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you'll not feel the drowning

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For two days after the battle - if battle it could be called, Jaume felt as if he had been separated from his body somehow. He ate when Florian fed him; he drank when Florian put a cup to his lips and he lay himself down when Florian told him to sleep, not sure if he wanted to wake.

There were no dreams. Perhaps the Lady judged his memories nightmare enough.

Jaume disliked the selfishness of his actions, his inability to offer comfort as well as receive it, yet try as he might he seemed unable to act, to speak, to take Florian's hand and stare into his grief-dulled eyes and tell him, There is still Beauty in the world. I see it every time I look at you.

Perhaps those were not the words Florian needed to hear.

Jaume could not think of any other ones, though. Words could not bring their friends back to life, or undo what had been done - but for the moment, they were all he had to offer.

On the third day, Florian bathed him. Jaume watched Florian's hands on his body, watched the water flow over his skin. He would not have believed there were circumstances under which he would not have enjoyed the experience, the innocent intimacy which was as much as he would allow himself with one of the Companions.

Then Florian sighed, and kissed him, and Jaume thought, well, perhaps not that innocent after all and suddenly, his body was his own again, pain and weakness washing over him, threatening to drown him like a wave, except that Florian was there to hold him up and steady him and lend him his strength.

"Took you long enough," Florian muttered, as Jaume struggled between his body's desire to get closer to Florian and his mind's determination to stop before things could go any further.

"Sorry." A laughably inadequate word. Jaume wondered when he had lost his gift for words, for poetry.

"Pretty sure that's supposed to be my line," Florian said. He looked tired, worn down.

Anyone else, Jaume would have offered a kiss, at least. Probably more. But this was Florian, his friend, his Companion, who deserved everything Jaume could give him yet would refuse it all.

As was his right, of course. Jaume respected Florian's preferences as much as he regretted them.

"I abandoned you when you needed me most," Jaume said. "I can only beg forgiveness."

A spark of something flashed in Florian's eyes. "Don't. You're alive. That's all that matters. I - " Florian halted and swallowed. "If we'd lost you, too, I don't know what I - what we would have done. Things are bad enough as they are."

"They'll get better," Jaume said, putting more conviction in his voice than he felt.

Florian looked at him. "They already are."

Jaume imagined asking Florian to kiss him again. It would be unfair, unworthy. Ugly. Unless he's changed his mind. People did. Jaume knew it happened, could happen, might have happened. "May I - " He reached up, half-expecting Florian to step back.

"Yes," Florian said, allowing Jaume the sweetness of the fantasy a little longer.

If Jaume had not loved him as much as was possible already, he would have then. "I haven't even told you what I want yet." He tried to make it sound like a gentle rebuke, a little teasing. An attempt to bring back some normalcy. Will anything ever be 'normal' again?

"Right now, I could refuse you nothing," Florian said steadily.

Jaume put his hand on Florian's cheek. "You washed my hair. I would like to return the favor."

Florian made a sound that was half-chuckle and half-sob. "All right."

"You will get some sleep, after," Jaume said. "The work will still be there tomorrow." And the next day, and many days after, he feared. They'd get it done in the end, though.

They'd survived: everything else would be, if not easy, then at least possible after that.

"And you," Florian said, bringing up his hand to hold Jaume's in place. "Promise me. No running off on any rescue attempts or secret missions or what-have-you."

Who is left for me to rescue? Jaume thought, but what he said instead was, "I promise."

As if I could ever abandon you again.