-1Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I am making no money off of this.
Warnings: This fic contains mature content. You have been warned.
Author's Notes: This was a challenge fic. It was written for the 100 Women challenge on Livejournal. It is not a pairing I normally write or will probably ever write again. I chose Scar's name in this fic for its meaning, one of which is 'hand of God'.
The Sharp Tongued Woman of Central
It was before war came fully to Ishbal. There were soldiers, Central City's best of course, wandering the streets but peace still held a tenuous grasp. It was before the rebellion, before the slaughter, before the desert turned to hell on earth.
The soldiers made him nervous. He wasn't alone in his disquiet, but there was nothing that could be done. Central had a firm hand wrapped about Ishbal, every soldier another finger that threatened to squeeze. It made the people restless. Squabbles broke out over small things, tempers flared and there was a tenseness over the city that put him in mind of a simmering pot. It was only so long before it boiled over.
At least the streets were still safe. Soldiers had learned to dodge rocks thrown by rowdy children and they kept their guns safely holstered. He moved through the streets with the wary gate of a wolf, eyes never resting in one place for too long. If the pot boiled over while he was out and about he planned to be ready for it.
The streets today were nearly empty. Voices filtered out from alleyways, hushed and colored in tones of anger and fear. It sickened him. There would be no threat if the soldiers left. There was no need for them here.
He passed another alley, his ears tuned to pick out words in the low drone of voices. Something made him stop, pause to listen. He could hear young voices, men who's anger was shot through with self glorification. He knew that tone well, he heard it in the cantinas at night where the young men gathered to storm and rave about the military presence. It was foolish of them to do so on the streets.
He turned, intending to disband them and warn them that they were tempting danger. The alley way was dark, dusk just beginning to settle on the stone walls of Ishbal.
"Couldn't wait until nightfall?" he asked, pitching his voice to sound friendly. He had no desire to startle the gathering, knowing full well what frightened men were capable of. His eyes adjusted, figures huddled in the dead end becoming clearer. He had been right in assuming he had come upon a band of young not-quite-men, airing their grievances. What he hadn't expected was the young soldier trapped in their midst.
"What's going on here?" The friendliness was dropped in an instant. There were few reasons that young men would corner a woman and none of them were acceptable. Idiots!
"None of your concern."
"We're just teaching one of these Central bitches a lesson."
"No." He twitched back his heavy wool over garment, bringing to light the gun that hung at his hip. He detested the things but allowed that they were necessary in times such as these. "Leave the woman be."
He had no desire to fight with his own people, but there were things he could not stand for. To force a woman was abominable, be she Ishbalite or a soldier of Central. He let his hand fall on the gun, ready to draw if need be.
The woman moved quicker. One moment she was standing with her shoulders hunched forward and the next she was crouching, one leg kicked out to knock down one of her attackers, gun in hand.
"Run now and I won't arrest you," she snapped, the barrel of her handgun swinging from one young man to another. Her voice was like steel. They fled without another word.
"Are you alright?" It seemed a foolish question now. She appeared to be unharmed and capable of defending herself, but she was a woman and deserved respect and courtesy.
"Fine. I appreciate your assistance, but I wasn't in need of it." She stood and dusted off her uniform before holstering her gun once more.
"I can see that."
"Does this sort of thing happen often?"
He could see her clearly now. She was young, younger than he had originally thought. There were few women among the soldiers stationed at Ishbal, most of them older and harder and scarred.
"Not that I'm aware. I haven't seen you before." A young woman had no business as a soldier, he thought.
"I just got in today. First assignment. If you'll excuse me? I need to continue my patrol."
"I will accompany you."
She looked at him as though he had offered to lay a sacrifice at her feet.
"I don't need any protection."
"Yet you were cornered in an alley by ill meaning brutes."
"And I got myself out of it."
They stood glaring at one another, neither one moving nor making any move to relent to the other. She stepped suddenly, making as though to shoulder past him. He moved out of her way but followed after. She couldn't order him to leave her be, he wasn't harassing her. A woman was a woman and therefore worthy of protection. Whether she needed it or not.
"You don't have to follow me."
"It would ease my mind." If a handful of young men had entertained the idea of harassing a woman of Central others may have as well. He wished to avoid any messy business - he doubted she would be so kind a second time.
"Fine. But don't make a habit out of this."
He simply nodded, following beside and a little behind her as the darkness settled into the corners and cracks of the city. The men would be gathering in the cantinas now, safe from the eyes and ears of the soldiers. Normally he would be with them but he had no desire to run into the fools from before. Now was not a time for in fighting and he would not be painted as heeling to the military.
"You can go home now."
"I am enjoying the walk." He offered her a tight lipped smile, one that promised she wasn't going to get rid of him that easily. "It is a pleasant evening."
"And I'm sure you can find more pleasant company to share it with."
"You have a sharp tongue, woman of Central."
"My rank. I'm not 'woman of Central'."
"Then you have a sharp tongue, I lieutenant /I ." The words was foreign on his tongue and he spoke it slowly. "Do you have a name as well, or only a military rank?"
She looked at him as sharply as she spoke, brown eyes narrowed in irritation. Apparently she did not enjoy an Ishbalite man asking for her name. He was only curious. She was attractive, he decided, in her own way. Paler than the women of his people, and harsher than the women he chose to bed, but still. He wondered idly if it was true what they said about the women who lived in Central.
"Hawkeye." The name was offered curtly and without ceremony, as though she were offering some sort of sensitive and damning information. He only nodded.
"I mean you no harm, you know."
"I'm not afraid of you." He could hear the shock under her words and he smiled again.
"You're uncomfortable. I can only imagine that my presence upsetting you means you think I mean you harm. I don't."
They had reached the center of the city, the temple of Ishballa rising up against the canvas of the night sky. He paused a moment to run his eyes over the intricate edifice, and was aware that his Central companion had stopped as well.
"Impressive, isn't it? You should see the inside."
"No, thank you."
"I didn't say now."
They lapsed into silence, rounding the intricately tiled square as the bells of the temple rang out the hour. It was seven, the hour seeming earlier in the late dusk of the desert.
"Do you have a name? Or should I just call you 'Ishbal man'?" Was that a hint of amusement he heard in her voice? Or was it merely irritation? Either way she had asked for his name. Perhaps she simply tired of walking beside an unnamed man.
"Caleb." He offered his name more freely than she had offered hers. She said nothing, and he wondered if she had even heard him.
"It's getting late." A more gentle nudge for him to leave her be. But it was growing late and there were soldiers ahead. She would be safe among her own people.
"Then I will take my leave of you."
He wondered, as he turned to return to his own home, if he would see her again.
It was too days later when he came upon her, standing on the steps of the temple. He could tell her easily from the others even in the dim light with her yellow hair and her stubbornly set shoulders. It pleased him to see her still in the city, though he wasn't entirely certain why. He was on his way home, returning from his evening sojourn of delivering dinner to his brother.
"Have you been inside yet?" He came up beside her, amused to see her jump just a bit at his sudden appearance.
He folded his hands behind his back, letting his eyes trace the patterns on the heavy doors of the temple.
"Come. I'll show you."
"That's really not necessary…"
But he pushed open one of the heavy doors, the light from within spilling out onto the steps and across the pale features of the lieutenant.
"It's worth it, I promise. Besides, isn't it in your best interest to know something of the land you seek to keep a hold of?"
She didn't respond and he didn't watch her face for a reaction. He stepped within the warmth of the temple, turning his face up to the stained glass windows and closing his eyes in a brief moment of silent prayer. The interior of the temple was familiar to him, from the high arches of the ceiling to the worn red tile of the floor. The alter gleamed gold in the candle light, the stained glass windows glowed softly and the heavy scent of clove and myrrh met his deep breath. He moved passed the pale stone pews, passed the bronze braziers of fragrance, passed the smooth lengths of the temple pillars and stood before the steps that led to the alter.
"This is your place of worship?"
So the woman of Central had followed after all. He turned to look at her, standing a little ways behind him and staring fixedly at the geometric patterns held within the largest of the stained glass windows.
"This is the Temple of Ishballa."
"It's… impressive." It was as though she didn't want to say the word. He smiled at her and nodded, the temple calming what nerves had been frayed by the day. They stood without speaking, basking in the warmth and awe of the holy shrine. Or perhaps she only was in awe of the masonry and craftsmanship, both of which were beyond compare. He caught her looking at him as they stood before the alter, quick glances out of the corner of her eye. He wondered what it was she thought of him, a young Ishabalite with his hair already going grey years before its time. But she kept watching him, carefully as though she didn't want him to know. He caught her eye and she flushed - her cheeks embarrassed but her eyes angry.
"Have you eaten?"
"Dinner," he repeated, watching her carefully. "Have you eaten it yet?"
"No. I've been on duty." The confusion in her voice was oddly endearing. She was dangerous, he knew that well. Pretty woman she may be, but she was a soldier as well. He was being foolish entertaining ideas of familiarity with her. But still, there was something in her harshness, in her hardness. It made him want to see her softened.
"What is it they feed you soldiers? Food can't travel well from Central to Ishbal."
"Why the sudden interest in my diet?"
"I have lamb stew at my home, and fresh bread. I imagine that's a better meal than whatever you would find in a soldier's tent."
"Excuse me?" Shock, now. And then suspicion. He watched as her emotions changed, her eyes first widening and then narrowing. Was she still frightened?
"It's only an invitation, 'lieutenant'." He spoke the title with a hint of amusement.
"Do you often invite soldiers to your home for dinner?" Her sharp tongue had returned, slicing like a razorblade.
"Only the pretty ones."
He half expected her to pull her gun on him, from the look she gave him. Had he expected anything else? Perhaps, but it had been nothing more than fancy. He wished she would say something, though, rather than simply stand there glaring at him.
"I meant it only in jest," he said, holding out his hands to smooth her ruffled feathers.
"I find that difficult to believe."
He shrugged. No, it hadn't been in jest. But it hadn't been meant in offense, either. She was a pretty woman, and something about her was attractive to him. He wondered what it would be like to spend a night with an Amestris military woman - and knew full well that he wasn't going to find out.
"I apologize for any offense, lieutenant. If you'll excuse me, I have my dinner to see to."
He nodded to her and turned, his mind already on the dinner that awaited him at home, and the long walk that would take him there.
He turned, head titled in questioning. He couldn't begin to assume what it was that she wanted now, but she was approaching him with a stiff gate and a stiffer expression.
"After… careful consideration, I've decided to accept your invitation."
"Oh?" This was surprising.
"It isn't as if I can't protect myself if I need to."
Both of their eyes dropped to her gun, and he nodded. No, she certainly had the advantage if he were the sort of man to take advantage of a woman.
"Indeed you can, but you won't need to. I prefer my women willing." He smiled, and held open the door for her.
"If you're trying to be flirtatious, it isn't working." She stepped by him and he shook his head in amusement. He bit his tongue, tempted to inquire as to what I would /I work. He didn't imagine he would be given an answer.
Again they walked the quiet streets of Ishbal in the moonlight, silent. She was not one for words - but with eyes like hers, he could understand. She didn't need words when a look could say more than her mouth ever could. Did Central normally breed women of this particular strength? Or was she unique? He had nothing to compare her to, really.
Again, he opened the door for her. His home was small and modest and lit by candlelight. The smell of stew permeated the house, blending well with the soft stone and the worn furnishings.
"Sit." He nodded to the low couch against the wall - the kitchen and living area were separated only by a low counter. He busied himself with serving dinner, ladling the rich-smelling stew into two earthenware bowls and retrieving the bread from the food box. She looked nervous, sitting there with her knees pressed closely together and her hands folded tightly in her lap. Did she truly think he was a danger to her?
"Thank you." She accepted the stew and bread without another word and he sat across from her, folding his legs beneath him to sit on the floor. It was that or beside her and he considered it safer on the floor.
"You're welcome, lieutenant." Perhaps he would find out what it would be like to spend a night with her. She had willingly come to his home, well aware that he had expressed an interest in her.
"My name is Riza."
"I see. And what have I done to be granted the honour of using it?" Riza. An interesting name, sharp and hard as she was.
"We're sharing a meal in your living room," she said blankly.
"Indeed we are." And after she had initially declined, as well. He wondered what had made her change her mind. They ate without speaking much, chatting idly about the weather and the differences in climates between Ishbal and Central. Safe topics, both of them keeping away from politics. It would be a foolish thing indeed to ruin the evening with discussions of the political climate.
"Do you drink wine?"
"Ah." Considering the soldiers he had seen with flasks and bottles he was surprised. Then again she seemed to take her duties rather seriously. Though not seriously enough to decline an invitation from an Ishbalite. For which he was glad. She looked quite lovely by candlelight, pale skin glowing warmly and hints of red gold highlighted in her hair. Her uniform hid her figure, the bulky material giving no indication of either breasts or hips. What would she look like, he wondered, out of it?
"Thank you for dinner." She stood, abruptly, and he rose as well. She no longer seemed nervous, but she was not yet relaxed. He wanted to see her without her narrow frown, wanted to see her eyes warm. Would the hair at the nape of her neck be as soft as he imagined it to be?
"Do you have duties to attend to?"
"No." She shook her head quickly. Her hair was quite short, and it hardly moved when she did so. A small piece had fallen beside her eye. "But I should be going. Thank you again. It was a pleasant meal."
And here it was. He moved slowly, not wishing to startle her, and placed his hand on her wrist as she moved to leave. She froze, eyes dropping to his hand and then up to his face. Her skin was soft, her wrist small and birdlike in his grasp.
"You don't have to go."
Her eyes were a challenge. She made no move to pull away, she only stood there meeting his gaze. Her eyes were agate - unyielding and mysterious. He could easily see them lit by the desert sun, but now they were on fire with candlelight and something he couldn't name.
He kissed her then. Her lips were thin and impliable, closed tightly against him. It was like kissing stone that had been smoothed by the rain and wind. This close he could smell her, soap and sand and gun powder, exotic and enticing. His breath caught in his throat even as he pulled away from her tightly closed lips.
"You don't have to go," he said again, softly.
"You don't want me to go."
"I thought that was clear." He placed his free hand on her waist, holding her now in something more close to a lover's embrace. She looked down, breaking the challenge in her eyes. He found himself staring at the top of her head, watching shadows play across her pale hair.
"I shouldn't. I should leave, now."
"But do you I want /I to?" His voice was pitched quietly and his eyes sought to catch hers. Whether she went or not he wanted to know what she I wanted /I . Whether or not she wanted I him /I .
"It would be conduct unbefitting an officer," she said, not as sharply or harshly as he had expected.
"And yet your male peers visit Ishbalite brothels without blinking an eye." His thumb made small circles on the heavy canvas of the uniform that covered the small of her back, his hand sliding down her wrist to twine his fingers within hers. "Who would know? Other than you and I."
She looked up at him, her dark eyes narrowed in thought rather than in displeasure. He bent to kiss her again, to plead his case with his mouth rather than with his words. But she turned her head and he pressed his lips to the smooth skin of her temple instead. He had tried, at least.
"I can't stay the night."
The words surprised him and he smiled, his face pressed close against the soft cap of her hair. As grudging as her consent had been, it still excited him. And he imagined that grudging agreement was far more than she gave to most men, but perhaps that was simply wishful thinking.
"I won't ask you to."
She didn't turn her head this time, and he caught her lips with his and pulled her tightly against him. She was not soft through her clothing, there was nothing pliant or delicate about her body at all. Her mouth opened to him, smooth lips moving against his as her small hands came to rest on his chest. She may not have been soft but she was warm, burning like a brand in his arms. The heavy fabric of her uniform was crushed between them as he pulled her close, trapping her hands there on his chest. It bunched and folded uncomfortably, shielding her body even more from him.
Her hands balled into fists on his chest, gathering up his shirt in her grasp. She pressed her mouth tightly against his, her tongue exploring the lines of his lips. She was pushing against him, urging him backwards almost aggressively. Her fists were hard against him even as her mouth softened and he found himself at a loss as to where to put his own hands. He slid them up beneath the short jacket of her uniform, pushing it upwards and sliding his palms along the soft cotton of her undershirt. Beneath it she was solid as a rock.
He could feel the edge of his low couch against the backs of his calves. He was going to fall if she kept pushing at him the way she was, but her hands left his chest and slid up to tangle in his hair. He fumbled with her jacket, tugging helplessly at folds and flaps of cloth. How in god's good name did it come undone? He supposed it didn't help that it was bunched up beneath her arms.
He broke away from her lips for a moment, kissing down the slender column of her neck as he tried to wrench her jacket off of her. Her fingers were twisted in his hair, pulling him tightly against the curve of her shoulder. He strained to see what he was doing, nibbling at her neck as he twisted. It was no use. One of her hands moved to his back, the heel of her palm dragging along the column of his spine. With a grunt, he tore the pieces of cloth in his hands apart, the jacket groaning and parting finally. Her hand was underneath his shirt, smooth and warm against the small of his back. She seemed to be having no difficulty with his clothing, her fingers tugging the hem of his shirt upwards with deft precision.
With her jacket open he was able to enjoy the curves of her body. Her waist was lean and narrow, her breasts fit his hands perfectly, the hollow of her hips rested against him like a puzzle piece. He raised his arms for her when she made an impatient noise, letting her pull his shirt off and toss it aside. The air inside the small house was warm now, and her hands moved over the broad planes of his bare back urgently.
"And you said you shouldn't stay," he breathed against her neck. He wanted her, badly, the evidence of his desire pressed firmly against the curve of her hip. Her hands were back against his chest, her palms flat on his skin. She pushed him back onto the couch, shrugging out of her torn jacket as he fell back against the cushions. She was a fierce wild cat in the candlelight, fire eyed and smooth muscled. She was breathing heavy, her shoulders heaving as she unfastened her holster and undid the buttons that held up her trousers. Soon she stood before him in a black undershirt and white cotton undergarments, her legs long and strong and shadowed in warm tones of gold and red. She was beautiful.
She didn't speak, but moved to straddle his thighs and kiss him again, hungrily. Her hands roamed over his chest, moving with no hint of shyness. She was no blushing virgin, different from the other women he had taken to bed. It wasn't an unwelcome change. Her thighs were hard and smooth, the muscles jumping and tensing beneath her skin as he ran his palm along her bare flesh. He traced his fingers along the lines of her leg, feeling the coiled muscles there that were tight as steel. He could feel the power that moved under her skin, physical strength he had never felt in a woman before.
She pushed him back again, her hands on his shoulders. Her lips moved down his neck, her teeth scraping lightly over the swell of his shoulder. She was moving in his lap, the friction painfully pleasant as she slid her body against his. Her breasts were full and warm against his chest, the thin cotton of her undershirt offering little barrier between them. Her hand moved over his stomach and down further, coming to rest on his thigh. He threw his head back, wanting little more than for her hand to move just a bit to the right. He was painfully aroused now, her warm breath on his skin sending small bursts of pleasure through him.
She moved her hand. He let out a low, guttural moan as her hand closed around him through his trousers. He arched up into her, his blood on fire from her touch. She tugged at the waist of his remaining garment, yanking it down just enough to expose the heated skin she had been touching through cloth. She wasn't gentle or tender with him, her own urgency communicating itself through her hands and her lips. She wrapped her fingers around him, rational thought leaving his mind in a rush. He couldn't take much more of her. It felt as though her mouth was everywhere - his neck, his throat, his shoulder, the curve of his arm… She left no piece of skin untouched.
And then, then, her hand was still and she was moving, pulling aside the small garment at her hips. She held him firmly as she mounted him where he was, one hand grasping his rigid flesh and the other on his shoulder, pushing her down onto him. He grabbed her round the waist, holding her tightly as she rode him. She was a wild thing, her eyes blazing and her lips parted slightly. Even now, in the throes of passion, there was no softness to her mouth or her eyes. Holding her about the waist was like holding iron wrapped in silk. Only one part of her was soft, and he held her tightly as she tensed and relaxed her thighs. Her legs against his burned, and she was kissing him suddenly, her teeth nipping at his lower lip.
The sputtering candlelight played over their bodies, arching and twisting in untamed passion. She arched her back, her black undershirt pulling up over the tight muscles of her stomach. Her nails bit into his skin. The column of her throat was the most erotic thing he had seen in his life. He could hardly hold on to her, both their bodies slick with sweat now.
She jerked her hips quickly, suddenly, letting out a low pitched moan of pleasure. His hands fought for purchase on her buttocks, her hips, her thighs. She dropped against him heavily, her hands balled into fists and he pressed his cheek against the slick softness of her hair, his own climax beginning to un-spiral inside of him. He held her tightly, his jaw aching as he found his release in her.
Her back was curved and his fingers slid easily along the length of her spine. Her heart was beating quickly against him, her breath coming in short gasps. He held her close. He stroked her hair. He kissed her temple.
"Riza," he whispered into her skin, breathing her name like a prayer. The candle was dying now, flickering in a pool of wax. It was late.
"I need to go." She slid off his lap in a fluid motion. Her hair was slick with sweat, her lips were bruised from kissing and there was a red mark at the place where her shoulder met her neck. She glowed in the dying light, sleek as a goddess in front of him.
He had told her he wouldn't ask her to spend the night. But how he wanted her to. He wanted to make love to her again, to carry her to his bed and worship her body with words and hands and lips.
"I need to go." She spoke firmly, already pulling up her trousers. "I'm sorry."
"You don't need to apologize." He smiled, stretched out on the couch and half naked. He could barely move, his limbs felt like lead.
"No. I suppose I don't." She had her jacket on now, and she was struggling to force her appearance to resemble a woman who hadn't just lain with a man.
"Will I see you again, Riza?" He enjoyed the way her name tasted on his tongue.
"I don't know." She looked over her shoulder at him, and her lips twitched in a small smile. "Maybe."
"I would like that."
"Mmm. Goodbye… Caleb."
She left then, without another word, leaving nothing behind her but one black military button and the warm afterglow of love making.
Riza Hawkeye dropped her wet jacket on the back of her kitchen chair and pulled the clip out of her hair. It was still raining. She shook out her hair - it was down to the middle of her back, now - and toed off her shoes. Her head ached and her knee was bruised. She'd dropped down on it too quickly, too hard. She hadn't been thinking. The smell of gunpowder clung to her and she needed a bath.
But she moved through her small apartment to her bedroom instead and sank down onto her bed, ignoring the parts of her body that screamed out in pain. She dropped her holster onto the floor where it made a dull noise and was forgotten. The rain beat against her window, sounding much the same as it had beating against the street outside.
Her mind flashed to earlier, to the crowded street and the rapid shots of gunfire. She'd shot without thinking, and she'd shot to kill. And she'd do it again, if the chance presented itself. It hadn't mattered. They were saying he was invincible, the serial alchemist killer. They said he was a demon, he was possessed, he wasn't human.
He was human. And lucky. And he'd looked at her as though she were a stranger, across the rain slicked cobblestones, and she had done the same. And then she had shot at him, to cut him down before he could get close. Close to the Colonel.
She sighed, the pain in her head pounding. Even white haired and scarred, she had known him. She could remember him, standing in the temple in Ishbal, young and smiling and handsome. It had been long ago, too long. She rubbed her eyes with a tired hand and dropped her head into her hands. He couldn't run forever. He'd strike again, and so would they, and it would end one way or another. That was the way of it. He was a stranger to her now, and she to him. She was a soldier, he was a murderer and she had her duty. Both professional and personal.
She reached for a picture she kept beside her bed. Behind the clean glass frame were the smiling faces of her parents, grey and old and standing in front of their house in the country. And between them, grinning gap toothed and rosy cheeked, was a young girl with blond hair, strong features and dark crimson eyes- just like her father's.