"Do not move, Khaleesi."
Daenerys was vaguely aware that some of the voices around her had suddenly quieted, but it was not until she heard the urgent tone in Ser Jorah's voice that she realized something was very wrong.
She froze in place, turning her eyes to Jorah without moving her head.
"Stay calm, princess, but I implore you -- Do. Not. Move."
Only moments before he had been laughing, sharing a joke with Rakharo as the khalasar gathered for a feast night in the great meeting hall in Vaes Dothrak, but now Jorah's face was grim. Yet his blue eyes were calm and steady, as they always were, reassuring her.
"Trust me, and do exactly as I say, and all will be well."
His gaze shifted for a moment, looking behind her. Instinct screamed at her to bolt away from the danger, but she remained as rigid as stone, because she did trust him.
There was movement from across the room, Khal Drogo and his bloodriders rising to their feet abruptly, and the whole meeting hall suddenly went silent.
Jorah held out his left hand, motioning them all to back off, and everyone stopped. Drogo stood there, staring at her, face expressionless, at least to all but her. She could see the concern in his dark eyes and that he gripped the cup in his hand so tightly his knuckles were white.
But she saw fear in other eyes, and when she felt something brush against her hair in back, the panic started to rise in her too.
"Look at me, Khaleesi," Ser Jorah said quietly, and her eyes met his again. "The dragon has nothing to fear, is that not so?" he said with a brief hint of a smile.
"It is so," she whispered back.
"Good. Now listen to my words, and do as I ask, when I give the command. I want you to get up and run towards the fire pit, as fast as you can. But WAIT until I say so, do you understand?"
Jorah looked behind her again, and she tensed as she saw him tense, both getting ready to move.
"Just a moment more...." His right hand moved slowly up behind her as he leaned towards her. "NOW!"
As she sprang from her seat, his left hand shoved her shoulder, a little too hard, and she lost her balance and pitched forward towards the hard ground. A dozen hands were there to grab her, however, dragging her quickly away to safety. She heard Jorah curse loudly, and she turned as two bloodriders pulled her to her feet.
Ser Jorah was flinging benches and chairs and tables aside, sending pottery and plates flying, revealing the source of the danger -- a four foot long snake, its skin a pale green, the color of the grass of the plains, with tan spots in a diamond pattern. The snake was coiled against the back wall, hissing at Jorah, and then it moved in a blur, striking at him.
She gasped as it came dangerously close to hitting his leg. But Jorah stepped back in time, grabbing one of the tall candle pedestals nearby, upending it and using it to hold the snake at bay long enough for the other men to join him in killing the reptile. They attacked it with logs and brands from the fire pit, stomping it into the earth with heavy boots.
"Khaleesi, are you hurt?" Irri asked.
Drogo had come to Daenerys, holding her as he stood between her and what was left of the snake, looking for any sign of injury himself.
"I am fine, my sun and stars," she told her husband, hiding her fear while she pressed herself close.
"My most humble apologies, Khaleesi," Jorah said. "I did not intend to push you down. I was merely trying to get you out of its way as quickly as possible."
She shook her head. "Don't be foolish -- because of your bravery, I have but soiled my clothes," she said as she brushed off the dust and dirt from her leggings.
She watched as Jorah hurriedly stripped off the leather wrist band from his right arm, rolling up the sleeve of his shirt and looking worriedly at his forearm. Her relief turned to dread as she asked, "Did the snake strike you, ser?"
He did not answer, his jaw tightening as he swallowed hard, slowly lowering himself onto a nearby chair as he stared at the small spot of blood on his forearm.
"Ser Jorah." He looked up this time. "Are you hurt? Did the snake strike you?"
He could not meet her eyes. "Yes, it did, at the edge of the leather. I did not think that it had gone through the cloth, but one fang did pierce the skin."
He picked up a shard of broken pottery from the ground, using the sharp edge to cut a small 'X' into his skin where he had been bitten. As the blood flowed freely, he brought it up to his mouth, sucking the wound for a moment before turning to spit onto the ground.
There was a knot in her stomach as she watched him repeat the action. "The snake was venomous, wasn't it?" she asked.
Jorah did not answer.
Daenerys looked up at Drogo and asked the question in Dothraki. He did not speak either, but the way he looked at Jorah was all the answer she needed.
"It is voshtari snake," Irri said. "Big one can kill horse. Is a hard death. Much pain."
"No. It cannot be so," Daenerys said, feeling sick.
They all watched Jorah trying to draw the venom from the wound and spit it out a few more times, but finally he stopped. Wiping the blood from his face with his sleeve, he looked up at Daenerys.
"It is so, Khaleesi. I too have seen the bite of a voshtari bring down a horse."
"But this is a smaller one, is it not? Not as much venom."
"Perhaps. But even a little is deadly."
"Then what is to be done?" She refused to believe he was going to die.
Jorah lowered his eyes. "Nothing can be done. There is no medicine in the Seven Kingdoms, or all the world, that will cure this."
"What you just did, trying to suck the poison out, does that not help?"
"Truthfully, it is doubtful it helps more than it harms, but it is the only thing I know to try."
"But you saved my life." She went cold inside for a moment as she put her hand over her belly. "And my son's. I will not lose you now, ser."
He smiled gently, resignation to his fate already showing in his face. "I have pledged myself to your house, to die for you if need be. Your life for mine -- there is no more honorable way for a knight to die, than to lay down his life for his liege lord. I go to the gods happy, knowing that you are safe, my princess."
She shook her head. "No. No, I will not allow you to give up," she said emphatically. She turned to Irri. "What is to be done? And do not tell me ‘nothing‘. There has to be something!"
The girl hesitated. "It is best to keep still. Moving makes poison go faster in the blood. And they say that since poison is in the blood, so let blood out, it will let poison out too."
"No!" Jorah said, "I have seen men die, not from their wounds, but from a physician who let too much of their blood spill into the sands. I will not be bled."
"Very well. But I will not sit by and do nothing." She turned and pointed at several strong slaves. "You. Pick him up in the chair and bring him to my hut. Do not let him walk. I will look after him myself."
"Princess, no, please," Jorah protested. "I will be fine in my own tent. The servants will look after me. Do not trouble yourself."
"I owe you my life. It is not 'trouble' to try to ease your pain." Before he could object again, she looked at Drogo. "A warrior who serves his Khal and is brave beyond measure deserves respect and honor. I will do this to honor Ser Jorah and all he has done for me and the Dothraki people."
Drogo walked over and laid his hand on Jorah's shoulder. "They will sing songs of your courage, Jorah the Andal."
Jorah raised his chin proudly. "It has been my honor to serve the great Khal Drogo."
But then Drogo looked at Dany for a moment before gesturing to his men. "Bring him. Do as she says."
Jorah shook his head. "No, I will not be carried. I can still walk."
"It is too far." Dany moved close enough to see that his forearm was already becoming swollen and red. "You must save your strength, ser."
Jorah flexed his fingers for a moment, then slipped his silver ring off his right hand and put it on his left. "I bow to your wishes, Khaleesi,” he said with a weary sigh. “And I will do as you ask and go with you -- for now. But I will not be carried. Bring me a horse, and I'll ride."
She could understand his reluctance to show weakness in front of the bloodriders, even in a situation like this, although she thought it all absurd now. "Very well," she said, and then gave more orders for preparations to be made, for Jorah's things to be brought to her hut, with another bed, and for healers to come, and a horse.
By the time they reached Daenerys‘ hut, Jorah's arm was swollen from fingertip to elbow, and it was a visible struggle for him to dismount the horse.
He paused at the entrance, sighing again as he cradled his right arm with his left, and reluctantly followed her inside. The servants were hurriedly finishing preparing his sleeping pallet for him, a thick grass-filled mattress piled with furs, horsehides and blankets.
"Sit, you must rest, please. Save your strength," Daenerys said.
He took slow, unsteady steps, not at all like his usual confident stride. He lowered himself into a chair, but did not settle back onto it, merely perching on the edge. "This is not right, Khaleesi; I have no place here. Let me go to my tent. The servants will tend to me."
"And let you suffer alone? I told you, I cannot do that."
"You must understand -- I am not afraid to die. I have faced death many times, and I've made my peace with the gods. You were not hurt today, and that will give my death meaning, more than you know."
She paused, taking a few steps across the room. "Ser, forgive me, but I do not believe you. Only a fool does not fear death at such a time as this, and you are no fool. I only wish to see you well again, or if that is not to be, to ease your passing. Why do you resist that?"
"Do you truly not know?" he said, exasperated, some of the underlying emotion showing through his calm facade. "I do not want you to see me like this." He could not look her in the eyes anymore. "I've watched a man waste away after a voshtari bite; it is an ugly thing. I would rather you remember me as I am now, than like that."
He was more afraid of losing face in front of her than dying itself, she realized, and she turned away, swallowing past the lump in her throat.
Finally, after a long silence, she said, "If you truly believe that I will think less of you as a man, just because you are ill, you are very wrong. I know you have your pride, ser, but do not let that cost you a chance at life. Death is only certain if we do nothing."
He did not answer, staring down at the ground.
"If I promise you I will respect your honor and dignity, will you stay and allow us to help you, in your hour of need, as you helped me in mine? It may be selfish of me, but I do not wish to lose you -- without your counsel I will be bereft. I cannot imagine not having you by my side."
When he looked up at her again finally, his blue eyes shone with an inner glow. "How can I refuse such a request?" he said, with a ghost of a smile.
"It would not be wise, ser." She walked to the door. "I will leave you now, and send the servants in to make you more comfortable. You must rest now. I will return later to see how you are."
"Thank you, Khaleesi." He started to say something more, but then stopped, pursing his lips together as he lowered his eyes.
She turned away too, stepping outside to give him his privacy, sending in the serving girls and two of the young boys that sometimes acted as his squires to tend to him and get him settled into bed. She sent in the healers too, the old women who knew how to use plants and roots to help the sick, and sent others to buy a supply of milk of the poppy at the marketplace.
The night had deepened when she returned. A slave was carrying out a pot covered by a cloth as Dany was going in. She tried to lift the cloth, but the slave pulled away quickly. "No, Khaleesi, no. It is not for you."
Dany caught the foul odor of it a moment later, and put her hand over her mouth, nearly gagging.
"He had much to eat at the feast," the slave said as she hurried away with the pot.
"Oh no," Dany said to herself, pausing for a minute or two to prepare herself before going inside.
In the few hours since she had last seen him, Ser Jorah’s health had deteriorated considerably. Lying beneath a layer of heavy furs and horsehide, he was feverish with a sheen of sweat glistening on his forehead and bared shoulders, his handsome face drawn and pale. His right arm lay along his side, outside the blankets, the swelling and discoloration reaching his shoulder now, a bloodstained bandage wrapped loosely around the wound on his forearm.
Pain was etched into the lines of his face, but when he turned slightly and caught sight of her, he put on a brave front, pretending it did not hurt, and he even tried to sit up. "Khaleesi, you shouldn't be here now... You promised me,” he said in a low raspy voice.
She saw the truth of it, that he would never truly allow himself to rest as long as his queen was present.
"Before I retire for the night, I came to make sure you are being properly cared for, ser," she said. "Is there anything else I can do?" She kept her voice neutral, talking as if nothing were wrong, but inside she was terribly afraid for him, the reality that he might actually die all too apparent now.
"No, I am being well looked after, far better than I could hope for. Thank you. But now you must rest yourself; it is late."
"Indeed it is. I bid you goodnight then, ser. I will look in on you in the morning."
“Good night, princess,“ he said, his eyes closing wearily as she departed.
But she did not stay away, slipping back into the hut unnoticed, lying down on a pile of cushions that were behind a curtain and out of his line of sight. She listened to his labored breathing, to the servants trying to ease his pain, to the sound of him retching times beyond count, his body wracked with spasms long after there was anything left in his stomach to bring up.
Eventually she could not listen anymore, her own stomach made delicate by her pregnancy, threatening to rebel too, and she left, still unseen by Jorah, retiring to Drogo’s hut for the night.
By morning the worst of it had passed, and the servants had cleaned up and aired out her hut by the time Dany returned.
The outward symptoms had subsided, but the night's ordeal had left Jorah greatly weakened, his eyes rimmed by dark circles, his face gaunt and lips cracked with dehydration. The servants said that giving him even a few drops of water would start his stomach retching again, so they had stopped trying for the time being.
He did not notice her enter this time, not until she sat by his side and took his hand. "Ser Jorah." His heart beat far too fast, and his skin was far too warm, the fever burning inside him.
He turned towards her slowly, eyes opening wider, and he blinked several times, trying to focus on her face.
"Khaleesi." It seemed an effort even to speak, his breathing labored.
"It pains me to see you suffer so," she said, curling her small fingers around his uninjured left hand. The servants had warned her he could not stand for anyone to even touch his swollen right arm. "They tell me you have refused the milk of the poppy. Perhaps a little would help."
"It dulls the mind as well as the pain. The fever makes it hard to think already," he whispered. "I'd rather face death with my wits about me."
He barely moved, either from weakness or the pain that ravaged his body, or both, she did not know. It made her want to weep, but she did not show it, lest it embarrass him again.
He licked his dry lips, rallying himself to speak again. "It has been an honor serving you, my princess. My only regret is that I will not be there to see you and House Targaryen regain your rightful place on the Iron Throne."
Blinking back tears, she replied, "Please, do not say goodbye, ser."
"I must, while I still can." He took her hand in his, raising it to his lips, and he kissed her fingertips tenderly. "You are stronger than you know, princess, far stronger than Viserys ever could have hoped to be. You have the blood of your ancestors, of the dragon, in you. If you remember nothing else I've said, believe in that, always."
"I remember everything you have said to me," she whispered back. "I don't know what I would have done without your counsel and advice. You've taught me so much, and helped me find my strength. I'll always remember your kindness to me, especially at the beginning; you were the only one who didn't treat me as something they could use."
An odd look came to his face, a pained look different than before. "Would that that were always so..." he said so quietly that she almost could not hear him.
"Ser?" she said, wondering what he meant.
He could barely keep his eyes open now; just the effort of speaking had drained him completely. "You are the most remarkable, the most beautiful woman I have ever known... Be well, my beloved... Da...," he whispered, slurring his words, and passed out.
A tear rolled down her cheek. "Be at peace, Ser Jorah."
The fever burned in Jorah through the day as he drifted in and out of consciousness. The pain that he had borne in silence before began to slip from his throat, moaning and crying out in his delirium. Mostly it was gibberish, but occasionally Dany could make out names, often the same ones, especially Lynesse whom she could only assume was his ‘expensive wife‘. Other times he cursed against the likes of Lord Stark, or relived old battles, or begged forgiveness from his father. Sometimes it was her own name he whispered, her given name and not her title. And a few times he said names and things that made little sense, about spiders and pardons.
There was little change as day turned into night, then night into day again, and Jorah lingered in the netherworld between life and death.
The endless raving and moaning was almost too much to listen to, even for the servants, even after they had given Jorah small doses of milk of the poppy, so Dany sent them away for a while and looked after Jorah herself. She knew she was breaking her promise to him, but under the circumstances, that seemed very unimportant now.
After she had been sitting with him for an hour, holding his hand and talking to him, she began to notice an improvement in him. The fever still burned as hot as ever, but he had quieted, the delirious rantings only occasional now, and his breathing had grown stronger and steadier.
Encouraged, she thought it safe to have the servants take care of him again, only to discover that when she left his bedside the delirium and labored breathing returned. But once she sat with him again, he quieted once more.
At first she thought it was coincidence, but when the same pattern repeated itself several more times, it became apparent that there was only one medicine that would ease the effects of the voshtari's deadly bite for Ser Jorah Mormont -- the touch of his Khaleesi's hand and the sound of her voice.
And so she stayed at his side almost constantly, holding his hand as the flames of fever continued to burn within him, laying cool wet cloths on his forehead, feeding him a few drops of water from time to time, telling him stories of her family and the dragons of old. Sometimes she read aloud from the books he had given her as a wedding present, other times singing softly to herself to relieve the boredom.
Eventually, as night began to fall, Drogo came looking for her, insisting that she leave and get some rest, that she had already done more than enough for Ser Jorah. Exhausted, Dany reluctantly agreed; with the baby coming, she had to take care of herself too.
She fell asleep in her husband’s arms the moment she laid down with him in his bed.
The next morning she was alone, waking as Irri shook her. "Khaleesi. You must come!"
She pushed herself up, wiping the sleep from her eyes, a feeling of dread sweeping over her at the girl's urgent tone. "He's dead, isn't he?" she said flatly. "Ser Jorah is dead."
"No, Khaleesi, no. Come, you must see. The fever, it is gone. He does not burn anymore."
"What?" She staggered to her feet, feeling as though she had not slept at all. "Is he awake?"
"Not yet. But it is good, no? He doesn't burn, and his arm, it look better. Still not good, but better maybe."
They hurried over to her hut, entering quietly.
The flush of fever had indeed left Jorah’s cheeks, the sheen of perspiration gone as well. His breathing was slower, more regular, as if he was merely in a deep sleep. His arm looked terrible, the skin mottled and red, but it seemed true that the swelling was less than before. Perhaps he was getting better.
But he was still so gaunt and pale that Dany wondered if the opposite was true, that instead of getting better, his body was shutting down, and he would never awaken from his slumber.
"Have you tried speaking to him? Did he respond?"
"Not to us." She looked pointedly at Dany. "Maybe you he will." Dany did not answer. "I think he love you, Khaleesi."
"Of course he does. I'm his queen."
"That not what I mean."
Dany ignored her, not wanting to acknowledge what the girl was saying or what it meant. Irri had seen the way Jorah looked at her during his more lucid moments in the last two days, and Dany had seen it too. Now it was starting to make more sense as to why he was so disturbed to have her be there with him as he laid on his deathbed.
If Jorah lived, she did not know how she would respond to him from now on. And if he died, she did not know what she would do without him.
"Leave us," she said without looking at Irri.
Irri bowed low. "Forgive me, Khaleesi. I should not have said."
As Irri left, Dany said, "No, you shouldn't have. And don't ever speak of it again. To me or anyone else."
She sat beside Jorah, reaching over to gently lay the back of her hand against his forehead. It was cool to the touch; the fire inside had indeed gone out.
Or perhaps it was too cool now; she knew so little of such things.
"Ser Jorah," she said gently. "Can you hear me?" There was no response. "I am your Khaleesi, and I command you to speak to me. I need your guidance."
But Jorah remained still and silent, and she sat and held his hand for a long time, humming a sad little tune she remembered from childhood. Eventually she laid her head on the cot beside him, whispering, “Come back to me...."
Later that afternoon, Daenerys left her hut for a while. She was not gone long, just enough time to refresh herself and have something to eat.
She nearly dropped the water jug she was carrying when she stepped back inside.
Ser Jorah was standing in the middle of the room, a large blanket wrapped around his body, and he pulled it tighter when he saw her. "Where are my clothes?" he asked, glassy-eyed, his voice a hoarse whisper. He was swaying noticeably, looking as though a stiff wind would knock him over.
She put down the water jug, hurrying over to him, greatly relieved to find him alive and well. "Your clothes have been washed; I‘ll have them brought back." She smiled widely. "Ser, I am so very happy you are awake."
He stared at her blankly, blinking several times. It became obvious he did not recognize her yet, and she began to worry that the fever had damaged his mind.
But then he focused on her, and he seemed puzzled for several long moments before his eyes widened abruptly, his cheeks flushing, not from fever this time, but from embarrassment as he tried to cover himself more.
"Khaleesi, forgive me, a thousand pardons," he mumbled.
He was not completely naked under the blanket, she knew - he had breeches on - but he still looked mortified to be in such a state in her presence. She averted her eyes demurely, but in truth there was nothing she had not seen many times in the last few days.
He tried to pull away from her, but in his weakened state he stumbled and nearly fell over.
She caught him, steadying him on his feet. "You should not be out of bed yet. Come, lie down again."
Jorah leaned on her as he staggered back to the cot and collapsed down on it, shaking like a leaf. He pulled the blankets around him modestly, covering as much bare skin as possible.
He tried to speak again, but could not get the words out of his parched throat and started coughing. A surprised gasp of pain escaped him for a moment, and he wrapped his arm around his aching sides.
Dany poured a small amount of fresh water, and sat down beside him on the cot, waiting until the coughing fit had ended to offer him the cup. "Slowly," she said, holding it to his lips when his own hand shook too much to drink on his own. "Just a little water, for now."
He swallowed the cool water, moistening his chapped lips with his tongue.
"Thank you," he whispered. "I feel as weak as a newborn colt." His voice cracked, and he had to clear his throat a few times before he could speak again. "Khaleesi, what happened to me?" he said, eyes still bleary and confused. "How did I get here, in your room?"
Her smile faded away. "Do you not remember?"
"No, I..." His voice trailed off as he looked down at his bandaged forearm and the bruised and mottled skin. He grimaced as he tried and failed to close his swollen fingers into a fist. "My sword arm... It aches; I can hardly move it. Was there a battle?"
He pulled at the bloodied bandage, uncovering the site of the snake bite and the small X he had cut into his own flesh. As he stared at the wound, she was encouraged to see a hint of recognition in his eyes.
"I did this to myself. A voshtari snake, it bit me."
"Yes, it did. You've been very sick. What else do you remember?"
Jorah’s voice was so low she could barely understand him. "Just... bits and pieces." He raised his left hand, rubbing his forehead. "My head aches... Perhaps it is a dream that I remember..."
He licked his dry lips. "Everything was dark, like the black of winter, but it wasn't cold - it was hot, hot as dragonsbreath.... I could feel the flames at my feet but I couldn't see them.... There was a dark pit, I couldn't escape it, I started falling into it..."
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, shaking his head as if to clear the cobwebs. His voice was stronger when he opened his eyes and continued, "I knew somehow that if I went into the pit that I'd never come out... But I was so very tired; I didn't have the strength left to fight... But then there was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard in all my days... In the dream, it was your voice -- you were singing to me, princess." He smiled at her. "Can you imagine such a thing? But it was wondrous to me, because I knew I wasn't alone in the dark."
"You were never alone, ser," Dany said, laying her hand over his.
When she touched him, Jorah pulled back slightly with a sharp indrawn breath, blue eyes widening as he blinked rapidly, focusing a little bit more than before. "I felt this too," he continued. "In the dream, a hand took hold of mine, and though I couldn't see, I knew it was you, princess. You pulled me out of the pit, and then the flames were gone, and there was light again... And then I woke up here." He looked around the room. "How long have I been here?"
"You were burning up with fever for days. But you're much better now; you're going to be all right."
His brow furrowed. "Days?"
"This morning was the third sunrise since you were bitten by the snake. And it is nearly sunset now."
"Gods blood," he muttered.
He dropped his chin to his chest, squeezing his eyes shut.
"Are you all right, ser?"
He nodded slowly. "It's all starting to come back to me.... The snake, I remember how close it came to striking you." He looked up into her eyes, turning his hand over, enveloping her small fingers in his larger ones. "If any harm had come to you I would never forgive myself. You are so precious to me, I --"
Another coughing fit seized him, cutting off his words.
"Water," he choked out between coughs.
Dany was grateful for the distraction, disturbed to hear him speak like this. His mind must still be fever-addled for him to be so uncharacteristically open and unguarded about his emotions.
She brought him a small cup full of water. "Only a little more for now - and slowly. We want to make sure it will stay down before you have more."
He managed to quiet the cough for a few moments, catching his breath, and followed her eyes to where a large empty pot still sat beside his cot. He blanched, and for a moment she thought he was going to be sick again. He looked at the water, and then took a tiny sip, swallowing slowly. It took several minutes just to finish a few ounces, and when he was done, she watched him warily.
"Thank you. It seems all right," Jorah said, "for now. I still have great thirst, but you are right, I should wait." He kept staring at the pot. "Khaleesi, I... With you, I didn't...? Did I...? I remember most things now, but some things are still just a blur in my head."
She shook her head. "No, you weren't sick on me, if that's what you're asking. I stayed away then, just as you asked. I gave you your privacy."
He seemed greatly relieved at that, but then his brow furrowed once more. "Then?"
At least his mind was becoming sharp enough to catch the half-truth in her words, she thought to herself.
"I honored your request as much as I could, but you were gravely ill. We thought you were dying. I confess I did break my word to you, but I won't apologize for it, not for doing all I could to help. You saved my life and my child's, but it nearly cost you your own."
"I would indeed be a fool to be angry, since I yet live... Or perhaps I am dreaming still...?" He closed his eyes, drawing a hissing breath. "My head... can't think," he said with a brief growl of frustration.
"You need more time to recover. Come, lie down again, you need sleep."
Dany knew she should go so he could rest - she needed much of it herself, truth be told - but he seemed so disoriented she was afraid to leave him alone for even a moment.
Jorah shook his head. "Three days I've been abed -- I've slept long enough."
He coughed again, wheezing, eyes becoming unfocused. He was still for some time, breathing deeply, and the dizziness passed.
When his eyes focused on her again, there was an oddly euphoric expression on his face. "There are things that I would know more of." He leaned in closer, the blanket slipping off his broad shoulders, still covering his lower half but exposing his strong arms and well-muscled chest with its sprinkling of light brown hair.
He was studying her face, his hand moving higher to rest on her forearm. "It wasn't all a dream, was it? You were there with me, looking after me - you held my hand and sang to me," he said, with a smile full of wonder and awe. His voice was soft and low, the hoarseness easing, its rich timbre resonating in her bones, deeply sensual in a way Daenerys was surprised she had not noticed before, sending a shiver of something unnamed and forbidden down her spine.
"Yes, it was me singing," she admitted, looking up into his eyes. "They were songs I heard when I was a little girl. Talking to you, holding your hand, it was the only thing that kept you calm."
"I was dying, Khaleesi -- it was you who brought me back, of that I'm sure."
She shook her head. "No, you give me too much credit. The gods -- "
"It was more than the gods -- it was you, my sweet princess." His hand was on her shoulder now, and he leaned in closer. She felt the pull to him too, losing herself in the boundless depths of his eyes as he seemed to be drawn into hers. "It terrifies me that I could have lost you if I had been too slow or too far away," Jorah confessed, the emotion raw and naked in his voice, his love and desire for her shining in his eyes, impossible for her to ignore. "You are everything to me, Daenerys."
His fingertips lightly stroked her skin, and her heart bounded within her chest. Dany flushed and the distance between them shrank. She felt the heat of his body, the warmth of his quickened breaths on her face. Jorah tilted his head, moving to kiss her, his lips parting slightly as they neared hers.
He was a hairsbreadth away when Rhaego, her unborn son, moved inside her, and she remembered herself again.
Daenerys pulled away, laying one hand against Jorah's bare chest while the other covered her belly. "No," she said firmly.
Jorah jerked back, finally breaking free of whatever lingering fever hallucination he had been trapped within. He stared at her, eyes wide. "Seven hells... What have I done...!?"
Fear was in his eyes too as they darted around the room, for if anyone had walked in on them a moment ago, Khal Drogo would have had his head on a spike within the hour, and quite possibly hers as well, his illness not withstanding.
"Please, forgive me, I beg of you." He fell off the cot in his haste to move away from her, dragging a large fur to cover his nakedness, going to his knees in front of her, bowing his head. He clutched at the fur with his left hand; his injured right arm was nearly useless still. "I meant no disrespect, or to take advantage, you must know that. You are Khaleesi, the wife of the Khal who bears his child. I do not know what possessed me to --"
She put her fingers to his lips. "Stop. You may have awoken from the fever, but you are still not well. So we will speak no more of this, now or ever. I am more to blame than you. I knew you were not yourself -- I should have tried harder to get you to rest again."
"Would that I had listened then," he muttered.
Jorah knelt there at her feet, head bowed low, frozen in place, breathing hard, not daring to move or say anything more.
Daenerys was as confused by her own actions as she was his. She had been exhausted physically and emotionally from her long bedside vigil, obviously clouding her own judgment. And if she was honest with herself, she knew there was indeed a selfish part of her that had desired him too and had wanted to know the truth of what was in his heart for her. But her vanity may have cost them both dearly, and having that truth exposed might prove to be too painful to be hidden in the shadows again.
Because of all that, her heart softened. "Please, get up. I'm not angry with you."
He still would not move, so she got down on the floor and knelt in front of him instead. "Look at me, Ser Jorah."
He slowly lifted his eyes to hers, cheeks flushed with shame, and they held each others gaze for what seemed like an eternity to her. He had such expressive eyes, and now she saw his shifting, swirling emotions play out in them.
The bitter sting of rejection was mixed with his deep desire and longing for her, and coupled inexorably with all of that was the agonizing realization that in a moment of weakness he had spoken aloud what he had long kept secret from her.
There was aching vulnerability too, almost palpable as he said, "I deserve no mercy, Khaleesi, but please, do not send me away. It will never happen again, I swear to you."
*I have nowhere else to go.*
She could read it in his face as surely as if he had said the words aloud.
To be exiled twice in a lifetime, for the love of a woman -- she would not wish that on any man.
"You have been ill. There is no reason for you to be worried of consequences, there will be none."
He bowed his head again. "I am not worthy of your mercy."
"Yes, you are."
His eyes flicked back up to hers quickly, and he lifted his chin, looking at her as an equal, man to woman and not knight to his queen. He did love her, that much was plain, but there was also respect for the woman who had not dishonored her wedding vows, not even with him.
Honor, duty and loyalty - she knew how important all those were to Jorah, and that he would never have made advances towards her as a married woman if he had been in his right mind.
There was gratitude shining in his eyes as well; he clearly still believed she had saved his life somehow. Dany could not help but wonder if the flames of fever had forged some kind of special bond between them; perhaps that might help her to make sense of what had just happened.
In turn, she was certain he could see her emotions in her eyes as well. He was her mentor, her safe place, protector, body-guard, friend, advisor, brother, sometimes even the father she had never had. In these last few days she had been reminded that he was a man also, and a handsome one at that, with his battle-scarred body still strong and virile with lean hard muscle even though he was twice her age. He was not as strong as Drogo of course, but then what man could compare to the strength and size of the Great Khal?
But yet, in spite of being tempted as a woman, she was bound to Drogo. She was Khaleesi, his queen and would bear their son, the Stallion That Mounts The World. As long as Drogo lived there could never be another man in her heart.
What Jorah wanted Daenerys could not give.
But Jorah had known that all along, long before he had taken ill, just as he knew it now. Nonetheless, she could still see the longing in his heart and how much it pained him to put his feelings aside once more, to forsake his own happiness to serve his princess.
His forlorn, world-weary expression was heartbreaking as he slowly raised a shaky hand to her face, tenderly brushing a stray lock of hair from her forehead. "My Khaleesi," he said, his voice heavy with emotion as she felt his reluctant acceptance of what could not be, and what must be.
His hand dropped back to his side, and he turned his face from hers. "My strength will return in a few days. I will have them take me back to my own tent; I can rest there. I have been here too long."
"I think that would be wise."
He declined her offer of help to get up from his knees, staying there on the floor, sitting back on his haunches, head down, waiting for her to leave.
She started to go, and then stopped, impulsively returning to his side one last time. She bent down over him, softly pressing her lips against the top of his forehead.
He made a noise, something akin to a soft sigh or choked sob. She had thought she was offering him solace and showing him everything would be all right, but it only seemed to make things worse for him.
He did not say another word and neither did she as she fled from the hut.
Daenerys did not see Ser Jorah for several days, but the servants kept her informed, telling her he was improving rapidly.
When Jorah finally rejoined the khalasar in the great hall on the fifth night since he had awoken from his fever, walking in with a strong confident stride, he was greeted like a conquering hero. They brought him platters of food, roasted meat piled high, with other delicacies, such as roasted snake.
Jorah sat with the bloodriders for a while, encouraged to tell the story many times of how he had fought the snake and lived to tell about it. Then for a time he sat in a place of honor next to Drogo, drinking with the Khal.
It was not until much later in the evening that Jorah took his customary seat alongside Daenerys. They nodded cordially to one another before resuming their conversations with others around them.
Time passed without a word between them.
She had been talking to Doreah, but once the girl left on an errand for the Khal, Daenerys was quiet, lost in thought. She brought her cup of wine to her lips, discovering it was empty. Before she could ask a servant for another, however, Jorah was handing her a full cup and taking the empty one.
"Thank you, ser," she said, finally looking at him. His health was definitely improving, though he had lost a bit of weight and his face was still tired and drawn. She was happy to see him again, and greatly desired to talk with him of the past few day’s events -- life was never dull in the khalasar -- but sadly found herself tongue-tied around him now.
This had been her greatest fear in the last few days, that they would never again share the ease of conversation as they had before he had taken ill. There were many things only he understood, her gentle knight and fellow exile from Westeros.
But they could not ignore each other forever. If nothing else, people would notice they had stopped speaking to each other and wonder why. So she asked, "How is your arm?"
He relaxed slightly, with a brief smile of relief, and she guessed that he had been sitting there, so stiff and quiet, because he had been waiting for her to speak to him first. "Better than before, but still healing," he said, flexing his fingers gingerly. His forearm was bandaged underneath his tunic and his hand was still a bit swollen, the skin black and blue, but he was right, it was a vast improvement over the last time she had seen him. "Hopefully I won't need to wield my sword in the next few days, though -- I wouldn't stand a chance."
"Have you had enough to eat?"
He nodded, smiling, "Oh, yes, too much in fact." He patted his full stomach. "But I need it to get back to fighting strength as soon as I can."
She did not respond, not sure what else to say to him next, and the awkward silence fell between them again. Her attention shifted abruptly to the other side of the room, and Jorah sighed softly.
After a few minutes she heard Jorah clear his throat. "Khaleesi," he said, his voice low, the tone warm and richly sensual, but this time Daenerys ignored the shiver that involuntarily went down her spine. When she looked at him again, he continued, "I offer my sincere apologies if I said anything that offended you while I was ill. A man sick with fever will say the most outlandish things that are scarcely to be believed. For a time, I was convinced that I was back home on Bear Island and that you were my former wife." He shook his head with a brief chuckle. "Very strange. And I fear my language was not often fit for a lady's ears. I hope that nothing I said or did gave offence or harm."
"You did not, I assure you. And there is no need to apologize... I understand, Ser Jorah."
He raised an eyebrow, uncertain that she really understood all that he was trying to say.
But Dany did, comprehending all the subtleties that lay within his words. To those that stood near them, his carefully-worded apology would sound like little more than a matter of formality. But she truly knew what a precious, selfless gift he was offering her -- a way for them both to move on, a convenient lie that would cover an inconvenient truth. He would pretend that his profession of love for her was merely a part of a fever-dream about his absent wife, and she would pretend that she believed it.
"Truly, ser," she said earnestly, looking into his eyes and allowing him, for a brief moment, to see what was in her heart.
He gave her a brief, enigmatic smile, and then turned away, lest prying eyes and wagging tongues notice too much between them. He took a sip of wine. "I am glad of it, princess. I would much regret it if something I had said had harmed our friendship." There was a strange mixture of relief and sadness in his voice.
"As would I. But you needn't fear that."
She noticed the quizzical look Irri was giving them; the girl had been near enough to have heard their whole conversation. Daenerys met her eyes for a moment, wordlessly reminding her of her earlier command. Irri lowered her eyes obediently and backed away, and Dany was assured of her silence.
Ser Jorah had not seen the exchange, however, and Daenerys turned to the servants and bloodriders around them, speaking in Dothraki now, raising her voice so all could hear. "In fact, Ser Jorah, your presence has been sorely missed."
"Has it indeed?" he answered in Dothraki.
"Most certainly. We have all missed your counsel. And we've missed your company and your stories." She spoke to the group. "Is that not so?"
There was a chorus of agreement.
"My stories?" he chuckled.
"Yes, more stories," Rakharo said. "Tell again of Wall."
"Again?" Jorah grimaced. "I don't think you want to hear about the White Walkers; you just want me to try to explain to you again how water can be ice, hard and cold, and still be water."
"It does not make sense. It cannot be."
"Oh, it can, my friend. You are young; you've never seen a hard winter. But winter is coming, and there may come a day that there will be ice even here in Vaes Dothrak."
That set the Dothraki arguing and discussing amongst themselves about what winter meant and when it would come. Some asked Jorah for more stories about the winters he had seen in Westeros, but soon he held up his hands, stopping them.
"All right, I'll tell a story. But the Khaleesi chooses which one." He turned to her. "What would you like to hear?"
"I would like to hear of home -- your home, Ser Jorah. Are there many bears on Bear Island?"
"Not as many as there once were, but yes, the sigil of House Mormont still shares our lands. Fearsome creatures they are when full-grown." He thought for a moment, and then continued, "Perhaps I could tell you of my first bear hunt when I was a boy. Would you like to hear that, Khaleesi?"
She smiled. "Yes, I would very much like to hear of what you were like when you were a boy."
He smiled back, a genuinely warm, relaxed smile, and it gladdened her heart beyond measure. "Very well, but you might be disappointed. Things did not go quite as well as I had hoped," he chuckled self-consciously.
“It was just past my eighth name day. The bear we sought had come down from the high rocks and killed a fisherman...”
As Jorah described the sheer strength and size of an adult male bear to the Dothraki, Dany half-listened to what he was saying, thinking about how much had changed in the week since they had last been here together, and about how much remained the same. He was still at her side, and she felt safe and secure knowing Jorah was there to protect her. But she could not help but feel uneasy knowing how hard it must be for him now to act as if nothing happened.
“… Soon enough we learned that the beast we were hunting was in fact a she-bear,” Jorah continued, and Dany listened closely. “Most likely she’d come down near the villages to find food for her cub. We were all spread out through the thick forest while we searched for her. I had gotten separated from the others, armed with just a knife and a spear when I came upon her cub hidden in the brush. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised, him or me.
“I knew that my father expected much of me, so I held my ground, trying to be brave even though the cub was nearly as tall as I was. But I wasn’t experienced enough yet to handle the spear properly against an animal that size, so the wounds I left weren’t fatal, they only made it angry, and the cub came after me. And then its cries attracted the mother bear, and she came at me as well. I couldn’t outrun them, so the only direction I could go was up.”
He smiled self-consciously again, glancing at her. “Being chased into a tree wasn’t at all how I had imagined my first hunt.”
But Dany was far from being disappointed in him, instead captivated by his story. “You are far too modest; you were only a boy -- you were lucky you weren’t killed.”
“True. And if I hadn’t been such a good climber at the time, I would never have survived to see my ninth name-day.”
His expression turned reflective again. “The she-bear was a magnificent creature -- I watched from above as she died trying to protect her cub from my father and the other hunters. It took six grown men to bring her down, and none of us escaped unscathed that day.”
He unlaced one boot and slipped it off halfway, showing five faded scars on the side of his calf, each claw mark at least four inches in length. Dany had seen them when he had been sick, along with many others on his body, and she wondered briefly what other stories the scars could tell.
“And I learned a very important lesson which I‘ve never forgotten -- to never underestimate a she-bear’s instinct to protect and defend its cub above all else.” Jorah turned and looked her in the eye as he continued, “And not just she-bears -- I have the utmost respect for any mother‘s instinct, be it animal or human.”
He kept the eye contact for only a few moments more, but he had raised an eyebrow again, in exactly the same way he had earlier, before turning away and looking at the group, continuing on, “But the second lesson was how not to try to kill a bear. My next hunt six months later was much more successful….”
The Dothraki were fascinated as Jorah provided a detailed description of the tactics and weaponry involved in the hunt, but Dany was only half-listening again, contemplating the message he had given her through his story.
It was as if he could read her thoughts. He understood that she carried a life inside her now, and that her son must come first. He would stand aside because of his respect for her as a wife and mother, and any lingering doubts she had about his ability to keep his feelings to himself vanished.
She swallowed past the lump in her throat, touched by his thoughtfulness.
She looked over at Drogo. He was her Khal, her husband, her sun and stars, the father of her unborn son, and she could never dishonor him or jeopardize her son‘s future.
But for a few moments, she could not help but cast one last wistful glance towards the brave knight that had saved her life and her son's, wondering what it would have been like to taste Jorah's kisses.