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Title: How Far is a Place Called Home
Fandom: Tales of Zestiria
Characters/pairing: Muse/Lailah
Prompt: Sappho #15
Rating: all audiences,
Word Count: 822

Muse sat with her ankles crossed at the bottom of the antechamber and did not move from her spot; at all times of the day the space was filled with gold light, warm, hazy -- no dust motes ever settled in a place as full as the sanctuary -- sifting through the stain glass windows like the green-orange-red-blue colors did not matter if they all came from the same place. She arrived in time to watch the end of the prayers, the priest disappearing into the back rooms in his soft cotton robes. The nobles left first, filing out through the grand doors they’d entered from, lace work fans held before sweaty faces as the humidity threatened to smother them all.

She spread her fingers over the crack in the stairs before growing brave enough to stand. The lady of the lake had been walking around the room since the morning, peering through the windows, sitting in the pews to stare at the bulk of the carvings that lingered behind her place of dwelling. She was a restless figure that moved about in tandem with the people. She read over shoulders. And despite the number of times Muse had stared across the table where she sat to Michael’s right, folding the neat little paper birds of hers until a dozen sat in a crisp row of yellow and white, she felt young again, too shy to let her voice go, terrified the space would swallow it up or nothing would come out at all.

But her thoughts didn’t betray her. All she said was her name, soft and gentle, and Lailah pulled herself away from whatever world she had lost herself in to smile. She hurried over, heels clacking against the stone floor, then soft and quiet again against the blue runner that ran the length of the pews.

“You came! I wasn’t sure if you’d have time before setting out--”

“That’s not for another week. And you know I wouldn’t leave without seeing you.” Muse’s expression was wry; Lailah said the strangest things, sometimes. Michael excused it with words of a pact, promises, tripping up her tongue. She could understand those, but not the absolutes, not the finer details.

Lailah folded her skirts under her and dropped down on the lowest step beside her, legs stretched out. Muse reached for her hand and pulled it over her knee, stroking the dip between her first and second knuckle. Here came the hard part. “There was -- well, there is something I wanted to discuss.”

“About Michael?”

“Not exactly.” Muse bit her lip. “About -- about us.”

Lailah squeezed her knee. The notion was tender but didn’t warm her. “I can’t come with you. I can’t leave this place.”

Muse took a deep breath. “What if I drew the sword? What if I took the oath?”

“I’d reject you,” Lailah responded firmly, “because that’s how it has to be. Think of it this way: I can’t exist in the same place as Maotelus. That would be self-defeating. I have to stay here.”

Muse held on to the long slender hand in her grip. “Are you afraid to leave?”

“No, but I am afraid for you. You need to be proactive in monitoring Hyland and Rolance. Don’t wait until last minute to act if you feel threatened. Keep your staff with you -- and look out for Michael, too.” Lailah leaned her cheek on her shoulder. “And should worst come to worst, come find me if you travel this way. And if not -- go to Elysia. Lord Zenrus should still be there.”

“Got it. It’s going to be very hard to leave this place without you leaving with me, you know.”

Lailah smiled into her shoulder, green locks falling across her shoulder and the long line of her neck. Her tiara dug in against the back of Muse’s ear. “I know. I’ll walk you to the doors. And when you leave, don’t look back.”

Muse held her to her promise. And when the great brown doors pressed against the back of her open palm, she leaned in for one last kiss. For the amount of time she guarded Michael’s back and let Lailah heal her cuts and scratches, this was the gentlest touch she’d felt. Just like the summer heat that rolled in and out of the fields in waves, the warmth was there, and then it was gone. Lailah even smiled. “Don’t be sad,” she said. “This is temporary. We’ll definitely meet again. Say my name if you need me -- I’ll hear you.”

“Right,” Muse murmured. She drew back, watching Lailah move away from her, down the wooden line of empty seats. It wasn’t fair she felt, but that’s what the three of them had been working towards -- a dream in which they all lived.

She looked back only after she’d left the city, and when the spell broke, she moved forward from there.

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