He hates this part.
“I assume you got the job done,” says a gravelly voice. Less of a voice, and more like a noise borne from rocks, as if the voice was physically dragged over boulders and gravel and sand before it was ever put to use. It announces from nowhere, yet everywhere, from within the walls and the middle of the room, and if Greed hadn’t lived here since before he existed in this form, he might’ve entertained the thought of a hired ventriloquist hiding in the vents.
It’s a fun thought.
“Sure did, Daddio!”
Lust shoots him a sharp look.
“I didn’t need any help,” Envy snaps. “Yeah, it’s fuckin’ done.”
Envy talks a lot of shit behind Father’s back. Far too much for someone who won’t even make eye contact with the core of dark expanse, not wanting to risk seeing any kind form of sound source.
Greed’s seen Father. Just once, years ago, when he’d still been new at this. Sure, he’s been doing this since he was brought into being, into an actual, tangible form, but there was a time he’d been young, more foolish, and far stupider than he is now. And he wanted to know who - or what - exactly he had to thank for it, even if stuck to the shadows.
So yes, Greed’s seen Father. Not in this form; this vessel, that’s young and healthy and couldn’t be more than forty years old, and has red, red eyes that follow you to the ends of earth.
No, he means the form before this.
The eyes are the only part of it that have never changed.
It wasn’t pretty. He doesn’t like to dwell on the memory. It was his own fault, as most of it usually goes; his inability to just let things be. The need to know everything, because Greed figured out he couldn’t die after the first time Lust stabbed him after a petty fight, and soon after learned everything else. Who exactly it was he existed for, why the man - the someone, the some thing, hid away, why Greed even existed.
Greed has a lot of regrets. It doesn’t stop him from making more, though.
“I’m headed out,” he says cheerfully, more to let Lust know than anything, hoping against hope that Father won’t hear it over Envy’s bitching, but knowing better.
Hearing isn’t everything. Greed knows there’s eyes wherever he goes, even besides the ones in plain sight, the ones hidden away and the ones he finds, and the ones he can’t see but knows are there.
There’s always eyes in this place. They follow him outside, into the shadows and alleys and nooks, doing their sole job.
To think he ever entertained the thought of being free.
Somehow he manages it.
It isn’t easy. It was never meant to be. One doesn’t just approach Father and hand in their resignation; you don’t approach him at all. He calls onto you, tells you what needs doing, and you get it done. Greed was born into it - he is the epitome of greed, he’s greed itself, the sheer want that flows within every creature in the world; he’s the greed of the rich and the poor, and mostly he is Father’s greed. He doesn’t exist without it.
Don’t be greedy, everyone says.
Why not? Greed answers.
He’s older than most of them, with only Lust and Pride to look up to, but Lust has mere months on him and is far more obedient than he understands. Pride wouldn’t give any of them the time of day unless Father wanted him to, and Father clearly doesn’t.
“Do you think-” Greed sways, dangerously tipping forward on the roof, woozy from the crates of empty bottles. It’s not like his body won’t just protect him from it. All of it. He could fall, and what would it do? Create a dent in the concrete.
“-that in a way, we might have daddy issues?”
Lust stares at him blankly for a second before her face splits into something terrifying. Envy follows, snorting between his guffaws.
“We’d have to be a family in order for that to be true,” Envy manages to wheeze out. Greed grins with them, because going with the flow is one of the only things he’s good at.
And being drunk. Though not for long. He can already feel his liver exhausting whatever he downed not five minutes ago.
“We’re kinda like siblings,” he insists.
“Please,” Lust snorts. “In any other life, I’d stab you both on sight.”
She’s done plenty of that in this life, too. They all have. It gets boring when the only people you want to kill are the same and only people you can outlive life with, and Greed doesn’t believe in reincarnation. He wonders if the rest of them do. It’s a nice thought to hold onto, now and then.
Greed croons. “Isn’t that what family is?”
He joins in the laughs and disappears the next day.
For a while, Greed just exists. Not quite living, but not surviving either - that would imply he could die, and there’s only a handful of people who could manage that. Another handful of people who could make the attempt, and so, so many handfuls of people who would like to try.
But somehow, he succeeds. He avoids dark alleys, and doesn’t sleep. Doesn’t blink. Waits till the sun’s up to leave dingy motels. He doesn’t see Lust’s claws wrapped around corners of buildings, or Envy’s hair blending in with the trees, or Gluttony busting his ass whenever Greed risks the luxury of food.
It was never about any kind of moral high ground. He’s Greed - he just wants. The world isn’t limited to Father. There’s more than just them, than eyes and sewers and red. And staying where he was wouldn’t get him what he really wanted.
What do I want?
He doesn’t know how it starts, or why, even, but one day he’s still running from Father though it’s been three years and four months, and realizes they’ve actually given up on him.
Father would never do that unless he thought Greed was disposable.
Maybe he’s always known Greed would leave.
It’s a lift so heavy that he floats. He grows. Makes something of himself that is solely his, that is him, in his entirety, and Greed learns and forgets and rediscovers how to live.
There is so much of the world. He wants to be King.
So he builds. Creates a kingdom, his very own, and runs his small little empire made up of rugrats and outcasts and rascals. None of them know the other; the only thing they have in common is Greed. He names them after his favourite drinks, and they flock to him with more loyalty than any of them had ever wanted to give Father.
He runs what would be another’s shame and grief, but for him is a haven, and he makes it that for as many people that come to him. They serve him and Greed keeps them safe, and for the longest while, it is enough.
And then he meets Alphonse and Edward Elric, and he meets Roy Mustang, and he meets Ling Yao, and he realizes the death of the man Envy so recklessly delivered was so much bigger than any of them could have imagined. Because without it, the world would have stayed the same. And with it-
All it had taken was the end of that one life to set things in motion. A small family’s colossal loss that leads to his own damages as Wrath lays waste to what he called home.
And Greed adds that to his ever growing pile of regrets, too.
There is nothing special about Ling, just as there is nothing special about the Elric brothers, and especially the one trick flame alchemist and his ragtag team.
They are humans. They all have their selfish little goals, think they’re above everyone else, and do what they want. Ling wants to become a king, so lets Greed take over on the brink of death - Greed wants to become the King, and calls him a fool.
He admires the boy’s cupidity, though. Ling knows and acknowledges exactly what Greed is, and hands over his vessel, still - Greed wouldn’t let any of his pseudo-siblings near his soul if he were dying, wouldn’t give a shit to what they’d promise.
(It’s not the truth, and though he never tells lies, it never seems to stand true when it comes to himself. Because life isn’t something he takes so lightly after-
After all of them. The gape in his chest that aches so much worse since Roa, Dolcetto - even Lust.
It’s so much worse.)
“Do you even want to rule?” Ling snorts.
Of course he does. What the fuck kind of bogus- there is such little he needs to do after the humans wear out Father - just reach in and take what’s his, and he can be King.
“It’s not bogus. All your friends are dead.”
“They weren’t my friends,” Greed snarls. Feels the doubt somewhere behind his ribcage.
He isn’t mortal. It’s isn’t some- that’s not what the ache is. He isn’t on the side of humans. He’s on the side that’ll make him King, because if that can’t give him everything, what will?
He was born into war, and on the wrong side of it. When the cheers go up around them as Edward rages hell down on Father - a puny, weak mortal, fueled by nothing but fury at the cause of his brother’s sacrifice-
“This is what you want,” Ling voices for him.
This is what I want.
Father is near his end.
It took the combined efforts of nations to bring him here. Greed was a fool to think he could ever do it alone.
He doesn’t hesitate when it's his turn, because when he sees the faces of all the brats as Father tears him apart, in that moment; the fear he’s always held for Father ceases to exist before he does, and Greed wonders-
-Greed knows. He got what he wanted after all. He was just blind to it. Because that’s what they were to him; Martel, Roa, Dolcetto, Bido. He had exactly what he wanted, and got it again, in the form of these reckless idiots. A second chance, this time to do things right.
He’s done that, as he watches his diminutive form crumble away.
And in that, there is more peace in him than there is regret.