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The Stars Under His Feet

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What a sacrifice. Laslow fidgets with Anankos’s crystal in his pocket, his only chance to return home to Ylisse.

Owain and Severa are long gone, and Laslow intends to leave too—but only when the time is right. That’s the funny thing about falling in love: there’s always a tomorrow. A tomorrow that turns into weeks that stretch on into months and then a year filled with more happiness than Laslow’s ever known.

But he misses his mother. He needs to see her smile.

“Laslow,” Xander snaps, like he’s repeating himself. The look on his face tells Laslow that he is.

“EEEEEP! Xan—Your Majesty?”

“…I need you to focus. Blue dyes and red dyes. Garlands for the party. Understood?”

“Yes. Of course. I’m sorry,” says Laslow. “Blue dyes, red dyes, garlands.”

Xander’s eyes linger on him for a while, like he’s searching for something else. He soon dismisses the look, shoving his foot into his stray boot on the floor. “Behave yourself. If you need any help, my nephew would be more than happy to assist you.”

Laslow nods, trying to focus.

And late that evening, they try to make love. Even though the red dyes slipped Laslow’s mind, they lie together.

Laslow’s quieter than usual, his touches more uncertain. It doesn’t take much for Xander to sense that something isn’t right. He plants a precise kiss on Laslow’s chest with enough finality for Laslow to pull away, straddling Xander.

“Are you well?” Xander cups Laslow’s soft face in his hands, squishing his cheeks in a way that makes him stifle a giggle. A hopeful smile appears on Xander’s face. “You haven’t been acting much like yourself as of late.”

With a sigh, Laslow crawls off of him and sits on the bed with crossed legs.

“Darling. What troubles you?”

There’s only concern and sympathy in his voice, but directness like that never fails to spike Laslow with emotion. He blinks back tears. Something’s caught in his throat, so he hoarsely says, “I’m sorry, Xander. Can we talk about it tomorrow?”

“Yes. Of course.”

They kiss goodnight. Laslow snuffs out the candle at his bedside and scoots under the covers, unable to close his eyes.

“I love you,” Xander whispers, but it’s more powerful than that.

In the darkness, the crystal gleams the faintest speck of white. Laslow tremors with a half-sniffle, half-sob, snuggling into Xander’s warmth. His breathing evens when Xander kisses his neck, but he still can’t close his eyes.

 


 

“What could possibly be out this far that you have to show me?” Xander’s commanding voice is trained well enough to not bounce when he is on horseback, so Laslow can tell that he’s annoyed. It makes him squirm. “I will not be pleased if this is a waste of my time.”

“Sorry, King, um—Xander,” Laslow squeaks. “It’s important. I promise! Really. Please don’t punish me like last time.”

“…Then I will place my trust in you.”

Laslow’s nerves keep him silent the rest of the way there. It’s not like him, but Xander doesn’t press him any more apart from the occasional concerned glance that Laslow catches from staring at him. The way the sun catches his hair is almost mystical, and Laslow’s heart breaks at the thought of leaving him.

For the remainder of the journey, Laslow’s face is hot and he feels like crying. Somehow, he holds it deep within his chest.

They dismount far enough away from the Bottomless Canyon to not spook their horses and walk in silence the rest of the way, onto the old bridge. It creaks and moans under their feet. The eerie, endless depths below is enough to make anyone nervous, but Xander still speaks with nothing but strength. “Laslow. Tell me why we’re here.”

They’re nearly halfway across, so Laslow stops. “Um… I…” He can’t look at Xander’s face, only watching him rest his hands on the ropes. The crystal in Laslow’s pocket is warm from all the fiddling during the trip. “I’ve told you about my mother. And my homeland.”

“Yes. Go on.” Nodding for him to continue, Xander takes Laslow’s hand. It’s shaking.

“I miss her. My friends, too. They all depend on me, believe it or not… back at home.” Laslow laughs. A tear slides down his face, which he scrubs dry with his free hand. Xander tightens his grip around his hand, which makes him choke down a sob.

“I know,” says Xander. His voice is filled with sadness and pain. “Laslow… I know. It pains me to see you suffer, and if to end that suffering is to return to your home, then so be it. I will not hold you back with my own selfish desires. Should that be what you choose, I will support your decision.”

He leans into Xander’s steady arms and cries. It always feels like home with Xander’s arms around him. “I couldn’t—I can’t.” Trying not to gasp in his silent bouts of tears, Laslow opens his hand. Anankos’s crystal rests in his palm. “This is the only way back. But I…”

Balling it into a fist, Laslow throws the crystal into the canyon, as far as he can. Just like that, it plummets out of view into the nothingness below, gleaming as it falls.

“Laslow! No! Wait—” Xander shouts. The fear in his voice startles Laslow to his core, echoing through the canyon like something of a dream. Xander squeezes Laslow into perhaps the tightest hug of his life. “—I love you more than anything, I—”

“—WAAA! Xander.” Laslow’s throat is smushed against Xander’s chest, and he can feel the king’s frantic heartbeat pulsing into his face like a shockwave. He strains, “I didn’t activate its magic. It’s gone forever now. P-Please don’t strangle me.”

Furrowed brow, tight lips. Xander looks shaken and it’s not something Laslow’s used to. He eases his grip, holding onto Laslow’s shoulders instead as if he was going to evaporate. “You destroyed it? Laslow…”

“Xander, you’re my family. This is my home now. You are. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can’t leave you behind. I can’t.” They hug tight, and Laslow’s voice is muffled against his chest. “I love you so much. A-And, um, King Xander, I’m ruining your shirt—tears don’t stain, but the velvet…”

Laslow wipes his face and Xander chuckles, though it looks like he’s teetering on the edge of tears past his grin. “I know this decision wasn’t made lightly. I love you, too.” Xander kisses his forehead, but Laslow tugs Xander down for a real kiss. One for both of them. “Laslow, I will do anything I can for you to not regret this.”

“I made my choice. Life’s too short for regrets, isn’t it?” Laslow smiles a shaky smile, and in his eyes, he looks truly happy.

They stay there a while on the bridge, talking. Laslow opens up more about his mother, but in high spirits. When dusk paints the sky a nostalgic purple and peach, they begin their journey home, back to Windmire. Home.