Standard disclaimers.

She matters always.

She thinks that she doesn't. She was granted freedom alongside the rest, she knows it, but she has never lived her life untethered. She does not think of herself as a slave, but she thinks of herself as belonging to. It is her place to serve.

It is her place to serve you.

You've always thought of her as special, but you're not sure that she grasps it. You treasure all of your maids, all of your people, but she is something altogether different. Something you have never been able to articulate fully. You loved your khal in time, loved him with all of your heart, but this is somehow different. There is a glint in her eyes that you never found in his, even in his most loving moments. There is a trust so implicit.

She has been through hell, before you and for you, and you know in ways you cannot say that it is not just because she belongs to. Not for you.

She thinks she knows what her place is, what her role is. She is forever to your side, forever behind; you know that she looks at whoever she feels she must from under her eyelashes, smiling a slow smile, she twists her hands and lets them imagine. She does not let them try it on, not since –

Everything she does now, even if she does it for you, is because she wants to. Nothing more.

She has told you as much as the first, that her life is yours. You always tell her no, her life is hers, but she just shakes her head. Given to her by you, pledged to you by her own choosing. Faithful.

You can't help but search for her eyes across the courtyard, shining like dark stars in this endless night sky of strangers. You have a job to do, you have a part to play, and you are not distracted, but she is helping in her way. Just being, she is helping.

She always helps, even when she does not mean to.

Sometimes you think back to what you had that first time; it was playacting, you thought, it was simply a naïve girl being taught lessons by one more experienced. But you have seen it mirrored since then, more times than you perhaps knew when you look back. A glint of joy, of pride, of something that is only for you. She has never flashed such a look at those she lets imagine.

You wish you knew how to say this to her, to arrange her once and for all as starlight in your darkness. She has helped you to climb from the worst of it; she has whispered to you when you cannot sleep and whispered to your children to praise their growing. You loved your husband with all your heart in time, but you think perhaps you have always loved her a bit, too.

First love can sting. It cannot always be seen so clearly. You could not have known what to look for, you could not have known how it would latch to you and the realization would sneak up. You cannot say it, but you hope that it plays out in your eyes when they meet hers.