He opened his mouth to question her as his eyes swept over her. They traced the slope of her shoulders, the curve of her back and he realized, with a start, that she wore nothing but the thinnest layer of ash.
Before he could speak, she lifted her head, and he spotted trails of silver tears spilling down ashen cheeks. He blinked.
"What're you doing?" His mind swam with the possibilities.
Her eyes, glassy with fresh tears, stared blankly at the glowing embers. She either hadn't heard him or had chosen to ignore him and both stung. He scooted closer, looping an arm around her slender shoulders.
"Lassie," he whispered.
She acknowledged him for the first time, lifting her eyes. Distraught, shining eyes.
"What're you doin' out here?"
A single ray of sunshine split the morning sky, shooting over them like a golden ice shard. It did little to melt the tension between them.
She studied him for a long moment, a lonely tear slipping from one eye, "Mourning."
His brows knitted together as she reached to the fireside's edge, scooping a handful of ash from the ring. The fine silt sifted through her thin fingers, fluttering silently in the breeze. He waited. She did it again, expression blank save for the shine of her tears.
He opened his mouth to question her again when she gently ran a hand over his arm, the one around her. He felt the fading warmth of the ash as it covered his skin in the barest of layers. Something inside screamed at him to stay quiet, he obeyed.
She was cryptic in her application of the soot over his exposed skin, almost unnervingly so. She moved gracefully around him, smoothing the pale substance on his body, completely unabashed at her own nakedness. His eyes followed her closely, drinking her in like a tinkling summer spring awash in a sudden storm. She wore a gown of silver ash, pressed tightly against her fair skin, and his wonder began to wander.
Who was this woman? She delicately smoothed ash around his face, his eyes, and over his ears. From where did she come? She was nothing like the fiery sprite he'd threatened to leave the day before. She was a rare, ethereal beauty clothed in starlight and tears.
She finished by kneeling before him, averting her gaze. He replied by taking a handful of soot and gently running a single finger over her tear-stained cheeks, effectively erasing them. They sat together like that for some time, two smokey marble statutes frozen at the foot of a sun-scorched ridge.
He understood. And pressed his forehead to hers.
"We live together," his whisper barely overtook the breeze, "And we burn together."