If you came here hoping for a RosexScar pairing, I'm sorry, it isn't.

I sort of hinted about doing this a while back, so here it is :/ Not being as familiar with the 2003 anime, I am basing Rose on the manga/Brotherhood version.

Oh, and I don't own FMA. Well, I own the Brotherhood dvd series and the OVAs, but I paid for those with my own money.


Chapter One

Like a sapling rising from the dead roots of a once great tree, Liore grew and thrived once more. Having rebuilt it practically from the ground up, healing its wounds and restoring its ravished honor, its citizens justly took pride in their city.

Rose was no exception. Having suffered loss and betrayal, she healed along with the city. When she found the strength to finally support herself on her own two legs and feel comfortable on them, her path before her seemed clear. Her friends and neighbors needed her, if only for a warm smile of encouragement or nourishing food while they all worked together. She didn't think it was much, but not being on the receiving end of it, she didn't realize its great value. Many of her fellow citizens joked that it wasn't mortar that held the bricks of Liore together, it was Rose's stew.

At the end of the day, when everyone else had gone home to their families and some well-deserved rest, Rose would often lie awake, conscious of the small but empty spot deep in her heart, her only company. She would like to think that she had finally come to terms with Patrick's death, but she knew that no amount of community spirit, camaraderie, or hometown loyalty would ever entirely compensate.

The trip to Ed and Winry's wedding had been a welcome change. It was the first time she had travelled away from Liore, and although she had been nervous, it had proved to be an enjoyable adventure. Then she came home, back to her usual routine, and found it somehow lacking. She thought the feeling would wear off after a while, but even after nearly two years went by, she was still plagued by a small but nagging dissatisfaction. She loved Liore, she loved her neighbors and friends, and she even loved her old boss, Wilfred. But she needed a change, and she knew the itch wouldn't go away unless she scratched it.

One fall morning she was flipping through the paper between the morning rush and the lunch rush, nibbling on a buttermilk cruller. She gave the front page news, nothing too earth-shattering, a cursory glance. There were some interesting letters to the editor, some of them intelligent, some of them just nutballs ranting. She smiled when she got to the society page. Above the left-hand column was a photo of the Member of Parliament for Ishval, Mr. Shua, as taken at one of his favorite "haunts." Some of these celebrity shots could be rather unflattering, but Mr. Shua was favoring the camera with a broad, rakish grin. Rose couldn't help but grin back.

She had seen him at Ed and Winry's wedding, and although she didn't actually introduce herself to him or he to her, he seemed to encompass everyone around him as a friend. At one point, she actually bumped into him while looking the other way. He spun around and gripped her shoulders as though afraid she was going to topple over.

"Are you all right, love?" he asked her quickly with sincere concern.

She assured him that she was fine, and he gave her one of those grins. It was a nice moment. She had thereafter kept up with his colorful career whenever it was featured in the newspaper. Below the photo was a brief interview that Shua granted on the fly. The reporter asked him what he was up to lately, which was something he got asked a lot. Often he would simply wink and reply with Oh, this and that. This time, however, he mentioned that he and a partner were opening up a bed and breakfast in Ishval this very autumn, just in time for cooler weather. He said it was loaded with exotic charm.

"Exotic charm, huh?" Wilfred said as he read over her shoulder. "Sounds like another word for outdoor plumbing."

"We had that here for a while," Rose reminded him.

"Yeah, and there weren't nothin' charming about it," Wilfred said with a snort.

Rose folded up the paper and continued with her work, but the article stuck stubbornly with her. The itch grew itchier. She read the brief comment about the bed and breakfast again when she went home from work in the late afternoon when the lunch counter closed. She went back downstairs to the lobby of her apartment building where there was a telephone for the tenant's use. She considered it for a moment, then picked it up and dialed the zero.

"Number, please?"

"Well," Rose answered hesitantly, "I'm not sure. I don't actually have a number, but I want to reach a place in Ishval."

"Then I'll connect you with the exchange there. One moment please."

There was a click and then silence. Rose felt her heart speed up a little with excitement. She felt like she was doing something very daring. After another couple of clicks, another voice came on.

"Number, please!" This operator sounded much younger than the last one Rose spoke to, and she also sounded a lot more cheerful. That was a good sign.

"I'm afraid I don't have a number," Rose replied. "I read somewhere that a bed and breakfast hotel was going to be opening there, so…uh…is it open?"

The operator gave a quick laugh. This might not be such a good sign. "Well, they've been trying," the girl said. "But they just got their telephone installed and there might actually be someone there to answer it. Would you like me to connect you?"

"Yes, please!"

After another few clicks, Rose heard the sound of a telephone ringing and she felt another surge of excitement. It rang several times. It rang some more. Rose's excitement started to wilt and she considered hanging up. Then, with a bit of a clatter, the ringing stopped and was replaced with the breathless, rushed voice of a young man.

"Hello…I mean…who is…" There were a few muttered words that Rose couldn't make out, then the voice continued with greater confidence and determination. "Thank you for calling the Desert Dove Hotel! How can I help you?"

Rose's excitement came back swinging. "Oh! Yes! I read about this hotel in the newspaper, and I—"

"You did? Really?" The young man sounded surprised.

"Uh…yes. I was reading a piece about Mr. Shua. You know, the Member of Parliament—"

"Oh, I know Zhaarad Shua, all right," the young man replied with a chuckle. Then he sighed. "He's not happy with us right now. See, we were supposed to open by the time the harvest festival starts next weekend-"

"Harvest festival?" Rose exclaimed, intrigued.

"Oh, yes!" the young man said enthusiastically. "You see, they used to have them way, way back. Back before the Great Earthquake. So we're bringing it back, since the Halik's been flowing so well and the crops have been so good, thank Ishvala. That's the whole point, really. But it's gonna be fun! Well, there'll be some speeches and the like, which will probably be boring, but there'll be music and dancing and singing in the streets, and the best food you've ever had! Zhaarad Shua especially wanted to be up and running by then."

"But you won't be?" Rose asked, her hope sinking once more. She wanted to go now more than ever.

"Well, we've got a roof over our heads and a floor under our feet," the young man said, "which was good enough for us once. But this isn't for us, this is for fancy Amestrians like yourself-"

Rose let out a laugh. "Oh, I'm not fancy at all!"

The young man laughed in return. "Well, you know what I mean." He paused for a few moments. "You know what?" he continued, sounding as though he was drawing her into a clever conspiracy. "If you really want to come for the festival, I'll make sure there's a room ready for you."

Rose drew in a quick gasp. "Really?"

"Oh, yes! Let's see. Today's Thursday. By Monday, I promise I'll have a room all ready! You'll be our first customer!"

Rose nearly giggled. "I will definitely take you up on that offer! Oh, and how much is it a night?"

"Oh…uh…let me see…" There was the faint sound of paper rustling. "I've got a list here, because it's supposed to change with the seasons…Here, I tell you what! Since you'll be our first guest ever, I'll give you a special rate, cheaper than the summer rate. How does that sound?"

"That sounds fine!" Rose agreed. She gave a little laugh. "You know, you're good at this!"

"Ah, thanks, Zhaarana," the young man replied. "I pulled folks all over Ishval for four years, so I know what they want and I know where to find it. But after a while, your feet get tired, you know?"

"Yes, I guess they would," Rose said. She wasn't entirely sure what he was talking about, but he seemed like a bright, promising fellow. "You sound like a regular factotum."

The young man was silent for a moment. "A what?"

Rose smiled. "That's someone who does everything."

The young man laughed. "That's me, all right! I like the sound of that! Anyhow, we'll be looking forward to your arrival!" the young man said cheerfully. "Oh! Hold on! Can I get your name, please?"

"Yes. It's Rose Thomas."

She could hear the young man very softly spelling out the letters as he apparently wrote them down. She heard him whisper T—O—M.

"That's with an H," she corrected him politely.

"Oh. Where?"

"After the T."

"T—H—O—M—A—S?"

"That's right."

The young gave a sheepish little laugh. "Sorry! Guess I should have paid a little more attention in school. I got told that enough times."

"That's all right," Rose said. "And what's your name?"

"Me? My name's Atash."

"Well, I want to thank you very, very much, Atash!" Rose declared. "I really appreciate you going to so much trouble for me."

"Oh, it's no trouble at all, Zhaarana!" Atash assured her. "None at all! We'll see you next week!"

"Thanks, Atash. Good-bye!"

Rose hung up the phone and sat back in the chair, feeling like a seasoned traveler. She would have to break the news to Wilfred in the morning, and after grumbling about it for a while, he'd take it like a martyr.

888

"You did what?"

Atash glared back at Stanno. "We were supposed to be open by now anyway!"

"But you didn't even talk to me about it first!" Stanno slammed his beer bottle down on the table. The other patrons in the small tavern at one end of Kanda's marketplace glanced over at the carpenter, then looked away, hiding grins or shaking their heads. Stanno came here practically every evening and it was the first place Atash looked for him.

"She's a customer!" Atash snapped back."I'm not gonna turn away a customer because you just wanna sit around on your lazy-"

Stanno jabbed a finger at him. "You can go back to pulling a 'shaw, you know!"

Atash threw his hands in the air. "Then nothing would ever get done! Who had to talk the builders into coming back whenever they got sick of you? You with your ooh-look-at-me-I'm-a-master-craftsman! They're craftsmen too, you know! And they worked faster than you did!"

"Bricklayers!" Stanno sneered. "A master craftsman doesn't do rush jobs. I take pride in my work. Now I'm busy getting my inventory ready for the festival."

"You're busy stuffing your face!" Atash waved his hand impatiently at the plate of food in front of the carpenter. "And who's gonna buy all your crap if there aren't any visitors 'cause there's no damn hotel for them to stay at?" he countered. He regarded Stanno with contempt. "You're just sore because it was Shua's idea and not yours!"

"That is a pile of goat dung," Stanno replied matter-of-factly. "Just like that stuff between your ears."

Abuse tended to roll off Atash like water off a duck. He planted his palms determindedly on the table. "Look, Zhaarad, just leave it to me! The plumbing and the wiring in the north end is all connected. That end's as good as ready. We just need to make sure one room has all its linens and has a rug and a lamp and a bit of furniture. Oh, and we need to hire someone to make up the rooms and do the cleaning."

"Why can't you do that?"

"Because I can't do everything!" Atash thought for a moment, then he shrugged. "Well, actually, I can. But, well, that's women's work, Zhaarad!"

"You should be good at that."

"No, see, I know a girl."

Stanno stuffed a piece of flatbread into his mouth and talked around it. "Ishvala help us!"

Atash drew himself up. "She's a good girl from a nice family!"

"Aren't they all?" Stanno muttered. He reached for his beer, then looked back up at Atash. "This is your girl you're talking about, right?"

Atash put on a stubborn, defensive look. "So?"

"The one who's still in school?"

"So?"

"So, Andakar's not gonna let her ditch school to work for me, of all people."

"She doesn't have to ditch school!" Atash argued. Then he shrugged, not so confidently. "Well, maybe just a little. Look, don't worry about that! She'll talk to Zhaarad Andakar."

Stanno gave a derisive snort. "Good luck to her, then. She can flutter her eyelashes all she wants, it won't work with him." He smirked. "I know. I've tried."

Atash stared at him dubiously. "Really?"

"No, you idiot!" Stanno sat back in his chair and gave a long, weary sigh. "Fine, kid. Just go do what you need to do. But if anything goes wrong, it'll be on your head."

888

"No."

Pashmina quickened her step to keep up with the headmaster, since he was making no concession to slow down for her. "But why not?"

"Because right now, you should be concentrating on your school work." Scar gave her a mildly severe glance. "And you need to concentrate a little more than others, laleh."

Pashmina stuck out her lower lip and gave Scar a wounded look. He closed his eyes and shook his head.

"Don't do that. I didn't mean it unkindly. And aren't you supposed to be learning how to weave when you're not in school?"

Pashmina gave a dramatic groan. "I hate weaving! It's so boring! Anyway," she went on with little concern, "Auntie's busy teaching my sister. She'll need to know more than me. She'll have a hard time finding a husband because she's plain and I'm not."

Scar halted his stride and quickly lifted his palm to his mouth, blowing on it sharply. "Shehai li Ishvala! This from one of my students?" He turned to glare down at the girl. "Listen to me, laleh! Weaving is an art that has lasted from antiquity. Time won't be so kind to your pretty looks!"

Pashmina's mouth dropped open and she stamped her foot. "Zhaarad Andakar, you're so mean!"

"I am not mean," Scar replied with austere calm. "I am worried. I worry about all of you. I worry about how you'll live your lives after you've left school. That's why I'm trying to teach you more than how to spell and how to count. I'm trying to teach you how to make wise decisions. I want you to have a secure future."

"But I already know exactly what I'm going to do, Zhaarad!" Pashmina argued readily. "This is my last year of school—"

"If you're lucky."

"What?"

Scar shook his head. "Nothing."

Pashmina gave her hair a toss and went on. "And then I'm going to marry Atash!"

"Ai, Ishvala!" Scar muttered despairingly, continuing on his way. "He's another one."

Pashmina bridled defensively. "Atash is smart!"

"He's clever," Scar replied. "It's not the same thing."

"But it's just as good! He told me he's a factotum," Pashmina declared, enunciating the word proudly.

Scar nearly stumbled to a halt. "He told you what?"

Pashmina smiled brightly up at him. "He's a factotum. That's somebody who can do everything!"

"Not quite. It's a servant who is hired to do everything."

Pashmina shrugged, unperturbed. "He can still do everything."

"He can't find Drachma on a map."

Pashmina rolled her eyes. "Well, who'd want to go there, anyway?"

Scar considered the girl for several moments with a stern, thoughtful look. She cocked her head a little to one side and gave him her sweetest, sunniest smile.

His eyes narrowed and he raised a warning finger. "Mark this well, Pashmina. You are struggling with your grades. No matter what sort of plans you've come up with, I will not allow you to fail in school. I'm not happy with the notion of you becoming a maidservant—"

Pashmina saw the door crack open and she jumped in to give it a push. She clutched Scar's forearm with both hands. "But I'm not going to be a maidservant! I'm going to be Head of Housekeeping!"

"—and I'm even less happy about you working for Stanno."

"Oh, Zhaarad Stanno hardly even steps foot in the hotel anymore," Pashmina put in quickly. "Atash said once he was done getting sawdust all over the place, he's got no time for it. Atash says he's just a lazy old sinner."

Scar kept his expression as stern as he could even though a muscle at the corner of his mouth gave a little twitch. "He's still the chieftain of Kanda."

"Anyway, Atash says he'll practically be running the hotel on his own." She gave Scar a soulful, pleading gaze. "That's why he needs me!"

Scar gave a deep sigh of resignation. "Well, if you're going to do this, you should put your best effort into it. If you give me your solemn word that you'll keep up with your studies and raise your grades, I'll allow you one hour from school a day, either in the morning or the afternoon. But you must let me and your other teachers know which it will be. And you must have your aunt's permission."

"I promise I will!" Pashmina gave a couple of happy little bounces. "Oh, thank you, Zhaarad Andakar! I knew you'd say yes! You're so sweet!"

Scar disengaged his arm from her and put it around her shoulders as they continued on. "I thought I was mean," he growled dryly.

888

Wilfred's face drooped sorrowfully as though it aged ten years in a few seconds. "But…but you just got back from the last trip!"

Rose tried not to roll her eyes. "Willie, that was a couple of years ago."

Wilfred rolled his shoulders mulishly. "I'm still getting over it."

Rose gave a quiet sigh. "I need to do this, Willie. I'm not trying to make you unhappy. I already talked to Suzanne. She'll cover for me while I'm gone." She grabbed Wilfred's hands in both of hers. "Please don't make this so hard. You'll be fine! The counter will be fine! Liore will be fine!"

Wilfred gave a mournful sniff. "I'm gonna miss you, Rosie-girl."

Rose smiled affectionately and hugged him. "I'm not leaving forever, Willie."

"Well…" Wilfred stepped back and took a swipe at his nose with his cleaning rag. He then settled his cap on his head, a sign that he was ready to meet a challenge. He shook a finger at her. "You watch what you eat when you're there! And make sure you boil the water! And don't wander off alone! There could be bandits or some other bloody-minded folk out there in the desert, ready to snatch up pretty girls like you and take 'em off somewhere and…well, never mind…and…and…look out for wild critters and such, and—"

Rose laughed. "Willie! It's going to be fine! It's a perfectly civilized place! I'll send you a postcard and I'll bring you back a nice present!"

Wilfred jerked his chin at her. "You just bring yourself back in one piece, Rosie-girl."


Yes, I named Atash's girlfriend after a hamster, but the name popped into my head and it just stuck. Pashmina is a kind of wool, and she's pretty wooly-headed.