Helping Other People Isn’t Always Altruistic
Javier sighed against Geoffrey’s chest, holding him. “I’m okay now,” he whispered.
“You sure?” Geoffrey asked, arm around him. “We can keep sitting.”
Javier shook his head, pulled out of the hug. He took a deep breath and tried to fix his hair. “No, I’m okay.”
He seemed like he might be telling the truth, so Geoffrey helped him stand, went over to the basin with him so he could clean up. “At least you threw up in the privy this time.”
“And not on you,” Javier agreed. He took another breath, washing his face. “Bit late at night to be having a bath.”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world,” Geoffrey reminded him. “You being okay matters more to me than a minor inconvenience.”
“I know.” Javier smiled. “There’s this guy who works in the rookery. His name’s Bernard. I thought…I thought he was flirting with me. But he wasn’t. And I asked him out and he said no and it was really embarrassing. I mean it probably wasn’t for him. He probably already forgot about it. But I didn’t and I was thinking about it in bed.”
And that was what had brought on his moment. Geoffrey nodded. “That’s okay. Want me to beat him up for you?”
Javier laughed. “No. I’m sure it’ll be fine, I just see him every day and it’s going to be weird now and I don’t know if I should apologize again or just pretend it never happened or avoid him or…”
Geoffrey squeezed Javier’s hand. “Just talk to him the way you always do. He’ll appreciate that.”
“I think he’d appreciate it if I faked my own death and moved to N’Kar.”
“I don’t think I’d appreciate that.”
“You could come with me?”
Geoffrey smiled, and he kissed Javier’s hand. “That’s very tempting, but I don’t think so.”
“Okay.” Javier sighed, which turned into a yawn. “Let’s go back to bed. We’ve been in here a long time.”
Not quite an hour, Geoffrey thought. “Okay.” He went with Javier back into the bedroom, which wasn’t as dark as it had been. There was a lantern turned down low on the table near the foot of the bed, and Diego was sitting in a chair. “Hey,” Geoffrey said. “Did we wake you up?”
Diego nodded. “I just thought…if you needed anything.”
“Thank you,” Javier said. “We’re okay. I don’t even think we made a mess.”
“I heard you throwing up,” Diego said. “Are you sick? I can get you a tincture.”
“No, it won’t help. I’m okay now. I throw up when I get really upset, that’s all. I’ve always been that way.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Diego asked, lowering his voice even more than it had already been. “If it happens again, I mean.”
“Send someone to find me,” said Geoffrey. “And until I get there, just do your best to make sure he feels safe. You can’t stop him from feeling upset. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
“It feels like I’m going to die,” Javier said, still holding Geoffrey’s hand. “I feel trapped and scared and my chest hurts and I always think my heart is going to burst and I’m going to die and there’s nothing you can say that will convince me I’m okay.”
“That sounds really terrible,” Diego said. He looked upset now.
“Yeah. But I’m okay now, really.” Javier smiled at him. “I’m always okay in the end. All you have to do is sit and wait until I get there mentally. And don’t worry about it, okay? It’s not like it happens all the time and I usually get to Geoffrey in time.”
Geoffrey hated that that was usually and not always, but he wasn’t with Javier all the time. “Okay,” said Diego. “Okay. I’m sorry for prying. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Thank you,” said Javier. “I appreciate that. But I’m really tired, so I’m going to go back to bed. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” said Diego, as Javier climbed back into bed. He shuttered the lamp as Geoffrey got in with him, and climbed to Geoffrey’s other side where he usually slept, a little closer than usual. He waited a few minutes, until Javier fell asleep on Geoffrey’s shoulder. “Are you okay?” he asked, really quiet. “It must be hard to see him so upset.”
“It is, but I’m okay,” Geoffrey promised.
In the dark, Diego shook his head. “I just don’t…see how you have enough room to carry someone else being so upset they throw up. After everything that happened to you, I don’t know how you can do that and not fall apart.”
“Because falling apart doesn’t help anyone, no matter how much I want to,” Geoffrey whispered.
Diego moved closer, so Geoffrey put an arm around him. He felt right in Geoffrey’s arm, like a brother should. “I used to think you were selfish.”
“I am. But being selfish means I want the people I care about to be safe.” And that included Diego.
Diego nodded, and didn’t say anything for such a long time that Geoffrey assumed he’d fallen asleep. Geoffrey let himself drift too, hoping he could get back to sleep so he wasn’t exhausted tomorrow.
“But the king is the one hurting the people you care about,” Diego finally said. Geoffrey barely heard him, but it was so clear. “You know that, right?”
He tightened his grip on Diego. “Yeah,” he said. “I know that. Being selfish means I want to keep you all safe. Even from each other.”
“What if that’s impossible?”
“It is,” Geoffrey said. “That’s why I can’t always be selfish. And it’s why I can’t fall apart. Because someone has to do this.”
“Do what?” Diego asked, lifting his head.
“This,” said Geoffrey, holding Diego closer. “Someone has to keep the things that matter together.”
“That’s not what you meant,” Diego accused.
“No, it isn’t. But sometimes protecting people means making sure they don’t know things,” Geoffrey told his brother. “That way nothing that happens can be their fault.”
“You can’t do everything alone.”
Geoffrey was never alone. Even when he wanted to be. “I can when I have to. Falling apart doesn’t help anyone, so I’m not going to.”
Diego let out a low breath. “You’re not selfish,” he muttered, falling asleep.
Once he was sleeping, Geoffrey kissed the top of his head. Yes, he was. The things he wanted weren’t commensurate with each other. But he was going to do his best to get them anyway. Because Geoffrey didn’t care about anyone except for the people in this house, the people in his family.
If everyone else had to die for him to ensure the safety of the people who mattered to him, then so be it.
2 thoughts on “Noble, 42”
Geoffrey seems to have latched onto Diego as a substitute for his brother.
That’s not a good sign.
It’s definitely not! Not for Diego and not for Geoffrey either. He thinks he’s recovering from an obsessive relationship, but all he’s really doing is potentially transferring the target of his obsession.