"You don't want me to change. Or stop loving you or something weird like that. I don't know, I might not have been paying attention."

It was a lie, but Envy liked to remain aloof and uninterested whenever he could. It was something of a defense mechanism, and, he admitted to himself, it was a great way to get under people's skin.

"Yes, that's the main reason," Edward sighed, "and we need them, Envy. Al needs them. I just can't stand to think about how much longer he might have to stay in that body without them. He's not doing well, Envy, he's depressed."

"Your brother has always been a little on the morose side," Envy sniffed carelessly, pulling away from Edward and beginning to shove his clothing back on.

"Wouldn't you be, too?"

"I dunno. I've never been a suit of armor before," he shrugged on a baggy shirt Ed had brought him and pulled the hem down to rest around his waist.

"Just try to see it from his perspective, okay? It should be easy for you, I mean, you out of anyone should know what it's like to walk a mile in another person's shoes."

"Ew," Envy crinkled his nose, "I hate shoes, they make my feet hot."

As if that effectively ended the conversation, Envy turned the doorknob and strode out. Edward rolled his eyes and followed close behind him, eager not to let the Sin get the last word. It just wasn't in his nature, and this was a subject he was particularly adamant about.

"You know what I mean."

"Why are you following me?"

"There's nowhere else to go. It's a small apartment."

"Then you should be right at home."

"Augh!" Edward screwed up his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose before he remembered that was a very Mustang-like gesture, and immediately dropped his hand, "it's no use trying to have a serious conversation with you. It's just no use. You just want to dance around the issue and insult people or talk about Senor Worm or how your feet get hot."

"But my feet do get hot," Envy insisted, "And Senor Worm is fabulous. You're just jealous you didn't think of him first."

"You're skirting around the main issue. Again. These Stones, they're making you crazy. Crazier."

"I suppose I just don't understand," Envy stopped and turned on heel, looking Edward in the eyes, "why you need all of them. I'd fare well with just one or two. Something to give me a little juice so I can transform more easily."

"So you can turn into a snake and frighten librarians?"

"It was for the best, your brother was putting the moves on her. I had to stop it. He's too young for that sort of thing. Also, he's a suit of armor."

Edward closed his eyes tightly and ran a hand through his hair. He wasn't sure what "the moves" were, or why Al might have been putting them on some girl, but he was sure that Envy was becoming more and more ridiculous by the minute. He thought, vaguely, that maybe it was Envy's strategy. Be as annoying as you can be until you get what you want.

And suddenly, Edward realized, he himself had used that tactic many a time before.

"The Stones..." Edward began, choosing his words carefully. Envy watched, violet eyes shrewd, "don't fare well under our experiments. And we have a lot of experiments to run. They usually don't survive after the first round of tests, so we need as many as we can get. The more we have, the more information."

Envy simply looked at him, decidedly unimpressed. Edward continued, trying to drive his point home.

"Each test gives up a huge yield of information, Envy. Information that's needed to go on to the next test, which then gives up an exponentially greater yield. And so on and so forth. With enough testing, enough information from these Stones, we could go on to create the real thing. The real Philosopher's Stone. We're close, Envy, we're so close."

"There's so much you don't know, Chibi," Envy said softly, and Edward saw with a shock that his eyes were sad, "so much."

"I know that," he admitted. He glanced down and took a lock of Envy's hair between his thumb and forefinger, holding it as if it were a rare feather, "that's why these tests are necessary."

"Did you ever stop to think where those Stones came from, O'Chibi?" Envy's voice had become much more quiet than Edward had ever heard before; a break from the wild rasp his voice usually held. It was now calm, introspective, almost as if he had shifted his vocal chords and changed his voice entirely.

"Of course. All the time. If I knew where they came from, I could make some, couldn't I?"

"I guess so. But I wonder if you would."

Edward started at Envy, his brow furrowed in confusion.

"That's what me and Al've been after for all these years. Of course we would do it. Why wouldn't we? Unless there's something you're not telling me..."

They stood in silence, gazing intensely at one another. Edward could tell Envy was tired, perhaps even sad, and felt a pang of regret for him. But Envy was being selfish, wasn't he? The Stones let Envy transform, but he didn't need that power to live...Alphonse needed the Stones so much more, needed to become human again. He deserved it. Alphonse was sweet and thoughtful and a thousand more good things, a pure soul living in through pure hell. He deserved it so much more.

Envy, as if sensing Edward's thoughts, stared at him sadly.

"Some things you don't need to know."

As if to mock Envy and Edward's somber moods, the sun shone steadily the following few days. Edward and Alphonse took constant trips to the laboratory, the bright sunshine beating onto their backs. Birds perched on the street lamps adorning the road, chirping happily and watching with their beetle black eyes. The past week had been glorious, and Edward had hated it.

He knew he'd hate today even more as he saw Roy Mustang walking briskly toward him.

"Oh no...quick, Al, let's hide in that building!" Edward hissed, desperately tugging at his brother's large arm.

"But Brother, that's a gentleman's club!" Alphonse gasped in abject horror.

"You're right," Edward gritted his teeth, "we wouldn't be safe in there. That pervert's probably going in there anyway..."

"Edward, Alphonse," Roy approached and greeted them quickly. Ed noted that the man seemed preoccupied; he was dressed in civilian clothing, but seemed stiff and agitated. More than usual, anyway, "let's take a walk, shall we?"

"You mean you weren't heading to the whorehouse?" Edward raised an eyebrow as the three of them began walking down the street together.

"No, not today."

"That was kind of a joke. Though it doesn't surprise me that you'd go to one."

"My reasons for visiting 'the whorehouse' are far different than what you may assume, Edward," Roy sighed wearily.

"Um, Colonel?" Alphonse asked, "may I ask where we're going? We just walked past the laboratory complex..."

"I know. I want to speak to you as far away from the headquarters as I can get."

"Well that can't be good. What've we done now?"

Roy didn't answer Edward's question; he simply continued walking, his dark eyes trained on the horizon. Edward huffed, and followed. They walked in silence for an awkward ten or fifteen minutes, and only when the buildings and crowds began to peter out did Roy begin the conversation again.

"I wanted to talk to you about your friend. Evan."

Edward almost missed a step and tripped, but managed to correct himself in time to glare defensively up at Roy.

"Y-yeah? What about him?"

"Have you two gotten close? You seem to be quite fond of each other, if all the PDA you've been involved in is to be believed..."

"They love each other," Alphonse piped up quite cheerfully, eliciting a reproving look from Edward. Roy arched his eyebrows in surprised and gazed down at Edward.

"Oh my. Is this so, Edward?"

"So what if it is?"

Roy was silent for a few moments. He nodded toward a few tables sitting outside an old cafe, beckoning them to sit. Once they had, he reached inside his jacket to pull out an old book.

"I want you to see something. Both of you. And I'd like your opinion."

He flipped the book to a certain page, where a photograph and small piece of torn paper acted as bookmarks. Edward's eyes scanned the documents, and his blood ran cold.

A photo of Envy as a dragon. An illustration of the very same creature, decades, maybe even centuries old. And scribbled on the sheet of paper, a drawing of the Ouroboros, and the word "Homunculus", in large black letters.

Edward swallowed, staring.

"Does all this mean anything to you, Edward?" Roy asked, leaning forward and resting his chin on his interlaced fingers, "or you, Alphonse? I am not trying to goad you, I'm very serious. This is very important. You are both aware what a Homunculus is, are you not?"

Alphonse turned to look at Edward, who slowly brought his eyes up to meet Roy's.

"...so...you think that dragon was a Homunculus?"

"There's a bit more to it than that, Edward," Roy admitted. He fished through his pocket for one last piece of evidence; a folded scrap of notebook paper. He pushed it toward Edward.

The boy was exceedingly hesitant. His fingers felt thick and heavy as he slowly unfolded the blue-lined paper, his heart thumping so loudly in his chest he was sure Roy could hear it.

'No no no no...' he thought desperately as he finished opening it. But there it was.

The drawing he had made in the hospital, what seemed like ages ago, of Envy. Right after the first time he had met the Sin. And scrawled above it, the telltale Ouroboros symbol.

"You drew this yourself, didn't you, Edward? I happened over that a while ago," Roy said softly, almost sadly, "when I went over some of Hughes' old files. Trying to solve some mysteries. This was in there. I'd go over those files almost every night, Edward. No wonder your boyfriend looked so familiar to me. Him and his intriguing tattoo."

"Mustang," Edward folded the paper back up, and looked at the man desperately, "you can't tell anyone."

"So it's true?" Roy asked, but didn't seem surprised, "Evan Poynton is a Homunculus. So I imagine the whole story about rescuing him in Demorest is a lie. And I'd wager his name isn't Evan Poynton, is it?"

"That wasn't a lie," Alphonse leaned forward, to make sure his soft voice was heard, "we did save him in Demorest. He was very hurt, Colonel. He could have died."

"Homunculi can't die. At least not according to the legend, which I now have to assume isn't a legend at all, but the truth," Roy answered.

"They can," Edward grumbled, "under the right circumstances."

"It seems you boys have uncovered quite a find," he stared at them, unblinking. Edward couldn't shake the feeling that Mustang was less than impressed with them despite their discovery.

"His name is Envy. You've obviously already guessed it, but he's a shape shifter. That's...yeah. He was the dragon."

"You mean the one that got away on its own?"

"Okay, yes! I let him go!" Edward growled and shoved his chair away from the table angrily, "what else was I supposed to do? He's my...my..."

"Homunculus," Roy said.

"Boyfriend!" Alphonse offered. Edward groaned and buried his face in his hands. He didn't like either of those labels for Envy.

"He's important to me."

"Edward, don't you suspect that the Fuhrer knows? After all, he had an unnatural interest in that 'dragon' when it appeared."

"I don't know," Edward sighed, "I hope not. Mustang, please. I'm begging you. You can't tell anyone about this. He'd be captured and experimented on, and he's already been through so much...not to mention I'd lose my State Alchemist title! And we're so close to getting Al's body back..."

"Yet another thing you failed to mention to me," Roy leaned back in his chair, a stern expression on his face, "You were supposed to be documenting your progression toward the Philosopher's Stone. Instead, you've been keeping it a secret. And all the while, I've been keeping your secret, at my own loss. And now you want me to keep another one? Something as monumental as finding a Homunculus?"

"I know it's not fair to you, Mustang, but...just, please..." Edward stared at the man sitting before him in his black jacket and dark hair and stern onyx eyes. The man who made people dance like puppets on his strings. The man who he was secretly afraid of, the man who could ruin their lives with just a few uttered words.

Edward knew that at Mustang's whim, both Alphonse and Envy could be taken from him, tortured, destroyed.

He had never been so terrified of the Colonel as he was now.

I'll try to update soon. I appreciate you guys sticking with me, and hope you're all doing well and feeling the love. Reviews are muy appreciated, since it's been so long since I've heard from you guys (which is totally my fault because I'm a loser).

Also, (SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION) I'm making and selling 8 foot long giant squid plushies. .com/art/Giant-Squids-188932923

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