So I'm raising the rating to M – not for this chapter, but for the next. Up to this point I've avoided any overt sexual situations, mainly in an attempt to keep the rating down. However, I've now given up :P
YukinoKara: Long chapters are luverly, I feel so awesome and accomplished when I post them. I promise you'll find out. I won't say anything more than that :P I like the hat scene too, I always wanted to do that to that goddamn hat Winry wore in like…two episodes or something? I dunno. I always hated it. And you don't like Greed, that's good, that's very good. If you started liking him then this story would turn into the worst kind of fanfiction. I figured Envy would notice a change – they grew up together, after all. It's weird things you notice in your siblings, and weird things you miss.
Everybody else…please review I know you're there, I'm seeing the traffic. Even a short one would be fabulous. But I'm really feeling alone in posting this if I don't hear from you guys – especially the ones who used to be so good at reviewing. It really means a lot to me to hear from my readers.
Part 3: Genkaku (Illusion)
We Need To Talk About Julia
Once he'd finished talking, Envy closed his eyes, cheek resting against his knees. He wasn't crying, surprisingly enough – it had been long enough that the sadness resting inside of him no longer needed a physical outlet.
"Jesus," whispered Ed. Envy wondered what the expression on his face was – pity? Revulsion? Impatience? He decided to play Schrodinger's Cat with it. Ed wouldn't wear any of those faces until he opened his eyes and saw which one it was.
"Envy." Ed's voice was gentle as always, but with that full-metal core laced through it. He spoke his name almost like a command. There was no questioning lilt, no frantic uplift, just a simple statement. Envy.
God, he wished he could draw voices.
A finger brushed against his eyelashes, a reminder of how frustratingly long they were. "Envy, don't. I know, it's tough letting me in."
How do YOU know? The bitter inner voice that had grown and grown since Martel's death lashed out, but Envy kept his lips resolutely shut. How do you fucking know? You're perfect. You're goddamn perfect, you stupid beautiful angel, with your wonderful little homey brother and your shiny little life. What could you possibly want with damaged goods like me? Look how I've already fucked things up for you.
"Envy!" The sharpness grew stronger, the metal more exposed, and Envy's eyes snapped open, purple meeting gold. The light was shining behind Edward's head, reflecting off his hair like a halo and painting him in broad strokes like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel seraphim. But his face was dark, and Envy suddenly wondered what his angel was hiding.
Ed took Envy's hand in his own and used it to push up his sleeve, all the way past his shoulder where it bunched up under his chin. The scars Envy had seen before had a dull gleam in the light, red and keloided and angry. Ed placed the younger boy's hand gently on them, though Envy couldn't help but cringe at how they felt.
"Go ahead and touch them, En. I understand. I'm not just some smarmy kid who's decided I understand you in and out – because I don't. But I understand loss. I understand pain." Ed's eyes went dark. "My mother died nearly four years ago now. My father was away at the time, I had a mental breakdown, and I ended up in an institution for just over a year."
Envy pulled his fingers along one of the scars, feeling the ridges catch on the pads and skin of his hands. They were so long, like gashes in his arm. "Do you…still do it?"
"Do you still miss her?"
Envy glanced away, then back at Ed. He nodded slowly. "Every day."
"I've stopped now. But it's tempting. Because I miss her, too."
Envy was seized with a sudden desire to take Ed's sad, shadowed face in his hands and kiss those lips which now spoke such truthful and painful words. His eyes widened, and he shook his head in a sudden spasm, trying to rid himself of the sudden urge.
"Envy, what's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing…just…" Envy smiled crookedly. "I saw them before, but I guess it didn't really register. I just had this idea that you were perfect."
"Tch. Sorry to disappoint you." Ed tried to stand, but Envy tightened his grasp on Ed's arm, stroking another of the scars gently with this thumb.
"Not like that, dumbass. I mean – you know – I –" For the first time in a long, long time, Envy lost his words, and he bit his lip, trying to get his tongue and lips to articulate what he wanted to say.
Ed cocked his head, and to his horror, Envy burst out laughing. He covered his mouth, watching the Elric boy in mortification. Ed was swinging between being confused and irritated.
"Okay, spill. What are you laughing at all of a sudden?"
"When you bend your head like that," Envy demonstrated, and started laughing again when Ed mirrored his movement, "you look like a cocker spaniel, or a sad puppy."
Ed blinked. He blinked again. "Are you serious?"
"Yep. It's the most adorable thing I've ever seen."
The outraged expression on Ed's face was enough to set Envy off again, and Ed soon joined him. The two of them laughed until their stomachs hurt and they were out of breath to continue.
Between pants, Ed managed to sit up. "That…felt good."
"Yeah. It did."
"Laughing…laughing is fucking awesome," declared the blond, flopping back onto the floor. Envy was seized with the desire to kiss him again, but pushed it back into the recesses of his mind. What the hell is wrong with me?
He summoned up an image of Martel's face, holding it there until his heart prickled and stung. He liked girls. He was attracted to girls.
I like girls.
He watched Ed's chest rise and fall as the boy caught his breath, staring at the ceiling. Apollo. Angel. Scarred Adonis, sad Adonis –
I like girls.
And somewhere, a tiny voice he almost couldn't hear, and could almost completely ignore, it added in a mischievous, mocking undertone –
Zolf Kimbley had earned his position at the top of the school food pyramid the way any politician worth his salt earned his; through terror, guile and blackmail. He had dirt on almost everyone in the school, from the burliest senior rugby player to the smallest freshman wallflower. About half of the faculty were similarly under his control, although quite a few of them didn't yet know it.
However, there were always exceptions. Edward Elric and his band of misfits, for example, had put a wrench in his plans once they'd figured out his methods by coming out to the entire school. They were their own little group, seldom interacting with others aside from the Yao boy's many conquests, but their flamboyance made it harder for Kimbley to hold sexuality over others' heads.
For example, Envy Angevin.
That one still stung.
And now there was another person who he didn't have anything on. Julia Vasquez, the mysterious transfer student, the Spanish girl with the smoky, husky voice who stood a good two inches over almost every girl in the school. She was always with that damn group, but if he played his cards right…
"Hey." He leant on the locker next to hers, ignoring the sophomore trying to get into it. "You're the new transfer student, right? I'm Zolf, Zolf Kimbley."
She continued fiddling with her lock for a moment, then looked up, a strand of green hair falling in front of her face. "Zolf, hm? That's a…German name, yeah?" She smiled. "I like German. Very different from Spanish, but it's a nice language."
"I'm afraid I don't know a word of either."
"Oh? That's a pity. My name's Julia, by the way."
"So do you need somebody to show you around?"
She tapped her chin, considering. "Well, Ed's been very good about showing me where everything is, but –" She froze, staring into space for a moment with a dawning look in her eyes. Kimbley was about to tap her on the shoulder when she suddenly looked back at him with a smouldering smirk. "I'm sure there's some other places you could show me."
Under his white jacket, Kimbley's heart did a little backflip. There was just something about the accent, he decided.
"Oh, I know a few places."
And besides. What better to have on someone than the fact that she'd made out with a complete stranger five minutes after their first meeting?
Envy nipped lightly at Kimbley's bottom lip, looking up from underneath his black lids to see the older student's reaction. He wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten himself into this situation – 'situation' in this case meaning a janitor's closet with his legs wrapped around another man's midsection and necking with the person who'd made his life even more of a living hell than it already had been.
Well, it's not like Kimbley was wrong.
Shut up, me. You're not gay. You're just…getting revenge.
You're getting revenge. On your bully. By making out with him. In drag. That's pretty fucking gay.
It's not gay in context!
Stop talking to yourself.
One of Kimbley's hands travelled up from Julia's waist to cup her breast, and Envy remembered to moan slightly into the kiss. Man, I never thought I'd have to fake a reaction to being groped. Talk about expanding my horizons.
Suddenly, he realized that the senior's hand was wandering downwards again – towards his –
He let out a yelp, pushing Kimbley away and falling to the ground with a 'thump'. "What are you doing?" he squeaked, accent completely disappearing as he pressed his legs firmly together. Luckily, Kimbley didn't seem to notice the change in his voice.
"Hey, we were having fun."
Envy cleared his throat. Back to Julia. "Yes, well, I have limits."
Kimbley crossed his arms, raising his eyebrows and looking down at Envy with a half-disbelieving expression. Envy suppressed a shiver – a look like that usually precluded a punch or kick.
However, the eighteen-year-old simply squatted down to look him squarely in the eyes, then dug in his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. "Fair's fair. Here's my number. You should call me sometime – you're cute." He opened the door and slipped out, leaving Envy holding the paper and staring at the numbers written on it incredulously.
He banged his head against the wall. "This was not one of my better decisions," he muttered angrily. Still, he tucked the scrap into his pocket.
Now to get rid of his stupid boner.
"…and of course, beautiful girls like you shouldn't be alone on beautiful days like this!"
Winry snorted, wielding her wrench like a weapon. "Another word from you, Ling Yao, and I'll show you what I can do with this."
He wiggled his eyebrows. "Ooh, now I'm curious!" He immediately regretted it as she belaboured him with the tool.
Russell gave a deep sigh, holding the leashes of both dogs as he watched the two flirt and fight alternately. "Idiots." He turned to look at Julia, seated on the side of the road with her face turned to the bright sun. "Hey, you're quiet. What's the matter?"
She started, and then forced a smile. "Oh, nothing. Don't worry 'bout me."
He sat down next to her, tying the leashes around his arm. "Well, do you like it here?"
"Oh – oh yeah! It's super cool, I think it's fan-tas-tic. And people don't call me an illegal immigrant constantly…Madre de Dios…"
Russell chuckled. "Yeah, that must suck. But something's bothering you, isn't it?" His face darkened. "Is it Kimbley?"
"That bastard makes a point of intimidating everybody. He tried it on me – it worked, too, until Ed and Ling stepped in. Don't let him scare you."
Julia laughed. "No, no, that's not it at all! He didn't scare me, he…" Envy decided if he was going to tell anybody, it would be someone who thought he was a girl. However, before he could say it, a shadow fell over both of them.
"Hello…Russell, is it?"
Russell and Envy looked up.
A man was standing over them – a man in a three-piece suit and a longcoat, although somehow he seemed perfectly comfortable even in the heat, and glasses perched on the end of his long nose. Envy couldn't quite tell with the sun in his eyes, but he thought his hair might have been gold.
Whoever he was, Russell recognized him. "S-sir! It's, uh, been a while," stuttered the English boy awkwardly.
"That it has. Could you point me in the direction of Edward, please?"
Russell looked around. "He's…over there, with Ling and Winry." Edward was, in fact, currently the one being trounced with a wrench, although his laughter mixed with the insults and curses assured all listeners that it really wasn't all that serious.
"Ah. With the cute blond and the crazy Asian." The man sighed. "Some things never changed." He stepped over them and towards the three, who still hadn't noticed them.
"I'm…not really sure how to take that," muttered Russell, shifting awkwardly.
Envy frowned, watching the scene unfold.
Edward dodged one of Winry's blows with a laugh, swivelling on the spot – and froze.
The man raised a hand. "Yo."
The street went silent.
A car went by, the backdraft of wind rustling both Ed's hair and that of his father.
"You son of a bitch," he growled.
The man dropped his briefcase on the ground. "Now, Edward, don't be like that. Your grandmother was the sweetest woman ever to –"
"You drop off the face of this earth for six fucking months, then you just show up like that," he snapped his fingers, "without even a fucking phone call. And you don't even have the nerve to act apologetic!"
Hohenheim shrugged. "Well, I did say I'd be away for some time."
Edward punched Hohenheim in the jaw, sending the taller man staggering back. He rubbed the side of his bearded face, wiggling his jaw. "I did not deserve that."
"Like hell you didn't, you bastard! Why didn't you at least tell me you were coming home? For all I knew you'd finally bunked and done a runner!" Ed shook his head and buried one hand in his hair, grabbing a clump and tugging at it. "Just…go, alright?"
Hohenheim picked up his briefcase. "Now you're being ridiculous. Let's go home."
Ed opened his mouth to protest, and then cast a long look at Envy.
Envy frowned in confusion. Ed flicked his eyes at Ling almost imperceptibly, and then gave a very slight nod. Then, digging his hands into his pockets and raising his shoulders almost to his ears in a typically defiant pose, he followed Hohenheim, walking deliberately slowly at a plodding pace.
Russell rubbed his neck awkwardly. "That guy gives me the creeps."
"That's his dad?"
"That's the man who impregnated his mother, yes," corrected Russell drily.
"Man, you always use such big words!" Ling sauntered up to them, grin wide. "What's wrong with saying knocked up?"
Russell merely sniffed, giving Ling an icy glare. Ling's shoulders slumped slightly in acknowledgment, then clapped Envy on the shoulder. "Julia-chan, we'd better go pick up your sister."
"The sleepover, remember? You two were gonna come meet my family!"
Envy stared disbelievingly at him. Ling opened one eye slightly and gave him a warning look. "Ling, darling, if your family's anything like you –"
"Don't worry! They're worse! Anyway, we'd better get going." He gave Winry a little mock salute. She waved back with a slight blush, then dropped her hand and looked away when she noticed the antagonism rolling off of Russell in waves.
Ling began to open his arms to Russell for a hug, but then aborted it when he noticed just how straight the boy's posture was. "'M'sorry," he muttered, and then returned to his cheerful demeanour. "See ya tomorrow, limey!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, slant-eyes."
Ling stuck out his tongue, and then pranced down the sidewalk towards Xing Public School with an extra dash of flamboyance. Envy gave Russell a quick and awkward one-armed hug, waiting only a heartbeat before releasing him.
"So," Envy said breathlessly (catching up to the surprisingly-fast-moving Ling had been harder than he'd thought, especially in high heels), "what's this about?" He dropped the Julia voice completely – it was starting to hurt his throat, and he was under no illusions that Ling was fooled.
Ling grimaced. "Well, Ed and his oh-so-wonderful sperm donor of a daddy weren't in contact. Sooo…yeah."
Envy rolled his eyes. "You've explained exactly nothing."
"I've explained everything, dobe, think about it."
So he did.
"Oh crap, he has no idea there are two other people living with them."
"Took you long enough," snorted Ling with a good-natured poke at Envy's chest. Envy slapped his hand away.
"Just because they're fake doesn't mean I want your grubby hands all over them."
With a chuckle, the dark-haired boy skipped a few paces away, leaping up onto the base of a lamppost and spinning around it before he squatted down at the bottom. "Nah, you'd rather my hands up your skirt, wouldn'tcha – Juuulia?"
Envy had absolutely no response to this, except for the faint sound of a circuit frying in his brain. His face suddenly felt very, very, very hot. How was his makeup not just…melting off? And that wasn't the only part of his body that was getting hot.
Thank God for frilly skirts. (They hid more than one might expect.)
After an eternity, he managed to stutter something out. "N-no, I don't…"
L. A. M. E. Laaaame.
Ling merely shrugged. "Okey dokey. Just checking." He sprang on ahead, whistling something. It sounded suspiciously like 'Sexy Back'.
Envy glared ahead, fists clenched at his sides and arms ramrod straight and shaking in irritation. That smug, self-satisfied son of a motherfucking bitch. He'd done that on purpose.
"What's the matter, Julia-chan? Enjoying the view?"
Envy considered picking up a stone and chucking it at Ling, but decided it against, merely running to catch up with him (again).
"You're terrible," he hissed through gritted teeth.
"Aww, am I getting you flustered?" Ling patted Envy's head, and then dropped his hand to the back of his head, playing with the strands of hair that had escaped from his high ponytail. "You're all warm back here." Ling raised the back of his other hand to Envy's cheek, brushing it gently across his face. "Here, too."
He is getting. Very. Close. To. Me.
"It's hot, okay?" He pulled away, adjusting his clothes nervously and clearing his throat. They were nearly at the school anyway. He should get back into character.
Envy pretended not to hear Ling's low, throaty chuckle.
I'm not gay, he thought savagely to himself, but if I am, I have TERRIBLE taste in men.
They rounded the last corner, and Envy sighed in relief as the large tree that marked the main doorway of Xing Public School came into view. "There we are," he said, injecting the breathiness and airiness of Julia Vasquez into his voice, raising it a few tones. His voice was getting deeper every day – 'Julia' was starting to hurt, scratching at his throat.
He narrowed his eyes, stretching his neck to look through the fence – then raised his arm, waving. "Hey! Hey Sharon! Cabroncita!"
"The fuck does that mean?" Ling asked.
"Oh, you're really one to talk." Envy skipped up to the fence, lacing his fingers into the fence.
There were plenty of kids milling around in the concrete yard – school had only just let out for Xing, a half hour later than Central. However, as Envy took in the entire scene, he realized that the middle-schoolers weren't milling. They were, in fact, quite deliberately gathered in a circle.
And from the centre of the students that were crowding more and more tightly, Envy heard an angry, familiar voice. "Get the hell off my case!"
"Who do you think you are, anyway?"
"A fucking grade-eight student, just like you! I'm not a fucking leper! Stop treating me like one, you stupid cow!"
He knew that foul mouth anywhere.
Running down the fence, he found the entrance and sprinted through, forcing his way through the middle-schoolers (they were so small, he could practically shove them aside) and into the centre.
"Wr – What's going on, Sharon?" The near-slip made his stomach flip – and then it turned again when he saw who Wrath was yelling at.
Elysia scowled at him. "Oh, it's you." The disdain in her voice hurt like Envy never believed it could.
Envy rolled his eyes. "No, it's the Easter Bunny wearing my skin. What d'you think, princess?"
Elysia planted a hand on her hip, flipping her caramel hair with a huff. "You don't even go to Xing."
"No? Really? I hadn't realized. I'm here to pick up my sister, dumbass." He really needed to look up some more Spanish insults. "I'm not gonna ask again. What the fuck are you two screamin' up the town about?"
Wrath crossed his arms under his chest, scowling darkly. "Nothin'. She's being stupid is all."
Envy raised an eyebrow. It was time to call on his two years of Spanish class. "Cuéntame la verdad, Sharon."
The flaw in Envy's plan suddenly became very plain as confusion flickered in Wrath's eyes. The younger boy was far from the natural actor that Envy was. But he managed – he turned the confused look into a sneer and a roll of the eyes worthy of any middle-school girl.
"Um, Julia?" said Elysia in a sharp mocking tone. "We're, like, not in Mexico anymore. We speak English here."
Even if it was an act on Envy's part, it stung. It stung because it came from Elysia – Elysia, the sweet one, the nice one, the little girl who, Envy suddenly realized, had grown up when he wasn't looking.
"Oh really," he said languidly, taking a few paces towards Elysia and bringing his full height to bear against her. "Then explain why your anthem is in two languages…señorita?"
Elysia blanched, mouth opening and closing like a guppy fish. But that wasn't all Envy had to say.
"And I'm from Arizona, sweetheart, not Mexico – or even New Mexico. If ya can't keep your states straight, maybe you should spend more time payin' attention and less time picking on the new kid."
"I – I – I…" Elysia glanced around. The tide had changed – the rowdiness had settled down to wary glances and whispers.
Envy made as if to turn – then swivelled back. "And one last thing, chiquita, if ya wanna know who we think we are?" He grinned, feeling his preternaturally sharp canines poke his bottom lip, then leant in slightly, saying in a low voice that was still loud enough for those close enough to hear. "We're dangerous."
With that, he straightened and stalked up, snapping his fingers as a summons for Wrath to follow. He did so, buried his hands in his sweater pockets and glared down at the ground, thick bangs covering his eyes.
"Was that really necessary…Julia?" he hissed. Wrath didn't need to disguise his voice other than a slight Spanish accent on a few words – puberty hadn't really hit in full stride yet, and his voice hadn't cracked completely, leaving him with a fairly deep but passably feminine tone.
"I dunno," answered Envy truthfully, still grinning wickedly. "But hell was it fun. Nobody picks on ya and gets away with it, sis."
Wrath harrumphed at that. "You really think I give a damn about a stupid middle school girl giving me hell about my clothes not fitting and having a Spanish accent?"
They reached the fence and rounded the corner – then Envy realized they weren't alone. He turned and glared down the girl who was following them. "The hell are you, bajo?" Short. Heh. He'd learned that one for Ed. As far as he knew, Ed hadn't translated it yet.
She squeaked, squeezing the straps of her backpack instinctively. "Don't hurt me!"
Envy froze, shocked. Julia fell away, only the thinnest part of the façade remaining as part of his disguise.
This was becoming a dangerous game.
"Pff. I won't hurt you. But why are you following us?"
She raised a shaking hand past them. "I'm meeting my brother."
Envy followed the path of the small girl's finger – and nearly screamed with frustration. She was pointing at Ling.
"Oh. Hello then. What's your name?"
She stared up at Envy with wide-eyes.
"Well? I'm Julia. And you are…?"
Still no answer.
Wrath coughed. "Mei, Julia is a good friend of your brother's."
"Oh! I'm Mei-Chan. Hi." She wiggled her fingers in an awkward approximation of a wave, and then ducked between Julia and Sharon to run to her brother – and away from them.
Wrath raised his hand, moved aside his bangs and glared at Envy.
"I'm sorry, okay?" he retorted, looking away. Truthfully, he wasn't quite sure what had possessed him to intimidate Elysia so much. He didn't like the side of her he'd seen – not in the least. He'd wanted to teach her a lesson.
But – how the hell could he be scary?
"Okay," he said after a moment, striding up to Mei and Ling, "so now are you gonna explain why I'm coming with you instead of curlin' up at home?"
"I already –"
"You started," interrupted Envy drily, "but then you got derailed into perversion. Fairly common, that."
Ling chuckled. "Right, yeah. Uh, so Ed's dad's home, which means you gu – girls need to stay with me for a bit."
Envy snorted. "It's like you've never fucking heard of feminism. Stop correcting yourself."
The Japanese boy ignored him. "It shouldn't be long though. Thing about that bastard is he never sticks around for long – that's why Ed hates him so much." There was a brief flash of anger across Ling's face, making clear what was left unsaid – why I hate him too – and Envy got a second-long glimpse of the connection between Ling and Ed, the friendship that had kept them together for so many years. It was a different connection than Envy and Ed had – rougher, tougher, grittier, braided of tough rope and arguments and fist-fights and sand, not woven out of spider-silk and shared secrets. And Envy didn't understand it at all.
His fingers itched for a pen.
"Come on, then." Envy said suddenly, trying and failing to stop the shy smile of creation from blooming on his face. "I want to meet the rest of your crazy family."
He ignored Mei's protests, Ling's laughter and Wrath's alternating grumbles and giggles. He ignored them when they began talking. It all blended into a kind of music in the back of his distracted mind as he stared ahead, not really seeing what he was looking at.
Envy, all of a sudden, was thinking about red string.