00. The Fool [time: during Strikers, the night of episode 1]
Subaru turned around as they reached their dorm room. "I'm so glad we were both picked, Tia!"
A grin pulled at the corner of Tiana's mouth, but she refused to allow it to form completely. "With your carefree attitude, I'm surprised it matters to you."
Subaru's look grew dark suddenly, and Tia knew quite sharply that she'd said something wrong. Before she realized it however, Subaru had already silently gathered a change of clothes and walked toward the shower.
"Maybe I just want to see you happy, too."
Tia's pride would not see fit to let her respond, nor follow.
01. The Magician [time: pre-Strikers]
"When the Magician appears in a spread, it points to the talents, capabilities and resources at the querent's disposal. Depending on the card's placement in relation to other cards, the message is to tap into one's full potential rather than holding back, especially when there is a need to transform something."
When Subaru's secret had first been revealed to Tia, it hadn't been pleasant.
"What... is that?" the red-head swallowed.
An arc of electricity sputtered across the cybernetics of Subaru's now-exposed left arm. She gripped at it tightly, gritting her teeth from the pain still managing to sift through her human flesh and consciousness. She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Tia... I'm actually... a combat cyborg."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt regretful she hadn't told her partner before it had come to exposing it this way; the betrayal in Tiana's eyes seemed too much.
02. The High Priestess [time: post-Strikers]
Keywords: Common sense ----- Intuition
Common sense was something Tiana always had a little trouble seeing eye-to-eye. In contrast, she had intuition in spades.
When Subaru arrived one night at her quarters, nicely dressed, smelling of a scent appealingly handsome, and handed her a white lily, a roguish smile on her face, Tia's brain somehow did not compute Subaru was trying to ask her out on the town for a date of that sort.
But her intuition did tell her that tonight would be fun, if she'd only play along. The exchange was naturally completely lost on Subaru.
But she did ensure Tia had fun.
03. The Empress [time: pre-Strikers]
"She can represent the creation of life, of romance, of art or business. The Empress can represent the germination of an idea before it is ready to be fully born."
All it took was a close encounter with an explosion.
"You idiot!" Tiana yelled, and though mouth kept running, her thoughts themselves had stopped, trying to figure for herself why Subaru mattered so much to her.
Subaru had the decency to look sheepish as she took the verbal beating, but yet found comfort in that she finally felt important to this fiery girl who had been her partner for the past several months. It felt good.
By the time Tia snapped off the light, both were blushing, but neither would know it was for the same reason for years afterward.
04. The Emperor [time: post-Strikers]
Keywords: Control ----- Discipline ----- Command ----- Common sense
It had taken some time for Subaru to get used to, most especially given their relationship otherwise was quite the opposite, but Tiana apparently loved to be told what to do between the sheets.
In fact, it wasn't even something Tiana herself realized at first, which held even more appeal, the more Subaru thought about it. It would always start as a testing kiss, perhaps a nibble on the neck or ear. But as the commands increased in gear
sit, face me, touch here, softer, lay down, tease there, lick, harder, switch over
it became quite a thrilling game.
05. The Hierophant [time: Strikers, Riot Force Six breakup]
"Some authorities say that the Hierophant generally represents assistance, friendship, good advice, alliances (including marriages), and religious interests."
Subaru had not expected it to come from this person exactly. The one before was her commander - well no, she admitted - ally in battle. Still, she tried to take in the advice.
"I know it can be hard," the other woman fidgeted, as if she were uncomfortable herself. "I didn't want to be apart from Fate-chan, either."
Subaru felt the thickness in her throat.
"It might not help much, but there's a saying from Earth: 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder.'" Nanoha smiled with what she hoped was comfort, but was almost certain came out as more wistfulness.
06. The Lovers [time: post-Strikers] "Often an aspect of the Querent's life will have to be sacrificed... Whatever the choice, it should not be made lightly, as the ramifications will be lasting."
Tiana never consciously understood that when she chose to be with Subaru, that it would tie her to the girl indefinitely.
It didn't matter when Subaru woke her at ungodly hours of the night, not realizing the time difference elsewhere. It didn't matter when Subaru acted so stupidly she swore those other cyborg parts did the other woman no good. It didn't matter when Subaru's social tact failed spectacularly, embarrassing the hell out of her.
Tiana just couldn't stop thinking of her. She'd probably never stop.
She supposed though, in the end, she had no one to blame except herself.
07. The Chariot [time: during Strikers]
"Another view is that the mood of the card may be characterized as that of conquest. It represents a battle that can be won if the Querent has the willpower for it. The battle is usually an external one, with a clear goal and plan of action. "
The trouble with those two, Nanoha thought, was that they took everything head on, and to Hell with proper tactics. It was maddening.
As Subaru collapsed unceremoniously on the ground, shoving at Tia distractedly to get her into a propped up position, a sudden conclusion came to her mind.
"You have a special assignment," the tone was serious. "You'll read all of Mid-Child & Modern Belkan Tactics Fourth Edition by tomorrow."
"That's over 500 pages!"
But Nanoha had already turned around. She wondered if they would figure out to split the work to accomplish the task, breaking into a grin.
08. Justice [time: pre-Strikers] Keywords: Responsibility ----- Rationality ----- Clear vision ----- Logic and reason
Tia had finally decided what it was about Subaru that irked her – she was just so damnably goodie-goodie. "What were you thinking? That target took us out!"
"But Tia, the guy was dressed in civilian clothes! He didn't even have a device out!" Subaru defended.
"I don't care if it was a training scenario or not, be more aware of your surroundings," Tia spat.
"But nothing!" For a moment, they watched each other. "Quit expecting the best out of people already, Subaru! The real world isn't like that!"
Subaru became quiet then, silently trailing Tia to the dorms.
09. The Hermit[time: pre-Strikers]
"There are two major ways this card can be interpreted: First, the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself. Second, the need to come out of isolation to share his knowledge with others."
"You can't even be satisfied when you do a good job!" Subaru yelled, and though it gave her pause, Tia naturally took the challenge.
"It wasn't a good job!" she returned, but the hollowness of those words was deafening. Tiana turned away, closing her eyes and holding her hand to her forehead. "You just wouldn't understand."
Subaru's response was immediate. "Maybe not." She tugged at Tia's arm until the other girl sat and continued, "But I want to hear why. You already know what I'm doing this for. What is," she gestured at the room passively, "all this to you?"
10. Wheel of Fortune[time: End of Strikers, before leaving Riot Force Six's base(lolAU)]
Keywords: New Development ----- Activity ----- Surprises
The taste in her mouth was bitter. Subaru couldn't tell if it was from the tears, or if it was just the coppery tinge of blood upon her tongue after Tia's sudden realization of the situation.
Tiana's look right after bordered on betrayed, but for once she held in what was undoubtedly a scathing remark and wiped upwards against her own cheek.
She must have seen it coming, right?
Indeed, Tia did not further comment on it for many years to come.
"That time was going to come, eventually," Tia murmured, but Subaru no longer knew how to take it.
11. Strength [time: post-Strikers]
"Nanoha-san told me it's an Earth tradition," Subaru beamed.
"It's silly," Tia replied, shaking her head. "I'm not doing it."
The next breath and Subaru had already given her those damn puppy dog eyes.
A few years earlier she would have punched Subaru on the arm, hard, and walked in aggressively on her own. But today, now, she was hit with how mellow she'd become.
"Fine," she said softly, and no-one need to tell Subaru twice.
She picked Tia up and swept her off her feet, taking her through the doorway of their newly-bought house.
"Welcome home," Subaru told her.
12. The Hanged Man [time: post-Strikers]
"He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self."
At first, Subaru felt unsure what to do. Never before had Tia bared herself so completely, not even on the day she'd told Subaru the dark secrets regarding her brother's death.
But as the red-haired girl waved a beckoning hand, and though the same hand shook from nerves, the moonlight from the window highlighting the soft curves of her naked body, Tiana's eyes were calm. So very calm.
She accepted this. Wanted this.
Nothing else, Subaru knew, could possibly make Tia more desirable to her. Subaru spent the better part of the next hour showing her just that.
13. Death [time: unknown]
The moment it happened, Tiana thought perhaps it was all some terrible joke.
Seeing the color drain from his face, the painfully bulging eyes, the spittle escaping his mouth involuntarily; the whole situation seemed surreal.
The man's knees met the ground first, followed shortly by his entire torso, at once. A chill, not unlike the one ripping through the corpse before her, stung up her spine.
Shuffling forward, the child she'd saved gripped her leg. Tiana's head shook as Cross Mirage faded into his card form without command.
She felt Subaru's hand firmly grip her shoulder.
Death was mysterious, indeed.
14. Temperance [time: post-Strikers]
The night was young. Subaru was still completely toasted.
"Tia," she whined, drawing the last syllable out, "dance with me!"
The red-haired woman felt a twinge beneath her cheeks, but chalked it up to the alcohol. Quite seriously, she replied, "I don't dance, Subaru."
In a surprisingly fluid motion given her intoxication, Subaru bladed in a half-circle around Tia to grab at her waist from behind. Subaru nibbled at the tip of Tia's ear. "Dance for me later, then," she murmured.
Tiana gasped and felt herself tingling all over, suddenly in desperate need of temperance of more than one variety.
15. The Devil [time: post-Strikers] Keywords: Passion ----- Animal instincts ----- Sexuality ----- Physical attraction
Tiana wasn't certain when it was her perception had changed.
She couldn't tell you when she felt that a kiss no longer meant butterflies in her stomach, but instead left her with a will-sapping hunger.
She couldn't tell you when a tongue at her ear no longer held just a tickling feeling, but instead stroked a base desire.
She'd couldn't tell you when she found that when Subaru's mouth wrapped around her fingers she no longer believed it awkward, but instead felt herself become incredibly wet.
However, in the end, she could tell you she didn't care to be certain.
16. The Tower [time: pre-Strikers] "To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe."
"Shot down" would actually be a kinder phrase than what Subaru's darkened mind could come up with.
"You just couldn't do it," Tiana had said, shaking in barely-contained rage. "You couldn't leave me well enough alone." Tears shimmered obstinately in her eyes.
Of the scenarios Subaru had imagined, that was not one of them. She had hefted the photo frame lightly, looking down at it.
"Where did you even find that image?"
"I was just... look, Tia, I-"
Subaru thought to celebrate his passing with a happy reminder; she had never been more upset that she couldn't understand.
17. The Star [time: post-Strikers, PS – No, I have nfc what's going on here, either.] Keyword: renewal of forces
"You want me to what?" Tia was shocked.
Subaru made a face. "Just... put the thing through my arm."
Tia was not convinced.
"Look, I'm not saying it won't hurt," Subaru shifted to a better angle, "because it will. But that magical energy can sync into my cybernetics." Her look became pleading.
Tiana's grip became suddenly lax on the artifact, and Subaru thought for a moment she wouldn't be able to do it, so much that she reeled a bit when the edge sliced suddenly into her flesh.
Subaru hissed, but felt a tight grin forming.
The flow felt good.
18. The Moon [time: post-Strikers]
Leaving behind Mach Caliber had been strange enough; stranger still when Cross Mirage came out as they visited the park after dinner.
"Close your eyes," Tia commanded and Subaru obeyed. "Don't open them."
Tiana had Subaru place her left arm around her shoulders. Then came a rush of wind and a sense of vertigo.
"Now," was the unclear release, yet Subaru understood it all the same.
From these hundred-some meters off the ground, the moon was truly beautiful.
"I passed." Tiana's eyes glittered with muted happiness and to Subaru it was apparent just how much like that moon Tia was.
19. The Sun [time: during Strikers, the night of episode 1 (alt to The Fool)]
Keywords: Assurance---Energy---Personal power---Happiness When they finally reached the dorm in the late evening, Subaru was still on a high. "Tiaaaa," she tittered, and Tiana already knew the tone. Lucky for Subaru, she was exhausted from the medical examination.
"Yes, it was really her."
"And she got us another chance!"
Tia lay back, eyes feeling heavy. "Yeah."
Subaru had one last thought and leaned forward, even if she could tell she was losing her audience. "I got another chance with you!"
The sharpshooter chose that moment to make a wrong, sleep-hazed assumption. "Forget it." She didn't even hear when Subaru turned out the light.
20. Judgment [time: unknown]
Tia struggled fiercely, knowing it useless. Subaru would never harm her, but that cyborg strength of hers was well beyond her own. "Let me go!" she growled.
"Shh, Tia," Subaru placated. "Won't you let me?"
Slowly, all her rage bled out and, with it, her energy.
Tia sank to her knees and Subaru was there, holding her fast, though it was in sharp contrast to a moment ago. Some time passed and Subaru took to kissing away Tia's tears. Eventually both were still.
Her voice husky and more intimate than Tia preferred, Subaru spoke. "You can always come to me."
21. The World [time: post-Strikers, several years later]
"The World represents an ending to a cycle of life, a pause in life before the next big cycle beginning with the fool."
"There she goes!" Erio pointed and laughed.
A drunk Subaru had fallen again on the club floor. Still, Tia did admire the fact that Erio had become more bold with time.
"Tia seems to enjoy it," Caro piped up, an arm threaded around Erio's.
"Hardly," Tia responded sourly.
Erio seemed thoughtful. "Well, I still think you've become a more tolerant person."
"I just think it was because she got laid!" Caro squealed suddenly, breaking the mood.
Meanwhile, it seemed Caro had simply become more crass.
Tiana silently took another shot. Despite that, it was harder now to refute the truth.