When the sakura trees are in bloom and the world is adorned with a blaze of greens, Xander’s traitorous heart decides to beat a little faster when he sees Ryoma silhouetted against the blue, blue sky.
He's breathtaking among nature, his wayward mind muses suddenly, and his steps falter for a second. You don't find that to be untrue, the gentle pattering of his heart against his ribcage announces with each thump. He pretends, but he knows he doesn't remember the last time he felt this unsure. Closing his eyes, Xander inhales all the vibrancy and life of spring and wills his wayward heart to settle down.
"Your country is magnificent in spring," is what he says at last, voice steady even as a glimmer of something alights in his stomach. Stop it, he tells his twitching fingers, his fluttering stomach, his spluttering heart.
Ryoma finds his eyes, gaze thoughtful and mild. "They say home is where the heart is, but sometimes, isn't home a person, and not a place?" This isn’t just my home anymore, Xander hears laced amongst Ryoma's nonchalant tone. A home for all of Nohr, and Xander knows this, but it doesn't stop the axis of his familiar world tilting precariously in time with the dancing wind. For the first time in a long while, he finds himself at a loss for words and takes another sharp breath, irregular thump thumps reverberating in his ears.
Even at night when the world starts to cool, summers in Hoshido are full of a warmth he hasn't felt in a long time. Xander prides himself on being a rational person, and so he blames the flush on his cheeks on the excitement wreathed throughout the air, the hustle and bustle of the festival, the heat hanging heavy in the languid breeze.
"Are you sure you won’t be missed?" He questions even as he settles into a comfortable position on the grassy hill.
"Let them have their fun. We have the best view from here," Ryoma promises from where he's perched next to Xander, his face softening as a fond smile tugs at his lips, gaze sweeping across the cluster of lights down below that make up the festival.
Xander finds that he can't turn away, eyes tracing the crinkle at the edge of Ryoma's eyes as he smiles, the way the lines on his face smoothen out. He wants to engrave this moment into his memory forever.
When Ryoma suddenly turns around to face him, he fights the urge to avert his eyes guiltily. Ryoma's mouth is moving, soundless, words swallowed up by the sharp crack of fireworks blooming to life as they scatter light into dark sky. A distant part of Xander wonders and wonders, futilely chasing down words lost to the showers of noise from above.
Even after Ryoma has turned his full attention to the sky, Xander finds his gaze refuses to leave Ryoma, breath hitching as he studies his figure wreathed in firework lights. Ryoma, with his face tilted to the sky. Ryoma, with eyes reflecting the radiance of the colors from above. Ryoma, as he blinks, eyelashes fluttering against a backdrop of a multitude of colors that breathe life into the night.
"You should've seen how determined Sakura and Elise were," Ryoma says when it’s all over and the stars are the brightest objects in the sky again. "They were going to 'paint the sky bright with life and cheer' in order to 'bring a smile to everyone's faces' and no one could stop them." He quotes, that ridiculously fond look settling on his face again.
"It was beautiful," Xander assures him, despite never looking away from him once.
Draped in gold and orange, the world dies a little with each leaf that flutters to the ground. Xander watches Camilla and Hinoka chase each other in the sky and doesn’t miss how Camilla’s eyes light up as she ducks out of Hinoka's way, at how her whole face blooms with a smile that touches her eyes in response to Hinoka leaning close and whispering something in her ear.
"It's been too long since I've heard Hinoka laugh like that," Ryoma's voice comes from seemingly nowhere and Xander starts, swallowing down a soft sound of surprise.
(No one had been able to sneak up on him since the war begun. That was seasons ago, Camilla's laughter tells him as it drifts through the air.)
Xander lets out an almost inaudible sigh.
Ryoma's ears seem to miss nothing. "Don’t care much for autumn?" He asks as Ryoma settles down on the ground beside him in one fluid movement.
"Back in Nohr, I used to watch the trees lose their leaves and think they would never grow back." Is his reply as he closes his eyes, breathing in the crisp autumn air as the sound of Hinoka's lilting laugh mixes with Camilla's until he can't tell which is which.
"But you’re here now, aren’t you?" He hears in a slow and steady tone, and swears he feels the gentle brush of a hand against his for a second. Startled, his eyes jolt open again.
Time narrows down to just the two of them. In the midst of a muted, dying world, Xander finds a splash of vibrant red.
The world is crowned in dull browns and yellows as he finally realizes he may be in love.
Snowflakes slowly drift down to blanket the ground, the world far too silent for Xander's taste. Hoshidan winters aren’t as unforgiving as Nohr's, and he finds himself up and out early in the morning, wandering idly with only a light jacket and a scarf.
"Not afraid of the cold?" He hears and turns, stifling a smile at the sight of Ryoma bundled in a thick coat, figure swallowed by layers and layers of clothing, the tips of his nose and ears tinged with a bright red.
"Crown Prince Ryoma, defeated by the cold,” Xander says with as much seriousness as he could muster as Ryoma crosses his arms and shoots him an offended look that lasts for all of two seconds. He closes the distance between them in a heartbeat and Ryoma's comeback is cut off with a small sound of surprise as Xander nimbly unwraps his scarf and loops it around him.
"You seem to need it more than I do," Xander says nonchalantly in reply to Ryoma’s surprised look, and if his cheeks are a bit redder than usual, well, it is chilly outside after all.
Ryoma’s face almost seems to be flushed as well as he tugs the scarf more securely around his neck. Xander finds himself suddenly unwilling to attribute this to the cold.
The world is frosty as the wind bites and nips at his face and fingers, but he can feel warmth spreading out with each unsteady thump of his heart and knows this is the warmest he's ever been.
Spring comes again and the world inhales in all the vibrant colors, alive and awake once more.
"Don’t move," Ryoma says as he leans over and plucks a cherry blossom out of Xander’s hair. Flower in one hand, he tucks a strand of Xander’s hair behind his ear with the other and leans down slightly to steal a kiss.
A strong gust of wind stirs up and sends the cherry blossoms scattering into the air, the one in Ryoma’s hand drifting off to settle on the grass. Amidst the flurry of pink, Xander leans into Ryoma and knows that his heart has finally found its home.