Jorah stood in the middle of the queen's tent, eying the huge, steaming copper tub of water from beneath warily narrowed lids without making a move to undress and climb into it. Not because he didn't need a bath--gods, he'd never been in more dire need of one than after his recent stints as Second Son and, before that, which was evident to all and sundry, including Daenerys, who'd bid her handmaids prepare the bath for him before she would grant her formerly wayward knight the audience he requested of her--but because the water was not merely steaming, it was boiling. Like a cauldron of soup, or a witch's brew, or--
"Why do you smile?"
He had not realized it, not till the smile faltered just now, as he turned. He had not realized that Daenerys had silently slipped inside the tent, either, while he lost himself in contemplation of the bath.
Jorah cleared his throat. "I was only thinking that I should not be surprised that the blood of the dragon takes her bath hotter than the seven bloody hells."
As Daenerys' gaze flicked to the tub, he noted the upward twitch at the corner of the lips that he had, if not actually kissed every night and every day, dreamed of doing at least as often since the one night he had done so onboard the Balerion. So long ago. When he was a comelier man, and even then not enough to be desirable to her.
"I suppose I ought to have had my ladies fetch ice to simulate the frozen lakes on your Bear Island."
"That would be more like it, Your Grace."
She made a soft sound that Jorah might have taken for a chuckle, were her eyes not storm clouds of sadness beneath sloping eyebrows.
"There it is again," she said. "Once, your smiles gave me great comfort, when I was a bewildered bride and queen to a strange people. Did you know it, my bear?"
Jorah shook his head, not knowing quite what to say, or whether to be pleased that Daenerys thought fondly of the better days they'd had together, or ashamed that he had not been a part of all her days since then.
"You cannot have seen them often. I'm not generally known for my gregariousness."
"Less so of late, I think."
Her eyes were on his face, though no longer met his gaze. Jorah fought as hard as he had in any battle not to let his own waver as she took in the disgraceful mark that would forever mar his face.
Jorah blinked. "What?"
She ignored his surprised disrespect. "You cannot bathe with your clothes on. I would see what the slaver filth have done to one of my own, that I may repay them in kind. So. If you would."
Though he knew he risked displeasing her--again--Jorah made no move to obey, instead balling his hands into stubborn fists at his sides. "I'm sure Your Grace appreciates that standing on an auction block for inspection is hardly an experience I wish to relive?"
If this stirred any compassion within her, Daenerys' face gave no indication of it. At least it meant he was also spared seeing her pity. That was something. He had so very little that he must cling to every scrap that was thrown to him.
"Do you serve me, Ser Jorah?"
"You have my sword, my queen. Not Brown Ben Plumm."
"And your heart--do I still have it"
It thudded, once, in his chest. And then hung there. Or perhaps she had held it in her hands all along. Jorah had seen what she was capable of doing with a heart.
"Always," he said.
She did not have to utter another word; the gentle curve of her lips was enough to set his fingers to make quick work of the buckles and laces of the ill-fitting tattered cloak, surcoat, tunic, shirt, trousers, and boots that had belonged to some dead Second Son before him, until he stood in naught but his breechcloth before her. However, even his unswerving loyalty to Daenerys did not make it any easier to make the necessary mental adjustment from how he had imagined the occasion of being naked, or near enough to it, in her presence to how it actually transpired at this moment. At least she had the good grace to spare him the indignity of not being able to meet her eye and stood behind him, but neither did he relish the thought of her fair young eyes seeing the ropes of scars left by lash and cudgel where once his should and back and buttocks and thighs had been all the smooth muscle.
And hair. He must never forget that. A bear he was, all black and brown and covered with hair, an animal collared and caged except when the time came to perform the mummers' farce for coin to buy his master yet more sorry slaves.
The tent seemed suddenly to swim through the steam that rose thickly from the bath into the cooler night air. "Daenerys, please--"
"Of course. Forgive me, Jorah. Your bath grows cold."
A rasp of laughter flung itself from his throat. "There is little danger of that, I think, my queen of dragons."
Though the water was likely as not to leave him scalded as well as branded and beaten, Jorah stripped off his breechcloth and slid into the bath without bothering to ease into it by bits. Blessedly, the pain of it took his mind off the mortification he had felt beneath Daenerys' scrutiny, reddening his skin so that she could not see the flush of shame that still prickled over him as she lingered in the tent. Which she had every right to do, it being, after all, her own.
"What's your reckoning, Your Grace?" he asked, tilting his head back on the edge of the copper tub and closing his eyes as the heat penetrated the grime that coated his skin and soothed muscles that ached from the recent battle and his long bondage. "The slaver was himself enslaved. Was justice served?"
Or must treachery be repaid with treachery? He could not bring himself to ask the question aloud, but Daenerys was clever enough to follow his meaning.
"You certainly reaped what you sowed, ser."
That was so like her--so blunt and confidently just and Targaryen--and exactly what he had imagined she would say of his fate if he had the fortune to meet her again, that he could not but laugh. Though he said, ruefully, "Would that I were a Greyjoy, and my words We do not sow."
"I prefer the words of House Mormont," Daenerys said, her voice tinged with amusement, Jorah thought, and coming from closer to the tub and accompanied by the rustle of fabric. Probably one of her maids had come in, to dispose of his vile clothing. "Here I stand."
He grunted. "This Mormont doesn't stand. He sits. Or lies. In a bath. Most un-bearlike. They don't fancy getting their ears wet, did you know?"
"Here I stand."
The laughter had returned to her voice, yes, but it was slightly exasperated and carried a commanding weight that made Jorah turn his head and crack one eye open.
And then it popped wide open, as did the other, as Jorah sat bolt upright in the tub so quickly that the water sloshed over the sides onto the woven rushes that covered the earthen floor of the queen's tent.
There Daenerys stood, naked as her name day, naked as she had come through the flames that birthed her dragons. Unburned and untouched and--
--holding out her hand to him so that he could assist her over the high side of the copper tub.
"Your Grace," Jorah said, trying--and failing, miserably--to fix his gaze above her breasts as she lowered herself into the bath, "I do not pretend that I have not dreamed of such a moment as this, but I beg you would not...the water...my filth--"
"--is washed away."
Daenerys pulled herself onto his lap so that she could have no question of his body's response to her, enfolding him in the embrace of her legs and arms and breasts. As Jorah wrapped his own arms about her he felt the smooth cool glide of a cake of soap across his scarred back and of her warm lips upon his ruined cheek.
"I shall wash you clean," she murmured against his branded skin.
Jorah's smile stretched as wide as ever it had in Daenerys' presence, and he hardly minded that she could not see it--because her lips were smiling back as she pressed them against his.