When he's not running errands, Envy likes to simply sit and observe the humans. They're always so busy, so purposeful, going about their little lives like there's some big important fire under their feet. It makes him want to laugh, really, watching the man on the corner spend nearly half an hour pacing in front of the flower cart, trying to select the perfect bouquet for his date, watching a little boy carefully escort an old woman on the sidewalk, watching the butchers load and unload their little truck in front of the restaurant across the street. They're all so purposeful and intent, like the world turns according to flowers or that it's changed one cold cut at a time. They think they're so important, so unbreakable- Envy supposes he enjoys watching them in the same way he likes to let his foot hover above a beetle before he smashes it.
He likes the shadow he can cast.
He likes the way they break.
He's milling through Central's sunny streets today- everyone seems to be outside to run errands or simply enjoy the weather, so he's got plenty to watch. Envy's enjoying the sunshine, too- he's outside the Central library waiting for the Fullmetal brat and his tin can of a brother to leave. Seeing as the stupid little shrimp still seems to believe that all life's answers lie in pages and pontifications, Envy's got some major downtime on his hands as they comb the dusty library for their silly little salvation. He could wait in the library, but Envy knows what they're researching and has gotten bored with watching the 'dream team' as of late. That brotherhood bonding bullshit gets tedious after awhile- they're running in the same circles, both still burning with that same tired devotion to one another.
Envy cuts through the foot traffic to the park across the street from the library. He's a young Central soldier today, his jacket draped across his arm to make it clear he's off duty and off limits for questions. He doesn't feel like making small talk with the herd today, as droll as their drivel can be. As he weaves through the crowd, the voices all seem to run together; chattering, babies crying, a few shouts and laughs. It's the bubble and gurgle of life, but to Envy, it's noise- the equivalent of setting a brick on a record needle. The humans ruin the music, they don't make it.
Envy slips into the shade of an old Elm tree and lets his eyes rove across the street traffic, picking out little amusements to pass the time.
It isn't until he feels a small trickle on his arm that he realizes that he's parked himself near an ant hill.
Envy curls his upper lip as he rolls over a fraction. Ants. He lets the insect continue its slow exploration down his arm, his irritation prickling with every careful step of the six tiny feet. When it gets to his hand, he plucks it off with a sneer, pinching it slowly between his thumb and forefinger. He can feel the crush of chitin and the tiny ooze of its miniature guts, and the struggling legs go from struggling to still.
Killing humans is just as easy, although humans usually make more noise.
Bored again, he drops the little corpse onto the grass and shifts his back against the tree, his eyes narrowing as he stares dully at the door of the library, not really seeing it at all.
He's tired of playing babysitter. Lust is much better suited to the work than he is- she likes the noise and the grime of people, likes to hunker down in a busy street and sample the colors and sights and sounds. He remembers a recent conversation they had:
"It's interesting isn't it?" asks Lust, reclining against a crate in Father's dark room. The lights are off, and there is only the rush of the pipes and the gurgle and hiss from the prowling chimeras. Father is asleep again. He sleeps more and more these days.
"What's 'interesting'?" he snaps, irritated already and the conversation hasn't even really begun yet. He always half-hates that drawling, bemused tone of hers and her sly little questions- then again, he half-hates all of them, really. Gluttony is just a fat, dumb appetite trailing after Lust like a kicked puppy, and Greed's about as reliable as the weather reports, too busy trying to scrape together enough whores and baubles to build an empire. He can't stand Wrath and Pride either, playing nations with that foolish little woman sandwiched between them, and Sloth is, hands down, the most useless hunk of muscle and spit in their little employ. Lust is sharp, though, and fast, as fast as he is- she is all needles and teeth along each voluptuous curve in that pretty container of hers. Though he probably respects Lust the most out of all of them, he always feels as if he's being led somewhere in their little conversations that he wouldn't otherwise go, as if she's dissecting and reassembling him in her head.
When dealing with Lust, it's important to remember that she craves not just the pretty and the predictable, but the sullied and the savage, too. She likes the whole and she likes the pieces, and she will break you into the latter when she's done with the former.
She's looking at him with that same patient hunger now, that sinister half-smile on her lips that reminds him a little of Gluttony's slack and slathering jaw. "Well, I just mean that we're sort of strangers in this quaint little world, aren't we? We're intended to destroy it, but in the meantime, we're stuck in the middle of all these people, these places."
Envy rolls his eyes. They navigate this world like raptors- they tear through it like tissue paper, and for all her predatory instincts, Lust can be a bit of a herd animal sometimes. Strangers to the world? Ha."Wrong, sister. They're a part of our world. In a little while, these people won't have anything, not even their souls. Can you really say you own something if it's so easily lost?"
Lust's smile widens to rival Gluttony's lascivious grin. "That's not what I mean. I can dress myself up to the nines and take a man to bed with me without effort. I can look into his eyes and fuck him and know all the while that I could crush him, impale him with just a flick of my fingers- I just mean there's a gap between us. I can never be the woman he's fucking, not really. It's like there are miles of road between our skins. Can't you feel that, being around them?"
"No." He says it because he wants it to be true.
Lust gazes over at Father's chair, and narrows her eyes a little. "Fish and birds, that's what we are. A bird can soar over a lake and see the fish writhing their way through the waters, she can skim her talons along the waves and feel a flicker of the fin. She knows they're there, but she can't understand them." Lust waves her hand. "She could even pluck one of out of the waves and shred it with her talons, she can put on the scales over her feathers, but she won't ever understand what it means to be a fish. They inhabit two different worlds, and neither one can belong in the other."
He hates when she gets all macabre like this. "Bullshit," he replies. "Have you forgotten Ishbal? Did you see those little cockroaches scatter when I shot that kid? You can't tell me that when you kill one of them, when you feel their blood on your skin, that you don't feel some ownership over that pathetic sandcastle village they call a life. You don't have to understand them to fuck with them, you idiot. When did you become such a philosopher, anyway? What, you're lusting after mortality, now? Pathetic, even for you."
"You're lecturing me about concepts of ownership?" Lust laughs. "Tell me, how much of that Hughes man belonged to you?"
Envy narrows his eyes at that now, remembering as he sits under the shady tree. Killing the Hughes man was a bittersweet victory. The look of shock on Maes Hughes's face as he shifted his visage into that of his wife was priceless, but Envy wishes now that he had changed into the kid. It would have been something else to see that stricken face look down at the thing that was his child and not his child, to smile and wave goodbye to Daddy before pulling the trigger. It would have been more…artistic. But, he supposes it was a good death, all things considered, satisfying in its own right. Really, his only regret is the Lieutenant didn't suffer longer. Fucking guns. They're fun to show, fun to flash around and see the look on people's faces, but it usually kills them pretty quickly, too. The sweetness is in the suffering, after all, and the bullet that had torn though Hughes's heart had killed him within minutes. Pity…Envy had been aiming more of the top of the stomach, but it was hard to aim and keep his eyes on the man's throwing knives at the same time.
Still, regrets aside, it had been sweet to look down on the dying man wedged in the phone booth, to see the futile lash of his legs and the diminishing rise and fall of his chest. Those determined eyes never left his face, and so he kept the man's wife's skin on, smiling down at him as he died. People died with a theater on their face: pain, regret, and in Hughes, that delicious longing as he looked up into a face that was his wife and not his wife.
Within moments, though, the bloody body had stopped trying to get up- his breaths had clotted up with blood and choked into silence. Beneath him, the picture of his happy family smiled back. The irony was too good for words.
When the man took his last breath, Envy had felt one long, sweet shudder run the length of him. That moment always belonged entirely to him- that split-second when they stopped twitching and went still. In Envy's consideration it was second only to the suffering.
He had been positively giddy for the funeral, shifting into a Central soldier and standing in the second row with a decent view of the casket. He hid his smirk as the late Mrs. Hughes cried softly into her handkerchief, and choked back a full fledged smile when the little brat's wails lit up the air as they lowered the casket into the ground.
He wanted to shout that it was because of him that they were all gathered there today. They had gathered there to see Envy's great work. He only wished the casket could be open.
He wanted to tell them that this man, this little worthless insect, would never laugh again, would never lift a finger to help anyone, that the arms he had once used to hold his wife and child would rot away and all because he, Envy, had deemed it so!
It was terrible to do great work and not be credited for it, but Envy supposed the work was its own reward.
It was all he could do not to laugh during the gun salute.
As the crowd began to disappear, the widow and the child had lingered, and farther behind, that Mustang hovered a few graves behind. It was then a pang of something hit Envy, a spasm in his gut that he could neither name nor banish. It twisted in him still, and now, thinking about it now, Envy thinks he has come to the crux of it.
It is Hughes's family. They will continue loving him, missing him, cherishing the good of his memory long after his body has rotted into irrelevancy. They will visit his grave. They will tell stories and smile to remember them, their eyes glowing with shed and unshed tears. Envy has destroyed the man's body, yes, but not his meaning- he can never have his reputation, or the tears that are meant for him, or the love and affection that the man's soul had once attracted and cherished. The truth is that he can kill as many humans as he likes, but he cannot kill their devotions or their memories. It's that simpering love, that stupid fucking devotion that burns so brightly in creatures like those brothers…he has broken hundreds of bones and ripped through flesh upon flesh and splattered steaming entrails on cold and lonely sidewalks, but he can't kill those damned feelings inside them- he can't break them, and he'll never have them. They elude him even now, dancing just out of reach, pretty and bright and mocking and beyond him. It ticks in his jaw and simmers in his blood, but there is no hope for it. And Lust's words come back to him, full of rancor and remorse-
They live in two worlds, and neither can belong to the other.
The humans, they don't share, do they? They can't- what can a fish give to a bird, besides its flesh? What can a bird give to a fish, for that matter, but a shadow on its watery ceiling? Envy watches the people come and go and laugh and dance and cry and fuck, and it as if he is outside of that little world, watching their happiness from a long, cold distance. Always watching, observing, plotting, but never in the thick of it, never belonging. He cannot steal these things and neither can he wear them like a second skin, a mocking mirror that looks out at them as they gaze dumbly into him, not seeing a damned thing. He hates them, and he hates that they are worthy of being hated. His loathing is a tired, forsaken creature that chases its tail, much like the blood red dragon on his thigh.
And that's the thing about having a philosopher's stone for a heart, he thinks. It doesn't beat for you- doesn't belong to you, and it doesn't want to. It's a thousand screaming souls that want to go home, that want to return to the flesh and the family that they've lost- they want nothing to do with him. His own heart is an alien thing that coils in him with his every sibilant sigh, that twists and pulls and tries to wrench itself from his body even as it grants him strength and speed and near immortality. It is an empty, aching echo in place of a warm and beating organ. And it's fitting, isn't it? Because in place of a family, they have a plotting master and a handful of siblings each too busy drowning in their desires to care anything for each other.
In these moments, he understands his brothers and sister more than ever- it's an emptiness that they share, that they can't fill, can't fuck, can't sleep they way out of- but they try.
Movement catches his eye, and Envy glances down to see that more ants have come. He watches them twist and weave through the grass, their tiny movements jerky and irritating to his eyes. After a few minutes, they find the one he killed. Their antennae bob around their fallen compatriot, and within moments, they are bearing it back to the colony. They are purposeful and intent, unaware of the large and looming world that exists above their own. He can stomp this cluster, but more will come. Curling his lip, Envy's eyes dart back to the library.
Things are beginning to speed up, now, Sloth has been dispatched and Father is growing restless. Envy does not particularly look forward to the Promised Day- after that, who will be left to suffer?
For now, he contents himself with the present, and the pain to come.
He thinks about Hughes again, about his wife and child. He can pay them a visit whenever he feels like it- he can wipe the little Hughes family tree right off the map in a single night.
He thinks of Hughes, rotting and hopeless, twisting in his grave while his wife and child scream out his name in anguish, and it stirs some heat in his veins.
He thinks of the dark and desperate look in Mustang's eyes every time his dead friend is mentioned. Envy chuckles to remember it. Yes, that look, that fury, that desperation…no matter what Lust says, that belongs to him, and it fills his hollow heart with glee.
Lust is wrong, he thinks, a smile lifting up the corner of his mouth. They are a part of their world, even if they are only the cancer that will consume it.