When the first glimmer of light cut a bold line through the darkness, it was almost like being pulled from sleep. Pitch black and utterly silent, his claustrophobic cell had become timeless as the hours stretched into days, maybe weeks. He'd tried talking out loud to himself at first, but it hadn't helped--it just made him more aware of the panicked shout that was building somewhere inside him, a helpless, shameful scream that could only be contained by silence. The cell wasn't wide enough for pacing, though the point was moot. He couldn't move even if he wanted to.
What he truly wanted was his brother. Wanted to at least know Ed was still alive, please, still alive, at least. He wanted more than anything for his brother to be alive and angry and coming to get him, coming to fix him, before....
Across from where he sat, the stroke of light yawned open, became a doorway filled by two silhouettes. The taller, willowy one raised a hand and flipped a switch, but he didn't need the fitful glimmer of a bare bulb to recognize the pair. He'd seen them in the shadows when the alchemist he and his brother had been tracking turned a flawed Philosopher's Stone on them and everything went up in a blaze of light.
He'd thought he was dead at first, but he wasn't so lucky. Breaking in the middle of a transmutation had done something to the Stone's power, done something to him, but that wasn't what scared him the most. What utterly terrified him was wondering what it had done to his brother.
"You still haven't moved, I see," the woman said by way of greeting, folding her arms under her breasts and watching him narrowly. "I suppose you could be pretending, but I don't think you're that patient."
"Is he going to die, Lust?" the short, stout creature at her side asked, one thick finger creeping into his mouth as he stared trustingly up at his companion.
"No, Gluttony, I don't think so. He's not really alive anyway," the woman said, her wide, wet mouth curving into a smile. "Maybe his brother can fix him. Later."
Ignoring her taunt, Al latched on to the only thing that mattered, wishing he could lunge for his captors and shake the woman into telling him more. "My brother?" he demanded, cringing inwardly at his desperate tone. "Is he all right? What have you done with him?"
Gluttony giggled, his breathy voice high and disturbingly childlike. "Envy broke him," the creature said, "so Envy has to put him back together."
"What?" Al's voice wavered helplessly, and Lust frowned down at Gluttony in silence, shaking her head. "What do you mean...broke him? What did you do?"
"Never you mind," Lust purred at him, flicking an imaginary speck of dust from her black velvet dress. "But don't worry--your brother's far too important to be killed out of hand. Envy will play nice from now on...so long as no one gives Edward a reason to become obstinate again."
"Play nice," Gluttony parroted with a huge, vacuous grin, bouncing once on his toes. And then he stopped and stared at Al as his round little eyes widened. "Play?" he asked, tipping his head back to look pleadingly up at Lust.
Her lips twitched once as she curled a lock of wavy black hair around her finger, considering Al with scornful eyes. "If you like," she allowed, her face softening as she glanced down at her companion. "Just don't take him apart. He may be useful later."
"I won't!" Gluttony promised, bouncing again. He looked like a kid in a toy store, and Al might have been amused by the creature's childlike innocence if the tin soldier Gluttony wanted hadn't been him.
Lust's gloved hand rested briefly on Gluttony's head as she turned to go, and Al almost expected the stout little monster to wag his tail. Gluttony was still lit up with happiness as the door closed behind her, and he turned to Al with a blinding smile that never quite faded. If Al could have moved, he would have hunched himself into the furthest corner of the shelf-like bed they'd sat him down on, but all he could do was watch as Gluttony waddled closer, frighteningly eager.
Al flinched inside when Gluttony reached out, but all the creature did was rap meaty knuckles against Al's chest, giggling delightedly at the hollow sound it made. "You're the brother," Gluttony said, peering up at him with unabashed curiosity. "But you aren't people."
"My body's gone, but I'm still me," Al protested, ashamed at how faint his voice came out. There was no reason this babbling dwarf should be so terrible, but he was. Lust scared him too, and Al could break her with one hand. Which made him think of Ed again. "Where's my brother? If you've hurt him...."
"Envy broke him," Gluttony repeated doggedly, "so Envy has to put him back together. That's the rule." Gluttony giggled again, round white eyes as empty as a shark's. "Envy doesn't play nice."
Al wanted to protest that, wanted to enumerate exactly what would happen if anyone so much as laid a hand on his brother, but the sick awareness it was too late for that robbed him of speech. And then Gluttony grabbed him by the wrist, pulling his arm out straight and bending his hand this way and that, giggling when it stayed outstretched even when Gluttony let him go. Al wished he could blank this out, send his mind away somehow--it was bad enough that he'd been reduced to a walking suit of armor, but now he wasn't even that, an oversized doll for a monstrous child.
"Not people," Gluttony hummed to himself. "I can't eat you." He sounded oddly regretful, as if he would have liked to.
And then he was scrambling up onto the cell's hard bed, swarming over Al and knocking him flat on his back, smiling and smiling. It was a good thing Al didn't need to breathe, that his armor was thick and strong, or he would have been crushed.
"What...what are you doing?" he squeaked, watching horrified as Gluttony's pale moon face came closer and closer.
"Lust says I shouldn't play with my food," the creature said blithely, dead eyes finally waking with a single true emotion. "But I can't eat you, so you're not food."
His eyes were still hungry, all but ravenous, and Al had never wished so sincerely for oblivion in his life.