Tears From Empty Sockets
#01 - Air
In her final moments, she never thought she'd value it so much, this brief, tiny gift that Tieger has given her: the chance to see sunlight, to hope... to breathe.
#02 - Apples
Ashley Riot is not the only man who remembers sunlight and a tree on a low hill--but Tieger's tree is different; Tieger's tree is shared.
#03 - Beginning
"We were but children, then," she softly tells the twilit ruins and does not dare to listen to his reply, lest her heart break.
#04 - Bugs
There are times Tieger wishes Neesa would show some sign of feminine weakness, a fear of insects, a dislike of darkness, anything, but he supposes her roughness, her un-womanliness, is the only fitting counterpoint to Samantha.
#05 - Coffee
His voice is quiet in the darkness of their room ("Wake up...") but she obeys anyway, unthinking ("...Mullenkamp have made their move") and unaware that someday, she'll wish she hadn't.
#06 - Dark
She never feared anything before Lea Monde swallowed her up, before the shadows swallowed them all; Tieger's kiss or the sword's had been the same to her.
#07 - Despair
She wanted to die, but for some reason couldn't find any tears until a sound blew quietly from within the ruins, a low, keening groan in a voice she knew all too well.
#08 - Doors
Exactly where he learned to pick locks (such an unseemly thing for a Knight of the Cross to know), Neesa never asked and he never volunteered; some wounds, even love fears to lance.
#09 - Drink
He watches her, sometimes, with silent dark eyes that say nothing and see everything.
#10 - Duty
Where one went, the other followed--that was the way of it, and even Romeo Guildenstern bent his knee to it, never calling one to his side without calling the other, or at least expecting him.
#11 - Earth
"I've a place to show you," he says, smelling of grass and leaves.
#12 - End
"I told you to come back alive," she told the voice in the ruins, aching to be with him, to end this hideous misery, but instead she sharpened her sword and mentally prepared herself for the walk back to the Blades' camp.
#13 - Fall
His hands, hardened by hard use, scraped against the stone floor beneath him and as he rested his head on the cold, hard ground, he was already numb; he could barely feel his mouth as he breathed, "They say an' a man falls far enough, he feels it no more."
#14 - Fire
In the city proper, the sun is a harsh, unrelenting heat on his back and he is glad he brought extra canteens of water.
#15 - Flexible
"We're not here to bend aught," Grissom told the cultist; had they been with him, they would have seen his blindness, maybe even loved him a little for it.
#16 - Flying
She was the first one to develop the talent, the first one to enjoy the sense of motion--but he felt it with her, she made sure of it.
#17 - Food
"I'll be no-one's meal," she says, swinging her hammer; Tieger watches her, angry and desperate and blood-stained, and loves her a little for it.
#18 - Foot
She's the swifter of the two, light on her feet; when they spar, which is often, she dances around him.
#19 - Grave
Even years later, she still agrees with the bitter sentiment of what were almost her final moments: they all of them, the quick and the dead, deserved a better funeral than the City gave them.
#20 - Green
She finds her voice going sharp as she asks it, thinking of herself and Tieger when they were that young,"You would fight this battle differently?"
#21 - Head
Funny, how the barest space of time comes to mean so very, very much, he thinks as he kisses her (they have not left for the Greylands yet, but they will soon).
#22 - Hollow
They're solid believers in the Saint, neither heathens nor heretics nor fanatics like Grissom or Duane, but for some reason, the thought of marrying strikes them as not only impossible but folly.
#23 - Honor
We must tell them what has happened here, he said and he will not bend in this--in truth, he is offering her a chance to live; it is his final gift to her, worth more to him than aught else he might share, and she loves him for it even as she curses herself for taking it.
#24 - Hope
"I'll wait a while, he may yet return alive," she tells the hollow-eyed woman who stares at her and counts it a miracle that the woman says nothing; in the brightening light of morning, they are but the two edges of a sword, waiting and hoping.
#25 - Light
Neesa still misses, with the burning ache of can this be real?, the way Tieger would snuff the candle with his fingers with a chuckle and a kiss.
#26 - Lost
As has been reported previously, for as many as twelve days following her return, the Lady Neesa could sit silent for hours, unresponding to touch or voice, or perhaps simply uncaring.
#27 - Metal
Tieger has never once confessed to the moment he fell in love with Neesa (but it is this: the sight of her, skin dark and hammer bright, standing beside a splintered practice dummy and laughing at the Knights around her).
#28 - New
He smiles in his last moments, feeling the hard touch of the city's stones or perhaps Grissom's stave, and thinks of the warmth in his lips when first he kissed his partner.
#29 - Old
Even aging--and always afraid--there is an unrelenting dignity to the woman with the eyes that have seen horrors; even now, as she withers alone by her own choice, she is beautiful.
#30 - Peace
"Forever," she tells him in the darkness of their shared room; he sleeps on, undisturbed.
#31 - Poison
She is better with magick than he is; it is she who casts the spell they call "Antidote" and it is she who watches it shudder through him.
#32 - Pretty
His hands are warm on her waist and chest, his steps are slow as he teaches her to dance ("Still beautiful," he tells her when she missteps and she laughs, but they both know he's being honest and they both pretend it's not sentimental).
#33 - Rain
"Why do you like it so much, if you hate the dark," asks the only man she ever tried to love after the shadows swallowed half her sanity and the rest of her soul, as he wraps his arms around her waist; unsurprisingly, she only turns those haunted eyes to him and allows the pattering atop the tin roof to serve as her reply.
#34 - Regret
War is change and she follows suit, it has taught her to kill and flee and strip the dead of their bounty; Lea Monde has taught her to live with shadows of the past--with one shadow in specific, Alive, Tieger! Alive!--like a comfortable mantle on her shoulder.
#35 - Roses
"I know these aren't the ones you like," she tells her private gravesite, staring at the lilac she's laid at the pile of stones, "but I suppose they'll do."
#36 - Secret
She runs her fingers through his hair and marvels at it, unaware he's marveling at hers.
#37 - Snakes
It is only with the emergence of Ashley Riot--which the Inquisitor woman was hard-pressed to convince her to witness--carrying the man she hates above all in his arms, that she learns of the true betrayal; she hisses then, a low strangled sound from between her teeth, and the boy jumps, frightened.
#38 - Snow
Tieger tugs a hand through her hair and chuckles, his eyebrows arched in that loving, teasing fashion, and she knows he is thinking of a child's tale, of a girl with milk-white hair and a heart made of ice.
#39 - Solid
In the privacy of their room, tiny though it is, he pounds his fists against the wood table and she places a hand on his shoulder; "Somewhat blinds him, Neesa; he refuses to see reason, even from me!"
#40 - Spring
He brings her flowers one day, of no reason save he could afford them; she teases him, but they find a beer stein deep enough to hold them and she tends them obsessively for a week.
#41 - Stable
How fitting, that such a simple question ("An' I had ne'er ridden? What then?") could cause such a mess; she quietly vows that she will never again mention those blasted yellow birds and Tieger only laughs.
#42 - Strange
"Neesa, get back!" His voice is a strangled shout and the words are useless because she is already moving backward, away from the knight's corpse; he is the one to fell it, that terrible axe cleaving the poor child's head in twain--and then they are alone in the dim blue light, shuddering with it.
#43 - Summer
The tree, she remembers their tree, green atop the little hill, surrounded by beautiful open sky--she remembers the warm sunlight on their backs as they sparred--she remembers the soft grass beneath them as they finally gave up and sank to the grass; she remembers and she misses it.
#44 - Taboo
Her mother and his more roguish skills are but steps in the dance they never dance; silent questions they refuse to ask or even think.
#45 - Ugly
"You deserved that," she tells him, utterly unsympathetic to his black eye and his broken nose; because it hurts to talk, he doesn't gainsay her.
#46 - War
Three days after that battle and there's still blood under her fingernails, hell, she'd be surprised if she hadn't added to it, but Tieger is still looking over at her with that pole-axed expression that both worries and excites her.
#47 - Water
"Share a sip, will you?" He chides, so she does and he chuckles and kisses her (this stolen moment under the sunlight and in earshot of the river, where the dead do not yet rise, has soaked into her; it will walk right next to her for the rest of her days).
#48 - Welcome
Theirs was always a sharing; she opens her mouth to him at the same time as he opens his to her.
#49 - Winter
"Damn me," he whispers to his fallen brother, whose movements are but pallid whispers in the darkness; somewhere above him, she kneels on the cobblestones and damns his goodness.
#50 - Wood
The haft the practice spear is firm in his hand and he grins, feral, wickedly reaching out to poke her in the side with it, laughing at her startlement.