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sweet as honey, soft as silk

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— 1. “weather”

Thyme is not used to severe weather. In her defense, for most of her life, she’d never had to deal with it. The endless light had a way of deadening the skies, somehow—any rain was reduced to mere spatterings, winds were no more than feeble breezes, and snow was fleeting and unlikely to stick—but ever since the night returned to Lakeland, the weather has, apparently, chosen violence.

Tonight, for instance: a thunderstorm pounds against the domed ceilings of the Crystarium marketplace. This would not ordinarily be a problem—except that, apparently, no one who oversaw the place’s construction a hundred years ago saw the need to waterproof the place particularly well. Every few yards, spouts of water pour through its apparently extremely leaky roof, and freezing cold sheets of water fly sideways—sideways?!—through the air, soaking anyone who happens to get too close to the outer perimeter (where, horrifically, Thyme’s stall happens to be located).

Now soaked to the bone and shivering in her work apron, Thyme is simply trying to close up her stall for the night and get herself someplace warm. But of course, her final task—simply to let down and securely fasten the tarp meant to keep her stock safe from inclement weather—has not gone according to plan. A particularly heinous gust of wind has sent the tarp billowing up and away, its rope ties ripping through her hands as easily as if she weren’t holding them at all, and although it thankfully remains fastened to the stall’s metal roof, it now joyfully whips in the breeze, dancing just out of reach.

Thyme is quickly learning, in other words, that she does not like severe weather.

A boyish voice rings out from a few yards behind her. “Hang on—I got it!”

Thyme whirls around just in time to see a familiar blur—it’s Roe, of course, showing off her preternatural knack for good timing. With a grunt she leaps into the air and snatches at the wildly-flailing rope—and actually grabs it, somehow, yanking the offending tarp back down to earth as she lands. “Hah!” she says with a grin of triumph as she tugs the rope taut. “Got ya, you bastard.”

Thyme blinks at her. “How did you do that?”

Roe laughs, loud and bright, even above the squall. “Oh, y’know. Just my finely-tuned pugilist instincts.” She throws a few mock punches at an imaginary opponent with her spare hand.

Thyme rolls her eyes as she wipes a bit of rainwater off her forehead with her shirtsleeve, but she cannot entirely suppress a smile. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I know. You like it.”

“That’s neither here nor there.”

“Sure, sure,” Roe says with a grin. As the wind picks up again, Roe keeps the tarp in its place, almost obnoxiously easily yanking at its tie as though it were a particularly unruly kite. “But hey,” she continues, “I’m glad I found you when I did. You looked like you were one strong gust away from sailing off to the Empty on a solo mission.”

“I was not,” Thyme says—or tries to say. But what actually happens, in point of fact, is that she shivers powerfully and then sneezes, very loudly, three times in a row.

Gods damn this weather.

When she opens her eyes again, Roe is laughing, and trying very hard to look like she’s not. Thyme folds her arms. “You are not helping.”

“Okay, first of all, that’s demonstrably untrue, but also— your sneezes are really cute.”

Thyme rolls her eyes—regrettably, this only seems to make Roe’s smile grow even wider—and snatches the rope from Roe’s hands. “You can compliment me all you like as soon as I’m out of danger of hypothermia,” she says. “Help me tie this down?”

“Okay, okay,” Roe says. Duly chastened, she grabs the other tie, but she is still beaming from ear to ear, because she is ridiculous.

Thankfully, it is only a matter of moments before Thyme’s stall is closed properly, and shortly thereafter the two of them are able to scurry their way through the Crystarium to Thyme’s quarters. Thyme shivers as Roe shuts the door behind them; the little apartment is warm and cozy, smelling faintly of whatever it is Roe’s been cooking, and Thyme’s rain soaked clothes and sopping wet shoes suddenly could not possibly be any more uncomfortable.

But before she can squelch her way over to her bedroom to get changed, Roe takes her hand. “Hey,” she says, her voice suddenly soft. “C’mere.”

Slightly confused, Thyme follows her to the washroom, where—astoundingly—a steaming hot bath has already been drawn in the claw-foot tub, kept warm by a little tray of fire crystals resting beneath its head. A stack of fluffy towels rests next to the sink, accompanied by a few gently flickering tea candles. The room smells faintly of lavender.

Somewhat gobsmacked, Thyme turns back to Roe, who is now grinning sheepishly. “You set all this up before you came down to the markets?”

“Yeah, well— I kinda had a feeling this might happen,” Roe says, gesturing demonstratively at Thyme, “y’know, since it was storming so hard, and you’re basically working outside all day. And I knew you’d be closing up soon, so I thought it’d be a nice surprise for when you got home.” She shyly rubs at the back of her neck. “…so, uh. Was it?”

In lieu of a response, Thyme steps forward and tugs Roe in by her shirt to kiss her. Roe makes a startled mmf against her lips. “Yes, you goof,” Thyme says as they part, and Roe bursts into a smile—gentler this time, warm and soft, and Thyme feels her heart flop into her throat at the sight of it. “It’s perfect. Thank you.”

And Roe snakes her arms tight around Thyme’s waist, seemingly totally unbothered by Thyme’s wet clothes. “Least I could do,” she says, and she kisses Thyme again, on the corner of her mouth. “Dinner’s almost ready, too, if you’re hungry? I’ll try to have it finished by the time you’re done.”

“Take your time,” Thyme says. “I suspect I may be in here for a while.”

Roe beams and gives Thyme one last peck on the cheek. Then she slips out the door.

Thyme eagerly shucks off her clothes, letting them drop onto the tiled floor with a satisfyingly wet plop. Thunder still rumbles outside at regular intervals, but now it’s just barely audible above the soothing sound of rain beating against the roof and the telltale clatterings of Roe at work in the kitchen.

No, Thyme might never come to like stormy weather. But as she sinks down into the perfectly warmed water with a sigh, as Roe cheerily whistles some unrecognizably tuneless melody from across the apartment—this, she could quite easily get used to.

 

— 2. “fairytale”

…“analytic” philosophy is one more variant, a variant marked principally by thinking of representation as linguistic rather than mental, and of philosophy of language rather than "transcendental critique," or—

“Alphinaud.”

…or psychology, as the discipline which exhibits the "foundations of knowledge." This emphasis on language, I shall be arguing in chapters four and six, does not essentially change the—

“…Alphinaud.”

Alphinaud sighs. “Yes, Alisaie? I’m in the middle of something.”

“Well, while you’ve been sitting here with your nose stuck in… whatever on earth that is you’re reading, I’ve had nothing to do but look at that.”

Alisaie inclines her head toward the other side of the Rising Stones. The normally bustling commons are emptier than usual today, with most of its regulars out and about on various personal errands or small-time jobs, so it’s not difficult to spot who Alisaie is referring to: the only two other souls in the room, in point of fact. The pair of them are leaning against the wall, apparently speaking quietly about something.

Alphinaud shoots a quizzical look back at his sister. “Roe and Thyme? I don’t see what—”

“Wait for it.” Alisaie is staring them down, an unreadable expression on her face.

Confused, Alphinaud turns back, just as Roe and Thyme start to—oh.

Oh.

Alphinaud hastily yanks his eyes away. Alisaie makes a noise that sounds something like a bathtub drain filled with pudding.

“They’re just kissing, Alisaie,” Alphinaud says, suddenly keenly aware of how his cheeks are burning.

“Oh, are they?” Alisaie says flatly. “Did you have a front row seat for the Warrior of Light and her partner’s wandering hands for the last half an hour as well, or was that just a lucky break for me?”

“Well— I mean, they’re entitled to do what they please.”

“Yes, obviously—and of course I’m thrilled for them, many happy returns and all that, whatever, but— for the entire time we’ve been sitting here. And everywhere else. Constantly. I swear it’s constant, Alphinaud. They’re like a pair of… of moony, lust-addled teenagers.”

“Roe’s only twenty-five. And Thyme’s quite young, too, as I recall.”

“Hardly the point,” Alisaie says, wrinkling her nose. “Anytime they’re together, they just forget everything else even exists. It’d be impressive if it weren’t so… nauseating.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s sweet.”

“…Sweet.”

Alphinaud coughs. “Well. Perhaps excluding the… somewhat excessive public displays of affection.”

“Thank you.”

Apparently feeling vindicated, Alisaie primly takes a sip of her tea. From across the room, Thyme giggles at something the twins are too far out of earshot to hear.

“But you know,” Alphinaud says after a moment, “the two of them really aren’t something you see every day, are they? The way they met, how they fell in love… they almost could be from one of those fairy tales we read when we were children, do you remember?”

“Of course I remember.” Though she’s still making a show of being annoyed, Alisaie is smiling a bit as she sets down her teacup. “One of those ones about a noble knight and a maiden fair, with witches and magic spells and the occasional curse thrown in for flavor?”

“Precisely. Narratively speaking, they fit the bill, don’t they? Star-crossed lovers from separate worlds who moved heaven and earth just to be together… or, ah. Something to that effect.”

Alisaie snorts and slumps back in her chair. “Personally, I always preferred the ones where people got eaten by giant spiders or torched by dragon breath.”

“Somehow, this does not surprise me,” Alphinaud says as he picks up his book again. “Frankly, I suspect you’re just bored and grumpy because you haven’t been able to get Roe’s attention as easily ever since she— ow! There’s no need to kick me.”

 

— 3. “journey”

Breathing hurt. My ribs screamed in protest; my lungs were burning. I was leaning heavily against something—it took me a moment to realize it was a tree—but even still, my legs wobbled beneath me with the effort of holding myself upright. I tried to lower myself down easy, but my legs gave out a little too soon, and I crashed down into the dirt. My hand came away from my side drenched in bright, bright red.

I’d let my guard down, and I was paying for it. And you were next to me, so they’d gotten you, too.

Looking up from the ground, I watched you sink down the length of the tree until you sat in its lap at my side, curled into a crook of roots and grasses like a bird in its nest. You left a snail’s trail of blood along the bark above you. Some of it had gotten in your hair—a spattering of crimson among green, leaves at the beginning of autumn.

“Damn,” I said to you, dizzy. “Both of us at once, huh.”

“How efficient,” you said back—quietly, like you were whispering a private joke into my ear. I laughed; even though it hurt, I couldn’t help it.

You smiled, and then winced in pain. “Darling,” you started to say, “do you think we can get back to…”

I knew what you were going to ask, and I shook my head. “No,” I said. “I don’t think I can even stand up. I’m sorry.”

You smiled at me—maybe it was because of how dizzy I was, but your eyes seemed to sparkle in the light. “It’s alright,” you said. “They’ll find us in time.”

I knew they wouldn’t find us in time. We were way too far out, both of us losing far too much blood, and it was almost dusk. My head was spinning—the forest canopy above us, drenched in sunset, looked like a smearing, tumbling pool of emerald and gold. It was getting harder to keep my eyes open.

No, they wouldn’t find us in time. But I could tell from the way you looked at me that you knew that, too. And still, you were smiling.

For some reason, that made it okay.

“Hey,” I said. You looked up at me. “Does it hurt?”

You shook your head. “Not anymore. I’m just a little cold.”

“Okay. Good.” Mine didn’t hurt either. Gods, I was so tired. “Come here.”

You snuggled up against my side, and I wrapped my arms tight around your waist. “Stay with me,” you said. Your voice sounded a little slurred.

“I got you,” I said.

“I know.” You kissed me, and it tasted like copper.

I don’t know how long we were there. I guess it doesn’t really matter. You nuzzled your face against the hollow of my throat, and I watched the sun sink beneath the horizon as I listened to your breathing. It was almost summer—there were cicadas and bullfrogs. The light had almost disappeared entirely when I felt you sigh, long and soft, like you had fallen asleep.

And that was it. You didn’t breathe again.

So I closed my eyes, and then I followed you.