“Laurence,” Charles asked slowly. “Did you get… any sleep? Like at all?”
Laurence glanced at him, brows furrowed. The bags under his eyes were heavy and dark, barley hidden by his round glasses. “Hm?”
“That about proves it. Go to bed.” Charles hopped off the table, leaving his notebook and pen behind him on the book. “Seriously. You do know what tomorrow is, right?”
Laurence finally turned towards him. “No? Also, you’re not my mother. I’m the teacher, you’re the apprentice.”
Charles rolled his eyes. “Yeah, the apprentice who has to learn from a man who looks like death incarnate. Also, the midsummer banquet is tomorrow. As the heir the to the throne, you are expected to be there.”
Laurence hummed, eyeing him. “With the way you lot talk to me, you wouldn’t think so. What time is it?”
Charles glanced out the window. “I dunno. Bedtime?”
Laurence glared at him.
“It’s 10:17 and 32 seconds pm. Happy?”
Laurence smiled, but bookmarked his work. “Never.”
“Announcing: Physician Laurence du Montimer, premier prince du sang and duc des Monts Lance!” The was an eruption of applause as Laurence descended the steps, face blank but regal. He nodded at the announcer before quickly darting off into the crowd. About anywhere else seemed more pleasant than the throng of people pestering him, closing in and being generally too close . He shouldered his way to the back of the crowd, grabbing a small shot glass off of a table before escaping to the cool night air. He took a deep breath, then downed the shot in one go. He hated parties.
“Having a fun time, are we?” A rough, familiar voice shocked him out of his misery, and he jumped around. A short, small woman with curly red hair and a neatly cut green dress stood looking up at him.
“Estrel,” he breathed. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Always, dear.” She replied, moving to stand next to him, then forcefully turned him towards her. “Lord,” she said. “You look terrible.”
Laurence tried to summon the energy to glare at her. It worked, he thought. “That’s awfully kind. I missed you too.”
Estrel didn’t take the bait. “Laurence. We’ve talked about this. The best physician in Demeine should know that things like sleep and food are necessary parts of life.” Her green eyes had a serious glint to them, mouth set in a hard line.
Laurence tried again. “You know, you could get arrested for treason saying that.” He smirked, raising an eyebrow.
When Estrel glared at him next, the humor was back in her expression. “Oh no,” she deadpanned. “Whatever shall I do?”
Laurence smiled at her, suddenly welled up with emotions. He missed her. Scrying each other was one thing, but it had been since the new year since they had seen the other. Their growing campaign, recruitment, and his apprentices had been a lot. Charles and Estrel were right, he hadn’t slept in… was it three days? He only ate when Charles brought him something, and he was pretty sure his blood content was 50% coffee and 50% alcohol. He truly felt terrible. Just as the thought crossed his mind, a sudden wave of nausea and exhaustion swept over him. He stumbled, vision momentarily turning to black, before catching himself on Estrel’s shoulder. Before he could get a word out, Estrel quickly slapped him. He flinched, stumbling backwards, and raised his hand to his face. “What the hell?” he demanded. “What was that for?”
Estrel took his hand from his face with a gentleness that was not there before. She had a pained look in her eyes. “Sit down.”
Laurence couldn’t refuse, so he sat on the stoop of the pavilion, hand still grasped in Estrel’s. She sat down next to him and turned to face him. “Laurence. This is not sustainable.”
He raised a brow again and opened his mouth to speak. Estrel cut him off.
“No. I’m giving the emotional support speech this time, so be quiet.”
He gave a small chuckle at that, but let her continue.
“I know I am not one to speak, but you have to take better care of yourself. Laurel cannot survive with one half of its head a dead man walking. You can’t survive. I will not survive, Laurence. I cannot work alone. It pains me to admit it, but I need you.” She took his other hand. “Listen to me, my dear. Stop. Your apprentices can take some work. You do not have to take every opportunity to show up du Guay. Well, you can, I won’t blame you, but think of yourself just a bit? Please.” She pressed her forehead against his. “I love you.”
Laurence closed his eyes, taking a deep breath in. “I love you too, Estrel. I will try.”
She stood up. “Well, now that that’s cleared up, I’m getting you some food and real water. Also, I’m going to tell your apprentice- Charles du Ravine?- to make sure you’re actually trying.
Laurence watched her go, dress flowing behind her as she merged back with the crowd. He smiled, eyes falling. His last thought before unconsciousness hit was I love her .