Half waking into Skill-wrought weariness, Fitz struggled to recall just who and where he was. He lay in Molly's arms; or else he was Molly, safe in Burrich's embrace; or he was Verity, entwined with Ketricken, or...
Shuffling through selves made his skull ache with the pressure of containing others' dreams, some human, some not. Still tangled hopelessly in conflicting realities and already half sliding back into sleep, FitzChivalry Farseer curled his arm more tightly around the waist of his slumbering beloved, and pressed a kiss onto her mouth. His mouth.
He felt the sharp intake of breath as much as heard it, and he smiled as the warm body in his arms went suddenly wakeful and rigid. For some reason the cool mouth pulled away from his, and for a time they lay cheek to cheek in the darkness. He licked his lips, unexpectedly lonely. Puzzled. He could feel his lover's heart shaking his own body with a too-fast pulse, and it came to him gradually – for his thoughts were sluggish, like half-frozen honey dripping slowly from a snow-buried comb - that there had been an argument. Molly's voice raised in anger – or, no, Verity's command Skilled to him by – no, Ketricken's stubborn determination to – no, it was gone, and with it his own identity fading from his memory like smoke tattering in the breeze. But this he knew, whether he knew his own name or no: he lay with his love, and for this moment they were both safe and well.
At his side he felt Nighteyes' drowsy approval. Pack. Mate. Shelter. Food. Nothing more to wish for.
He was almost asleep again when he felt his lover delicately trying to pull away, and that was not right, that would spoil it all. He jerked the slim waist towards him and felt the breath startled out of his lover's lungs once more. He slid a possessive hand down to cup the firm curve of one buttock, pressing his lover closer to him determinedly, almost as if the proximity would allow him to melt through the barrier of skin and share bodies the way he had once shared flesh with Nighteyes. There was a tiny sound somewhere between a sigh and a groan, and the tentative wriggling to escape stopped, but the passivity which succeeded it was no more satisfying. A dull irritation kept him from sleep. She – he – was waiting. Still angry, or still – there was a holding back, a rebellious attempt to maintain some needless distance between them. Dreams were already plucking at his mind, muddying his senses, but he knew that as soon as he gave in to them, his lover would move away from him. He rolled over, pinning the pliant body to the ground, and fumbled to frame a familiar face in the darkness. As he had suspected, the face was turned away from him. He wished he could remember why – but it mattered little enough. He took the beloved face in his hands and turned it, unseeing, towards him. He was straddling his lover's waist, knees at either side of the quiet body, and after a moment his mouth found an eyebrow, and then a cheek wet with tears.
"Shh, love," he whispered, shocked into speech. "Don't cry. Please don't cry." He felt his beloved's body shake with something that was either a laugh or a sob, and because he did not know the right words to use, he followed the salt track of the tears with his tongue, licking them away before he lowered his lips to his lover's mouth.
At first his lover lay perfectly limp and still beneath him, like a puppet with all its strings cut. He licked the quiet lips, feeling them tighten into a baffling grimace beneath him and refusing quite stubbornly to part; but he persisted, half drunk still with dreams and certain of nothing any longer but the wrongness of this distance between him and his beloved. It came to him, inexplicably, that his lover was still soundlessly crying, but at the moment this thought had finally penetrated his Skill-befuddled mind, he felt all resistance go out of the slender body beneath him, and his lover finally began to kiss him back.
It felt like coming home.
In the morning Fitz woke alone, his head so full of Skill voices and selves that he couldn't carry a conversation or concentrate upon performing any task Kettle or Kettricken demanded.
If the Fool's eyes followed him with a more hopeless or a more loving look than usual, he certainly did not notice.