This is old, I will admit. It's been sitting untouched in one of my files for months, maybe even over a year, waiting for me to decide what to do with it. Every time I opened it to proof-read, I wondered: is it too sentimental? Too pointless, too boring? Then I dug it up again a couple of days ago and decided I didn't care. I wrote it, and I like it, so here we are :)
She stood with her back to him, small hand resting against the trunk of a withered, bone-pale tree, leafless branches stretching skywards like beseeching fingers. Against the crimson light of the setting sun, she was little more than a shadow, though her hair caught the light, shining like silver-red fire, rippling slightly in the faint, hot breeze. Her head was lowered, and she was utterly silent save for her deep, controlled breathing. From where he stood, Jorah could see the tension in her body, the fierce grip her fingers had against the trunk, broken nails practically gouging the bark.
"Khaleesi?" He should have found a more gentle way of making his presence known to her; she startled violently, but did not turn to look at him. "My queen, are you well?" A deep breath, followed by a heavy, measured sigh as she gathered the will she needed to speak.
"Yes," she replied atonally. "Leave me, please, ser. I would have privacy." Something was wrong with her voice, it lacked its usual life: the radiance of her joy, the fierceness of her anger, the crystalline beauty of her sorrow – all were missing, leaving her with the voice of one already dead. It unnerved him, and while he respected her need for space and privacy, he cared about her wellbeing more, and for this reason he lingered.
"Something troubles you, my queen, I can see that much." What an utterly foolish thing to say, he thought, regretting the words as soon as they were spoken. Daenerys clearly thought the same, for she rounded on him with a bitter burst of laughter. In spite of himself, he took a step backwards.
"Nothing troubles me, ser! Nothing but getting my people through this waste alive." There had been fatalities already; among them Doreah, the fierce and lovely Lysene girl. He remembered that, as he remembered the others who had fallen as they travelled. As they all did. Horrible though it was to bear, he did not feel as crushed by the burden as their Khaleesi now looked. Yes, he could see it now. The dullness in her eyes, the weary way she held her newly-thin body… undernourishment and exhaustion each played a part, yes, but he could plainly see the grief writ across her face, the pain she refused to feel, wearing her down a little more each day.
"How many…?" she whispered, half to herself, as if he were not there. "How many more must be lost?" That simple, disconsolate phrase confirmed it for him. "Is that my destiny? To lead my people to their deaths?"
"None of this is your fault," Jorah said, gentle but firm. "Hardship comes to us all, no matter who we follow." She shook her head listlessly, spreading her hands in front of her, staring at them in horror as though they were drenched with blood.
"I began this. I commanded that maegi to cast the spell that took my sun-and-stars from me, that killed my son in my womb." She ghosted a hand across her stomach, features contorting in pain, both remembered and fresh. For all the raw agony in her voice, her eyes remained dry, tearless.
"You have not yet mourned their passing."
"I can't. I have to be strong, for the rest of them. I have to ride, keep riding forwards. If I look back…!" The rest of the sentence trailed off in a gasp, and she steadied herself against the tree.
"…You can leave them behind," Jorah finished for her. She looked up, and what blazed in her eyes was suddenly terrible, so terrible that he almost had to look away from her. Almost.
"I have to be strong. For them. How can I expect them to follow me when I can't even master my own emotions?" He knew what she meant. She was trying to lead in Khal Drogo's stead. Grief had no place in the ever-shifting khalasar, in this ruthless, unforgiving place. It was a luxury Daenerys would not allow herself.
"It is not weak to grieve, Khaleesi. No-one here would think any less of you for mourning your losses, I promise you." She shook her head again, more urgently.
"I can't…" Her voice was a bare whisper, strangled and hollow. "I won't look back."
But even as she spoke, something behind her eyes was shifting. She was slowly crumbling before his eyes, and there was nothing either of them could do. Nothing but wait it out. She started to tremble, and tears welled in her eyes but still she fought against it, gulping back sobs that threatened more heavily with every passing second. She looked to him, no longer the burned-pure goddess who had walked unscathed through fire and brought dragons into the world again, but once more the terrified child he had met in Pentos so long ago. There had been tears in her eyes then, and though what he had offered her had been pitiful, it had served to comfort her, to make her smile.
Perhaps he could do the same now.
He nodded once, silently reassuring her. The change was almost immediate. She drew a breath that tore itself back from her throat in a harsh, half-restrained sob, pressed the back of her hand to her lips and began, at long last, to weep. Softly at first, but then with more force, more absolute grief. He was about to step back and leave her, when she turned again. Pale, drawn face streaked with tears, brows brought together in a sorrowful expression that made his own chest tighten.
She extended her hands to him, taking a hesitant step, like a blind woman.
Uncertain, he stayed where he was, watching her. But he was not expecting her to tumble into him the way she did. Nor was he expecting to suddenly clasp her tightly against him as her entire body was wracked with uncontrolled, choking sobs. Neither of them spoke a word; Jorah could think of nothing to say and Daenerys, it seemed, could not draw adequate breath. Still, he resolved to hold her like that, silent and still and as soothing as he could manage, until she quietened at last. When she continued to cry, he moved a hesitant hand to lightly rub her back, whispering soothing words that quickly dissolved into gentle nonsense, wanting fiercely to embrace her properly, internally berating himself for the impropriety… but she seemed to be settling, so he contented himself with that. She seemed to need it.
By the time her tears had ceased for good, it was past dusk, and stars scattered the clear sky. She raised her head from his chest slowly, still gasping a little and wiping away remaining tears with the back of her hand. She seemed gravely exhausted, indeed, he had to help her to stand, but lighter somehow. As if she'd rid herself of a great burden.
Neither of them spoke a word as he supported her back to her tent. Her two handmaids had retired early, being as weary as everybody else, but Jorah saw to it that she was made comfortable, gently bathing her sore, swollen eyes with a damp cloth, helping her to settle back on her sleeping mat. Her eyes closed almost immediately, and he was about to excuse himself from the tent when she reached out and took a hold of his wrist.
"Will you stay?" Her voice was low, hoarse from crying and weak with drowsiness, but he could not deny her. Still, this time he remembered himself, remembered his place.
"You honour me, Khaleesi," he responded solemnly, taking his place by her side. She smiled a barely-perceptible smile and, at last, allowed herself to sink into sleep. And it was not long before he, however unwillingly, followed suit.
Day seemed to break as suddenly as a fire being struck, jolting them both into wakefulness within seconds of each other. Daenerys' eyes were still bloodshot from crying, the world outside was still as desolate as ever, their supplies still as scarce, their weariness still present.
But the smile she offered him as she sat up on her sleeping mat served to reassure him that they would find a way. With someone so strong leading them, how could they fail?
I've got a few thoughts on this one, mainly linking to the title. One: I seem to be leaning towards longer titles lately, which is okay, I guess. And two: if you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you may recognize the title. If you do, I think you can agree that those words (and their source material) are really fitting for Jorah and Dany. At least, I think so.
Anyway, please tell me your thoughts and opinions, positive or otherwise. And if you have any ideas, prompts or fic requests, PM me, and I'll see what I can do for you! Bye!