There’s naught but moonlight through the window when Dany stirs; it’s not unusual for her to wake in the night, especially lately, and for a moment she’s not yet placed in the present. Her heart jumps, she scans the room for her dragons to confirm that she hadn’t just dreamed their return to her, and she’s about to climb from the bed to go to them anyway – overprotectiveness and the like, not to mention the comfort that she takes from just being able to feel them under her fingertips – when she registers Doreah’s shaking form beside her.
She still does not know where they stand with each other, she does not know what privileges she is still allowed even though they have been quietly sharing a bed and have not long left each other’s company, but warily, she lays a hand on the other girl’s shoulder, whispers, “Doreah?” Doreah for her part doesn’t yet rouse: she mumbles incoherently, tosses side to side like one having a fit. It’s only when Daenerys notices the tears streaming from Doreah’s closed eyes that she shakes her more forcefully. “Doreah!”
The brunette jolts awake with a shriek, sitting straight up and clutching the covers to her chest; only belatedly does she turn her head and see Daenerys staring questioningly at her. Daenerys reaches to touch Doreah’s arm, attempting some comfort no matter how foreign it feels in light of everything, and Doreah practically jumps out of her skin, batting that hand away hard and whimpering, “No, no, no.”
Those words sting worse than the slap and Dany hurriedly withdraws, dropping her hands to her lap. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, unsure exactly why she is apologizing but knowing she must. “You seemed to be having – I thought you might want something to help you sleep, milk of the poppy or…”
“No,” Doreah repeats, shaking her head fervently. “No, I don’t want that, don’t want to go numb.” She curls into herself, arms around her knees; she can’t meet her queen’s eyes, can’t open herself to her.
“S-sweetling,” Dany stammers, all hesitation. This is already more than Doreah has said since she was returned; the words, the strange disconnection in her tone, they just add to Dany’s worry. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
This is also the first acknowledgement – from either of them – that help may be needed. (It should have been obvious, but perhaps neither knew or knows quite how to broach it.)
Instead of speaking, Doreah bursts out sobbing, hiding her face in the covers and wailing desperately. Daenerys feels her heart break, and in spite of herself she scoots a bit closer. She wants to ask Doreah to respond, she wants to demand an answer, but she knows that would be unwise.
Finally, her voice gone so quiet it can barely be heard, Doreah says, “Forgive me, Khaleesi.”
“Forgive what?” Daenerys asks, equal parts test and genuine inquiry.
“I should have – I could have –” Doreah draws in a ragged breath, lifting her tear-stained face and staring over at Dany. “Irri is dead because of me, you suffered because of me, I was weak. I’m always so weak, I don’t know how to stop things.”
What Daenerys now realizes she’s been fearing all this time is sinking in, becoming more certain and starting a feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. Of course, she’d be stupid not to have known it, though it disgusts her to think of – she disgusts herself for having ignored it this long. “You aren’t weak,” she murmurs after a moment.
“I can’t fight, Khaleesi,” Doreah insists, laughing bitterly. “I don’t fight. I’m very easily used.”
“Sweetling,” Daenerys says again, more confidently this time. “One day, you will tell me everything. I’m sure you did things that you regret, and I suspect you had things done to you that were not your fault.” She sees Doreah stiffen – yes, what she had thought is true, she can see that now – and has to swallow a shuddery sigh of her own.
Against her better judgment, she moves her hand to the other girl’s shoulder again, only for Doreah to recoil fiercely. “No, no, don’t touch me,” she screams, tears rolling down her cheeks and onto the bedcovers. “You should have left me there, it’s where I belonged.”
“Did you design the plans to harm me?” Daenerys asks coolly. “Did you take part in their murders?” She’s not sure why this is the reaction, of the twenty she must be having, that she chooses to vocalize, but it happens nonetheless.
“I didn’t stop them,” Doreah says. “I am not innocent, Khaleesi. I acted with – I did things, I –”
“And who, then, is innocent?” Dany asks. It comes out sharper than she intends, and she lowers her gaze, somehow embarrassed. “Everyone is culpable in something.”
“You’re so calm,” Doreah whispers – calm being relative, they both know, cutting words are still calm compared to the wrath that the khaleesi is capable of. “Hot coals, but no fire.”
Once her handmaid, or her lover, or her nothing at all, she can’t know, has sat up, Dany has to admit, “I thought about it, leaving you. I saw you in his bed and I went blind with rage.” It’s said softly enough, but because it’s her, she has to say it. “Even now, I am unsure: how much of you is the woman I trust and how much is the woman who betrayed me?”
“How do you tell where one ends and the other begins?” Doreah asks, loosening her grip on the bedcovers.
“The traitor did things that I cannot fully understand and still do not know the extent of,” Daenerys says. “I am still angry with her, I admit. The other has confessed to me, she regrets, she –” A sigh, and she lowers her voice yet more. “I was sick with worry over her, and I cannot forgive myself for any wrongs that befell her.”
More tears well in Doreah’s eyes. “I lost sight of myself,” she confesses. “I thought to keep you safe at first, and they – it was poison to the mind. I thought so many horrible things, I let myself be swayed, be used like always. It became so blurry, Dany.”
The first time since that she has not hidden behind titles.
“It’s done now,” Dany murmurs. “I cannot pretend it’s going to be like it never happened, we both know better than that, but if you will atone, so will I.”
Doreah makes to wipe her tears away, but Dany catches her hand and stills it, tentatively brushes her own thumb over the other girl’s cheeks. This time, she is not refused, and no protests fall from Doreah’s lips: she flinches, which Dany is realizing may well be the way of things for a while, and her eyes drop again, but she lets herself accept the touch. “Your Grace,” she says, suddenly finding the silence unbearable.
“My lady,” Daenerys returns quietly. She’d already forgotten the feel of these private words on her tongue, and Doreah had forgotten how beautiful they sound.
“How can you still say that?” she asks, cursing that she can’t seem to stop crying. “I am no lady. Truly, I am nothing.”
“You are the moon of my life,” Daenerys whispers, resting her chin against Doreah’s shoulder. “Some day soon, you will tell me all that happened in that place. Everything, no matter how painful.”
Doreah whimpers, making a face. “I’m not sure I can find the words,” she says.
“It will be when you’re ready, but you will need to say it at least once,” Dany insists. “And I need to hear it. I will be angry, I cannot pretend that I won’t. I will be angry with you, but I will also be angry with those who did this. I will be angrier with them. I know already that I will not regret their fates.”
“You are right to know that,” Doreah says somberly, her body tensing at the thought of them.
“What is most important for you to know, though,” Dany continues with a hesitant tenderness, “Is that the thing I would regret would be losing you, and I will not let that happen if I can prevent it.”
“You flatter me,” Doreah mumbles.
“I treasure you,” Daenerys corrects. “The hurt will fade with time, but that will remain.”