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Title: Twin Pillars
Fandom: Tales of Zestiria
Characters/pairing: Lailah/Muse, preslash
Prompt: Sappho #20
Rating: all audiences
Word Count: 888

lol titles, lol ololol

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Muse was combing through the orchard fields outside of Gyza when Michael finally woke. Lailah nearly dropped the basket she’d been carrying when the pact slammed back into her, a sharp promise that meant the worst of the long wait was over.

He looked embarrassed from the way he clenched at the heavy quilt when Lailah let herself in, Muse nearly stepping on her heels. It was nice that the guard post had let them sleep in the barracks; from the way Michael had swayed since Pendrago, any relief they found on the road refused to mend what had shaken him. A bed and warm lodgings could make all the difference -- and mostly they had.

Muse crouched down on the bed and shook his ankle until he stopped hiding his smile at their appearance, brown hair spread about his head and ears like a bird’s wings.

“Brother, admit it: you liked being fussed over by a couple of beautiful women.”

He snorted. “Whatever. You only count as half. And you can attest to that better than I can, fussed over all day long while I snore away. Pretty hypocritical.”

“You always say I know how to make the best of any given situation.” Michael took the glass of water she offered and raised it in jest, grinning. Lailah watched him drink it all before she gently unfolded his fingers from around the glass, pulling the thin blanket up to his neck, even as he batted her away, exasperated.

“Give it a rest, Michael,” Muse interjected softly, even as Lailah’s lips parted on the same words, “let her. We can handle ourselves for a couple days, but I don’t know anything about you.”

“It’s been longer than a couple of days,” he murmured, and Muse slid a hand over his forehead only to flick him.

“And if it needs to be a couple days more, then so be it. Frankly, we could all use the rest I’d say.”

“There were horses back near the gates when we entered town -- that would make walking easier for the both of you. Perhaps we can see if we can borrow one when we leave.” Michael smiled wearily, throat working over the words. It was only a cold.

“Soldiers aren’t always inclined toward charity. A war horse is definitely too much.”

“Provisions, then,” Muse countered. “We’ll only take what keeps.”

Michael rubbed the crust from his eyes. The shepherd glove was still on his hand, loose and baggy around the bones of his knuckles. It really wasn’t meant to be worn by anyone under the age of fourteen. And yet, Lailah had allowed it. Some shame was there under it all, even as she buried it in the reassurances he offered.

“For now Michael, just try to sleep. We’ll work out the details when you’re well enough to discuss them.”

“Alright,” he sighed, sinking into the mattress. “I trust you.”

She smiled easily, lifting herself from the edge of the bed. “I know. I appreciate it.” Muse caught her brother’s gaze and held it, frowning. She didn’t know what that was about and decided she knew enough.

Lailah straightened the folds in her dress and closed the door behind her. Not for the first time she saw the world of difference between the two siblings. The thought had crossed her mind more than once: would the sister have made the better blade-bearer? She didn’t know her well enough yet to say -- or mayhap she did, and chose not to believe it. The thought was too early, incomplete. It was only the second week of the rite and both were so young -- not dwelling on her worries was an impossible task, not with so much ahead.

“Lailah, wait!”

Muse caught her hand before they reached the stairs winding down toward the mess hall, clammy fingers latching on and pulling her to a stumbling halt. It wasn’t surprising. Lailah was learning that for all that Muse didn’t say she found an action to inspire it eventually.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all, it’s just--” She gripped her staff with white knuckles and bowed her head, brown braid toppling over her shoulder. It was the same stiff posture with which she’d echoed the praying adults around her in Ladylake, crouched at the back of the church between wall and pillar. She knew that expression from the many times she’d stood beside her and watched. “--Thank you for helping him. I know Michael doesn’t always seem grateful, but he does love you.”

“It’s alright. This is a lot for him to take in. Don’t fret about thanking me though, this is simply what I do.”

Muse shook her head, smile wry. “I don’t think any of us would be here if our ancestors took the time to thank the seraphim enough. So I’ll say it as many times as I need to. Regardless, I’m sure there are seraphim who would rather not deal with any of us at all.”

That’s not true rose and died against her lips. It was true. It was why she was alone in her task.

Lailah held a hand to her cheek and watched Muse descend the stairs, face feeling hot and stretched in a watery smile. Muse would have likely made a good shepherd, but she was a better squire.
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