Her breath always snagged a little when she heard that name. She pretended to hate it for a long time.
“I’m not that old,” she’d always protest, eyebrows drawn severely. In fact, they were almost the same age, give or take a few months. But Dany had always had a knack for appearing more sophisticated and grown-up than the rest of the Targaryen clan.
It used to be a point of pride that she was so put-together, that her life hadn’t sunk to the lows of bittersweet madness. But now, she was beginning to understand her father and brothers.
Jon looked much younger than her as he opened the door to her car and pulled her into a bear hug. She resented his talent for youth. She resented the way his grin felt like several small daggers on her collarbone. She resented his long, handsome face, his dark curls and grey eyes. He took these disparate Northern features and made them Targ anyway. Whereas, she had struggled her whole life to carry her family’s legacy.
But she wouldn’t put the blame on him, not this time.
She was responsible for this familiarity. After all, she let him put his hand on the small of her back as he guided her into the house. She welcomed it, even.
He grinned at her from across the courtyard on a hot summer’s day. He strolled to the water pump and sloshed water on his naked back. Dany watched him from her window, her book forgotten in her lap. She couldn’t be sure he was smiling at her. He’d come home with his new girlfriend, Ygritte. Maybe this display was meant for her.
But Dany couldn’t look away from his body. Beyond his beauty, he carried this strange atavistic energy. A kind of immortality. When he laughed, the world surrendered. And she did too.
But for a long time, she tried not to show it. He was her rebellious nephew who’d joined a band instead of going to college, who almost lost his foot trekking in the mountain ranges in the North.
They were so different, after all.
He often emailed her photos of his latest exploits. He didn’t believe in Instagram. But he wanted her to send him photos too.
How’s Vaes Dothrak? Are you getting a tan, Auntie?
Innocent, loaded questions.
Come on, update your Facebook at least, he’d beg her.
Now and then, Dany sent him a selfie of her face against a blank wall. She didn’t smile. She stared in the distance at nothing in particular, seemingly lost in her thoughts.
Lose the braids, he asked her each time and she pointedly ignored the request. It would be like nakedness.
She had always been his quiet champion, that’s why she was his favorite.
She wasn’t Rhaenys or Aegon, who had minded very much when their father took up with another woman and abandoned his family. Dany was a romantic, deep down. She believed the heart must be followed. She didn’t resent her brother’s coup de foudre. It had nothing to do with her, anyway. She still spoke to him when the rest of the clan gave him the cold shoulder. She was too young to know better. She was delighted to go visit Lyanna and her boy.
She’d called him Jaehaerys the first time she’d seen him.
“I go by Jon, actually.”
“Jonaerys?” she conjectured clumsily as they shook hands.
“Just Jon. These family names are pretty stupid, if you ask me.”
No one asked you, she wanted to say. But she smiled a cool, crystal smile, something she’d learnt from her mother. “Well, my full name is Daenerys. Do you think that sounds stupid?”
He shrugged, his lips curving into a smirk. “Depends on how you say it.”
“Let’s hear you say it then,” she drawled, pushing her shoulders back.
“You making fun of my accent?”
“Maybe,” her eyes glinted with mischief.
They had been children then.
She had had her first taste of snow when he buried her in the white draft and told her to move her arms and legs to make an angel. She’d done as told. He’d told her the angel was beautiful.
Jon cradled her head when Rhaegar died. He told her, “We’ll get through this, Auntie.”
They were both sobbing. He got his hand tangled in her braids. She gripped his back, hooking her anchors in him.
It was just them now. Everyone else had disappeared or died. They’d been swallowed up by a vestigial monster who meant to rid the world of their ilk. Dany thought she might be next.
She whispered into his shirt. “What if I’m next?”
The brain tumors seemed congenital. Embedded in their DNA. First Aerys, then Viserys, now Rhaegar. A touch of madness had been dropped on their heads at birth.
“No,” he growled against her forehead, “I won’t let them take you.”
And there was something about Jon that made you believe he could stop such things. As if he’d already passed behind the shadow and knew forbidden things.
She let him tuck her into bed that night, tears dry on her cheek. He brushed his knuckles against her cracked skin.
“Do you still have it? The tattoo?” he asked quietly, almost remorsefully.
“Let me see. Please.”
“I need to see it.”
She turned on her side, clutching the covers to her chest, and let him lift up her shirt. He ran his fingers against her spine. He found the dragon, curled around her shoulder blades.
It was slightly faded now, but its scales still gleamed red in the dark.
He bent down and kissed the tail.
Dany gasped. She felt his tongue burning soft trails into her skin.
“Don’t…don’t do that…”
“It’s mine anyway,” he muttered against her protestations.
He was right. He’d convinced her to get it on his eighteenth birthday. It had been her gift to him. She had asked him what he'd wanted. At the time, she'd thought of it as a stupid dare on a stupid night in Braavos.
But he had held her hand while the needle had defaced her back. Then he'd got an almost identical tattoo on his breastbone. They’d stood together in the hotel room afterwards, she in her bra, he without his shirt, and compared dragons.
“Mine is definitely bigger,” she mused, drunk but also sober. Already regretting everything.
He came up behind her and pressed his chest into her back. The dragons were united now.
He ran his fingers down her arms. “If they ever disappear, it means we’re dead.”
So, that’s why he was checking it now. Making sure it hadn’t disappeared.
He kissed her back until she keened.
“God, just like that.”
Dany kissed him hard on the lips to forget about her idle hands. The Devil’s plaything, as they say.
Her idle hands now stroked his length. It didn’t matter that she often slipped or gripped too hard or scratched her nails against the tip, making him cry out. What mattered was this unspoken back and forth, this tame sexual act denied by blood. She was still Auntie, after all.
Ygritte was sipping her lemonade in the living room and here they were in the bathroom, pressed up against the sink.
Jon palmed one of her breasts through her silk shirt. He rolled the nipple under his thumb, made it hard and felt its hypnotizing power. He wanted to put his mouth around it right now. He wanted to suck it dry. He wanted Ygritte to see him do it, even though he cared for the girl.
Dany squeezed his cock. He came straight into the sink, his mouth against her mouth, their breaths synchronized.
The next day, she took an early flight back to Yunkai where she was shooting her documentary. She didn’t write to him for three months.
When Aerys was in a particularly dark mood, he used to tell her mother to kneel and put her hands forward, palms up. Then he would step on her palms, he would tread on them with satisfaction. His feet would come close to breaking bones.
She told Jon about it one night when they were both watching TV on the sofa. The house in Dragonstone was now deserted and the light from the screen cast an eerie blue shadow across the spacious living room.
“He was a sick fuck,” Jon remarked dryly.
“And what are we?” she inquired archly.
“I don’t want to break your bones, if that’s your main concern.” Although he could. He had a wiry frame, all taut muscles and hidden marble.
“But we’ve broken other things,” she remarked.
They had broken intangible things; things you’d expect couldn’t be broken.
He never drove her around on the back of his bike. His motorcycle was reserved for the women he could fuck without a constant reminder of genealogy.
But it was Dany who bought him the new bike in the first place. She wanted him to stop driving on that rusty thing he'd borrowed from Theon.
She wanted him to be safe, or safer.
He claimed, later, that she just wanted to own him. To control him.
And she laughed spitefully, eyes narrowed into slits. "Then give it back."
He did not give it back. He never parted with it, even after he stopped driving it. He still kept it in the garage, under a thick tarpaulin.
When Rhaegar talked about Lyanna, he talked about starvation.
“Is she the one who feeds you?” curious, romantic little Dany asked as she stared at the photo he had placed in her hand. She didn’t know what to make of the woman in the picture. She seemed almost featureless, extinct. As if she could melt into the background. But when you looked closer, you noticed she stored a violent energy in her eyes. She was preparing to knock you down.
“No…that’s just it,” Rhaegar’s voice drifted moodily. “She eats from me.”
And Jon followed his mother’s example.
When he bit into her shoulder and left teeth marks across her belly, she felt like an apple core. He was relentless in his appetite. His cock was extraneous in the process. He slipped inside her and fucked her in an unfocused, sloppy haze, because his main concern was the patch of skin he would feast on next.
She often thought he was exacting a form of revenge. Rhaegar had taken his mother and made her the other woman, the guilty homewrecker. Lyanna had cried many bitter tears because of him. What was Jon doing now if not echoing the same refrain?
“That hurts- fuck, Jon, that hurts!” she screamed into his ear as he made her come with his teeth.
He groaned and spilled himself inside her.
“Be a good nephew and stand still,” she’d said to him at Rhaenys’ wedding when she’d tried to straighten his bow tie.
Jon had slipped his hand under her dress and she had let him roam until she’d finished fixing his tuxedo.
When they’d resurfaced among the guests in the ballroom, Aegon walked past them with a disgruntled look.
“You missed the toasts,” he muttered accusingly, as if he knew what they’d been doing.
Maybe he did know, but it didn’t matter. Rhaenys died in a car accident two years later, and Aegon never returned from a mission in Asshai. They shipped back an empty casket with the Targaryen sigil on top.
Some said there was a chance he was still alive somewhere since his body had never been recovered. Rhaegar clung to his hope even when the cancer stripped away most of his mental faculties.
But Jon and Dany knew he had died. They felt as if a ring of metal were closing in around them, forcing them together but flattening anyone else in their path.
“Khaleesi!” the children screamed as they crowded around her, jumping for her affection.
She smiled at the camera and handed each of them their care package of non-perishables and second-hand clothes and toys.
“Tomorrow we’re taking our shots, aren’t we? Because we're very brave! Aren’t vaccines fun?” she chanted, clapping her hands.
She couldn’t sleep that evening. Not because of the heat and the mosquitoes, but because of the wind whispering through Vaes Dothrak, calling out a name.
The seams of her tent parted and he came through like a blade of grass, like a ghost.
Dany stared up at him. Jon’s skin was red and pockmarked, peeling off of him in apple rinds. The dragon on his chest was fading away.
She screamed. But she didn’t wake up. He stood there until morning, a festering nightmare.
(The truth was, she would have gathered him in her arms even if he carried the plague with him. She would have absorbed it from him, and she would have healed him. Because he was supposed to be different from her brothers and father.)
In the morning, she threw up the contents of her breakfast and she did not heed the warning signs.
He led her away from the car and into his house. He took her coat and told her not to drag any mud on the carpet or Ygritte would be mad. Dany complied. She took off her shoes. She saw the evening unfolding before her. They would have dinner, laugh over wine, Ygritte would talk about getting the band back together, Jon would muss up her hair and tell her they were too old for that shit now, and his wife would tell him he’d lost his spark. Jon would stare across the table at Dany and his gaze would hold something sarcastic - at whose expense, no one knew. But it’d be a clear signal, don’t fall asleep tonight.
And she’d wait for him after midnight, sitting cross-legged in the guest bedroom. And he’d slip quietly through the door, shedding his clothes before she had time to greet him. He was always impatient like that. He’d run his hands through her hair, loosening each braid because he loved the feeling of her unkempt and unready. And he’d kiss her like the first time, trying to break the skin of her lips.
But maybe tonight would go differently. Maybe tonight she would tell him.
Dany sat cross-legged on the bed and cradled her belly, calling out to the small heartbeat inside.
Whatever came out of her would be doomed, but she wanted it to come out. She didn’t want her and Jon to be the only Targaryens left. Their dragons would fade away someday.
But this one wouldn't.
The door parted and Jon stepped inside, his eyes two lusterless coals.