The Victorians believed that yellow poppies were a symbol of success and wealth.
The day Daenerys opened the doors to her flower shop, the first thing she’d done was put a vase of them on her counter. No matter the season, she ensured she had a fresh batch by the register — flew them in from suppliers around the world when she had to. It was a costly vice, but it gave her confidence.
Daenerys had been fascinated by flowers for her entire life. Her mother had planted violets in their garden to celebrate her birth (“For my little girl with the violet eyes,” she’d explained, once Dany was old enough to ask). On her sixth nameday, she’d started begging her mother to take her to the local florist shop whenever they were out. Mr. Darry was a sweet old man. He’d let her take a flower home each time they went in.
There had been no question in her mind of what she wanted to do with her life. Dany had spent every penny left to her name to open the shop, and failure was not an option. If she looked back, she was lost.
The Targaryens had been comically wealthy not so long ago — her father Aerys was the sole heir to a Valyrian steel fortune. But he’d also been paranoid. He’d seen enemies everywhere and had guarded their investments jealously; even Rhaegar, her oldest brother, hadn’t known exactly where their money came from. When Daenerys was young, she once saw her brother ask their mother about it. Rhaella had shrugged and told him there wasn’t a man or woman in the world that Aerys trusted not to take what was his.
It was ironic, then, that when her father died, it hadn’t been some thief or assassin who’d come for his gold. He’d been brought down by an accident — of all things in the world, a gas leak. The fire was greedy; it claimed her mother and Rhaegar and burned their home to ashes.
The violets burned, too.
It was only when her father’s will had been read and their accounts had been turned over that she and her remaining brother Viserys learned the truth: After decades of financial mismanagement, vice and investments that bordered on delusional, nearly all of their fortune had been decimated.
The remainder had been enough for a gamble, but not for two. Viserys had begged her to combine their inheritances, had begged on his knees, even. It had been jarring to see her brother go from the man he had once been — a bit arrogant, but kind — to a drunken brute overnight.
“Together, we can rebuild our family’s company,” he’d said on the night of their final blowout. “But my half isn’t enough to do it alone.”
She was only a teenager. Viserys was already done with school, but Daenerys wanted an education. She wanted her flowers and her dreams. She didn’t want to roll the dice on how functional an alcoholic Viserys was.
He hadn’t forgiven her.
But with their relationship fractured, Daenerys had been free to put her half toward her degree. The leftover, combined with her savings from a variety of part-time jobs, had been just shy of what she needed to open a shop.
She’d taken a job cocktail waitressing at nightclubs the summer after graduation. It was miserable — she’d gone home more mornings than not smelling like the cheap vodka and cranberry juice that drunken coeds spilled on her. But she managed it: Exactly six months after completing her bachelor’s degree, Dany’s Floral Designs had opened for business.
Her personal life admittedly had become a bit of a joke in the process; Missandei was the only friend who she could honestly say she kept up with these days. But just three years later, her business was thriving. She had perfect ratings online. She paid all her bills. She even had enough profit leftover for some creature comforts for her and her cats. That was good enough for her.
The only thing Daenerys hated about her shop was the paperwork: Pouring over invoices was easily the dullest part of her days. She’d tried hiring an office manager, but exactly one quarter of employing Petyr Baelish was enough to realize he was skimming money off her account, and that had been the end of that. But still… days like this softened her attitude toward trying again.
Before she could wade too deep into the thought, the bells at her front door chimed.
“Oh, thank the gods,” she muttered, lifting herself from the desk.
Daenerys made her way out to the front of the store with a smile plastered on but slowed at the sight before her. Her initial thought was that the man in front of her had the finest ass she’d ever seen. He was facing away, clad in dark denim jeans, staring at a wall of pre-made bouquets across from her register.
‘Down, girl,’ she thought, cheeks flushing.
Ogling her customers, even if their backsides looked like they’d been sculpted by an artist, was not good for business.
“Hi,” she called out, “can I help you find something?”
He turned to face her, and she felt her heart skip. The man was painfully handsome, with gray eyes and tanned, warm-looking skin. His white tee shirt almost shined against it. His shoulders were broad, his hair dark and curly. Her fingers itched to run through it.
The stranger’s eyes widened for a moment as he looked at her, too, though Daenerys was somewhat used to it. Pale skin, silver-white hair and purple eyes. People were always surprised when they saw her for the first time. Her ex-boyfriend Daario had said once during an argument that she looked albino. She’d kicked him out of her apartment for throwing her appearance in her face, and he had never let her hear the end of it.
This man recovered quickly enough, though. In seconds, he’d masked his expression. She appreciated it, even if she was a bit disappointed he didn’t seem as impressed by her as she was by him. Then he opened his mouth, and a timbered Northern accent came out. She forgot her disappointment at once; even his voice made her knees weak.
“My sister Sansa is graduating from university tomorrow,” he said. “Wanted to get her some flowers or something.”
She could feel her heart swell. Viserys’ only graduation gift to her had been to show up to her celebration dinner drunk, ranting about how she had ruined their family’s legacy, how disappointed their parents would be in her for wasting her inheritance on “those stupid fucking flowers.”
The stranger was still talking; she pulled herself from the memory.
“I think she likes yellow roses,” he continued. “That should be good, right?” He reached up to scratch a shoulder, and his shirt rode up a bit, revealing hardened muscle.
Her thoughts felt a bit wild, and Daenerys wasn’t sure what had come over her. She was hardly the type to lose her ability to focus over a man, especially a customer. Attractive men came into the store all the time.
She tried to center herself— ‘Don’t scare him off just because he’s got a nice face, Dany,’ she thought to herself. ‘And a hell of an ass,’ her brain reminded her unhelpfully.
“Yellow roses are perfect for a graduation,” Daenerys said, determined to get her brain back on track. “They’re meant to symbolize warmth and joy.” She scanned the area behind him quickly and noted that there was one arrangement with them on the pre-made wall… but then he’d be out the door in seconds.
“If you’ve got a few minutes, I can put together a fresh bouquet for her,” she said, tossing her plait behind her shoulder. His eyes tracked the motion. The stranger’s lips quirked a little bit, just the slightest movement. She tried not to stare at them.
“Sure. I’ve got time,” he replied with a shrug.
Daenerys turned to her cooler and pulled open the door, taking a breath as the cool air hit her face. She needed to stay calm.
She grabbed some fresh stems and flicked through different options for fillers. Assembling bouquets was her favorite part of her job, and she didn’t have ‘standard’ arrangements she made over and over again. Each one was made from scratch.
It had been a lesson she learned during the one floral arrangement course her university offered. Professor Tyrell had been caustic and biting to nearly everyone; it had earned her the nickname “Queen of Thorns” from the the students. But Daenerys had got along pretty well with her. The old professor had been the one to teach her how to cut stems (diagonal and pointed, so the plant could take in the water it needed) and how short to trim them (always leave a little extra so the customer can keep trimming them down to clear blockages and keep the flowers alive longer).
The Queen of Thorns had pricked her just one time, after Dany had completed a perfect arrangement — a personal favorite of hers.
“You’re getting complacent,” the woman said with a grimace. “You made a similar arrangement for me three weeks ago. Don’t bore me again.” Since then, Daenerys done her level-best to avoid her work becoming patterned.
Delicately, she assembled the roses, adding in sprigs of fresh eucalyptus. She could swear that she felt the man’s eyes on her, but when she looked up to meet them, he was texting someone. ‘How vain of me,’ she thought.
But she stared for a beat too long; he looked up and was now the one catching her eyes on him.
“What’s up?” he asked.
She flushed as she raced to come up with something, anything to say.
“Do you care what color ribbon I use?” she finally managed.
“Oh, uh… not really,” he said. His cheeks were a bit pink. “I’m not great with this kind of thing.”
Daenerys tried to relax. She could handle this. He was just a man buying flowers for his sister, not a prince from some fantastic tale.
“We could do something with her school colors,” she said. “Where’s she graduating from?”
He straightened up a bit, his phone dropping to his side. “Baelor,” he replied. “She’s a cheerleader there.”
Daenerys grinned, leaning down to pull out a forest green ribbon from the rack below her counter.
“Perfect,” she said. “I make sure I always have some of this in stock this time of year… I get a lot of people coming into town for Baelor graduates.”
She had finally managed to drag a small smile out of the handsome stranger.
“I’m not visiting,” he said. “I moved to King’s Landing a few years ago. But it sounds like I came to the right place.”
They were silent again for a moment. He broke it.
“So you’re Dany, then?”
She nodded, filing in the back of her mind that he’d put his cellphone away.
“I found you on the internet,” he said. “Besteros reviewers usually hate everything, but everyone seems to really like your shop.”
She beamed at him.
“It’s a point of pride,” she said as she cut the ribbon. “I only opened up about three years ago when I finished school, and I sunk pretty much everything I had into this place, so I sort of rely on word-of-mouth advertising.”
“You graduated three years ago?” he asked. “So did I. Where’d you go?”
She looped the ribbon around the stems carefully, knotting it before answering.
“Dragonstone,” she replied, still looking down. “You?”
He whistled, and she realized that he sounded much closer than he had before — she looked up and jolted with the realization that he’d made it all the way to the counter without her noticing.
“I was at Eastwatch,” he said. “Not quite as fancy as Dragonstone. We didn’t have castle towers for dorms.”
And now she was rolling her eyes.
“Yes, drafty old castles are known for being cozy and luxurious.”
“Maybe not the coziest place. Stone walls, though,” he said, wagging his brows. “Soundproof. I’ve heard your school’s got a little nickname.”
“You and everyone else,” she replied with a wide eye-roll. “I’d like to perform a citizen’s arrest on whoever invented the nickname ‘Dragon-bone’.”
He was chuckling now. It was a gorgeous sight; she wanted more of it.
“You’re more informed than I am though,” she continued. “All I know about Eastwatch is that one of your alums claims he slept with a bear.”
“Tormund!” he replied. “He’s a friend, actually.”
He’d come closer now, flush up to the counter. She turned her attention to him fully, the bouquet completed but abandoned on the surface between them.
“Oh, is he?” she said. “Well, then, maybe you can settle the rumors for me. Can you confirm his story?”
The man shrugged.
“Sadly, it’s just a lark he started while we were hammered. The whole thing was a bit of a joke to begin with, but then it got out of hand, and now even I can’t get him to admit he made it all up. But you didn’t hear that from me.”
“How disappointing,” she said with a grin. “At least the rumors about Dragonstone are true.”
His face was far less broody than it had been when he arrived. He seemed more animated, and his eyes were alight. They were hard to look away from.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” he said. “So what’s Dany short for?”
“Daenerys…” she hesitated. “Targaryen.”
She was fairly certain he recognized her family name — how could he not? It was on half the buildings in King’s Landing — but he schooled his face so quickly that his lifted brows might only have been a trick of the light.
“Daenerys,” he said, testing it. “I’m Jon Snow.”
Even his name was sexy. Gods-absolutely-damn him.
“Jon Snow,” she said. “Your accent sounds Northern. Where’d you grow up?”
“Winterfell,” he replied. “My dad’s family’s lived there for pretty much ever. I’ve been in King’s Landing since graduation though.”
She smiled. Jon seemed… nice. She hadn’t been out with anyone since Daario, and they’d broken up shortly after graduation. Unbeknownst to her, he hadn’t taken her seriously when she’d told him she didn’t want to work with Viserys. That changed the moment she’d taken the waitressing job, and when he realized that she wouldn’t be a meal ticket, he’d berated her. Angrily. Cruelly. Just like her brother: Wasting her opportunity. Wasting her potential. Wasting her time.
Wasting their time was what they really meant.
“I have, too,” she replied. “I didn’t look anywhere but King’s Landing once I went hunting for a space to rent.”
“How’d you decide to open a flower shop?” he asked. There was no scowl in his voice, no derision, no edge. His gray eyes looked open and engaged. Daenerys couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked her about this. Maybe it had been Missandei?
No, her sweet friend had just known and accepted. That was her way.
“I love flowers,” she said simply. “Always have. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
He smiled broadly. “That’s great. It’s a good feeling to be able to do something you’re proud of.”
Yes. Yes, it was.
“What about you? What brings you to King’s Landing?” she asked.
“I work for this group called Night’s Watch,” he replied. “It’s a nonprofit, but we’re basically a private security firm for people who can’t afford it. We take clients who have serious enough threats against them that the City Watch can’t really manage it alone, but we do it for as little fee as possible. Free, if we can. Lot of domestic violence threats, drug cases when the trial’s pending, that sort of thing.”
Her stomach bottomed out, and she could almost feel the cartoon hearts in her eyes. There was no possible way this man was real.
“What do you do for them?” she asked, cursing herself internally at how throaty her voice came out.
“I’m one of the guards. No threats against your shop, right?” he asked with a wink.
‘Only that my legs give out,’ she thought.
She shook her head lightly, feeling a bit dazed.
“Well, that’s good. So what do you do when you’re not here?” he asked.
“Mostly, I get drunk and sleep with bears,” she joked.
His smile got impossibly larger, and a smothering panic took root in her throat. An ugly voice that sounded like Viserys rang through her skull: ‘You’re going to mess this up. You’re not enough for a man like this. You’re wasting his time.’
Daenerys wanted this man, this… Jon Snow, to leave on a high note. Before he could think of something witty to respond with, she lifted the bouquet and handed it to him. “That’ll be one silver stag, please.”
She’d tried not to prescribe too much meaning to his look of disappointment.
In a minute, he’d walk out her life through the same door he walked in.
Later that evening, Daenerys sat on her couch in her ugliest pajamas, a bowl of soup rested on the arm of her couch. She’d been clicking through the television aimlessly for almost 15 minutes when she gave up and pulled out her laptop.
She checked her email quickly — surprised to see that her inbox had a fresh (1) anchoring it. She clicked in.
Subject: New Verified Besteros Review from Jon S.
She could feel her heart pounding as she clicked on it.
Great service. I was a walk-in, and the bouquet I bought was ready in minutes. Got yellow roses for my sister’s graduation, and it looks great. Prices were very reasonable. Owner’s a total gem. I can’t recommend this place more highly.
Her cheeks felt warm. How sweet.
It was a week later exactly, down to the hour — Friday at 4 p.m. — when she saw him again. Jon Snow wandered back into her shop, and her entire body felt like it was vibrating.
Daenerys had thought about him nearly every day since they met, had regretted not finding some way to slip him her number (or at the very least add him on Essosgram).
Insecurity and rustiness at the act of flirting had pushed her body into fight-or-flight mode. Unfortunately, her body didn’t have much of a fight mode. Flight mode, on the other hand… Jon was gone, but she hoped that maybe the next time a good-looking man walked into her store, she would be less tragic.
Except here he was.
Jon looked as good as she remembered. His curls were tied back today, and he was wearing a fitted black tee that made his arms look spectacular. She was relieved she’d put on makeup this morning.
“Jon Snow,” she said cheerily. “Welcome back!”
He smiled at her as he made his way straight to the counter.
“How’s your week been?” he asked.
“No complaints here,” she smiled. “How was your sister’s graduation?”
He jammed his hands in his pockets casually, and she tried not to hitch her breath. Slouching was not typically attractive, but…
“Hotter than hell, but a great day. Sansa loved the flowers,” he replied.
The way to her heart was directly through complimenting her work. With a large grin, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter before her.
“I’m glad to hear it. I liked your Besteros review,” she said.
He smiled gently. “Well, I meant it.”
Her brain was buzzing. Daenerys didn’t think she’d ever met a man who she’d conversed with so easily. She’d messed it up, but he was back.
“So what can I do for you today?” she asked brightly.
“I, er, was in the neighborhood, so I figured I’d stop in,” he replied. There was a beat. “Pick up another bouquet, or whatever.” He winced slightly and ran a hand through his curls — She imagined pulling on them and something distinctly filthier.
“Who’s this one for?” she asked.
He blushed a little but didn’t answer, and the easy feeling between them thickened until it was the consistency of molasses. He seemed reluctant to speak.
“I’ve, uh, I’ve got a date,” he finally said. And there it was. Her lungs compressed, heart immediately sinking.
“You have a date,” she said flatly. Now it was her turn to wince — could she have sounded more rude?
“Yeah…” he trailed off. He fidgeted a bit at her silence but rambled on, “I guess it’s a bit much, but I’ve uh, been trying to win her over for a while, so I thought flowers might be a nice touch?”
His face was a bit red, and then he smiled at her sheepishly. Red-faced, like a child who’d been caught sneaking desserts.
‘Of course he’s seeing someone,’ she thought morosely. When he’d walked back through the door, she’d let her mind run away for a moment: Jon Snow, the mysterious, sweet man who bought flowers for his sister and left a review calling her a gem.
But no matter — she was a professional. She cemented a broad smile on her face.
“In that case,” she replied as pleasantly as she could manage, “You should consider these.” She opened her cooler and gestured to a vase of blood-red flowers. “Amaryllis — it’s named for a heroine in an ancient Greek poem. She was in unrequited love with a shepherd but eventually wins him over. The flower symbolizes determination,” she said.
He stared at her a bit blankly. She could feel herself falter.
“I just,” she stuttered, “it’s a bit of an unusual pick. But if she was hard to win over, I thought maybe she’d appreciate something less common. I certainly would.”
He nodded slowly, seeming a bit bemused. He’d probably just planned on more roses.
Before she could say anything: “I’ll take them.”
Daenerys nodded back, face as red as the flowers she’d just sold. She tried to wrap them quickly, embarrassed at how much she’d blathered on, as if he cared where the name came from. Today, it was Daario in her brain: ‘Dany, no one but you cares what cactuses mean.’
“Do you know that much about all the flowers here?” Jon asked, interrupting her internal monologue.
“Most of them,” she admitted. “It’s one of my favorite things about them, learning what they mean. I guess it’s a bit silly, but I take it seriously. My older brother got me a book about different flower meanings not long before he passed away,” she said. “It meant a lot to me.”
Jon seemed uncomfortable; he was staring at her curiously. It was, she allowed, a bit of a heavy conversation topic for a near-stranger… or maybe he just didn't know how to feign interest in flower symbolism.
She’d probably made him feel awkward.
There was no way he was coming back here again.
She’d worked her brain into a small frenzy as she twisted tissue and thin rope twine around the stems. He was definitely going to edit his review. Maybe knock a couple stars off because the owner actually wasn’t a gem; she was a bit of a mess.
But when his voice finally came, it didn’t sound irritated. It sounded curious.
“Do you have a card or something, with that story on it?” he asked.
She lifted her head abruptly, searching his face for evidence of mockery, surprised when she came up empty-handed.
“You want a copy of the story of Amaryllis?” she repeated to him.
“Yeah, it’s interesting” he said. He paused awkwardly for a moment. “And it’s like you said, she’ll probably like that I got her something unusual.”
‘Right,’ she thought. ‘The mystery girl he was going on a date with.’
She pulled a small piece of cardstock and a pen from beneath the counter. Generally, she kept arrangement notes short — “Congrats!” or “Thinking of you.” — that sort of thing. But it wasn’t a huge stretch for her to jot a brief summary of Amaryllis’ story. She knew the entire thing by heart.
Jon was blissfully silent as she scribbled down the etymology in tiny handwriting; it was a relief.
Her body felt like it was wrapped in an electric wire when he was around; if he’d spoken, she was certain she would’ve jerked the pen across the page and ruined the entire thing.
When she finished, she clipped the cardstock onto the inside of the bouquet.
He took the flowers and paid, their hands brushing against each other.
She tried to tamp down the flutter it caused.
Jon signed his receipt slowly, hesitating for a moment when he finished; Daenerys could feel her traitorous little heart beat a bit faster.
“Do you need anything else?” she said as smoothly as she could manage.
He seemed torn for a moment, standing in the center of her shop holding a bouquet.
“No, that’s all,” he settled on. “Thanks again.”
And then he was gone.
That night, she dreamed of dark curls and gray eyes. When she woke, she barely remembered it at all.
Jon Snow kept to a schedule, it seemed: It had been exactly one week again since she’d last seen him. But here it was: Friday at 4 p.m., and he was standing in her shop once more.
He was in athletic wear this time — running sneakers, another t-shirt and a loose pair of shorts, through which she could see a suspiciously appealing shape. Today’s shirt was blue. He looked a bit sweaty, like he’d just been running, but his shirt was dry. Her mouth wasn’t — it watered as she looked at him.
She was aggressively aware that her own attire was not cute: a simple pair of jeans and a lavender t-shirt that Missandei had sworn brought out her eyes.
She’d managed to settle some of her distress since she’d seen him last. So what if he went on a date? Jon was a stranger. She could go on a date whenever she wanted; being disappointed over him was foolish.
“You’re back again. Did your, uh, date enjoy the flowers?” she asked with a smile.
‘Not bad,’ she thought. ‘Just one stumble.’
He grinned back at her, like it was some kind of private joke between them. He seemed far more relaxed than he had the previous two visits.
“The flowers were a hit,” he said. “Going to have to make them a more regular part of my dating life, I guess.”
That stung more than she wanted it to. It had only been a week — she wasn’t going to have to help him choose something for every single date he went on with this woman?
“Two bouquets in two dates?” she asked as drily as she could. “You’re certainly spoiling her.”
He laughed fully, from the belly, and the sight of it shocked her out of the dour mood she’d begun slipping into. She allowed herself a sincere grin in return.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dany” he said, and his voice was mischievous. “Different girl. Gotta keep everything fresh; you know how it is.”
That one was surprising. It appeared Jon Snow was a bit of a ladies’ man. Her mood took a small dip; he’d seemed shy last week. Perhaps she wasn’t so good at reading him.
“Indeed,” she said shortly. “So what can I help you find today?”
“I guess something that’s good for a brand new person in your life.” He wagged his eyebrows roguishly.
He was buying flowers for a first date with a stranger? Was he joking?
“Don’t know her very well?” she asked lightly.
“You can say that. She’s quite pretty though.”
She thanked the gods that she’d turned to survey her options before he spoke, because she was almost positive her eye had just twitched.
But with a burst of inspiration, she plucked a few varieties of daisies from the wall and turned back to him. “Daisies symbolize new beginnings,” she said. “The name comes from old English. They were called the day’s eyes.”
“How’s that mean new beginnings?” he asked, confused.
“Well, the petals would open at dawn and close at dusk. New day, they bloom. That sort of thing.”
He nodded at her. “Makes sense, I guess. Are they popular?”
She nodded her head. “Pretty popular. I think they’re a bit underrated personally, at least when you mix colors.”
He shrugged. “If you think they’re nice, I’ll take them.”
She carried her materials over to her cutting board and began slicing the stems carefully. Eventually, her curiosity won out.
“Didn’t you say you’d been trying to win over the last girl for a while? Did she end up a disappointment after all that?” she asked, voice carefully light.
He raised an eyebrow at her appraisingly and tilted his head, as though he was trying to figure something out. After a moment, his lips tilted up.
“I’ve been trying to get her to stop sassing me for years. Didn’t work at all. The flowers went over well, though.”
He was unbelievable.
“So she liked them?” Daenerys pressed.
“She made fun of me for getting red flowers for a redhead, but aye. She said she thought they were ‘a striking choice’.”
Despite her distaste at the thought of his redheaded companion, she felt herself preening at the compliment to her work. Unfortunately for her pride, Jon took notice.
He smirked at her.
“You Southern girls sure flatter easy, don’t you?” he asked in an innocent drawl.
Without hesitating, she picked up a clipped stem from the counter and chucked it at him. It bounced off his nose.
He spluttered a bit, “Did you just throw a plant at me?”
“Technically, I threw a stem clipping at you,” she replied.
“Oh? And what’s that symbolize?” he asked snottily.
“It’s garbage, like your sense of humor,” she replied.
His smile nearly split open his face. She couldn’t keep her own straight either.
For a moment, they just stood there grinning at each other like loons. Then Daenerys looked down and remembered she was assembling a bouquet for a different woman. She tied it off and moved to hand it to him, but he stopped her.
“Would you write up another one of those card things about the name?” he asked. He sounded hopeful. She sighed and reached for her pen.
She was surprised when she was browsing the web before bed later that night to see that once again, she had a new review.
Subject: New Verified Besteros Review from Jon S.
Another great experience, start to finish. Owner is extremely knowledgable (about everything , from medieval English to the best uses for stem clippings). The only florist in King’s Landing that’s worth visiting.
This time, the lump in her throat was harder to ignore.
If this Friday had been a person, she’d already have strangled it. Daenerys wasn’t one to turn up her nose at business, but it had been one of her busiest days in memory. College students had been done for a few weeks now, but high school prom season was still in full swing. The swarm of gangly teenagers waltzing in to ask if she had time for a last-minute boutonnière and corsage was so unceasing that it even managed to drive her weekly visitor from her mind.
She’d retreated to her cooler after shoving the last mother-son pair out the door, a truly heinous woman named Lysa who’d babied her son so much that Daenerys was surprised he was allowed to walk unaided. Sweetrobin, as the mother had called him, pricked a finger on a thorn. There’d been almost no blood — but that hadn’t stopped Mrs. Arryn from launching into a tirade, threatening to sue her for negligence. (Never mind the signs she had around her shop reminding customers not to manhandle her flowers.)
Daenerys pressed her fingers into the sides of her head, praying she could drain the irritation from her skull. The bell to her shop chimed, and she nearly sobbed. Wiping her forehead, she walked out into the front room.
“Good afternoon,” she started, only to immediately cut herself off.
It was Jon.
She’d considered the possibility that he would return, but she hadn’t known for sure. And she’d utterly missed that it was already 4 p.m.
“Hey,” he said, raising a hand quickly.
“So did bouquet number two do the trick?” she said, schooling her face.
“It went over even better than the first,” he replied. “Daisies are apparently a favorite.”
That wasn’t surprising. Daenerys hadn’t exactly picked out a rare plant for him… her… whoever.
“Well, that’s good to hear,” she said with as blasé a tone as she could manage. “So you liked Recipient Number Two, then? Another romantic outing on the horizon?”
He pulled a face instantly — “Definitely not. Well, not with her.”
Gods, was Jon that appalled by the idea of romance? If that was his attitude toward love, perhaps it was a good thing he seemed more interested in his random suitors than her.
“I thought you said this one went better than the first,” she said.
“I didn’t get made fun of,” he shrugged. “I’ll take the win.”
An easy smile had formed on his face, but Daenerys was still intrigued.
“What did this one do to lose your favor?”
“I don’t know," he said with a dry snort, "I guess her hair was too dark." He grinned like he was telling some wild joke. “Would be a bit like looking in a mirror.”
She hated the traitorous part of her brain that took pleasure in the fact that his date was a failure, that noted how appealing he looked.
“Well, if you’re not here for Recipient Number Two,” she began, “Should I assume you’re here because you need something for a third woman?”
He paused for a moment, then gave a lazy grin: “I suppose you caught me.”
‘Get a grip,’ she thought to herself as a spike of irritation ran through her. She had no claim on Jon Snow. She’d become too possessive of this man she barely knew. He was divesting himself of some girl because of her hair color; that was a decidedly unattractive move.
“You’ll have to pick today’s flower, then,” she said.
His eyes widened comically, like a man who had just learned he would need to complete an exam he hadn't prepared for. “I think I prefer to go with ladies’ choice,” he replied quickly, crossing his arms protectively over his chest.
Daenerys rolled her eyes, but after a few minutes of haggling, she agreed to pick out some options for him to choose from. She turned and reached toward the last row of the cooler to pull out single stems of three different varieties, padding back over to the counter to lay them out delicately.
She gestured to the first flower, pale blue and unassuming. “These are morning glory,” she said. “They represent affection.”
The middle one: a purple tulip. “Tulips are a declaration of love.”
The last flower, pale and pink and full. “Peonies are popular for loved ones. They’re many people’s favorite flower, myself included,” she said. He turned his attention more fully to the peony, hand reaching for it. “Oddly enough, they were considered unlucky in the Victorian age.”
His hand stilled.
“Why?” he asked.
“There’s an old myth that they’re named for a nymph named Paeonia. She was so beautiful that she attracted the attention of Apollo. Aphrodite became jealous and turned her into a peony.” Her voice was animated. Paeonia’s story was one of the first she’d learned from Rhaegar’s book.
Jon weighed it in his mind for just a brief moment.
“Well, if they’re one of your favorites, I think I’ll have to go with those,” he said.
“Not worried about bad luck?” she asked slyly.
“Nah,” he replied. He shifted his weight, and Daenerys tried not to stare as the muscles of his arms tightened. “My florist really likes them, and she’s got great taste.”
She smiled at him widely and was pleased to see his cheeks turn a bit pink.
She set to work on the bouquet of peonies, trying not to feel wistful. Another random woman was getting flowers from Jon Snow. He was trying harder on all these first dates than Daario had after two years together.
She had chosen a variety of pale pinks and whites, patterning sprigs of lavender throughout. Jon just watched her quietly. Eventually, however, he seemed to grow tired of the silence.
“My brother Robb got his mother carnations for Mother’s Day last year,” he said. “What do those mean?”
“That he forgot to buy a gift and had no other options,” she said primly. “Carnations are terrible.”
Jon laughed hard and loud in a way she hadn't expected from him.
“You’re right, you know," he said. "He really did. I was with him when he realized he hadn’t gotten her anything. Made us stop at a gas station to find some.”
She gestured to him drily. “See? No other options. That’s carnations for you.”
There was something buzzing around her brain; something about his phrasing was sticking to her.
“Did you say your brother got his mother flowers?” she asked suddenly, her frustration forgotten. He froze, and her curiosity was replaced with a sinking feeling of having spoken out-of-turn.
“Err, yeah,” he said awkwardly. “So my siblings are actually half-siblings. Same father. Different mothers.”
The feeling intensified. “Sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s fine—” he interrupted. “Really. My mother passed when I was still a baby, so my father raised me. His wife’s not my biggest fan, but my siblings and I are close, so it was a good place to grow up.”
She looked at him gently for a moment and reached out to touch his arm reassuringly before she could stop herself.
“You’re lucky, you know,” she said. “to have close relationships with all of them. My brother and I… don’t get along.”
Viserys stumbling into her dinner. Yelling in front of everyone.
“What about the rest of your family?” he asked.
She smiled weakly. “Just me and him left.”
And now it was Jon’s turn to look mortified.
“I’m sorry,” he said. A thousand people had apologized to her; she could pick out the sincere ones from the perfunctory. He meant it. It was touching.
“My parents and oldest brother died just before my 16th nameday,” she said. Jon looked distressed. “My mother wanted to have a family dinner, so Rhaegar had gone over. I was on my way with Viserys when the house exploded. There was a gas leak. My father wasn’t a good person, but my mother was. And my older brother, too. Sometimes I get carried away talking about the things I’m interested in. He was the only one who always listened to me.”
Daenerys never talked about Rhaegar. Not to anyone. Ever. And this was the second time she’d mentioned her brother to Jon Snow.
“I’m so sorry,” he murmured quietly. “Me, too,” she replied. “For your mother.”
His hand darted out to cover her own, and they stood there for a few moments, until her heart began to feel too full, expanded.
She pulled away gently, and for a hair of a second, she felt resistance. Her heart fluttered. But then he let go.
He didn’t ask her to write Paeonia’s story. She simply reached for her cardstock and began scribbling it down as he watched quietly.
He took the flowers from her like they were made of sugar glass. His eyes bored into her.
“You are… not like everyone else,” he said. “You’re… strong. To have done all this by yourself.”
Her heart thumped dangerously. It felt too big again.
That night, she dreamed she was standing on the moon. An anchor tethered her to the surface, but the universe began to move, faster and faster, rushing by, until she could see nothing around her but streaks of stars and the eternal blackness of space. Then, with a sudden jolt, it stopped, began to reverse. The skies rushed back the way they came, the planets resettled around her, but now there was more, so much more, because as everything came to a rest, Jon Snow stood before her, his gray eyes fiery and confident. He lifted a hand and cupped her face, and the entire sun exploded.
When she woke, her skin was damp, but her cheek still burned.
As much as Daenerys disliked the idea of missing one of Jon’s visits, she felt so ill when she woke up that Friday that she hadn’t even considered going in. She typically manned the store by herself, but she did have a part-timer who worked Sundays, her lone day off.
Tyene had thankfully been awake when she called — more thankfully, free that day — and had agreed to cover her.
The healer she visited prescribed her a few pills and sent her on her way soon enough. By the time she made it back to her home, she was exhausted and nauseous. She fell asleep the moment her head hit her pillow and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon.
She’d felt far better when she finally woke back up around dinnertime.
Well enough to call Tyene and get a breakdown of the day’s sales.
The store had been reasonably busy that day, especially for the summer. Tyene read back a list to her of what had been sold — Daenerys scratching notes along the way.
“Any trouble at all?” she asked when Tyene was done.
“No; nice calm day.”
Daenerys tried to keep her tone as even as possible for her next question.
“Did a gentleman happen to come in today, around 4ish?” she asked. “Around my age. Dark hair? Probably wearing a tee.”
“Yes, actually!” Tyene said. “Friendly, wasn’t he? He asked where you were, actually.” Daenerys stilled. “I just said you had the day off,” Tyene continued. “Sorry about that; I wasn’t sure if you wanted customers to know you weren’t feeling well. Anyway, I think he bought one of the bouquets of roses.”
The melancholy hit her like a wave, sharp and powerful.
Daenerys had hoped that he’d felt some of what she had when they were speaking last week. Opening up had always come hard to her. But with him, it was simple.
He’d held her hand and told her she was strong, and Dany had been nearly convinced that she could see some undefinable emotion in his eyes. The same thing she felt.
But he’d bought another bouquet today. Roses.
She thanked Tyene again and hung up, but the woman's words echoed in her mind.
This time, she was waiting for him.
Daenerys had already endured a strange day. First, a dark-haired girl had come into the shop. Dany had asked if she needed anything, but the girl simply shook her head. She’d walked around for about two minutes observing the place, asked for a business card and then left, pausing only to look at her with a quirked eyebrow that unsettled her in a way Dany couldn’t explain.
Next, a heavy-set bald man she suspected was one of her brother’s private investigators had shown up, inquiring about commercial rental costs for units in the area. The veneer was so thin that she’d actually asked him if he was serious. He’d half-shrugged at her, seeming unimpressed by his own assignment. The man left soon after; but by the time Jon arrived, Daenerys already felt wired. She was too emotionally invested.
“You know you’re practically an investor in my shop at this point,” she said in greeting. There was a slight bite to her tone, but he didn’t seem to notice at all.
“Well, the service is quite good,” he said with a broad grin. He was leaning on her counter, tan forearms and all. “Glad to see you back. Where’d you go last week?”
Jon seemed to be in a decidedly good mood today.
“I wasn’t feeling well,” she said. “Had to call out. I heard you stopped by.” He was still smiling, and it was both settling and inciting to the frustration that pooled in her stomach like lava.
“It was a Friday,” he said simply, as though that explained it. “You feeling better?”
“Yeah, I am,” she said. “And the service isn’t that good. I throw things at you.” She dropped to the balls of her feet to grab some tissue from below; and unless she was mistaken, he was staring down her shirt.
He was grinning at her cheekily.
“Aye, that’s true. But the view’s not bad either.”
She was going to stab him with her scissors, and not a court in all of Westeros would blame her if she just showed them a photo of his leering face.
“Is that how you usually win women over, Jon?” she asked.
He had the decency to drop the smirk.
“Not sure yet,” he said. “I’m always trying to get that first date. Some days, I think I do better than others.”
“Not sure what getting that opportunity is worth if you’re a terrible date,” she said.
He looked scandalized.
“Who says I’d be a terrible date?” he cried out.
“Well, the thing about a good first date is that usually a second date follows it,” she said. “If you didn’t like one girl, fine. But you’ve come in here five straight weeks now. If all of them were unenjoyable, it’s probably you — in my experience, at least.” She teetered a bit as she lifted a particularly heavy box from the counter.
“And what is your experience?” he asked. There was an odd tinge to his voice that she couldn’t place. “Any second dates for Daenerys Targaryen? Third, even?”
She turned toward him, finally recognizing the tone — sly. But when she met his eyes, he had a greedy, hungry look on his face. Her blood rushed out of her brain entirely and relocated somewhere distinctly south.
It was very hard to stay mad at Jon Snow whenever she actually looked at him.
“Zero, these days,” she said. His brow lifted again, the way it seemed to so often. It stirred something in her. Familiarity with this man.
“Now why don’t I believe that?” he asked.
“I’m always here,” she said with a shrug. “Hard to date when you don’t know anyone.”
Jon seemed at war with himself; she could tell he didn’t want to let the issue drop, but she stumbled as she nearly lost grip on the box again, and another side of him seemed to win out.
“Can I help you with that?” he asked. Her first inclination was to say no, but gods there was no way she was lifting this thing above her head.
“Actually, that would be great,” she said.
He was around the counter before she could blink.
Jon made lifting it look easy, pushing the box onto the top shelf with almost no effort. She could see his shirt ride up again, like it had the day they met. A spike shot through her at the sight.
When he was finished, he turned to face her for a moment. Her skin felt hot from having him so close, with no counter to act as a buffer between their bodies.
Jon was taller than she’d thought, she realized. Not tall, but taller. From this close, she had to look up to meet his eyes.
“Thanks,” she said softly, and her voice was husky without her consent.
But he didn’t step away; his body sank nearer still to hers. They were so close now that each time she breathed out, their chests brushed against each other.
Jon lifted a hand slowly and pushed a stray curl out of her face.
Her heart skipped several beats.
“Dany,” he said in a low voice, lower than she’d heard from him yet. It was almost guttural. His eyes were deeper than the earth.
In that moment, she didn’t much care how many women he took out on dates. She had never wanted to kiss someone so much in her life. She leaned in slowly; his hand moved to cup her jaw. She felt a memory hit her, something celestial from a half-remembered dream.
They were so close that she could feel his breath. His free hand had come to rest on her waist.
The bell to her shop chimed loudly as a group of elderly women entered, chatting happily, and she jumped back as if she’d been electrocuted, mortified that her customers were about to catch her making out with someone in the middle of her shop. Jon seemed embarrassed, too — in one swift motion, he’d slipped back around the counter and grabbed a bouquet from the pre-made section. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, but his cheeks were red. Before she could say a word, he’d pulled out (more than enough) cash and left it on the counter.
He was gone without a word, and she was left staring stupidly after him.
Seven. Seven visits to her store in seven weeks. Six of them to buy flowers for his endless parade of dates. This was utterly and entirely ridiculous.
And he was getting more efficient: For the first time, he’d come in with a request.
“What do you think about pink camellias?” he’d asked.
‘Longing,’ she thought. ‘A desire for returned affections.’
He didn’t seem to have any intention of mentioning their last encounter. How was she expected to put up with this? A week ago, he was touching her face and whispering her name in a voice that she’d replayed guiltily in her mind each night as she slid between her covers. Today? He’s asking her to put together a bouquet of flowers that express longing for some random woman?
“That’s a bit serious,” she replied. “If you just want to get laid, I’m sure you can manage to pull some girl from a bar, you know.”
He gave her a strange look.
“Seems like a pretty lame prize,” he said. “Why do you assume I’m just in it for the sex?”
“We’ve been through this, Jon. It’s because there’s never a second date,” she said. Her voice had sharpened a bit.
“I already told you — still trying to get that first date with someone I actually want to take out a second time.”
There was an irritating pressure building in her skull.
“Then who are the camellias for?” she said, reminding herself to keep calm. ‘In through the nose. Out through the mouth.’
“Not sure yet,” he said with a shrug, his mouth tilted up again in that small smile. “Have you got any suggestions for me?”
She was going to crack. Any second now, it was going to happen, and she could feel it.
Daenerys kept her tone as even as possible: “You want me to pick out a completely random girl for you to take to dinner?”
“I wouldn’t say completely random,” he replied. His voice was blasé. “I’ve really been liking blondes lately, so that would be nice.”
The wire was frayed, down to a thread.
“Got it. Anything else I can do for you, Jon? Or will finding you a date and picking out flowers for her be all you need today?” Her voice was so caustic that, for once, Jon noticed.
“I… what?” he asked.
He seemed confused; she kept going.
“I’m afraid I don’t know too many blondes. Are redheads and brunettes still an option? Have you decided when you’ll add green to the rotation?”
Jon’s sense of self-preservation seemed remarkably low. He gave a nervous, weak chuckle: “Well, when I was 14, I did actually go on a date with this girl Wylla who had dyed her hair green.”
The wire snapped.
With a wordless shout of rage, Daenerys dropped her shears on the counter and walked around it, until she was inches from him. His jaw was slack, surprised.
“I am not participating in this farce anymore,” she said. “I’m sitting here mooning over you like some pathetic schoolgirl and writing up notecards about Greek history while you take out every woman in this city, and it’s ridiculous.”
“Dany, I don’t—” he began.
“No!” she shouted. “Don’t you ‘Dany’ me.” She prodded him in the chest. “You come in here every single Friday, looking like you do, and you flirt with me and ask me about my dating life and brush my hair behind my ears and tell me that I’m special, and then you buy bouquets of flowers from me for other girls, and I am not doing this.”
Jon seemed beyond words. He shook his head for a moment, like he was trying to dislodge water from his mind, and she realized with a jolt that her own vision was blurring.
No, no, one-hundred times, no. She was not going to start crying. Except she was, if she didn't remove him from her presence soon.
“Get out,” she said suddenly.
“Dany—Daenerys,” Jon started, and he had the nerve to sound choked up.
She all but shoved him outside — he stood there for a moment, seeming for all the world like a man who had no idea what had just happened.
With an inspired huff, she stomped to the cooler and pulled out a petunia. After pushing it into his hand, she moved to close the door, but he stopped it with his foot.
He gestured between her and the purple flower.
“What’s this one mean?” he asked. There was a desperate whinge in his voice; his eyes were wide and distressed. She wanted to punch him in the face.
“Look it up,” she said. Then she kicked his foot out of the way, locked the door, and flipped her ‘Open’ sign around.
Once the anger had receded, Daenerys had spent the remainder of her evening miserable and embarrassed. Jon might be a jackass; but she’d behaved as if he’d cheated on her.
She’d begged Missandei to come over, had collapsed in her dearest friend’s lap and sobbed. Missandei was always calm, always soothing. She’d reminded her that Jon probably had no idea how much he was upsetting her. It hadn’t done much in the way of easing her distress, but it had done enough.
She’d been able to get up for her shift the next afternoon, secure in the knowledge that she had six whole days to ponder if Jon Snow would ever come back to her store again.
How wrong she had been.
He was six days and three hours early, strolling in just after 1 p.m. and looking entirely frantic.
She’d gone still when she saw him but registered with some surprise that he’d dressed up more today. She chose to ignore the fact that she’d become accustomed enough to his style to notice the difference. Jon was wearing slacks and a button up, his hair tied back. He had on actual shoes instead of sneakers. Most bizarrely, he was already carrying a bouquet.
If he’d come in here on his way to a date, she was going to actually murder him, and the gods could decide her culpability.
But then Jon stalked over to her counter quickly; and before she could say a word, he thrust the flowers toward her.
What in the world was she supposed to do with these?
The bouquet was a mess, and it was the strangest one she’d ever seen. The flowers didn’t match each other at all: There was a magenta lilac in there, a sunflower, an orange calla lily, a cornflower, a clump of white hydrangeas — and in the center, one plump red rose.
A light purple ribbon, nearly lavender, was wrapped around the base.
“I hope you don’t mind. I had to go to a competitor to get them,” Jon said. He seemed genuinely contrite, but she couldn’t process what was happening.
“I don’t understand,” she said at last.
He was blushing furiously now and extended his arm to move the bouquet closer to her.
“I know it’s a bit stupid looking. I was trying to to get one of everything I wanted to say, but they don’t really match each other very well. The other shop’s owner kept suggesting different flowers, but I don’t think she knows very much about their meanings, because none of her suggestions made sense.”
She tried to parse what was happening: “One of everything he’d wanted to say.”
She thought about the flowers he’d just pushed toward her… Passion, warmth, magnificent beauty, a man in love, perseverance. Romance.
His words were slowly starting to register, but she felt waterlogged. Her mind was moving sluggishly.
“You made me a bouquet?”
No one had bought her flowers in years. She couldn’t even remember — maybe Rhaegar, when she graduated from elementary school.
Jon’s face was so red now that he could’ve been sunburnt. She took the clumsily wrapped flowers from him delicately, like they were fragile. She glanced again at the ribbon; it had been tied with a shoelace knot.
He must’ve noticed where her eyes were, because she could hear him volunteer an explanation.
“It was the closest I could find to match your eyes. You know, for an art store, Maegor’s is pretty light on options, and the cashier was such a punk. This kid Joffrey, I’m honestly thinking of writing a complaint—”
She could feel her eyes burning; there was a lump in her throat. She looked up at him swiftly, and he was still rambling something about shoddy options and entitled kids working summer jobs.
She didn’t want to get her hopes up, couldn’t get her hopes up. She lashed out instead.
“What does this mean? You’re bored of all the other girls in King’s Landing, so it’s me now?” Daenerys asked. Her voice quivered.
The ugly words seemed to embolden him in a way nothing else had.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet, Dany?” he asked softly. “There aren’t any girls. It’s only been you.”
A wild feeling rose inside her.
There was no way that what he was saying was true. Jon was in here all the time buying flowers for women. She’d yelled at him just yesterday over it, and he hadn’t said a word in rebuttal.
“That isn’t,” she started. “You can’t because… Why would you tell me you’re constantly going on dates?!”
“I thought it was a bit of a joke!” he exclaimed. “I panicked the first time I came back and said it — but I did such a piss-poor job lying that I thought you could tell.” He had the nerve to look exasperated.
“We discussed your dates every week,” she replied, volume climbing.
“Technically, you discussed my dates,” he said mulishly. “I kept saying I was trying to get a first date with a blonde.”
“That is not remotely true,” she responded.
The problem was, she supposed it might be a little true. Looking back, she’d brought up the other girls more than he ever had. She thought about it hard, but she couldn’t come up with a single time he’d volunteered information about a date since the first time.
Jon was explaining something fervently, but she wasn’t listening at all. Daenerys was so caught in her own thoughts that she barely realized she was missing information until she heard the phrase “trying to flirt with you.”
“Then you did a terrible job!” she spat. She was still clutching his bouquet to her chest and had a feeling that it wasn’t helping her case. “If you wanted to take me out so badly, why didn't you just ask me?”
He gestured toward her like it should be obvious — his tone was exasperated.
“I wanted to. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve been trying to work up the nerve. A few times, I almost asked you if you’d be willing to have dinner with me… but well, look at you.”
She looked down at her hands; they were covered in tiny, healed-over cuts from thorns and paper.
“Look at what?” she asked.
“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
The way he said it was so matter-of-fact. It stole her breath.
“I’ve been mad about you since the day I met you, Dany,” he said. “I haven’t looked at another woman since.”
Her heart was pounding as he reached out to grab her hand. She threaded her fingers through his as she considered his words.
“If that’s true,” she said cautiously, “then what have you been doing with all the bouquets you’ve bought from me?”
The sheepish look was back.
“Mostly been giving them to my sisters. Sansa’s apartment’s been full of them. Arya hates girly things, so I can’t get her to take many, but she likes stories about ancient heroines and stuff, so she’s got all of the little notes you’ve been writing explaining the flowers’ backgrounds.”
No, no, no.
Jon had told her about his dates, hadn’t he? Not just that they existed — things about them. She seized on the earliest.
“But that’s — you told me you gave the amaryllis flowers to a redhead. You said she made fun of you for it!” she exclaimed.
“Sansa’s a redhead,” he said. “See?”
He clicked his phone to life, and the background photo was him with five others who had to be his siblings. There, in the center, was a beaming redhead in a cap and gown, holding a large bouquet of yellow roses and fresh eucalyptus.
“And the second girl, whose hair was too dark?” she asked.
He gestured to Arya, who looked much more similar to him. Her hair was the same deep shade as his.
“I’m not — why do any of this?” she cried out. “Why have me write out notes if they were just going to whoever you could pawn them off on?!”
Jon’s eyes were intense; they tore right through her.
“It gave me an excuse to spend another few minutes in here with you,” he said.
“What a dolt,” she thought.
What a ridiculous, charming dolt.
His face was redder than anything — “Honestly, I really thought you were on to me. I’m a shit liar, and you certainly made fun of me enough.”
At long last, she believed him. The feeling was a relief.
Her face broke out in a smile so wide that her jaw felt tense.
“I’m going to keep doing that, you idiot,” she grinned.
Then she pulled him to her and kissed him without another word.