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Twice as bad, twice as good

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“... Now that he’s taken a monster like you under his flesh.”

And with that, he started walking away.

Ling hated him.

“I hate him.” He said, setting his jaw.

Metaphorical jaw, he supposed, the one of his body projected inside his mind. Ling wasn’t really sure about how any of that worked.

King Bradley, Wrath, was walking away from them, having regained his composure and gotten the last word in their conversation. Ling couldn’t contain his anger at the thought of being this close to the man responsible of Lan Fan amputation, and not having the ability to do something about it. Trapped inside his own body.

He started tugging at his hair, trying to calm down. He repeated to himself he needed to buy his time and be patient. After a moment of breathing hard, he realized that his real hands, the ones of his actual body, were moving through his own hair, according to his mind. Shocked he stared at them for a second, then he started moving. On reflexes alone, he let his mind focus on the Dragon Pulse, searching for Bradley energy behind him, calculating the steps needed to reach him.

‘Twenty-three and moving, good, I can do this.’

He swung around, stepping down the edge of the roof, right hand going spontaneously behind his back to reach for his sword.

The moment his foot hit the ground was also the moment his hands closed around thin air, reminding him that he didn’t have his sword anymore.

Nor his own clothes.

Nor, after a second of shock, his own body.

Said body, once again in Greed’s hands, didn’t stop the spin Ling had started, and fell on its ass.

Through the body’s eyes, Ling saw Bradley calmly getting away and stepping away from the roof.

Meanwhile, Greed stretched his legs and leaned with his back against the wall like he had had every intention of being seated on the floor, and it was not, in fact, a pretty humiliating fall the one he (they) just had.

Ling then noticed the homunculus was also laughing at him.

“Cool off, kid, this hatred of yours is not doing you any good. It actually ruined that ‘big secret plan’ of yours.”

“What?”

“Yeah, your ‘let’s not let Greed realize I can get the control of the body’ plan.”

In the real world, Greed was putting his hands behind his head, as if sunbathing.

“But no, you had to get angry at Wrath for some idiotic idealistic reason. You had to take the body and yell at him when you didn’t have enough strength to keep it. Don’t get me wrong now, I appreciate the dramatics behind it, I truly do, really good timing. And it was strangely satisfying to me seeing him unsettled. I mean, I just met the guy, but seeing him without that satisfied look on his face...”

Both of them jumped, realizing that the homunculus’ shield had appeared up to the elbow on his right hand.

Now Ling had calmed down a little and was curious.  He could tell that, right now, the tone of his voice was, even if still playful, forced.

Ling decided to push the issue, to see what would happen.

“Why do you think?”

Greed snapped. “ I don’t know. Shut up, you little pissant!”

For a minute neither of them talked. The only sounds were those from the city and from the souls screaming around them. For a second Ling could feel Greed letting his guard down, and sensed the walls around his mind crumble. At that moment he heard the homunculus thoughts as they were his own. He could tell how confused he was, how the meeting with Bradley left him. The fact that as soon as he heard Wrath’s voice he had had a certain sense of uneasiness, that he felt the need of masking with forced laughter and laid-back attitude. Greed was wondering the meaning of his involuntary hostile attitude toward his brother. He could tell there was something inside him that was screaming not only not to trust him, but to actively defy him.

The moment passed and Greed became aware of Ling presence in his mind. He forcefully shrugged off his worries, blaming Ling presence and hate for Bradley for his own hostility. He started laughing again.

“Admit it, kid, you fucked up. You wanted to make me believe that you were completely hopeless in this arrangement, asking me all nicely about leaving you control to get the message to that vassal of yours, waiting for me to drop my guard until when you’d be strong enough to keep me contained. But you just fucked up, it happens to the best, believe me.”

Ling could feel the weight of the statement, he truly did fuck up.

He had swallowed his pride enough to ask for Greed’s help to let him write and then to deliver the message instead of fighting for control.

This time it wasn’t like with Ed when he first met him. He had told Fu he would lower himself and bow to here and there if it meant to get what he wanted, but pleading an homunculus for a favor like that, like Ed himself did with Envy when they were stuck inside Gluttony stomach, was something he didn’t know he would be willing to do until he found himself doing it.

He thought he was being smart at the time, if a little less proud than he should have.

He thought he was taking his time, letting the homunculus’ confidence grow to finally get his chance with all the strength he needed.

But once again Bradley had put himself in the middle of his plan.

Once again a ruler that was everything he had swore to himself he would not become had proven to him how naive he was actually being. His naivety this time had costed him what may have been his only chance of getting the autonomy of his body back. The fact that Lan Fan sacrifice hadn’t been enough for him to finally grow and be the man his clan needed him to be, the ruler his entire country had been waiting for generations to have, the person Fu and Lan Fan believed he could be was like a blow right in the guts.

He really had thought that his willingness to give up his body to a homunculus had meant he was finally on the right track of finally becoming all that. How stupid he’d been, how arrogant, he really was just an arrogant child, way over his head.

“Hey, now, don’t beat yourself up too much. I was just messing with you, well at least partly.”

He got up and started dusting off his pants before going back to watch the city, leaning with his elbows on the edge.

”I mean, I knew about your plan from the start. You see, the moment you started thinking about asking me about the message you were also thinking about how you wanted to trick me into a false sense of confidence. In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have known, but at that moment you were also having this internal monologue about your duty and a clan needing you to succeed, something about feeling guilty about an arm and the fear of meeting an old man about it.”

Greed was vaguely waving his tattooed hand while talking, Ling’s tattooed hand to be exact.

“Seriously you should try to relax a little and get over it. This is why you failed. You see, with this arrangement we’ve found ourselves in right now, I’m able to read you if you think loud enough or if you get too emotional about things.”

The face (mask?)  in front of Ling grimaced.

“And by now I’m sure you noticed it works both ways. So how about we make a deal that you keep your emotion in check, so I don’t have to listen about your angsty whines, and you can keep your “new and improved and most of all super secret plan” you’ll be coming up next to “get control of this body” to yourself?”

Ling had no idea how a bodiless face floating in the middle of a stream of screaming souls could make so clear the sarcastic air quotes in a sentence, but it seems that Greed was gifted in the weirdest ways.

In some way it made sense, the feeling of thoughts rushing over his head without the ability to put a stop to them, when he was overwhelmed by emotions, by the stress and weight caused by his duty for his people, was not a new one. And it was only logical that any other conscience residing in his mind could sense those turbulent thoughts.

But even if it made sense, now Ling needed to stop acting so impulsively and start thinking about his next move. First and most of all now he needed to stop taking for granted everything that Greed was saying.

Only because it made sense, it didn’t mean it was true, or that it wasn’t also a trap.

He was the man who was going to be Emperor of Xing, he should be ready to think a way out of every situation and be able to see the intention of every person he needed to deal with.

This particular person in front of him was a literal embodiment of a sin. A sin who had every reason to make sure Ling could never get to achieve his goal, so he needed to see where was the catch before doing, or not doing, anything.

“Using my anger I got the control of my body again, at least for a while, how do I know that you are not saying that so that it doesn't happen again?”

Greed huffed.

“Come on, don’t be dense, you little pest! I thought you were a Prince or something, aren’t you supposed to be, I’m not saying smart, but at least educated?” Ouch, that burned a little. “ Do you think that the control you get via anger or strong emotion is going to stick? The moment you calm down, you’d lower your defenses and I’ll get an even stronger hold.”

“And I should just take your word for it? You really think I’ll trust the sinful lying creature that is possessing my body about what to do or not do to get it back?”

For some weird reason, Greed seemed hurt by that statement.

“Listen, little Prince, you don’t know me and for once I’m going to give you a pass, but there is one thing you need to understand about me, and that is that I do not lie. I may steal here and there, kill the occasional person that pisses me off for some reason, like if they steal or break or kill my stuff, but. I. Do. Not. Lie”

At that moment Ling understood two things.

The first one was that for some weird reason he believed Greed. This weird monster that had taken everything from him, laughing, but that had also seemed legitimately thrilled when he found out the man he had stolen the body of was still there to hear and answer his thoughts.

The second was that he finally knew his next move. It was going to take a long time, more than he was comfortable with taking. He had, after all, a deadline set to the moment of the Emperor death. A death that was every day nearer, so he needed to be more patient than he normally was, but he finally knew what he needed to do now.

He slowly and deliberately smiled in his projected body inside his mind, trying to get Greed to pay attention to the fact that he finally was a step in front of him. He relaxed and got himself into lotus position. From now on he wouldn't get caught screaming and tossing like a child, he decided.

“So it’s all going to be a battle of intellect between us, huh Greed? The one who can stay calm and bide his time is going to learn everything there is to know about the other. Finding always new ways to alter him, leaving him less and less control with time.”

Ling closed his projected eyes, to show Greed how little worried he had become about his situation.

“You‘re being honest with me so I’m going to do the same with you.”

He let his voice reach the lower tones and looked the sin right in the eye.

“I’m going to discover everything there is to know about you, homunculus, and I’m going to use it to get my body back. I’m going to drag you to Xing and use your abilities to get the throne I was born to have, and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it.”

Greed for a minute just stared at him and then started to laugh that too-loud-almost-forced laugh of his.

“Now you are talking, kid. I was beginning to think I imagined that fire I saw in you when we met. Here’s the thing though, you are what, seventeen? Nineteen?”

“Fifteen.”

“Fifteen! You really think a fifteen years old, in the middle of his angsty teenage years can beat a grown man at this kind game?” Greed laughed again.

Ling grinned and shook his head.

“The more you talk, the more I’m convinced that there aren’t even going to be a contest between us, Greed. I’m going to take control right now only by asking you one single question.”

“Oh, you are, now, eh?”

“Yes.”

“Then let’s make this interesting. Let’s say you win and get to me ‘with one question’ as you said…”

“Then you are going to let me finish whatever I’m going to start doing when I take over.”

“No running away with this body. No trying to contact the Elrics or your guard again. No doing something against Pops. And most of all, no interacting with any of my other siblings, don't let them know you are here, all right?”

“Sure, I can do that. It’s not like I thought I would be able to do any of that anyway, except the siblings' thing, but why would I do that in the first place?”

“All right, and if you don’t win then you are never going to do what you tried to do with Wrath earlier, all right? I’ve gotten enough shit from them only because I left for a little bit, helping you, by the way, I don’t need them crawling up my ass because of one of your revenge-slash-I’ll-be-a-better-ruler-than-you-piss-contest shit. Deal?”

Ling didn’t even think about it, he knew he was going to win. And, also, attacking Bradley in the middle of the palace had been a stupid fucking idea, anyway.

“Deal!”

“Then let’s see what you got.”

“All right. You see, I noticed something about you. Before, you said to Ed you are a different person than the Greed before you, the one they met in, I don’t remember which city of this country. I don’t really know the details. And they don’t matter, anyway.”

“Huh?”

“But you also keep talking down to me like you’re a grown man, and I’m just a child.”

“Not to pop your bubble, little Prince, but you are a child.”

“How old are you, Greed?”

“What kind of an idiotic question is that, while we were talking about…Huh.” Greed sneer was cut in half as he finally understood what Ling meant.

Ling could feel the homunculus yet again confused by his knowledge of having just come into existence and his feelings of being so much older than that.

The confusion inside the homunculus grew to the point where Ling, without any struggle, found himself in control, while Greed was very far away inside their consciousness. More away that any of them had ever been up to that point.

Ling tilted his head, both in the real world and inside his mind, as if it could help him hear Greed better. He could tell this wasn’t going to be a permanent solution, obviously. He didn’t have much time before the homunculus would get his thoughts together and come up with some kind of excuse to what was going on.

And he was going to be pissed.

“Luckily you never tell lies, so you’ re going to respect the deal.”

He wasn’t sure Greed was hearing him in his current state, but still, he trusted (when did that happen?) that he wouldn't interfere anyway.

“So, let me finish what I’m about to start.”

With that, he rushed off the roof, looking for the kitchens.

 

Chapter Text

Two weeks. He’d been alive for two weeks, sharing a body with an entitled little brat and he still couldn’t believe that this was his life.

At first, his siblings and Father had been busy cleaning the mess done by the Elric brothers and the X-faced guy. Wrath had done some kind of power move against the brothers and some Mustang guy to keep them in check. Envy had dealt with the escaped prisoner. Father had rebuilt his room and taken care of Gluttony. Sometime during that time, Wrath had come to talk to Greed again, telling him that in a few days time he was going to have to start doing Gluttony’s work, now that his brother was unavailable.

That hadn't happened yet and, until now, they had left him alone and nobody had bothered him.

Or at least, nobody outside of his own body.

Greed sighed as he watched said body, without a shirt for some reason, seated in one of the gardens of the palace. Doing. Absolutely. Nothing.

Greed sighed again, louder.

Not that the concept of loud, or noise even, had any meaning in the space inside their minds. Luckily, or the both of them would have gone crazy by now with all the screaming the Stone’s souls did every single moment. They couldn’t technically hear them, but it was like all that what was left of the souls’ will, aimed to make him and Ling well aware of their presence.

So every time he concentrated inwards his mind would translate that will into images and sounds. He thought that that was also why the screaming never covered the conversation between him and Ling.

Speaking of which, the pest still wasn’t giving him any sign of responding, so Greed sighed a third time, in an abnormally noisy way.

“What do you want?”

“This is so fucking boring, how could you willingly do this for more than 5 minutes?”

“Shut up, we have a deal! I won the last round so I can meditate, and I have still at least fifteen more minutes before my time is up. It’s hard enough to do this with this thigh as fuck pants I’m not allowed to change because of the rules you gave that time you won.”

“And yet you took off my coat and shirt... And whoa, language! I don’t want to be known as a corrupter of the youth.”

“Shut up! And, also, you never said anything about taking clothes off! You just said to not change them with, and I quote, ‘that hot-air balloon masked as pants’ I was wearing! And, by the way, that is MY coat.”

“Oh, come on kid, I don’t lie to you! So show me the same fucking respect.”

“What? What did I say?”

“You've been brooding about the day you fought against Wrath long enough in this last few days that even I know you stole that coat from that Colonel ‘safe house’.”

“That doesn’t make it yours.”

“It doesn’t make it yours either .” Then he thought about it for a second and raised his voice. “And even if it was, it’s mine, now. *You* are mine, now! You gave yourself to me and now you and everything you owned is mine!”

Ling stayed silent for a while, long enough that Greed started to regret his outburst. But it was true, the Prince needed to remember that. He was Greed, everything belonged to him, or was going to be, at least. Ling had been his first possession and he wasn’t going to let him forget it.

Luckily, what he had fast learned about the guy was that he easily bounced back into good mood after a punch. Or, at least, he was really good at faking it, and that was enough for Greed.

“Yeah, well, even if it’s true, it’s just a temporary situation!” He said it with a smile and a nonchalance so well acted, that even Greed, that at that moment could faintly sense Ling’s emotions, was almost inclined to believe. “One day I’m going to be able to drag you back to Xing and become Emperor!”

“ And how is your Master Plan going, again? Do I need to remind you that I’m just allowing you to be in control at this moment? Me being a very generous boss and all.” All these fucking déja-vus he's been having lately were fucking annoying, by the way.

“You’ll see. And you are not doing it for generosity, you’re doing it because you are bored being a good boy for Daddy and you enjoy the challenges we take on. Even if I win most of the times.”

“Wait, you win *some* of the times. And I didn’t know you’d start doing this boring sitting in the sun thing, or I would have never accepted them in the first place!”

“That’s your own fault, isn’t it? Now, shut up, and let me concentrate! I won and you are wasting my time! If I knew you’d be so annoying about this I would have used this time to eat some decent food!”

“Yes, please! Even being somewhat an unwilling participant of that weird act of adoration with food that you call eating is better than this!”

“It is eating!”

“No, I eat, what you do is something entirely different, that I don’t want any part of.”

“My body needs to eat more than average, or else I faint!”

“I’ve never fainted and I use the same body.”

“You waist some of the Stone power to do so! And that’s not the point, the point is that you need to shut up and let me concentrate on my meditation.”

“Why do you want to meditate so much, anyway? How can you not find it so fucking boring? We haven’t moved in hours!”

It was true, still now, while talking to him, Ling hadn’t moved a finger of the body in the real world, what a waste of body autonomy...

“We’ve been here thirty minutes, not hours.” Said Ling rolling his eyes, finally! A movement! “I need to meditate to keep my connection with the Dragon Pulse alive.”

“Your... what, now?”

“My connection with the Dragon Pulse, you see, in Xing every member of the royal family and their se… Oh shit!”

Greed suddenly felt himself shoved back in control. “What the hell, kid! And wow, today you’re on fire! Two weeks with me and you are already...”

“Greed, shut up, I sense…”

“... swearing like a… What?”

Greed didn’t know what stopped him first from finishing his sentence.

If it had been Ling’s sudden spark of anxiety that rushed through the body or his warning.

It didn’t matter anyway because both of them arrived too late. Greed knew it the moment he heard a voice behind him.

“So it is true. You really are keeping a human consciousness inside.”

Greed swung abruptly, not easily because of Ling previous weird Xingese meditation position, and found himself in front of a child.

“Who the fuck are you?” He said, out loud.

“Shit maybe I shouldn’t swear in front of a child, look what I did to you!” He said to Ling, in his mind.

“Don’t call me a child! I’m the future Emp… That’s not the point! Greed, I don’t think he’s a child either.”

The child-looking-maybe-not-actually-a-child was looking at him impassively.  His eyes locked into Greeds', like if he was trying to look inside of them, searching for something, probably Ling.

Then his face softened, and he smiled kindly, making Greed easing the tension he didn’t know he built up. In contrast, he could feel Ling inside of him stiffening even further.

“You can’t even recognize your older brother? I’m hurt, Greed, I really am.” He looked around, getting serious again. Greed did too, nobody was around. He and Ling made sure to find places almost always desert, to be certain to be alone while doing their thing. But then again, they weren’t alone now.

“Come, I need to talk to you, but not where we can be seen.”

He turned to go as if he was sure he would be followed. But then, after a couple of steps, he cast a last glance at Greed, and added, perfectly calm. “And can you please put on a fucking shirt.”

----------

Greed followed his brother (how fucked up was that he didn’t even know his name?) out of the garden and into the tunnels that would eventually lead to Father throne room. He had, in the meantime, put his shirt and coat on, and done everything in his power to ignore everything Ling was saying. He wanted to put his entire focus on the other homunculus.

The moment he stepped inside the tunnel said homunculus stopped walking and looked at him again.

“Now that we're out of possible unwelcomed eyes we can introduce ourselves to each other in a more adequate manner.” He tilted his head. “I’m Pride, Father's firstborn, your oldest brother.”

“Name’s Greed.” He said, trying to keep his nonchalant attitude, but sounding way more awkward that he’d have liked.

“From what I gathered you’ve already met every other one of our siblings, with the exception of Sloth. How unfortunate that he has to finish his work up North right when we get to meet a new brother.” He added shaking his head.

“Yeah, what a pain…” At that Pride snickered like he had just told an inside joke. Which he didn’t, but he liked the feeling he got all the same.

“Listen, Greed, I talked to Wrath and I’m here to tell you what Father’s work for you is.”

“Why didn’t he tell me himself?”

Pride smiled again.

“Because I wanted to meet you. Now, as far as your job goes,” how he could make his face, his entire body really, shift from one of a child to one that emanated that much authority, Greed had no idea. He wanted that too, for himself, so much. “Right now we find ourselves on a tipping point, we cannot make any mistake. Gluttony and Envy let outsiders infiltrate their way right to Father and we can’t have that. You’ll patrol this tunnel and do a better job at it than they did. At least until it’s time for us to make our move.”

“So my job is to do the same as the useless chimeras that crawl this place?” Greed huffed.

“Your job is to a better job than those useless chimeras. You are a homunculus, Greed, of course this job is beneath you, like being the cute kid of the Fuhrer is beneath me. But we do it and we endure it because what we’ll have at the end is far more valuable than some months of boring tasks.”

Now Pride was finally talking his language! Greed felt a big grin involuntarily creeping on his face as if he wasn’t in control of it. For a second he thought it was Ling's doing, but that was impossible because the guy was very far away inside his mind at the moment, Listening in, but hiding away from Pride. Sometimes his avarice, just like the brat himself, was less like a little voice on the inside of his brain and more like a force that almost moved him of its own accord.

“And what will we have in return for these boring tasks?”

“Look, I know how much you value honesty, so I’m not…”

“How?”

Oh, that’s where Ling was!

“Not now, brat! Can’t you see I’m busy?” He said internally, pushing him more far away inside. He went without much of a fuss, probably because he didn’t want Pride to see any kind of struggle from the outside. But not before having the last word.

 

“Greed, how does he know how much you value it?

Well, shit.

“Yeah, how do you know?”

“....”

“ You just met me. How do you know I never lie?”

“What did just happened Greed?”

 

Greed let his Ultimate Shield show up to his elbows.

“Answer me, brother dear!”

 

Something strange was happening in the shadows out of the corner of his eye. Were they not alone?

Pride sighed, aggravated, as if dealing with a child on a tantrum. Greed anger was rising more and more, his body tense, ready to strike.

“Greed, I apologize, I should have known you’d make this difficult.”

 

From behind him, Greed felt something grabbing his legs, then slowly moving up twirling around all his body, like invisible snakes, keeping him in place. He tried to look, but all he could see were shadows. Something inside his brain, and it wasn’t Ling, was screaming that that wasn’t the first time he saw something like that. He silenced it, putting it into a far away part of his mind. He started to struggle.

“Calm down. I’ll explain everything, I just need you to listen and don’t do anything stupid in the meantime. Seriously brother, have some decorum, you’re behaving like a human.”

He spatted the last word, then he waited until Greed stopped struggling before continuing. “Father thought it was better not to tell you for your own good, but I think that after this disgraceful performance he’ll have to reconsider.”

 

It was almost like he was talking to himself, but then he looked again right into Greed’s eyes as if his next words were going to be a test, and Greed’s fate was going to be decided from its result. The Prince, deep inside of him, was thinking the same.

 

“Do you know that you are not the first Greed, that there was a Greed before you?” He waited for a response and Greed, to hell with everything, wanted to give him the most sardonic one he could muster, before sensing the feeling of little hands crawling on his face in warning.

He just nodded.

 

“The thing about him, you see, was that he was defective. He was Greed the Avaricious but he couldn’t understand how to achieve what he wanted. He didn’t understand how following Father, the creator of all the Homunculi, was the only path by which he could get everything he the world that mattered. And he died, alone and without a thing to call his own.”

 

Greed swallowed, horrified by the concept. The little shadow hands were moving on his face as if to soothe him. He knew they were, in fact, creepy more than everything (even without Ling’s distressed input, thank you very much) but for some reason, it also kind of worked, he leaned in a little bit.

 

“Father wanted to try again, making a Greed that could have everything he desired, so he purified his soul, purged his memories and made you.” He smiled. “ And you know the path to get everything you crave, don’t you? You are avaricious, truly Avaricious, aren’t you?”

Greed needed a second. What Pride had said was unsettling, and it was making him feel lightheaded, or maybe it was the feeling of spiraling just before the loss of control of his body in favor of Ling? He couldn't have that. That was so not the time to have a Xingese brat taking his place. Thankfully Ling seemed to be of that same opinion because he wasn’t even trying to take advantage of his momentary weakness.

He took a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm down,

What Pride had said made sense, he knew there had been another Greed, and he knew that everything couldn't have turned out that well for him. For a second the thought of Father taking something like his own memories from him made him want to start fighting again.

But if it was true, if the old Greed truly had been that inadequate that he couldn’t get anything at all for himself, then he didn’t want to have anything to do with him. The less he was like him, the better, so those weren’t his memories, and Father didn’t take them from him.

Once he decided that, every other decision was an easy one. He shrugged the best he could with the shadows still keeping him still, and rolled his eyes at Pride, who was still watching him like a hawk, trying to guess what he was thinking.

“Don’t worry that creepy little head of yours, Big Bro. I know you’re right. I’ll do what daddy dear wants me to do. I’ll expect things in return at a certain point, though.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way. You are Greed, after all, the Avaricious among the Homunculi, be proud of that.” The shadows against Greed started to loosen up, to then suddenly tighten up again. “One more thing. I heard a really distasteful thing from Wrath, and had the confirmation earlier, is it true that there's a human inside of you right now?”

He seemed so disgusted by the thought that Greed couldn’t let himself miss the occasion to be a smartass.

“Well, there's more than one human inside the both of us, if you think about it. Hundreds or even thousands, isn’t that kind of our thing?”

“You know what I mean.” He sighed. “Look, I’ve already been here too long. If really there's a soul that is more, let’s say, lively, than the others, deal with it. I don’t want to hear anything like this ever again, am I clear?” The shadows dissipated all at once. “I’m glad you saw reason about where your loyalties lie, but you need to remember that is us against them. Don’t let a human soul even come near your own consciousness, all right? You had your fun with it, now let it rot with all the others, am I clear?”

Greed, finally able to move, put a hand behind his own neck and started massaging it, smirking. “Crystal.”

“Perfect, I’ll leave you to your patrol, then. We’ll see each other again.” And with that, he started to walk away.

Greed kept talking to him until he was out of hearing range, and then he talked some more.

“Yeah, good talk, really nice chat, Bro. Come visit anytime.”

When he was absolutely sure he was alone, he let out a sigh and leaned against the wall. He took a moment to regain his composure. In the meantime, Ling, who had stayed far away and silent the whole time, came creeping back near the surface.

“Are you really going to do everything Father tells you?”

“Yes, of course. Pride’s right, it’s obviously the best thing for me. Staying with my siblings, doing what I have to and then getting what I want.”

Ling didn’t seem happy about it, and Greed could see why.

“But don’t you worry about that last part, little Prince. I’m not going to get rid of you.”

“What?”

Greed laughed.

“I thought I made myself clear in these past few weeks. You’re my possession, my first possession! And no one, I mean NO ONE, including the other homunculi, including Father, including you,  will take it away from me.”

Ling didn't say anything.

Chapter Text

“So how would I help you get the crown, really?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You keep saying you want to drag me kicking and screaming to Xing and become Emperor, but I fail to see how? Except, you know... The obvious.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“Well, immortality really seems like a good place to start to stage a coup…"

 

"..."

 

"But for some reason, I don’t think that’s your plan, though.”

 

“Not really, no.”

 

“So?”

 

“So what? You want to know my tragic backstory?” Ling snarled.

 

“God, please no. No. It’s just,” Greed gestured all around them, at the nothingness in dim light inside the tunnels. “There isn’t really anything to do except waiting for intruders that’ll never come.”

 

They were sitting against one of the big pipes that ran in that area, and Greed had taken off his coat ( Ling’s coat… let’s say their coat), rolled it up and put it behind his head, as a pillow.

 

“I want to know what would be my part if you really got to beat me, just please, no backstory, I think I’d rather die of boredom.”

 

“So you’re starting to think I could win, eh? Getting scared of what’ll happen to you?”

 

“Please. What’ll happen to me is that I’ll have an annoying parasite for the eternity.” He didn’t seem much beaten down by the prospect though, even with all his complaining. “I’m just trying to understand your reasoning.”

 

Ling huffed, it wasn’t like it would do him any damage to tell Greed, and he did have some problems with his plan that needed fixing. Talking about it out loud (out loud-ish) could help him.

 

“Well, ok. You know how I’m one of the Emperor children and heirs, right?”

 

“Anyone who ever talked to you for more than 5 seconds knows that, kid.” Greed interrupted rolling his eyes.

 

“Rhetorical question… Anyway, Xing is divided into clans, you see, and the Emperor rules over all of them. Each clan ….”

 

“Yeah yeah, I know that already, fifty clans, lots of siblings fighting to give their asshole daddy the best gift of all to get his favor.” He dismissed his own explanation with a hand. “You thought real hard about that part more than once. What I want to know is how do you think getting *me* there can help you.”

 

“Well, what better gift to a dying selfish asshole than immortality?”

 

“So, you’d like me to… what? Leave this, I hate to admit it, more than conveniently strong and athletic young body to get into the one of a dying old bastard?”

 

“What? No! I’ve never wanted that dickhead to get immortality in the first place! How could I get the throne if he never dies? My plan was to get the secret of immortality and then, give him only some evidence of it, enough for him to know I’ve found a trail for the real deal. I’ll give him a lead so shallow that he’ll die before getting it! He’s soon to die anyway.”

 

Meanwhile, Greed had gotten up, dusted off their coat and pants and started walking hands in his pockets.

 

“Ok, good, I was really questioning your intelligence there for a while. But how do you get proof of immortality out of me? Without giving away the whole process, that is.”

 

Ling smiled really big, the biggest, most shit-eating smile he could muster.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Really trying to give off that air of superiority that his uncle always told was expected of him.

 

Maybe they needed a break from being in each other pockets (hell, in each other minds) every second of every day, because Greed just laughed at him.

 

“This is priceless. Not only you have no chance to beat me and take me to your little country, but you also have no idea on how to use me to get the crown once you get there! When will you give up your childish dreams, little Prince.”

 

Ling tried not to get riled up, miserably failing after he started what could only be described as whining.

“Never, it’s not a childish dream, it’s the only way to help my clan and all of Xing!” He cringed and stopped talking. After taking a few slow breaths, he started again, trying to look unconcerned. “And, by the way, Xing is not at all a little country, it’s like eight times Amestris…”

 

“Fascinating, marvelous, a real gem of a country to rule, you still don’t have a plan to get it though.”

 

“I'm still closer than the others princes and princesses” Ling replied, smirking.

 

“Are you? I’m not so sure about that. They still have their bodies’ autonomy as far as I know. You? Not so much.”

 

Ling dropped his smile. “Not all of them.”

 

“What?”

 

“Not all my brothers and sisters are better off than me.”

 

Greed was left without words for a few moments, then he did what Ling had come to understand was his greatest resource, even more than that Ultimate Shield he liked so much, he deflected. “Well now, didn’t we say, no tragic backstory? Why did Pops have to make me with the body of an irritating brat like you?!”

 

“Yeah, you’re right.” He hated the fact that Greed could probably tell how grateful he was for the change of subject. Maybe he needed to do some damage control. “Hey, Greed. Do you….”

 

“Shhh, did you hear that?” Greed whispered.

 

“What is it? I didn’t hear anything.” Ling murmured back, then blushed while Greed laughed internally. He coughed and tried again, at a normal volume, because, you know, nobody could hear him in there anyway. “What did you hear?”

 

Greed didn’t answer but started walking towards where Ling could only assume was the sounds came from. Only after a couple of minutes, they realized where they were.

 

The big door that led into Father lair was only a dozen feet away, and now that they were nearer Ling too could hear muffled voices on the other end of it.

 

They tiptoed to the door and tried to listen. Neither of them was able to get the words, but Father was talking to someone, and that someone didn’t seem to be an enemy. Didn’t seem to be an enemy of the homunculi, actually, so they were probably Ling’s enemy if he thought about it.  

Why did he need to think about it? The whole situation was getting ridiculous.

 

Greed tried to open the door in the most stealthy way he could, Ling was aware of that, it still made so much noise that Ling felt all of his own ancestors covering their ears in their graves.

 

With the door open, even before entering they could distinguish the words of the conversation. The man the homunculi called Father was talking.

 

“... I need everything to be put in motion before the Promised Day. You are going to follow Pride’s lead in bringing everything where it should be. Wrath is working on the Colonel and Envy is already up north. I need everyone trustworthy on this, so don’t disappoint m…”

 

“Ouch! Everyone you trust’s on that and you leave me out, Pops?”

 

As they entered in cue with Greed’s overdramatic reveal, they finally got who Father was talking to.

Ling shuddered, Gluttony gave him the creeps more than any other homunculi, with the exception of Pride.

He was also really not comfortable being in that room in general, he could feel the wrongness of it, and of Father, even while not being in control.

 

“Well well well, and look who you brought back to life. Is he still himself, or did you restore his soul too?”

 

...So maybe Greed wasn’t all that fine about it as he wanted everyone to think…

 

He must have thought it too hard because Greed replied to him, internally.

 

“Shut up, you pissant, I told you, I don’t care what happened to that failure of Greed!”

 

Even if Ling didn’t believe a word of it, he didn’t want to start a discussion with the homunculus that could expose him to Father, so he just snorted in the most annoying way he could.

 

Meanwhile, Gluttony was waving happily at them in that weird childish way of his and Father had turned toward them and was shooting Greed a look that conveyed… Well, mostly annoyance and disgust.

His tone of voice matched that look.

 

“Greed, I told you your job. Why are you here?”

 

“Well, you didn’t actually tell me, did you? My sweet little older brother told me. Why did you make him so creepy by the way, what’s with the shadows and all those eyes?”

 

“ I made my firstborn in my own image, and gave him all my pride as a homunculus.”

 

“Oh shit, really?”

 

Greed was laughing but Ling could feel his uneasiness and discomfort. It was like the first minutes after they met, when Greed was really confused about, well, everything, and all he did was trying to cover it with easygoingness and laughs. Ling was starting to find it really annoying. He finally understood Ed’s sprouts of anger at him everytime he used his smiles and fake dumbness to get what he wanted.

 

“I said, shut up! If I’m uneasy it’s because of your stupid agitation about this room!’”

 

“Will you stop faulting me for every emotion you don’t understand? You are not exactly a stable person even without me! And stop talking to me, I don't want to know what happens if he finds out I’m here.”

 

“I’ll ask you again, Greed, what are you doing here? Why aren’t you doing what were you supposed to?”

 

Greed was still laughing. Almost maniacally. For some reason, Ling knew he was feeling hot, boiling, even if the room itself was chill. What was that about? “Why aren’t you answering my questions, Pops?”

 

“Are you doing this again?” Gluttony interrupted, anxiously fidgeting and turning from Father to Greed.

 

Ling could feel the Shield starting to appear on their hands.

 

“What does he mean by that?”

 

“Why do you always do this!” Gluttony cried out.

 

“I am not him!” Greed shouted, answering a question that nobody had asked. Now his attention was toward his brother and he was ready to act. Ling could feel his muscles tensing.

 

“Enough!” The voice roared across the room, echoing for dozens of seconds. Father pinched his nose like he was regretting every choice he ever made that got him to this point, or maybe just regretting one. “Do not fight in front of me. I sent Envy away for this exact reason.”

 

At that moment, while Greed was distracted Ling got control. Immediately the Shield dropped and Ling tried to relax his body tension.

 

“Gluttony, do as you were told. Don’t let anyone see you, don’t swallow any sacrifice.” Father turned to Ling. “Didn’t we agree you’d do your part to get what you wanted? Did Pride lie to me?”

 

Ling lowered his voice the best he could to match Greed's tone and shrugged, trying to get a layback attitude vibe. “Naa, he didn’t”

 

Greed was sulking.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?”

 

“Saving our asses. Don’t want to meet the same fate as Other Greed because you wanted to antagonize your dad…”

 

“I…”

 

“Yes, yes, you are not him, that’s why I said Other Greed.”

 

“Then go do as you were told.” Father ordered. Greed, inside Ling’s mind, tensed again.

 

“Sure.” Ling replied still trying to seem nonchalant. To get the point across even better he put his hands in their coat’s pockets as he started walking slowly to the exit, grinning maniacally and keeping his eyes wide open.

 

“You own me, by the way. It really took a lot out of me not smashing my fist into his bearded smug face.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Greed replied. Ling grinned, pleased with himself. “I’ll let you stay up past your bedtime, or even let you try alcohol if you stop being so pompous all the time.”

 

His grin got bigger.

“Eh, you like it.”

 

“Shut up, pest.”

 

Chapter Text

Ling didn’t know what to do.
Greed was still kneeling, holding Bido’s dead body in his arms. He had stopped screaming long ago, now he was just clinging to the body and staring at nothing.

… A big man with grey hair and horns…

On the inside of their minds, Ling didn’t dare to make a sound.

...a girl with tattoos and a killer smile...

After Greed's screams and Ling's own outburst, even the souls seemed quiet.

… a kid with a katana and spiky hair…

Over and over the same images, the same memories kept streaming in their minds. Greed seemed hypnotized by them. He wasn't moving, wasn't making a sound, as far as Ling could tell wasn't even thinking, just watching them over and over and over.

Ling’s anger had blown off at some point and all he could feel now were Greed’s confusion and desperation and so much pain.

.... Bido smiling up at him ...

No. Not at him. At Greed. Ling needed to remember that.

He knew this was his chance. If there was a time when he could get the upper hand on the homunculus for real, for good if he played his cards right, this was it.
All he had to do was say the right words, push the right buttons, feeding to the right emotions and he could be able to gain enough strength to turn the tables around.

Until now their battle had been uneven, to say the least. Even if had managed to get control here and there, he knew that every moment of autonomy had been in fact a concession on Greed's part. He had the dominance of their mind space, and all Ling had done until now had been almost touching it without really grabbing hold of it.

This was all these weeks had been about. Every time he had been in control, every time he had learned a new thing about Greed, he had been able to gain a little more weight in the balance of control, getting a little closer. He felt confident that this was the moment he had been waiting for.

He could finally take it for himself.

He could finally get it.

“Greed.”
No response.

He needed to do it. For his people. His clan. Xing. For Fu and Lan Fan. He needed to fuel Greed’s guilt.
He could already feel it all over him, so powerful that the souls had stopped moving.

The feeling of Bido’s blood on his hands was so intense that Ling could almost see it on his own hands, in the projected body in his mind.
It was so similar to Lan Fan’s blood.

The sensation of Bido's lifeless form in their lap so similar to the one of a detached arm in his hands.
Greed was shaking exactly like he had been while trying to tie the thing (the arm! Lan Fan’s arm!) to a stray dog. He didn’t know if it was the shaking or the blood that had made it so difficult he had had to try four times before getting it right. Tying his own shirt in Lan Fan stump had been easier, not by much but easier nonetheless. Maybe because she hadn’t been fighting it like that stray had. Sometimes all he could think of was where that dog had gone, after.
Where was her arm now?
Did someone find it?
Did they bury it?
Throw it away?
Was it decomposing on the side of a random road somewhere in Central?

No.

He couldn't do it.
He had lied, cheated, robbed, fought for his goal. He was willing to use every soul floating around him for it.
But he couldn't do this.
It didn’t make sense. Why couldn't he?

Greed was a homunculus, he wasn’t human. He was a monster and he had just killed his friend.
Ling looked down at Bido’s body through Greed’s eyes.
He hadn't been exactly human either.
He thought about Alphonse, a soul trapped inside a metal armor (lately he had come to a new understanding of his circumstances that had made him grimace at the thought of their past conversation about the usefulness of Al's situation).
He wandered back to Al's speech to Ed that he had eavesdropped. It was about people not being entirely human but still living a good life accordingly with the way they are.

And Greed’s pain felt like his own.

Greed.”

This could be a mistake. He could see himself, in the future, looking at this moment as the exact point he had lost his crown.

Greed memories were still streaming in front of his eyes.

“Greed,” he said, louder, but softer. This time he could feel the homunculus’ attention on him.
What are you going to do now?”

The same memories, more defined this time, were his only answer.

....Two men were running toward him trying to help him (not him! Greed!). He could remember thinking how fragile they were while breaking apart… Roa and… Fuck, the name was on the tip of his tongue...

“Greed!”

“They were mine! How could he lose them like that?”

“Who?”

“Greed! The other Greed! The old Greed! He had them and he lost them like that!” Ling was feeling a wave of anger surrounding him, feeding on the pain and confusion that had been there until now. “How could he? How could he lose my possession like that!”

Greed was screaming again, and Ling felt consumed by his anger, this time he felt like Greed's fit of temper made him lose control, not gain it. But he needed to make Greed understand, or this could be in vain. Bido’s death would be in vain.

“He didn’t lose them, Greed, *you* didn’t lose them! They were taken from you!”

They both gasped at the memory of Dolcetto cut in half at the hands of Bradley.

Ling felt himself sink lower. Their collective mind-space was filled with anger, so much that Ling almost couldn't even feel himself in it anymore. All he could feel, see, hear was one face, one name. Every soul seemed to scream it in the void, maybe he was doing it too. He wasn't sure.

Bradley.

With the little consciousness he had left in all the mess around him and inside of him, he watched Greed stand up and move.

---------------------------------

“Humm… Thank you.”

“What?”

They were sitting outside, leaning against the cabin’s wall. From the inside they could hear one of the chimeras snoring, Ling didn’t really know which one. With all that had happened, neither Ling nor Greed were quite eager to nod off even if, honestly, they could both have used some sleep. Not really for their body, that could always use the energy of the stone instead, but for their own minds.
So they stayed there, waiting, some may say brooding, while the chimeras and Edward slept.
The night was almost over and the first lights were coming up on the horizon.

“Don’t make me repeat myself, brat.”

“No no, I’m actually confused! I thought you were angry at me, ‘cause I told Ed about your stuff with the homunculi. We had a deal about that...”

Greed laughed bitterly.

“I think we are past that now, don’t you?”

Ling smiled softly.
“Yeah, you’re right.”

They stayed silent for a while, watching the light slowly irradiating the woods.

“I meant thanks about B… About what you did after we run from Bradley.”

“Oh.”

He chuckled bitterly. “Yeah, I’ve to admit I went a little crazy for a while there. I… Appreciate the fact that you risked going back to get him…”

“Well, he was your comrade, I couldn't leave him there.”

It had been tricky to balance the chimera on his shoulder then run into the unfamiliar streets of the Central without knowing where to go. Knowing that the homunculi could come and find him at any time. Alone, while Greed was silent in their mind, lost in his own confusion and anger, even as Ling kept asking frantically if he knew a place where they could hide. More than the physical fatigue it had been the memories of the similar situation he had found himself in that had gotten to him most.

“Really, it’s not a big deal.”

Remembering that other time gave him the idea of where to go at some point so it was also for the best…

“Do you want to go back there?” Ling asked.

He had burned Bido’s body outside the city, on the opposite side from the cabin because he didn't want the smoke to give away their position. He had also decided that it would be too big a risk to stay there to pay respect, too. After making sure the fire wouldn’t spread, he left. He knew it had been the right decision even if he thought that it would have been good for Greed to stay.
At least now Greed was considering the option of going back, so it was something.

“No. It’s not a good idea. I have new minions now, I can’t bring them there. It’s just... nice to know he’s there and not... You know.”

“Sure.” All he could think was where Lan Fan arm could be right now. And what right did he have to make her loss about him? Hadn’t she given him enough already? Hadn’t Fu, who had spent and was still spending his entire life serving his family? They should have hated him, and maybe they did. Maybe they were just trying not to break their vow, while in fact, they had been hating him every step of the way. He didn’t think that was the case but he could never be sure, could he? And how fucked up was that they were still more of a family to him than his real one?

“Whoa kid, are you trying to steal my thunder? This is my night to brood, not yours.”

Ling smiled. “Well, it’s almost morning, so…” They let the silence fall again. “I’m sorry, for yelling at you in a moment like that.”

“Relax, don’t mention it, I probably needed that anyway. But really, I’m serious, don’t mention it again, at all, to no one.”

“Sure.” He exhaled. “So, what do we do now?”

“I don’t know, lay low for a while, I think. We need to wait until the Promised Day. I kinda have a party to ruin. Relatives to kill. Worlds to rule, you know, that kind of things.”


“Fine. So we're just gonna stay near Central? Or do you want to go somewhere else for a while until the day comes?”

Greed seemed to think about it.

“ Three of my siblings and Pops are in Central right now, so I think we should get the hell out of here until it’s time to return, or until the situation changes. Two others are up North so maybe let’s not go there either. Let’s just move South, for now, I’ll think about a real direction later. When I’m...”

He stopped talking for enough time than Ling felt inclined to prompt him.
“What?”

It felt like Greed was trying to consider if telling Ling or not. After a while, he seemed to have decided that he trusted him enough to do so, funny.
“... I’m trying to remember places where we could hide. He was out of Father’s radar for a long time, like a hundred years, he may... I mean, I may... He … Whatever! There could be more than just the one in Dublith that Bradley found.”

“Sure, smart, and if you can’t remember, you could also ask Ed, maybe he knows something, he’s met you before, right?"

“Yeah, I kinda remember him now. Really angry and loud. But I don’t know if I wanna do that.”

“Well, ok, I thought that pride shouldn’t get in the way of getting information or something like that, weren't you who said that? But ok. I guess we are going South for now then, and wait on Father so you can do your thing.”

“I’ll think about it, ok?”

“That’s all I’m asking. But at the end, this is all for you, you know? I’m not that thrilled about wasting time waiting 'till the Promised Day.”

The sun was up now, and they stayed in companionable silence for a while. When Greed broke it his voice was weirdly serious and soft. (And sad?)

“You know I can’t let you go to Xing, right? And you know why?”

Ling swallowed.
“Yeah, I know.” He forced a smile. “But hey, when you’ll get to rule the world, Xing’ll be a part of it, so we’ll have it anyway.”

Greed reply was even softer.
“Yeah… When I’ll get the world…”

Chapter Text

Greed woke up startling.

A boot was poking at him and the sun, high in the sky, was shining in his eyes. He moved his head to get in the shadow of the person standing in front of him.

Ed was looking down, his arms crossed, a smug expression on his face, maybe because he could, in fact, look down on someone for once.


“You are so dumb? Why have you slept outside?” 


“Sweet as always I see.” Ling said out loud before leaving the body back to him.

 
“I don’t like it when you do that without asking. If it’s to be a smartass I’ll let you out no problem, just ask.”

Ling just laughed, while Ed was looking at them baffled.

 
As Greed stood up and dusted off his coat Ed kept staring at him.

“Is he always there?”

“Who?”

“Ling.”

“No.”

“What? Yes!” Ling shouted.

"Why are you screaming? He can’t hear you! But if he knew you can always hear him, he would talk only to you through me. I have no intention of being a phone wire between you two!”

 Ling looked satisfied with the explanation, so, in exchange, Greed amended to Ed.

 “Sometimes.”

 
“Oh ok, how does that work?”

 
“It’s pretty interesting actually!" Greed, in the most dramatic way possible, looked left and right, then moved toward Ed and motioned him to lean closer. "It works like nunya business.”

 
The runt did not look amused, but, against all odds, retained his composure.

“Wow, you really are snappy in the morning.”

 
“Whatever, where are the actually valuable minions of mine?”

 
Ed narrowed his eyes.

“Ling ate all of our food yesterday, they went out to get new rations.”

“And who told them to do that?”

“They told themselves. Why? Do you have something against food? In Ling’s body?”

 
“It’s my body now, get used to that.” He smirked and pointed a thumb at himself, as he often did when talking about Ling. “He did. And he hardly ever complains at this point.”

 
He immediately regretted it as Ed started to yell again about… something, he wasn’t really listening to him. Anyway, why do people scream in the morning?

Whatever, he was more concerned about Ling, who was once again going down a spiral after what Greed just said.

He supposed it was kind of reasonable for a person trapped inside of a shared mind for so long to have from time to time episodes of unstoppable and uncontrollable trains of thought, even if Ling was conscious of their surroundings and was still connected to their body's senses when Greed was in charge.

It wasn’t like they were getting more frequent, these episodes, and Greed also guessed that having someone else inside his mind that could kind of stop them was somewhat helping.

He still didn’t like this thing, though, not one little bit. Maybe because he could feel Ling’s emotions during them, even if somewhat muffled.

Probably because the Prince was his and he didn’t like when his things weren’t at their best.

 

He decided to break Ling’s spiraling by suddenly leaving him in control. It wasn’t like there was something to do anyway, right now, other than talking with an annoying little runt. 

That obviously left Ling very confused.

“...What?”

“I said you’re an asshole.”

“I’m Ling, Ed.”

“Oh… Hey, when did you… You know what? I don’t care, guess what, asshole, you’re an asshole too.”

 
Ling passed a hand through their hair, and Greed could feel his perplexity regarding what had just happened. He could tell he was about to make a big deal out of it, with all the asking and the trying to guess and the speculating and talking, so he decided to get things straight.

 
“Let’s update our rules, shall we, brat? I’m going to have you interact with these minions of mine when they start to bore me, ok? You aren’t going to tell them any of my plans but you can tell them what you want about Pops and my idiot siblings. You can tell them what to do, order them around, have fun, just, you know, follow what you know I’ll want in the best way you can. You are somewhat good at being in charge, are you not? You’re a Prince after all.”

 
Ling looked at him for a while, head tilted and eyes inquiring. Greed didn’t know when and how he had started to understand Ling's expressions, especially his eyes that were always fucking closed anyway. It didn’t make sense he could tell they were inquiring!

 
“What do you mean?”

 
“What? Come on! Are you really gonna pout about me calling you an asshole, you idiot Prince?”

 
They just ignored the runt's input.

 
“Nothing, I just said what I want you to do and not do. Now, what are your terms?”

 
“ I wouldn't…” He didn’t let the kid finish the sentence.

 
"And I’m going to say this right off the start, I’m not letting you out on meals while we are still in hiding if I can help it, they just said you made us all wait because the chimeras had to go get more food since you ate it all in one sitting.”

 
“Oh come on!”

 
“What, I call you idiot Prince all the time! What is wrong with you?”

 
“Well it’s true, we could be long gone by now, but instead we are in a place that you told me we know for sure Gluttony saw and knows the location of.”

 
“Ok, that’s true, I’ll give you that.” Ling begrudgingly conceded.

 
“Yes, it is! What the hell! Are you all right? You look kinda spacey. We don’t have anything left to eat, if that’s what you are fishing for.”

Was Elric still talking to himself?

 
“ I know that’s true. So, not that! I’ll eat more myself if it's going to make you less whiny. So, that aside, what do you want?”

“Well if I can’t eat, then I wouldn’t mind getting out to meditate, or exercise.”

“WE ARE OUTSIDE. Seriously Ling, what is wrong with you?”

“Ok, fine, once in a while I’ll let you do that, and only mildly complain. Just make him shut up now, please!”

“Who?”

“YOU! What is wrong with YOU!”

“Now!”

 
“Oh, Ed, sorry, were you talking to me just now? I wasn’t listening”

 

The pipsqueak then spent ten minutes screaming at the sky. They both concurred it was hilarious.

 

Chapter Text

It was the ninth day they passed doing nothing but walk, find shelter, find food and walk some more.

They had ditched the car the first day, it would have come in handy but it was way too risky to use it, and they needed to play it safe for now. Ed had fought it, not really seeing the exposure it could bring, but he had eventually calmed down, after a reminder of their agreement about laying low and staying in the shadows.

Greed didn’t mind the monotony of their days, after spending weeks searching for intruders in the tunnels all day every day he could hardly complain about it.

Also, he kind of liked it, seeing the world he only had a concept of until now. He had always known of it, it wasn’t like there were things he didn’t know about. Maybe the knowledge came from Father, or maybe from his own repressed memories, but seeing things, touching them, smelling them, it was something different. It was more than he could remember having, and he felt exhilarated by it, besides everything that had happened and was still happening inside his head.

Before these days the only thing similar to this he had experienced was watching into the horizon from the roof of the palace, something he (they) tried to do from time to time.

It was weird how the more he saw the more he wanted to see, and touch and feel, and own.

 

Ling thought that was the reason his dear old daddy had practically confined him to the tunnels and hadn't given him other jobs. Maybe the same had happened to the other Greed all those years ago. Maybe he too had wanted the world. He still didn’t remember much. Other than his fight with Wrath and some moments here and there with his fri… chimeras, most of what he had were not memories per se but...hugh… simply put, feelings.

After that first violent time, where all those images and feelings came rushing back, everything was calmer and blurrier. He would see something or hear something that would trigger a reaction in his brain, most of the times not really memories, more like reactions to them. Similarly to those times when Ling would think of something not intensely enough for Greed to see but still enough to feel his response.

The Prince was kind of helpful during those times, taking control with short notice without letting others know, if Greed didn’t feel like it, or talking to him if he needed distraction here and there. Maybe he did it out of gratitude for the fewer times Greed had reciprocated the favor, maybe because of a long game he was playing. He didn’t much care to find out. It didn’t matter, it was still kind of …. Nice… being able to entrust someone on some level (surely more than he ever did with any of his siblings during his short, long, life). Part of him didn’t want to ruin it by knowing for a fact that the kid was only thinking about immortality when helping him.

Also, there were a lot of times, like now for example, where Ling was So. Not. Helping.

“You are so moody when it happens!” Oh yeah, another lecture, just what he needed. “You need to tell them something, or they are going to notice it on their own!”

As if…

The runt was always muttering and scheming by himself, or complaining about the car they left behind (still!) or bickering with Ling about everything and anything whenever he realized he was out.

The chimeras, on the other end, didn’t really pay any mind to anything that wasn’t directly significant to their journey.

All in all, nobody was really paying that much attention to Greed, even if they did decide to follow his leadership.

It was fine, Greed was okay with it, that just meant that the brat was wrong and nobody was going to notice anything.

“Hey, Greed”

“What?” When did Ed get so close to him?

“Everything ok? You seem kind of spacey, and not the Ling-is-getting-out kind of spacey.”

Greed would have been sort of touched by the attention toward him, let alone the concern, if not for the gloating Ling was doing inside their head.

“What do you care?”

That made him frown, and raise his voice. Sometimes it was more fun to watch him lose his hair-thin patience than others.

“I don’t, ok? But you’re kind of my boss right now, and you are kind of deciding where to go. So maybe I worry a little if you don’t look up to the task.”

He forced himself to laugh. “Don’t bother. I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Oh yeah?”

“Is there a fucking echo?”

“What?” After a moment the shrimp grinned. “Did Ling just agree with me on doubting you?”

Greed hated how quickly the kid was getting used to the situation and how well he was adjusting on catching what was going on.

He sighed.

“Well, what is he saying to you?”

“You should ask him for help. We need to find a safe place and you keep struggling to remember. You know you have met him before!

“What good would it do? I’m pretty sure I’ve met him near the end of it all. I doubt he knows any place where I could have a hideout other than… that place in Dublith.”

“Then ask him about it! You don’t even know what place in Dublith! You don’t know if any other of your comrades are still alive! You only remember Dolcetto and Roa in the sewers and Bido…well... maybe he wasn’t the only survivor!”

Oh, he really did not want to think about THAT.

“Let’s make it clear, Ling! You don’t talk about them, not to me, not to anyone. I know I need to figure something out but it is not your place to advise me. Your place is to do as you are told, or else.”

“Or else what? Come on Greed, don’t be dense! You listened to Pride even when you knew fully well something wasn’t right and now you are not going to listen to me even if you know I’m right?”

“Yeah, because you have no ulterior motives, right?… You actually told me yourself you’d use everything you learn about me to your advantage.”

“I thought we were past that at this point.”

“Yes well, so did I. But I guess we aren’t, are we?”

They stayed silent for a while, and it must have shown on his face because Ed decided it was a good moment to intervene.

“So.... what is he saying?”

“ He’s saying we should braid each other's hair and share our feelings.”

He could feel Ling’s surprise at the nearly accurate answer.

“What?” He snapped at him. “You thought you were special? It’s not just to you, I don’t lie to anyone”

“Sure, we should totally do that.” At least Ed was with him on how ridiculous Ling’s idea was, based on the sarcastic tone and the eye rolling.

“Hey, there is nothing wrong with either of those things, what is wrong with you two?! And you even used to have a braid, Ed. Why did you stop?” Ling hadn’t exactly asked for control, but he took it slowly enough and made his intention very clear, so that Greed didn’t mind much, even if they were kind of in the middle of a fight still. “You finally figured out you look almost fourteen without it?”

“WHAT? No! The army is looking for a blond with a braid! How dare you!”

Ling burst out laughing, fight with Greed forgotten, as he swiftly avoided the first two punches headed in his direction and started running to avoid the small ball of yellow anger that was coming at him. Greed was taken aback. He had never “seen” him laugh and smile like that. So easily and disregarding of all his troubles. It was totally different from the set and studied smile he often had.

 

It was weird. He liked it, seeing him that way for once (and that was strange all in its own, why should he care? Ling was supposed to be just the container of his stone, then again he had long since accepted that that was far from true for him).

But there was a part of him that hated it too.

So much.

It reminded him how having everything he could possibly possess of Ling’s, and even somehow gaining some more, would never be enough; he would never have HIM. He felt this key notion in a moment like this more than he did all those time they fought and argued. At least those times he could tell that part of what Ling was saying was for Greed’s own good.

No, as he saw him interact with other people in such a way, he could tell he’ll never be able to have him for real, not as much as he had had Bido, that had searched from Dublith to Central to find him, or how he had Roa and Dolcetto that had died trying to protect him. Or Martel or Ulchi. They truly had been his own…. and he didn’t even remember how he met them. Shit, he didn’t even know for sure if they were dead or alive.

He had been angry with his old self for not being able to get anything before dying, but now he was starting to acknowledge that maybe he had had it right the first time. He was even feeling some kind of jealousy toward him, himself, absurd as it may be.

The thought of the wrongness of feeling his siblings emotions (jealousy and anger) came and went, as if he had always known on some level that Pride and Father were wrong to define them all only by one trait.

 

“I’m sixteen, asshole, and I have been growing taller every day! It’s you the one who has a freakishly adult body for someone younger than me!”

Yeah, he knew what he had to do. He sighed.

“ So many excuses!” They were still running and screaming “Al told me how he too used to be taller than you, so …”

“Okay.” Geed interrupted him.

“What?”

Ling, sobering immediately, maybe sensing Greed’s state of mind, stopped running abruptly. A running Elric casually crashed into them. All three collapsed to the ground, but Greed and Ling barely noticed.

“Okay, you’re right, I’ll… I’ll talk to him.”

“You sure?” Ling spoke out loud so now Ed, that was lying on top of them after the crash, stopped struggling and watched them puzzled.

“Don’t make me repeat myself.”

“Can I ask him to teach us how to braid our hair too? I’ve always wanted to know how! It looks so complicated and fun!”

Greed had had enough and decided to take his body back. And Ling has been asking why he was so moody all the time, the pest...

“Shut up now, asking him was your idea!”

The other kid meanwhile had stood up and was even offering a hand up for Greed.

“Asking me what?”

“But I was serious!”

“Nothing, kid. The Prince ruined it. Let’s go find the chimeras, shall we?”

He ignored the offered hand and stood up on his own, the started walking in the general direction in which the two other guys were previously headed.

Ed was screaming behind him.

“Oh come on! Don’t let that idiot Prince get to you! Talk to me, Greed. Screw him!”

“Nope!” He replied, but as he walked away a smile crept across his face.

“Hey, since when did he start to even consider taking your side in any argument?”

“Yeah, I’ve been wondering too.” He kept talking just because he didn’t want to hear what Ling had to say about what that could mean, and what it meant to Greed. “I’ll do it, ok? I said I’ll do it and so I will. Just... give me time.”

“... sure...”

He must have said the wrong thing because for some reason now the kid sounded strange again.

“...You have nothing but time.”

And mean.

Chapter Text

“No, look, you have to tie this part to this one to make sure it doesn’t jam.” Ed sprang the trap with his metal hand, that promptly caught it. “You see? This way the rabbit doesn’t have the time to jump away.”

He clapped to transmute his own arm into a blade, freeing himself, then clapped again to fix the string he just broke.

“Now you try.” He handed them the parts.

 As Ling worked to copy Ed’s example, Greed watched, only sometimes giving some inputs.

 “I have to admit, he’s a better teacher than I thought he would be. More patient for sure.”

 Ling smiled. “Right? Maybe having younger siblings that had never tried to kill you does that to a person.”

 “I know, right?”

 They both laughed as Ling finished to set the trap. He looked up to Ed to see if he’d done it right and noticed the other teen staring at them with wide eyes.

 “Did I say that out loud?”

 Ed just slowly nodded.

 “Well, it’s true.”

 “It’s fucked up, that what it is.”

 “You are telling me that? And it’s not like you didn’t know.”

 “Mhm.”

Ling could feel some kind of judgmental vibe coming from Ed, maybe it was projected, maybe not. It pissed him off nonetheless.

 “Hey, it’s not like it’s our fault! I’ve told you, we have the fate of our clan on our shoulders. Getting the crown is not an amateur competition. The wrong clan wins, one that has some kind of resentment toward yours, sometimes centuries old, and it could mean decades of crisis and starvation, for some even extinction. It’s a war.”

 Silence had fallen and Ling felt self-conscious all of a sudden. He plastered on a smile on his face even though he could tell neither of them was buying it, at all. He felt Greed incoming question even before the homunculus had thought it completely in his own mind, and saw that same question stuck in Ed’s mouth as if he was too scared to voice it.

 “No, I’ve never done it. Some tried to do it to me, I’ve seen it done one time, but I’ve never done it myself. I’d like to think I would never be capable of it, even if I don’t really know most of them. Their life should mean less to me than the one of any member of the Yao clan, never mind the very survival of my whole clan, even if we share the same blood. I hope I’ll never find out. But… ” He exhaled. “ I promised Greed, no tragic backstories, so… We’ll leave it at that.”

 “We said that before you had a first-row ticket to my worst memories! That’s not fair”

 “Well, that’s tough! And what do you care about Xing’s affairs anyway?”

 “I.... don’t”

 “Then shut up and think about your own murderous siblings!”

 “Like we don’t think about them enough…”

 “Shit! I’ve never thought about it!” Ed all but screamed. They stopped arguing and looked at him.

 “About what?”

 “Greed!”

Ling let Greed take control swiftly.

 “What.”

 “Not you, the other one.” Ling would have been impressed on how little fazed Ed was getting at their shifting if he wasn’t so occupied watching intently Greed’s reaction at the mention of his past life. “I’ve always thought it was weird how King Bradley took him down and dealt with that all ordeal, but I’ve never thought about it after knowing he was a homunculus. About what it meant.”

 

Ok, this could go horribly wrong. Greed was still, both fists clenched but without the Shield.

“And what did it mean?” He managed to get out almost without moving his jaw.

 “Well, he told us he wasn’t in talking terms with the other homunculi but it’s not like we were sure, you know? He had just had Al kidnapped to get immortali…”

 “YOU DID WHAT?” The question was for Greed but, for some reason, it got out of their mouth too. They both jerked in reaction while Ed looked at them unimpressed.

 “At least he didn’t have his gang try to kill us for the same reason... like some other people did…” He crossed his arms. “...After conning us…”

 Greed looked thankful for the change of subject, even if it was something they had wanted to talk to Ed about for days.

“The Prince conned you? And then tried to kill you?”

 “You don’t need to look so proud of him about it.”

 “ I didn’t try to have him killed, Lan Fan gets a little carried away sometimes... That’s all”

 “But you’re not denying the conning them part.”

 “I was starving! I was literally fainting on the side of the road!”

 “So you cheated them out of a meal?”

 “Well…”

 “A meal? He played the part of a dumb Prince for weeks, leeching off us! Well, dumber...”

 “Ok, I am proud.”

 “Thanks!”

 “At least you were honest, Greed. You wanted something from us and you kidnapped Al to get it. Not like that asshole!” He could see Ed thinking about what he just said. “Ok, that was also a dick move, and I stand by my anger at the time. And I know, I know, he wasn’t you but still… What?”

 Ed must have sensed their discomfort at the statement because he stopped talking and was now just kind of looking at them like they had a cool secret they didn’t want to tell him, which they had, not a cool one, but a secret.

 

“ Are you going to tell him? Ask for his help?”

Ling was getting tired of having this conversation.

“How many times are you going to ask me that, really?”

And he wasn't the only one.

“How many times are you going to change the subject, or agreeing with me and then do nothing?!”

 “Why are you so determined on making me regain my memories? And with his help?”

 “You are literally a two hundred years old being with a few months worth of memories, excuse me for believing we have a better chance of kicking your megalomaniac father’s ass with all your memories intact! Not to mention Wrath.”

 “We? Didn’t you want to, what was it, bring me kicking and screaming right to your own asshole of a daddy?”

 “Well yes, but I can’t if you end up dead before I get the chance.”

 “What’ll probably kill me is having to watch my back from an idiotic kid inside my own mind while I try to fight them.”

“Or going at Bradley without any notion of combat! Seriously, that is the one thing I know about your old self from your memories, you had no training whatsoever!”

 

“Guys! Stop it!” Ed shouted, losing his patience. “I hate when you do that! At least give me one of the two ends of the conversation! You are so fucking weird and this whole situation is crazy.”

They looked at him, blinking, they had kind of forgotten where they were.

It took a few more moments for Greed to decide.

“All right all right, I’ll do it.” Greed was already talking out loud but then he actually started talking to Ed. “As I said to you when we met in that cabin, I’m getting something, memories or whatever, from my past life. That’s why I attacked Wrath, as you remembered before, I had plenty of reason to do so.” He kept gesticulating with their hands, pretending to be nonchalant about it, as if it could make the whole conversation less awkward. “And now I’m trying to remember other things from before my death, and I’ll... appreciate… if you could tell me what you know…”

 “And tell us about any secret hideout Greed could have had that Bradley doesn't know about.”

Ling intervened, even knowing it would annoy Greed to no end. But then again, Greed was busy with all the ‘I don’t understand basic human emotions especially my own’ thing. And to his credit, he wasn’t exactly human. And probably regaining all his memories wasn’t going to help with that.

 

“Oh, ah. ok .”

In any other occasion, it would have been fun watching Ed struggle with his emotional constipation.

“Well, sure.”

 

-----------------------------------------------------------

They were all sitting around a campfire in silence.

Darius and Heinkel were minding their own business, as usual. This evening, in particular, they could feel that something was off and didn’t want to have anything to do with it so they looked extra careful on not addressing them nor look them in the eye. As if the three of them were some easily-scared wild animals... the irony…

Ed was playing with the rabbit meat on his plate, only barely eating. Ling could understand why. The conversation they had before had to have been a painful one for him. Even just hearing his friend talking about how he had to tear apart his unconscious brother armor to get a bloody body out of it had been tough, never mind having to live throughout it.

Greed wasn’t feeling any better. The notion of the massacre of all of his friends and the destruction of his home had been a hard one.

They truly were all gone, and on top of that, for a second Ed had given him the hope of a survivor, recalling a chimera he had knocked down before the fight that maybe could have made it out alive. Obviously then he remembered the fact that he had been a chimera lizard so everything felt even worse after that.

 One thing that really made Ling mad was that Greed still stubbornly kept himself from referring to any of them as his friends, or even comrades, in the same buttheaded way he had decided not to join Ed until Ed agreed to work for him.

Everything about his behavior was telling the opposite, not to mention what Ling was feeling coming out of the homunculus’ soul. If Ling could feel it so strongly, how could Greed not understand it even a little?

 

Right now, he was seated still, not even trying to eat his food, and kept staring at the flames, almost unblinking.

“They were very loyal.”

“...”

“They all fought for you till the end.”

“Thank you. That makes me feel so much better.” How much sarcasm could a person put in a sentence?

“I’m not trying to make you feel better, asshole, I’m trying to say, well, you must have been doing something right. I would have been honored to meet your old self.”

“I thought we agreed I was my old self.”

 “You know what I mean. Still, I’m sorry it didn’t work. Talking to Ed.”

 “Yeah, but … I’m glad to know for sure. What happened.”

 Silence. Ling decided to break it.

“You were right, You can’t fight them and me at the same time, and fighting them is the most important thing right now.”

 He sighed, he hadn’t been planning on saying this. It was exactly the opposite of what he had been trained all his life to do. It felt like that moment in the tunnels when he decided not to take advantage of Greed’s grief. He hated how every important decision he made from the moment he and Greed started sharing a body had been pointing in the opposite direction of his goal. And he hated even more the fact that he didn’t regret it, so far. ( And when did he start to refer to Greed possessing him as 'share a body'?)

He was terrified of what he was about to say. In comparison, fully agreeing on getting his body taken from him and deciding to cross a desert into a country with a military dictatorship had been a piece of cake.

“Also, Greed, look.” He could feel the homunculus full attention, maybe he was sensing his panic. “At this point, we are a few months away from the Promised day, going against you when you’ll fight against your Father and your siblings will only give me even less hope to ever go back to Xing in time, or even at all.”

 “What are you saying?”

 “I’m saying: truce. Until that day, I promise I’m not going to try to steal our body, you don’t have to worry about me and maybe we’ll have a chance to actually survive this thing.”

 Greed squinted his pupilless eyes.

“ And what do you want in return?”

Ling huffed.

“You are insufferable! Just… The fact that we both won’t die so that I’ll have the chance to go to Xing in a couple of months!” He shouted, but then he remembered something else. “But, also, you’ll have to let me teach you some tricks to fight someone like Wrath, so we won't get killed the minute we start fighting. You have no real combat technique, and Bradley uses that against you, a lot!”

“Mmm, I’ll give you that… But ho…?”

 “Yes, yes. And how can you possibly trust me? Seriously, it seems like you are the one who got possessed, not me. Just… believe me. I may not always tell the truth like you do, but we people of Xing, we always keep our word."

He got a grunt in response to that, but he persisted.

 "So, what do you say? Partners?”

 Greed went silent for some time, Ling could feel… something.... stirring inside of him.

 “Sure, partners.”

 

They stayed in an awkward silence for a while, very self-consciously, then Greed broke it, thank God!

 

“Hey kid, wanna see something funny?” Then, without waiting for a response he added out loud. “Hey, runt?”

 “What?”

“Thank you... for before.” He said with the most melodramatically sad and "honest" face he could muster.

“Oh" Ed turned redder than that tacky coat he used to wear everywhere and avoided their eyes as he shouted. “Don’t worry about it! Anyway, wow! It’s getting late, goodnight!” And ran away.

 Greed snickered.  Ling was on the verge of tears with laughter.

 “Wait, you did that on purpose? How did you know?”

“ What do you think, that I don’t know my own possessions by now?”

“ Ok, then let's see, what am I thinking right now?”

“ You are trying to find a way to use this whole touchy-feely conversation to your advantage and…” Ling could tell he was only pretending to think about it. “ Get me to let you eat this roasted rabbit I do not want yourself.”

Ling didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, but he was spot on.

“...And? Is it working?”

Greed rolled his eyes and let the control shift away.

“You shifty little bastard, why do I put up with you anyway…”

Ling just laughed.

But, as he got the meat and brought it near the fire again to get it extra crispy as he like it, Greed added.

“You know, I think Father burned me to death.”

WHAT?!

 

The meat went flying. The chimera jumped into action against an imaginary enemy. Heinkel had already a gun in his hands, somehow.

Greed started laughing maniacally inside their head.

What a fucking bastard.

 

Chapter Text

Against all odds, Heinkel was kind of happy of this whole working-for-a-homunculus situation.

When it came to it, he could say Greed was the best boss he’d had in years. Not that it really said much seeing who his last boss had been. Some may have said that, still, Kimblee at least had been human and not an artificial being in the body of a teenager but Heinkel would have just shrugged at them, after all, he himself was part man part lion, so who was he to judge?

And Greed wasn’t bad. Sure, Heinkel could tell he didn’t know what the hell he was doing or what their destination was at least seventy percent of the times. And sure, he did sometimes become a teenaged foreign Prince that somehow was better than him at everything they needed to do, while other times he just stared at nothing for minutes and minutes murmuring (or straight up yelling) parts of a conversation nobody but him and the Prince could hear. But at least he could tell he paid attention to their opinions on every problem they were facing, even if he would never admit it, and even if Heinkel was almost sure it was because he had no idea what to do in most situations.

It had become easy to look past all the annoying rants (sometimes generated by the fact that the homunculus felt like he wasn’t in control of a situation, and other times because it had been too long and he needed to make clear again to all of them how he was “the boss, and the decisions were to pass through him, but yes, I've decided that what you’re doing right now it’s exactly what I wanted you to do”) and Heinkel was willing to ignore all the little quirks because the guy was sarcastic and funny and even likable if he was in the right mood.

Right now, though, nobody was in the right mood.

It was raining, pouring.

The four (five?) of them were taking cover from the rain in an abandoned warehouse outside East City. They had decided to go there because Greed had had some kind of epiphany about a safehouse he had in that city in his previous life (Heinkel didn’t want to even start to try to understand what all of... That...meant. The whole, an-artificial-human-and-a-foreign-Prince-share-a-body situation was more than enough for him without bringing up memories from a past life, thank you very much). Anyway, the safehouse had been a bust. It turned out it had become a school at least fifty years before. (Again, he didn’t want to know).

In the abandoned warehouse, Darius was trying to set up a fire to fight the clamminess in the air. Heinkel himself was making the inventory, trying to understand if they needed a new errand party for their rations. What was left could last two to three days more, depending on who, between Ling and Greed, would have dinner that night. Fullmetal was checking the roof, and alcheming it so it would finally stop leaking on them. Greed wasn’t doing much of anything if not watching Ed with contemplative eyes.

Heinkel couldn't figure out if he looked more concerned or irritated.

Until he snapped.

“Ok that’s it! We’re going to Rush Valley.”

“What?”

All three of them turned to him, confused.

Where did that come from?

It wasn’t like it was unusual for him to change the subject or to suddenly start talking about things in no way linked to the situation at hand. As if he had had a whole conversation without them, and, well, that was exactly the case... The Fullmetal kid and Darius were having these big discussions to decide if it was more hilarious or annoying. Heinkel himself didn’t mind much, it was still better than Edward’s various lectures about alchemy and it was entertaining watching him constantly get irritated with himself, even knowing fully well it wasn’t actually with himself he was irritated with.

All that said, deciding to change itinerary just like that was weird, even for him... them.

“I said we are going to Rush Valley, the Prince told me that's where you have your mechanic friend, and that thing, it’s clearly not working well right now.” He said, vaguely pointing at Ed’s automail leg.

Ed was taken aback.

“Well, it’s raining and there’s a very damp weather and sometimes it does that.” He was mumbling as if he wanted the conversation to end as soon as possible.

Greed just squinted his eyes.

“No, it’s not that. I’ve caught you limping a lot these past few weeks, even when it wasn’t raining, Ling noticed it, too.”

That made Ed grin for some reason.

“You think…”

“What?”

“I’ve been getting taller in these past months?”

Oh, that explained the smile…

“I don’t know, it’s hard to say what’s going on all the way down there!”

That was the Prince who spoke.

“Hey!!”

And that was again the homunculus that was laughing in his face.

Another thing they’ve started to do a lot, the Prince and Greed, was to come out for just one second, enough to say what Heinkel was sure they thought was a clever comment, and then leave again before they could face the consequences. It was troublesome how much those two found each other hilarious, but even more alarming was how everyone else had become that good at understanding who was talking and/or laughing.

“Anyway, Winry’s not in Rush Valley anymore. She came to Briggs and now she’s who-knows-where with Al. You two should know about this.” He said with an accusing tone,  pointing at both Darius and him.

“Eh… That’s the past, we don’t work for Kimblee anymore.”

“That’s right you don’t! You work for me, ”Greed exclaimed, then gestured toward Ed once again “and I only want my people at one hundred percent, so tell me how we can fix that thing if your mechanic’s unavailable.”

“Well, we could go to Resembool, that’s my hometown. Granny’s there and maybe she can fix it. Make it right for my height.” He sounded so proud.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, they surely are keeping watch over your hometown in case you’re so stupid to go there.” Darius interjected. “And look, you are.”

“Don’t worry,” oh, Ling came back, “I can lead you so that… shut up, they know… ok… I can lead you, under Greed’s supervision as the real undisputed boss of this group….happy?... in a way that nobody who’s watching the house will notice us.”

“You sure, kid?” Heinkel needed to know if he was just bragging or he was for real, it was important to do so with these pests.

The Prince looked dead serious.

“Yes, don’t worry.”

“Sure then, Resembool it is.”

“Hey, I didn’t give my ok! We go only if *I* say so.”

“...” The three other people in the room were all giving Greed the side-eye, but nobody said anything. They all knew who was the right person to make him get his shit together. And, as clockwork, the homunculus tilted his head almost imperceptibly and squinted his eyes just a little, a face they all, after a while, had decided to call the Ling-is-lecturing-the-living-shit-out-of-Greed-face.

They only had to wait a couple of minutes before Greed grimaced, then, trying so hard to be nonchalant but obviously failing, he shrugged.

“Yes, yes you don’t have to be so…aargh… Listen up,  I’ve decided we should go to Rosen...whatever it’s called.... because I need every single one of you at your peak condition next month.”

“Yes, sure.”

“Whatever.”

“If *you* say so…”

The three responses were delivered in an incredibly sarcastic tone, so Heinkel couldn't figure out the proud small smile on the homunculus face that came after hearing them.

 

Chapter Text

“Are you going to watch him all night or can we go join Ed and the others for dinner now?”

 

Standing in the shadows, just outside the circle of light of the campfire, Greed kept staring at Hohenheim, unable to look away.

“You can sit down if you want.”

They jumped, both inside and outside their mind.

“I don’t know if I want to… He has just stopped … crying… With that face…”

“Well, you should have thought about it before creepily watching him from afar, Greed! Now move.”

“Ok, ok, I’m going, what’s gotten into you?!”

“...You…”

Greed resolutely ignored him, but nonetheless stepped into the circle of light of the campfire and sat down.

Hohenheim had a bottle and a cup in his hands and offered him the cup, full of something.

“So, which one are you? Of his... Children.”

Greed didn't like much this start of exchange. Even as brief as it had been this far, he could tell that it was all going to be on the other man’s terms, if he didn't do something about it. So he didn’t answer immediately. He took a long deliberate swig from the cup.

Man, the alcohol in it was so cheap he couldn't even tell what it was. Ling didn’t seem to like it, at all. Oh yeah, right, fifteen years old have no taste for this kind of things.

Sixteen

“ Oh, shut up, like it’s any different”

Hohenheim cleared his throat and their attention went back to him, he didn’t seem annoyed or irritated by his stalling, he was watching them with some kind of amused curiosity, like if he was seeing something both incredibly familiar and completely foreign at the same time. Not that Greed was able to tell any of it, that was Ling’s doing. As he'd told often, understanding people’s intentions and thoughts from a glance was something crucial to survive Xing politic circles, literally survive. Greed kind of liked that the Prince was letting him know his impressions lately, even if he would never admit it, of course, even if Ling probably knew it already anyway.

Greed smiled and put on his bravado.

“I’m Greed the Avaricious.” He smirked. “I’m the person who’ll own the world.”

“Oh, I see. Is that why you stopped working for… your father?”

“Yes.”

Hohenheim just nodded, still looking at him like he was the most interesting thing he’d ever seen. In the meantime, Greed could feel Ling wanting to say something but barely keeping it in.

“ What now, brat?”

“... Nothing.”

“Spill it and don’t make me waste my time”

“You won't like it”

“Though shit, say it.”

“It’s just, it’s not entirely true.”

“What?”

“That may be your goal, maybe... but you didn’t rebel your father because of it... this time”

“...”

“I told you that you wouldn't like it.”

“Shut up”

“Exactly my point”

Greed wanted to see some reaction from the man who looked like his Father so he decided not to ignore the Prince’s annoying reminder but to use it to push it a little bit, just to see what would happen.

(Not because he thought he could help him understand confusing things he couldn't, for the life of him, understand about himself.)

“Well, mostly for that. I also did it because he did me wrong, he killed... took away something of mine. Also, I just don’t want him to succeed.”

Hohenheim didn’t look anything but even more intrigued, leaning a bit more toward him.

“So you’re angry at him? Are you doing this out of spite? You want… revenge?”

Ok, this wasn’t going where Greed wanted it to go

“Maybe”

“Justice?”

And now he was just angry.

“You don’t know anything about this, old man. Don’t talk about things you don’t understand!”

Man, he was shouting, he needed to calm down. Hohenheim leaned back and held out his hands.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just...You know what you are, right?”

Greed put up his most unimpressed smartass face.

“...Yes.”

But the man just smiled politely. The asshole.

“No, I mean, what you really are. What are you made out of.”

“Yes, I am his Avarice, I am the part of his soul that craves for everything he craved before making me.”

Hohenheim was once again watching him closely, and now he was starting to look sad.

“And what are you craving right now?”

It was weird how natural it felt talking to him, anger and irritation and puzzlement and all. As if it was something he’d always done, similar to how it was with Ling. And he knew it wasn’t for the familiar face, in fact, that normally would have had the opposite effect.

 

“Everything. The world. To not have this emptiness inside me anymore. There is something between me and everything I don’t possess, like an invisible wall, and... I know, somehow I know it as an indisputable truth, that if I manage to own the whole world then that barrier won’t matter anymore.”

Hohenheim was making weird faces like he was trying not to show how much his statement got to him (Thanks, kid) and it was pissing Greed off once again. This weird connection he was feeling with him wasn’t something he understood, and it was very different from the kind of connection to those things from his past that he didn’t remember. It was in some way more… visceral. He knew it came from his dear old daddy and he hated it.

“Just do me a favor, will you? Your Father, he gave you a part of himself and called it Avarice, don’t make the mistake to think he knew everything about it.”

“What do you mean? That is the one thing I know for certain! That I have his desire for everything.”

“You have the desires he didn’t keep. You know his plan, right? He still wants a lot of things, even after creating you. Isn’t that weird? Why do you want those same things, how is that possible?”

“Humh.”

“So, maybe the desires that he put in you are something different. You were talking about justice for someone. Some frie…”

Greed didn’t even need to stop him, he just shot the guy a look, and he understood.

“Yes, sorry, I wouldn’t want to presume, it’s just... I assumed I knew him once, what he wanted, but then... after what he did to my peo...Well, I had to think again. Now I realize, maybe some part of it, some part of him… Maybe I was right the first time.” His eyes and voice were soft.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Was he just trying to push his buttons? Because he wasn’t making any sense.

“I know, just… Promise me you’ll think about it.”

Greed didn't say anything because he didn't like to think about that kind of things and he didn't tell lies.

After watching him closely for a while Hohenheim caught himself with what he was doing and forcibly laughed and shrugged.

“But what do I know? I’m just an old man with old regrets, and wishful thoughts.”

 

Meanwhile, he could feel Ling having some kind of realization.

“Greed, let me talk to him, please.”

At least he didn't have to answer.

“Fine, I'm thinking the runt was right on the money before, I’m a second from punching him too, this fucking guy…”

He left the Prince in control and he got immediately to the point.

“You really think so?”

This time Hohenheim was left speechless, mouth hanging open.

“You really think the desires Greed’s made of are… What you hoped all those years ago? That he’s made of that?”

 

“I’m made of what?”

“I’m trying to understand if you’re lying.”

“Again, seriously, how many times do I have to say it? I thought you knew by now that I’ve never lied to you.”

“I know! I’m not saying to me!”

Fucking hell. Sometimes the kid was a fucking mystery. A stressful irritating fucking mystery.

“Yes, but well… I’m sorry, who are you?”

“I’m Ling.”

Oh, good. At least the Prince wasn’t being an annoying shit just to him.

“How are you there, Ling?”

“I think it’s because I’m not just a soul in this body, but it also used to be solely mine, before.”

“And you’re still so near the surface? And he’s ok with it?”

“Well, you’re the one with the theories about the one you called Dwarf in the Flask, about which desires he gave Greed and which ones he kept.”

 

“Quit talking about me like I’m not here! Explain!”

“Sorry, you're right. We are talking about the power of friendship.”

“... I... actually hate you.”

“Wow, for a guy who claims he never lies you...”

“Yes, yes, shut up now, don’t even start with me. Didn’t you want to talk to him?”

“Oh, right”

Hohenheim was indeed talking.

“Yes, I guess that’s true, I’m sorry I’m being rude, this is just very interesting! And even more unexpected than finding Edward teaming up with one of the homunculus children.”

“Why? My soul is strong, this was my body and Greed is a greedy bastard who wanted company. You should be able to understand. I can feel it in you that you also have souls inside, so much more than even us. I’ve only seen their Father similar to you. And I don’t mean your face.”

“Oh, are you an alkahestrist?”

“No, I'm not.”

“So I have to assume you have some kind of connection with the royal family in Xing. I can’t say I’m happy to see you here, then, if I’m making the right assumption on why. I hope you can understand why is that, after hearing my story.”

“I do understand. And I, myself, hope you believe me when I say I believe in a ruler’s duty to his people and not the opposite. I am Ling Yao, twelfth son of the Emperor of Xing, it’s an honor to meet you, Van Hohenheim, Sage of the West.”

Greed was buffeted by how regal Ling was being. Every word, every movement was studied and elegant, and august. He actually got up and bowed gracefully, putting his hands together in front of him.

Hohenheim looked shocked for a second too, before smiling and bowing himself in the same manner, a lot more clumsily but still not as awkward as a person who had never done it before.

“The honor is mine. Yao clan, you said? I believe I’ve seen your land, once upon a time. The rainforest I saw there is still one of the most beautiful views I had the privilege of experience in my long life.” Greed could tell the kid joy at the mention of his clan’s lands by someone who had seen them. “I used to live in the lands of the FenDou clan for a while, neighbor and allied to yours.”

Ling didn't drop the smile nor changed his tone, he was too well trained for that, but tensed up just a little bit.

“We are in a feud for as long as history remembers with the FenDou clan.”

“Oh,” Hohenheim scratched his head, “well, it can’t be that long, can it?”

Ling thought about it for a minute then conceded. “No, I guess not.”

“You are young, not much older than my son Edward, am I right?”

“I’m actually a little younger.”

“Oh,” It was weird how the man with the face of Father could express so many nuanced emotion on his face. Greed didn’t like it. “Anyway,” and he liked even less how much similar to his Pops he was getting in that moment before speaking again. “If you get what you want from this country someday you’ll understand how something like a feud between two neighbor clans is just small and petty.”

Greed could feel how Ling didn’t like where the conversation was going, even if his tone remained the exact same.

“We’ll see…”

“Are you still sure you want to go on with your plan even knowing what you know now?”

“I’ve already told you I’m not going to sacrifice anyone for my own ambition. I’m not like your K... that.”

“Even if you don’t, it doesn’t mean nobody has been sacrificed. Using an already made Philosopher Stone.”

“That’s... Peculiar of you to say after what you told us.”

“It wasn’t something I wanted.”

“Even if you didn’t, it doesn’t mean nobody had been sacrificed.”

They stared at each other for a while. Greed was fascinated by the polite undertone of the entire conversation, even during an obviously heated argument. Greed was used to furious fights and screams and, well, he was used to that little bastard of Envy. He wasn’t used to politeness between people that hated each other.

“Naa,  I don't hate him, I like him. Don't tell Ed.”

“You do?”

“Yes, he’s weird!” Out loud he went on, “Besides, I already have what I came here to get.” He pointed at himself. Well, at them both.

Hohenheim blinked twice.

“Oh,” His face went back on doing that weird, expressing emotion thing. “Yes, sure, you’re right.” And now he was laughing a genuine laugh, still with that face, creepy. “But, it looks more like he has you .”

Ling smiled. “Yeah,” Talking more to Greed that to the other man. “That too.”