Alejo was not looking forward to being burned at the stake. It was a good sight better than what they normally did to convicted traitors, but he still preferred to be warmed by fires from a short distance. He sighed and tried to settle himself more comfortably on the bench in the holding room, but it was impossible to be comfortable anywhere when one was waiting to die.
Stupidly, it was not the pending death that troubled him. It was not the nine men he had killed. He had intended to kill them, he still felt it was the right thing to do, and he had done it knowing he would burn. No, his choices there did not concern him. He had made his decisions, he had acted on those decisions, and he accepted the consequences of his actions.
The only choice that it had nearly killed him to make was that it would be wisest to give up Lalo. He would not have ever risked endangering the man he loved with his own actions. So he had ended it, made Lao think he no longer cared. Three long, miserable, lonely months before he had begun murdering the real traitors to the throne.
Because he was a gentleman, he had been given a proper room in the Prisoner’s Tower. He was clean, well-dressed, and more comfortable than any prisoner probably should be. He would die respectably enough, because he had earned that despite his last traitorous acts.
They had also, because he was a gentleman, given him a last request. He had refused the courtesy. The only thing he wanted, to see Lalo one last time, he could not have. The end of their affair had been the talk of the town for months. People would be suspicious if he asked for Lalo now. He had not come this far, sacrificed everything, to endanger Lalo now.
He sighed and simply dwelt on his fondest memories of Lalo. The first time they had met, familiar strangers in a foreign city, banding together against a world they did not know. Their first kiss, after months of being friends, after a nightmarish week where he had thought Lalo dead. The house they had taken together when finally they returned home. The way Lalo smiled, the gold of his hair, the blue-green of his eyes, his dusky skin, the way he always smelled of lemon and honeysuckle. He almost thought he smelled it now, and smiled sadly.
The sound of footsteps drew him, and he looked up, drawing a deep breath and bracing himself as best he was able to meet his fate. Anything, even burning, had to be better than the endless waiting.
He froze in shock at the tall, blonde, dark-skinned, handsome, scowling man walking toward him. A ring of keys dangled from his fingers, and Alejo wondered that he had not heard their rattling. The man stopped in front of Alejo, the knelt. “Hello, Corazon.”
“What are you doing here?” Alejo asked, and stupidly wanted to cry, hearing Lalo’s old endearment for him. He ha survived even his conviction, the arduous trial that led up to it, without so much as flinching. Hearing Lalo call him ‘Corazon’ should not be what finally broke him.
“You are a fool,” Lalo said. “Smart, courageous, stubborn, beautiful, deadly, but a fool. If I did not love you so much, Corazon, I would kill you myself.”
“Lalo—” Alejo swallowed as Lalo undid his cuffs and gently rubbed his sore, chaffed wrists. “Why—damn it—Lalo, what you are doing here?”
At first, Lalo said nothing, only soothed his wrists, lifting each one to press a soft kiss to the raw, red skin. “You are not a murderer, Alejo. You are not the sort of man to break a heart lightly. You are a man of vows, and you vowed me many things. You would never stop loving me, and you would not kill nine men, for no reason. You would do both those things only if you felt there was no other recourse. I am still angry with you for trying to leave me to protect me, Corazon. But we will settle that matter later, hmm?”
Alejo said nothing, for once not at all certain what to say. “I am being executed shortly, Lalo. You should go.”
“It is raining, has no one told you?” Lalo asked with a smile that held just a hint of smirk.
“Rain…” Alejo stared at him in shock, and wondered what it had cost Lalo to get a water mage to manipulate the weather. Such a thing was highly illegal without the crown’s consent.
“Come,” Lalo said, and tugged him to his feet. “There is not much time. My ship is waiting for us, and there is a charming villa in a faraway city on the seaside that is waiting to welcome us warmly back into her embrace. Do you recall it, Corazon?”
Alejo just stared at him. Of course he remembered it, that villa in the city where they had met. They had stayed there for months, just the two of them, after they had turned from friends to lovers. A thousand times they had talked of returning there.
He should not be getting rescued. He did not deserve to be saved. He should be burning right now. Yet Lalo, whom he had driven away, was here to save him. “Lalo—” He tried to say more, but choked on the words, unable to do anything but stare at the man he had missed more than life itself.
Lalo drew him close, kissed him deeply, and three long months of constant misery began to ease, soothe by the taste and feel and heat of Lalo’s kisses. “Say you are sorry, Corazon, and that you love me still.”
“I am sorry, and I always have and always will love you, Lalo. It broke me to leave you, and I did it only because of you.”
“You are a fool, but I love you, and now I am going to take you away until we can find a way to clear your name,” Lalo replied, and kissed him one last time before leading Alejo away.