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Title: Stranger Shores Than This
Fandom: Tales of Zestiria
Characters/pairing: Mikleo/Sorey
Rating: T
Word Count: 2505

Supposedly set in the same universe of The Color of Spring, except I couldn't tell you the timeline and where this falls in regards to that, so maybe better thought of as a complimentary one shot. Still very much a rough draft, bc I couldn't be bothered to make it pretty.

.

If Mikleo had any ability to wish at all it was this: let Sorey remain unchanged. Keep him whole.

Yes, it was a selfish request. But it was the most important one.

Sorey’s eyes reflected the first leaf to sprout on the old magnolia, green buds unfurling, slowly, drooping and drowning under their own green weight. And that wasn’t wrong -- he looked divine. But they were of an intensity they hadn’t been when he was human.

Just as Sorey had pulled him from the well, Mikleo traced the button on Sorey’s tunic, the tiny brass button and the tiny sewn hole where the two were supposed to meet. Sorey’s breath stirred his hair and warmed his face; had it not been cold out and snow hadn’t dotted the streets with it’s ethereal white coats, maybe he’d have felt nothing at all, mistaken it for just another touch of the wind.

“How many people?”

“A lot. You’ll be disappointed to know I may have fudged your appearance a bit. In the books.”

“Why’s that?”

So I don’t have to deal with everyone fussing over you. “I figured you’d look different. And you do. A bit.”

Sorey inclined his head to watch the snow fall along the flat poles above Mikleo’s slender shoulders. Hyland changed out their royal colors when nobility no longer ruled. The secrets beneath the city couldn’t stay secrets forever, and prisoners of war was an ugly topic to leave alone. Blue and gold adorned the great hall in large drapes. His eyes traced the gold crest, a crescent shape. Children sketched them on the icy windows with their fingertips.

The light on the hill went on without him, and his human body lay broken and shackled by the weight of his promises. Maotelus had devoured him whole and the world kept moving. He wondered if he’d find his own bones in the muck, leftovers of a life long forgotten. The world still kept moving -- quickly, too quickly to ponder such things.

It wasn’t a good time for formal meetings, for legislation. Mikleo wanted to get it over quickly. He wanted to take him home. He wanted to go home to Izuchi, and Sorey felt that, too. A thousand years, almost. A thousand was realistic in mathematics, numbers on paper, not the dizzying amount of time he’d slept.

He stepped back and patted down the tunic, smoothing out the creases with his fingers, straightening the heavy overcoat that made Sorey’s shoulders sharper, harder; Sorey’s patient smile was the only giveaway that his pampering didn’t go completely unnoticed.

“The reception will start soon. There will be talks. Lots of questions.”

“Questions. What should I say?”

Mikleo gave him a funny look and snapped the last button into place. “The truth, of course. Unless there’s an oath involved -- I suppose we’re short on time for that lecture.”

“You noticed?”

“You always blurt things out when you first notice them. You don’t mean to. I’m not mad. Well, maybe a little until I figure out the extent of it.”

Sorey fished for his hand, fingers pressing into the translucent skin between his fingers. Mikleo wished vainly for his gloves when they stepped out into the snow, cold hissing at their cheeks and necks. Every year the weather got colder.

“I only said it because I knew you’d want to know too.” Mikleo pulled him down the steps.

“You’re right, I do. But I’m sorry too, that you felt you had to say it that way.”

Sorey bumped his shoulder. Forgiven, easily. Mikleo’s queasy smile smoothed at last; he let his bangs fall into his eyes and turned away.

“You have to show me a map. And the ships -- I would really love to see them later.”

“Demanding.” This was ruined by a smile.

“We don’t have to go tonight. I’m not particularly tired, but --”

Mikleo tugged him forward by a long sleeve, cold crunching up to his ankles, heavy powder catching along every roof, every lit lamp making the buildings look illuminated. Sorey’s gaze shifted to the long walk through the streets, curving and meandering through buildings and blocks like an ambling snake. The tall towers disappeared over the castle wall the closer they walked. Mikleo didn’t want to go.

“No,” he said softly. “We should.” Sorey bumped their elbows, once.

“Conveniently disappear halfway through? Every castle has it’s secret passages.”

Mikleo snagged his hand to still it. “Maybe. We’ll see how good the wine is, first.”

.

Coronations were the bane of city seraphim every twenty five years, roughly. Mikleo ignored the politics and found himself caught in the caverns, the snowy woods. He didn’t want to go. He’d hibernate with the bears, if they’d let him. He didn’t want the responsibility, but the rain still fell and so he went.

He wanted to argue when the queen bowed her head and said they’d like him on the panel. Sorey had humanized him to the point that no one could tell where he came from. It was a matter of democracy, that representatives were needed from every part of the country. Only half the humans in her company could see him -- and that was the blessing.

“Izuchi is independent of Hyland’s procedures, self-governed. Our existence does not impede your own.”

The queen shook her head, brown braid sliding over her shoulder. “Hyland’s borders extend to the sea.” The sea, with the cliff faces as sharp and pointed as a soldier’s axe. The trees in Aroundlight Forest were as old as him now, but resources weren’t scarce.

Mikleo wasn’t cowed in the least. “Perhaps, but that doesn’t include the northern mountains. Hyland can’t even ascend a mountain without worry of it falling on their head. Shall I draw a line in the dirt for your armies?”

Her lip wobbled. “Izuchi would not even consider letting down their walls?”

“No. I can’t give you more than that.”

She nodded. “Alright. I will respect your wishes. Our cities are multiplying by the thousands -- I can’t say what the future will bring for your kind in this growing world.”

Four weeks later, Mikelo spent an afternoon constructing dizzying mirrors and whispering the water upstream. Ice walls and a glittering forest of silence forced the humans back.

He didn’t mean to be powerful, but anger was the finest form of motivation, a dizzying colliqual spell cast on those who’d forgotten where they’d come from. His severity would find a cost at some point -- maybe Sorey would sleep for another century, and he’d continue watching his upbringing erode into the murky waters.

Grass died under his feet, but it would return in the spring.

.

“--woke up within the last few weeks, and tonight, we drink to him!”

The room erupted in cheers, a hundred pairs of hands or more finding reason in this statement.

Sorey was uncomfortably still by his side, corroging in on the space around him like he too wished the ground to open up and swallow them both. Mikleo watched the snow outside the stained glass windows of the ball room and drank. Only those with the lowest resonance stared suspiciously through him, and the least he could do was politely gawk back.

“This is a bit much,” Sorey whispered. His bangs had gotten too long and he pushed them away when he spoke. Mikleo felt some envy and reasoned himself out of it. He needn’t spoil these feelings with his own.

“I knew it would be. I’m sorry.”

“They’re celebrating for the wrong reasons, though too. It’s not me -- it’s Maotelus.”

Mikleo leaned in closer. “He wasn’t with you -- where’s he gone?”

“He wanted to see the ships. Talked about needing to go somewhere. I kind of want to, too.”

He considered the joyful talk around him that didn’t spread through his limbs -- no, that feeling had come and gone, and resurfaced when there was no huballoo whirling about in throes. Human hearts beat about like a battering wind on both ears and he was heavily focused on one thing. He

“I’ve been on several,” Mikleo said easily. He didn’t know why he did it, but Sorey smiled. “The voyages are long, but you find ways to entertain yourself along the way. I spent a lot of time writing.”

“Where did you go?”

“A ring of islands. It was way too warm for all of us, but there were so many varieties of birds and plants I’d never seen before. There was an underwater shrine beneath the edge of the shoreline where we dropped anchor. I had limited time, though. I didn’t want the crew to leave me without transportation!”

Sorey’s smile had grown crooked, due in no small part to the fact that the right side of his mouth was significantly cheekier than the other. It was probably the side that he’d slept on for all those years.

“Did the crew eventually realize they had a stowaway?”

“No -- but in another hundred years, it wasn’t so easy. I actually had to pay. It’s not like I had any money then, either.”

Mikleo sipped at his wine and guided Sorey away from the corner of the room they had promptly trapped themselves in upon entering; he could spy several eager pairs of eyes approaching through the crowd. Sorey subtly peered around his shoulder and adjusted his pace to match Mikleo’s slow stride.

“Can we go out on the balcony? It’ll be quieter.”

“I’ll do you one better.”

.

Sorey’s legs wobbled about like a new born fawn; after several strides around the pond, of Mikleo pulling his white knuckled hands around by the wrist, Sorey finally began to match his stride. Their legs moved in unison; a backwards slide where Mikleo pushed against his back and Sorey glided forward into the new and open space.

Mikleo’s smile spoiled it. “See? This is much better.”

“I can’t help feeling like I’m going to get scolded later.” Mikleo rolled his eyes at the night sky, even as the cold feeling of a knife find placement at his heart.

“You’re an adult. If they want to put you down they better find an explanation that constitutes why no one else wants to go, either.”

“True.” Sorey laughed aloud into the frigid air. Mikleo pulled again and slowed his stride, then gently let go. Sorey stood up straighter and kept moving, the quiet scratch of metal on ice filling the silence. To the east, the capital looked illuminated. “Look at that, you already don’t need me.”

“As if I would have gotten this far without your help.”

“True. You’d be like that tree some kids plowed over in the snowbank.”

“Tough love.” Sorey skated a figure eight around Mikleo in wide, loose loops.

“Would you tell me: where’s the best place you’ve been?”

“Where? Ah, so many... North, I should say. Camelsson Ruins. Remains of the northern powers. They extend north forever, it feels like. In fact, they’re not too far from where you found me.”

Sorey nodded his head. “My mind feels all blurry trying to imagine that.”

“Like dreaming?”

“No, like... like when I couldn’t see you.”

Mikleo slowed to a stop, until it was just Sorey skating slowly on his own. “You remember that?”

“One of the few times I was terrified. So... yes. I promised myself I wouldn’t forget.”

Of course.

“Don’t be sad though!” Sorey hastily interjected. He changed his direction to Mikleo, but his steps were awkward and his arms crashed around Mikleo’s shoulders in a way that was probably intended as soft, but a failure in execution. Typical. “Think of it as a measure of how much I miss you when you’re not around.”

Mikleo breathed through his nose, tightening his arms around Sorey’s waist to keep them both from falling over. “If I think about it that way, then it’s just embarrassing.”

“Better than scary, right?”

He sighed. “You changed less than I thought you would.”

Sorey’s smiled faltered.

Maybe he was the one saying too much now.

.

“If I could give you anything, it’d be freedom.”

“Mikleo,” he laughed, “I am free.” He tasted it on his skin. Mikleo pressed him back into the bed and kissed him firmly. It was easy to slip off the robe from Sorey’s shoulder, easy to untie the silver-blue sash across his waist and let it fall away. Sorey would let him do all these things.

“You spent so long in that conference room looking unsure, I’d guess. I’m sorry that I couldn’t wake up sooner.” Hands rose up to trace the pale line of his throat, slipping along the stiff line of his collar, the tiny zipper line cold when Sorey pressed his hands along it. Mikleo flicked his hand away impetuously, blunt edge of a nail catching the back of a palm and Sorey sighed.

“I didn’t recognize any of the last names. No one’s face looked familiar.”

“Well, new councilman are elected every twenty years. Usually the king chooses wisely, but some of those humans can’t hold a candle or a read a phrase without sounding like snobs.”

“They don’t make royalty like they used to, do they?”

“And you would know all about that.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. We avoided our fair share of politics. I never really...”

Mikleo sat back on his legs, bed creaking underneath his weight. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep them away. The humans are so interested in us. I knew it was only a matter of time, but --”

“Not your fault.” Sorey rubbed the worry marks away from his skin. “Better to know. Better to be done with the serious stuff first.”

“But it’s too much. There’s no end to it.” Mikleo dropped his face on Sorey’s sternum; it was prickled from the cold air wafting across the bare skin. All evening, Sorey let Mikleo have his way with him and he regretted it now -- he was too caught up in trying to blur the lines between two overlapping timelines. Sorey felt responsible.

“Mikleo,” Sorey sighed at last. He caught his fingers that had anxiously been prancing across his chest. His fingertips left a cold spot when they marched elsewhere. Mikleo propped his chin up, listening. “Are you at least going to let me touch you?”

Silence. He examined the blunt edge of his nails. “...Yeah. You know though, the worst part about it is that I can’t help wondering whether I should have participated more -- I could have shaped everything, maybe.”

“But is that what you would have wanted?” Sorey drew him up. Mikleo’s words died in his mouth and Sorey ran his nails from hip to thigh. Mikleo sighed and slid off to the side, schlepping off the last of forever ago. It dissolved some of the tension.

“No, I suppose not. I mostly just thought about... about getting through.”

Sorey kissed him slowly. Mikleo traced the shell of his ear and held him there. “Obviously,” he muttered as an afterthought, “I don’t worry about that so much now.”

Sorey’s laugh warmed his whole face.

Maybe nothing had changed so much after all.
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