What He Never Said
By Anne Whynn
##WARNING! Spoilers for the end of the NWN2 original campaign. Read at your own risk!##
Slightly AU, with a different romance option
Done because I love Sand…
The flicking of pages was loud in the silence of the room, broken intermittently by the scratching of a quill. That was all his life had become, nowadays, between selling his wares at the growing Crossroad Keep, where merchants on the road paid good coin for scrolls, items and potions.
Strenuous study. A wizard's life.
Somehow now, though, it felt… incomplete.
Though he may have complained at the time, there was something invigorating about studying ancient tomes for mysterious relics and locations and solutions to hopeless situations. Even pouring over years of legal documentation overnight had held some reward… of a sort.
Now it was study. Record keeping. Experimentation. No urgency. No pressure. Menial and… boring day-to-day activities that had no variation.
Sand sighed and leant back in his chair, placing the quill down slowly. Once he had reveled in such tedious activities. Loved the predictability of his life. But now… things had changed. He had changed.
Everything had changed.
It had never been the same since the conflict with the King of Shadows…
No white-haired woman broke down his door at the crack of dawn to demand he get dressed, for they were on the road in an hour. No more nights sleeping on uncomfortable bedding, feeling rocks digging into his kidneys. No more week-long journeys into ruins in the vague hope to find some form of salvation from a kingdom centuries forgotten.
No more fear of certain death… No more fluttering joy as a new thread of hope was grasped, frail but tangible.
Now he was forced to return to a life that he had once loved ardently, but now found so very dissatisfying.
He cursed his newfound restlessness.
He cursed his inability to return to his quiet life.
He cursed the need to.
He cursed… No. No he would never… ever curse the time he had spent with her. Only his stupidity that had prevent it from being everything it should have been.
Even now it was painful to think about, so many months on. The ache in his chest was foreign, unfamiliar to him. It went beyond the flesh, beyond the reach of blade and magic. It was… as if it was in his very soul. It was a malignant creature that sat in his consciousness, waiting for her face to surface in his mind, at which point it would drive its claws into the very essence of his being.
A gasp escaped him as, predictably, the pain swamped his senses and he placed his hand over his heart.
Gods and Goddesses preserve me, he willed to the heavens. How long can I survive with this torment?
But… he knew, in his heart of hearts, that he deserved it.
Yes. This pain proved he had a heart. Broken, shattered and spread out on the floor under his own feet, his own mistakes, crushing it beyond recognition.
Because of her…
A single step into Duncan's inn had changed his life forever, as his eyes fell on the tiny half-Drow female standing opposite Duncan. In the beginning she had been naught but a wary curiosity. Even a lesser learned creature knew well the reputation of the Drow and he could not help but wonder which parent was the dark elf.
But those eyes, vivid green and impossibly bright, had held none of the hostility of that race. Instead, they had turned to him in response to his caustic comment, an amused expression crossing her face as a single, thin brow arched upwards.
Sand was not a creature given to such emotions that would cause him to be besotted, but damned if he wasn't intrigued then and there. Such interested only intensified as the time wore on.
He found quickly that she, unlike most people, was never offended at his words. Rather, she took his acerbic nature with that same amused demeanor as she had when they had first met, with glittering eyes and a secret smile. Indeed, she had often clashed rhetorical blades with him and, more often than not, backed him into a corner.
Something that he had rarely encountered, not in such a way. Either it was intimidation or sheer force that silenced Sand. She was one of the few, if not only, beings that could shut him up whilst making him smile.
He! Smile! Surely wonders still existed.
Nerridah was Sand's match in wit that was for sure.
Or… she had been.
Shaking himself physically, Sand leant back over his work and tried to copy out notes once more. But he found the words blurring before his eyes strangely and he could not concentrate.
Lifting his slender fingers to his face, he rubbed at his eyes irritably. When he withdrew his hand, moistness lingered on his knuckles.
Alarmed, the Moon Elf touched his face lightly and found that he had, indeed, begun crying, silent tears falling from his eyes. Impatiently he wiped his face with the sleeve of his robes. It was not the time for tears. That time had long since passed. It had been months since…
He cast the quill aside in defeat and slumped against the back of his chair, pressing his hand to his face as he tried to stop the burning. He would not cry. He would not. Not now, after so long without shedding a single tear, after so long in stony, stalwart silence.
He would not.
Gods, it only proved how undeserving he was of her, now more than ever.
It was no secret how the Knight Captain had felt about the wizard. Despite growing up in a place like West Harbor with a foster father that had less emotion than a featureless rock, and the Drow blood that ran through her veins, she had an amazing inability to hide what she was feeling, be it frustration with Qara, exasperation with Bishop and Casavir's antics or the adoration that had shone on her face when she saw Sand, making it quite apparent how she felt about him.
He knew not when she first began to look at him in such a manner and he cursed himself for it. When had the amusement turned into affection? When had friendship turned to adoration?
Why? Why had it? Why him?
Why would she choose him, of all people, to love?
He remembered quite an amusing conversation with Kana, the ever honorable and loyal soldier to Nerridah's unprepared status as Knight Captain, where she had said in no uncertain terms if he hurt or humiliated the Knight Captain she would… do something unmentionable to a part of his anatomy in a way he didn't even think Luskan could come up with.
Well, it was amusing now. At the time it had been terrifying.
As the city of Low Justice came to his mind, he remembered her reaction when she heard he was from Luskan. At first she was confused, her eyes darting to his and asking 'Is that true?' She had quietly accepted his request to discuss it later and, when they had, she had shrugged, acquiescing to the truth and began smiling once more.
There had been no condemnation. Never had been any condemnation. As Khelgar named him a traitor and Qara sniffed haughtily and Bishop gave his snide remarks, she had merely accepted it and moved on.
"Our pasts explain who we were, but our decisions define who we become." She had said those words quietly, only to him, before walking away from Castle Never, with the heavy burden of knowing that, the next day, she would be fighting against a man, quite literally, twice her height and at least three times her weight.
Because he had not been able to win the trial for her.
She simply took the blame onto her shoulders, saying that she was clumsy and fell into Torio's traps, that her running with the thieves and her less that upstanding reputation was to blame. She had laughed, had asked him what could be expected of a half-Drow on trial. She said that he had done all that he could and she could ask for no more.
She had… thanked him for representing her. No begrudging admission, no reluctance. She had appeared somewhat shy and abashed, but it wasn't because she didn't want to thank him, he knew. It was simply because she hadn't known what his reaction would be.
Then… when he had come to the vigil to give her the potions he had frantically created – be it out of guilt or fear, he knew not – they had lapsed into a quiet discussion and she had brushed aside his apologies once again.
Then she had kissed him. Kissed him!
She hadn't said a word after it, just looked at his stunned face before returning to her silent vigil, staring at Tyr's unmoving face, leaving him staring mutely at the back of her head.
For once, Sand had been rendered completely speechless…
He had prided himself on his sense of smell, but in that instant, her taste had been what mattered. Things that he couldn't describe, flavors that had no comparison. A thousand emotions had rolled off in that kiss, things he had never before sampled. But the most prominent had been a simple, bittersweet goodbye…
He knew what she said without speaking, what that goodbye had meant. If I don't survive tomorrow… I just wanted to do this.
Which had made the next day all the more unbearable for him. He had almost not turned up, but somehow he found himself in the stands, watching as she descended into the pit, calmly, to face a man from her own home village. As Lorne had lunged at her with a bloodthirsty cry, she had almost evaded the vicious swings of his falchion. But when he entered his berserker rage… not even her skill as a Shadowdancer had saved her.
With blood streaming from her body and Sand an twitch of a finger away from blasting Lorne with a spell, she had turned on him with a ferocity he didn't know she had, unleashing a barrage of blurring blows that had him staggering in the aftermath of his rage. Drow shone through her then, savagery and ferocity, her teeth bared against the dusky nature of her skin as she hammered him into submission with strength her tiny frame should not have had.
Then, when he had knelt at her feet, she had looked sadly to the sky and said something unintelligible, before her blades sang and she slew him. There had been no mercy in the blow, no kindness in her eyes. Pity, yes, but no kindness. The crowd had looked on as she coldly cut him down. Many did not understand and perhaps even condemned her for her decision, even Sand had been confused. But now he knew as she did, upon learning the nature of his master. She had killed him, because she knew to send him back would have been a far worse fate.
As Nasher called out his verdict, and the crowd looked on, Nerridah's knees had buckled and Sand remembered clearly the painful stab in his heart, like someone had sunk an icy blade into his chest, as she crumpled to the ground.
Sand had been the first to her side, a healing potion ready, hands shaking in panic as he tipped it into her mouth as Casivir held her up. When she had opened her eyes… she had smiled at him, a tender, adoring smile that she had worn many a time onwards, and for a second, time stilled, a moment that would forever be theirs and theirs alone.
That night, freshly healed and rested, she had snuck into Sand's shop and they had come together in a furious melding of hearts and flesh that only a close brush with death could elicit. They had loved one another with a passion that Sand had never experienced in all of his centuries and Erridah had never before experienced in her short life.
But oh, it would not be the last, for nights of lovemaking or for brushes with death.
They had become lovers, growing ever closer in hearts and minds. He began to know the woman beneath those eyes. Beneath the smile. She came to know his life and his heart, things he had never shared with anyone. She had laughed with him and listened to him and given him things more precious than any bauble or substantial item. Some things changed between them, and those that did not grew all the more precious. She had never asked him to stop his snide remarks to her and she had never hesitated to give him a cuff when needed. But he always tended to her wounds personally and she bathed his aching muscles, unused to the strenuous adventuring traveling with her demanded.
She had always kept him closest to the campfire, with her on the outside, so when a random group of bandits or orcs attacked, she would be the first in battle and he was safe.
She had always protected him…
And, in the end… he had just watched her die.
His back arched as he gasped out in pain, making Jaral start. He could not hide behind the excuses. He had just watched it happen. Watched her walk into the face of death and took for granted that she was strong enough to return.
Because of her strength and determination, he fell into the trap of belief that she would just… live. Oh, what a fool he was.
In groups, it was a melee fighter's job to protect the weaker ranged fighters, the job of the brute force to take the brunt of the attacks. But, for some reason, she had always been especially careful of him, even if she wasn't as brutish as Casavir or Khelgar.
Whenever an enemy turned on him, she was there, standing between him and the blow that would have felled him, be it from an ork, bugbear, a giant blade spider. Even a great, irritable red dragoness. She had dealt with threats to him first and foremost, always and no one seemed to dare question her and for good reason.
Despite her enthusiasm for life… her ability and willingness to take it sometimes frightened Sand and those around her. She could slide a blade between a man's ribs with a coldness that matched and often surpassed Bishop. She could brutally end someone with a ruthlessness that Ammon was quite admired of.
She had no qualms about ending the life of anyone that came against her, a cold and ruthless an assassin as any. Her nights went uninterrupted by dreams of the dead and her threats were whisper-soft promises of violence and painful death. Despite her youth, she was dangerous, and it only took one look at her, and her prowess in battle, to realize that.
Nerridah had called killing an art and the finely crafted blades were her instruments of creation, so to speak. She was like a child at gift giving events every time she discovered or stole a new and more powerful blade. She spent many hours of the night pouring over crafting tomes and hounding Sand to make her greater weapons to fight with.
For someone who could be as gentle as Nerridah, as kind and loving, she seemed to absolutely adore the art of killing.
Almost as much, she had said, as she adored Sand.
She never confirmed nor denied it was her Drow blood that made her lust for blood, one night when Casivir had asked. She had simply said it was her nature and she would always be true to her nature and her nature could be very dangerous, despite her size. Drow cruelty and a gentle kindness balanced equally within her heart and she was at peace with both sides.
Certainly she had been a walking bundle of contradictions, able to take life without feeling anything, but somehow retain an innocence that made her seem almost like a child.
But that innocence would never be confused with naiveté. Whenever they began to worry about her decisions, whenever they began to grow concern at her amount of trust, she proved to them exactly what happened when people betrayed her. Whilst she may have appeared to trust those who's aid and word she accepted, there was soon little doubt in anyone's mind that Nerridah always, always had her back covered.
Anyone that aimed a blade for it, often found themselves writhing in agony as she hissed in their ear viciously before killing them. Everyone, every single person, that betrayed her, died. Even Bishop, a man that it was well known she trusted with her life, stared death in the face as he announced his betrayal.
She was violence and death, but at the same time, she was kindness and love.
She could cut down an enemy in cold blood, but at the same time make a betraying Ranger give his prized skinning blade to a young lad to save his life. She would stop and listen to the plights of commoners and take the time to save lost children. She would offer to assist stranded travelers. She would defend total strangers. She could ruthlessly lead her companions to slaughter a group of bandits in her way, but the carnage at Ember had enraged her and she had spent the good portion of an hour spreading Nya's wyrmsage on the corpses.
Ah, Nerridah had so loved cats…
As if his thought had conjured him – which it may actually have – Jaral leaped up onto his master's lap and stared at the Moon Elf with luminous eyes. Stroking the feline's ears, Sand remembered Nerridah's delight at finding he had a feline familiar and Sand had to admit that he had gotten jealous of her doting attention to Jaral. It was that love of animals had won Elanee over to her cause, as well, and even Bishop seemed to have a grudging smile on his face when she fed his wolf treats and romped with him playfully.
Hell, she had befriended that giant spider Kistrel, had she not? And… Lizard people were sort of like animals.
As he stared at his familiar, Sand also remembered what it was like to return to his room at Crossroad Keep to find her naked form, after she had kicked at the blankets in her annoying way, twined with Jaral who had no qualms about sleeping beside or atop a woman as bare as the day she was born.
Her cat-like, lazy emerald eyes as she woke up beside him, the warm glitter as she pushed him into the sheets and did things to him that only an ultra flexible Shadowdancer could.
The way her scent was indescribable. A feminine floral musk that was infinitely pleasing to him. Often he would simply lay his face against her skin and inhale her delicious scent and she would simply stroke his hair and let him.
How, one night, when she thought he was sleeping, she had whispered those three words to him, words that were both a gift and a curse, words that he had never heard from anyone else before.
"I love you."
And he had never, ever said them back…
Not all the times they lay together on the road. Not when she slept in his bed, not when she was lying dying after taking a grievous blow from some Shadow Reaver's magic or a construct's blade. Not when she had stared at Bishop with an expression a mix of purest pain and deepest hatred for his betrayal. Not when she had walked unerringly into the King of Shadow's domain and ordered them all to find another way out.
Not when she had taken a blow from the treacherous Qara, burning her leathers right from her shoulder and scorching her face as she had thrown herself in the path of a fireball that had been intended for him. Not when she had then proceeded to slaughter the sorceress for trying to harm 'her Sand'.
He had never once said those words back.
Now she was gone… lost under the debris of the remains of the King of Shadow's domain. She was dead, and he had never said those words to her…
That, in itself, was the most painful thing. That he had let his past immobilize him with fear, his doubts consume him and his natural bristly nature freeze the words in his throat.
They had said she knew, Kana, Khelgar, Neeshka. Even Navall and had said it, that she had known. Or believed. At first Sand had brushed it aside, saying simply that he hadn't. That didn't.
But now, as he sat there, giving up his losing fight against the tears, felling them slip down his cheeks, dropping onto Jaral's furred head, Sand realized he did. So, so much.
He lifted his head and stared around his chambers. Chambers he had shared with her. Chambers she had practically moved in to. He had not bothered to remove her presence, but now, suddenly, he felt it so keenly. A blade sitting on the mantelpiece, one she liked, but discarded due to finding another. The heavy battle robes that hung from one wall, which she had given to him with such excitement, it was like she had received it herself.
One of her shirts, folded up neatly in a corner.
The side of the bed she slept on, closes to the door. Always protecting him, even in sleep.
A small chest of pilfered jewels and rings that she wore during combat for their magical properties.
A forgotten pile of book that she would study for weapon and poison crafting.
Gods. How could he have not noticed all of this before now? How could he have neglected the signs of her presence and inhabitance, subtle but oh-so real. He pressed his hand to his chest as the tears fell faster, gasping.
Pushing the cat off of his lap slowly, he rose to his feet and walked to the balcony outside his private chambers, before stopping in the doorway. For a moment he imagined her, or remembered her, dancing on the railing, performing acrobatic feats above a drop that would shatter her body should she fall. It was like she was there, singing to herself as she defied death itself, face turned up to the sky, her hair floating around her like clouds, a gift from her father.
So real was it, that he actually stepped forward, reaching out to her. In his mind, she turned, laughed.
He collapsed against the wall and pressed his hands to his face, sobbing loudly as he remembered that smile.
She always laughed. Always. Even when she was wounded. Dying. Even when she was in a losing fight. Even when she was afraid.
She always laughed.
When she had stared up at the roof as the Shadow King's domain had begun to shatter. She had turned to him… and flashed him a sad, resigned smile.
'Oh well', that smile said. 'It was a good run, and I regret nothing'.
But I regret! he railed silently. I regret! I should have told you!
He fisted his hands in his hair, curling the blue-black locks in his slender fingers as his chest heaved with all the pain and sadness that he had denied these months. They threatened to choke him, drown him, slay him when even the King of Shadows could not. Could one die of a broken heart? Gods, let it be true. Let it end his torment!
As if his voice broke something, the sky overhead, which had long since been dark with storm clouds, split open, rain pattering across his robes and plastering his hair to his head. The sky was crying… with him. For him? He didn't know. He didn't care. With shaking hands he pulled off his robes, not because he didn't want to ruin them, but because he wanted to feel the rain on his bare skin. He wanted to feel the tears of heaven run down his face with his own tears. Tears he did not deserve to shed.
Dropping the robes uselessly to the stones, he rose to his feet and stared at the balcony once more. But whatever the illusion was that had danced before his eyes a moment ago was gone now, leaving only crushing misery and grief in its wake. He now understood why Daeghun was so cold, why he refused to speak of his lost wife. Why he had become what he had.
He was trying to protect himself from this agony. Not even the master torturers of Luskan, or even in the history of the Faerûn could match the pain that tore his soul asunder.
Daeghun had shattered with the news of Nerridah's fall, the girl all he had left of his life, aside from Duncan – Sand could understand the unspoken sentiment there. When Neeshka, Khelgar and Sand had returned from the final battle, the only ones to remain, Sand could visibly see him retreat into himself, see something die in his eyes.
Many people had fallen into grief when she had not returned…
Kana had retreated in silence to the keep, her grief following her in a bitter, metallic scent that Sand could not even find the energy to protest to. Torio, whom Nerridah spared under the explanation that she could spend the rest of their lives tormenting the Luskan ambassador, had shed silent tears for the girl that had saved her life. Duncan had begged them to go back, to check again, his desperation smelling like burnt sugar. Deekin had begun a horrific wailing that no one seemed to have the heart to silence. Not even Sand.
Neeshka had gone to the tavern to get drunk, though not a drop passed her lips as she sat in the corner. She was gone by the dawning of the next day. Khelgar followed a week later, vanishing down the road in the same silence he had spent the duration of his return in. He returned, every now and again, to tell of his adventures, but something was missing from his eyes. Neeshka sent gold and letters laced with forced happiness.
The gnomes of the Ironfist clan held a month long memorial for her. The Lizardmen of Highcliff and Highcliff itself would forever be in mourning for her, each of them wearing black armbands for the rest of their lives. Neverwinter had a large portrait of her, beside the portrait of other forgotten and lost heroes and many said Nasher was often caught staring at her face, as well as the face of a female elven Paladin.
They had all had their time of grieving and were beginning to move past the pain. But only now was Sand feeling the full blow of Nerridah's death. At the time he had retreated into his world, as if nothing had happened. He brushed off their words, brushed off their condolences. He didn't need them. He was not sadenend.
No. He was broken. Shattered. Held together by spit and tears and now, finally, it was all coming apart. He staggered backwards slowly, his head going back as he hit the wall of the Keep. His chest heaved as he wept, tears burning his eyes and throat as they forced their way from his cold exterior.
She's gone. She's gone and I can't tell her…
Sand opened his eyes and stared at the horizon, where the rising sun was peeking under the clouds before it would vanish above them and plunge the world into darkness once more. A brief glimpse of light shining upon the fracture glass that was his heart and soul. The tears blurring his vision made the whole world appear grey and gold and he wondered, perhaps, if she were smiling down on him from whatever afterlife she had gone to.
He had never even asked her what god she worshipped…
Lifting his hand to the luckstone she had given him, he curled his fingers into it, letting the stone dig in to his palm as he closed his eyes, choking on his tears.
"Nerridah," he said again, his voice breaking in the middle of her name. He spoke to the sky, to the gods, praying that someone, anyone, would hear his words and take them to her, wherever she was.
"I love you…"
Haa… Do not listen to sad songs when writing sad things.
Sand is sexy. Sand is hot. Sand is amazingly awesome with his sarcastic and cynical wit. I adore him. I wish he'd been a romance option, I really, REALLY do. I also wish there had been a romance option for Garrus, but NO ONE listens to us freaky fangirls. Sigh.
I hope you enjoyed my oneshot with Sand! ^_^ Keep an eye out for… maybe a companion piece!
For now, adieu!