Title: The Deepest Secret Nobody Knows
Pairings: Roy/Pride!Ed, Riza/Pride!Ed, past Roy/Ed, Riza/Ed, and Ed/Roy/Riza
Summary: "Death came in dreams."
The Deepest Secret Nobody Knows
Death came in dreams.
It nipped at his heels as he hurried down crowded city streets, loomed over his shoulder as he trudged through deserted ruins, whispered teasingly in his ear as he flipped through dusty books whose pages crumbled when he turned them.
Death watched and death waited. Patient. Unhurried. Death knew that in the end all things belonged to It.
He danced through fights where the odds were stacked against him, his blood singing in his ears as adrenaline pumped through him. Copper taste on his tongue, red on the blade his arm had become. He scrambled for handholds as the earth fell away beneath him, dodged bullets as hastily put together plans fell apart.
In the background, there was a familiar but not familiar voice shouting, “Brother!” Young and scared, but he wasn’t scared. He hadn’t made things right yet, and he wasn’t going to die until he did.
And when he didn’t fight hard enough or run fast enough and the bullets bit into his flesh or the blade sank into his side, and he slipped closer to Death, close enough to feel Its touch, It stared. Not amused or vindictive but imperturbable. Ineffable. Inevitable.
He escaped Its grasping arms and hurried into other arms. Slim, smooth arms and golden hair like his own. Soft, soft lips pressed chastely against his and girlish laughter when he ran steel fingers up a flat stomach. Strong, pale arms and a deep, low voice whispering things that made his stomach twist in such a good way, rough scrape of teeth down his throat and a hand caught in his hair. Three sets of limbs tangled together under the sheets. A warm feeling he didn’t recognize.
And then, after waiting so long and so patiently, after lulling him into complacency, Death snapped out, flash fast, snapping rubber band quick- A man with cold blue eyes and a flat snake smile raising a gun. A girl cowering back, eyes wide and struck through with horror. And he was running, running, heart pounding and everything gone quiet, still, clear as he put himself between girl and man. He met the man’s snake-flat eyes and the shot was loud but not loud enough to drown out the hoarse screams of, “Brother!” of “ED!”-and closed over him, black heavy silence and then white aching emptiness and then-
Pride opened his eyes. Immediately awake and immediately aware of what had woke him.
Mismatched footsteps coming up the stairs behind him. Metal and flesh. Thump clank thump clank thump clank. Wrath.
Pride breathed in, breathed out. Relaxed. It wasn’t Envy or Sloth. It wouldn’t do for them to see him sleeping. Homunculi did not need sleep. Their days and nights blended together, one indistinguishable from the other in the underground city, an endless, merciless flow of minutes and hours, unbroken by oblivion.
But Pride had watched the Child sleep, listened to his breathing slow and mimicked it, closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He wasn’t sure if he slept or just dreamed, but he knew the others did neither.
He straightened up and veiled his eyes, looked out over the empty streets and waited for the smaller Sin to reach him.
Pride kept his eyes blank, kept them focused ahead on nothing.
He blinked, turned his head slowly and stared. “Yes, Wrath?”
“Master wants you. Now.”
Pride looked back to the streets, closed his eyes again. Saw, for just a second, the glint of sunlight off steel, heard laughter that echoed as it rose up from an empty shell. “Alright.”
It was wet. It was dark. It was cold.
(“You looked lonely.”
“Can homunculi be lonely?”)
Pride held his arms out, tilted his face up to the sky and let the rain wash the red off. He wished he was like the witch in the Child’s book, wished the rain could make him melt away.
“What are you doing?”
Pride didn’t answer. What could he say? I’m washing the blood off, you stupid fuck, what does it look like I’m doing? The words of someone else, someone gone, rising up like bile in his throat and he swallowed them down. It was better, smarter, if he didn’t answer. Envy preferred it when he didn’t answer.
(“What did you just say?”
“I said, it wasn’t like-”
A vicious backhanded slap cut off the rest of the words.)
Cold hands grabbed his wrists, pulled his arms down to his sides and held them there. “How many people did you kill tonight?” Envy asked, lips against Pride’s ear.
He didn’t struggle away from Envy, didn’t tense up. He answered, with no sarcasm at all, “Was I supposed to be keeping count?”
Envy laughed, delighted. It had confused Pride when he did that the first time, but the more time he spent with Riza, the more he learned and the more he dreamed, the more he understood. Envy delighted in what he thought Edward Elric had become. Master’s puppet. Envy’s whore. A pretty doll that murdered on command.
But Edward Elric was dead. Pride was Pride, not Edward, not Lieutenant Colonel Elric or Fullmetal or Brother or Ed. (Not Love or Lover or Loved. Black eyes watching him and careful fingers moving inside him, heat shooting up his spine and he wanted- he wanted- That warm feeling again, spreading from his center out as he was kissed over his hair.) Pride was Pride, and maybe he was a puppet, maybe he was a whore, but he had no soul to stain, no innocence to be destroyed.
He closed his eyes as Envy pushed him down and reminded himself it didn’t matter.
(What else was there?
Death chased him in dreams, but in his waking moments, It kept Its distance, turned Its face away.)
“I’m cold.” the Child whimpered, and stumbled in his effort to keep up with Envy’s quick stride.
“Too fucking bad!” Envy snapped. Pride saw the older Sin clench his fist against the urge to hit their charge.
Pride didn’t dare suggest they make the boy more comfortable. Envy was already in a foul mood, and Pride didn’t want Envy to turn that foul mood on him. Instead, he just slipped his hand down to the back of the Child’s neck, squeezed lightly. A gentle warning.
Envy stopped when the alley intersected another. With a brief flash and crackle of energy, he changed form, becoming a matronly woman with pale blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun. “You know what to do, Pride?” he asked.
“Don’t screw up.” Envy said, pulling an ill-fitting tweed coat about himself tightly and hurrying off in one direction, while Pride took the Child’s hand and went in the other.
When he judged they were far enough away, and was sure Envy hadn’t doubled back to watch them, he stopped. “Are you still cold?” he asked.
The child started a little, blinked up at him. He obviously had not expected Pride to speak without prompting. “Y-Yes.”
Pride unzipped his own jacket, then lifted the Child up easily and settled him on his hip, pulled the jacket shut over both of them as much as he could. After a moment’s hesitation, the child wrapped his arms around Pride’s neck and rested his cheek on the Sin’s shoulder. It was a novel sensation, having that fragile bundle of warmth in his arms. It made him think, of all things, of the armor he saw in Riza’s photos.
“Is that better?” he asked.
The Child nodded.
Pride started walking again. “We’ll find you a coat.” Pride was surprised Master had not thought to give him one, with how she usually coddled him. She was growing more and more distracted of late. Pride saw the plans moving behind her eyes, the gleam of madness growing brighter day-by-day.
They came onto a busy street crowded with cheerful shops. An outdoor grill belched the stink of fried onions and some sort of meat product, a large truck rumbled past, spewing black exhaust. The Child looked around with wide, fascinated eyes. His nose wrinkled at the unfamiliar smells, and his hands held onto Pride a little tighter. Pride reflected that the boy had likely not been out of the underground city since his mother had been lured down there with him in her arms. How long ago had that been? Pride did not know. The child was nearly six years old, how long…?
“Where are we going, Pride?” the Child asked.
“We are going to meet Lust.” Pride said. He saw a man with shifty, red-rimmed eyes bump into a young woman, then duck into an alley across the street, remembered the Child’s lack of outerwear. He crossed the street quickly.
The Child went silent. They followed the man down the alley, then across another street, down another alley. The city grew seedier around them. Finally, when he deemed it was deserted enough, Pride jumped and grabbed the bottom rung of what was left of a fire-escape ladder, pulled himself and the Child silently up. From there he leapt to the roof of the building. He set the Child down.
“Wait here.” he said.
It was an easy matter to sneak up behind the man, reach out with his small hands and snap the man’s neck, rifle through his cache of stolen wallets and take the cash he found for himself, then return to the Child and head back to the more crowded streets. It felt strange to be doing something that he hadn’t been ordered to. He hadn’t realized he could do things on his own initiative.
He took the Child into a shop that sold children’s clothes, bought him a black down coat, bright orange knit hat and gloves, jeans, a t-shirt, a pair of sneakers that weren’t a size too small. (The Child tugged on Pride’s own jacket and scarf, said tentatively, “Now we match.”) They still had a couple hours to kill, and there was a small deli across the street from the store. Pride bought them lunch, and ended up giving his to the Child. He didn’t need it, and the little boy was starving.
Again, Pride wondered at his Master’s oversight. The Child was important to her plans, and yet she had grown so careless of his health, leaving Pride and his fellow Sins to care for the boy. But homunculi do not get cold, do not get hungry, do not get tired or sick. Once Master had been sure to check on the Child and make sure his needs were met, but lately the Sins had been growing lax with their care of the boy and Master had not noticed.
As they left the deli, the Child took his hand, smiled up at him hugely, and Pride wished he wouldn’t, even as he smiled back.
When Lust saw the Child’s new apparel, she looked between Pride and his charge, her gaze speculative. “Get the urge to do a bit of shopping?” she asked.
“His clothes were too small.” Pride said without inflection.
Lust raised a perfectly arched brow. “Hm.” She straightened from where she was slouched against the wall, smoothed down her coat. “You know what to do?” she asked.
Lust looked down at the Child. “Come here, boy. Do you remember what to do?”
The Child nodded, released Pride’s hand with obvious reluctance and made his way over to Lust.
“Good. No mistakes, now.”
But they had already made one.
Five blocks away, at a small café across the street from a popular deli, a man was staring down at coffee long gone cold, face pale and mind numb with shocked disbelief. Because he had seen Pride and the Child leave the deli, and he had recognized the face Pride wore.