Jay got off the bed and leaned forward to scoop Isellta into his arms.
“Wait.” Isellta put his hands on Jay’s chest. “I don’t mind you carrying me, but…”
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, really. But…” Isellta focused on his fingers instead of Jay’s face. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my Robin.”
“I don’t. I wasn’t…like this when we were together. He’s never seen me weak and helpless.” There was a crease in Jay’s shirt above Isellta’s right middle finger. He tried to smooth it. “I—I don’t want him to see me being carried like a child.”
The crease refused to be smoothed down.
“I don’t want Robin to think of me as a child. I want more than that. I want him to see me as so much more than that.”
“So, you don’t want me to carry you?”
Isellta shook his head. “Jay, let me walk. At least, let me try. I know I’m weak. I know I’m going to stumble and trip. But I need to do this. I need to try.” His wings flattened against his back. “Unless…Jay? Do you mind?” He peeked up at him and searched his expression.
Jay sat beside him.
Isellta lowered his hands. “If you want to carry me—”
“No. It doesn’t matter what I want. If you don’t want me to touch you, I won’t touch you. If you don’t want me to carry you, I won’t carry you. You have a right to make these choices for yourself. It is right for you to make these choices. Making these choices is not wrong. You aren’t hurting me by making this choice, okay? So, tell me what you want me to do.”
“Help me stand and support me. Don’t let me fall.”
Jay smiled. “I can do that.” He helped him scoot to the edge of the bed. “Okay. Now, you want to set your feet down on the floor. Like that. Like that. Good. Okay, now put your arms around my neck. I’m not going to pick you up. I’m just going to support you.”
Isellta obeyed him.
“Okay. Good. Now, hold on. I’m gonna need your help, okay? Need you to press your feet against the floor. Imagine your legs are tree trunks and your feet are roots. Imagine those roots spreading all over the floor.”
My legs are tree trunks and my feet are roots…Such a strange thing to imagine. My feet are roots spreading everywhere.
“So many lines.” Isellta frowned. “None of them are parallel. They are all tangled in thick green and brown knots.”
“Yeah. Now, imagine those roots digging their way through the carpet and becoming one with the floor. Only way to separate those roots from the floor is with an ax.”
“But, Jay! Roots keep a tree in one place. I want to move.”
“It’s okay.” His voice was a soothing marigold blanket of new petals and leaves. “It’s just a temporary visualization to help you up on your feet. Think you can do it?”
Isellta repositioned his feet to give him better balance. “Yes. Let’s do this.”
“Okay.” Jay braced his legs.
Isellta smiled and fluttered his wings. “Are you a tree too?”
The guard laughed. “Absolutely.” He wrapped his arms around the fey. “Ready?”
Isellta nodded and Jay pulled him up to his feet.