Author's Note: Sappy, illogical fluff. Might later do a more serious take. Just need to unwind from real life.
Rose could not have said what drew her to that tavern on that day; at the time, she thought it was nothing more than thirst and perhaps a little boredom. The Moon Child would not come for years yet, and the preserved perfection of Ulara had long since become as familiar and sterile as her own reflection. At least the world of humanity, however tiring its naive emotionality might be, held variation, if not novelty.
No matter how cold her heart grew, she had long since realized that she must retain an interest in the present, or the weight of eleven thousand years would crash down upon her mind and break it utterly.
So she strode into the tavern and sat down at the bar, ordering whatever she deemed strong enough to be safe to drink and weak enough to not poison her. The barman knew her, and she soon had her mug in hand. A bit of history served to dissuade drunks from harassing her too much - she had made her lack of interest in their attentions exceedingly clear, with few words and much pain - and she could allow herself to relax slightly, letting her attention wander and pick up whatever gossip might be of interest.
"He's new, cut him some slack. We were all green once, eh?"
"Fair enough, I s'pose - Well, greenhorn, that's Rose, and -"
That came from a table in the corner; she glanced in their direction just long enough to glimpse a mercenary she recognized, and then turned back to her drink. She knew this routine. The usual spiel about her -
"- a witch, but I reckon she spread the reputation herself. Doesn't like people, that one -"
"That's what you say, but I knew one old drunk who swore he'd seen her when he was young, and she hadn't aged a day -"
Damn. She'd been sloppy about returning to the same area before enough decades had passed; well, that happened from time to time, and those who recalled her were easily enough dismissed as misremembering or senile. A bit more caution, and the passage of time, would remedy the matter without any issue. The argument continued along the usual lines, and she turned her attention to other conversations. The old ruler of Mille Seasau had died, and his daughter now sat upon the throne of the Crystal Palace. Her mouth pulled to the side in a small, vicious smile as she thought of how horrified the long-dead administrators of Birth City Deningrad would be at "ground-bound vermin" playing at royalty in their palace, and then she raised her head as alarmed shouts came from the mercenaries' table.
"-doing? Hey! Hey! Don't bother her, and she won't bother you-"
"-down, calm down, you look like you've seen a-"
Oh, was one of them getting it into his head to harass her? She sipped her drink, not bothering to turn around. Let him come. If he got up the courage to make a move, her instincts would alert her.
Idiots made a reasonable release for frustration, anyway.
Before long, a man came up behind her - almost stumbling (so drunk?), from the sounds of it - but made no move. She waited calmly, ready to move if he did; when the seconds ticked on, and he made no sound (though his peers, at their table, were making confused ones), she grew disconcerted. It was not an emotion she felt often. Frowning, she chanced a glance over her shoulder -
And met the eyes of a ghost.
And he was as pale as one. The expression of utter stupefaction upon his face must have mirrored hers; he looked as though, had he not been in the prime of life, he might have dropped dead from shock on the spot.
He had only been dead for eleven thousand years.
"It is you," he whispered - and, damningly, it was in a dialect that had been current at the time of the Dragon Campaign. One that even the most obsessive scholars had long forgotten how to speak.
She stared up at him, and he stared at her. Her own lips seemed numb. She wasn't sure, when she spoke, whether she might speak today's tongue, or that of five thousand years ago, or the one of - back then - "You died." Her hands had begun to shake - the hands that had not caught him - "I watched you- Melbu Frahma -"
"I- I-" He passed his hand over his eyes, and the gesture was so foreign with the passage of years, and yet so familiar, that she swore her heart skipped. "But they told me the Campaign was eleven thousand years gone - How can you -"
"How can you?" She wondered, feeling as though she were floating bonelessly in some blank and distant place, whether she had gone mad. With every passing moment that she gazed upon him, that seemed like a less and less horrific prospect, if she truly had. "Charle herself swore she could not undo the curse - century after century we returned, at first, and then -"
"Century?" Now he looked as though he was the one wondering if he had gone mad.
With no reply possible, she reached out and took his hand. His gloved, calloused, warm, human hand.
She swallowed, blinking against a stinging in her eyes. Was that a symptom of madness? She blinked more, swallowing again around a sudden lump in her throat, and remembered. Oh. Yes. She blinked quicker, hoping to dispel the sudden sheen that clouded her vision. This was what it felt like to cry.
"You're here," she said, squeezing his hand harder. It remained warm and - not soft, but only firm in the way of flesh, rather than the unyielding hardness of stone. "You... truly are...'
She was not aware of conscious movement, but she found herself embracing him, one arm desperately locked around his neck as the other hand remained clapsed in his. His free arm was around her waist, holding her as though he feared she might disappear in a puff of smoke. It would not have been his fear alone.
One part of her mind commented dryly on the utter abandonment of her dignity. Another mused that, if she really had gone stark raving mad, she had served long enough; it was long past time the citizens of Ulara did something for their living. But those thoughts were distant babbling compared to warm flesh and hot breath, and, in those instants, she would have abandoned all her wits without hesitation or remorse.
"Rose," he said, releasing her just enough to let his hand go up to stroke her hair. She shivered at the sensation that had once been so familiar, and prayed to a god she despised that, if this was a dream, she might be permitted to die before she woke.
"Zieg," she said, pulling back enough to look him in the eyes. They were... he was... completely unchanged. A little older, perhaps, and with a lost and shocked look he had never worn back then, but - Zieg -
"I..." he said, swallowing. The petty, human detail of his voicebox bobbing up and down with the movement was infinitely more valuable than the treasures of a thousand kings. "I... neither know how this is possible... nor do I care."
(In the madness of the moment, those fleeting instants of bliss seemed longer than their entire separation.)
Author's Note: As I said, illogical fluff. The only possible explanation of that sort of coincidence involves mumbling about Dragoon Spirits and fate, which is Endinessean for "the plot required it". And it ends there because exposition is necessary to proceed any further, and I'm not in the mood tonight to write Rose having to explain her career to Zieg.