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The King's Servant

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

. . .

|Daenerys|

. . .

 

The floor looked no better after having been swept. Daenerys had done it twice over, now—though it was all for naught. Just outside it was a sea of mud, and everyone who treaded through the great hall tracked dirt all throughout—day in, day out. However unimpressed she was with her work, there simply wasn't any more time this morning to fuss over the floor any longer. Sighing, she bent down, cracking her already-tired knuckles before untying the bundle of rushes.

 

"Don't tell me you mean to spread those over this filth."

 

She knew the voice before even turning to confirm it was him. Again.

 

"There's no time to make it better," she replied.

 

"Then perhaps you should do it right the first time."

 

Reluctantly, Daenerys peered over her shoulder to spy him. Indeed, it was the same shaggy-haired boy she expected to see. His eyes were grey and sunken in, and he wore the same smug expression that unnerved her. Being alone with him made her stomach twist almost as much as being alone with Viserys had—which is exactly what she'd run from in the first place. She felt as though she couldn't trust this boy or his intentions.

 

Choosing this time to ignore him, she began spreading the rushes over the floor as quickly as she could manage, vowing to take his daily criticism in silence for the remainder of her task before moving onto the next. It would be a long day before her, yet. At least she had something to dream of while she worked, now, to pass the time. It wouldn't be too much longer before she could finally afford to see the uncle she had heard still lived and breathed at Castle Black, her only other living relative. So far as she was concerned, her brother, Viserys, was dead to her.

 

"Did you hear me?"

 

"I heard you." So much for silence, she thought, already breaking her vow.

 

"I heard you, my lord."

 

He stepped forward. Fighting the urge to roll her eyes, she rose to her feet to face him. She was through with cowering before mean boys.

 

"You refer to your betters by their proper title."

 

"Apologies, my lord," she replied, unable to help her sarcasm from trickling into her words.

 

"You're awful pretty to be a servant, aren't you?" he asked, donning a wide, cocky smile. "You'd make much more as a whore, you know. I could show you to the brothel."

 

"I know where it is," she scoffed. "I'm not interested."

 

Voices and the thud of heavy boots sounded just outside, then. Great, she thought, more mud to track through. The threat of more company didn't dissuade the boy beside her, though, as he began stalking a circle around her.

 

Suddenly, a man cleared his throat behind them.

 

"How many times must I tell you to leave our servants alone, Greyjoy?"

 

Daenerys turned to see who had come to her aid, unable to help her mouth from falling open upon meeting his dark and deep-set eyes. They had nearly doubled in size as he held her gaze, pushing his raven curls away. The mere sight of a boy so handsome made her heart quicken. You stupid girl, her mind chided her. He is the last thing you need.

 

"Look around you, the insubordinate wench is hardly serving anything."

 

Finally, the handsome stranger's gaze fell from hers as he approached her instigator. He lowered his voice, though she could still hear it. "I know damned well my father taught you better than to speak to women like that, no matter how lowly you think they are."

 

Replying only with a sneer, he pushed past the sullen yet kind-looking boy, leaving them alone. Her stomach twisted again, though this time it wasn't in fear or dread.

 

"Thank you," she said. "My lord," she added after another few seconds. Finally, someone deserving of a title, she thought.

 

Her reply seemed to bring both a smirk to his face and a splash of color to his cheeks. It was a face she could stare at all day and never tire of.

 

"Does he bother you often?"

 

"I've only been here few days, yet. But as often as he can, considering."

 

"It won't happen again," he promised.

 

Daenerys nodded, letting her gaze fall back to the tiles below. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad, after all—working at Winterfell until she saved up enough to resume her journey north. With all-new resolve, she continued her task, spreading the rushes evenly over the floor.

 

"Let me help you."

 

Just when she opened her mouth to protest, his smile made her mind stutter. She stole glances of him as they worked, exchanging awkward grins whenever they managed to catch the other at it.

 

"What's your name?"

 

"Dany."

 

He pursed his lips as he considered, his eyes glazing with sudden distress. Oh, no, she thought, wondering whether she should've come up with a better name to use. For some reason, the thought of lying to him made her feel anxious and... wrong.

 

"Like Flint?"

 

"Sorry?"

 

"Brave Danny Flint."

 

"I've never heard of her."

 

"Some northerner you are," he joked.

 

Dany only pursed her lips, cursing herself for feeling too guilty to lie to such a sweet-faced boy. Though she averted her eyes from his, she could feel them linger still, studying her every movement.

 

"So you're not...?"

 

"Not what?"

 

"A northerner."

 

It was no surprise he'd come to the conclusion so fast, though she couldn't help but wince. The Starks and those who followed them had every reason to hate Targaryens, she knew. Ever since she'd arrived in White Harbor, she heard whispers of what her father had done—something Viserys had conveniently neglected to tell her in all their years together.

 

"My mother was a Lysene whore." Her voice was small, unlike her lie.

 

If at all possible, he softened further. This time, it was the boy who dropped his gaze. "Your eyes," he said. "I was wonderin' where you got those from."

 

While Daenerys kept her silver hair in a wrap, there was just no hiding her violet eyes—at least not without some sort of potion or magic trick. The best she could do is blame it on Lyseni blood. Rather than respond, she concentrated on the task at hand, slowing in speed upon realizing they had almost finished their work. A large part of her didn't want to leave him so soon.

 

"Is your father a northerner, then?"

 

She hesitated for a moment. "My father... is dead."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"Don't be. He died before I was born, and so far as I've heard—he was a cruel man."

 

After he nodded in understanding, she dusted her hands off on her apron. "I should go. I've got plenty of work ahead of me, yet."

 

"Aye," he gulped.

 

Just as she reached the door, he called after her, "Dany, wait."

 

Something about the way he said her name made her heart flutter.

 

"I'm Jon," he said. "My name's Jon."

 

"Jon," she repeated, the name timid on her tongue.

 

And a strange name, it was. In a way, it fit him perfectly. In another way, however, he looked like a prince who might've walked straight out of some storybook. Daenerys half-expected a legendary name to accompany that unparalleled smile.

 

After exchanging a pair of shy grins, she left, feeling a strange tingling spread throughout her body. Get over it, she told herself. After all, there was no use dreaming of some highborn boy—at least not for a Targaryen girl on the run.

 

. . .

|Jon|

. . .

 

As the day wore on, Jon's thoughts kept returning to the brief morning encounter with the intriguing girl with violet eyes. The more he thought of her, the more peculiar she seemed. A servant, the daughter of a whore—and yet she spoke better than even Jon, who'd at least had a proper education under Maester Luwin. It wasn't often Jon found himself intrigued by a girl to this degree, perhaps always defaulting to his bastard status and never wishing to thrust it upon anyone else—but Dany... Dany was different. And Jon was King in the North, now, however much he hated it.

 

Dany was far and away the most beautiful girl he'd ever laid eyes on, and already he was scheming up ways to run into her again, wondering exactly how he might determine her schedule. After all, Winterfell was huge, and there was no telling what tasks she'd be put to in a given day—and for the time being, he wasn't even sure who it was she was reporting to.

 

"Have you put any more thought into selecting a steward, Your Grace?"

 

"Mmm? "

 

Maester Luwin sighed, looking exasperated as usual at Jon's distraction.

 

"A steward. Have you chosen one, yet?"

 

"Oh," he said, picking at the edge of a scroll on his desk as he finished pulling himself from his reverie, however reluctantly. "I haven't."

 

Sighing again, Luwin readied his next question. "And the accounts? Have you looked them over?"

 

"I will," Jon groaned.

 

"You wouldn't have to if-"

 

"If I chose a steward, I know."

 

Thrumming his fingers against the desk, he still felt at a loss. Jon could think of no man he could trust enough with such a position, at least not anyone who didn't currently reside at Castle Black. Everyone had loved his brother, and it was Robb they were loyal to. Jon was just the one they tolerated in his absence, the stain of his bastardy still a thorn in the north's side, whether or not Stark blood ran through his veins.

 

It was no wonder Jon was terrible at the finer intricacies of ruling—he never wanted to be king, he never asked for it. Had he any idea Robb would perish at the Battle of the Blackwater, Jon would've never agreed to the former king's line of succession. He was the disposable one, after all. Not Robb. Never Robb.

 

It should've been Bran, he thought. Bran should be king. Lady Catelyn was furious with Jon's audacity in accepting Robb's former position, taking Sansa and Rickon with her and returning to Riverrun. Bran, however, demanded to be left with Jon. Sometimes, he considered simply walking away and leaving the boy in charge.

 

The taste of guilt was always heavy on his tongue, and it was a taste he wasn't like to acquire. Often, he wondered whether or not it would've been wiser to stay on the Wall, always feeling the latent sting of remorse he still harbored for having left. After all, what use was he when he couldn't even save his own brother? Nightmares of his own headless body still haunted him—his head taken by Ice, itself. But Ice had died with Ned.

 

They had succeeded—so why didn't it feel like it? Together with Stannis Baratheon and their combined forces, the north avenged Ned's death. Robb had even killed Prince Joffrey himself, running the bastard through with a sword. But he lingered too long, relishing in the life draining from the pretender's body as cold Lannister steel sank straight into his spine. Jon trembled as he watched the blood spill first from his brother's gut, and then his mouth. Rage ignited like wildfire in his veins. Some nameless soldier had managed to snuff the Young Wolf, a living legend so far as the north was concerned. It was unthinkable. Oh, how Jon had wailed as he tackled the man, thrusting his sword in and out of the fallen soldier's chest until it turned to ribbons, the spray of blood and hot tears burning his eyes. Even now, his hands trembled at the thought—as fresh in his mind as if it'd happened just yesterday.

 

Months later, Robb's absence left Jon feeling hollow. It was as if he had been run through with a blade, himself, leaving behind a gaping hole in his chest where his father and brother used to reside. Ever since, he felt lost. Bran was his one tether to Winterfell. That and Arya. No one had seen Arya since before Ned was arrested for treason, but Jon couldn't help but hold out hope for her return. Though, with each passing day, the likelihood she'd be found alive grew slimmer.

 

"Your Grace?" the maester interrupted again.

 

"I need fresh air."

 

Perhaps it was unbecoming of Jon to up and abandon the maester, but when his mind wandered back to that fateful night, appointments and accounts were just about the furthest thing from his consideration.

 

Roaming about the castle certainly hadn't helped much, either. The hushed whispers of smallfolk as he passed, the obligatory bows they'd offer and the 'Your Grace's that left their lips. It was enough to make him feel ill. He wanted something real, something more than these shallow niceties from the very people who had viewed him as lesser his whole life. If he were being honest with himself, he wanted Dany. Though brief, it was in her presence he almost felt like himself again—something he now knew he'd always taken for granted.

 

As fate would have it, Jon's legs carried him to the library tower, where he spotted her shaking out a rug just outside the entrance. Rather than approach, he simply admired her from afar. She was a sight to behold, even in her frumpy, dull blue dress and apron. While it wasn't out of the ordinary for servants to cover their heads, Dany's wrap thoroughly covered every last strand of her hair. Jon couldn't help but wonder what color it was or how long she wore it.

 

After a moment, she caught him staring. Meekly, he smiled at her, feeling a sudden and inexplicable pull in her direction that he couldn't resist.

 

"You look upset," she noted, frowning as he approached.

 

"Aye."

 

"How come?"

 

"Just thinkin' of my brother."

 

She nodded. "Did something happen to him?"

 

He couldn't help but wonder whether she was twisting his leg or if she really hadn't heard. "He died. A few months ago."

 

"I'm so sorry, Jon."

 

The way she said his name, rather than 'Your Grace', made his chest swell—filling that hollow place inside of him, if only for a moment.

 

"Has anyone else bothered you?" he asked, suddenly feeling protective of the one thing that had managed to bring him any amount of relief.

 

Finally, that shy smile returned to her lips as she shook her head no.

 

"If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, come straight to me. Don't hesitate a moment, Dany. I mean it."

 

"Thank you, Jon."

 

After a final shake of the rug in her hands, her violet eyes met his—so beautiful they'd nearly robbed his lungs of his breath. "I should get back," she said. Of course.

 

Jon searched his mind for a way to keep her for a moment longer, coming up short of an excuse. He got the sense she wanted to get away from him, this time. And perhaps he was no better than Theon in pestering a poor, polite servant just trying to finish her daily tasks. In truth, Jon didn't even know whether or not she'd get in trouble for neglecting her duties—though he was half-tempted to find a way to relieve her of all of them.

 

Reluctantly, he watched her walk away, returning the rug to its rightful place somewhere amongst the many shelves inside. The act, if nothing else, inspiring him to return to his own tasks, as well.

 

.  .  .

 

Night had long since fallen by the time Jon took supper alone in his office. He didn't have it in him tonight to join the others in the great hall, and luckily, there were no matters or appointments pressing enough. The only thing preventing him from wading too far into his unwelcome memories was Dany. Though they'd only spoken twice now, he had half a mind to send for her.

 

Sighing, he rose from his seat and stepped toward the window. In the distance, he saw a light emanating from a window in the library tower. Narrowing his eyes, he could just make out her image—her unique hair wrap giving her away. For a few moments, Jon watched as she sat alone at a table inside the tower, reading by candlelight.

 

Smoothing a hand over his beard, he considered it. Most of the servants he knew had never learned to read, or if they could, it was very little. Standing there, he studied her, counting every page she turned and guessing it was about a page per minute. Pulling a book from one of his shelves, he compared his time with hers. As suspected, it took him a bit longer to push through a page. Dany was smart, though, that much was certain. Too smart to sweep floors all day, Jon decided.

 

. . .

|Daenerys|

. . .

 

When Daenerys reported for duty the following morning, she was redirected to the kitchens. It was there she learned she'd been bumped to a better position within, that she was to help assist the bakers between serving meals. Considering she was by far the youngest—and slowest— of the women kneading out the day's bread, she almost thought to argue it, concluding the switch must've been by mistake. But when she thought back to the dread she felt at being approached by that shaggy-haired boy— Greyjoy, Jon had called him—she thanked the old gods for her recent stroke of luck. Perhaps they were even watching out for her, now that she was in their midst. Daenerys swore to visit the godswood once her shift was up, to thank them properly and perhaps even ask for a little more help.

 

Finally, the sun had fully risen, bathing the ancient castle in its light—the signal it was time for Winterfell to break its fast. Daenerys splashed her face with cold water before the older ladies shooed her outside. The cool air helped to offset the redness in her cheeks before approaching the great hall. For a moment, she wondered what the bastard king must be like, hoping he wasn't some old pervert like the bulk of the men she encountered thus far in life. From what she'd heard, though, he was reserved, quiet, and spent most of the day holed up in his office.

 

Dany made her way to the hall trailing behind the others, keeping her eyes on the ground. As a result, she ran straight into a large wolf lounging on a patch of dry mud—the pair of pitchers in her hand splashing his white fur. Surprised, the beast turned to face her, his eyes red and wide as he rose, twisting to get a proper sniff of her. She'd never seen a wolf before in her life, and had no idea how to shake his attention from her. The other servers would be of no help—they had long since left her behind.

 

Already, her stint as a serving girl was off to a poor start as the fearsome beast set his ears back, pawing at her feet. He began to cry like a pup, even letting loose a few yowls. Slowly, Daenerys backed away, moving as few muscles as she could manage so as not to stir him further. This time, she collided with something just behind her, the sensation making her jump and curse, "Sīkudi nopāzmi! "

 

Two hands grasped at either arm in an attempt to steady her. "Easy," a voice behind her said.

 

Jon.

 

His touch lingered a bit too long before letting go. A familiar flutter tickled her insides, then, before spreading throughout each of her limbs. Resisting the urge to sink into his touch, she merely exhaled, shaking her head as if to dislodge the thought from her mind.

 

"I see you've met Ghost," he chuckled, reaching just beyond Dany to pat the space between the beast's ears.

 

With a gulp, she turned to the wolf again, who had since buried his nose in her apron.

 

"Don't mind him, he's harmless," Jon assured her.

 

"He doesn't look so harmless."

 

"Well," he began, bending to allow the wolf a lick at his cheek. "He's harmless if he likes you, anyway."

 

"He likes me?"

 

The wolf nudged her hand with his muzzle, urging her to pat his head. Nervously, she did as she was bid, finding a strange sense of comfort sinking her nails into his thick fur.

 

"I should get to work."

 

Immediately, Jon's smile turned to a frown.

 

"Thank you for introducing us, Jon."

 

"Jon? " She recognized that grating voice in an instant—the shaggy-haired boy had found her, after all. "As I said, you really ought to practice addressing others by their proper titles." He spoke to her as if she had a mind as simple as a small child's.

 

"Theon," Jon warned through gritted teeth. "Get lost."

 

The boy shook his head as he left them.

 

"Sorry about him."

 

"I've had worse."

 

The smile he offered was one so sweet it turned her knees to gelatin.

 

"It's just-" his pause was long enough to allow for a band of red to bloom across his cheeks. "Greyjoy can't seem to resist the urge to pester pretty girls."

 

Pretty? she thought, pushing the air from her lungs. Jon thinks I'm pretty?

 

"I'm sorry," he suddenly blurted. "I didn't mean to imply-"

 

"Of course not," she muttered, unable to mask the disappointment in her voice.

 

"Sorry? I didn't hear-"

 

"It's nothing," she interrupted. "Goodbye, Jon."

 

Daenerys pushed past both Jon and his wolf, rushing into the great hall, feeling a familiar sting in her heart after doing so. She liked him, she did. Perhaps even too much. But the day would come where she'd have to leave Winterfell, and developing feelings for someone—particularly a highborn boy—simply wouldn't do. It would complicate her entire plan, and she was close—so close— to finally finding safety. And so, she stuck to the vow she made the previous day—to avoid Jon to the best of her ability, to keep whatever conversation she had with him light and friendly. Nothing more.

 

After helping the other servers set up the tables, Daenerys saw a familiar white blur in her periphery. Ghost. Her eyes followed the beast as it ascended the few steps up toward the high table before curling into a ball. Shortly thereafter, Jon had entered. After climbing the same steps, he pulled out the chair just behind his wolf and took a seat. What?

 

As she served the smaller tables around the room, she kept shifting her focus back to Jon. Several men had approached him, bowing their heads and referring to him as 'Your Grace' . She couldn't believe her eyes, her ears. Heat crept into her cheeks as she went over the few times they'd spoken, certain he never once mentioned his title. The more she thought on it, the more embarrassed she became, feeling misled.

 

Wordlessly, she served him throughout the duration of his meal, as well as the maester beside him. Daenerys had managed to eavesdrop several fragments of their conversation, which largely consisted of boring discussion about Winterfell's food stores and the state of affairs around the north. One thing had stuck out to her, though—the mention of strengthening alliances through marriage.

 

Already, the thought of Jon wed to another felt like a knife twisting in her gut. Why? They'd only talked a handful of times, now, and she had previously vowed to ignore him as best she could—so why should it matter? The loneliness had intensified when Jon wouldn't so much as glance in her direction as she served him. It was bad enough when she assumed him a mere highborn boy—but a sudden awareness had struck her. There were no friends for her at Winterfell. A surge of hot tears flooded her eyes, then. Stubbornly, she held onto them, keeping her eyes open lest they fall.

 

You stupid girl, her mind taunted her, but the voice she heard was not her own. You'll never be loved, certainly not by a king.

 

Dany's thoughts wandered to her brother, then. The more she examined her past, the clearer it all became—he had never loved her. For as much as he liked to prattle on about the blood of the dragon and how different they were from lesser men—she had never been anything more than a pawn for him.

 

The last day she spent with Viserys, he stripped her bare, fondled her naked body, and appraised her like cattle. Shortly thereafter, he paraded her—nearly nude—in front of the man expected to buy her body and call her his wife. The Khal was large and terrifying, with the dark eyes of a ruthless murderer—the thought of submitting her body to such a man made her ill. Still, she tried to push through it for her brother's sake. So that they could finally return home, together. It was only when he leaned in, assuring her he'd do anything for his crown—caring not whether the whole of the khalasar fucked her, including their horses— that she knew it was time to flee. The one person who had always protected her had never done so out of love, but because she was the last thing of value he 'owned'. Not anymore.

 

Daenerys had little more than her beauty as she fled from one free city to the next, relying on odd jobs and the kindness of strangers. Though kindness often came paired with expectation, she learned. Particularly when it came to the exiled Westerosi knight sent to retrieve her on behalf of Viserys. The man had vowed to protect her instead, helping her escape her brother once and for all. But it came at a price.

 

One drunken night, Jorah Mormont confessed his love for her, his desire. It was a delicate balance for Daenerys, managing to milk him of information as he whispered sweet nothings between actual helpful tips—such as that she had a living relative at the Wall, where his own father ruled as Lord Commander.

 

When he blacked out from too much drink, it was a split-second decision for Daenerys. She nearly emptied his pockets and set off alone, leaving him with just enough coin for a meal and boat fare to one destination. She was through being a means to someone else's end. She was through catering to the whims of men.

 

Well, she thought, glancing down through tear-brimmed eyes at the nearly empty pitcher of mint tea in her hand. Almost.

 

. . .

|Jon|

. . .

 

It came as no surprise that Jon managed to stick his foot in his mouth immediately upon greeting Dany. All throughout breakfast she ignored him. Jon had barely touched the food on his plate, yet nearly downed two full pots of mint tea that morning, all in an effort to lure the girl back to his cup. He owed her an apology, at the very least—but his mouth just wouldn't comply.

 

Every time he thought back to her perturbed expression the last they'd spoke, he couldn't help but grimace. Why did I have to call her pretty? It was just another thing Robb did better. Perhaps he should just cave, accepting the offer originally intended for his brother, as well—to wed one of Walder Frey's daughters. At the time of the agreement, Frey had absolutely no interest in marrying any of his daughters to a bastard. Now that the north had gained its independence, the old man was looking to spread his seed throughout whatever kingdom he could.

 

Lady Catelyn and Robb had fought to no end about his marital fate—but in the end, he agreed to the terms Frey had set, no matter how reluctant he felt. Jon's reluctance, however, had little to do with the girl's looks, but more in that he never wanted to wed or father children at all. It was eerie enough assuming Robb's life after his death, hearing his brother's titles when greeted, doing the commanding in his place. He didn't want Robb's wife, too, or the children that were meant for him. Jon had even declined to take the name he wanted as long as he could remember—Stark. He supposed he could name himself a Stark if he wanted, being king and all. Maester Luwin assured him it would open up his marriage prospects by a wide margin if he considered it. The man meant well, but always seemed to press Jon to make life-altering decisions he just wasn't ready to commit to.

 

Shrugging his thoughts away, Jon set out to roam the castle—unsure where he was headed, exactly, but desperate for a distraction. Without even trying to, he managed to find the very person that filled him with both dread and delight in equal measure—Dany.

 

Jon's nerves were well worn by now, and he couldn't allow anything else in his life to fester. He'd apologize to the girl and leave her alone, no matter how much he liked her. After all, whether or not he liked her mattered little if she found him bothersome.

 

As she passed, he fell in line beside her, assuming she was retiring for the night.

 

"Have I offended you?"

 

Jon's heart hammered as he anxiously awaited her response.

 

"No." Her voice was small, and she looked upset.

 

"Why are you avoidin' me, then?"

 

"I'm not."

 

"Is somethin' wrong? Has anyone else upset y-"

 

She whirled around. "Why do you care so much?"

 

Because being in your presence makes all the clutter in my mind disappear. "Because... I," he stammered, unable to voice any of it.

 

"You're King in the North? " she interrupted.

 

"I am."

 

"Why didn't you tell me?"

 

"I figured you knew..."

 

"But you're just a boy ."

 

Jon flushed. "Older than you."

 

Just great, his mind reeled. He had come to apologize and somehow made it worse.

 

"Was it you, then?" she interrupted, a sudden anger flaring in her features.

 

"Was what me?"

 

"You had them turn me into a serving girl, didn't you?"

 

"I only put in a good word for you, I swear it."

 

"And what does that mean, exactly? You pick out the girls you find pretty, put in a good word, then make them fill your cup twenty times a meal while you leer at them?"

 

"I didn't leer at you."

 

The girl huffed before spinning around and storming off.

 

"Dany, please," he begged. "Wait."

 

"Yes, Your Grace? "

 

"You don't have to call me that."

 

"Why shouldn't I? Everyone else around here does."

 

Jon sighed. He was even worse with women than he thought. "Just let me apologize and I'll leave you alone. I won't say another word to you."

 

After folding her arms, she turned to face him, peering up through violet eyes welling with tears. Dany didn't blink. She simply stared, expectant. He wished for nothing more than to sweep her into his arms and soothe her—but for all he knew, he was the one who had upset her.

 

Jon had to look away in order to find the right words. Nervously, he ran his hand through his hair as he began. "I shouldn't have called you pretty, no matter how true it is. It was awful improper, especially as your king. I got to see first hand how disregarded smallfolk are by royals, believe me. I don't want to be that sort of king."

 

Even with his gaze fixed to the ground, he could see that her arms fell to her sides.

 

"Just... one more thing," he promised. "There was no motive in suggestin' a better position for you. From the moment we met, somethin' about you made me feel lighter, like myself again. I just wanted to thank you for that in whatever way I could. I'm sorry, Dany."

 

With that, Jon simply walked away from her. He couldn't explain why it felt like his chest had been crushed just then, or why the thought of never speaking to Dany again hurt so much. They barely knew each other—he could count the conversations they'd had on one hand, alone. As he made his way to the godswood, he tried to make sense of it. It's no wonder he clung to that poor girl, using her as a crutch against his loneliness. After all, being at Winterfell without Ned, Robb, Arya, Rickon and even Sansa— it didn't feel like home. Not anymore.

 

.  .  .

 

For all Jon knew, hours had passed as he sat beside Winterfell's heart tree, whetting his blade the same as his father did. All sunlight had dwindled from the forest floor, replaced with the soft white light of the moon above. By now, Jon's eyes had adjusted to the darkness. I'll head back soon, he decided. Just a bit longer.

 

In the distance, the soft snapping of twigs underfoot signaled someone's approach. And then came a sob. Once Jon recognized whose crying it was, he panicked, rising to his feet before slipping just out of sight behind a thick, dark ironwood trunk.

 

After shifting her skirts, Dany knelt before the weirwood tree, sniffling and wiping her eyes. Jon kept quiet as best he could, already regretting the decision to hide from her. Listening in as she wept only egged at his desire to comfort her.

 

There was an uncomfortable silence for several moments before she began.

 

"I've never done this before. I've never spoken to any god, old or new. But I haven't got a single friend in the world to listen."

 

Jon carefully peered from behind the tree as she wiped her eyes again, her chest rising and falling as if to calm herself.

 

"I don't know what's come over me," she confessed. "Just when I think I can ignore him, he comes to find me. I tried to be angry. I tried to assume the worst of him—and I failed."

 

It was then Jon found himself praying to the old gods that her words were about him, silently willing her to continue.

 

"No good can come from any of this," her voice deepened. "He'll only complicate my plans. I just can't stay here any longer than necessary."

 

Plans? he wondered, his stomach coiling at the thought of her leaving.

 

"I might even put his life at risk if I don't make it to the Wall soon... I can't bear the thought." Dany began to chuckle then, a nervous laughter that made Jon uneasy, reminding him that none of these words should've ever reached his ears. "I don't even know what I'm asking for or whether anyone—or anything— is even listening. Nevermind," she sighed. "This is silly."

 

When she stood, Jon was surprised to see her scampering further into the godswood rather than back toward the keep. He couldn't help but follow after her—first giving her a bit of a head start. The Wall? He wondered why in the world a girl would ever choose such a destination, and what she might be running from.

 

As Jon waited alongside the trail, the stench of ale suddenly wafted toward him. He turned to see three featureless silhouettes moving in the dark.

 

"I saw 'er come this way," one said, prompting low and nefarious laughter from his companions.

 

He began to sing a familiar song, then, each improvised word slurring into the next, " One maid there was, in a spring-fed pool..."

 

"That'll be quite enough," Jon's voice boomed as he stepped in front of them, the moonlight glinting off of his sword belt in warning.

 

The quieter of the two companions mumbled apologies along with his proper title, grabbing the makeshift bard by the arm and yanking him away. Jon listened for a moment as they debated whether or not that was really the king they had just run into. After their figures swayed and shrunk into the distance, Jon could finally continue along his path.

 

As silently as he could manage, he made his way deeper into the forest in search of Dany. What in seven hells was she thinking, wandering into the forest alone? Every few feet, he'd stop to listen, hearing little else besides the ringing chorus of insects and a light skittering beneath the leaves. His heart began to race, then—the thought of Dany coming to harm, lost or hurt somewhere in the godswood filled him with more terror than even the night Blackwater Bay went up in green smoke.

 

Finally, Jon heard something other than the forest's nocturnal residents—splashing. Quieter still, he approached a wall of trees by the smallest of the godswood's pools. The moon faintly illuminated the steam that rose up from the water, and Jon could just make out Dany's image as she lay her arms over the rocks at the edge of the spring.

 

Immediately, he noticed her hair. It was nothing like he'd imagined it. Naturally, he assumed it might be dark, perhaps the color of her brows. Instead, it was the color of moonlight, even while wet. And long, though there was no telling just how long, yet, as the bulk of it floated atop the water behind her.

 

Though Jon could see little more than her arms and shoulders from his vantage point, his trousers grew snug all the same. He peered through the leaves, mind and body warring as he tried to peel his gaze from her. Unfortunately, his morality surrendered, eyes lingering as she disappeared below the water. He held his breath. When she resurfaced, only her back was visible as she twisted the water from her long rope of hair. By the time she rose to her feet, it was too late to look away.

 

Water came cascading down the soft slope of her back, over the swell of her bottom—and it was there that Jon's gaze hung. Before now, he couldn't recall ever having wanted something so much. Unlike the very few naked women he'd seen before—he could actually imagine touching Dany—running his fingers through her hair, his hands smoothing over the flawless plane of her skin, covering her from head to toe in kisses. He imagined the weight of her body in his lap, the feel of her mouth against his. Overcome, his heart began pounding a rhythm in his head—the excitement and shame of spying her doing nothing to ward off his arousal, perhaps even aiding it.

 

As Dany began pulling on her stockings, Jon finally tore his eyes away. Turning, he kept them clenched shut as he pressed himself against a sturdy tree trunk. He brought both hands to his face to nurse his enflamed cheeks, to massage away the tension in his jaw. Get a hold of yourself, his mind admonished him. It's just a naked girl.

 

But it wasn't, not really. In his heart, he always knew she wasn't just anyone. Dany had raised red flags of suspicion all around her since arriving at Winterfell, and now Jon had a pretty good guess as to why.

 

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

. . .

|Daenerys|

. . .


Each night, the hour of the wolf had cast a long, menacing shadow over her small quarters—skulking just outside as if it were a real predator. Perhaps it wasn't the night she feared—but the fear of being discovered or even hunted down. Or perhaps Daenerys just hated the darkness, the inescapable chill that the steam of the springs could only chase away for so long.

 

Rather than spend a moment longer in her frozen bed, she tore the stiff furs away and rose to her feet, determined not to let the night frighten her any longer. After dressing, Daenerys carefully bound her wrap, tucking inside it every last stubborn, silver strand.

 

There were a handful of places around Winterfell wherein she'd discovered peace and solitude, even comfort. Chief among them had been the library tower. The aisles were largely empty of visitors and the books collected dust easily—the northerners preferring practical learning methods over the dully written words of maesters.

 

Though, even the dullest of stories still intrigued Daenerys. It was inside these history books she could travel prematurely to the Wall, or even escape to the balmy south. Oddly, her favorite books in Winterfell tended to be about the castle, itself—a place full of mystery and intrigue, despite how colorlessly the maesters penned the facts.

 

Seeking the escape sleep could not provide, she sneaked outside, standing in the shadows until she familiarized herself enough with the guards' paths to continue on. Easily enough, she slipped inside the library, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness before heading upstairs.

 

Afraid to raise any alarm, Dany decided against lighting any candles, combing the pages by moonlight instead. She searched for any clues regarding the many legends whispered amongst the smallfolk—secret tunnels, dragons in the bowels of the crypts, the Starks and their connection to the children of the forest.

 

She had only ventured a few pages deep into her book before something outside caught her attention—a light from a window across the courtyard. Squinting, she peered inside the room, watching the dark figure pace in and out of view. At first, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. Perhaps she had even been dreaming.

 

Just when she thought she'd seen enough to confirm his identity, the room went dark again. It can’t be him, she insisted. There was a twist of disappointment in her chest. Trying her best to ignore it, she went back to the pages, her eyes scanning over the words but her mind refusing to take any of them in, urging her to glance back across the courtyard.

 

A different sort of ache twinged inside of her as she spotted him a second time, another candle coming to a flicker and illuminating his bare torso. Unblinking, Dany sucked in a sharp breath, letting it sit in her lungs.

 

The king brought his hands to his face, his strong arms nearly doubling in size as he rubbed his fingertips down his scalp and forehead. Each deep breath he took sent shadows rippling over his abdomen, calling attention to every perfectly-whetted muscle. Dany licked her lips, almost pressing herself to the glass for a better look. She never would've guessed he'd been hiding such a physique under all that leather and fur.

 

For the love of the gods, look away, she chided herself.

 

Jon moved toward the window, his body obscuring the candlelight, rendering him little more than a silhouette. Daenerys finally remembered to breathe, letting out a long, drawn-out sigh.



. . .

|Jon|

. . .

 

His eyes must've been playing tricks on him. The more he squinted, the more he convinced himself something was on the other side of the library window, fogging up the glass. For a moment, hope flickered in his chest at the thought of it—having spotted her at that very window several times at dusk.

 

It's not dusk, he reminded himself. She's not there.

 

It was the hour of the wolf, after all, she was likely fast asleep—just as he should've been. Tugging his window open, Jon let the night air into his room to soothe his flushed skin, to ward off the nightmares that chased him out of his sleep.

 

Though he tried not to dwell on what he'd discovered in the godswood's springs, the memory was a welcome deterrent to his disturbing dreams.

 

Dany.

 

Jon paced his chamber, considering everything he thought he knew about the mysterious silver-haired servant girl.

 

Was that even her name?

 

Somehow, he thought not.

 

She spoke well and she could read—even faster than he. When she bumped Ghost, she cursed in another language. Further, she was on her way to the Wall— a place notoriously beyond the laws of men, for better or worse. And in Jon's opinion—a place no girl should ever go. The fact that her assumed name bore such a strong resemblance to that of Danny Flint was a cruel coincidence not lost on him.

 

A sad voice echoed in his ears as he shook the morbid thought from his head.

 

I might even put his life at risk if I don't make it to the Wall soon...

 

He had worked out a theory—though even he knew it might be a stretch.

 

In the peace and quiet of his chamber, Jon let his mind wander back to the aftermath of the Blackwater.

 

As if Robb's death hadn't been enough, the state of his sister had added insult to injury. Sansa was a wreck, particularly as she was questioned by King Stannis, himself, regarding a letter addressed to Robb following King Robert's death.

 

The girl's words spilled from her mouth, not unlike the tears from her eyes in the wake of her brother's untimely death. Jon remembered the way Catelyn would glare at him through her daughter's interrogation, as if it was his fault Robb had died. Perhaps it was. But what's done is done, Jon reminded himself, forcing down the memory, focusing on Sansa's words, instead.

 

From what he understood, 'Prince' Joffrey had been particularly cruel to her—parading her in front of their father's severed head, forcing her to look at it for however long it pleased him. If that wasn't bad enough, he had her beaten and nearly stripped in front of the whole court, punishment for her brother's treasons.

 

Clenching his fists at his sides, Jon's pacing had turned to stomping at the mere thought of his sister enduring such abuse. With all of his weight, he threw an abrupt swing at the air with his right fist, following it with a quick jab of his left. After a few deep breaths, his arms fell to his sides. After all, the Lannisters had long since perished in battle.

 

Regaining focus, Jon paced again. Somewhere in the flood of Sansa's confession, just barely clinging to his memory, was a mention of a Viserys Targaryen. The Beggar King across the narrow sea, whom Robert Baratheon often fretted about, and whom the bastard prince would laugh at for his misfortune.

 

King Stannis confirmed through his brother's former Master of Whispers that ever since the escape of his sister the princess, the Beggar King had lost an entire Dothraki army before disappearing into obscurity—not even his little birds had any word on the Targaryens' whereabouts. Likely not a concern, it was determined.

 

If only he knew her true name.

 

I just can't stay here any longer than necessary.

 

Her sad words lingered. The thought of her choosing to leave hollowed out his chest—at least, whatever was left inside of it.

 

Defeated, Jon blew out his candle, pulling off his trousers before climbing back into his bed.

 

And there it was again. That unavoidable feeling—the one that took root in his belly and wove its way throughout his entire body. Longing. However absurd, he already knew he would give anything—his titles, his castle—to keep her with him.

 

But Jon was a man of his word. Or at least he tried to be. And he'd promised to leave her be, that he wouldn't say another word to her.


Stupid.

 

Ripping the pillow out from under his head, Jon crushed it into his face, hoping the blackness might at least scrub the image of her naked body from his mind.



. . .

|Daenerys|

. . .

 

It was difficult enough to trudge through the day on so little sleep, but Dany wasn't prepared for what had awaited her on the last leg of her work day. It'd been a few days since the King in the North had even bothered showing up for supper—something she childishly found relief in. At least out of sight, she could daydream about finally making it to the Wall rather than pore over every last detail of their every interaction.

 

Tonight, however, Jon was impossible to ignore.

 

Sat just beside the king was a woman. An upsettingly comely redhead about ten years her senior, so she guessed. Several times throughout the night, Dany caught herself either staring or scowling, sometimes both—though Jon engaged his companion rather than cast any glances in return.

 

As the king ate, the woman beside him exaggerated each gesticulation enough that they'd bump elbows, even shoulders—finding any excuse to make physical contact.

 

Unable to stomach going anywhere near him, Daenerys forfeited her usual task of topping off mugs and instead, helped clear tables and gather half-eaten scraps to take down to the kennels, sneaking the occasional gulp of ale to nurse her disappointment. If nothing else, the bitter taste distracted her—vaguely reminding her of the foul wine she'd had in Volantis while on the run—the kind that provided her with the strangest, most vivid dreams. Similar to the peculiar blue wine, the warmth of the ale spread through her chest, numbing her inhibitions.

 

After the hall had mostly emptied, Daenerys joined the others, clearing and stacking the dishes to take back to the kitchen. Trying her best to sound unaffected, she waited for a pause in the chatter to ask the other servants, "Who was that woman? Beside the king?"

 

She was met with little more than indifferent shrugs, if at all. When she took another involuntary glance toward the king, she immediately understood why.

 

Theon Greyjoy wore half a grin as he waltzed right toward her.

 

"Mug's been empty for an hour."

 

From behind his back, he produced an upside-down mug to prove his point.

 

"I'm n-" Dany paused, -not serving drinks tonight, she thought, deciding against engaging with him.

 

"I said my mug's empty."

 

Shutting her eyes so as not to roll them, Dany stepped away from him to retrieve a pitcher of ale. Wordlessly, she returned, tipping it until the liquid splashed around the brim, a spray of droplets decorating his leather doublet.

 

"Ugh," he griped. "Now you've splashed me."

 

Dany bit her tongue, forcing manners out instead. "Apologies, my lord."

 

Upon returning to her task, his eyes followed her, and his legs shortly thereafter.

 

"Would you like to go back to sweeping the floors?"

 

Yes, actually, she thought—preferring the lonesome task to working in the kitchens, but not the vulnerable position it put her in. As if reading her apprehension, Greyjoy leaned forward over her workspace, so much that she could smell the ale on his breath.

 

"I can have it arranged, you know," he reminded her—his tone, though mocking, was almost sweet.

 

Dany cringed. Go ahead.

 

Finally, she met his eyes. Unsure what she'd expected, exactly, she'd found something else there. Something she recognized immediately.

 

Just as he moved his lips to speak, she interrupted. "My lord," she began, her exhaustion flattening her tone. His eyes narrowed as she studied them, clearly expecting a response. "I feel lost here, too."

 

She held his gaze, the sharp lines of his features softening as he processed her words—so much so that he almost looked... handsome. Too bad he was a hopeless imbecile.

 

Though she hadn't quite finished her task, she needed an escape. When Dany started for the door, she almost jumped upon seeing Jon midway down the aisle between the dinner tables, his wolf sat on his haunches just behind him. He held an intimidating stance—not unlike the one she'd spied the other night as he paced his room, throwing punches at nothing and no one.

 

If his irritation was any indication—he seemed determined to keep good on his word to protect her from Theon's antagonizing, even if he'd found a different woman to pursue. Considering he hadn't spoken to her in days, it was fair to guess that Jon Snow was a man of his word.

 

The disappointment stung like rejection, though distance was exactly what she had asked for.

 

Ghost's ears perked up as she walked by, his gaze following her as she made her way through the door.

 

"You look like you've seen a ghost, Greyjoy," the king had remarked, though she didn't care to stick around long enough to hear the boy's reply.

 

.  .  .

 

"You shouldn't be down here."


Startled, Dany turned toward the stretch of stone corridor. Had she not recognized the voice, the darkened silhouette might've frightened her.

 

She wasn't going to apologize—for she had as much right as he to be there, whether or not he knew it.

 

"I talked to Theon."

 

"Oh," she squeaked, having expected a lecture. Loosening her shoulders, she fixed her gaze forward, back on the effigy in front of her. "Threaten him again, did you?"

 

"Didn't need to," he smirked. "Whatever you said to him worked. I've never seen him so..."

 

Out of her periphery, she had caught his eyes hanging on her. "So...?"

 

He cleared his throat. "Humbled, I s'pose."

 

Flustered, Dany nibbled at her lip. All she could think about was that damned redheaded woman sitting beside him, laughing at everything he had to say. It's not like he's that funny.

 

After a long bout of stubborn silence, Jon began to walk away.

 

"Your Grace?"

 

Visibly, Jon cringed before turning around to face her.

 

"Dany."

 

The way he said her name stripped her mind of all thought—including why she'd stopped him in the first place. His breath hitched as she took a step toward him, his eyes intent on her mouth.

 

"Why can't I be down here?"

 

"Not can't," he clarified. "Shouldn't."

 

Having expected a better answer, she folded her arms.

 

This time, it was Jon who worried his bottom lip for just a moment as he considered. Lifting his hand, he pointed a gloved finger to a fairly recent tomb of a man sat beside a wolf.

 

"The iron sword across his lap?" he began, "An ancient custom said to keep vengeful spirits from roamin' the castle."

 

Dany chuckled, "That's why you don't want me down here? Spirits? "

 

With just a hint of a smile, Jon shrugged. "Just be careful," he bid before turning on his heel toward the exit.

 

For a few moments, Dany simply listened until she heard the terrible squawk of the ironwood door's hinges as he closed it. She decided to stay a bit longer. It wasn't spirits she was afraid of—in fact, she might even welcome the company.



. . .

|Jon|

. . .

 

Having noticed the king's struggle to win over the hearts of the northmen the way his father and brother had before him, Maester Luwin suggested Jon reinstate one of his father's long-standing traditions.

 

And so, for nearly a sennight he had invited a servant to join him for supper. The experience had ranged from dull to shallow, from grudge-bearing, silent old men who had clearly preferred his lord father's company to what surprised him the most—flirtatious young women.

 

While most boys his age might find a thrill in inviting one up to warm his bed—Jon couldn't help but remember  it wasn't him they were interested in—only his titles. What they probably didn't know is that he'd recognized them from before, when he was considered little more than the physical embodiment of his father's misdeeds. Their recent change of heart was merely a lacquer on long since rotted wood.

 

Dany, though—Dany was different.

 

From the moment Luwin made the suggestion, Jon imagined her sat beside him. Now that he'd successfully exchanged words with her, minding his tongue down to every last syllable, careful that he wouldn't unintentionally belittle her again, she might yet accept an invitation to join him.

 

But not tonight.

 

Tonight he sat beside a young girl that reminded him of Arya. Her name was Sarra. She was the same age his sister had been when they said goodbye. Like Arya, she wore a long, mousy-brown braid, small hairs sticking out every which way like a frayed rope.  Jon guessed she liked to get in as much trouble, too. Unlike the older folks who'd joined him for supper, the girl was impressed that he'd spent time at the Wall, asking a thousand questions—most of which he couldn't even answer.

 

Jon silently thanked the gods when Sarra retired for the night, his voice hoarse from an hours-long interrogation.

 

Ever observant, Maester Luwin leaned in to inquire, "Did the girl say something to upset you, Your Grace?"

 

Jon heaved a sigh. "No, she just reminds me of... my sister."

 

He had been fine with that resemblance, at least until he'd voiced it.

 

When the old man's gaze hung on him, he raised an eyebrow. "Yes, Maester?"

 

"You look terrible, Jon."

 

He shrugged. "Haven't been sleepin' much."

 

"I can give you milk of the poppy," Luwin suggested. "If you're still having nightma-"

 

"No," Jon firmly stated. "I don't need it." He'd seen enough men abuse it to familiarize himself with the ill effects, certain he wanted none of them.

 

Besides, though the nightmares undoubtedly lingered, they weren't what had been keeping him awake at night. That honor, instead, went to what he supposed was his... chivalry.

 

After stealing one last longing glance at the violet-eyed serving girl, Jon excused himself before the old man could pester him about his still-outstanding duties.


.  .  .

 

For lack of anything better to do while he waited, Jon paced the battlements in the dark. He kept a close eye on the courtyard for what felt like hours.

 

Just as he was about to concede that she might've taken a night off from exploring and finally opted for sleep, Jon caught a glimpse of the girl as she skittered between the shadows stretched across the courtyard.

 

Would it be the library tower? he wondered. The crypts? The First Keep?

 

Just as he begged his mind not to think it—she hadn't been to the springs in over a week—he breathed a sigh of relief as she took a turn northward, past the godswood.

 

The crypts it is.

 

Careful to take each step as quietly as he could, Jon made his way down to the ground level, shielding himself in the darkness until he heard the familiar squawk of the ironwood door.

 

After another few moments he approached, his large white wolf following silently behind him.

 

Just around the corner, Jon stopped, wrapping his cloak around his shoulders before taking a seat. Ghost completed several requisite spins before plopping beside him, and resting a heavy head on his knee.

 

.  .  .

 

It was the drop in temperature that had woken Jon, rather than the telltale screech of rusted hinges. Shivering, Jon ambled to his feet, his joints stiff and aching. Ghost watched with a tilted head, unaffected by the cold.

 

"She still down there?" he asked the wolf, whose answer was simply a head tilt at the opposite angle.

 

"Much help you are, boy."

 

Far and away, the tomb had become her favorite haunt—as if perhaps she were a spirit, herself. Jon wondered what, exactly, could keep her busy for hours down there. And from his estimation, hours had indeed passed—the sun already beginning to erase a few stars that hung like a necklace on the horizon.

 

Together, the pair entered the crypts, Jon leading the way down, his stomach already tying itself in knots at the prospect of another confrontation with Dany.

 

What he found instead, made his stomach drop entirely.

 

He broke into a sprint, his cape billowing behind him—whatever cold he'd felt replaced with a hot rush of anxiety.

 

The instant he reached her, he fell to his knees. Her body was prostrate across the dusty stone floor, pale with cold. First, he tried shaking her shoulder.

 

"Dany," he softly called. "Are you hurt?"

 

Jon knelt further, holding his palm over her mouth and nose to make sure she was breathing. Immediately, she stirred, bumping his thumb with her nose as she turned onto her side. After curling into a fetal position, she began to snore.

 

Realizing he'd been clutching his chest with his left hand, Jon relaxed and began to laugh—softly, though, so as not to wake her. Inevitably, her nighttime adventures had finally caught up with her, her body demanding the sleep she'd steadily denied it.

 

After she shivered, Jon removed his cloak and spread it over her like a blanket. Noticing a few stray strands of silver hair, he carefully tucked them back inside the safety of her hair wrap, relishing the softness of her skin on each pass.

 

After a while, he exhaled—realizing only then he'd been holding his breath at all.

 

Gods help me.

 

With his body still thawing from the early morning frost, Jon simply sat and admired her, imagining what it might be like to curl himself around her and keep her warm, instead.



. . .

|Daenerys|

. . .


Upon opening her eyes, Dany was surprised to find herself on the dusty crypt floor. Her head felt like it had been split in two, her neck as stiff as the cold stone beneath her.

 

When she attempted to lift herself from the ground, a cloak fell away from her body. At first she jumped, even backing away from it as she took quick stock of her surroundings. All was still—all except for the flicker of dying torchlight, the candles having long since burned out.

 

She had half expected to find someone there with her, recalling a quickly fleeting memory of someone asking her to wake up.

 

As she rubbed the pain from her neck, Dany examined the cloak—feeling certain she recognized it as his. Out of curiosity, she lifted it to her nose and inhaled—detecting only leather and fur.

 

After wrapping the cloak around her arms as if to fold it, she clambered to her feet.

 

The crypts were dark as night, and there was no way of telling how much time had passed—and whether or not she'd had enough time to return to her room before reporting for duty. After all, it would be rather controversial to carry the king's cloak around the castle...

 

...but she wasn't ready to give it up. Not just yet.

 

Dragging her tired body up the spiral staircase, Daenerys opened the great ironwood door to find a familiar, yet frightening face just on the other side of it.

 

On instinct, she slowly backed away, at least until he started pacing back and forth, letting out a desperate yowl.

 

"What is it, boy?"

 

Though she didn't know how she knew, she was certain that Ghost needed her help.

 

The wolf began bounding away from her, pausing to look back every several feet to make sure she was following. A pit formed in her stomach, then, guessing Ghost wouldn't rile so easy about just anything or anyone.

 

He had led her straight to Winterfell's gate, where a curious scene was unfolding—a pair of guards arguing with three dirty, disheveled looking boys. When squinting provided no advantage, she took a few steps forward to better hear and see.

 

There was a tall one, a fat one, and a small one—the latter standing between his two larger friends, doing all the talking.

 

"I demand to speak to the maester."

 

"Aye? What's his name?"

 

"Luwin."

 

The guards exchanged a look and a shrug, "Anyone in winter town coulda told ya that."

 

"When my brother finds out what you've done-"

 

"The king is not your brother, and you're not getting into the castle," he insisted. "So for the last time—fuck off."

 

Just as the man lunged forward to grab the small boy, he unsheathed a thin sword similar to the ones used by Braavosi water dancers.

 

It was then she heard it—another distressed yowl in the distance.

 

Right, she remembered. Ghost. Perhaps the wolf knew where to find Jon. While the guards weren't at all impressed with the boy's claims, he bore a striking resemblance to the man he claimed to be his brother—the dark hair and eyes almost a perfect match to his. Even if it was just an impostor, Jon at least deserved to know.

 

Dany followed the yowl straight to the great hall. Judging by the bustle of the other servants, she had missed a few hours of work. Finally, she spotted the wolf again, but he only allowed for a brief glimpse before running inside.

 

She hid her face as she marched through the door, though her wrap made her immediately recognizable. The weight of several judgmental stares fell upon her as she followed the white wolf straight to the king, stood alongside the maester at the far side of the hall—looking much less imposing without his fur cloak.

 

They seemed deep in discussion—coincidentally regarding his brother—just the crippled one in the Great Keep rather than the one at the gates. Ghost had alerted the king to her presence with a brush of his giant white paw. Immediately, Jon's eyes found hers, focusing all of his attention onto her and ignoring the man beside him—much to the maester's displeasure.

 

"Dany," he greeted, his tired eyes briefly flitting to the cloak in her arms. "Is something wrong?"

 

"Um," she faltered under the old man's sudden scrutiny. "There's a boy at the gates claiming to be your brother."

 

His eyes went wide as his gaze shifted to the maester, gauging his reaction.

 

Luwin was unenthused. "If Rickon had escaped Riverrun, Lady Catelyn would've alerted us."

 

Jon gulped. "What did he look like?"

 

"Short," she started, looking between Jon and the maester. "Dirty, shaggy hair..."

 

"About eight years old?"

 

"Older, I'd say... fourteen, maybe?"

 

"Not him," Luwin determined.

 

The king frowned.

 

"As I was saying," he continued, but Daenerys quickly cut him off.

 

"He looks just like you, Jon."

 

"So do countless other northern boys," the maester said.

 

"No," she insisted. "This one has the same dark hair and eyes. Just as comely, too."

 

Jon's gaze snapped to hers in an instant.

 

"Actually, he knows your name," she nodded to the old man.

 

"Anyone in the winter town could've told him that," he stated. "Is that all?"

 

"I suppose so," she softly said, as if admitting defeat.

 

After the king offered an apologetic shrug, Dany gave up, turning to walk away. It was then that Ghost let out a high-pitched whine. Something about the noise compelled her to turn around, interrupting the maester's report a second time.

 

"Please, Jon," she pleaded. "Just please check the gate. The boy is so desperate to see you that he pulled a sword on the guard. I can't imagine many boys would do that sort of thing in broad daylight, with dozens of witnesses."

 

"A sword?"

 

"Yes."

 

His eyes went glassy. "What did it look like?"

 

"A small, slender blade—the kind you might see around the Free Cities."

 

A sudden clatter of nails on wood sounded just beyond them, Ghost thumping his way out of the great hall with Jon following closely after him. Ignoring the disgruntled comments from the other servants engaging in the work she should've been, Dany couldn't help but chase Jon straight to the main gate.

 

Out of breath, she finally caught up—just in time to see him come to a skidding halt in front of the boy. Without any warning, he took a running start before leaping straight up into Jon's arms. Their laughter echoed throughout the courtyard.

 

"I missed you, little sister."

 

Chapter Text

 


 

 

. . .

 

|Jon|

 

. . .

 

Jon had almost passed right by the door to his late father's bedchamber without a second thought. He hadn't set foot inside since returning to Winterfell, despite some urging from Maester Luwin that he might as well take it and make it his own after Catelyn's retreat to Riverrun. There was something almost unsettling about the empty room—as if Eddard Stark's ghost still lingered inside it.

 

As a last resort, he opened the heavy wooden door and walked inside. After combing the castle high and low in search of her—there she was. Ghost was curled up by the fireplace as the flames burned low. With her back pressed against the wolf, Arya sat with arms folded, wearing an expression of pure disdain.

 

"You found me, then."

 

With clean, unblemished skin and her short hair tidy and pushed back, Jon could scarcely recognize her as the girl he said goodbye to so long ago. When they discovered she'd outgrown her old dresses, Bran gave her some of his clothes to wear, though they were still a bit too tight.

 

"We ought to get you some new dresses made."

 

"I'd rather die."

 

"Well, that's dramatic."

 

She shrugged, pursing her lips as she readied a counter. "I'll kill whoever stuffs me in another dress. Is that better?"

 

Jon took a seat on the chair beside the door. He smiled, nodding to the Braavosi sword lying by her side, the very one he'd gifted her years ago. "May Needle have mercy on the soul that dares to try."

 

Arya shot him an unexpected glare.

 

"You angry with me?"

 

The moment she unfolded her arms to clench her fists, Jon had his answer—and suddenly, he felt rather stupid for even asking, though he still wasn't quite sure what had caused her to go into hiding in the first place.

 

"Do you know what it took me to get here?" She leaned forward, raising her voice as she continued, "I escaped imprisonment. I outran a band of outlaws. I could've been killed twice over or more. All to get back home." Arya paused to bare her teeth like the she-wolf she was, "And you want to just send me away."

 

"I'm not sendin' you anywhere, Arya. All I was sendin' was a raven."

 

"If you do that, my lady mother will ride up here and take me. You know she will."

 

He ran a hand over his beard in contemplation. She was right.

 

"I tried to go to Riverrun first," she admitted. "We followed the Red Fork River to get there."

 

For the first time, Jon finally imagined Arya on her journey home. All the time he'd assumed her dead, she was out there finding her way back—enduring months traveling by foot, foraging for food, and surely escaping peril he didn't want to imagine.

 

"We made it all the way to the Inn of the Kneeling Man, and that's where I heard the news. Stannis Baratheon had won the Battle of the Blackwater. Joffrey had been..." she paused to gulp, "Defeated."

 

Judging by how glassy her eyes had become, it was then that Arya had learned Robb's fate.

 

Robb.

 

Jon's eyes fell closed, inescapable green flames dancing behind his lids. He forced them back open, refusing even to blink until the sudden threat of tears subsided.

 

"Anyway," she said, choosing against wading into the dark waters of their brother's memory. "I knew the 'Bastard King' could only mean you. And that's when I started north."

 

"Is that what they call me down south?" he asked, forcing a half-hearted smile.

 

"That was the first and last I heard of you until I made it home," she admitted. "I don't know what they say."

 

A quiet moment passed between them then, but it was too late. Jon's mind had wandered elsewhere, his eyes seeing flashes of memories he'd give almost anything to return to. He and Robb as boys with wooden swords, acting as though they were mighty warriors wielding weapons of Valyrian steel. Each day they had pretended to be some hero from Maester Luwin's lessons, that is until the day Jon boldly declared himself Lord of Winterfell.

 

He could be Aemon the Dragonknight. He could be Daeron the Young Dragon. Lord of Winterfell, though, was one step too far. Robb's words were in his ear, clear as day.

 

You're bastard-born. You can't ever be the Lord of Winterfell.

 

"Jon?"

 

The image fell away as he met his sister's dark gaze.

 

"It's all wrong," he blurted, his voice hoarser than even he expected. "It turned out all wrong."

 

In an instant she was on her feet and climbing onto his lap, locking her arms around his neck the way she'd always done. Though she had grown nearly twice in size, with his sister in his arms, Jon felt lighter.

 

"I miss them, too," she whispered, hugging him close.

 

Again, the uncomfortable sting of tears swelled in his eyes and his throat. Jon wouldn't let himself cry in front of his sister. He needed to be strong for her.

 

. . .

 

|Daenerys|

 

. . .

 

As far as the eye could see, every last woman in the kitchen had nice, neat balls of dough—all except for Dany. No matter how much she kneaded the bread this morning, it left sticky remnants all over the table and her hands alike. She pushed the stubborn lump straight into the wood, mouthing silent oaths. To make matters worse, the heat was fast collecting under her hair wrap, only adding to her irritability. 

 

Feeling a pair of prying eyes upon her, she looked up. A plump boy in an apron approached. As she continued fighting with the dough, he looked on, noticeably fidgeting.

 

"May I help you?" she snapped.

 

"No, but... I could help you, if you like."

 

Dany nodded her consent, stepping aside as he took her place. After scraping the dough from the wood, he gently pushed it forward with his palms before flipping it, repeating the steps until it formed a smooth, seamless ball.

 

"If you're too rough with it, it'll tear," he explained. "Try using the heel of your palm only."

 

Doing her best to repeat his motions, Dany was surprised when the technique actually worked.

 

"Thank you," she sighed, using the sleeve of her dress to wipe the sweat from her brow. "I usually serve in the Great Hall, but they stick me here for a few hours in the morning. I'm still not entirely sure what I'm meant to do."

 

Shut up, she scolded herself, biting her lip to keep from rambling to the very first person to speak with her in what felt like ages. He was talkative, though, sharing memories of his mother, from whom he'd learned the tricks of the trade. As a child, he'd push her cart through the streets, peddling her wares. His stories helped make her morning in the kitchen tolerable, though since he excelled at baking, himself, her new friend stayed behind when she moved on to set up in the Great Hall.

 

For days, Jon had neglected to break his fast with the rest of the castle. Something about the empty seat beside the maester each day made her feel even lonelier, despite not having spoken a word to him since his sister's arrival. She still saw him occasionally, though, usually after night had fallen. One night in particular, after a candle suddenly illuminated his room, Daenerys watched from the library window as Jon pulled on his leathers in a panic before throwing his door open and disappearing into the night. The candle burned alone in his empty room for hours.

 

Curiosity regarding his nightly excursions ate away at her—but it wasn't any of her business, nor were his empty chair and his absence each morning. She tried to forget about him, to carry on with the day's mind-numbing tasks, but each time she was left alone with her thoughts, they went straight back to Jon. Of course, it didn't help that each evening she returned to her room to see his cloak draped over the foot of her bed, still wondering what exactly had transpired that night in the crypts.

 

Finally, the morning had drawn to a close, allowing for her favorite task—taking scraps down to the kennels. On the days the giant white direwolf was lodged there, Daenerys would throw him the largest leftover bone she could find, and a few hunks of meat for good measure, leaving the rest for the smaller dogs to gorge on.

 

For once, Dany was all smiles as she passed through the courtyard, making her way back to her room to freshen up—that is until she heard what at first sounded like a harmless children's rhyme, until she listened closer:

 

Lady Lyanna upon her pale white horse

So taken was the dragon prince

He stole away with her by force

From leaving her tower Lyanna was forbid

And it was in a bed of blood Rhaegar left her corpse!

 

Dany didn't stick around long enough to hear another word of it. As fast as they could, her legs carried her straight to the godswood, her stomach suddenly sour as spoiled milk.

 

In front of the heart tree she finally fell, questioning everything she thought she knew. As children, Viserys had told her stories of Rhaegar. Still, she remembered them word for word. Her gallant brother fighting and dying for the woman he loved in the bloody waters of the Trident.

 

Viserys was a liar, of that she had been sure—but what of the strange vision she'd had in Volantis following a glass of that peculiar blue wine? Her brother Rhaegar, clear as day as he sank to his knees, rubies spraying from his dark armor like blood, using his last breath to whisper his lover's name... the lover he died for that day.

 

Lyanna.

 

Perhaps it was no vision at all, just a vivid dream. Ever since piecing together the identity of the female statue in the crypts, Daenerys visited her every few nights. Lyanna brought her closer to her brother, to the family she'd never known.

 

Dany placed a small hand on the carved face before her. Tracing the trail of red tears with her finger, she wondered whether the gods could sense her turmoil, her loneliness—or if they had ever felt it, themselves.

 

Before she could ponder much further, a crisp crunch of leaves on the path startled her. Dany threw a glance over her shoulder, suddenly thankful to have kept her tears inside.

 

Unlike the previous encounters, though, she felt no agitation upon seeing the shaggy-haired boy this time. Something was different. Still, she kept her guard up as she rose, careful to avoid eye contact.

 

"Apologies, my lord. I'll leave you alone to pray."

 

She had only made it a few paces away from him when Theon finally spoke.

 

"I have no prayers for the old gods."

 

Unsure why, she stopped in her tracks and turned. Perhaps it was because he sounded as sad as she felt.

 

"Jon was right, you know."

 

Finally, her gaze drifted up to meet his.

 

"About Lord Stark," he said. "He taught me better than that."

 

His voice was softer now, almost resigned. He took a seat before the pale white tree. A sudden pain washed over him, one that gripped hold of Dany's empathy and drew her nearer.

 

When she stopped beside him, he grimaced. "You were right, too."

 

"I was?"

 

"I might've grown up here, but Winterfell isn't my home," he explained. "I suppose I've always felt a bit... lost."

 

Though she had the urge to cheer him up, she refrained. Dany was never any good at that sort of thing, or so her brother had always said. She followed his eyes as they fell upon the pool of dark water before them. "Anyway," he murmured, head hanging low. "I just wanted to apologize. I won't bother you again."

 

Her throat constricted, then, remembering a similar vow from another boy.

 

Just let me apologize and I'll leave you alone. I won't say another word to you.

 

"You don't have to leave me alone," she blurted.

 

Blinking in surprise, he finally met her eyes. It was then she began to question whether the words were meant for him or someone else.

 

. . .

 

|Jon|

 

. . .

 

No matter how much he'd stared at the scrolls before him, Jon's eyes began to blur, refusing to focus on the words. As suspected, he could only endure so few hours of sleep before it caught up to him. Some mornings he'd even woken up to find that he'd been using his books as pillows, smudging whatever he'd written and inadvertently giving himself yet more work in fixing it. Work he could relegate to a steward, if he'd had one.

 

As if on cue, Maester Luwin appeared in his doorway, waiting just a moment before inviting himself inside and taking a seat across from Jon.

 

"What is it, now?" he griped.

 

"The bard you sent for has arrived."

 

"Oh." A small pit formed in his stomach. 

 

"He's been given accommodations in the guest house."

 

"Good, good," Jon nodded, suddenly second-guessing his plan.

 

"Your brother still refuses my lessons," the old man continued. "I haven't got the extra time to argue with him."

 

"You shouldn't have to." He sighed, "I'll pay him a visit."

 

When Luwin's grim expression didn't lift an inch, Jon braced himself.

 

"I strongly urge you to write to Lady Stark."

 

"I've already made my decision on the matter."

 

"I know how she treated you, Jon, but-"

 

He interrupted Luwin with a laugh, remembering his father's old saying.

 

"But she deserves to know the state of her children."

 

"I told you that I will talk to Bran," he assured the maester.

 

"And Arya?"

 

"Has requested that I not send a raven south, after all."

 

The maester drew his brows together, troubled. "Jon, I must ask you to reconsider."

 

"I know you're close with Lady Stark," he began.

 

"She has no idea her daughter is even alive," the old man interrupted. "Imagine what that must feel like."

 

"I know exactly what it feels like," he snarled. Jon may not have sired the girl, but he loved Arya more than anything he could think of, even Ghost. On the coldest nights spent at the Wall, the memory of his sister's laughter was the only warmth he had left. If the least he could do for her was not send a raven, he would honor that request.

 

After his irritation subsided, he felt a twinge of guilt upon seeing the concern so deeply etched in Luwin's face.

 

"All right," he conceded. "If you can convince my sister to change her mind, we'll write to Lady Stark. Until then, know that I won't betray her wishes."

 

The maester gave a polite nod as he rose. "Of course."

 

Jon waited until the sound of his footsteps in the hall faded before rising, himself. He slapped his cheeks a few times to better wake himself up, supposing that his exhaustion might actually dull his nerves, which is exactly what he needed.

 

Few things made Jon so nervous as talking to girls.

 

After slowly making his way through the keep, Jon wandered into the courtyard in search of her, hoping he'd found the sweet spot between meals when she'd take a short break. All he found there, though, were a small group of kids chanting and re-enacting the Battle of the Trident. For a moment he simply watched them play, reminiscing about himself and Robb, and even Theon, who had joined them once he became ward to their lord father.

 

It was then that Jon spotted her emerging from the godswood just beyond the children. Even at a distance, she was breathtaking—the sight of her enough to make his heart pound.

 

She had noticed him shortly thereafter, her pace slowing to a halt. Jon swiftly approached her, running a hand through his hair for lack of anything better to do with it, feeling suddenly awkward without his cloak.

 

When he opened his mouth to greet her by name, someone else had beat him to it.

 

"Dany."

 

Jon had been so taken with Dany that he'd failed to notice who had been trailing steadily behind her as she shyly waved him off. Often, he'd been accused of brooding. Most times, he ignored the accusations. But this time, he could feel that he was glowering.

 

"Greyjoy ?" he asked, the name bitter on his tongue. "If he's botherin' you-"

 

"He's not so bad," she shrugged.

 

Jon snorted at that, feeling a strange mixture of jealousy and perplexity as he watched Theon walk away.

 

"I should probably get back to the kitchen," she said, though she made no effort to move.

 

"I hear it's a bit crowded in there lately."

 

Dany raised an eyebrow at that. "Sorry?"

 

He had said all of two sentences to the girl, and already he was flubbing it up. "I just meant, um," he stammered, "I heard one of the new boys started there today."

 

"Oh. You mean Hot Pie."

 

Jon laughed, "That can't be his name."

 

She shrugged again. "Sometimes it's safer to choose your own."

 

The comment briefly sobered him—his mind still working to unlock the girl's true identity, despite having made zero progress since his initial hunch.

 

"Surely you didn't come to tease me about knocking elbows with the bakers," she smirked, snapping him out of it.

 

"Well, no," Jon began, moving closer to her. "One of our servants passed away a few months ago. She used to keep my brother company, tell him stories."

 

"I'm sorry to hear that. About the servant."

 

He nodded, giving a respectful pause for Old Nan before continuing. "I thought maybe you could sit with him if you're interested? Tell him stories, talk with him. I bet he'd like that."

 

Dany's brow furrowed just slightly as she considered. "Why me?"

 

"Not many servants 'round here know how to read." He grinned, gesturing toward the library tower. "Plus, I've noticed how often you visit the library."

 

Her gaze fell then, a slight blush rising in her cheeks. It did nothing to help the flutter he felt in his chest—the same one he felt every time he saw her. With her eyes averted, Jon was unable to help his staring. Lately, he'd only seen her either at a distance or in the dark, almost forgetting just how delicate and soft her features were, especially her lips...

 

Finally, he tore his eyes away from her mouth, startled to see hers staring right back at him.

 

He cleared his throat before blurting, "You must know a lot of stories."

 

"A fair amount, I suppose," she smirked.

 

"I had planned to visit him this afternoon," he gestured toward the Great Keep. "You could join me if you like?"

 

The seconds dragged like minutes as she considered, turning her gaze toward the kitchen.

 

"Sure. After all, I'm a terrible baker," she finally said, her eyes fixed on the smoke billowing from its chimney. "And it's not like they'll miss me."

 

"Great," he breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Dany kept her eyes trained on the tiles below as they made their way through the keep, allowing Jon several opportunities to steal glances of her, noticing that the blush had never lifted from her cheeks.

 

For the majority of their walk, Jon kept silent save for greeting a few of his more trusted guards—the ones he'd hand-picked to patrol the floor his siblings resided on. Still, Dany kept her eyes on the ground.

 

Finally, they'd reached Bran's hallway, Jon halting her just before they arrived at his door.

 

He waited for her to meet his eyes before divulging. "He's crippled," he whispered.

 

Though he'd expected her to recoil, she merely nodded.

 

Jon gave a courtesy knock before entering Bran's chamber, Dany following close behind him at first, though refusing to budge from the doorway upon catching sight of Summer curled at the foot of his brother's bed. Curiously, the wolf made no protest about their new visitor, so Jon approached and gave him a pat on the head.

 

"I hear you've been givin' Maester Luwin trouble again."

 

The boy only stared at him.

 

"Well, we'll discuss that later since you've got a visitor."

 

It was then his gaze drifted to the girl hiding in his doorway.

 

Jon turned slightly, gesturing toward her, "This is Dany."

 

She stepped forward, giving him a slight wave.

 

"Dany, this is my brother, Brandon Stark."

 

. . .

 

|Daenerys|

 

. . .

 

Jon had left the pair alone just minutes after they'd met—not even explaining his intention for her visits with his brother. Feeling awkward, Dany took a seat in the chair beside his bed, wishing she had brought a book with her, doing a quick visual search around the room to see if she could spot one.

 

Brandon merely stared at her. He was a strange boy—very quiet, with the same sense of melancholy that his brother possessed.

 

"Your eyes are purple."

 

Dany only nodded at what felt like an accusation.

 

"I've never seen anyone with purple eyes," he said. "You almost look Targaryen."

 

"My mother was a Lysene wh-" she started, judging the lie as possibly too inappropriate for a boy his age before correcting herself. "She was from Lys, I mean."

 

"Oh," he said, either disinterested or distracted. Another awkward moment of silence passed between them before he spoke again. "Jon met a Targaryen."

 

Her heart suddenly surged with irrational panic. "He what?" she asked.

 

"The maester at the Wall."

 

She breathed a small sigh of relief. "Jon's been to the Wall?"

 

The corner of Brandon's mouth turned upward, "Of course. He was in the Night's Watch."

 

Dany poked a finger underneath her wrap to scratch at her hairline, considering.

 

"You didn't know?"

 

"I suppose there's a lot I don't know about J-," she caught herself again, "His Grace."

 

"Jon said it was Maester Aemon who convinced him to leave, to fight for Robb."

 

Hardly able to believe Jon had met the very uncle she had planned to run to, Dany felt suddenly overcome with emotion. Her goal had finally felt real, achievable. Jon had always seemed so eager to lend his help—could he actually help her? Or would he expect something from her the way that knight Mormont had?

 

She swallowed the lump in her throat, readying a question for Brandon when she heard it again from outside the window.

 

Lady Lyanna upon her pale white horse

 

When she realized the boy had found the shouting just as distracting as she, Dany decided to question him about it.

 

"What are they chanting?"

 

"It's about my aunt Lyanna," Brandon frowned. "She was kidnapped and killed by the prince."

 

"Prince Rhaegar?"

 

He nodded.

 

"Is it true?"

 

"My father never talked about her," he shrugged. "He forbade any mention of her at all."

 

That can't be good, she thought.

 

"She must've been very special to him if he had a statue made for her, though."

 

Brandon's eyes narrowed. "You've been to the crypt?"

 

"Just once," she lied, cringing at her verbal slip-up.

 

"You're an explorer," he concluded.

 

Dany only shrugged.

 

"I used to be one, too."

 

"Not anymore?"

 

When Brandon gestured to his legs, she felt utterly stupid for even having asked, hoping she hadn't upset the boy.

 

"That's how it happened, you know."

 

"What," she asked. "Exploring?"

 

He nodded, slipping back into his melancholy. It was then Dany realized why Jon had asked her for this particular service—that stories were Brandon's way of exploring the world without leaving his bed.

 

"Well, I haven't got many," she began, "But maybe I could tell you one of my own stories?"

 

Brandon met her eyes, the faintest smile on his lips.

 

.  .  .

 

Considering how tired he looked earlier in the day, Dany was shocked to actually see Jon attend supper. The maester had sat two seats down from him to make room for his sister by his side. And ever since she stepped out of his brother's room that afternoon, hearing just how talkative the boy had been with her, Jon had seemed in good spirits.

 

Several times throughout serving, Dany couldn't help but watch them—nudging one another as they joked, leaning in to whisper secrets, his sister even threatening to launch spoonfuls of food at him until he diffused the situation by mussing up her hair.

 

It made her heart ache.

 

Part of her felt so honored to have played a part in their reunion, to have helped Jon find his sister again. But another part—luckily the smaller part—felt almost resentful. Viserys had never mussed her hair, no. Instead, he'd twist it until she cried.

 

Even in the story she had recounted to Brandon earlier in the day about sailing over the narrow sea—the smell of salt hanging in the air, the dolphins slicing through the water like spears, the songs the sailors would sing and how she wished she could be one of them—she made sure to leave out the part where her brother pulled her hair and reprimanded her for daring to consider it.

 

"Dany."

 

Hearing her name aloud snapped her right out of the sour memory, looking up to see the shaggy-haired boy nodding to her in greeting.

 

"My lord," she nodded back.

 

"Theon," he corrected her. "You can call me Theon."

 

Still finding his sudden lack of rancor surprising, Dany gave him an awkward, shy smile in return. Knowing she was in the middle of serving, he continued on his way without lingering. Feeling another pair of eyes upon her, Dany threw a glance over her shoulder to catch Jon staring. His sudden brooding gave her another ache in her chest, when previously, he'd been all smiles all night.

 

For just a moment she felt the urge to rush over and explain that it's not how it looked.

 

But before she could even consider the absurd idea, Jon rose from his seat and excused himself for the night.

 

.  .  .

 

Daenerys had made an honest effort to sleep at a decent hour that night. As she lie in bed staring upward, though, strange patterns seemed to paint themselves on the ceiling in the darkness. It became even worse when she closed her eyes, the shapes converging into her brother's image but with glowing red eyes.

 

She had to get out of there.

 

Though no one had really seen her wandering the grounds at night, she never risked going without her hair wrap, no matter how tired she grew of wearing the damned thing.

 

Because she didn't plan to stay out long, Dany threw on an ill-fitting dress over her sleeping shift, not even bothering to lace it up properly. Then she took the oversized cloak from its home at the foot of her bed and wrapped it around herself before pulling on her boots.

 

The path she'd taken to the crypt blurred in her memory even as she walked it, feeling the pull of sleep tugging at her even while upright.

 

But she had to see Lyanna.

 

After visiting the woman's effigy so many times, she'd finally managed to finesse the heavy ironwood door into silence when passing through it.

 

It had been a relatively short walk from the door to Lyanna Stark's resting place, but tonight the corridor seemed to stretch on forever. When she finally made it to her usual spot, she paused to stare at the statue's likeness, reaching out to run a hand over her stone cheek.

 

"Is it true?" she begged.

 

Why would Rhaegar use his dying breath to whisper this woman's name if he didn't love her? If he was just some murderous monster?

 

Daenerys shook her head, unwilling to accept it, yet unsure she'd ever find the truth. Defeated, she turned, sliding down the statue as she slumped against its base, closing her tired eyes. She'd rest them—just for a moment.

 

.  .  .

 

Wake up.

 

Shivering, she came to, tugging the cloak tightly around her shoulders. She blinked away the remnants of a dream that had already mostly dissipated, recalling only the blurred outline of figures spinning as they laughed and the faint scent of roses. Something about the dream lent a familiar flutter in her chest—the same one she felt whenever she locked eyes with Jon.

 

Stiffly, Dany rose to her feet, hobbling her way through the corridor and up the spiral steps. Through the crack in the door, she could see it was still dark outside, suddenly thankful she might yet get a few hours of proper sleep in a bed.

 

However, every last ounce of exhaustion fled her when upon opening the door, she was met with a pair of glowing red eyes, her heart even skipping a beat until she realized it was a friend of hers.

 

Ghost.

 

After her dizziness subsided, Dany whispered to the wolf, "Did you come to lecture me, too?"

 

He tilted his large head before rising to his feet and walking around the side of the crypt's entrance. Curious, Dany followed after him.

 

Almost immediately, she spotted a body slumped against the stone wall. Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could tell who it was based solely on the outline of his hair.

 

Panicked, Dany rushed over and knelt beside Jon, worried he'd been hurt. Upon closer inspection, though, she found that though he was shivering, he was, in fact, asleep.

 

Without any hesitation, she removed the cloak from her shoulders and placed it gently over him, feeling both too guilty and too scared to wake him.

 

Knowing she could get away with it, she simply sat and admired that comely face of his, until that familiar flutter rose in her chest.

 

Realization dawned on her in an instant—why he always looked so tired and the constant dark circles under his eyes that weren't there before, where he was going on his nightly excursions, how she ended up with his cloak wrapped around her like a blanket. He hadn't even asked for it back, and until tonight, he'd been so careful to hide himself from her that she had no clue he'd been there all that time, looking out for her.

 

Quite unaccustomed to the cold, Dany had reached her limit. She rose and turned to Ghost, asking, "You'll watch over him, won't you?"

 

The wolf only tilted his head again.

 

Dany turned back toward Jon, taking one last look at him as he shifted in his sleep. Unsure what came over her, she bent over and pressed her lips right to his forehead.

 

Gods help me.

 

Quickly, Dany scampered off and back toward her room, wondering all the while what it might be like to kiss his lips, instead.