They’re a day from Astapor, and for most of the Dothraki it will not be a moment too soon. Many are still greensick, nervewracked and clutching at each other; Daenerys keeps court on deck, watching her dragons fly, making herself available to any who need her.
Doreah steps out around midday, wearing one of Dany’s old Westerosi-style dresses, her hair loose. (She is rebuilding herself from the ground up, it can be seen.) Jorah and the khaleesi are discussing – something – and Doreah knows better than to interrupt: even from a distance, she can read their expressions, Jorah’s strange balance of paternal chiding and a would-be lover’s ego, Daenerys’ tight-lipped annoyance. She is too civil to yell at him, but Doreah has seen her face before she does start yelling, and it looks much like this.
When Jorah stalks off, Daenerys moves to the bow, folds her legs underneath herself and just sits, eyes tracking Drogon around the sky. Doreah waits, chewing her lip, until she is certain that nobody else will be approaching, then she takes her skirts in hand (voluminous as they are, she finds them rather cumbersome, but a small voice in her head suggests that it’s good practice) and goes to her queen.
“You look unhappy,” she murmurs, easing down beside her.
“Pensive,” Daenerys corrects immediately, tipping her head back to see Viserion and Rhaegal fly at each other.
“Was this pensiveness started by Ser Jorah?” Doreah guesses, her tone consciously light.
The girls rarely discuss the once-knight, but by now both are more than aware of what he wants. Dany still seems to think it will all be okay, that they can maintain the balance that has been kept, Doreah is more skeptical.
“Ser Jorah – thinks highly of me,” Dany says diplomatically. “But he sometimes expresses his doubts.”
Doreah makes a face. “What did he say to you, Khaleesi?” she asks, careful to keep the edge out of her voice.
“He merely reminded me that the Dothraki follow strength,” Daenerys replies, and there is suddenly enough edge in hers for the both of them.
Doreah does not reply yet; she regards the other woman with worry, but she is silent.
“He’s right, of course,” Daenerys continues. “He has lived amongst them longer than I, he knows their ways better. I am not strong in the Dothraki way.”
“You have followers,” Doreah insists.
Dany rolls her eyes in the way she does when she’s trying not to cry or show how upset she is. “Where else would they have gone?” she asks shakily, as if it’s a fear she’s only now voicing. “Outcasts and former slaves and –”
“And people whose loyalty you won,” Doreah interrupts. “Kovarro and – and Rakharo and Irri –”
“Yes, and that ended wonderfully for them,” Dany retorts sullenly.
“And me,” Doreah says softly. She suspects the bitterness in her queen’s tone is largely self-directed and not caused by anything that has been said to console; she suspects that her honesty is at least part of what is needed. “I know that I do not count, I am as foreign as you in their world, but I followed you because of your strength.”
“Nice words and force of will are not warrior strength, though,” Daenerys murmurs, though it is more resigned than angry by now.
“They are still strength,” Doreah maintains. “Anyway, you are as much a warrior as anyone, Khaleesi. How many of those men that Ser Jorah speaks of have survived a night in the flames? How many have – have –” Here she chokes on the words, but she keeps up. “Have burned age-old warlocks alive?”
Daenerys bites her lip. “None,” she admits.
“You are strong,” Doreah repeats. “Warrior strong and otherwise.”
“Tell Ser Jorah that,” Dany mutters half-heartedly, hating how much like a child it makes her sound but unable to stop herself saying it.
Doreah nearly laughs. There are many things she would love to tell Ser Jorah, but even if she is no longer a slave and maybe not even a handmaid, it is not hers to educate errant knights in how best to speak to their queen (or how to speak to any woman, perhaps).
Instead, she takes Daenerys’ hand carefully. “I will tell you,” she says. “I will tell you as many times as you need me to, I will tell you until the words become nonsense and you tell me to shut up.”
Dany’s eyes fall, and sad though it is, her lips twist up in a smile. “You would spoil me,” she murmurs.
It is practically my job –
You spoil me –
It is what is right –
“I would be the voice of reassurance that you cannot ask anyone else to be,” Doreah finally says once she has sorted out the realest answer. She sees her queen’s strength, but she is also privy to her queen’s weaknesses: both are beautiful, both are vital to her.
“Sweetling,” Dany whispers tenderly. “My lady, my love.” She lifts her hand to brush down Doreah’s jawline, to push dark hair behind her ear, and somehow Doreah is surprised when suddenly they’re kissing. They have kissed so many times it is beyond counting by now, their lips have known every part of the other’s body, and she’s almost positive their secret is not quite a secret anymore, but this is still the first they’ve kissed where others might see. It is oddly freeing, Doreah realizes.
“Is this all right?” Dany asks, pulling back but only barely.
“Of course it is,” Doreah says, trying not to giggle with that strange delight. She goes in for another kiss, more heated than the first; she does not move to touch the khaleesi in any additional way, but she scoots just a bit closer, inviting as much touching as is appropriate.
Nothing disturbs them, nobody interrupts, until, giving a shrill cry, Rhaegal lands at their feet. They are none of them shy, the dragons, and Rhaegal especially likes to pretend he’s aloof and does not need affection at times, but when any of them ask for attention, it is wise to comply.
Doreah is hesitant to touch him, wary still in the light of recent events, and Daenerys sees this apprehension (has to swallow some herself, she must admit, instinct stays wary longer than head and heart) and reaches for her lover’s hand, guides it to stroke Rhaegal’s scales.
All at once, Doreah relaxes, smiling and murmuring an affectionate “hello” at the dragon; Rhaegal, for his part, nuzzles into her hand, practically cooing. Any faltering in the bond between dragons and not-quite-just-handmaid seems not to have lasted, Dany’s approval is their approval too.
Soon Drogon and Viserion have landed too, swarming the women with little regard for their lungs or limbs: yet crowded as they are, jostled and nudged about, they both burst out laughing, their smiles meeting their eyes. They fall against the deck in a most unladylike fashion and let the dragons cover them in some kind of love.