A/N: This is a new AU story, taking place during 1x16, just after Francis falls into the river. Please drop a line and let me know what you think.

Warnings: graphic depictions of violence and gore, a couple of curse words (nothing too strong), and lots of brotherly angst throughout.

When Francis was a little boy, Bash was all the father he needed. Sebastian wasn't much older than him, but, at the time, he had always seemed it.

Their own father, the king, paid very little interest to Francis, more concerned with his bastard son and his mistress, or with the running of his country, but Francis had never really thought that odd at his age.

He thought that, Bash being the age he was, and capable of doing things with Papa, of course Papa would prefer his company. Francis was simply too young. He would be old enough, when he grew to be Bash's age.

Besides, Bash was always there to make it up to him.

He taught Francis how to ride and to track and fight with a sword after the King taught Bash. Oh, there were tutors, more than capable of teaching the craft, but Francis learned best from Bash.

It was only when he was older that he realized that he must have done something wrong from birth for his Papa to pay him such indifference when he so clearly loved Bash more.

It was when Francis was eleven years old that he realized it was not his fault at all, but rather, the fact that he had been born of the Queen, rather than the King's Mistress, that caused his father to prefer his older son so.

But Bash was there to comfort him, then, when he discovered the truth. As he was always there for Francis.

Bash wasn't here now.

Although Francis was not sure where he himself was, was not sure of anything in that moment, he knew that his brother had been lost to him for quite some time.

The world was blue, and dark, and he was alone.

Some small part of him knew that he would die down here, though his mind could not tell him where, exactly, he was.

The world was too small. The air too thick, and it enveloped him, forced itself down his throat, caused his eyes to redden and his lungs to burn excruciatingly.

There was no noise down here but the rushing in his ears.

Only terrible, damning silence.

That, and the cold, cold that filtered through every inch of him and caused him to shiver uncontrollably, coughing down more air that only suffocated him.

The world above was a hazy mess, but he thought that, through that mess, he could see the outline of a hand, pressed against the sky. Perhaps it was God, attempting to reach down through the cracks of heaven and rescue him.

No, that wasn't right. The sky was not this white, even in winter, and the air not this harsh.

And just like that, the disorientation vanished, replaced with a dull realization that he would rather not have.

Water, not air. He was breathing in water.

Ice. Water. He had fallen into the river after the tracks they were following had vanished.

Bash was above him somewhere, but the ice was too thick...He would never find Francis in time...

If indeed, after everything that had come between them, he even wanted to.

Several terrified gasps racked Francis' frame.

Water flooded his burning lungs.

The current of the river dragged him down, into the depths, and for one, terrified moment, he knew that Bash would never find him. That he would die down here, pulled away by an unseeable force.

Francis tried to cry out, but realized belatedly that this did not help, either. Reaching up towards the sky, towards the hand above, he slammed against the thick ice desperately. In a last effort to break through to the surface.

He thought he could hear the garbled, far-away sound of his brother's voice, but it was difficult to distinguish from the roaring in his ears, growing ever louder.

And then...

A sword slammed through the thick ice, just behind Francis, narrowly missing his shoulderblades. He swallowed, swimming hastily away, or as quickly as he could in his state, but not too far as to be caught in the current again.

The world tilted again, strong arms lifting him into frigid air, and his eyes slid shut on their own accord. He could hear someone calling his name, slapping him in an attempt to get a response, but all Francis wanted was to sleep, to get away from the cold surrounding him for just a few minutes...