He stands, frozen in place, eyes affixed on the spot where Angkit was only moments ago. I beckon him over with a gesture and a small noise, and after a pause he obeys. Approaches. Calmly, he lowers himself to his knees in front of the bench and folds his arms over my thighs.
He surprises me with a silent onslaught of tears. His face is buried, hidden away from me, but his body is wracked with sobs as he weeps into my lap. My hands instinctively find their way onto his head, stroking his hair consolingly.
I speak as gently as I can. Somehow, the softness of my voice only seems to make him weep harder. He doesn’t respond, and Regenald looks at a loss for words as well, hanging off to the side and making no motion to involve himself with this situation. Not that I blame him, but some kind of idea of what to do would be nice.
REGENALD: …I’m going ahead to prepare the portal home. Please, take your time to catch up.
I nod, unsure of whether to be grateful for the space or annoyed at him abandoning us, but he says it kindly enough. Regardless, I turn my attention back to Krystoff and search desperately for the right words.
JUN: It’s okay. Everything is okay. We’re safe now. Kaguyos is gone, and Angkit healed the barrier.
KRYSTOFF: I know…
He mutters between sniffles, not sounding consoled at all.
KRYSTOFF: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jun. I’m really sorry. None of this would have happened to you if you’d never gotten involved with me. You could have been living a normal life. I’m so sorry I put you through all of this.
JUN: What are you saying? I chose this for myself. I didn’t know it’d end up quite like this, but… I’m here because I wanted to be. I wanted to be by your side.
He just cries more, so I continue to pet his head. I have a feeling he’s processing a lot all at once—this misplaced guilt he has over me—the death of Rotys’lav, with whom he had a complicated relationship but who still ultimately raised him in the absence of their father—the death of said absent father—the subsequent new sense of freedom he must have now knowing that his father and brother are no longer factors in his life—the entire reality of his mother being fabricated for as long as he’s been alive.
It’s a lot. Even I’m reeling trying to process it all, and I managed to make it out only down an eye, which isn’t bad at all by comparison. I can’t imagine what it feels like for him. Trying to imagine it makes my heart hurt.
JUN: I love you, Krystoff. I’m sorry if now’s a bad time to say that; I just want you to know how much I care about you.
Krystoff goes quiet, and all at once I’m consumed with the fear that I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe it was selfish of me to say something so weighty while he’s clearly vulnerable, but in the moment it felt right. I couldn’t help but notice the detached way he and Angkit had spoken with one another, and how it made me wish for his sake that things could be different.
Now I want to apologize and take it back, but it’s too late, so I just wait for him to say something.
He looks up at me with a searching expression that cuts right through me. I feel my face go red and I quickly cover my unsightly absence of an eye.
KRYSTOFF: …No one has ever said that to me before. At least, nobody who meant it. Do you mean it?
JUN: Y-yeah. Sorry…
KRYSTOFF: Why are you sorry?
JUN: I don’t know, I just feel embarrassed now!
He straightens a little and pulls me forward by the coat.
KRYSTOFF: That’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard. Those three words.
My heart is pounding so loudly, I can’t help but reflexively wonder if I’m having another near-death experience. I’ve had so many in such a small span of time, it feels like my brain has already built an automated neural pathway for anticipating it. Of course, I know that’s silly, but that’s how my thought process works now, apparently. I feel like I can hear Krystoff’s heartbeat too, like it’s amplifying my own, but that very well may just be an exhaustion-based hallucination.
JUN: I’m… sorry?
KRYSTOFF: Stop apologizing.
He tugs me a little closer.
KRYSTOFF: I’m not going to say it back right now. Regenald is waiting for us, and you look uncomfortable, and I’m certain I must look like shit. I don’t want to say it while I look like shit.
KRYSTOFF: I also don’t want you to think I’m saying it just because you did, or because I ostensibly just watched my entire family die.
KRYSTOFF: So… I’ll say it when I feel like it. Because we have all the time in the world now.
KRYSTOFF: Are you ready to go home?
Home. That’s right, Angkit sealed the barrier. I can stay…
He helps me stand up on my newly renovated leg and keeps a firm grip on my hand. He smiles, kind and sincere. The strength of his touch says more than words could, anyway.
JUN: Yeah. I’m ready.