Wrath could go for days without thinking about it.
Life settled into a rough sort of routine. Searching for nightly shelter from the wind and cold. Crawling through the under growth searching for small squeaking things to kill. If he tried really hard, he could pretend he was back on his island. Back to the time before it had all gotten complicated. Back to the time before…
And then the sun, peeking through a tiny opening in the clouds, would glint off of the battered automail that blonde girl had made him, and it would all come rushing back.
Automail. The surgery had hurt. A lot.
The painkillers hadn't affected his artificial body. He'd felt every incision of the scalpel, every sting of the disinfectant….
The burn as the molten metal base was fixed to his skin.
…and then had come the voice- not the first time he'd heard it, and though perhaps he'd wished it, not the last time, either. A voice that still haunted his dreams and fevered daylight hallucinations, echoing down from some far off place in the recesses of his head.
Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. I'm surprised a stupid brat like you didn't roll over and die when you had the chance. Could've done us all a big favor, and now look at you! What a waste. I wish the bitch had just let us kill you and saved us all the trouble. Stop thrashing and take it like a grownup, you stupid kid.
But it wasn't him. Just Wrath's morphine doped brain supplying the words he'd usually have heard in a situation like this. Pity it couldn't have dulled the pain a little, too, not just his brain.
That voice plagued him day and night, as he slept fitfully under distant stars and hunted like an animal for his food. Even when it fell silent, his presence still weighed heavily on Wrath's mind. Pouncing on a wood rat as it scurried for cover but Envy wouldn't have done something like this, he'd have magicked up a few dozen stones to eat if he felt hungry. Investigating an overhanging rock as a possible location for the night no better than the animal that probably already lives here, Envy wouldn't have sunk as low as this.
He began to accept it as a sort of dark conscious. In a way, he was grateful for its presence. Without it, he would have become nothing more than an animal. A savage, cast out by strangers, the last of his kind, scrounging in the mud for scraps to eat.
Maybe he did lose some of himself, even so.
He had once hated being at the mercy of the Rockbells.
He didn't have the energy to hate anything, any more.
So where does that leave you? Even your name doesn't fit you anymore. Gonna run home crying for Mommy?
Wrath, slumped against a tree trunk, clenched his teeth and drove fingers into his scalp, pulling them through his thick, matted hair. Shut up. Shut up.
Oh, right, I forgot. Sweet Mommy's dead, isn't she? What a shame.
Soft, mocking laughter echoed through his head and he let out a scream, slamming his fist down into the ground by his side, grinding, grinding, legs kicking, kicking, until what little energy he had dissipated and he slumped listlessly back against the tree. He looked down, and saw the remains of a beetle, shell smashed, disgusting innards filming over the dull gleam of his automail. Killed it without even noticing.
Wrath let his head fall back, a helpless little giggle escaping his lips before he could stop it.
Maybe he really was going insane.
And then, one fateful day in Resembool, as Wrath gazed dully through a gap in the trees near a meadow, he saw a small, blond, vaguely familiar looking boy trudging up the path to the house.
His eyes barely registered what they had seen through his stupor.
He closed them again and prepared to go back to sleep. Something niggled at him, though. Somewhere, in the back of his dying, gummed up brain, a few neurons flared. Where had he seen that boy before? Why was he familiar?
He traced back through his memories slowly, trying to place him. Instead, another face bloomed before his mind's eye. Delicate features. Shining blond hair. Fierce golden eyes. Smart. Handsome. Pretty, even. A face he associated all his feelings of anger, jealousy and confusion with.
…of course. So this must be Alphonse, then, that tin-can of a younger brother. The one Fullmetal sacrificed his life to bring back from the Gate. Wrath thought he recalled the girl telling him he'd gotten his body back, too.
They had been inseparable, those two. Envy had loved to make cracks about it when he and Wrath were together. Said they were fucking each other on the sly when no one else was around.
But Wrath knew the truth. He knew the reason Envy said those things.
Jealousy personified in a face like an angel and eyes like molten gold. Who could hate a face like that?
Yeah, Wrath knew why Envy said those things.
He made his mind.
Staggering upright, he made his way toward the sunlight for the first time in years.
The front door was not locked. Neither was Alphonse's. The boy looked up from unpacking, surprised, uncomprehending.
"Uh… Hi. Who're you?"
Wrath gave him a surprised look from behind his curtain of hair. Didn't Alphonse recognize him from all the times they'd fought? He shifted, uneasy on floorboards after so much time outside.
Alphonse straightened up slightly and took a step forward. "Do you need help?" he asked, a concerned look coming into his gray eyes.
Different from his brother's.
"I can call Winry, if you want. I think she's down in the village right now. I only just got here myself. Are you lost? Are you hurt?" His eyes took in the automail. "Are you a patient here?"
Wrath moved backwards slightly, bemused. Of all the reactions, he hadn't expected this. Had the boy lost his memories?
Alphonse was looking expectantly at him, standing in the middle of the room, still wearing his white alchemist gloves. Wrath looked and saw an incomplete transmutation circle printed in the leather on each palm.
And, for the first time in three years, he opened his mouth and spoke.
"Do you want to see you brother again?"
The room was silent for exactly one minute.
Exactly ten minutes later, it was empty.
By the time Winry returned, exactly fifteen minutes later, it was like no one had ever been there in the first place.
The ride to Central was long, and awkward. Edward Alphonse, he is Alphonse Alphonse peppered him continuously with questions.
Who was he?
That's an interesting name, where did he get it?
His older brother gave it to him.
Oh, so he had an older brother, too, did he?
Wrath sat curled up on one of the uncomfortable seats, legs hugged to his chest and hair obscuring his face. He answered questions tersely and without embellishment or explanation. Some questions, he refused to answer at all.
Where was that brother now?
Wrath remained silent, and stared out the window, watching the landscape rush by in a steady stream of buildings, scenery and people. Sometimes, he thought he saw faces he recognized in the blur.
Edward. Dante. Sloth. His mother. Hohenheim of Light. That girl with the blonde hair.
Alphonse was watching him again.
Did Wrath know his teacher, Izumi?
Wrath stiffened and glared at him. What did it matter, if Alphonse didn't care enough to remember in the first place?
Alphonse gave him a long look.
"Really? Because you look an extraordinary lot like her…"
Wrath hissed under his breath and curled up even more tightly than before. "No. I don't."
There was silence between them for a very long time. Then,
"Do you know anything about alchemy, Wrath?"
"Enough to get by." He used to be able to perform it, too. But Alphonse didn't have to know that. The only thing enabling it had been Edward's stolen limbs… and he didn't think the boy would take kindly to that knowledge.
He glanced over again. Alphonse was still gazing at him intently.
"Do you," Alphonse said, choosing his words carefully, "know how a homunculus is made?"
Wrath held his eyes for just a split second longer than might have been considered normal.
The Central Train Station was packed with people. Businessmen with their brief cases, families with their children home from vacation. Food vendors. Soldiers. Engineers. Security personnel. Wrath and Alphonse passed through the crowds without saying a word. The ceaseless chatter echoed up to the high ceiling and created an ever-rumbling tide of voices that washed over them like a blanket.
Through the echoes, Wrath thought he heard Envy, again, as if parts of his memory were unraveling and floating in ribbons outside his head.
Sure you did, Ed. After all, you were the one who found the old doc, and just waved goodbye as he went into the Fuhrer's custody. Now that was a great idea.
I know how you love being protective, but you don't have to blow a gasket, I'm just taking him back to my master.
I came because I was worried about you. But I see you finally beat her.
Needless to say, I never did like being replaced.
Wrath glanced over at Alphonse, who was walking with his hands in his pockets, face cast downwards, looking at the ground as they moved through the mass of people. Chin tucked into collar. Lost in thought. Just like…
So that was why he was doing this.
Because Alphonse reminded that deep little part of him that spoke in Envy's voice of Ed. He was even starting to look a bit like his older brother, wearing the same clothes and tying his hair back.
Wrath thought about himself. He thought about his own appearance, and his attitude, and the way the other homunculus's voice still haunted him, years later.
Happy thought, indeed.
They took a cab to the abandoned church, and Wrath led Alphonse down crumbling staircases and winding passageways, routes he remembered more by feel than sight because of the ever-looming darkness. Electricity had not been invented when these halls were built.
...six yards to the left, ten flights down, a hundred yards forward, avoid that huge hole in the floor, they'd never gotten around to fixing that…
Guess we'll never get around to it, now.
Wrath knew Alphonse had seen the dead city once before, when he had left it with that other girl Dante had been keeping prisoner. But it didn't stop the other boy from gazing around him with a horrified kind of mute awe as they emerged from the tunnel and gazed out across the rooftops and avenues.
And at the transmutation circle.
Wrath watched as the other boy's jaw stiffened, as he recognized what it meant, and what it was meant to do. Good. He wasn't stupid, then.
Even Wrath had to admit the place gave him the chills. The air was empty, completely devoid of life. And there was something else, an underlying sense of uneasiness that invaded every conscious sense and quite a few others for no reason readily available.
Of course, Wrath knew what had happened here. The story had been told to him several times, the basic story in harsh snaps and outbursts on one of Dante's bad days, the gleeful details supplied later by Envy as he stalked up and down the halls. Wrath had sat upon a window ledge, and listened.
Pity you weren't there, runt. It was a sight to see, and make no mistake. Hundreds of human lives, gone in a flash, hundreds of screams that rent the night air like music.
Envy had flopped down on the windowsill and stretched like a cat.
You should have seen it. The horror on their faces when they realized what we'd done- I could write poetry about it. All that hatred, all that chaos, all that misery! Countless minds, souls, and ambitions, extinguished within seconds.
Humans are such amazing things, Wrath.
Hollow windows stared down at the two as Wrath led Alphonse through the crippled streets, down to that central point in the middle of the city.
Alphonse turned to Wrath. "What happens now?"
Wrath shrugged. "You're the alchemist, you figure it out."
Alphonse nodded distractedly, apparently not registering Wrath's rude tone. He clapped his hands and the air filled with the electric blue light of alchemy. An array appeared on the ground.
Wrath walked along the glowing lines as Alphonse set to work. He traced the circle with the metal of his automail foot, enjoying the scraping sound it made. Of course, he realized, he could just tell Alphonse how to open the Gate, instead of having the boy spend precious time deciphering the glowing runes of the transmutation circle.
But, he reasoned, in a few minutes he was going to… Well, he felt he was allowed a few last minutes to think about his decision.
It wasn't, he decided after a great amount of thought, as if he had any reason to keep on living. Every person in his life who had meant anything- Sloth, Izumi, Envy, even damn Edward, all of them were gone. Alphonse didn't remember him. Winry and the old woman only pitied him. And in the end, Wrath realized, the only thing he really, really wanted to do…
…why was Alphonse taking so long?
And then it hit Wrath.
Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid! Of course Alphonse was planning to sacrifice himself! Of course he wouldn't dream of using Wrath's life! Of course he'd try to take it all upon himself, without concern for himself or another's wishes, because that was just how this stupid family operated, wasn't it? What had gotten them all into this great big damn mess in the first place? Why was it that Alphonse'd gone around for four years without a body to house his soul? In a lifetime of heroic, selfless, and stupid things, he just had to make this one the last, didn't he!
…Wrath had turned halfway when it happened.
He felt the change in the air before he heard anything. Where before all had been dead, dry, and listless, a sudden jolt spread through him. Something was there, a new presence, and it was bigbigbigbig-
And then came the crash.
The enormous ruin directly above them exploded with an almighty boom. A large boulder, probably once part of the foundation, shot out of the smoke towards the pair of them. Wrath pinwheeled out of the way, and twisted himself to see what had caused it.
He stared in horror as an immense, lumbering form smashed to the floor in front of them. Dead white eyes, gigantic spade like teeth, and yards of undulating, pale white flesh. The monstrosity roared, and as Wrath watched, rivulets of stone fluid cascaded down its sides. A putrid smell assaulted their senses, one akin to rotting carcasses and decaying shipwrecks.
Guess you're not the last of your kind after all, kid.
Thank you, very much.
Alphonse looked over at him, uncertain. "Gluttony?"
Fucking memory loss! "He's one of the seven like me."
Alphonse didn't seem to get it.
The thing that used to be Gluttony- it's not him, Gluttony had a soul- shifted its head around, as if the blank white eyes were trying to focus on them. A tongue darted out and licked its lips, as if tasting the air. The ropes of its body twisted, and then tensed. A wide grin stretched across the face.
Wrath saw what was about to happen. "Move!"
"What?" asked Alphonse, who looked worried but nearly as terrified as he should have, "Why? I'm sure it's not going to harm u-"
Wrath dove forward, knocking into Alphonse and bowling him over, just as Gluttony lunged.
A stretch of tail seven times his width whipped into his chest, and before he could do anything to stop it, Wrath was hurled into the air, traveling forward at a speed far greater than he'd ever run. He caught one split second glance of Alphonse's horrified expression, and then Alphonse was gone and he slammed into a rock wall.
He rolled over onto his back, whispering thanks to whoever might have been listening for the presence of a ledge beneath it, before springing up instantly and sprinting off along the wall. Gluttony's enormous form crashed into the space he had been lying just seconds earlier. The stones crumbled and fell to the floor.
Wrath found his way to the ground, stumbling as the earth quaked around him and shards of rock flew past his face. Gotta find Alphonse, gotta find Alphonse, gotta- what-
Red sparks were emanating from the circle again. The lines glowed red, and Wrath saw Alphonse standing within it, trying to open the gate again.
"You idiot!" shouted Wrath, altering course and running along the wide flat stones of the avenue towards the boy. "This isn't the time for that any more! Get out of there!"
Gluttony's fist crashed into the ground directly behind him, and a giant flagstone caught him from behind and hurled him forwards. The wind pressed him flat against the stone, and they hit a tall stone support beam. Wrath fell to the floor some fifty feet away, crumpled up.
Pain made his vision foggy and his thoughts incoherent. All he knew was the dull ringing in his ears, and the vague knowledge that two of his ribs had broken, and the bones in his left arm were shattered. Wrath's eyes barely registered it as Gluttony landed in one of the subterranean lakes, creating a tidal wave of freezing water that showered down on top of him.
Something red and glittering pelted towards him, landing on the soaked ground within arms reach.
Wrath reached for it with his automail hand, the one that wasn't screaming in pain. He held the object before his eyes.
A slow, grin spread across his face as Wrath realized what it was.
I guess I'm not the only one falling apart, then.
The inkling of an idea came into his head, but even as he lifted the stone eagerly to his mouth to eat, it disintegrated in his fingers. Dammit.
There are others, though.
Wrath pushed himself up with his hands and stood gingerly. If Gluttony was losing stone fluid at this rate, then he was dying, as well. If Wrath could only just make it to the waters edge- if he could steal some of the stones and regenerate his body.
Wrath saw Gluttony pulling himself out of the water, and yes, stone fluid was coursing down his sides at a much faster rate than before.
Not that that would slow him down, or anything.
Wrath tested his side with one hand. It hurt, but not as badly as he expected. Gluttony was lumbering towards him, heads snapping and tails twisting. Wrath assessed the situation in a second, then ran toward the monster. He jumped and skidded on a puddle, speeding underneath the thing's distended belly and heading toward the tail end. Teeth snapped at him, and he dodged, making his way to the bank of the lake.
Arriving at his destination, Wrath scrambled around frantically, trying at the same time to counter his momentum and locate a stone. He spotted one, tucked away in a hole, the dull light of the cavern gleaming on its stained red surface. His hand closed on it, just as the impossibly strong weight of Gluttony's fist slammed into him, and he tumbled down the bank, and splashed into the icy, dark water.
Darkness, and silence closed over Wrath as he sank, slowly.
There was urgency.
In the back of his mind, he felt a great sense of urgency to get up, to move his limbs, to swim, to getougetoutgetoutgetoutgetout-
But his body didn't seem to agree.
Wrath had never learned how to swim.
If had, he thought now, in a detached way, he would have escaped that tiny island long before the Elrics and their teacher came. He would have run away, swum to the nearest shore, maybe bought a set of clothes, and found home somewhere else. Somewhere without concern. No knowledge of the homunculi, no Dante, no damn Edward Elric, and no Envy.
But of course, this was the him of the Now talking. The him of Back Then was stupid. Innocent. And clean from the conspiracies and crimes that had permeated his life as a homunculus.
Swimming…? There had never seemed to be any need, and there wasn't anyone to teach him.
And now all there was to do was relax.
Do you regret not learning?
Mind-Envy was back.
To swim, I mean. Stop looking at me like that.
I'm not looking at you at all, Envy.
Yeah, sure. Nice excuse, runt. Way to evade the question. And if you're not looking at me, you better have a good excuse for that, too.
Because I'm dying, Envy.
Envy kicked him. Or the memory of Envy kicked him. Or the hallucination of Envy kicked him. Or the hole in Wrath's world that otherwise would have been filled by Envy kicked him.
That's not an excuse, brat.
I'm pretty sure it is, Envy.
No, it's not, and it's not because I say it's not, and we're just going to go with that because my word's the law. Got it?
Good. Now stop fucking around.
Can't do much but that now, Envy.
Envy kicked him again.
You heard me.
Wrath's hand scrabbled along the lake bottom, and found a cluster of red stones. He lifted them to his face, and by the pale glimmer of light coming down from the surface, he gazed at them. He was completely out of air, he knew- his lungs were protesting, his limbs were seizing up, and…
…was it really worth it to eat them? he found himself wondering. At this point…
Snap out of it.
Wrath snapped out of it.
He swallowed the stones.
The world turned red.
Wrath was briefly aware of his silent cocoon of water disappearing. He was briefly aware of three different sets of jaws closing in on him. He was briefly aware of the change in pressure, the journey upwards, the pain as teeth pierced his skin…
And then he was very much aware of the energy that suddenly sprang through his body.
Midflight, Wrath arched his back, and was painfully aware of his bones reknitting, his bruises disappearing, the ligaments and tendons rejoining with one another. It hurt, oh yes, it hurt it always did but it was so, so, sosososo welcome…
Wrath saw one of Gluttony's heads coming towards him, as he began to fall back to earth.
Without a thought, Wrath grabbed the tentacle-like neck and tore it apart with both hands. Gluttony screamed, and Wrath smiled, dropping back to earth amidst a torrent of blood and stone fluid. His newfound strength wasn't going to last long, he knew it wouldn't, but it would be enough.
Again, another head sped towards him, and Wrath braced himself against the ground, catching its jaws in his hands. The thing roared at him, tried to push him backwards, and Wrath smelled its disgusting breath as it blew over him.
How long has Gluttony been down here?
The strip of rock his foot had been pushing against broke, and Wrath felt himself slide backwards a little. He jumped to the side dexterously, releasing the head's jaws, and then immediately latched onto the neck just behind the head. The flesh felt clammy, dead, in his hand, and he wondered for a second if that was how he felt to others, and then he twisted the bulbous thing in on itself, and it snapped in half.
He dodged strike after strike, blow after blow, and laughed giddily as he avoided each one. Fatigue lay low on the edges of his senses, ready to rear its ugly head at any second, and he laughed at it, too, daring it to interrupt his plan.
A job well done.
He supposed that this was the reason Envy always laughed like that when he fought. Mild insanity aside, it was the thrill of the battle that caught hold of him, cheating death and bringing it to others.
But, he reminded himself, that wasn't the goal here. Wrath didn't want to cheat death. His only intention was to hold it off…
A little longer…
Wrath landed on the ground for the last time. He looked down and saw the lines of the transmutation circle beneath him.
He lifted his automail arm, and drove it down into the surface of the ground. Gears shattered, metal split, and Wrath smiled as he stitched himself into the ground with all of the blonde girl's hard work and labor.
Now let him come.
Wrath looked up, and for a split second, made eye contact with Alphonse. The taller boy was standing at the edge of the circle, looking shaken and scared.
Wrath felt Gluttony's mouth snap closed around his torso.
Different pain, different from the one the stones had given him. Stronger. Less friendly, less comforting, and a whole lot more fucking persistent.
Wrath felt his body go limp, as the giant monster tightened its hold on him. His ribs cracked, puncturing what internal organs he had. He felt the tide coming before it hit his throat, and he opened his mouth. Blood spewed from it, hot, sticky, and accompanied by a sick, coppery taste. Tears rolled down his cheeks as it rolled down his chin and he gave another, silent, scream.
Make it stop…
Gluttony tugged, and Wrath felt the steel connecting his arm to the ground strain. He looked up into Alphonse's horrified eyes.
"Do it," he gasped out. Blood trickled down his chin.
"What?" Alphonse asked, aghast.
"Transmute us both." Wrath felt stone fluid sliding down his leg. Or was it blood? But whose blood? His pores were expelling the last vestiges of the short-lived strength from his body.
"I-I…" Alphonse stuttered, conflicting emotions apparent on his face. He dropped to his knees and looked like he was about to cry. His brother was never good at hiding how he felt, either. "…why are you doing this?"
Wrath just gazed at him, struggling between the urge to shout and cry himself. He couldn't decide which, and only managed, "Please, Alphonse… just get on with it…"
Alphonse stood bolt up right and said angrily, "You can't do this to me!"
"Wha…?" More blood dripped from Wrath's mouth. "What the hell is this? You want to see your goddamn saintly brother, don't you?"
"At least tell me why!"
Wrath groaned loudly, and Gluttony shifted impatiently, trying to tug the smaller homunculus out of the ground. Everything from his collarbone down was one huge searing mass of pain, and there fucking Elric stood, trying to talk, and obviously not giving a damn about how much pain Wrath was in, just caring about himself and his fucking morals. Fucking conceited little brat!
He did want to let Alphonse know, desperately, and as he hung there, broken and dying in Gluttony's jaws, anger just didn't seem right.
Just let the pain stop.
He choked out, gasping for breath, "It's because… it's the right thing to do. It's because I can't stand living anymore. It's because," and here he had to stop and cough up more blood, "I wish I'd never been born."
Alphonse was staring at him, and, oh god, Wrath really was crying now, fucking crying. The tears that had been already pouring down his face with out his noticing now intensified, and his voice came out in choking sobs.
"It's because… I wish I'd n-never left my island. It's b-because I wish I'd never come and r-ruined your lives. It's because y-you're s-starting to look just like E-Edward and I'm j-jealous, and it's because you don't remember me, and this'll be the only memory you'll ever have. It's because y-you want to die yourself to save your b-brother." He cried out in pain as another jerk came to his automail port.
"I don't understand…"
Wrath screamed in frustration.
It's because it's what Envy wanted, he said, or thought he said. Its because in the end we're just too tired of hating, too tired of killing, too fucking tired of it all, and somewhere underneath those layers of deranged psychosis he hated it too, really hated it, and he wanted to make amends, wanted to say it was sorry, wanted to beat the fucking crap out of that idiot brat of a brother of yours and then cradle him and kiss him and tell him he was sorry and wishing things could be different and he didn't know how and I'm all that's left now and it's killing me and I hatehatehatehatehate it, too and-
"Just fucking do it, Alphonse!"
And finality- a finality. The end of a play, a tragedy, the sort of story that made you happy to go home afterwards.
He didn't feel sad, he realized. The blue light of transmutation washed over his skin, deconstructing each piece molecule by molecule, and he welcomed it, basking in the relief such a death brought to him. No pain, no pain, just lightlightlight…
I repent for my sins, and wait for the life to come.
I don't feel regret.
And I'll see Envy again.