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Flavor of the Month: Calamari

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Today we are Prince and bodyguard once more, publicly. It is a solemn ceremonial occasion, with too many speeches from pompous old men in elaborate hats, and Blaine stands fidgeting, confined in a stiff-collared dark suit, while I stand close behind him in my most neutral robes. A reception follows, with dull, stodgy food; I dutifully taste it for him while he whispers suggestions to me about what he might rather have me taste, so that I am soon squirming as much as he is. Between murmured propositions, he makes polite conversation with overdressed bureaucrats.

As we leave the reception, duties finally over, he's like steam escaping a kettle. I can picture what he was like as a child, let out of the classroom, running off to play, although the games he enjoyed then were far more innocent than the kind he likes to play now. When the last of the visiting dignitaries are safely left behind, we run together down the hallway to his rooms, stifling laughter.

Behind closed doors, I shed my robe and outer layers, and I'm unbuttoning his suit when he squirms out of my arms. And suddenly he's off, through the doors that lead to the veranda -- he's vaulting over the railing, and as fast as that the stiff suit is strewn across the beach, and oh skies, if anyone else hereabouts was enjoying the view of the sea they're now enjoying a different sort of view, as pretty Blaine runs off nimbly, laughing, inviting chase.

Chase, I can do. Of course, if I were to use Force-enhanced speed, I'd have him instantly, but that wouldn't be quite fair or fun, so I just run naturally and enjoy the feel of the sea air and the sight of Blaine and the thought of him pretending to struggle against me as I take him down. My leggings and shirt join his suit on the beach. Soon he's in the water, swimming, and as I follow him into the cool dark waves, I see flashes of him by moonlight, a sweet slick dolphin, heading for that rock just offshore, the one where he likes to sit and bask in the sun or the moon. Through the Force I feel his elation at being free, his joy in swimming, and underlying all of it his love, which still astonishes me.

And then something else entirely replaces it all: pure blind black terror. And I don't see him anymore.

It takes all my training not to panic, myself, as I sense the presence of something else: just short of sentient, hungry, and very, very large.

I dive downwards, letting my feet web as I go for speed, feeling with the Force through the dark water for that bright terrified spark of Blaine. After much too long searching, he's there in front of me, thrashing panicked in the water. I take hold of his hand and try to pull him up, and he knows it's me and holds on, but I can feel that whatever it is has got him very firmly, and it's incredibly strong. Much, much stronger than I am, Force or no Force.

Hells, every hell of every world from here to Coruscant. Of course my 'saber is back in his rooms. Of course I don't have a knife on me, oh skies, I'll never not have a knife on me again, I know better than that. And as I try futilely to pull him out of this thing's grip, he's losing the struggle to hold his breath.

And then I catch it, the tiniest wisp of the Force. The thing. It's not quite sentient, but it's just barely Force-sensitive, and I catch hold of that, and concentrate on it, into it, and I put every ounce of energy I have into sending it one simple, clear idea.

Suddenly Blaine is released, and he floats free into my arms.

I pull him up to the surface, get his face into the air, and hurry us to the beach with all the speed I can muster before whatever it is changes its mind and decides to take him back. It isn't until I've laid him on the sand that I realize -- that I let myself realize -- that he isn't breathing.

I shake him gently and his head falls to the side. A little sea water runs out of his mouth and nose. He isn't breathing.

He's in there, I can feel him, but the little spark of his being is flickering.

Think, Kourt. You can't Force-heal worth half a credit, you know that already, so you can't call his breath back that way. Something else then, something they teach the initiates, something you never actually tried for real.

I turn him over, and more water trickles out of his mouth, turn him onto his back again, put my hands flat on his chest, and push hard.

Nothing happens.

Another push, a snapping sound oh fuck, Blaine, forgive me and still nothing.

A third push, and suddenly he jerks and coughs and throws up an amazing quantity of salt water, and those blue eyes flicker open, and he's back.

I'm shaking so hard I can hardly carry him back to his rooms, and he's shaking harder. Shivering in the most abject terror, barely able to speak, and pale as -- I won't think it. I lay him in his bed and he's so white against the white sheets, except for some marks that stand out against his skin: two of them are my palm marks, very clearly outlined on his chest. The rest are a tapered line of red circles, winding around and up his left leg. The ones near his groin are the size of large coins. The one at his ankle is the size of a dinner plate.

I want to call the palace doctor -- I've broken at least one of the poor boy's ribs trying to get him breathing -- but he won't have it. He says it's not worth disturbing the doctor, and when his brother broke a rib riding they couldn't do anything to treat it anyway, and maybe he'll think about it tomorrow. It's all I can do to get him to accept the pain patch I find in the bathroom cupboard. He hates them, they make him sleepy, he complains.

It does make him sleepy, but it quiets his shaking, too, and when he stops, I find I can stop. I wrap him in a blanket and hold him close against me. It's strange, after his high energy of less than an hour ago, to see him go all loose and blurry, blue eyes losing focus.

"Shouldn't have been there."

"You couldn't have known."

"No. He shouldn't have been there. You can't get them in months with a W," he articulated carefully. "Out of season."

I laugh out loud. "Blaine, just because you can't get the little ones in a restaurant right now doesn't mean they aren't in the ocean!"

"I must've been out of season for him. He didn't eat me."

"I told him you tasted really, really bad."

He considers this for a moment.

"Liar."

He smiles sweetly, and drifts off to sleep.

I listen to him breathe the rest of the night.