Title: Thief of Hearts
Part: 1/1
Author: ibshafer
E-mail:
Rating: R
Character/Pairing: NoaXEd, EdXWinry
Disclaimer: I don't own these people, they own themselves and are just nice enough to let me spin them around the page now and then.
Summary: Noa can see into Edward soul, but is she prepared for what she finds there?
Spoilers: through the end of Conqueror of Shambala
Feedback: 'twould make me a happy FMA camper. Yes, please...

Thief of Hearts
ibshafer

He didn't belong to her and she knew that

She knew it in the same way she knew he didn't really inhabit the same world she, or anyone else around them, did. His heart and his mind were always elsewhere – would always be elsewhere – and she would not torture him, he who was already so very tortured, by trying to change that, by robbing him of that.

He needed that link to that otherwhere, needed to believe it was still there, even if he never saw it again.

The pain in him had eased somewhat since his brother had made the journey through the gate and joined him here and for that she thanked whatever maker it was that watched out for sinners, idiots and the lost, but he would always be just that: a lost soul; a puzzle with a piece missing; a sad young man with a gaping hole in his chest…

That he allowed her into his bed, night after night, she acknowledged with no small amount of gratitude; she needed the dreams that danced inside his head as much as she needed the feeling of his soft lips and nimble, mismatched hands on her heated skin.

She never, not for a single moment, believed she owned him. In a world where people are bought and sold like soulless possessions, a world in which her own people could settle on a price and hand her over without a second glance, she was the last person who would presume ownership.

He belonged to another world, to another pair of eyes, another smiling face. At times, she could even see in him, another still: this one darker, harder.

Her gift was an effective one – one that offered far more benefit than those that sought her talents, offering money and pretending gracious acceptance of who, and what, she was, could ever want or need. With a touch, she could see into an individual's thoughts, skim the surface of the cool, undisturbed lake that was their mind, dipping below the surface to trace the currents of deeper desire and longing. Drawing those desires into the air to dry in the sunlight, she would present them to her clients and they, grateful for this knowledge and what was the resounding confirmation of her gift, pressed gold and silver to her palm and begged still more insight. Which she granted. For a price.

And in this way she had lived. In this way she had learned to escape that which was expected of her, because of her skin and her race; people expected her to steal, they expected the ruse and the feint, to discover a prized possession missing from under their noses. She abhorred that expectation, of her people and of her, and she was grateful to her maker for giving her another way.

Though she never accepted any monies that were not offered her, she did steal from them, and while many mistrusted her, expecting her to take from their wallets and purses, from a free wrist or an ear lobe, they always left her grateful to have escaped with their possessions intact, never realizing that she'd taken from them a possession of more value than trinkets and cash: they did not expect her to steal from their hearts…

Ownership is a tricky thing. As a gypsy, she'd danced around that issue with tambourine ringing and skirts trailing.

Are you not bound by duty and love to provide for your family – to keep your children clothed and fed, to see to it that your husband, wife, mother, sister, is warm and safe at the end of the day? And are you not justified to fulfill this sacred duty by whatever means the Lord lays before you?

And, too, if you love, if you want and need it, desire it, cry for it, are you not obligated, by some spiritual law, by the heavens, by the stars, to take that which you need, regardless of prior claim of ownership? Does the maker truly give chances you aren't meant to take?

The first time she'd come to his bed, he had, in fact, been asleep.

She'd always found it easier to draw images from another's mind when they were in slumber, as though the waking consciousness was able to put up barriers of defense against her prying mind's eye.

Seeing him glowing in the moonlight, head back, body splayed against the thin blanket, her breath had caught in her throat. She had not expected to hesitate; she had come to take what she wanted from him – those glorious images of a life outside her knowing – but for a moment, she found herself questioning what that truly was.

With a deeper breath, she firmed her resolve; as beautiful as he was, and he was that, noble and, to her, always, warm and yielding, he was not a few years younger than her and vulnerable, hurting besides. To take advantage, to press him into some relation he had not initiated, to control him as she knew she could, she had not the stomach.

For he was beautiful, and warm, and yielding. And he had taken her part when no one else would. He had protected her and brought her into the home he had shared with his friend who was his brother but was not. He had looked at her with sad, amber eyes as though seeing her for someone else, somewhere else, and he had accepted her. Utterly. Without prejudice. Without reservation. He alone did not see the gypsy, did not see her dark skin and colorful dress and shrink back in fear and mistrust.

He saw only her. And she was helpless before him.

Mere days passed – and she loved him.

And yet, in spite of the helpless feeling that fluttered in the pit of her stomach when he'd reach for her hand in the street to show her in a shop window some book he'd seen – it was always books with him – or to a street vendor's cart where the sweets and fruit display made a call to his ever empty stomach, she would not lead him. With him she must not press. She could have his heart if she willed it, with the toss of a hip or a fingertip to his wondering lips, but she would never know if he had truly fallen for her, or was just caught in the mystique of her birth, as so many men had fallen to so many gypsy women in the past. And to have him, to keep him, to truly cherish him, he must give himself of his own accord.

She'd had no intent beyond drinking in more of his life and that other country on the other side of his gate, of the people and world he loved, of the land where magic was called alchemy, revered and accepted.

She went to his bed with that intent alone.

Hovering over him, ignoring the heady scent of cinnamon from the strudel he'd bought for their dessert, and a strong, pungent odor she knew came from the grease he applied to his false arm's joints before going to bed, an oddly affecting combination which threatened to undo her before she'd even begun, she had pressed her forehead to his, felt his soft, sleeping breath on her face, closed her eyes and Seen.

…she saw a hilltop covered with grasses buffeted by spring winds; a smiling brown-eyed boy tumbling down a hill to lay joyously laughing at its base; a dog with a curious foreleg, not dissimilar to his own, barking its excitement over a stick waved by a chubby pink hand; a young girl, pale and blond, wide blue eyes dancing in mirth, tiny feet skipping around him, hands catching him as she circled, drawing him to her, swinging him round.

She felt his joy in all these remembrances, reveled, pleaded for more, was rewarded.

…a metal hand far more graceful than that currently resting at his side lay supported on a cushioned rest, its workings being probed and moved by the nimble fingers of a lithe young woman with focused blue eyes and streaming blond hair; his breath catches in his chest, both at the pain he knows is to come, and at the proximity of the girl and the bared expanse of her belly, smooth and brown and smelling of that same grease and something else she cannot place at first – cinnamon? A difficult juncture tamed, a hand at his back and shoulder to brace for it, and she pulls hard drawing the limb into connection. The pain is blinding and she holds on to him tightly, running soothing hands across his shoulders and down his back, speaking softly into his ear, breath warm, words sweeter than he is used to and as the pain in his shoulder recedes, another, lower, takes its place…

Laying over him now, pressed into him, against him, she feels a change in his body, a response to the things he is dreaming, remembering, and his chest expands, moving powerfully beneath her and her resolve knows weakness.

She had not meant to kiss him.

She had not meant for him to ever know she had been in his room, in his bed. If he knew she had been there, what she wanted of him, she may never be able to be this way with him again. And she needed that more than her freedom and her life.

And though she had not meant to invade him in that way, when she felt heat beneath her, when the memories in his head running freely into hers, brought still more changes in him, she at last breathed deeply, of his cinnamon (her cinnamon?) and oil and the salt of his skin and she kissed him.

And with not the slightest hesitation or resistance, he had drawn her tongue against his own, slid a metal hand through her hair and kissed her deeply and long. When after a breathless moment she had drawn away to trace the line of his glorious jaw with the tip of her tongue, he had smiled, eyes still closed, and breathed a name.

And it was not hers'.

"Winry…"

She had frozen, at once realizing that he was still in his head and while she was there with him, she was also here in his bed, feeling his hands roam her back, scraping at the thin cotton of her night dress, feeling him shift beneath her and press himself, insistent, to the void between her thighs, and she could not.

In her life as the thief of thoughts, of hopes and dreams, of lives she could never live, she had drawn breath to accept these things as easily as she accepted coin and paper. But she could not take from him this one thing, this memory that spawned desire born of loss and pain.

She had drawn away then, nearly undone by the small grieving sound her absence elicited from the back of his throat, but moving slowly, softly, she saw, too, that he was still in his slumber and so, without a sound, she slid from the room, leaving him to his dreams and his desire…

Of course, she had gone back to him, the next night and every night after and each night it was the same; a different path of memories, but one that always lead back to the girl and the smile. She could not tell if these were realities he was seeing, or the fevered fantasies that had lulled him to sleep, spent, each night. She came to drink in what ever libation he offered, grateful for it, sometimes touching him, always wanting to, until the night when his dreamed desires and her waking ones, were so strong as to pull him back across the void of slumber…

He'd awakened, eyes wide, face flushed in the moonlight, drawing back against the headboard, her name, finally her name, on his lips.

"Noa?"

But then she had soothed his fears, in that way she'd been born to, placed a long finger to his wondering lips and sweetly, silently, reassured him: she'd pulled herself back and started for the door and had nearly gained the hallway and its dark and silent refuge when…

"Noa…"

She had shivered then, because his voice had been filled with the longing she'd felt him live in his dreams, with a need so great, he had bared his soul to it.

He was not a fool. He knew what she did – what she saw in people. He knew what she saw in him, that she was drunk with want for it. In his face, in his posture, she saw acceptance of that need, an understanding that in this she sought to take without removing that which she desired. To share.

Brows knit above amber eyes, a false hand reaching towards her, he had pleaded with a single word – her name…

"Noa…"

And she had run to him, come to him, kissed his hands, both heated and cool, kissed his face, now wet with tears she knew he did not easily shed, to his temples, to his memories, alive beneath her lips, and she had loved him, drawn him to her, made him cry out even as those memories, still floating across the surface of his mind's dark water, made him cry out and another face, her face, blue eyes filled with love and longing, sang a song her heart broke to hear.

Oh, God, how to bear this?

Could she take from him? Give to him borrowed adoration? Could she be this for him and not want it for herself? Did it matter if she did…

Feeling his breath slow against her neck, his hands find lazy purchase in her scalp, she kissed his throat, smiled at the sound it drew from him, and accepted.

This may not be all there was to him, this man, this Edward Elric, but if this was all he had to give, to share with her, dreams of a girl he loved in his heart, but never in his life, if she could brings these dreams to flesh with heated breath, and skilled fingers and the damp recesses she'd shared with only a few in her life, she would do so willingly.

In this she sensed equivalency, an exchange that he found satisfying on more than just the one level.

She felt as he did, and not just because she saw what he saw.

She gained this other country she had longed for, memories of a life that was not hers, but that gave her love and sacrifice and loss and regret and acceptance and still more love, while in her hand, in this world, it gave her peace and satisfaction and his sweet mouth beneath hers each night when she came to him.

In the darkness of that room, while the stilled house sighed and shifted around them, it brought a single word, in a voice breathless from release…

"Noa…"

fin