Disclaimer: Characters and world not mine, not making any money off of this.
Warnings: This fic deals with religious themes. Please keep in mind that the characters are not the author, and any religious views expressed in this fic are not necessarily mine.
Spoilers: Full series spoilers, you have been warned.
Sacred and Profane
"Come now, you wouldn't want this lovely bath water to go to waste."
Dante smiled in a distracted manner as she waved her hand at the sunken tub. Bathing was a luxury now, water hard to find. But for the Holy Mother, there was water. For the Holy Mother, there was everything that she could possibly want or need. And the mute girl never argued with Dante - her eyes never protested. It made things so much easier, really. Silent pawns were the most agreeable.
Dante moved to undress the desert girl. White linen fell away from dusky, sun-kissed skin to puddle on the floor, and the shadows of evening fell across rounded curves - breasts and hips swollen and soft. Such a perfect body, so inviting and ripe. Dante's eyes passed over it, taking in each graceful line and swell.
"In you go," she urged, fingers brushing the soft roundel of a shoulder. So smooth. So unblemished. Dante shuddered as the water - blessed by ten dozen different 'holy men' - slid over Rose's thighs, lapping at her exquisite skin like a lover's lips. The reflection of the candles wavered in the surface of the water. Rose slipped into the water without a sound, head bowed as though in prayer. The steam of the bath water obscured her, muting her figure in ethereal wisps.
Such a perfect body. When was the last time I had a body so appealing? Dante rolled up her sleeves, frowning as her eyes were dragged to the raw, red patch of rotting flesh below her elbow. It was spreading. The filthy disease was spreading. She could feel it working through her skin, stripping and devouring. The body had been flawless when Dante took it. Perhaps it was the skin disease of the desert, the one that drove the afflicted to seek isolation. Or perhaps the strain of the alchemy needed to take the body was simply too much for it. Human bodies were such weak and fragile things.
There was no sound in the bathing chamber but the soft lapping of water. Dante cupped her hands beneath it and wetted Rose' skin and hair, watching as the crystalline droplets collected on her back. It was so easy for hands to follow the water, to slide over the twin slopes of Rose's shoulders and down the narrow planes of her back. Even in the desert, her skin was soft. For the Holy Mother there were ointments and oils, perfumed treasures that Dante lovingly rubbed into the girl's skin. Rose would stretch naked on the small cot, and Dante would kneel beside her and knead her flesh, working in the scented oils with delicate hands. It was a holy duty, much envied, and Dante couldn't help but smile as her hands passed along Rose's thighs. So soft, so inviting….
The mute holy girl never protested. Her head never turned in fear, her body never tensed. Dante's fingers were slow and soothing, caressing the insides of Rose's thighs and massaging the soft swell of her buttocks. Did the girl even understand the liberties that Dante took? Was she aware, as she sighed softly and lifted her hips, what it was that Dante's fingers were doing? It hardly mattered.
Now, bent over the edge of the sunken tub in the old and broken church that was their home, Dante's hands began their travels. They paused on flared hips, making small circles beneath the water. Rose remained still. Such a perfect, perfect little puppet girl. Dante closed her eyes, her fingers creeping further downwards, brushing against the silky soft skin of Rose's inner thighs.
Dante turned, her hands jerking out of the water as though she'd been burnt. She rose to her feet, her hands dripping wet with warm, scented water. How dare he bother them now! These moments with Rose were few and far between, and Dante had been enjoying herself among the scented clouds and flickering candles.
"Yes?" She ducked her head around the curtain the separated the bathing chamber from the bedroom. The scarred man, her false prophet, stood with head lowered and eyes burning.
"The crowds are growing restless."
"The Holy Mother needs her rest," Dante said, her voice soft and sweet. She could play the part so well. Everyone saw what they wanted to see - a kind, caring young woman who had turned her back on the country of her birth to aide the plight of these poor people. And she spoke for the Holy Mother, and in their eyes she was a holy woman. How little they truly knew.
"They wish to see her."
"In the morning," Dante promised, soothingly. She stepped beyond the curtain and offered the scarred prophet a small smile. "She needs her rest. As do you."
"I do not rest. Lyra….?"
"Hmm?" Dante blinked mildly at the man. She followed his eyes to her arm and clasped her hand over the red rot she had failed to cover. Her eyes narrowed some. "God weakens the body to strengthen the soul," she said, the easy lie sliding off of her tongue without a thought. She didn't believe in any god, only used that belief to her own gains. Humans were too quick to place their trust in some higher power, and too quick to be exploited by it. The power that Scar and Rose held over the people of Lior only proved it. They were her most powerful pieces at the moment, placed perfectly for her to move to take her prize.
"Your skin is dropping from your bones!"
"We must suffer to grow stronger. It's only my body that is poisoned." Dante took his hand and guided it over the raw patch, resting his palm over her tortured skin. His hand was large and calloused, and as brown as the holy girl's.
"And you touch her with these hands?"
"It won't harm her." The rot had been there for weeks, and Rose's skin was as pure and smooth as ever. "See? It's my affliction, no one else's."
"You should not touch her," Scar repeated. His hand against Dante's spoiled flesh was warm. How long had it been since she'd known the touch of a man?
"But I must," Dante responded. "You know as well as I do that God will protect her." She strained closer, seeking the heat of Scar's body. "It's only a small blight. Has your skin begun to burn from touching it? Do you feel yourself afflicted?" She could smell him now, sweat and sand and stale gunpowder. He said nothing, only growled beneath his breath. Dante pressed herself against him, her slim body molding against his.
"You see?" she whispered. "There is no harm in it." The rough fabric of his simple garments scratched at her cheek. They were stained and musky, the reek of them both appalling and pleasing at once. He did not move, only stood as she leaned into him, his fingers tightening over the fetid redness of dying tissue upon her arm. He would be a fine lover, if she so desired him.
"But if you truly worry so for our Holy Mother," Dante went on, turning her face into his chest. "Perhaps you would prefer to bathe her yourself?"
"Temptress." The word was spit with little venom. Dante stifled a laugh. The scarred prophet didn't know the first thing about temptation. She could teach him, she supposed. But she had no desire to risk upsetting or alienating him. Zealots had the oddest notions about intimacy.
"Does this tempt you?" She was doing nothing more than pressing her body against his. Her small breasts were crushed against his chest, her narrow hip pressed against his thigh. His body was hard and strong beneath hers. He laughed, a harsh and bitter laugh.
"No," he said, darkly. "I have resisted greater temptations than you."
Dante only smiled and pulled away, tipping her head up to kiss his jaw chastely. She was no fool. She took a personal interest in this prophet with his alchemical arm for a reason. She knew what temptations he spoke of.
There was a soft noise behind them. Dante turned, her short hair swishing around her ears. Rose stood, a loose cloth wrapped around her dripping wet body. She was looking at them with curious eyes. How much had she seen? Had she seen Dante pressed against the scarred man like a lover?
"You'll catch a chill." Scar spoke and moved before Dante had finished her thoughts, brushing by her to wrap the 'holy' woman in a warm shawl. Dante observed, noting how Rose tilted up her head and smiled as Scar's arms went around her. There were none of those smiles for Dante. Oh, there were small smiles of gratitude, but none so warm and adoring. Perhaps she would have the scarred man as a lover, once she took Rose's body for her own.
Could the Ishbalan prophet resist that temptation, Dante wondered. She watched silently, her eyes fixing on Scar's hands as they tied the shawl about Rose's body. They trembled, ever so slightly. Had he brushed against one of Rose's plump breasts? The thin cloth of the towel did little to shield Rose's body. They made a striking couple, the desert holy figures. And such a way to bind the people…
Dante's lips curved up in a thin smile. She rolled down her sleeves and joined the two as they stood, Rose's smiling face meeting Scar's perplexed one.
"Let me help you dry," Dante said quietly. She moved about the room like a ghost, small claps of her hands bringing more flames to life. The shadows wavered and flickered in the still-rising steam. Scar had dropped his hands from Rose's chest and they lay against his thighs now, tense as he had been when Dante pressed herself against him. She could see the tendons standing out beneath his skin.
"There we are, nice and warm," Dante continued, pulling at the shawl that Scar had so carefully draped about Rose. She heard Scar's inhaled breath. The dampness had seeped through the thin towel, and it clung to Rose's supple body. Her rounded breasts and dark nipples were enticing shadows against the white cloth, her plump hips and abdomen stretched the material, turning it from a simple bit of cloth to sensual shroud.
Scar turned his head away, eyes diverted in respect as Dante removed the last shield between Rose's skin and the air. Rose shivered - the draft from the high window raised bumps on her skin and flickered the candle flames. Dante dried her skin carefully, hands lingering on breasts and thighs and buttocks.
Was the scarred man watching, out of the corner of his eye? Did he resist temptation still? No. His eyes were still downcast. What would he think of her laying hands on his precious Rose, if he knew what she truly was? Would he strike her away, protecting the girl from filthy hands? Would he stand by and let such sinful fingers so close to the girl's flesh? If he only knew…
Dante retrieved the white shift from where it rested, folded neatly and waiting its owner. She pulled it over Rose's head, the soft linen billowing about the girl's body like a cloud.
"Scar?" Dante glanced up with properly shy and chastised eyes. "My fingers… I can't tie the Holy Mother's shift…?"
They were so easy to manipulate, to place where she wanted them. She was only a poor girl stricken with leprosy, her poor hands didn't work very well. Scar stepped forward, eyes downcast, to tie the drawstring at the neck of Rose's shift. The heel of his palm brushed her breast and his jaw tightened. His hand stayed where it was, Rose's chest rising and falling as she breathed, pressing the swell of her breast into his hand. He stared down at her as though he were an animal caught in a trap.
Just take her, you foolish man. You want her, so take her. She isn't going to deny you. It would be a neat solution to so many little problems. But they were such silly, naïve humans. Rose was flushing, pretty pink blossoms spreading over her cheeks. Her head titled up to him, nervous and shy. Scar cleared his throat and stepped away, his hands dropping once more. It was an awkward mating dance, this half-courtship between the cursed prophet and the mute priestess. They spoke with their eyes and with careful, reverent touches- as though both were afraid the other would break. Dante found it both amusing and frustrating.
"There we are," she said, tucking Rose's hair back behind her ears. The girl was still watching the man with pink cheeks and lowered lids. Were she not so innocent, it would have been flirtatious.
"Thank you, Scar." Dante smiled softly at him.
He only nodded, tightly. Did his skin still burn from where he touched her? He handled her as though she were a sacred relic, so venerating and serious. Would he make love to her in the same way? Would his hands caress her body as though in worship? Would he take her silently, his eyes closed as if he were praying? Would it be a holy experience, one removed from flesh to the realm of divine? And did he want her because he found her pleasing, or because by touching her he felt close to his god? Dante didn't know, and she hardly cared.
"Could you take her to bed?" Dante asked, her voice and face the prefect mask of innocence. Rose's eyes were downcast. She stood so still she could have been a statue, some ancient priestess from a long dead past.
"I have things I must do." Scar's voice was tight. He nodded to Rose and turned, his gait stiff and hurried. Such a proper holy man, he was! Dante sighed and draped her arms over Rose's shoulders, embracing her from behind.
"Such a silly man," she whispered into Rose's ear. "Don't worry," she promised, pressing her lips to Rose's cheek in a kiss. So soft, so smooth. Dante tightened her arms around Rose's soft body, pulling her back against her. Rose went limp in her arms. "He'll come around sooner or later," she promised, nuzzling Rose's neck.
And if he didn't, there were other men out there who could serve all of Dante's needs.