"I dreamed I was you." He spoke softly to the flames of the fire.
"And you were me." – Fool's Fate
The days and nights passed in a soft haze. Softness was welcome when one's body was bruised and flayed, when the only thing holding sinew and flesh together was Skill and Wit and raw desire for life.
I had left the Fool for only a short time, to pull fish from the nearby stream and collect greens from the bushes, but he had not left my thoughts. When I returned to our camp, he seemed to be asleep. I did not want to wake him by the clatter of cooking pans, so instead I left the gutted fish hanging from forked twigs in the shade, and leaned against a tree, in silent contemplation.
As I watched my friend dozing uneasily on the pallet we'd made of my cloak I wondered, not for the first time, what exactly had happened between us when I had entered his ravaged body through our Skill-link to coax his flesh into living again. His consciousness had slid into my body and stared from my eyes at his own corpse as slowly, carefully, I convinced his body to heal itself. Then I had returned to my own body, and he to his.
"If I fail," I had whispered to him, "take my life and live it." I did not fail – at least, my Fool was alive, though at that moment, as I watched him twitch and moan in his sleep, it seemed an uncertain success. But I couldn't keep from wondering what would have happened if I'd been unable to rouse his body into reconstructing the delicate web of its alignment. I would have died; I had been ready to accept that death. It was the only appropriate price, and I would pay it.
But what of the Fool? How would he have lived in my body – the body which I only now understood was as unlike my own as mine was from that of Nighteyes? The wolf and I had shared our perceptions so many times that it did not seem all that strange to look with his eyes, to sense the world through scent and hearing instead of my dull human senses. What had the Fool felt, confined and transformed by my human body, so different from his own?
"Not…so different," croaked a voice. It took me a moment to realize that it was his, and then a chill passed through me.
"How –" I licked my lips; my voice sounded as cracked and hoarse as the Fool's. "How did you – can you feel my thoughts?"
"Come back," he whispered.
I put down the bag of greens and lay down next to him. He liked to be between me and the fire, though now as it was daytime the embers had been banked. The meager warmth that emanated from the coals must not have been enough, for he drew me close and burrowed his head into my chest. I stroked his golden hair and waited for his shuddering to cease.
Finally he spoke, so quietly that if his mouth had not been near my ear I would not have heard. "No limits."
Was he repeating his own words from so long before, or was he repeating the thought I'd had when we'd passed back into our separate bodies? No boundaries between us. No limits to our love – or between our selves.
He began to shake, wheezing harshly, and for a moment I was alarmed; then I realized he was laughing. "Both," he said, between wheezes. When his spasms had quieted, he murmured, "Fitz, you are trying to draw a line through water."
"Some boundaries are important," I said, thinking of Peladine and her cat.
"And some are imaginary. No, I understand what you meant." He reached for my hand and pressed his palm to mine. "We are still the Fitz and his Fool. But when you loan your coat to another man, it might come back to you with his things left in the pockets."
There was a touch of his old humor in his weary voice, and it lightened my heart even as his words worried me. "You haven't taken anything I wouldn't gladly give you."
"It's not like that, exactly. It's that – what you did left marks. Like a traveler's footprints in the forest. Maybe they will fade in time." He sounded uncertain, and a little troubled.
"Would you have had me leave you..." Dead, I thought, but did not say. "As I found you?"
His grip on my arms tightened. "You did not, and so there is no use talking about it."
"So we won't talk," I said. I wrapped his thin, shivering body in my arms, and his fingers stroked against my sides. We didn't talk.
When I rose from his side, the fish had dried out somewhat, and a mouse had gotten into the greens. It didn't matter. I built up the fire and cooked our meager dinner, and to me it was as good as any fine fare from the Buckkeep kitchens. I was content to be by this fire, my friend at my side, our footprints in each others' hearts.