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Lakewater

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Jaeha woke up in a less-than-beautiful state.

His stomach clenched and he had to force himself from throwing up. As he kept his eyes closed, he forced himself to run his fingers over his wrists to physically remind himself that there were no chains burning his wrists, no mud caking his hair, no fingers digging into his shoulders. He was soaked in a sweat, which just left him feeling itchy and uncomfortable, his thin sheets feeling as if they were full of sand as he kicked them down impatiently. He was sweltering, burning up from the inside as his skin strained and flushed and his lungs ached for air that would not scorch his insides. For a few moments he lay there, brushing his damp bangs out of his eyes, before finally giving in.

He really needed to bathe.

Jaeha nearly tipped toed out of the tent, avoiding Zeno’s sprawling limbs and Shin-ah dead asleep body as he did so. They had camped by a pond that day, just in a clearing a bit outside so the bugs would not be too bad in the evening. He quickly disposed of his robes at the water’s edge, quickly hopping into the cool waters in order to ease the sensation against his skin. The water was cold, yes, but it was exactly what he needed to soothe the fever-pitch nightmares that crawled under his skin alive and branding him.

Jaeha had just finished putting his hair up and resting against a rock, when he heard footsteps. He turned to look and saw Kija standing at the edge of lake. He was very nearly glowing in the moonlight, his hair and skin shimmering silver that caught the moonbeams flashing off the lake’s rippling waters. It really was unfair of him, Jaeha couldn’t help but feel a smile tug at his lips, to be so utterly beautiful at so late an hour.

“May I help you?” Jaeha asked Kija teasingly, running a wet hand through his hair to better compose himself.

“You were gone, what on earth possessed you to take a bath so late at night?” Kija asked him, a bow-arch frown curving across his lips. “You’ll catch your death.”

“You should live your life as if you’ll catch your death every day, that’s my policy,” Jaeha chuckled, as Kija awkwardly deposited his shoes at the edge of the lake, hopping and hilariously cringing at the mud before hopping onto the rock Jaeha was resting against. Kija settled himself down, folding up his pants and dipping his feet and calves in.

“So cold!” Kija yelped, a visible shiver running through him. “How are you in here?”

“Well, I haven’t been able to feel my skin for a while now,” Jaeha said dramatically, and when Kija turned wide eyed and distraught to face him, Jaeha reached a cold hand out of the water to touch his cheek. “See?”

“Ugh, Jaeha!” Kija groaned, swatting the hand away (and Jaeha tried to forget quickly the sensation of brushing Kija’s impossibly smooth cheek with his fingertips).

“Well, you don’t need to be out here with me,” Jaeha pointed out to him.

“I know…but I would rather be at your side when you are getting into trouble, then not at all,” Kija told Jaeha with a chuckle of his own as he leaned back against his hands, the scales glittering like the moonlight refracted off lakewater, blue eyes shimmering, smile bright as the stars. “At least so I’ll be able to report back to Yun.”

“Cheeky,” Jaeha said, flicking water at Kija, getting a gentle kick in return.

And Jaeha was grateful, he really was.