One Foot In

The late afternoon sun cast dappled shadows through the trees and onto the black expanse of road as it unwound beneath the wheels of the dark military-issue car. It was a glorious day, truly, and the car's driver hummed a bit under his breath as he guided the vehicle to the side of the road. He pulled over and stepped out onto the warm asphalt of the shoulder. He stretched his arms over his head and surveyed the woods around him, unable to repress a smile. This would do just fine.

He moved to the back of the car and swung open the door, then leaned over to address the occupant within.

"Hey, pipsqueak," Envy greeted, a grin spreading across his features once more. "You up for a hike?"

Edward Elric, however, did not answer him. Bound hand and foot, and gagged for good measure, the alchemist lay curled on the back seat. Upon getting no response—not that he'd expected one, really—Envy reached in and hauled him out by his automail arm. Unable to catch his balance with his ankles tied as they were, Ed began to fall as soon as he was off the seat. But the homunculus maintained his grip, and Ed's arms strained painfully until he managed to get his feet under him. Once he'd regained his balance, he glared up at Envy with baleful golden eyes and emitted something that sounded like muffled cursing from behind the gag in his mouth. At that, Envy's grin widened, and he used his free hand to deliver a light slap across the blond's face.

"One would think that by now, you'd have learned to keep that mouth of yours shut," the homunculus remarked. "Nothing for it at this point, I suppose," he added airily, then grabbed the alchemist by his narrow hips and tossed him over one shoulder. After locking an arm securely around Edward's knees, he reached into the car to remove the sole object within—a shovel. Then he slammed the door shut and began walking into the woods that stretched out beyond the side of the road.

As he strode through the moss and dried leaves littering the ground beneath the trees, the homunculus could feel how tense Edward's body was, how ragged his breaths were. He hadn't missed the bloodying of the rope that bound the blond's wrists when he'd pulled him from the car, either, and the knowledge of Ed's increasing desperation only served to make Envy smile even more. If the little brat was that scared already, what was to come would truly be entertaining to see.

He held that thought as he continued through the woods, ignoring the muffled noises Edward occasionally made. After about five minutes of walking, Envy arrived a large clearing. The grass was a bit overgrown, but had been kept in check by deer or some other grazing animal. That was good; he wanted the diminutive alchemist to be able to see exactly what he was doing. He walked to the center of the field, then shrugged the blond off his shoulder and set him unceremoniously on the ground. Edward let out a soft grunt as his shoulder hit the earth, then lifted his head to regard Envy warily.

"Well, what do you think, pipsqueak?" the homunculus asked, leaning over slightly so he could see the alchemist's eyes. "I hope you like this spot, as you'll be staying here for a good long while."

He grinned merrily, and watched as the first signs of real fear began to make their way into Edward's eyes. The blond was staring alternately at Envy and the shovel he was holding, until his gaze finally dropped. Then Envy saw the boy's shoulders tense as he prepared for another round of trying to subtly escape his bonds.

"Heh," Envy scoffed at him as he stood up. "That won't do any good, runt. Do I look stupid enough to tie you up with something you could break out of easily?" He wandered a few yards away, prodding the ground experimentally with his shovel. After finding a spot to his liking, he drove the tip into the earth then stamped on the edge with his bare heel, forcing the head deep into the dirt.

"I don't know why you're bothering, anyway," Envy said conversationally as he lifted the shovelful of grass and dirt and deposited it to his right. "After all, you brought this on yourself." He drove the shovel into the dirt again, and then again, unfazed by the hardness of the ground. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Ed twisted slightly, still trying to yank his wrists free.

"It's a shame, really," the homunculus continued. "Such a waste. You were getting so close; some of us actually started daring to hope. But then you," his voice turned bitter and he drove the spade into the ground with violent force, "had to go and ruin everything."

He paused momentarily to glare at the blond.

"I should've suspected as much, I suppose," Envy resumed. His words were accompanied by the steady scrape of the shovel against dirt; he was digging much faster than a human would be able to. "Alchemists are hardly a trustworthy sort, and you are that bastard's son." He glanced over at Edward, but the blond's eyes were closed, his face tense.

"Still, though," Envy said. "You really had some of us going. Thinking we could believe you. And why shouldn't we have? It wasn't such a hard deal to keep, was it? We looked out for you, made sure no one was going to interfere. We even got you anything you needed that you couldn't get yourself. And all you had to do was keep working on the Stone. Once you'd created it, you had to make us human. It should've been easy enough for a prodigal little genius like you."

He paused to look at the blond again. Ed's eyes were still closed, and he was half-heartedly rubbing his cheek against one shoulder in an attempt to dislodge the gag from his mouth. Envy narrowed his eyes derisively; he knew it was tied too tight for Edward to actually gain anything other than a sore neck.

"Too bad you weren't smart enough to keep you stupid mouth shut," the homunculus snarled. "That should've been the easiest part. All we asked was that you not tell anyone about us." His grip on the handle of the spade tightened so much that he could feel the wood groaning beneath his fingers. "You'd already run crying to someone after we were at the old lab, and that was bad enough. We were quite ready to kill you after that," he said. "But then you went and found a different way to make the Stone. A better way. So we decided to give you a second chance, as long as you agreed to behave."

Envy loosened his grip on the shovel so as not to break it. Edward's eyes were open, and he was watching the homunculus through his lashes and breathing shallowly.

Envy smiled a little, the expression full of malice. "You know, Lust really liked the last place we were using. It was a nice house, wasn't it? I think it made her feel normal, being there. Like she wouldn't be hiding out in abandoned buildings and cheap hotels forever. Sloth liked it, too, when she was around. She could let Wrath out and watch him play."

Edward's expression grew pained, and Envy knew it had nothing to do with how the blond had been systematically shredding the flesh on his wrist. Satisfaction welled in him; sometimes it was so easy to hit the brat where it was sure to hurt—but that didn't make it any less enjoyable.

"I'm sure you can imagine their disappointment," the homunculus said. "Especially Lust. She wants to be human so badly. It's a bit pathetic, actually, but even I can't hold it against her." He sighed dramatically. "You actually gave her a fair amount of hope, you know? And on top of that, I think you honestly made her like you. You actually made several of us start to like you." His voice hardened again. "But you couldn't be bothered to give a damn, could you?" he said accusingly. "No, the second you felt a little bit of pressure, you went and spilled everything to that idiot colonel who holds your leash."

By then, Envy was nearly shoulder-deep in the hole he'd been digging. He leaned down, putting himself nearly at eye-level with the bound alchemist. "You're supposed to be so smart," Envy hissed at him, "and yet you couldn't manage to come up with anything but the truth. You little fool." He straightened back up. "At the very least, you could've claimed ignorance. Even if you had to admit to knowing what we are, was it really necessary to tell him how we're born, and how we stay alive? What our powers are? Was it necessary," he growled. "to all but draw him a damn map to where we were staying?"

From his place on the ground, Edward remained still and silent.

"Of course it wasn't necessary," Envy answered for him. He began to dig once more, throwing the earth over his shoulder in angry heaves. "But you did it anyway. Because even though we fucking trusted you, you had to show yourself to be the self-centered," he emphasized the word with a particularly vicious jab of the shovel, "backstabbing," he flung the resulting clod of dirt so hard it soared over the pile behind him, "traitorous little bastard you are," he finished, and Ed swore he felt the ground shake when Envy slammed his shovel into the ground again.

He kept his eyes closed, and was all too aware of his ragged breaths and pounding heart. He should've known better than to have ever made a deal with the homunculi in the first place, but he'd been cornered and desperate, and the knowledge that they might kill him before he had a chance to restore his brother now, when he'd finally found a way to make the Stone that didn't involve sacrificing hundreds of lives…it had been unbearable. Edward had known he couldn't trust them, not really, but at the time striking a deal had seemed like a better idea than ending up dead in one of Central's back alleys when Alphonse was still trapped in a suit of armor. He also hadn't been able to ignore the latent threat behind their words…if he didn't agree, what was to stop them from killing other people? Al, Winry, members of the military—they might kill them all just because they could, or, in the event that they did kill Ed, in order to keep anyone from getting too close to discovering who and what his murderers were.

So Edward had reluctantly agreed to their terms. It hadn't seemed so bad after a while; tied to the military as he was, Edward couldn't run halfway across the world to find various texts that the library couldn't provide. While the idea of having at least one of the homunculi shadowing him at any given time was disconcerting in and of itself, at least he didn't have to worry quite so much about a stray enemy finally getting the better of him or his brother.

And admittedly, against his better judgment, he'd started to sympathize with them. The sadness in Lust's voice when she told him of the memories she'd had from the woman who she was meant to be had sounded sincere. He couldn't forget how close to a normal child Wrath had seemed at first, and Sloth's very existence had never ceased to weigh heavily on him. Soulless monsters they might have been, but it was not by their own design. For that reason, he didn't know if he would ever be fully able to justify destroying them. Turning them into humans would give them what they wanted, and no one would have to die.

And they would also cease to be such a threat to the world.

But none of that was going happen if Edward didn't manage to get himself out of this. Unfortunately, things were looking rather grim at this point; he couldn't get his arms free and he couldn't draw a transmutation circle in the grass. He couldn't even get the damn gag out of his mouth; if he could do that he could at least try to explain, though with one as prone to ignoring reason as Envy, he sincerely doubted it would do him any good. The homunculi couldn't possibly appreciate how manipulative and controlling Mustang was when he was in the mood to be. And while Edward had done his best to keep his bi-monthly meetings with the homunculi a secret, and while he'd tried to cover his tracks as much as possible with his research, Mustang had somehow found out.

Then Edward had tried his best to divert the man's attention, claiming he didn't know anything about the homunculi other than what he'd known after the incident at Lab 5. The research he'd been doing was just a follow up on a new, different lead. Where he went late at night was none of his superior officer's business.

Of course it hadn't worked. As usual, Mustang knew of many of his affairs in uncanny detail, and for every lie and evasion Ed tried, he had only grown angrier. And then he had revealed that he'd known the answers to his own questions all along. He knew Edward had been getting rare books from somewhere other than the library, he knew the blond had been having liaisons with creatures who were considered to be enemies, and he knew Edward had been hiding his new knowledge of the Stone from him.

And even though Ed had refused to say anything more than what the colonel already knew—the man had known practically everything anyway—the end result was the same.

The homunculi had obviously discovered, somehow, that Mustang knew a lot about them. And they had blamed Edward.

That had been all there was to it. Ed hadn't even had the chance to try to save face with them; perhaps if he'd run right to them and explained that their cover was blown, he wouldn't be here now. But Mustang had had him whisked off into protective custody, and as if that weren't enough of a joke to begin with, it turned out that Envy was posing as one of the guards responsible for him. It had been all too easy for him to subdue Edward and drag him here, into the middle of some nameless woods.

And he hadn't even broken their deal; not really, anyway—he'd had no reason to. Edward realized now that he should've been more careful, more fastidious in covering his tracks, but Mustang, damn the man, always managed to get his hands into everything.

While Ed knew it was futile at this point, especially when Envy—the one who'd love to see him dead more than anyone—was the person he'd be trying to explain himself to, he was still driven to at least attempt it. If nothing else, the homunculus would at least have to wonder if Ed's words were true and if he'd thrown away a good chance at getting what he wanted, instead of just assuming that he was right…and Ed was a traitor.

"And that's why," Envy said quietly, breaking the blond's train of thought, "I'm digging your grave." He placed one hand on the edge of the hole and jumped out to sit on the edge. Then he looked over his shoulder at Edward, staring at him hard. "Was it worth it, pipsqueak?" he asked. "Dashing the hopes of six people for whatever Mustang promised you?"

Edward tried once more to speak, but between the gag and his growing panic, all he managed was a weak, muffled cry.

"Hmph," Envy responded. He looked back at the hole he'd been digging. "You know, I suppose it's deep enough as it is. Four feet would be plenty; it's not as though a runt like you will be able to get out." He turned back to Ed, watching with silent glee as realization dawned at last in the boy's eyes.

It was beautiful to see, really. The blond had been pale before, but now he was paler still, and it really brought out the color of his fear-brightened eyes. He lifted his head for a moment, still trying to talk, and only produced a frightened gasp. Then, with renewed vigor, he started to pull at his bonds again, this time not caring if Envy saw him or not.

The homunculus watched him writhe desperately for a moment, then laughed. "Why not just accept it, shorty? Quit messing around and enjoy your last few minutes alive. I think I'll do six feet after all. You know, to make it nice and official." With that, he leapt back in the hole and resumed digging, all while listening to the delightful sound of Edward struggling on the ground above.

It was nice to know the little brat was finally truly scared, and nearly out of his mind. Envy had no doubt that the boy had been before, in earlier run-ins with him and his fellows, as well as with others—the Slicer Brothers had to have frightened him initially, even if the blond had later marched into the central lab holding the thing's head like it was a treasured friend—but there had never been the rawness to his fear that Envy was experiencing now. The homunculus knew the alchemist had seen ample horrors in his young life, and the woman who had created Wrath had obviously trained some steel into the boy's nerves, but he was, beneath all the resilience and bravado, still a human—a weak, frightened, pathetic little human. And while Edward had undoubtedly felt some real terror in his past, Envy was of the opinion that he hadn't experienced quite enough of it just yet. Fear was a wonderfully powerful motivator, and Envy had no qualms about dealing it out in droves—and enjoying it while he did so.

It took only a few more minutes for him to clear out an extra couple feet, and the moment he was done he swung himself out of the pit. Edward had apparently decided on a combination of trying to roll himself away while simultaneously trying to yank his wrists free, as he was now several feet further from the edge than where Envy had left him, and there was a good deal of red staining his gloves.

"And just where do you think you're going?" Envy asked lightly. Edward jerked his head up, and Envy gave him a sunny grin. He tossed the shovel over next to the large pile of dirt he'd created with his excavation, and stalked purposefully over to where the blond was lying. Ed's eyes widened, and he made a rather valiant effort to stand. Envy crouched beside him, still smiling, and Ed tried to shove himself away.

"Now, now," Envy said, catching him easily and pressing him down on the grass. He could feel the boy's body quivering even beneath his layers of clothing, and happily drank in the sight of the blond's terrified face.

"You've made your own bed, pipsqueak," Envy said as he hooked a hand through one of Ed's arms and hauled him up. "Why put off lying in it?" And with that, he began to drag him towards the edge of the hole.

Ed struggled, tried to dig his heels in, tried going limp, all the while emitting various sounds of protest from behind the gag. Envy ignored him and continued forward, largely unfazed by the other's desperate movements.

He paused when he reached the edge, and slid his arm around Edward's waist, supporting the boy against his hip. The blond stared down into the hole, his breath a series of ragged gasps, then glanced up at Envy. The homunculus looked down at him, his smile having long since faded.

"And to think," Envy said, his voice low and serious, "all of this could have been so easily avoided."

Ed's breath hitched as he gazed at him, and the homunculus could see a wordless plea forming in those golden eyes.

Then Envy shrugged, bent down to slide his other arm behind Edward's knees, and swung the alchemist easily into his arms. "Oh, well," he said cheerfully. "In you go!"

And with that, he dropped Ed into the grave.

The boy landed on his side, which was lucky considering the way his wrists were bound; if he'd landed on his back he probably would've broken his arm. He let out a stifled howl of protest on his way down, which was cut off abruptly when he hit the bottom. He took in a shuddering breath, then rolled over so he could see out.

Envy was crouched beside the lip of the hole, his elbows resting easily on his knees. "It's been swell, runt," he called, then walked around to the far side to pick up his shovel.

The first round of dirt Envy pushed in nearly missed Edward entirely as the blond, had managed to sit up and shove himself back against the edge of the hole that was farthest away from the pile. It was still entertaining to watch the boy fail in his struggle to stand, all while gasping out increasingly hysterical sounds. With the next push, Envy aimed more carefully, sending a sheet of earth and rocks down upon the alchemist's feet and legs. This time, the blond emitted a sound that was likely intended to be a call for Envy to stop, and he continued his fight to stand up. He lost his balance again and fell to his knees this time, and Envy wasted no time in sending a fresh wave of dirt raining down upon the blond's head and shoulders. At that, Ed managed a strangled cry, and Envy responded by shoving in even more dirt, enough so that when it landed on the blond it nearly drove him onto the grave's floor.

And then, with his face down in the dirt and the unspoken promise of more to come, Edward finally found his voice and screamed.

It was a wonderful, lovely sound. Envy wasn't so ridiculously poetic to describe it as music. It wasn't musical; it was a scream, a long, terrified scream, raw in its intensity and beautiful in its purity, and it made his soulless heart rise in his chest.

It had been so long for him, since he'd had a human life. Nearly four centuries' worth of his current existence had robbed him of a normal scope of human emotion, or so Envy believed at least. For the most part, he hadn't been sorry to see his feelings fade. It had concerned him initially, had made him realize he was drifting further and further from what he had been meant to be, and what he had so desperately wanted to be at some point. And then he'd latched onto his hatred, had found it was the one thing he could keep close and fresh, and had let that be enough…except for the rare occasions when he still found himself thinking, remembering, and—to some degree—even mourning. But he'd let most of it go, had let it all fade; hell, he'd forced it away more often than not, opting for the strength that came with having few cares. He hated, he coveted, and anything else he allowed himself to feel had become a faded memory of what it should've been, and what it once was.

Perhaps it was tragic in a sense, but it did make him so appreciative of the emotions of others. Especially someone like Edward, who he hated so intensely at times it was maddening, whose life, even though it had been fraught with hardships, he coveted. Edward, to whom he was bound, and who was bound to him by the doings of one man. It was a twisted non-brotherhood but almost-brotherhood. An ill parody of family that had never been.

And that's why Edward's screams were so wonderful. They were as close to vicarious as Envy could come, and the pure terror the blond injected into them was thrilling, thrilling, and just…

And just.

He let Ed's second cry wash over him, reveled in it, and had to force back the laughter that threatened to bubble forth from him. It was wonderful, yes, but he had other tasks to accomplish.

He dropped his shovel and leapt down into the pit.

He sank into the loose earth halfway up is calves, but still fell into an easy crouch in front of the blond alchemist. Edward was fighting to shake the dirt off his back and out of his eyes as he gasped behind the gag, accentuating his breaths with frightened whines. Envy smiled at him and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees until the blond lifted his head.

"Silly me," the homunculus drawled when golden eyes met his. "I forgot to ask if you had any last words."

And with that, he reached forward and yanked the gag out of Ed's mouth, leaving the thick loop of fabric to hang around the alchemist's neck.

"Don't," Edward gasped. "Please, my brother-"

Envy's hand shot out and slammed into Edward's mouth with enough force to have knocked the blond backwards if he hadn't tightened his grip around the blond's jaw. "Please, my brother," he mimicked, his voice pitched high and mocking. He rolled his eyes, then let his voice sink to its original timbre. "Honestly, can't you do better than that? You're supposed to be begging for your life here, not whining about that oversized tin can who follows you around. Did it ever cross your stupid little mind that without you, he just might be talented enough to find the Stone himself?" He gave the blond a wicked grin. "As a matter of fact, I should really look him up once you and I are done here."

The horrified look that passed over the boy's face was priceless. "Anyway, pipsqueak," Envy said, "make it quick; I haven't got all day." And with that, he withdrew his hand.

"Y-you, you can't," Edward gasped. "I'm close; you know I am, why throw that away-"

"Because at this point, we could hand what you've done over to any other half-bit alchemist and let them figure out the rest," Envy said evenly. "As much as I hate to admit it, shorty, you are talented. You've done things that takes others most of their lives to do. But as valuable as you might be, as long as there are other alchemists around, you're still expendable. And frankly, you're past your expiration date…you backstabbing little prick," he snarled. "So don't try to convince me that we need you, because you're only fooling yourself."

"But I didn't," Ed stammered. "The Colonel, he found out somehow; I was careful, I tried to be, but he still found out; he must've had me followed-"

"And that's not my problem, runt, it's yours," Envy interrupted him. He stood up.

"But I didn't do anything!" Edward shrieked. His voice had a beautifully hysterical edge to it. "I told you we shouldn't meet there in case someone saw me leave; that we should go someplace else-"

"So it's our fault now?" Envy asked. The brat actually had the gall to scowl at him for a second.

"N-No," Ed sputtered. "I just, I didn't tell him anything; he just found out and even when he told me what he knew I didn't tell him anything else! Why would I, the last thing I need is him screwing things up, and I didn't…I didn't say anything…I was going to come find you afterwards, except he had all those guards around me…"

Envy leaned back on his heels and watched the blond pant for breath and tremble before eventually raising his eyes to regard the homunculus pleadingly.

"So many excuses, Pipsqueak," Envy said finally. "So many. And yet none are good enough." He raised one arm to grip the edge of the hole. "Pity, except not really."

"Wait!" Ed cried, and Envy did, smiling at the dismay and horror present in the blond's eyes.

"Don't do this," he started again. "I—I have to…"

The homunculus watched as Edward mentally reviewed the list of reasons he'd already tried to use that had failed. He listened for a moment as the boy babbled some repeats, his expression one of sheer desperation.

"Oh, shut up," Envy snarled. He kicked Edward on the side of his head, hard enough to hurt but not nearly hard enough to do any real damage. The blond recoiled, and Envy crouched down in front of him again.

"You have some real issues with honesty, you know that?" he hissed.

Pain and confusion layered over amber. "…what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking," Envy growled, "about how you conveniently manage to rationalize things in a way that makes it simple for you to cope."

The blond stared at him blankly, his shoulders trembling.

"It's like this, Ed," the homunculus said, his voice lightening considerably. "Have you ever really asked yourself why you want to get the Stone? Ah," Envy reached out and grabbed the blond's chin, placing a couple fingers over his lips when he started to speak. "Of course, you need to restore your beloved brother. That's sickeningly sweet and all, but really…can you honestly say that the only reason you want to fix him is because you love him? That it has nothing to do with the fact that every time you look at him, trapped in that hunk of metal, you feel so guilty about it that it makes you sick inside? And restoring him…well, that would just conveniently erase that nasty little feeling, wouldn't it?"

Envy knew he had hit the mark perfectly when Edward looked away, his expression pained.

"I suppose you've just been considering that a windfall, hmm?" he continued. "But you never dared admit to yourself that it was your actual goal. Of course you want your brother back. But you want to be able to stop hating yourself just as much, don't you?"

Ed didn't respond, and Envy squeezed just slightly. "Look at me when I'm talking to you," he warned, and then smiled at the unshed tears pooling in the blond's eyes.

"Obviously, you've gotten pretty good at keeping that one down," he started again. "But how long did it take you to make yourself believe that you were helping us? To forget that the real reason you agreed to turn us human when you made the Stone was because you knew we'd be far less dangerous that way? And so much easier to destroy, not that you'd be responsible for doing that anymore. That would work out really well for you, wouldn't it…no blood on your hands, no alchemists' mistakes to be fixed…and wouldn't you look so self-sacrificing for taking mercy on us monsters."

The tears were now leaving wet paths through the dirt streaked on the blond's face.

"There are very few selfless acts, Edward," Envy said. "And there are no truly selfless people. And there really shouldn't be much shame in that…yet rather than just accepting the fact that you have some ulterior motives, you tell yourself otherwise. I'm sure you do love your brother, and maybe you do really believe that we deserve a chance at humanity. You're too much a pathetic do-gooder for me to think otherwise."

He tightened his grip on the boy's jaw again, prompting a wince from the blond. "But it's about time you started owning up to the rest of it. Maybe it's time you stop lying and start accepting things. Like now, for instance," he said softly. "You're young; you have things you want to do. But the real reason you're screaming is because you're scared. You don't want to die. You don't want to be buried out in the middle of the woods, where no one will ever find you but me, and even though I'll come back every year to dig you up and see how far the worms have gotten with you before I tuck you back in,"—and here, the blond shuddered—"you're still terrified. Am I right?"

The boy was too busy panting for breath to answer right away. "I…" he managed finally.

"Be honest, pipsqueak," Envy reminded him.

More labored attempts for air. "Y-yes," the blond said, staring at the ground. "I'm…scared."

Envy smiled at him and released his chin, sliding his hand up instead to tangle his fingers in Edward's bangs and to brush some of the dirt from the blond's cheek. "Tell me why," he said gently.

The alchemist was shaking so hard that Envy was almost surprised he was managing to breathe at all, let alone speak. "Because…" he forced out.

Envy nudged at his chin, and he lifted his eyes. Their golden color was still bright with tears.

"I don't…"

"Don't what?" Envy prompted.

"I don't want to die like this," Edward cried.

The homunculus was silent for a moment, and stared at Edward as the blond fought back sobs. Then Envy dropped his hand to his side.

"Well," he said brightly. "That wasn't so hard, was it?" He rose to his feet, and Edward stared up at him, hope starting to creep into his eyes.

"Do you want me to get you out of here?" Envy asked quietly, his voice almost kind.

"…yes," Ed replied, his voice still trembling. Then, as an afterthought—"Please."

Envy regarded him thoughtfully, though inwardly he was enjoying the blond's conflicted expression. Edward wasn't brought to begging easily. "And if I do, what are you going to give me in exchange?"

The small alchemist looked confused again. "Wha-? I…the Stone, I'll-"

"That was part of the previous deal, pipsqueak," the homunculus said coolly. "You don't get to ride on that one twice." He reached down and grabbed a handful of the blond's hair, yanking the boy's head back and prompting a squeak of pain from him.

"Listen up, you little brat," Envy said, all traces of his former gentleness gone. "If I get you out of here, and I'm really, really tempted not to, since the idea of leaving you here to rot in the ground is much more appealing," he gave his hand a shake, tugging painfully on Edward's hair, "then you had better make it worth my fucking while. And that means you're going to keep working on the Stone, you're going to do a better job of covering your tracks, and you're going to keep your damn mouth shut from now on. Understand?"

Edward was wincing and twisting his head in an attempt to free himself from the homunculus' hold.

Envy gave him another shake. "Do you understand?" he snarled.

"Yes!" Ed cried, and Envy flung him backwards. Edward landed in a heap against the side of the pit.

"Good," Envy said. He watched as Ed tried to right himself, then leaned down to grab hold of the blond's arm. He yanked the smaller man to his feet, and as Ed struggled to remain standing, Envy could see the loathing on the blond's still-frightened face. He almost laughed—the feeling was mutual, after all.

He wrapped an arm around the blond's waist and vaulted them both out of the hole. He could practically taste Edward's relief when he set the boy's feet on the grass and made as if to start dragging him away. At the last moment, however, Envy tightened his grip on Edward's arm.

"Changed my mind," he hissed into the blond's ear. He allowed himself one fraction of a second to enjoy the look of renewed horror that bloomed upon the boy's face, then shoved him back towards the pit.

"NO!" Edward screamed, and Envy laughed out loud as the desperate plea tore from the blond's throat. Then he swung one hand out and grabbed Edward's elbow before he could topple into the hole again.

"Kidding," he sang after he'd drawn the blond back against his side. Edward sobbed weakly against his shoulder, and the homunculus chuckled maliciously before flinging him to the ground.

"So…" Envy drawled. "What do you think? Should I leave this here, in case we end up needing it later?"

Edward's only response was to sob, so Envy walked over to him and prodded his ribs with one foot. "Answer me, pipsqueak," he demanded.

"No," the blond choked.

"No?" the homunculus echoed.

Ed coughed, tears still streaming from his eyes. "Fill it in."

"You're going to behave, then?" Envy asked.

"Yes," Ed whispered.

"Good boy," Envy sneered, then stalked over to where he'd dropped the shovel. It took him only a few minutes to shove the dirt back where it belonged.

Once he was finished, he returned to where the blond lay watching him with exhausted and wary eyes. Edward had managed to compose himself somewhat, but Envy could feel how tight his muscles were—tensed nearly hard enough to make his automail indistinguishable from the rest of his body—as he swung the blond back over his shoulder and retraced his route to the car.

Once they reached it, Envy threw the shovel into the back. He placed Edward in the front seat this time, and made a big show of buckling the seatbelt around his waist. He grinned when Edward shuddered and turned his head away, then slammed the door.

Once he had the car turned around and back on the road, Envy glanced at Ed from the corner of his eye. The blond's expression was a mixture of remnant horror and tentative relief, as though he wanted to think he was safe now but couldn't quite bring himself to believe it. Envy smirked, but when he spoke he kept his voice low and serious.

"Tonight, you'll stay with us," he said softly. "Tomorrow, I'll take you home. And from now on…you're going to do exactly what we say.

"And if you don't," he continued, "well…you know it doesn't take me very long to dig a hole."

Much later, when night was falling and Edward was safely chained up in the basement of the abandoned farmhouse they were staying at just outside of Central, Lust walked over to where Envy was perched on a window ledge. She was holding an empty cup and what looked like a roll of bandages in her hand. Envy rolled his eyes; she was way too soft on the brat. It wouldn't kill him to go thirsty and a little bloody for one night.

"That was exceptionally cruel, Envy, even for you," Lust said in her usual calm voice.

"It worked, didn't it?" he huffed. "He won't give us any more trouble. Besides, how would you know?" He hadn't told her what he'd had planned for the blond when he'd left, and he doubted that Edward himself had related much.

"I saw," Lust admitted. "I was curious, so I followed. I also wanted to make sure you didn't…get too carried away."

Envy tossed his hair and crossed his arms. "Oh ye of little faith," he said drolly. "You act like I have no self-control."

"Hmm," Lust responded noncommittally. "Tell me though, how did you come up with such a thing?"

Envy looked at her evenly, then turned his head to stare out the window. "It wasn't all that original, honestly," he replied.

"Something you've had experience with before?" Lust inquired.

Envy laughed a little, but it sounded rather mirthless even to his own ears. "In a sense, yes."

"…how interesting," the brunette said softly.

"I doubt that's the best word for it," Envy said. "But if you find it that 'interesting,' you should really talk to Sloth about it. She's far better with details than I am."

"I see," Lust murmured, and turned to leave.

Envy continued to stare out at the encroaching night until her footsteps faded. Once she was gone, he started to scrape the dirt out from beneath his nails.