Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Envy, Lust, Alphonse, Edward.
Summary: Envy's latest spying ploy hits an unexpected snag.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: A little bit of silliness for April Fools' Day.
"I'm not sure about this," Envy muttered, peering cautiously around the corner.
From his vantage point at the mouth of a narrow alley, the homunculus had a clear view of the front entrance of Eastern Command - and the suit of armor that paced noisily at the front gate. Alphonse Elric was waiting for his brother to turn in a report on their latest trivial sidetrack of a misadventure.
Much too trivial. The homunculi - and more importantly, their master - were growing impatient to see their carefully laid plans produce some kind of result.
Deeper in the shadows of the alley, Lust made a faint scoffing sound. "It can't go wrong. That one is always picking up strays. All you have to do is let him carry you around inside his armor for a few days - until Fullmetal finds out, and makes him let you go. In the meantime, you'll be in the perfect position to hear everything they say, and find out how much progress they're making."
"Easy for you to say. You won't be the one picking up fleas." Envy grimaced. "This is why I hate taking animal shapes."
Lust rolled her eyes. "Go on, before Fullmetal comes back."
Huffing out an irascible sigh, Envy stepped back from the corner of the building that was their cover. After a moment's concentration - he was slightly out of practice when it came to mimicking non-human forms - he morphed into the shape of a small black-and-white cat.
Even if he was against the whole idea, Envy prided himself on his thoroughness, and he calculated his guise to tug at every string of the metal boy's not-physically-existent heart. His new feline body gave the appearance of being young and underfed. His ears and his white-tipped paws were endearingly oversized. His eyes in particular were so large as to be almost physically impossible, their color the same deep gold as those of Alphonse's beloved brother - and they were set in an adorable little face that no softie like Alphonse would be able to resist. In short, Envy was nauseated by the very thought of how precious he looked.
Scowling even through his unbearably cute new features, he shot a look over his shoulder at Lust. She smirked and made a wry shooing-away gesture with one hand. He responded with a quiet and very un-cute growl, and reluctantly padded out of the alley.
On the other side of the street, Alphonse was restlessly treading back and forth along the sidewalk. Envy sauntered in that general direction, trying to affect a properly catlike leisure: a few detours to sniff at fallen leaves and littered bits of paper, a pause or two to lick himself in various places. Rather disgusting, really, but his long experience had taught him the importance of staying in character.
Alphonse failed to notice him at first - but then, having a helmet for a head probably didn't do much for his peripheral vision. It was only when Envy wandered into the street, drifting toward his target without deliberately appearing to, that the boy spotted him and stepped forward with a startled flinch.
The walking scrap pile could certainly move fast when he wanted to. He descended on his target in a quick flash and rattle of steel. His broad leather hands reached down, scooping up the errant "cat" from the pavement; and in the next moment, Envy was cradled protectively against the armor's chestplate. The steel was warmed by the heat of the afternoon sun, and despite his lack of any sense of touch to help him judge the pressure of his grip, Alphonse's hands were extraordinarily gentle.
"You shouldn't be walking out into busy streets like that," he chided softly. "Besides, Brother and I have enough bad luck without a black cat crossing our path... But you're not unlucky at all, are you?" He chuckled softly on that conclusion, but there was a trace of wistfulness in his tone.
With that, the boy shifted Envy into his left arm, and raised his right hand. Big, rough-textured fingers landed behind Envy's ears and started to scratch... and to his great embarrassment, the homunculus found himself instinctively leaning into the pleasant sensation.
Then they both heard the offbeat steps of flesh and automail feet behind them.
As quick as Alphonse had been before, it was nothing compared to his lightning movements now. His free gauntlet shot up to the edge of his chestplate. A few practiced flicks of his fingers released the fastenings on one side; and then, before Envy quite knew what was happening, the not-cat was unceremoniously stuffed into the dark hollow of the armor's torso.
He heard the sounds of the fastenings being swiftly secured once more. Then the armor shifted as Alphonse turned to face the footsteps. Envy could both feel and hear the way the metal boy quivered nervously.
The footsteps halted in front of Alphonse. There was a long, ominous silence, and the armor was shivering more noisily than ever by the time the terse voice of Edward Elric spoke up.
"Okay. Out with it."
Alphonse gave a start that almost pitched Envy against his interior surface. "Huh?"
"Don't play dumb, Al. I saw those guilty moves of yours - and I oughta know 'em well enough by now." Automail knuckles knocked loudly on the armor, a loud harsh sound that caused Envy to flatten his ears and wince. "Get that cat out of there!"
The homunculus just barely caught those words through the ringing in his skull, and stifled a growl. No matter how perfectly he played his own part, he should have known the plan would be stymied by the metal boy's clumsiness in deceiving his brother. All of that effort and humiliation for nothing... and he was fairly sure he could already feel a flea nibbling on the scruff of his neck, too.
With the utmost sheepishness, Alphonse opened his chest and groped within himself for his stowaway. There was nothing for Envy to do but let himself be lifted out. Immediately confronted by the sight of the Fullmetal Brat glaring down on him, the homunculus had to struggle against his yearning to introduce that face to the armament of claws he was conveniently packing.
"Just look at him, Brother," Alphonse implored, easily holding Envy's small cat-body in his two cupped hands. "He looks like he hasn't eaten in days, and there are no houses around here that he could have come from. Somebody must have just thrown him away!"
Edward stared down at Alphonse's find for a long moment: fists planted on hips, eyes narrowed, teeth grinding. Then - to the astonishment of both Envy and Alphonse - he threw up his hands with a frustrated groan.
"You know what? I'm over it! I've just spent two hours arguing with Mustang about the 'repair costs' from that little trip to Ashwill." He spoke the key words of that sentence with rolling eyes and fingers crooked into air quotes. Then he glowered up at Al more fiercely, shaking his head. "I'm not in the mood to fight with you over a cat today, or have you moping all over the place for the next week... so you just go ahead. Knock yourself out. It's your problem."
Had he possessed a proper face, Alphonse clearly would have been wide-eyed and gaping at his brother. "Really?"
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever." Fullmetal waved a hand in ill-tempered dismissal and turned to walk away. "Maybe after a week or two of carrying it around, trying to keep it fed and clean up after it, you'll finally realize cats are better off in a real home than out on the road with us."
Alphonse ignored the last sentence - no doubt confident in his ability to prove his brother wrong. He lifted Envy up against his chestplate in a careful but tight hug, breaking into a noisy little happy-dance that rattled the shapeshifter's teeth. "I can't believe it! You really are lucky! I get to keep you!"
Somewhat stunned, Envy fidgeted in that possessive grip.
Fullmetal's acceptance of his presence was not part of the plan. After he had stowed away and eavesdropped for a while, the pipsqueak was supposed to make Alphonse let him go; but if that didn't happen, it was uncomfortably possible that Envy might be caught in the metal boy's clutches for much longer than intended. In his initial flush of excitement over his new "pet", Alphonse's obsessive attention might not relax for days - and he didn't even sleep.
...But no, this absurd status quo couldn't possibly last long. Fullmetal would soon get fed up with their new traveling companion, and force his release. And even if that wasn't the case, surely there would be any number of convenient chances for Envy to slip away discreetly. Alphonse couldn't hold onto him all the time... could he?
"I'm going to the library." Edward paused, casting a sour glance over his shoulder at his brother's furry captive. "While I'm there, you'd better take that cat to a vet. You may be impervious to fleas, but if you're going to have it around me, it needs a good bath - and whatever shots it's supposed to have."
Neither boy took any notice of the new adoptee's sudden squirming... nor his strangely uncatlike noises of protest.
"I guess he does!" Alphonse agreed cheerfully. He tucked Envy up against his shoulder like a baby and held him firmly, oblivious to the not-cat's frantic clawing on his steel. "Come on, Lucky. I know you won't like it, but it's for your own good. Besides, we have to get you food and a collar and..."
The metal boy strode off with his object of affection, yammering on in a stream of platitudes about what wonderful care he was going to give his precious pet; and as for "Lucky", he glared back murderously at the Fullmetal Runt in their wake, silently putting this day at the very top of the long list of things he dreamed of seeing Edward Elric suffer for.
And in the alley across the street, Lust was laughing.
© 2012 Jordanna Morgan